Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A life of faith, free from No Humbug

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Acts 1:8

God is not bound in time.  These are hypothetical constructs built to describe the rhythms of the created earth, marked by the sun and moon and stars.  Time is finite; it has a beginning. This is confirmed by Einstein’s general relativity that points to a beginning to the universe, linking time to space and matter, both of which are creations, not the Creator.  Time is a measurement determined by God laid in the foundations of the earth when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Reality or what is indeed true is blocked from our vision by this thing called “time,” sort of like not being able to see all of the spectrums of light, but yes, they are there.  

The dwarves in The Last Battle were trapped by the lies of how they chose to perceive the world.  Ungrateful, they did not recognize the gifts of God. Unwillingly to take a step of faith, they lived in a bleak hut of muck and rotted vegetables.

Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a Stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said, ‘Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.’ But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said: ‘Well, at any rate, there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs!’

‘You see,’ said Aslan. ‘ They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.

What is true: 
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.1 Corinthians 15:21-22  

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.1 John 2:2

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32

 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  

The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:13-22  

The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Thus let me be about my life, following in His footsteps of reconciliation, living in the light as He is the light.  

He hath made every thing beautiful in His time.  


Monday, May 27, 2013

Every breath I take I take in You Jesus

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. Psalm 150:6

So sometimes it seems like that all my daddy has is breath.  And it is labored a bit, so mom puts him on a little breathing machine thingie three times a day for eight minutes, or until he has had enough, whichever comes first.

And he sort of whispers to himself about Vanderbilt and the Caney Fork River and edits newsletters in the air.

But sometimes he swings his veritable skin-and-bone legs over the side of the bed and tries to escape.  And if I ask him, “How are you doing daddy?”, he will rasp in a fuzzy voice, “Jes’ fine,” and tell me that feels so good when I rub his back, and then he is done and flops back down, enough adventures for the moment.  

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.

Ol’ Evie has breath too.  Last night she was pretty unhappy what with air bubbles or whatever was in her tummy so she fussed a bit, and we all jostled her up and down and patted her back.  Heather and Dustin had shown up with two-for-the-price-of-one-pizzas and who knew Whole Foods sold their own two-buck bottle of wine and got whopped at cards by momma and me which of course never happens, but they said they got lucky at babies and they sure did, 

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.

And just now my dad is whispering again, “I gotta get out of here,” so thus ends the quiet candlelit moment, and a new day is beginning.  I can hear momma sweeping the front porch and the men’s Bible study that has met together on Monday mornings for over forty years is coming here these days, and I am out the door to take Jincheng to the airport.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Old age is no place for sissies

For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4

I have lots of time to consider the humble these days. I am spending lots of time with Mr. Humble “Is there anything I can to help you” Coverdale.  And really is there anything more humbling that having your wife and daughter wrestling for over an hour through changing the bedding at two in the morning?  Especially if you are drifting back and forth between awareness and making some small attempts to help out a bit and mostly being rather anxious and stiffly grasping arms and mattresses and side rails with your still-very-firm-grip.

And I have lots of time to consider this stage of life, and the absolute humility it imposes on the aged and those who care for them.  And to reread yet another time the eHow article on “How to roll an elderly person in bed.” And now the stories and sympathetically knowing looks are piling in pell mell.  This is the song of the circle of life, from the day we arrive on the planet, and, blinking, step into the sun; the counterbalance to the birthing center with Everette Tess just five weeks ago.  And all the bits of Sophocles and Shakespeare resonate with new understanding.  And the wisdom of Solomon as he contemplates a time to be born, and a time to die: I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.

There is nothing better than to be joyful and to do good as long as we live. And to eat and drink and take pleasure in all of our toil.  And I saw people going about this business yesterday, Billy from Hotel Congress creating delicious concoctions in the lower levels of Roskruge Bilingual School to serve to the staff celebrating a year well done, and the principal José whose mission is to give his students hope, and Dexter whose church has organized sixty tutors and fixed a crucial bureaucratic glitch at 1010 E 10th, imagine, and after a short afternoon nap there were fish tacos in a downtown brewery with soaring tin roofs and mason jars full of mysteries with stories of fixing water pipes and grateful clients and maybe stories of organic coffee plantations and joining Him in His work of making everything beautiful in its time.

And most of all, as I struggle between fist and head shaking and getting affirming glimpses of Him who has done it, this whole grand finale underscores God’s love for the humble.  Somehow it is a good thing.  Stepping onto the stage of eternity with clarity and purpose: There is nothing better than to be joyful and to do good as long as we live.  

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been.

It is finished.  The curtain has been rent, and we are invited to share His glory. Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

And Pandora continues its merry way: It is well, with my soul, it is well, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

His grip is still strong

 Let them praise the name of the Lord: for His name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven. Psalm 148:13

Even seven and a half years ago, my dad was starting to fade.  He didn’t exactly understand Heather and Dustin’s wedding, what with the hundreds of candles lit by Brandon, the donkey-with-the-unicorn-horn being led around by Ali, and deniz dangling out of The Tree on a long flapping piece of turquoise silk. It was sort of out of his realm of experience.

But there were a few moments he totally got. One was the kind of crazy dancing afterwards with his children and grandchildren and his heart laughed and he was young again.  And the other was when he and Jack opened up the service singing the doxology: 
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Because the idea of eucharisteo, asking grace and giving thanksgiving frames who is.  He loves to offer up the prayer before the meal, even though sometimes now he drifts off and needs someone else to finish, “In Jesus’ name Amen,” and sometimes when we would have visitors he would insert the complete Four Spiritual Laws just in case they needed to know God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life, but the prayer was never just about the enchiladas suisa before us, but a rhythmic reminder of every good thing that comes from His hand: 
Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:
Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl.

Eucharist always precedes the miracle.  The miracle gifts from God that are new every morning.

And dad is not doing so well right now.  Something happened yesterday, whether it be pneumonia or stroke or whatever. And his mind is taking him down mysterious paths and he is thrashing a bit and can’t walk or even sit up and nothing has names anymore.  

But when I wrap him in my arms and say, “Dad, I love you,” he echos, “You do?” and smiles big.  

And I click onto Pandora hymns and just every now and then he sings along, “Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,” and smiles big.

And hospice has rolled in wonderfully and set up a bed with rails and briefs and meds and will come in and bathe him and my mom feels very encouraged with their help and who knows what will happen next.  Maybe the antibiotics will kick in and maybe not. But one thing is very sure indeed, His name is to be praised.

Leaning on the arms of Jesus,
Oh, it is so sweet and precious!
He will surely bless and keep us,
Calmly resting free from care.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the desert the nights are cool

Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.  Psalm 147:1

Last night was full of so many moments that beg to be recorded.  A friend from from just down the hall Alan’s freshman year passed through on his way to do a three-hour lecture on entrepreneurship for a group gathered at Starr Pass. One who has considered deeply and wraps words around those thoughts to drop like lingering burning coals that bring warmth to those gathered about.

And while we spoke of many things, of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
of cabbages--and kings- I think my favorite moment came as we sat around the small round table with a bottle of wine left over from Sergio’s wedding and a plastic container of Trader Joe chocolate.  

And worship? asked Alan.  What about worship?

I am worshipping God now, said Greg, with a wave of his hand to the twinkly lights and the swirling tiles and the window going nowhere and an overarching sky with yet another foggy moon. 

Beauty, goodness, and truth.  But most of all beauty.  

And the mind can dwell on unGod while the soul is basking in the presence of Him.  Which is why, perhaps, we are told to take control of every thought so we can pray.  The mind is a restless creature, seeking hither and thither for self, but the soul is seeks beauty, goodness and truth.  Unquantifiable yet as real as the neural pulses that are measured and cast into appropriate sociopsychological infrastructures.  They are difficult to define, yet we know them when we see them.

Praise is comely. It fits.  It is comfortable and pleasant because it is the purpose for which we were created. 

And once again the Safari hood is dropped and the pilgrimage traced.  Pilgrimage as defined by wikipedia, a journey, especially a long one, as an act of religious devotion. And the dropped hood journey has become that over the years, the how-good-is-God-journey.  The delights of a swing through downtown, a wave at the Old Presidio wall, winding up Sentinel Peak to breathe in the expanse of lights stretching straight northwest towards Phoenix and weaving their way across the city and up and over the Catalinas and Rincons. After paying homage to the patient faithfulness built into the White Dove of the Desert the trail ends ‘most every time at Guerro’s Sonoran dog and roasted jalepeños and green onions. 

Praise the LORD ye heavens above.  Praise ye the LORD.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

And it didn't even need a push start

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
The LORD raises those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the strangers;
He relieves the fatherless and widow;
But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.

This is the God of Jacob.  

The God of the Schemer, the Liar and the Manipulator.  The Dreamer of a long ladder reaching to heaven. The One who labored long and hard. The Betrayed.   The One who wrestled with God and would not let go. His very name means The One who grasps the heel or the Deceiver. 

And yet he was greatly blessed of God.  Not because of who he was or what he did, but because of Who God Is. The Great I Am.

And yesterday I meditated all day, well, pretty much all day, on these verses.  

Jack is in Colombia and Sunday he preached a sermon on Psalm 77 which he shared with me, because, well it has been my experience. When we face those moments, the moments of trouble of doubt of feeling spurned of uncomfort of troubled soul, we are to meditate on Him, both His nature and His faithful works of old.

And Psalm 146 is all about His nature and His faithful works. Who He Is and What is His Heart.  His TO DO list looks very different than the word on the street, but it is what is true.  

And it is once again it is a reminder to put not my trust in princes, nor in the sons of man, in whom there is no help, and whose way will be turned upside down, but to put my trust in Him.  And to not put my trust in myself either.  My way is turned upside down more times than I would like to think, but to put my trust in Him.

Nicole has a great little story about this God of Jacob.  The after-church-hang-around-the-pool-moment changed into the Let’s-drive-up-to-Gate’s Pass-in-the- Safari moment with some of her Upper Room friends this Sunday.  The friends who had asked, “Do these cars of your dad even run?” friends.

So they popped down the hood, popped into the car and drove off to the gas station to fill ‘er up, but the car would not start again.  At all.  And everyone knew something about cars and Nicole surely knows all the little tricks of gently urging The Thing forward. With a good dollop of the despair of having borrowed your daddy’s car. But nothing.  

So this guy drove up.  A really nice guy who asked if he could help and made a small joke or two about borrowing cars from your daddy.  And one of Nicole’s friends, being one of Nicole’s friends, asked if he knew Jesus.  And he said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I grew up in the Church.”

But when they prayed over him, a blessing of love and hope from the God of Jacob, the man began to weep. And when Nicole said in Spanish “...that right now God wants you to know He supports you, He’s protecting you. Right now I see God picking you up out of your circumstances, and putting you on high ground. In the Bible there's the story of Noah in the ark, after the floods came and destroyed the earth he sent out a dove and it was circling circling looking for a place to land...finally he sent it out and it came back with a leaf that symbolized hope, that life could grow again."

The man in the white van whose name was Jesus had tears in his eyes and he said, "I can't believe this is happening right now...I just can't believe it. Look at my arms, I have goosebumps all over.” Then Nicole said that she saw him “...with two angel wings on either side of you, and God is picking you up and showing you where to stand,” and Jesus did a little play on words in Spanish, "You mean two "devil horns?” Making the gesture with his hand (in Spanish, "cuernitos" means "cuckold"), which is not a good thing.  And he wept some more.  And said he never drove around in his van, but he had left his house because he didn’t know what else to do, and drove and drove, and was pulling up to the Circle K to buy alcohol, a lot of alcohol.  And he never offered to help people, but he did this time.  And Hector spoke some more words of love and hope from the God of Jacob, and a great peace descended.  

And the guy smiled and said, “I bet your car will work now.” 

And it did.  And they went on their way rejoicing. 

The LORD raises those who are bowed down. 
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, 
Whose hope is in the Lord his God.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

It says mercy twice

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9

I want to be like Him.  Truly.  

No matter what.

Gracious.  Full of compassion. Slow to anger.  Of great mercy.  Good to all.  Tender mercies in everything I do.  

Last night we had another dinner under a fuzzy crescent moon and the twinkly lights.  Another moment of musing on the works of His hands.  How all the pieces fit together.  So, wow, really maybe almost five years ago we invited Wilson over for dinner.  Every year Jon Heine sends out a plea for folks to invite international graduate students over for dinner with a nice American family, and pretty much every year I say yes, and we have a great conversation, and then, well graduate students get really busy with their labs and their teaching and their research and we never see them again.  So I served pizza to Wilson and he was a smart, thoughtful guy from Brazil working on his PhD in marketing and that was that.  

Except a year later he was waiting on our front doorstep when we drove up after church.  And he had a question.  Could his girlfriend who did not speak a word of English stay with us and study?  Her father said she had to stay with a nice American family, and well, we were it.  So in January Fernanda moved in and she was beautiful and she studied English at Pima and in the library and with the county and everywhere she could, except late at night we drifted into Spanish because one’s brain stops working at a certain point.  And she was shy and we didn’t see so much of her because she was in her room or because she was with Wilson and we lived life as best we could.  

Marco showed up on our front doorstep as well, and Mr. Intentional Community dragged her out of the back room and sat us all together around the dinner table including Sergio from the back house and we all lived life as best we could.

And then Wilson and Fernanda got married.  Sometimes we saw them.  But life got busy and suddenly he has graduated and they are moving to Portugal next week. And we had them over for one more dinner.  And his mother.  And his sister. And her husband.  I was sort of tired and busy and the house looked like I had been traveling for three weeks and no Panchita so I cheated and bought dinner at Trader Joe’s.  Even though Fernanda’s favorite thing is my bread.  And it was so very lovely with three-buck Chuck and little melon slices wrapped in mozzarella cheese and thinly sliced sausage and a basil leaf, and at the end of it, Wilson had a question.  

How do you live like this?  You and Alan?

Certainly the question caught us off guard.  The answer was pretty important because Wilson said that he told everyone he knows that he wants to live just like us. Being able to stick our head up above the rushing current and breathe. And Alan had his Buckminster Fuller quote about how a man must decide early on whether he will make money or make sense, because the two are mutually exclusive.  

But I verbally stumbled through a slightly different tack, which really comes from another Buckminster quote: Here is God's purpose–for God, to me, it seems, is a verb not a noun, proper or improper.  A little lesson in logic.  If I irrefutably have experienced His tangible and measurable love for me, and since who am I in the great flow of humanity–no one special, then His tangible and measurable love is extended to all–and I want to be part of the Big Story, of what matters in the long run.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9

And of course it doesn’t look it very often.  I mess up again and again.  And I tell myself that I just have to pick myself up once again, brush off the dust, shove all of those dark thoughts out of my brain, and set off again, trotting like a little hobbit, in my Father’s footsteps. 

Except of course, that is not true.  It’s not about me.

The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. Psalm 145:14

I am not picking myself up at all.  

It’s all about Him. At work through me. But not by me.  He does it all.  His grace.  His glory.  His work.  His verb.

Dear LORD, may it be so.

Friday, May 17, 2013

For My sons and daughters

That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars of truth.  Psalm 144:12

Another favorite song.  Imagine.  

So last night I once again took dad to the Upper Room, with the swirling bodies and throbbing drums and uncontrolled laughter.  Odd but true, but I think that there is no place he would rather be on Thursday nights.  He sinks down into one of the old couches and smiles and claps and sometimes pinches his ears closed if it gets too loud.  And there is pizza and cookies and life is good. 

And last night’s speaker told of a reluctant follower, who was dragged kicking and fussing all the way to where she is at, traveling the world stewarding God’s gift to her, the gift of joy.  And working out on a day-to-day basis what it means to proclaim good news to the poor and to proclaim liberty to the captives, doing what Jesus did.

And one of her leading questions was How do you feel about it when someone one blesses one of your children?  Ah, yes.  My three daughters who hold my heart in their hands. Ah yes.  And really there is no greater joy than them being blessed.  And this is my longing, that my daughters grow up to be strong pillars of truth, sculpted in the palace style.  

From there, Cristina took one baby step further.  And what brings joy to the Father’s heart?  Ah, yes.  When someone blesses one of His beloved children. Therefore let us go out and proclaim blessing.  And bring joy to our Father’s heart.  As we speak words of healing and comfort and truth and encouragement.  

This is how the world will know that we are His disciples, those who walk in His footsteps.  Not by our fancy jot and tittles or political pontificating or even joyous singing.  But by His love.  Poured out of our very clay vessels on top of the heads of His beloved children, splashing down in abundance.  

Happy are the people whose God is You!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

So let us go forth with our respective sacks of seeds

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You. Psalm 143:8

There are always those songs that we remember the exact first moment we heard them. Like the hot Tucson afternoon when Ron Veliz pulled his hot black Mustang over to the side of Speedway to make me listen to Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like I Do?”  Or my mom lying on the sofa with her feet up in a darkened living room listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young “Our House Is a Very Very Fine House.” I first heard “Cause Me to Hear Your Lovingkindness” in the home of Harold and Luci Shaw.  Really and truly I think that was the first time I paused long enough to savor beauty. Luci is good at that. Flickering candles on the mantelpiece, a curving bit of driftwood, mismatched crockery that gloried in their differences; Luci is a poet.  And for the first time I listened to the cadence of words wrapping up the love of God in beat by beat images, gleaming Beauty and Truth poured out like a fragrant tea.  

Our home group met at the Shaws.  We sat around the living room with fruit and cookies and someone strumming on a guitar and we sang Scripture choruses that worked their way into my heart and sustained me through many shadowed valleys. 

When Alan and I first were married and living in Wheaton we went to a rather unexpected church if one were to consider it, The Plymouth Brethren. Mr. Rock and Roll going to a gathering with just a cappella hymn singing, and Mz. Hippie Chick in torn and dragging 501s mixing it up with dignified women wearing head coverings. And it’s not a church, but an assembly, who gathers. An exclusive assembly with suited men checking credentials at the front door.  

But some seeds were planted, and landed deeply and have filled my life with fruit. For example, the demonstration of the responsibility for each believer to actively participate in the conversation of what the Bible is saying and what does it look like in our day-to-day lives.  After the morning Sunday School class there was a fifteen-minute discussion of pointed questions and respectful disagreement with teacher, who just happened to be the Greek and Hebrew professor at Wheaton College. And each man in the assembly was expected to be ready to Preach, Pray and Die.  Then there was The Gathering after the Sunday meeting for dinner and discussion. Mr. Hawthorne would circulate throughout the midmorning coffee break and invite the select to join his midday table for meaningful conversation. That certainly set a lifetime pattern for us, the newlyweds.  Pretty much the after-service-lunch is still my week’s highlight.  Most of all, the poignant reminder of breaking of bread together each time we met together still grips my heart every Sunday.    

That does not mean that there was perfect unity.  The Shaws ended up leaving because of the prodding of the Spirit in their hearts. How could Luci be so very obviously filled with the gifts of wisdom and knowledge and teaching and be relegated to the only role women had in this assembly: poking their husbands in the side and whispering the number of the hymn they wished to sing and serving donuts between services?  I am quite sure that I heartily disagree with the central foundational thesis of “A circle was to be drawn just wide enough to include 'all the children of God,' and to exclude all who did not come under that category.” But those are just details, really. Because surely the LORD was present among us, with all of our fallacies and silliness and yet, belovedness.  And this is an important lesson to remember as sometimes I get too distracted by differences rather than celebrating the Jesus Who is here in our midst.

One never knows what seed will take root and spring up, producing a grand and delicious harvest. It is He who produces the fruit. I do not ever, ever have to worry my pretty head about it. The thing about Mr. Sower is that he might never know the product of his faithfulness. But his job was to sow. He did what he needed to do.  He had a big bag of seed so he headed out the door and dispersed it to the wind.  

And yet, sometimes he does get to look back and see sprigs springing forth.  Seeds that have fallen in good soil and taken root. And it is good to reflect on the backwards glance. To remember the days of old and to meditate on all of His works. 

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah

As I go forth today to sow.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Click. Silence.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path. Psalm 142:3

I feel like such a wuss.  So many things break my heart left and right that yes, my spirit is overwhelmed within me.  So I am considering, is this tender heart–mostly pulverized from the nonstop onslaught of electronic information that pummels me from the early morning click of NPR to the wry pop, pop, pause, punchline of Jay Leno’s good night monologue–like Jesus as His heart swept over the clutter of Jerusalem and longed to gather them up under His wing or a mere distraction from the real conversation of life?  

Would an electronic fast allow me to focus on the immediate–the person right in front of me in person and not by keyboard? Would I become a more present–a Jesus-bearer unplugged? Someone who glanced up in trees or saw the man laying dejected by the side of the pool?

And would I just be a heck of a lot more peaceful. 

Or is the Jesus-bearer the one who is aware of it all–each sparrow from the beginning of time–and yet can rest wholeheartedly in the confidence that He knowest my path. 

We were talking last night as we worked our way through Frank Laubach: During the day, in the chinks of time between the things we find ourselves obliged to do, there are the moments when our minds ask: ‘What next?’ In these chinks of time, ask Him: ‘Lord, think Thy thoughts in my mind. What is on Thy mind for me to do now?’ When we ask Christ, ‘What next?’ we tune in and give Him a chance to pour His ideas through our enkindled imagination. If we persist, it becomes a habit.

The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says, “Amen” and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him your ideas.

I gotta say that the quiet is a huge part of it. For me that is.  I stepped outside into the orange pink billowiness of this morning and my soul leapt into song,
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

And, once again, for me, driving up and down Speedway without the radio is an act of kneeling down worship.  A now habit of asking, “What next?”  Wandering around Armory Park with Evie Tess tucked up around my arm before the city bustle begins.  Sitting with my poppa snoozing on the couch wth Sam the Dog tucked underfoot.  

I am pretty sure that chinks of time is a choice. And.  Not even the tiniest hint of overwhelmed.


Monday, May 13, 2013

So much is better left unsaid

Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head. Psalm 141:5

Drats.  I am not looking forward to this day.  It feels entirely likely that it will be full of reproof, and that God is preparing me, reminding me to welcome the kind words of correction.

Ah, this reminds me of my introduction for the team to the accreditation process: 
Remove impurities from the silver
    and the silversmith can craft a fine chalice;
Don’t jump to conclusions—there may be
    a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw. 
 The right word at the right time
    is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,
And a wise friend’s timely reprimand
    is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.
Patient persistence pierces through indifference;
    gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses.
Psalm 25

So be it.

Really.  I am very aware that I am in process.  

Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

I talk too much in a bull-in-a-china-shop sort of way.  And what I long for more than anything is to bring healing and peace, and not smunch painfully into tender spots.  So much is better left unsaid.  

I want to be like Jesus. He who did not break a bruised reed, and He did not put out a smoldering wick. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Folding up the tissue paper wrapping and putting it away

LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:1-10

The wings of morning are gliding across the Dallas skyline.  Big black ravens shake the upright round trees with their chatter.  And He is here.

And as I consider the past three years of my life in the world of ACSI, who would have thunk it? What a gift Kathie handed me when she answered my angst of an overwhelming life with, Just quit it.  

Unpacking this gift, these 1000 named gifts, has brought new rhythms to my life with mom and dad, new friendships spread throughout the western hemisphere and even across the narrow passageway in the unassuming office on North Wilmot, just a talking-to-myself mutter away. And so many feet up on the magazine table in front of the fire moments in the glowing Tim and Jenny home.  

I think the biggest gift has been this too-wonderful-for-me glimpses of His great love and His great work in the hearts and lives of His beloved children–one can only call it universalism– a word full of imperfections and baggage and inaccurate connotations– because His love reaches so far beyond the uttermost parts, and yet, so intimately with the very fearfully and wonderfully made innermost parts of each one of us. Every one of us.

And at this very moment, early morning stirrings are beginning at the 130 million dollar campus at the First Southern Church in downtown Dallas while most likely Dana Mahan is reading goodnight stories to his freshly bathed boys after a dusty afternoon of soccer under the South African sky.  17,500 teachers in the church schools of the Democratic Republic of Congo prepare their thoughts for tomorrow morning, while my sensible and insightful roommate Julie for the past three days is boarding a plane for Pennsylvania where her husband and five children will pick her up and take her to out for Mother’s Day pitas.  Ramoncita is roasting coffee beans with handfuls of sugar on a dented sheet of metal behind the green cement house along Cañada del Horno, San José de Ocoa and Heather is hoping that sweet Everette will settle down for just two more hours after yet-another little snack.

So very many moments: wandering the cobbled streets of Antigua, Guatemala with Manual and Marina and Luis, discussing a chance conversation while picking up a few things at the grocery store, pacing nervously in the back of a regional Spelling Bee, an unrequested German boy who met God in the back bedroom, the Holocaust Museum with an unnamed Spaniard, flip flip flip through morning meditations until I arrive at a candle-lit moment at the dining room table, October 25, 2010 when I committed to twenty-eight days of early morning writing...I ran out the door after forty-five minutes and was late to swimming.  The Italian was trying to figure out why I was I so long to hear Your voice at four-thirty this morning, and when I was explaining to him my “schedule” (disciplines sound so much more spiritual), he said, half joking, “Why don’t you just say, ‘Your will be done,’ and go back to bed?”   

And all of these moments in His book were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. 

And now, dear LORD, I lift up the rest of the journey to You, wherever it may wend.  Reminded and comforted that You are with me, and in fact I cannot escape Your attention and knowing.  

Lead me in the way everlasting.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Everything is bigger in Texas

 For though the Lord is high, yet has He respect to the lowly, bringing them into fellowship with Him; but the proud and haughty He knows and recognizes only at a distance. Psalm 138:6

My Dallas meetings are being housed at an “inviting campus with a 185,000-square foot mountain lodge-style structure surrounded by acres of lush landscaping, walking paths and a prayer garden.” The ceilings soar, the floors gleam, the sturdy leather furniture invites, and beautiful artwork adorns every wall.  Forty evangelical ministries office here, from Child Evangelism and Josh McDowell Ministries to Hope for Orphans and Orphan Outreach and Wellspring of Hope.  Warm Southern graciousness and delicious generosity abound.  Round after round of grapes and strawberries and melon slices and Danish and salted almonds and slices of cheese and pulled pork and smoked salmon and Insalata Caprese and selected especially for me double shot Starbucks expresso and gummy bears all wrapped up in tissue paper and the Lone Star flag. 

And yet. I am struck this morning by a meditation from Weston who is facing the day-to-day of teaching English in Guatemala City.  And his description of Jesus reminded me that yes, Jesus is the sort of guy you would want to hang around, all the time: He devoted himself to helping, saving and freeing others. He had compassion. He acted through faith and power to touch people's lives. He preached the good news. His mind was set and his actions were made with purpose. A great teacher, leader and friend, he worked hard always. Jesus prayed a lot. 

And I am perfectly sure that Jesus walks these echoing hallways filled with dedicated, hard-working souls.  And I love the folk gathered around the table, and the gentle humor about who is going to have to walk home and who gets to ride shotgun and scooping M&Ms and figuring out how to run a better Elementary Speech Meet. And yet.  Today’s Scripture is striking: He has respect to the lowly, bringing them into fellowship with Him.

Other images besides verdant meadows and grazing horses abound on these stone and brick walls.  Black and white images spilling off of unframed stretched canvas. Eyes that sparkle with delight as fresh water splashes in their plastic bucket.  Dusty toes slapping a soccer ball far into the air.  Weary women wrapped up tightly with their hungry child.  And I am reminded of the sweet, sweet fellowship to be found kneeling down by glowing coals when one’s tummy is not exactly full, but one’s heart is brimming over under a sparkling sky.  

And I feel just a little bit lonely.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Snuggle in deep

Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:1-2

My first response to this Psalm was: David doesn’t know what he is talking about.   He obviously has never met Evie, the great flopper.  There cannot be any metaphor in the world as calm and quieted as that child being passed from arm to arm from doting aunt to gramma to friend to neighbor back to poppa again.    Nothing phases her. Howling Pippen and Bruce? Nope.  Four feet away from the pounding drums at church? Nope.  Pulsing disco dance parties full of middle schoolesque nerds?  Nope.  She is the great flopper, calm and quiet.  

Except when she isn’t.  Now, Miss Evie doesn’t howl or throw fits.  But she does grunt and squirm in the most unbecoming way when she wants what she wants and there is nothing you can do to dissuade her.  All the jostling and shushing and soft singing falls on deaf ears.  She wants momma and she wants her right now.  Now, with a capital.  

But a weaned child with her mother is different.  That little weaner has moved past the I-know-what’s-best-for-me-now stage.  

At some moment in time, the Loving Source will decide to say, “No.”  And I imagine that there will be a fair amount of fussing and fretting.  Now. Now. Now. I know what I want–totally oblivious to all that there is waiting for her in the great big world, chocolate truffles for instance.  Or barbecued ribs with horseradish.  But the point is, as some moment in time, Little Evie is going to push through the I-want-what-I-want moment and learn to trust at a whole new level.  

And she will still clamber up onto her mother’s breast.  For comfort.  For stillness.  Calm and quiet.  Not about me and my tummy needs.    Not about saying what is what, and how everything is going to work out.   But about being in her love.  At rest.

I bless you prison. I bless you for being in my life. For there, lying on rotting prison straw, I learned the object of life is not prosperity, as I had grown up believing, but the maturing of the soul. Alexander Solzhenitsyn


Monday, May 6, 2013

So tame my flesh and fix my eyes A tethered mind freed from the lies

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

Chris’s sermon yesterday was about waiting.  After Jesus gave His disciples their task to Go and make disciples unto the end of the earth, He told them one more thing before He ascended: Wait.  Go to Jerusalem and wait.

And they gathered around Him and asked: Now, LORD?  Is this the big kingdom thing?  What we have been waiting for?  Now?

And Jesus answered: It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.

And a cloud received Him out of their sight.

Drats.  Is that all the answer I get?  Silence?

Not waiting is pretty much the clearest indicator of sin, in the classic sense of the word: not understanding the There is a God and I am not He sort of sin.    The I know-better-than-God sin thing that got Adam and Eve in the garden, that got Abraham an awkward son, Ishmael; that even tangled up old Judas who was not liking the path Jesus was taking towards this Kingdom stuff.  Shaking our list in His face of the way things need to be.

And the Psalmist knows all about that waiting for the dawn thing.  Such a very clear metaphor to help us understand our helplessness.  The long night of waiting in a hospital parking lot.  Pacing back and forth with a colicky baby.  Camping on the top of Seven Falls in an unexpected rainstorm.  Driving across Texas with nothing but country music to pass the time.  Watching a restless poppa who is prone to wander.  Tossing back and forth with an achy problem that only grows more complicated.  There is not one single thing we can do to rush it along to that moment when at last the glint of gold bursts through the darkness. 

But there is that sweet spot of release.  When we at last accept the tick tock rotation of the earth. Rest.  There is a God and I am not He.

 So waiting is a gift to wrestle through this question: Not my will but Yours be done.  And one of Ryan’s songs touched on this idea, not only am I to wait, but I am to worship.  I am to acknowledge He is God.  And worthy to know the times and seasons, which are under His power.  


Saturday, May 4, 2013

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight Could not follow it in its flight.

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:4-6

I do not always do such a great job of biting my tongue. Quite often I bust out with some words that I would love to swallow, but no, they just lie there at my feet and fester.  

However, I think I was pretty good at not asking about the grandchildren that were not coming.  I didn’t want to be one of those sorts of mothers. But really, I thought to myself, what about my life would lead my children to think, as they very reasonably weighed college bills and graduate degrees and projections into the future, what about my life would lead you not to believe that the absolute greatest delight in my life, the blessed heritage of the LORD, are my children?  For indeed they are.

And they are my arrows.  

Potent.  Powerful.  Projectiles into the hitherlands.  

As I consider my rather full bucket list, a little mournfully, folded bits of imaginary paper, I am very aware of my finiteness.  So many hidden alleys unexplored, vistas unseen, thoughts unarticulated.  

Paths unchosen.

And yet.  May Alan and I plant our feet sturdily.  Upon the shoulders of previous generations joined by twisting strands of DNA. So that our quiver may prove a firm foundation for planted feet aiming further and farther than we could even imagine.  

Next week, Andrea finishes up her Master’s of Social Welfare at University of Chicago, an acceptance envelope I shelved to head off to the Dominican Republic.  An arrow shot up high and higher, plopping into the Bronx to serve reconciliation to the brokenhearted and those without hope oh so far away.  

And Heather is having an impact on the local church and the idea of Christian community in ways that I am stumbling behind her to emulate.  

And Nicole has plunged into her identity and the finished work of the Cross and the powerful Finger of God while I dabble along the shoreline.  

And the beat goes on. Squinting into the rising sun. 

Christy Voelkel
Intertextual Collaboration draft 3
Twisting Strands of DNA
June 17, 2003

Our three daughters have heard the family stories and they know the inevitable twists that mark our family DNA.  The adage that no one falls far from the apple tree has never been questioned. The future specifics are unimaginable and as broad as the entire world but they know that there will be strong resemblance once the tale is told. They’ve dabbled their toes in the orchard mud, volunteering chunks of time in an orphanage in Guatemala, prisons in Colombia, earthquake-torn Venezuela, or isolated isles off of Panama.  Their poor boyfriends sit enthralled but wary by the fireplace and hear the stories spun and wait poised on the brink of stepping into the Voelkel orchard.  There is no sidestepping the issue. The Voelkel girls’ eyes may sparkle and entice but there is no hiding their identity and their apple tree and the hope and change we as a family all long to effect on the world around us.

This invisible force propelled us, their parents, beyond our intentions and expectations.  When we married, Alan’s dreams were of being a rock star and I really had no plans beyond that of “never being a missionary.”  But when Bernabé Mañon, country director of Fundacíon Contra El Hambre Republica Dominicana sat behind his big gleaming desk and pressed his fingers together and said he needed a volunteer who was fluent in Spanish, majored in Anthropology and Journalism and was a certified teacher and a musician and an Eagle Scout and knew how to repair Volkswagen engines and another volunteer who was a nurse and had a degree in psychology and had at least five years experience working with children and spoke some Spanish and did arts and crafts and... we didn’t even blink or discuss or pause, we signed up on the dotted line for the ride of our life.  Who can argue against whatever it is that links our family together?  

Family stories of my husband’s forbearers trace this dominant trait.  His great-grandparents Swallens were the very first missionaries to Korea and they too have a story.  William, a simple Midwestern farmer, decided that Korea had the perfect climate for apples and everywhere he traveled and preached, he planted small orchards- and before the electronic explosion, apples were the number one export from Korea, according to the ancient but serviceable set of encyclopedias in my dining room- brought to Korea by an “unknown missionary.”  You should have seen Hyo’s eyes tear up when she found out I was William Swallen’s great-great something or other. She borrowed our family photo album and letters to photocopy and take to her church. In Korea, ancestors are treated with a great deal of reverence, and when people convert to Christianity they revere their spiritual forefathers.  An unexpected example of this was when my husband went to his grandfather Harold Voelkel’s funeral in Los Angeles.  Harold had been a chaplain during the Korean War to tens of thousands of prisoners of war, but Alan was expecting to find only ten or fifteen old people dinking around in a dank church basement, so many miles and years away.  But when his car drove up to a three-story cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, the building was filled to the seams to honor this ancestor, complete with banners and arm bands and red carpets and a huge photo of this trim Swiss German.  Alan’s parents moved to Colombia where his dad was an English professor at the National University in Bogota during the middle of the Marxist awakening, and they started a University Student Movement in their living room that now has members in every country in South America.  Alan has stories too, of airplanes crashing in the jungle, ministering angels with cans of Coke, mysterious shamen and gut-wrenching illnesses.  Never a dull moment and life always has a clear sense of purpose.

My mother’s relatives also have a history of leaping out and grabbing life by the throat.  The stories here have tangled up with myth and are a little shakily documented, but my momma always said her grandpa died one snowy night walking home from the local doctor who had bled him for a fever and the bandage got knocked off and he bled to death there in the Swedish forest between the villages for Eck and Berge.  Her father and uncle went to work in a factory to support the family, but one dusky evening on their way home Ralph Arvid reached down in the gutter and found a lottery ticket, winning enough to buy passages for two to New York City.  Somehow Ralph taught himself enough English to become captain of the high school debate team and got a scholarship to college.  He began working as an engineer for this small, brand new company out of Rochester, New York and eventually became general manager of Eastman Kodak and a millionaire.  He married Esther Reeves, a high school English teacher and proud Daughter of American Revolution whose family traced themselves back to a signer of the Mayflower Compact.  Curious twists of hope and change and time.

My dad left his job at NASA during the middle of the cold war to run Camp Hy-Lake and teach calculus at a small college, but not before packing his family into the family station wagon every other weekend to help out a string of orphanages with food, shoes, clothing and my favorites: cleaning latrines and chopping off lice-infested hair. All four of our kids swore that we loathed Mexico and threadbare poverty especially when Dad gave Rose Park Orphanage our brand new Plymouth station wagon because “they needed it more that we” and we spent the next months as a family of six trundled into a black VW Beetle.  Somehow we were still unaware of the family tree concept.  Perhaps our hearts were too distracted with the outside world still.  Culture, traditions and shared values meant nothing to us at this stage of life.  Or maybe it was because we didn’t have a big enough picture of the world yet.  Yet those invisible roots took hold on all four of us.  Maybe it was the faithful example of my parents who “retired” thirty years ago to volunteer at a mission outreach sixty hours a week.   My two brothers worked in refugee camps in Somalia and Kenya for a total of nine years, and my sister runs the education program at two homeless shelters in Tucson after living three years translating in Morocco.  Funny thing about apple trees.  All four kids teach and we married teachers too.  It would seem stifling being relegated to the family business except that it isn’t–education is the one job that promises hope every single day–maybe today–will the moment in a child’s life.

The story unravels back to the source.   Papa Coverdale was headmaster of Battle Ground Academy and running a boys’ camp in the summer.  Those early years spent on the Caney Fork River sunk in deep and I witnessed the annual transformation time and time again of “boys becoming men.”  Mama Gert, a theatre major at Vanderbilt, took storytelling to new heights and her repertoire included riding camels in Egypt and elephants in India.  “Chief” of course told haunting stories of Bear Cat Cave in front of tumbling campfires wearing a full Indian headdress. The oral tradition had begun in earnest. His family had arrived early to Virginia, before the Revolutionary War and began a legacy of horseback doctors that lasted for generation after generation.  When the Emancipation Proclamation was declared, Doc Coverdale split his land and possessions evenly between his two sons and his one slave.  Winfield Scott joined the line here and is still considered a hero in Mexico in spite of his lacy fussiness because he treated surrendering generals with such respect.  Finally the family moved to Tennessee and Jack Daniels added his regional lubricant.  Coverdale, the family line traces back to Miles, Archbishop of Exeter, who was always threatened with losing his head in the tumultuous court of King Henry VIII because of his insistent plodding through translating the entire Bible into English so that God’s Word would be accessible to the commoner.  Perhaps this is indeed where the strand ends.  When the saga is said and done, perhaps this is the marker gene–a willingness to lose our heads, in order to find that they might be found.  

Acknowledgement Page
My acknowledgements for this paper, and even this summer go much deeper than the simple quotes carefully torn from the offered pieces and sewn with small stitches into mine.  The members of the writing group have had a delightful effect on my rather tumbled helter-skelter words.  They have thoughtfully weighed and constructed and instructed me on the hefty considerations of audience and voice and clarity, and I am ever so grateful for this experience and their patient time.  Thank you.

1.  Michael Robinson.  Word Wizard. “threadbare.” This word reaches beyond the simple beauty of itself, and brings in images of worn weariness and tawdriness and sliding out of high-born finery.  Great word which captures our unspoken fears.

2.  Jane Newton.  Fellow mother.  “Culture, traditions and shared values meant nothing to us at this stage of life.” Jane understands the second generation, because she is looking at them from across the years we share.  When we gently shake our heads at our own childish follies, it is only because we can see them so clearly and presently in our own beloved darlings.

3.  Carl Johanneson.  Crafty master of the ironic understatement.  “There is no sidestepping the issue.”  This drive to affect and motivate the world around us is the big issue in our family that takes fierce determination and will to push aside. (Jon, Alan’s brother being the only exception, and he is overwhelmingly generous with his filthy lucre- that he made in advertising which in and of itself speaks to affect.) This issue is so glaring, that only the strength of understatement could underline it without sounding hysterical.

4.  DeAnne Blea. Ever the Romantic.  How romantic is it to take something and turn it upside down and shake it and hope something falls out?  That was her suggestion, mightily seconded by Carl, and so I flipped the story.  The flow might be a bit rougher, but hopefully some excess baggage was left in rapids.

How sweet it is

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He giveth His beloved sleep.  Psalm 127:2

Please don’t tell this to my accreditation team.

What a marvel and delight the body of Christ is.  Really three days ago we didn’t know each other at all beyond a brief handshake and faint smile at a training or conference.  But now, after long hours of tangling with a complex protocol and wandering around a joyous campus with praise music pouring down from on high we have formed a brotherhood.  And mingled in amongst the indicators and artifacts and observations and cups of coffee and diet Pepsi and Cliff bars we shared the commonality of His story, of a great God at work in the lives of His children.

And maybe, just maybe, the early risings and late sittings and not so much of His beloved sleep was part of the experience that bound our hearts together and knocked down the walls of convention.  And I am so very grateful for the collective experiences and wisdom and vigor and passion that was shared.  Part of His purpose that will forever shape who I am.  

Thank you.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

And again

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126: 5-6


This is the nature of life.  The rhythms of the seasons that God built into creation.  

Sunrise.  Sunset.  
Winter.  Summer.  
Death.  Birth.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Crucifixion. Resurrection. 

The translations tackle the “verily, verily” differently: Truly, truly; I assure you; I tell you the solemn truth; this timeless truth I speak to you; I can guarantee this truth. 

This is Jesus speaking.  If I am going to believe anything at all, even the rising and falling of the sun, then I am to believe the rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

His resurrection is one more demonstration.  The demonstration.  The demonstration that totally caught His followers off guard–they were absolutely shocked that He conquered death.  But this resurrection power transformed their lives from cowering in the shadows to boldly proclaiming in the streets.  

Angel’s death brought life. Somehow the mangled body of an eleven-year-old boy under a clump of dirt touched the hearts and souls of a village locked in hopelessness.  

I will never forget the wide-open eyes of Odalis as he whispered his name to me, while I was being bundled off into the nuns’ Volkswagon under machine gun guard, with only a baby and a handful of cloth diapers tucked under my arm.  

The memories: a wan Alan waiting in the police station, the tumultuous wall-shaking crowd, the embrace of a grief-stricken father, the woman who carried a bed on her back two and a half miles from Aguita, the Comite of Damnificados offering up their jar of hard-pressed coins, the healing prayer of an itinerant missionary, the longest journey ever back to the village surrounded by our neighbors, friend and foe alike; the wild drum-pounding dance of love with Nicole held up high: We will lay down our life for this child; to that night, as we lay in our little loft and considered, Are we in or are we just dabbling around the edges?

And the harvest was great, as an entire village turned their heart towards Him.

Thus, oh LORD, I am in, once again.

I offer up my tears as an offering to you.  I will sow generously along the pathways and across rocky soils and amongst the thorns and deep into the good soil.  And You, oh LORD, are the LORD of the harvest.  

May I reap in joy, rejoicing.