Thursday, May 29, 2014

The guy with the cane walked past us three times

30 de mayo, 2014

En Dios haremos proezas. Salmo 60, 12

Jesus dijo: Id, pues, y aprended lo que significa: Misericordia quiero, y no sacrificio. Mateo 9, 13

Debemos dejar de lado todos los sistemas y reglas del juego, todos los conceptos y composiciones, todas las cosmovisiones, absolutamente todas explicaciones para dar un primer paso hacia el projimo. Hans-Dieter Husch

So why not? Last night Nicole and I went to hear an Indian evangelist and prayer healer. Across the river in Old Istanbul. I mean, all of Istanbul seems pretty old to me, give or take a century or two.

And of course, for the first hour we pretty much wondered what we had gotten ourselves into... four or five people sitting around a lace-bedecked wedding venue.

But as the evening wended on, we knew. Through God, we shall do valiantly. The speaker was simple, clear, and focused. Jesus is alive, and we will all see this tonight. He had the crowd of a hundred carefully practice shouting, Hallelujah," and something along the lines of, "Tanrı'ya övgüler olsun," before he began, and we were good to go. And he explained that he heard God speak to him, and then he would say it. Simple, clear, and focused. And over and over, his lively story of Jesus bringing back life to the heartbroken widow's son was interrupted by him pointing to a place in the audience, calling out specific ailments, people trundling up, clarifying the duration and severity of the deafness, or pain, or immobility, praying in the name of Jesus, and then quite dramatic demonstrations of healing. Over and over. Every time.

And the big story was joy. Apparently the name of the city Nain means "happy place" or "pleasant place." And this heartbroken woman was leaving happiness, and weeping into despair, and Jesus had compassion on her.  When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, "Don't cry." And we are a brokenhearted people. And he is a God of compassion.

And the biggest transformation I saw last night was the looks on the faces of the people who were healed. Quite clearly joy. No hedging or doubt. These faces glowed.

And as Nicole and I walk the streets and ride the trams and drink coffee at sidewalk tables we long to be valiant. But we aren't.  There are many crutches and tapping canes and wrapped wounds. Where do we start? We certainly don't speak the language. We are clumsy tourists. Insensitive to cultural nuances. We who are revising yet another version of Do What Jesus Did for publishing, complete with discussion questions and group activities and weekly assignments.

And the meditation for the day from the Lecturas Diarias 2014 says we should leave to one side systems of thinking and figuring things out, the rules of the games, and absolutely all of the excuses and rationales, and take that first step to my neighbor.

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

So be it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No wonder everyone takes off their shoes.

Y yo, si soy levantado de la tierra, atraeré a todos a mí mismo. Juan 12, 32 

Como podremora agradecer Tu gracia y Tu bondad? Sólo siendo misericordioso con nuestros semejantes; como Tú, eres con nosotros. Amén. Elsa Tamez

 The word "men" is not in the text, it is only (pantav), "all": Beza's most ancient copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version read (panta), "all things".

And it is a great mystery, this future tense statement, how the good purpose of God will be worked and what it will look like. But His purpose reflects His goodness, and in this we put our trust. 

And last night, as deniz and Nicole and I scooped up eggplant and humus and feta cheese with bits of bread, we talked. And deniz asked me how I felt about traveling. And I told her that for me it was an act of worship. Because it is all so easy for me to get overly focused on my small part of history and forget the rest.

But when I wander I am reminded of the grandeur of our God. 

 “After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor. The whole show has been on fire from the word go. I come down to the water to cool my eyes. But everywhere I look I see fire; that which isn't flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames.” 
― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

But more than the sparkling strait Bosporus or even the soaring Hagia Sophia, that lady sitting over there, in the striped blouse, with the packages piled at her feet while she sips tea, is an extravagant gesture of creation. 

The same grace and kindness He has shown me is indeed a marvelous thing. And although the road is at times rough, and sometimes dark, like climbing up four flights of the circular staircase to Nicole's apartment without the little flashlight, His mercy is tangible, quantifiable and True. 

And last night I expounded on my favorite science thingie ad nausum for my kiddos: the If/Then statement. If this love of God is true for me, me with all of my complexities and connections and perspectives and fallibilities and me-ness, and brings me to my knees in worship, what then shall I say to this God as I wander a city of thirteen million souls, layered upon layered for centuries by the sea.


Maybe I will have another frothed yogurt

28 mayo 2014

Those who plan peace have joy. Proverbs 12:20

Jesucristo, gran Maestro, dota a tus mensajeros con nuevas fuerzas, permite que tu discipulado marche con alegria por los caminos, confiando en Ti ante toda dificultad, sintiendo tu compania dia y noche.  Nikolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf

Everette would love Istanbul. It is full of cats. Happy cats fed in the sunshine on neatly folded up sheets of newspaper. I am sitting in a small cafe. Of course, with a double expresso.  Across the tiny steep cobbled street streaming with taxi cabs and motor scooters and street carts rests an aged green mosque and a garden street corner. Mostly seagulls swirl in lazy blue circles. And sparrows. Gentle techno music pulses amidst the tinkling glassware and murmured conversations. Unexpectedly, Istanbul is a gentle city. A tangled twisted flowering vine of hipster tacones, fine business suits, neatly pinned berkas, and huddled women with an outreached hand. 

I read part of Annie Dillard's book describing archeological digs as I crossed over the ocean. Istanbul is a dig, layers upon layers.

Layers upon layers.

Simply on the surface, looking down to avoid tripping on the uneven surfaces, straight into the slightly squinting with a smile brown eyes, around to flapping clothes lines and dangling bling and brightly colored mats, up up to bright red and pink gardenias hanging off of rooftop gardens and rounded domes connecting space.

Or complex longing to be noticed. Each who walks by, an image-bearer. So many cups of tea and Marlboro cigarettes. A sad-eyed lady with an accordion and her twirling little girl dressed in pink holding a paper cup. A father jostling a tired infant.  Three young Turks leaning up against a doorstep flirting with a shy shopkeeper. And yet another calico cat. Just now the five times a day call for prayer has begun, called down from every minaret reaching for the sky.

Dear Master, may Your disciple march the ways with joy and confidence in You.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

In Spain the caramelized crust on the bottom of the paella pan is called socarrat

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
    and one who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:25

It was years ago. I don’t even remember if Alan asked me or told me about this guy on his soccer team whose wife kicked him out of the house and he really had no where to live. And he was Iranian.  And Hussein has been part of our lives ever since. Of course that is not the name he goes by here in the United States, especially during all those wars, but that is his name. And he has been to the weddings and the Christmas Eve services and he knows that he can drop by anytime, especially at dinnertime. And yeah, he pretty much livens up conversations with his statements of facts. That was a pretty memorable dinner with him, a Baghdad Iraqi, a Kurd and an New York Jewish journalist discussing The Middle East Solution.

And life has not always been easy for an engineer who studied at the University of Arizona, but is now, well, Iranian. So bunches of Iranians end up selling used cars. And playing lots of soccer. And over the years Alan has been the white guy at Iranian soccer tournaments at UCLA or Las Vegas or San Diego. And sometimes Hussein’s little boy would come over and ask lots and lots of questions and bang on the drums that used to be in the living room. But now he has a band of his own in Texas far away.

And the last time Hussein went back to visit his family in Tehran, he returned with a glowingly lovely wife. And last night we all went over to their house for dinner: Mary Anne and mom and Chuyi and Alan and I.  And we were enriched.

At first we gathered around the low table laden with nuts and dried fruits and chocolates and a mountain of fruit artistically arranged because everything in this unassuming home on the eastside is artistically arranged because that is how Eliheh sees the world.  And we probably biffed it–I think we started at the dessert table by mistake but our hosts were so polite and so happy. Like that viral video we have all seen too many times. Exactly.

And we gathered around the high table with a huge platter of rice swirled with saffron and sprinkled with beautiful red fruits that you can only buy the Middle Eastern store on Speedway. And splayed roasted chickens, and small stuffed eggplants and tomatoes and cucumber and yogurt salad and of course, tahdig, the crisp rice taken from the bottom of the pot in which the rice is cooked. The name comes from a Persian word meaning "bottom of the pot,” of course. “Da me el concón,” is what we used to say in La Republica Dominicana, and “pegao” in Colombia.

And back to the low table of nuts and fruits and a box of chocolates and homemade Baklava and glasses of tea. And stories and photos and family heirlooms. And Hussein has a round tummy for the first time in his life and he smiles and smiles.

And whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

We were sure watered last night, over and over again. And old Hussein even had these fancy dancy tongs to place ice cubes into our glasses.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

too fast in the wrong direction

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
    another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
    and one who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:24-25

So there have been a lot of frantic texts last night and this morning asking for a money order to be sent immediately. And I responded with what I thought was warm wise grace offering options and ideas and reason. 

But. I who know better, again and again, had yet another ah ha moment. Why not ask God? Pause. Listen. What a concept. Once again.

And the Spirit drove me to Chris’s blog: The Shipwrecked Pilgrim
I have come to realize that the restlessness is actually there Holy Spirit letting me know that I have allowed to much in, too much clutter in my heart and mind and soul - the restlessness I feel in my quiet moments are a warning as well as an invitation... an invitation to stillness and rest and fullness and peace and eventually work that is empowered by the Spirit.

So today - stop long enough to feel the restlessness and the invitation. It is only when we hit the brakes and lunge forward that we notice how fast we are going and often how far away we have gotten.

I have been the Checklist Queen this last week. My grades are in, my bags are packed, I am ready to go. I took Alan’s bike out for a practice spin this morning. I found the Nikon COOLPIX S210 8.0 digital camera for Matteo’s cousin at the fourth thrift store on Speedway yesterday afternoon. I am even working on my second summer book on the second day of summer vacation. Check check check. 


But stillness and rest?


Flip back to that wisdom stuff I am working on. And of course. Ask and you will receive.

Gives freely. No restrictions. No clauses in fine print.  No judgment calls.

Gives freely.

And to Whom am I giving? To Him who withholds no good thing. So that I may be a child of my Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

And sometimes  I fuss a little at Alan as the water splashes down and around the pots and trees and baskets and garden beds and pools in the grassy sections. Especially once a month when Tucson Waters asks me to settle accounts.

But man, is it beautiful. The flowers cascading off of the Ray-inspired stage, the baskets of sweet peaches. The veritable forest of red and orange-stemmed kale. The jasmine twisting around the metal arch.

Well-watered. I am indeed well-watered.

Old Nicole is posting maps on Facebook for everyone to see.

And this give and it shall be given unto you verse, the shared life verse that is not so much about stuff or time, but about mercy. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.


Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

I texted back: What can I do to help?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Like a gold ring in a pig's snout

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding remains silent.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
    but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. Proverbs 11:12-13

I imagine that there are all sorts of subtle ways to belittle neighbors and slander secrets.  Especially when one is apt to leap into a conversation early and often, such as myself. In sharp contrast to Alan and Scott, who stand on the outskirts thoughtfully considering and weighing words. 

I have no excuse. I had already meditated on these wisdom words and theoretically let them settle into my heart a couple of days ago. 

But I didn’t do so well on this one yesterday. I responded to some kind, open-ended questions with unloaded sundry frustrations. And the problem with those words once they are dumped is that they don’t just sit there in an ugly little heap, but they creep off and cause all sorts of mischief…in the hearts and minds of people I love.

And it’s not just a simple matter of self-control. No one can control the tongue, it is a restless flame set on fire by hell itself. A fire fueled by what lies hidden in the heart. 

Pride. Ingratitude. Faithlessness. Mercilessness. To name a few.

With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
    but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.

Knowledge of what is good and what is true and what is love.

And yesterday noon we were kicking around Big Ideas in the reflective gathering of Desert English teachers. And they were chatting about Mr. Winslow’s big line, well he confessed to stealing it from God: Be silent.

Because that silence leads into knowing God.

As in Be silent and know that I am God.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Flourish like a green leaf

May 21, 2014

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding remains silent.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
    but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. Proverbs 11:12-13

I imagine that there are all sorts of subtle ways to belittle neighbors and slander secrets.  Especially when one is apt to leap into a conversation early and often, such as myself. In sharp contrast to Alan and Scott, who stand on the outskirts thoughtfully considering and weighing words. 

May 22, 2014

Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
    but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14

I am thinking about this abundance thing this morning. I wrote a celebratory letter to a guy who has flourished with an abundance of counselors, a trustworthy community who has been there faithfully through the darkness and over the slippery spots. It has not been an easy journey, but there was overarching sense of peace that comes from that sure grasp (of the wrist, thank you Mr. Helin) offered as the footing gives way. And, and on the other hand, my thoughts and prayers are with a woman wandering through northern Nevada, alone, even unaware of a loving Presence who goes with her, before her, and shelters her from behind.

And I am thinking about unity a lot these days, thanks to Dave and 4Tucson. And humility. And the checklist. Because this whole community idea is not very easy, and sometimes the isolated Northern route seems simplest. Choosing to go low does not come naturally.

Sometimes I just stick it out because I am stubborn. And I kind of like doing things the hard way. And sometimes it is a slightly more noble but abstract understanding that pushing into community brings honor to God and joy to Jesus in a way that I can’t quite wrap my brain around, but the Bible tells me so.

And yet, very really and truly, there is safety in community. Delightful, satisfying, mango-juice running down the chin comfort and safety, as in The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.  And this morning I celebrate the many delightful counselors that surround me, Mary Anne delivering the morning paper and a prayer, Kathie taking care of business, Sue my Thursday prayer walker, Heather with always-a-wise-word, Wendy so kind and smiley, my momma with a world of experience…the list goes on and on.

And as I wrote this morning, with some slight pronoun changes: I rejoice in the strong community who stands by me, across many waters, with much love and wisdom to walk alongside me in the grand adventure, a long obedience in the same direction.