Monday, March 28, 2011

Gifts

There are gifts, and then there are gifts. We all know the difference.

Two Christmases ago, we gave one of those gifts to our son: a letter to inform him that he would get to return to school. That's right, no more homeschool for him. The news was met with a dropped jaw and tears. Words just flat failed him.

Just a little bit before that, my mom received one of those gifts: a kidney, donated by a family that had lost a loved one so another family wouldn't have to lose theirs. How do you thank someone for that kind of gift?

Mike's received some of those gifts, too. A month of daily blood transfusions, sometimes two units at a time, kept a thirty-seven year old man with three small children alive literally for one day at a time. This ... for a man who had only ever given blood once in his whole, healthy life. This ... for a man who can't give blood now because he doesn't stay out of malaria-prone areas of Guatemala long enough to be Red Cross approved.

Then just last week he received another.



I'm sure he would have never guessed that a chicken would rank up there with educational freedom, vital organs, and life-blood. Oh, but it does.

You see, that bird means a full belly. We Americans in the twenty-first century, even the poor among us, don't know the value of a full stomach because we've never experienced an empty one -- not really. We might even laugh at the oddity of such a gift, all waddles and feathers and gobbles, and wonder what on earth we are supposed to do with a crazy thing like that? Who gives a chicken as a gift, anyway?

A Kek'chi family with literally nothing else but the best to give does. A Kek'chi family that knows the worry of what-will-we-feed-our-children-after-today gave away the only main course they had. They gave the last of their flour and oil to the Prophet that came to their village, like the starving woman did when Elijah came to town. Then God blessed it and made it enough to sustain all their lives.



All waddles and feathers and gobbles becomes food, and fellowship, and life, sacrificed and gifted by the one in terrible need with gratitude to the one who came to give, certainly not receive. And a common chicken becomes a holy offering.

It is food for a home full of children and food for thought, both. I, for one, did not eat of this chicken, yet it fills even me, this gift of so much life. The blessing reaches so far, I think I can smell the caldo de gallina (traditional Guatemalan chicken soup).

And how do you thank someone for that kind of gift?  Words just flat fail me.



Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Being Supper Company

We were invited so long ago that to have a schedule conflict is inexcusable. I enter the door through misty, foggy rain, but my soul sings just to be in his house.

The table's been placed front and center, and I anticipate the routine. I like routine, the familiar comfort of knowing and doing. It's a tradition as comforting as favorite worn blue jeans.

But today, I feel lonely in the ritual. Even with the Holy Spirit resident within, I feel Jesus is too far off. His place at the head of the table is empty. Yet isn't this precisely why we eat and drink? This should not be my concern but my solace. And today, in the tradition, I want to break out. I want to sit across from my Christ. I want my fingertips to brush his palm when he passes the bread to me --  to me. I want to drink from the cup in his hand, and recline against his chest and commune. Really commune.

I think of the disciples: did they know they were making history? That this passover was the passover to end all passovers? Which of our observances of the Lord's supper will be the last? Will we know?

We eat. A pasty wafer melts stale on my tongue. I want to bite down, but can't seem to bring myself to it. I open my mouth, tip my chin skyward, and receive a small swallow, one sip of purple juice from a miniature plastic cup.  I stare blankly at the carpet just before me.

It doesn't feel holy today.

It feels empty.

I long for presence.

I want to really commune.

I do it in remembrance. He is the Bread of Life and the Never-Thirst-Again Water. And I want that communion: disciple communion, face to face, feet to feet, laughter to laughter, question to answer, smile to eye communion. I long to know him in this way. That is what I want to remember, not his missing place at the supper table.

My appetite for him is growing. One bit and one sip are not enough. I embrace what he gives; it is humble to receive. He is my sustenance, my portion. Give me this day my daily bread.

He inaugurated a new covenant, and I remember: I was once there at the cross when I first saw the light. And I do this in remembrance of Him who's not here, until he comes again for another meal, a Feast for all time.

There he will be.

Head of our father's table, the one abundant with bounty, he will host not a simple meal of bread and wine to commemorate death and sacrifice, but a lavish feast to celebrate life and communion. And we will, finally, really commune. Nothing will ever again be lacking.

It is the inauguration of the new covenant we remember, but the inauguration of a new heaven and a new earth we await. And today, I missed you, Lord Jesus. Even so, come quickly.

Easter Morning Communion, Sesaltul village, Guatemala, April 2010

I'm living out on Monday what I took in on Sunday. I want to always remember.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Home

It's 2:00 in the morning quiet. The house sleeps, until the weatherstripping sweeps over the threshold of the front door with that distinct swoosh followed by the quick beep, bee-bee-beep of the alarm sensors.

He's home. The underwhelming response to his return is a wife and three children upstairs breathing deeply in the night. Only Boomer has heard him enter, wagging his tail from his corner crate.

Bags dropped in the front hallway, he takes the stairs, the final hurdle to the finish line of his sixteen hour journey from the Guatemalan jungle. He stops in two bedrooms to kiss three foreheads. It will have to suffice until morning, the one that includes a sunrise.

He slides in on his side, and scoots over toward me.  I'm not awake until he slides one hand underneath me, reaches the other over the top, and finds my ear with his whisper, "I'm home."

My arm is pinned to my body by his, but I bend my elbow and reach back to hug his upper arm. We squeeze tight. "I'm so glad you're back," I mumble, still clinging.

"I'll be right back, I just need a quick shower." I hear it as sleep once again takes me over, and I don't notice when he returns smelling of soap.

There was a time in my life, before Christ, before a happy marriage, when trips were always about the leaving, and leaving behind, and being torn in two. Trips were long, dreadful goodbyes.

Now they are much more about the return. The bringing in (of over one hundred more kingdom souls), the coming home, and being all one. Now they are the happiest of hellos.



Welcome home, Guatemala Extreme Team.

The video is of 2010 Extreme Guatemala. This year's video is still in the making.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Woe Is Me

Sometimes I talk with Mike more often when he's in Guatemala than when he's home.  But not this trip.  They don't call it extreme for nothin'.  He left at 2am Wednesday morning and I've talked with him once on the phone for about 4 minutes in the last five days. I was at work with a ton going on and was very distracted, but I remember that he sounded up, and pretty much like everything was going great. Yeah, we'll go with that.

I think there was cell phone reception in the middle of the jungle only because they had hiked to the top of the mountain to this particular village.

In the meantime, I've gotten sick with the worst sore throat I've had since I was six when it took the doctor, the nurse, and my mother to hold me down for a strep throat swabbing -- perhaps my first traumatic childhood memory. The sore throat has a body guard:  a gargantuan headache that has been with me in varying degrees of severity since Friday.  I didn't sleep at all last night, have nursed about fifty-seven cups of green tea in the last seventy-two hours, giving my kidneys quite the workout, to no avail.  Today, body aches joined the party. 

So I am spending Sunday afternoon resting, hoping it will be enough to begin a whole new week on half a tank. 

I miss my guy. He's my shoulder-rubber, my vacuumer, the listener to my woes, and my driver to church when I don't feel so good -- among a host of other things he is to me.



So, Mike, if you can get wi-fi somewhere and  read this, don't let those cutie-pies in Guatemala lure you away for too long. Come home to me soon. I miss you.

{You are now invited to click here to see my dedication from it's original site.}

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Unshakable

The rubble fell around what used to be a federal building in Oklahoma City, and a firstborn exploded from my body. I heard the news:  it's a boy! It was a bomb! And I bled too long, my body depleted. Even two weeks later, I faint with low blood counts. A city tries to recover; the new mom, too. A nation grieves, but the mom is preoccupied with infancy and fatigue, until finally, when the six-month commemoration airs on TV, she rocks and sobs and is blown to pieces at the magnitude of tragedy that she didn't absorb at the onset. And she begins wondering why.

A storm rages. Katrina traps cities of people on second floors and roofs and in attics. When all manner of people are searching desperately for higher ground, one storm-raged woman is desperate to go lower, to bend the knee, finally driven to unabated search for the eye of the storm: El Roi, the one who sees. It took 30-foot storm surge to sweep her off her life-weary feet. She doesn't seek rescue or safety, but forgiveness and soul rest, because Katrina can be weathered but the hurricane of the heart cannot. And the woman -- Mom -- finds faith in the storm.

Uncle Mickey's home, gutted by Katrina, where Mom knelt to pray on the soggy second floor.

The earth quakes. A nation shakes, and is splashed fierce by the water that God, in his long ago wisdom, separated from the dry land. All the while, an American across the globe drives deep down the support beams of life to secure a foundation because she doesn't want to quake when life shakes. She's both reading and counting (her own) One Thousand Gifts. And when countless thousands of human life gift are swept away, faith shakes.  Questions gnaw at the innards like a hunger Red Cross tries to fill, and answers snap in a sudden, crumbled heap. Nothing looks the same, no landmark remains, and there is no point of reference to find true north. A tsunami leaves behind a deep sea of sad suffering and sorrow. Yet in the midst of another horrific disaster, she finds a cornerstone. It's a dare to live fully, right where she is: dumbfounded, yet again, before incomprehensible tragedy and destruction.

All that's left of my childhood home one month after Katrina
She reads it like a compass:
He gave us Jesus. Jesus! ... Need there be anything more? If God didn't withhold from us his very own Son, will God withhold anything we need?

If trust must be earned, hasn't God unequivocally earned our trust with the bark on the raw wounds, the thorns pressed into the brow, and your name on the cracked lips? ...

It is safe to trust. ...

There are moments that as sure as I bruise don't feel like good things have been given. ... And I've an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we can look back and see God's back in the rearview mirror.

Maybe sometimes about as far as heaven...that kind of distance. ...

Until Home and Promised Land and complete clarity, I'm a wanderer eating manna, eating mystery. For really, as long as I live, travel, is there really ever anything else to eat? I either take the "what is it?" manna with thanks, eat the mystery of the moment with trust, and am nourished another day--or refuse it...and die.  (excerpted from One Thousand Gifts Chapter 8)


Only manna satisfies the gnaw of the questions and pieces back together the mysterious answer. It's the mystery that rescues suffering souls. Christ in you, the manna, the trusting soul that aches in the face of foundation-shaking and a tearing all the way to the core to reveal the foundation firm: they are altogether mystery. His inviting, infinite love hides tightly packaged in his utter, awe-inspiring holiness.

Harbor House Seafood Restaurant's steel beams collapsed under Katrina's splash

And Mom got it right by following her instinctive infancy in Christ. She knew that while she needed rescue, what she needed most was faith.  All that's left to do is stand on the Rock, knees knocking in the after-shock, and pray down manna for Japan.


Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so.  God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Six Villages In Four Days

It's Guatemala Extreme 2011. Our team is packed, prayed up, and prepared. They go to the ends of the earth with the gospel to the forgotten indiginous people groups of the mountainous tropical jungles of Guatemala.



Wed. March 16 - Travel Day (final destination, Coban, Guatemala - New Hope Children's Home)

Thu. March 17 - Sesaltul Village (hike into the mountains arriving at Sesaltul Village)

Fri. March 18 - Leave Sesaltul village and travel down to Chinaha Village in the morning/and then Sechaj village to minister in that afternoon (we will camp the night in Chisec)

Sat. March 19 - Travel in trucks to Secumaxan village and unload. Travel over to San Juan Bosqo Village and minister there, returning in the evening to Secumaxan Village.


Sun. March 20 - Worship in Secumaxan and then travel to Tamarindo village to minister. Leave in the evening back to Coban and sleep at the children's home.

Mon. March 21 - Worship service at Children's home in the morning and then leave for Guatemala City after lunch (Barcelo Hotel)

Tue. March 22 - Rest day in Guatemala City

Wed. March 23 - Travel back to the USA.

It's become a Facebook tradition that I send Mike "missing you" messages and send him love song dedications.  Stay tuned for this year's messages via the blog.  He will, of course, have computer access only in Coban at the children's home.

Pray with me that our Extreme Team stays safe and God uses them mightily?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Three Jobs at One Time Survival Guide

Step 1
Begin to let your morning workouts become sporadic, then eventually non-existent.

Step 2
Appreciate your morning coffee almost as much as sleep.


Step 3
Put your family life, social life, volunteer ventures, blog, and social media on hold indefinitely.

Step 4
Pray your kids complete their homework, remember to shower, and brush their teeth all on their own.

Step 5
Happily eat the undercooked/overcooked meals your eleven-year-old cooked -- cold and alone, of course, hours after she cooked it and every one else ate it. (Thanks, Reagan Ru, you rock!) Miss dinner devotions with your family. Do not pass go; Do not collect $200.


Step 6
Become more grateful by the day that God provided the perfect replacement for the two part time jobs you love and hated to leave.  Praise the Lord that God's timing was quick this time and not slow as some count slowness...(2 Peter 3:9) because slowness in this case is what would cause you to perish. She could even become a great friend -- that is, if you're social life weren't on hold. (See step 3.)

Step 7
Learn the names of a whole new congregation as fast as you can because you don't know how long you get a free pass for not knowing Mrs. Delores Morris's name yet.

Step 8
Praise the Lord that this won't last long.

Step 9
Train and be trained. Teach and learn until your brain aches the way your lungs and cheeks do when you're having trouble blowing up a balloon.  Wonder if your brain will eventually pop like the balloon does, and whether it will be loud and startle you.

Step 10
Devour the chocolate that was a "just because" gift from your husband while you soak in the bath salts (the rest of the "just because" gift).  He gives these gifts because he's been doing more laundry and dishes in the last month alone than in the previous twenty-two years of marriage put together.  He gains a new-found appreciation for the one called "housekeeper" and "homemaker."  You are so grateful...again...still (in your spare time, of course).



Step 11
Plan a Spring weekend retreat that you will lead and teach for your church's women's ministry in the midst of this.

Step 12
Repeat Step 8.

Step 13
Enjoy full time salary plus two part time salaries coming in all at once.

Step 14
Don't get used to Step 13.

Step 15
Kiss your family and take them to Florida for Spring Break (praying it gets here soon) because they've pitched in and stepped to the plate to help out. (When did the family baseball game start? Did I miss something?)



Step 16
Look forward to the time you no longer have to do two part time jobs on top of the new full time one.

Step 17
Buy more chocolate and bath salts and repeat Step 10 as necessary.

Step 18
When it's all over, reverse Step 1.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

When There's Only Time Enough For One Thing

When all there's time for in a life is a list, said list should be one of gratitude.
...because life is full to overflowing.
...because life is always rich.
...because flying through the days is exhilarating like a motorcycle ride.
...and because it will slow back down to a new normal soon.

378 ~ blazing twilight sky in the rear view mirror
379 ~ Bradford Pears blooming popcorn
380 ~ Sunday lunch around the dinner table -- homemade
381 ~ God's triune imprint on social and spiritual order
382 ~ Despicable Me with the girls and Mike
383 ~ files cleaned out and a deep cut into the to do list
384 ~ training God's perfect replacement for  my  her two part-time jobs
385 ~ the infinite God who gives all of Himself to me (infinity divided by every christian of all time equals infinity)
386 ~ that God doesn't deal in fractions or divide
387 ~ which prompts a desire to have an undivided heart
388 ~ an arduous art audition
389 ~ potato chips for the first time in a long time
390 ~ a niece who honored me today with her humble conviction
391 ~ a chapter in the bathtub
392 ~ a Sunday afternoon walk with Mike (Who'm I fooling, it was a five mile hike up and down steep hills in preparation for Guatemala Extreme.)
393 ~ sleep
394 ~ daughters wanting to accompany me to the grocery store
395 ~ being ready for Monday
396 ~ five making sandwiches in one kitchen all at once without a collision or an argument
397 ~ a two hour stretch in God's word first thing in the morning
398 ~ God's grace for a challenging season of transition
399 ~ His faithfulness even when I ignore my significance in Him, look to a substitute, and make myself a prostitute.
400 ~ calling my small unfaithfulnesses prostitution (like God does) so I will hate it, not rationalize it
401 ~ the mystery of God with man, Tour 8 from Truth Project with Dr. Del Tackett
402 ~ the scandalous price He paid for me
403 ~ being bought and belonging to Him


Friday, March 4, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

Start.

I move closer in to really see. There is so much there to cover up. Why the need to look young? Sun spots, age, a life hidden behind hair color and concealer. But the laugh lines run deep because a life is hard fought and won through the laughter. The tears that spill leave red rimmed eyes that blur a world and try to make sense.

Change, growth. There is so much going on in the body, the mind, a life. It shows on the outside. But appearance is everything, and there's so much of life that's not neatly packaged, not toned and tight. It hangs loose.

It wrinkles on top of each other, leaving room to expand, swell. Should there be this much judgment of self in that mirror?

More grace, perhaps? Would I look through eyes of love rather than eyes of criticism, eyes that are skeptical? I need to see that it's OK to be me, to age, to grow, mature, and be exactly what God is making me. A mirror reflects. It doesn't hide, pretend, or embellish. It reflects.

I hope I radiate and reflect. I want to be that mirror of God's grace in a life that's mixed up and broken and graced, and bound up by Love Himself. A mirror image of grace.

Stop.

This is a five minute writing. That means no editing, rearranging, just five minutes of thoughts and words. Imperfect but straight from the heart and head and keyboard. Spell-checked after the fact, though, to hide my embarrassing typo's. I can generally spell, I just can't always type. 
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