Monday, December 26, 2011

The Story We Missed

I could have chosen any place or any time period to come to you. I am the only one who ever had or ever will have that choice. I chose to come in shame and disgrace, in darkness, distrust and discomfort, in a dirty, grimy no-count town’s stable. I chose Bethlehem and I chose the rugged manger I used as a bed. I designed my very birth and planned it centuries beforehand. But it was nothing like what you sang about today at church.

I can see it now… every little detail from Gabrielle telling the girl Mary to the old kings from afar laying down their gifts of devotion to me. You know the story. I’ve heard you read it every year on the day you call my birthday.

When I sent Gabrielle down, I watched as Mary dropped her basket of bread rolls and fall to her knees at the sight of him. Her family was going to have a small gathering for her brother’s bar mitzvah and she had a lot to do to get ready for it. I watched her expression turn from fright to awe to wonder to submission. That’s why I chose her. Not because she was somebody special, but because in her mind she wasn’t. I loved her, and saw her heart was one of submission and devotion to me. As she knelt with her face to the ground, her very hands trembled from the realization of what she did not understand. I remember the shock and fear in her face as she gathered up the rolls and later told her mother what the angel had told her. She herself did not understand it, so she had no way of making her mother understand it. They waiting to tell her father, but that didn’t soothe his anger. I wish she would have been able to take comfort in my love during that hard time.

I remember the pain and hurt in Joseph’s eyes as Mary stood behind her parents and they told him and his parents what had happened. The young man could hardly believe his ears, but when his eyes confirmed his hearing, he knew he had to make a choice. Divorcing Mary was the only suitable thing to do in his eyes. The night before he broke off the engagement, I sent Gabrielle again. The relief his heart felt after the dream was immense. He was to marry Mary anyways. But to those around him, it would appear his guilty conscience was forcing him to marry the woman he had made pregnant, not God telling him to marry the virgin he loved. That rumor would never allow him peace. But as a man of honor, he never even mentioned the stress the marriage put on him to Mary.

When Joseph was informed of the decree Caesar Augustus, he and Mary went trusting me for safety and their future. But when there was no room in the inns, and the only room offered them was a dirty old stable, they had a hard time not thinking twice. The many, many people that had come to Bethlehem made the once small, meaningless town a bustling, over-crowded mob trying to get to everywhere at once. Joseph left Mary with a wary farewell in the stable as she cried out for the pain of birth, to go and find someone, some willing soul that might help him and his wife. He knew he ought to find food, too, but the markets were too densely populated and no food was in the stalls anyways. When he found a woman, she was carrying water or bringing in the last of the vegetables from the garden on her way to the kitchen. Not one would help him. When he saw a family member of his and without thought greeted them hastily, they snubbed him and went on. So he returned to hold Mary’s hand with no more than he left with except a few more bruises. With no light, Mary strangled his hands and arms, writhing with pain. When it was finally over, the only light was the points of light from the sky that angled in the cave of a stable. The only noise was the cattle and the chickens running around the couple and I. And I was put in a manger. The only food available was straw for the animals. Dirty, grimy, slobbery and itchy from the straw, the manger my mother put me in wrapped with what rags she had with her was not one you would offer an earthly king. And I had entered the world as one I had created. But, in the middle of an over-crowded town, Mary, Joseph and I were so alone. Although they held the God that made them, they felt they had not a soul in the world that cared whether they breathed their next breath.

The shepards woke me, but they were a welcome sight. Not a soul disturbed from their yelling and laughing cared to come out of their rooms or houses to see the One they had awaited hundreds of years if “crazy” shepards were sent to tell them of him.

Oh, Bethlehem, I came to you, but you sent me the ones you despised and to the only place you yourselves would never sleep. But I knew you would do that, and I planned it that way before Micah wrote of it. In the pageants I’ve seen lately, for lack of participants, the streets of Bethlehem are empty and only a few people wander the streets. I can’t help but shake my head—there was no way to see the new roman cobblestones laid on the streets for the number of feet trodding them.

So, that’s why I wonder why you celebrate it with candles, beauty and feasts. In years past, people celebrated Christmas Eve not with cheer, but with a pageant of how Adam and Eve failed. They went to sleep in deep thoughts of how much they needed the one promised. Those of you that know why you are doing the traditions you do, are seeming to fail at letting the world around you know the same. Even if people grasp that I was born that day, they don’t focus on it most times. “Santa Claus and his elves” have become more important to this day than I. It hurts when you leave me out, even in name.

I miss Christmas. I miss hearing you say that word, I miss being with you on my birthday, I miss being included. I miss you.

Loved you before you were born, as you are now and will continue to for the rest of eternity,

Jesus of Nazareth

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Power


In underdeveloped countries there are some privileges not available that are in developed countries. You won’t find many smooth roads. You can’t get Reese’s peanut butter cups. You can’t buy 2% pasteurized milk. There are very few public parks. But the biggest fear of the American family is … duh-duh-duhn … no power.
Without power… think about it in your American home. No TV. No oven. No microwave. No fridge. No hot water for showers. No charging your phone or iPod.
But for us, recently, it’s been a way of life. The power goes off in the evening not to return until midmorning the next day. That’s just the way it goes. We have numerous candles located in logical positions around the house so that we can light them and have enough shine to not trip over things wherever we walk. We watch our movies before it gets dark, just in case we’d be blocked from finishing it due to power. Our oven is gas-operated. We haven’t had a microwave since we lived in America. We heat our water in the water-heater tank in the evening so that the water will remain hot into the next morning, then ration the length of use and amount of hot water. It’s life. I’m not complaining.
Okay, honestly, when have you ever said the claim, “I’m not complaining” and meant it? I’ll admit it, I kinda am complaining. I don’t mind the power going off at night, because I am the only one in my family that doesn’t use a fan at night. But when the power stays out all day long (like today) and prevents me from doing the school I need to catch up on is when I wish Eumeme (our power company) would turn our lights back on.
The generally assumed reason for the power outages was the dam they are building across the Nile river a few miles north of here. But, after reading a newspaper article, we found out that Eumeme (power company) didn’t pay its bill and is now on strict rations for the amount of power it receives. Then, we found out that it wasn’t Eumeme only that didn’t pay, it was the government itself. Who would have thought to blame the government for power outages?
When we were on furlough in America, the power went out once for about ten minutes. Oh man, were we excited about that. We missed the power going out once a week. I like candle-lit dinners and reading my Bible at night by candle flames. It has a sort of simplicity that brings one back to appreciating that simplicity.
The fan is now blowing its grace on me. The power is back. The boys are turning on the wii, the Christmas tree is aglow again. Dad turned off our generator. And our neighbors are starting up their music to blast out the night. (It’s Saturday.) Our anthem for our power goes along the tune of “There is Power in the Blood”
“There is power! Power!
wonder-working power in the house!
that we li-i-ive in!” 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Flight Night Sight


As the pinpoints of light form magnificent webs along the midnight horizon and tickle the opaque ground, I lean toward my window and watch America run away from me. Listening to music that resembles classic Chinese, I cherish my reveries and reminisce over my life. A cotton ball blanket warms the scene and blurs the pinpoints to a collage of beautiful auras and are a wonder to behold. The scene playing below my screen is an inspiring one, and so prods my mind to embrace its ironic symbolism and compare it to my life itself.
The web of lights that portray the complex civilization Americans live in depicts the complex working of my inner heart. Roads reflect threads that shine to meet my eyes and intricately intertwine neighborhoods and homes. They connect one complexity to the next. They may not be easy to travel or quick to arrive, but they deliver many to their desired destinations. Like the airplane I now sit in, they not only change destinations, but destinies.
If you know me, it’s not surprising to you the movie I chose to watch on my in-flight monitor is The Lion King. As lions, gazelles, hyenas and tropical savannah plant life flash in front of my face, I reconsider my MK (missionary kid) life. The best and worst part of being in such a life story is the hellos and the goodbyes that bring more hellos. Simba knew this and he is now experiencing the results of such a drastic change in lifestyle and surroundings. He goes from pride life to lone man with the guys. All he ever knew was turned upside down and his world flipped. This eventually leaves him unsure of who he is and what he is about, like it MKs like me. “You are the one who is confused! You don’t even know who you are!” Old Rafikki’s words resound in my heart.
The advice given Simba can apply to my heart as well. My very soul struggles with where I belong, who I am and what I am to be. Have I forgotten my Father? Is that why I have forgotten who I am? Or did I just lose myself along the way? But Mufasa says, “You are more than what you have become.” I still don’t get it, God. You definitely have a plan, You said so. But I just can’t understand Your superior logic.
Dismayed by these thoughts, I shift my head towards the ever shifting window view. The complexity of the light show is over. It was turned to a hazy navy blue with only the beacons on the wing to break the wonderful mesh of cotton clouds and soothing sky. The simplicity of the scene beckons me to rest on the confession that he knows better than I ever will or ever have to. The very thought that unnerved me just moments ago brings peace to my mind. He knows. I can forget all the memories in the world, if I only remember one thing—I am His, that’s who I am, and He knows me and my future. He knows. Amen. And one day, He’ll show me His world. And then we’ll never have to change again. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lanterns vs. Stars

The Lord sometimes blows my mind away. Sometimes He just gives me more than I can take. He’s awesome like that. And today, He did it again.

I was feeling unappreciated this afternoon, so I decided to read a blog that I knew usually lifted me up. Adam Young and I could seriously be best friends. Our minds think so much alike. (For those of you who don’t know who he is, he is Owl City. Think of the song Fireflies. That’s him. He’s a Christian, and is very outspoken about that in his blog. I love reading it because of that fact. You’d probably like it--Owl City Blog--The Official Blog) I’ve taken from his inspirations countless times, and many a time I should have noted his influence, but he has permeated my thinking—actually, we both write in similar styles, so some of his wording and mine collide. Anyways, back to why we were both inspired.

We are so satisfied by temporal things. It’s sad. I have this quote by C. S. Lewis written on a paper on my wall in my room at home:

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about… like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot understand what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

“I’m a thinker, not a talker. Mind pictures, exemplums and allegories hit home. This one was a grand slam,” said Adam Young. I can think of no other way to describe this quote he quoted by SØren Kierkegaard:

“When the prosperous man on a dark but starlit night drives comfortably in his carriage and has the lanterns lighted, aye, then he is safe, he fears no difficulty, he carries his light with him, and it is not dark close around him. But precisely because he has the lanterns lighted, and has a strong light close to him, precisely for this reason, he cannot see the stars. For his lights obscure the stars, which the poor peasant, driving without lights, can see gloriously in the dark but starry night. So those deceived ones live in the temporal existence: either, occupied with the necessities of life, they are too busy to avail themselves of the view, or in their prosperity and good days they have, as it were, lanterns lighted, and close about them everything is so satisfactory, so pleasant, so comfortable — but the view is lacking, the prospect, the view of the stars.”

If we hold on to man-made comforts, man-made lights, even in the darkest night, we miss the beauty God set before us in the stars. If you think about it, we usually reach for those lanterns. They’re easy, they’re useful, they’re “normal”. But are they really what we’d choose if we really thought?

We miss out on God’s best because we don’t wanna leave our make-do’s.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Believe It

This is the 3rd part of my series and the basis for my last post, “He is with You”—if it seems a little dry, the meat is in the last post. I encourage you to read them both. 
He says it. I tell you! The Lord God of all that He ever created wants to tell you His promises. He wants you to remember them.
the ultimate SURVIVING tool
I can hardly say enough about how much I love my Study Bible. Last night I was feeling alone in the world—and when I opened my Bible, guess what fell out? A paper a friend gave me with many promises of God contradicting human thinking. Under the human thought, “I feel all alone,” there was only one verse. Hebrews chapter thirteen, verse five says:
“God has said: ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’”
A few pages flipped around (thanks to a concordance and cross-referencing), and I find where God said that: Deuteronomy chapter thirty-one, verse six. But a few verses down in that same chapter, He also said:
“The Lord himself foes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
The next link lead me to a more pessimistic point of view of this promise:
“The Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon you or destroy you or forget.” ~Deut. 4:31
Even farther back into the Old Testament, God promises Jacob:
“I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
So, until when does this “until” last? The answer is in the New Testament:
“I'm convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.”~Phil. 1:6 (GW) 
But my personal favorite is in Psalms:
"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." ~Psalms 139:9-10 
Do I believe that God promises He will always be with me and will always be working on me until the end of the age (a.k.a. “the day of Christ Jesus”)? Yes. Can I grasp how He could or even would want to? No. But we walk by faith, not by sight. Or, I guess I could say we walk by faith, not by insight.
Just don’t forget God. He won’t forget you. You better believe it.

He is with You

This is part 2 of my series and the crux of it all. One night I was feeling so alone and not sure of what I was meant for. I opened my Bible and a piece of paper literally fell out. It was a paper a youth pastor once handed out entitled “Human Thinking vs. God’s Promises”. The last human thinking sentence was “I feel so alone” and I knew I needed to do a cross-reference using my study tools. This came out of that searching of the word. I hope you take out of it as much as I did.

It sounds so cliché. You know, you hear Christians say, “I know it’ll be alright because He is with me.” That fact has become monotonous. Yes, I know, we have God right at our shoulders, waiting to give us advice in any situation. I KNOW!

Do you? Do you really know the Maker of the universe wants to focus on you? Do you really know He chose you because He likes you, not just loves you? Do you?

Do we really understand the importance of that one promise? Can anyone fully grasp the fact that we have the Most Wise Friend, the Most Experienced Friend and the Most Loving Friend of all history in our shadow waiting to be invited to walk right beside us? If we did, if I did, I know there would be so much difference in this world.

“Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua chapter one verse nine is one of my favorites. You hear it all the time. It’s been made into many, many songs. The newest Christian movie on the market is even called Courageous. But were we to grasp what is meant by that promise, what would we do differently? How would we react to knowing, truly knowing, that our Lord and Savior will be with us wherever we go for us to draw strength and courage from?

We all work better when our boss is right beside us, or our teacher is eying our work. It’s just a fact. How much more should we be focused and intent on making our work perfect if we knew the Only Perfect One was watching over our shoulders! I wish it were that easy.

Because He’s always there, we become oblivious to His Presence. Unless we go through trials where we need a shoulder to cry on, we rarely turn to Him for guidance. At least, I know I don’t. While He waits in anguish like a lover gazes and longs for his best friend to finally realize her “boyfriends” aren’t who she truly loves, we squander our lives on worthless things, unwilling to realize Who we’re searching for.

And He keeps reminding us again and again: “I am always with you. Always have been, always will be. I promise. I love you. I never will leave you, even in the hardest times. You can trust me.” We listen for a few minutes, gather comfort and move on. Aren’t we missing a step?

I wish Jesus could walk with me in the flesh all day long—the apostles did not know what blessing they had to see His face, to know His gait, to hear His voice ringing in their ears. Maybe then we’d not forget Him, maybe then we could truly know He is and will ever be with us.

Moving

Now, I know I’ve posted another post with a similar title, but this one isn’t talking about moving from one house to another. I mean traveling between the places. I haven’t really written a whole lot of heart-to-hearts or personal accounts as a missionary’s kid (MK), so this is going to comprise a little of that aspect.
Being a missionary’s kid comes with many lines of fine print. Oh, the adventures are great! I can tell you that for a known fact. I can also pick out another missionary’s kid pretty easily, in my opinion. But when you go overseas—or to even just a foreign country neighboring yours—there are a lot of things one could never understand until he’s experienced them.
I was talking to a friend of mine not too long ago, and he asked how things were going. I complained of not having anything “normal” going on, and his reply was, “I thought your life wasn’t ever normal.” He has a point. For Americans, he’s completely right! My life is in no way normal for anyone that uses America as a standard.  
Not being “normal” is sometimes awesomely fun and sometimes really hard, just like being normal is. (Actually, I wouldn’t know about being “normal”.) The hardest part of being a missionary’s kid is seeing people and leaving people day in and day out. That’s also the hardest part about going on furlough. You see people, you love people, you leave people, and you miss people. It’s a never-ending cycle. But that’s also the best part. You get to meet so many people and make so many friends.
That brings me to the whole reason why I’m writing this article. This is an introduction to my 3-part series, which doesn’t really have a title. In the hardest of times of being not “normal” (as we all tend to be), God will and always has been with us. That’s the only reason we live.
The next two posts will follow this theme: God is with us. He has promised that to us so many times, yet, do we actually understand the full concept of this?

Monday, September 12, 2011

When Towers Fell, Heroes Rose

9-11 symbolizes not only tradegy, but heroism and bravery. [Pictured: the Tribute in Lights, Manhattan, NY--the lights rise to the sky where the Twins once stood tall and proud. From The Washington Post]

As a writer, I try to put everything into words. When I come to an emotion, an idea that I can’t explain away or put into words, I don’t know what to do with it. 9/11 is one of those few things.

For the acts of love, bravery, commitment, fear and hate there really are no words that adequately describe them. People died serving their country. People died hating another country. And people died just trying to live in their country.

How another human being can hate a—a presumed stereo-type, a country with a reputation, an envied nation so much that they would give their own lives to be sure to kill and shake the hearts of many in that nation will never be in my understanding. How the “prince” could take pride in devastating the worlds of innocent children I’ll never know. I hope he’s happy.

Christian Post (3)2,977 people were killed that day. 2,977 souls weren’t expecting to not see the next sunrise. On the date that we will forever know, a Tuesday at 8:46 AM the unthinkable happened. For many, the picture on the television screen will never leave their mind’s eye. For many, the pain that that picture brought will forever be engraved on their hearts. 2,977 mothers lost their son or daughter—and millions wept with them all over the world.

343 fire-fighters died en route of saving those trapped in the terrible repercussions of those hijacked planes. Many of them were off-duty that day, and many died within reach of the person they were working towards. If only we had had more time. If only we had had warning! Would we have listened?

40 people died in the plane they had bought tickets to so that they could go home, so that they could go on vacation, so that they could attend that dreaded business meeting. None of them bought that ticket so that they could stop a terrorist attack. Yet for each and every one of them, that ticket was their ticket to the end of their life. The 40’s cry, “Let’s Roll!” rallied them to fight back, to try to regain control of the plane. Whether the only capable pilots had been terminated prior to this brave attempt at counter offense or not, the people were determined not to fly into any buildings. But each of them knew they weren’t going to see their family’s faces ever on this earth again. None of the 40 ever made it to their desired destination.Two Towers memorial

Each of the 2,977 lives that are inscribed on the memorials, engraved on the stones, scrolled across the screen, are not just that to an American. Each one of those people represent something. Not individually, but as a whole. That number speaks to us. The numbers 9/11 will never be just an innocent date again. 343 tells of service and duty. And 40 tells of determination, love and loyalty.

When towers fell, when planes rain from the sky, when fire fills the air—we are forever grateful that heroes rise.

I pray we learn from this. But I know this is not the worst to come. I pray we grow as we see—this is (or was) only the beginning of birth-pains. Lord Jesus, come quickly!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Little Blue Chair

There’s just something about coming back to a place you’ve come to time and time again since you were a toddler. When you step out of you family van, stretch your legs and turn to see Grandma rushing out the door with her dog on her heels, it’s just something that heals the tired eyes and mends the paining heels.

“Hi-HO Hi-HO to Grandmother’s house we go. Hi-Ho Hi-Ho hi-hi ho ho ho! Hi-Ho Hi-HO hi-ho-hi-ho!”—yes, I was singing that on the way there.

Indeed, though a parody of Disney, it fits very, very well. Gramms’s house is a home all of its own. She may put us to work, we have to load the dishwasher, and we already have assigned beds and toothbrushes. It’s a home! But it’s also a haven.

And it’s always been that way. I love my grandma. Always have. And I know she loves me. And ever since I first started coming, her sinks and counters have been too high for me. Just always has been.

To brush my teeth, wash my hands, brush my hair, wash my face—do anything—I needed this:

11-9-1--11-9-3 Gramms' House

The Little Blue Chair. It holds! It stands! It changes! AND it seats one tired toddler! What else could you want in a chair!?

If my brothers and I weren’t using it in the down-stairs bathroom, it was in the toy closet so we could sit on it. Or, we also did let Barbie and Ken sit on it once, but that’s beside the point. And when I didn’t have it, I thought about it. It was always there.

So, here’s to grandmas! They REALLY make the world a better place. Love ya, Gramms!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Works and Costs

Once there were two men. These two men met for lunch at their favorite café. It’d been years. They had graduated high school together, and their lives had separated. One had become a faithful farmer and the other had gone on to become a mechanic. They talked and they talked and they talked. The whole afternoon they talked, about life, about family and about work. Lastly, they talked about their “religion.”

“You know, I can’t stand Christianity. I’m sorry. It’s so hypocritical,” Bill shook his head and leaned back in his chair. He waited for Clark’s response because Clark had always been the more “religious” of the two.

“In what ways?”

“Well, the preacher will start out a crusade thing with, ‘All you have to do is ask!’ and then he’ll end it with, ‘Now, just go out and work for Jesus! Spread the Word!’ Now, you tell me how in the world does that make sense! You claim those other people are wrong for thinking their works get them to heaven, and then you use your works as a crutch yourselves!” Bill had leaned forward and twisted his face into a determined set. He had heard this numerous times. His grandma, his ex-wife and many others had told him this or had dragged him to church to hear this. He wasn’t prepared for Clark’s response.

“You know, Bill? I don’t know if you remember, but a few years back my wife and I had a son. Ten years ago tomorrow, actually. I know we sent you a birth announcement. Anyway. He cost us a ton of money! We loved him to pieces, but we had to keep spending money on more diapers, medicine, clothes and man, did the food bill jump! We hardly ever got a night’s sleep. Well, I don’t know if you remember, but a couple years ago, he died. He doesn’t cost us a thing anymore. He’s dead. I’d do anything, anything, to get him back, Bill, anything.” Clark’s eyes had grown soft, but more intense as he spoke of his son. Bill did indeed remember this fact, but he didn’t see the connection between his friend’s son’s death and these Christians.

“I’m so sorry, Clark. But what does this have to do with Christianity?”

“Because while he was alive he cost me something. When he died, he didn’t. If having God as our closest Friend doesn’t cost something, your relationship with Him is dead. That’s what the preacher was talking about.”

I took this from an illustration my Daddy used in his messages on Saturday, August 27th, 2011 at Mayger Downing Community Church Family Camp.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Home….. or should I say, “In Transition?”

Home. Four letters. Two vowels. One syllable. Countless meanings.

Webster’s definition of “home”:

n. 1. One's own dwelling place; the house in which one lives; esp., the house in which one lives with his family; the habitual abode of one's family; also, one's birthplace. 2.One's native land; the place or country in which one dwells; the place where one's ancestors dwell or dwelt. 3. The abiding place of the affections, especially of the domestic affections. ....

“The abiding place of the affections”—home.

It’s not so much a place, as a thought. “Home is where your heart is” and “Where Mamma is, that’s home” are both quite true… But when both of those things seem to shift and change and separate, which one is home then?

What about when your whole family lives on one side of the earth, and let’s just give some random example, say, you live on the other side? What happens when your Mamma lives in one country and you in another? What happens when she’s in that other country with you, but her home isn’t yours? And what’s it supposed to be like when your best friend lives half a world away and your lives break apart? What is one to do when he wishes to comfort and love those he cares about but distance separates them? What then.

How can one be homesick when one doesn’t even know where his home is?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Words can be used to describe about anything. Pictures can be taken of almost any material thing. But neither can do justice to an experience.

When one looks at a picture, one sees a taste of an event. When one hears or reads words, one can sense an adventure. But when one experiences, one sees, one hears, one feels.

I can’t make you feel, but I’ll try to help you see and hear, if you’d be willing to spend the next few minutes with me in Uganda. :)

people & trafficYou’re with me, you’ve been down and through the airport. You’ve driven, and now we’re stuck in traffic. Beep-beep! HOOOONko. *knocknock “Sir! Sir! Airtime?”

Kampala is busy enough, and with the pedestrians…. Well, you see.

We’ve made it to Jinja. You were good, you didn’t complain about the roads too awful much, even though the potholes don’t give you more than a 2-foot long break at best. Now, we’ve begun to cruise through an area full of poverty. You may not have seen it like this before. The children are running around, happy as can be, in no more than two plastic bags around their waist. Those that have a jerry can (5-gallon jug) carry their family’s water for a miles a day. Some are lucky enough to find an old jerry can that has holes in it. They cut the side out of it, and are taking turns dragging it around with another in it—their own sled. But they’re hungry. They’re malnourished. And they’re only 6, but they’ve already lived 1/6 of their expected life span. This is the slums of Ripon. We’re on our way to the island. I tell you, you better watch yourself. This isn’t the worst yet.

But it’s pretty close.

153P- Sewage

Since we took the SHIM (Shepard’s Heart International Ministries) boat, we don’t have to face the horrors you’ve only heard about. We have a sGEDC0050mall space bubble, and we have room enough for all the things we wish to transport. Were we to take the public, well, you’d likely have 3 other people with you in your space bubble, 5 in a 2-seat area, chickens and goats and babies all over, and the scorching heat. That’s why we have umbrellas. Even with the sunscreen you lathered on, we still tell you to wear your baseball cap and duck under an umbrella—if you don’t, we can’t help a lobster with anything but aloe.

We told you at Ripon that you weren’t 22- Where the drinking water isallowed to touch the water because it was diseased and if you waded in it, you could get many boils. Not pretty. But the water didn’t look too bad there. Welcome to Lingira. Again you are carried out of the boat to the shore by a Kanyama (“strong man”), but this time that would have been your choice even if you didn’t know the dangers of the waters. The green slime abounds on the dirty sand and the plants that manage to live in it, are waxy looking—showing even they don’t soak the water unless necessary. It behooves you to think: this is the water the people drink. This water is their life, in essence. No other water source is available. IMG_2974

Time to trek to the missions building. The children of Lingira village have flocked to you. You are the new mzungu (“white man”) on the island. And you hear that name a lot. If you don’t have suitcases in your hands (which you don’t now, the kanyamas are taking it for you), each hand will likely have three little ones clinging to it until a fourth coms and knocks one out.

Alright, you’re thinking. We’re actually to the place of mission. Hold on a second. Yes, this is our mission base. But places to do ministry are all around you! You saw that child in the sewer earlier. The men running up and down the streets of Kampala. The lady sitting next to you on the plane. The man behind the ticket counter at the airport. The cabby driver. Your family. Here is where we reach out to the people of the islands. But, from here, we pray for those who can reach those in America.

Lippke085After a “good” night sleeping in your “bed”, you’re not totally ready for the day to ensue, but here we go. You discovered your “mattress” was merely 3 inches of foam and some fabric. No support, no firmness. When you saw the netting, you were informed if you didn’t have it, you were likely to get malaria from the mosquitoes.

Now, we won’t say too much on what you do, because we don’t even know what you’d be doing if you actually were to accompany me home. But we’ll go with what I’d do, and therefore take you with me to do.

You’re informed there will be about 50 children to come soon. We’re gonna sing lots of stuff_random 022some songs, tell a story and play a game or two. You had no idea what to expect. The songs we sang you’ve never heard the like of. More vigorous and lively praise songs than you’ve ever heard! “OH OH OH OH Yesu JAGALA! OH OH OH Jesu jaGALA!!” (“OH OH OH OH Jesus loves me! OH OH OH Jesus Loves me!!”) Clapping and dancing are automatic and the amount of energy there is 091unmatchable. And when Mrs. Peterson gets out the flannel board and tells the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, the children gather as close as they can to the pictures to see. A Ugandan lady interprets for us, and the children are mesmerized by the story. They love it!

Now it’s time for the object lesson/game. I set up a bunch of boxes and stand in4B5P- Mzungus the middle. You join the legion of children marching around Jericho. Rehab (a.k.a., I) take pictures and act as though this is the most paralyzing event of my life! The kids don’t exactly get the whole, “Be quiet, for the Lord says so!” idea, but they definitely yell loud enough on the 7th round. “AAHHAHAHHHHHHHAHAHHA!!!” Yes, indeed, they were laughing during this process—I think it was a success.

After the kids have left, it’s time for a little walk around the island! Ruthie, a lady in charge of hospitality, offers to take you to the top of the “mountain”, or great big hill you see in the middle. The climb up is uneventful, and the view is breathtaking.4B6P- Christianity

After another boat ride, you’re back on the mainland. You drive past the same you saw coming, and the life that takes place on the road boggles your mind. The men sitting under the tree, the women graciously walking down the street with bananas on their heads, the children running with bicycle tires and sticks and the police officers patrolling the roads are so full of life. You feel their eyes as they stare at you. You’re a celebrity! Like my dad likes to say, “If you’re lonely, I’ve got a solution! Come to Uganda—everyone there calls you ‘friend’!”

This is pretty fast-paced. You tell yourself everything flies when you’re having fun. You step on the airplane and glance one last time at the palm trees and the banana trees that strangle the red dirt and the green grass of the Ugandan terrain. With a wave, the plane takes off, and you notice how your physical perspective now matches your emotional perspective—you see much, much more to the Earth and it’s Creator.

This world is more than America. It’s bigger than this.

Friday, August 12, 2011

No Words in Vain

I went to Grocery Outlet the other day.

Yes, I know, a very deep subject to start off with, but stick with me here.

Okay, so I went to Grocery Outlet. What we got doesn’t matter (I think some random food and stuff), but something happened I regret now.

We got to the check-out counter and our cashier’s name was Sarah. She was cheerful, pretty and definitely gracious. *BEEP* *BEEP* She worked hard and the bags were filling, mom was shuffling in her purse, people were talking, my brothers were walking past me, and I had a battle going on within me. Her name is Sarah. Sarah.

Now, the name Sarah means “princess,” as many of you may know. But this girl didn’t look like she knew it. She had no pride, no confidence. Oh, she was friendly, she was doing her job, she held herself in perfect posture—but she didn’t have a joy. This reeked my heart. A princess should have joy.

My dilemma was whether to tell her this or not. She was right in front of me. She was looking down. She would listen if I were to talk to her, if only for a moment.

I should tell her! No, no, then you’d sound like a know-it-all. But she doesn’t know me from Eve! Who cares? You don’t wanna offend her. But it’s a compliment! She’s a princess! It’s true! And her hair is beautiful today. She’d reject that—if you say it, she’ll react as you do when your best friend tells you you’re pretty. She’d give excuses and turn it into an insult. But that’s not what I mean!

And so, I walked with my brothers. My mother handed me a plastic bag with green grapes in it and we strolled out to the parking lot. Nothing said, nothing done. No words in vain. But no words in meaning.

I should have told her her hair was pretty and that her name fits her. That’s all I could have said. And then I wouldn’t have wasted so many breaths of life just THINKING about it. This test I failed miserably. I have even been reading in John where Jesus is saying over and over, “My words are not my own, but are of the Father, who sent me.” I know those words would have been from my Father—I on my own would never have thought to say such things. But I failed, Father. I’m sorry.

But next time. Next time, I will not use my breaths, my words, in vain. I promise.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Introverts

I am an introvert. Hands down. No doubt about it. You talk to me, I prefer to listen. You try to hang around me 24/7, I’ll let you know I need you to leave me be for a while. You give me an assignment, I’ll take time by myself for days or weeks on end to complete it. That’s just the way I am.

So, when I was reading Adam Young (Owl City)’s blog, I came across “10 Myths About Introverts” and nearly burst out shouting, “AMEN, BROTHAH!” He had read a book by Dr. Marti Laney called, The Introvert Advantage, and a blog by Carl King and had simply reposted it, as I am doing now. If you’re introverted, go ahead and nod right along with me!

“Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.

This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.

Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.

Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.

On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.

Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.

Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.

Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.

Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.

Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.”

Yup, yup! Introversion isn’t weird, it’s just a minority.

*Credits go where credits are due: Adam Young, http://owlcityblog.com/2011/06/27/10-myths-about-introverts/

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bigger than All of Us

This Week of Missions was bigger than any of its participants. Pat’s devos got us in gear for a great day, but each day was bigger than him. My cousin J.J. Peterson gave AMAZING Bible talks, but even with each of us plastered to our seats at the end of his lecture, it was bigger than that. Jake, Allison, Nathan, Steven and Cole brought their instruments and gave us AMAZING worship music. But the amazing teachers, the awesome worship, and the incredible company that surrounded this week was much too small to describe it with.

The theme, I saw as I walked in on Monday, was Heroes. Personally, I sighed inwardly, because I had been through this theme many times and never really gleaned much from it before. Boy, was I wrong. But this week would have been just as huge even if the theme had been “The End of the World” or something—no, this week was bigger than that.

Each night the worship got progressively more and more deep into my soul. The songs didn’t really change much. The motions were the same, but the hearts involved in it weren’t. It was bigger than the music—it was something that touched each soul at exactly the same moment with a different feel and intensity.

It had to have been God. We all felt the Holy Spirit just move through the little building we gathered in. Pat taught the needed qualities of a hero—Empathy, Thankfulness, Trust and Humility. Everyone I talked to throughout the day used that word in some way in his convo.

It had to have been God. After each sermon-thingy that J.J. taught, there was a silence that told of wheels turning in heads and heavy breathing that clued those who would hear in to the fact that we had been holding our breath. It was awesome.

What if being a Christian is not so much believing in Jesus, as believing that He believes in you?      ~J.J. Peterson

It had to have been God. No one else could have gathered the amount of praise our group of 60 teens could muster and fill the space left with so much abundantly more than they could ever imagine. Each night we left with “glowing faces” (as told us by one of our missionary speakers) and hearts full to overflowing. But each day we awoke ready for more.

On Thursday, we had the main missions speaker, Dr. Mark Moore, come and speak to us. He challenged us to not just leave with a camp high, but to live it—to carry our Bibles around, to pray out loud and to start Bible studies on campus. We all nodded our heads and I whispered my approving “amen.” But that’s not as far as it went. Tim, one of our leaders, got up and said, “Now, I know Mark just gave you a challenge. But I challenge you to do his challenge. To really live it. … Now, I’m gonna pray in a moment, and when I pray, if you want to go home and live out this challenge, stand up. Just stand with me and pray. Okay?”

We all bowed our heads.

“Father,” Tim began with emotion flooding his voice. He paused as the sound of an ocean filled the room. Chairs moved back. Shoes rubbed the carpet floor. Almost the whole room stood at that one word.

For two moments, the whole room was quiet. The only sound to be heard was Tim trying to catch his breath. Over the microphone it was amplified and when his breath was knocked away by the roar we all felt the same. After a moment more, he began his prayer: “Father, I want to thank you for every person standing here tonight.”

And Friday? Friday was to equip us for carrying out our new mission. Our tool? Prayer. Prayer was to allow us to change from the rejects Jesus chose to the ones He calls us to be. And the reason we need prayer is because everything in life is supposed to be bigger than us. It’s bigger than the air we breath or this world we’ll leave—it has to be God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Des Points des Villas <<Of Viewpoints>>

Sitting on the plane, your viewpoint is often much different from your normal vantage point. The giants you faced on the ground now seem little more than  grasshoppers. The skyscrapers you admired may very well seem as a cat’s scratching post. Nothing really looks the same.

Becoming a third-culture kid scrambles viewpoints like no other experience I’ve ever had. The world is not only America, Canada and Mexico. In fact, the world is not even about  America! No, no. In most places, America is like a bit of honey dripped on their dry bread or rice. Children dying of starvation are more real than most celebrities. Their skeletons have a thin canvas of skin straining to cover them. Their arms and legs have not the muscle needed for the strenuous activities they love. No, the myths cultivated by the American culture don’t hold their own when seen through unAmericanized spectacles.

Not everything is made in China. Not every item of food on any given menu is delectable—or edible for that matter. Not all people understand what you say, even if you are both speaking English. Not all roads are smooth. Not all people pay attention to time’s rules. No matter how different a person is from you, your hearts can still blend into a life-long friendship. And not all things sold for high prices have a high value.

Even if we’re shipwrecked in a sea of faces, each water droplet that makes up the ocean is real. Every pair of eyes we observe has a story behind them. And once we realize that, our points des villas can change—and I’m not talking about altitude.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Saying Good-bye: Take 2

I was unprepared for this. Nobody told us we’d have to say goodbye to friends over and over again. Some farewells are for forever (as far into the future as we can see, at least), while others are for months at a time. Neither of these are easy.

After I left my friends in Dufur, I didn’t think I’d have to leave anyone else. And then after leaving my friends I made in Independence, I thought I’d not have anymore goodbyes to say until I left America again. I was wrong.

I haven’t had to deal with the death of any of my friends yet, but part of my life dies when each leaves. When a Ugandan (or, in this case Sudanese) girlfriend moves, it not only changes how you live, but how you pray. You never know if they’ll be treated well or if you’ll ever get news on their life again.

When a fellow missionary kid leaves, you watch part of your heart walk off and some of your most intimate secrets and memorable experiences fly over the ocean. These I have more of a chance of seeing again, but only the Lord knows when or how—or even if. Memories are still as much a part of your mind as when the Ugandan shifts, but your lives are connected easier and more completely with the fellow American—or, more precisely, third culture kid.

When you leave it’s a different matter. Not only do you know the life you left will change, but you know you will change. Not only do you know you will miss many experiences at home, but you don’t know what experiences await you. I am leaving not know for sure that I’m going to come back to the same people. Not only will my life change again, but my friends’ lives will change, too. Not only will I be different, but when I return my life will be different again.

I wasn’t prepared for this—and I wasn’t ready for so much change. I don’t think anyone could be.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Little Joys

Sunday School at Acacia Community Church can never be uneventful. :)

Today was my family’s last time there for 3 and a half months. I don’t even know if the kids will remember me.  But I’ll remember them and… many memories as well.

Today? After the Israelites (a.k.a. the kids) defeated the Mideonites (a.k.a. the crayons on the carpet) by following what God had told Gideon (a.k.a. me), and the trumpets blew and God confused the enemy, we continued to the outdoors.

“1, 2, 19, 16, 91, 100, 94!” the chant went randomly, but they managed to shout in harmony. After about 125, I stopped counting correctly for them to echo me and at that point, Josh came and began teasing them from beside the swing.

“Uncle Josh! Uncle Josh! Ucle Goss! Ucle Joss! Ucle Joyce! Uncle Joyce!!” Their chant transformed the words they began with and they ended with renaming Josh Uncle Joyce.

A Sunday in the Life of Janae and Josh Peterson in Uganda at Acacia? Eventful!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lessons

Question: “What are some of the lessons you’ve learned while in Uganda?”
To this, my pride would want to answer, “Lessons? Who needs to be taught any lessons?” But my honesty would give a much longer explanation.
I believe that God took me off the continent of North America to try me in new ways. I was holding on tight to the ideas I’d always known. Moving from Dufur to Independence was not one of those ideas. How much more not so was moving from America to—to a country I’d never even heard of before! He moved me from my friends, my comforts and my lifestyle.
But I see I don’t need them now. That, right there, is number one lesson I’ve learned in this journey of eight thousand miles, two years and a million tears. I don’t need those things I called my life. NOT that I don’t WANT them. I just don’t NEED them.
One of my dad’s favourite mottos is “Plans change.” Being a missionary is being flexible from the very essence of it’s beginning. I planned to spend my whole life in Dufur, as far as my subconscious ideas went. With one “plan” changed, I figured I’d have a miserable life in a remote place far from any American civilization.  And those plans, plus many others, have made me realize flexibility is a necessity.
One more lesson everyone should learn and apply: fitting in is more of something you allow than something you do. If I tried to make people like me, they thought me petty and annoying. But if I gave up—which I did—they found I, in myself, was someone worth hanging out with. I am so thankful they gave me a second chance. So thankful.
All in all, time is of WAY less importance than we Americans usually value it as. Relationships--with God or with others--are what I found really deserves emphasis. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Be a Missionary

Be a missionary every day.

Tell the world that Jesus is the way.

Here, at camp Wi-Ne-Ma, or on the avenue,

Africa or Asia, the choice is up to you!

So, be a missionary,

be extraordinary!

Be a missionary today! Let’s go!

Be a missionary. That, my friends, is an imperative sentence. The subject is you. It leaves no doubt whether or not we should be a missionary. It does leave the question yet to be answered, “where?” For me, I can say I live in Africa. For you? You don’t have to come half-way around the world to fulfill God’s calling. But I’m sure you’ve heard this before.

This song we sang at Wi-Ne-Ma every year I went. I knew the words, I loved the tune, and so did all the other kids who bothered to sing along. But I didn’t follow the song.

Be extraordinary! Yes, this is indeed an imperative sentence. But it’s also an exclamatory sentence. Being a missionary takes thought and work. It also takes faith. Being extraordinary takes guts. Daring to step out, walk away, change the flow, stand up.

On the avenue. Get the Grammar lesson? This is not a sentence, I’m sorry. But where does the song suggest we be a missionary? On the avenue.

Why are we so callous to this!? Loving and caring for people around you shouldn’t stop when you come home from a mission trip. In our back yard, if we have to, is where we should invest in others’ lives! What’s your neighbor’s middle name? Uh-huh. Me neither.

In other words, you don’t have to come half-way around the world to fulfill God’s calling for you. I did, but that’s ‘cause God had (and still has!) some important lessons to teach me. Will you allow Him to teach you, too? 

“Being a missionary is being flexible. When God changes your plans, you have to be flexible and let Him work.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Sickness of Not Being “Normal”

American Rejects are what we call ourselves. We won’t ever quite fit in America anymore, I believe, but we’re still Americans. I’ve mentioned this before, but I can’t help but think on this as our time for “furlough” nears.
A dear friend once said, “God is preparing us to go to America [through our homesickness].” But preparation hurts. I feel the homesickness they say comes and goes, but I can’t see how this will help in America. 31 days, I’ll be the first to tell you, is how many days we have until we’re flying out to “our country.”
Today, America is 225 years old. It and its culture are at the very heart of who I am. But America is not a “normal” country.
If all we see are people like us, we never see how weird we really are. America is often seen as a “melting pot” and it’s totally true! I was telling my Ugandan friend just the other day: “If you were to go to America and find a ‘Ugandan’ food restaurant, even the posh wouldn’t taste the same.” We cultivate everything to our liking. Bigger, better, sweeter, easier, longer, funner.
And this is not normal.
I’m not “normal”, not even by American standards! Pastor’s kid, missionaries’ kid—and now my grammar is WAY off of what my English teacher instructs me of. America won’t be normal to me. It won’t even be the “normal” I left. Its going to be America: a strange place on the other side of the world. At least until the day I forget what is forever implanted in my heart.
So, if you see me in America and ask me how I’m doing, I’m likely to say, “Fine,” or if you ask if I liked the peanut butter sandwich (I didn’t, by the way.), “Eh, somehowly.” Or when I mix up my verb tenses and turn adverbs to adjective, just know—I have the sickness of not being normal.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It’s Called an Insult

The prophets knew what I’m feeling all too well. The persecuted missionaries and saint around the world died for the Cause for which I am feeling but a prick of the heart. But this is the first slap I’ve ever felt.

I realized today how sheltered I’ve been. I acknowledged how naïve I am. But I need the strength I do not have. I need to lean on the One who is all-powerful.

You see, this afternoon held a tremendous trying of my faith. A status update by one of my friends on facebook led me to answer her question. It stated the Bible did not say anything about homosexuality (among other things). My mother saw it first and replied to it with a few scriptures. I saw it next and added a few. These were more precise and dealt with the matter more closely for we, as a family had worked together on our answer. Bibles in hand, my mother, father and I searched for the correct rebuttal. We came up with Lev. 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27. And this evidently struck a cord.

After I commented, I went offline for lunch. Coming back, I read an insult to my reasoning beyond any I had ever heard. Here is what he said:

Lev 20:13 was a part of the Judaical Law, so unless you are a Jew, it doesn't apply. Rom 1:26 and following gives a very long list of sinful acts ... all of which are shamefully common among all members of the human race. Have you ever coveted? Envied? Lied? Spread gossip? Boasted? Disobeyed your parents? Guess what? Your mind is just as "debased" as anyone else's. Stop straining out gnats (Matt 23:24). Christianity is about Grace. What misguided gall it must take to turn the compassion of God into hate for people you might personally despise (which, by the way, is also a sin). Galatians 5:22-23 ... Where is your fruit, O' Christian?

Now, my posting this does not mean I agree with this in ANY way, shape or form.

But I immediately thought of many things to repute this. Jesus taught we should love the person, not the action. And that’s how I feel. I am related to a lesbian, but I do not hate my relative. I do not hate anyone so far as I know. But I hate the act of homosexuality. Then, I thought of Jesus fulfilling the Law, not abolishing it. And then I thought I’d say something along the lines of, “Yes, I have done many of those things, and so have you. But I know I’m forgiven of these, even though that doesn’t make me any better than those who are not. Christianity is not totally about grace, but about THE Grace given us. He is forgiving, but holy. And those who truly love Him will try to be holy as well.” But this I did not post.

My mother told me not to try to rebut, for this person has obviously twisted my words and would do it again, making my debate frustration to me. This, I obeyed. But I only didn’t post because my mother had forbidden it. That would not have been my choice.

So, now I am left to deal with insults. I can’t quite figure out how to deal with them. Forget them? Rationalize them away? Come up with rebuttals in my mind? I don’t know. But I went straight to my Bible and where did my fingers find? Paul. Paul being falsely accused and tried before Festus. Paul said not very much, but they still hated him enough to want him killed.

I only got called what I said was wrong. I never got called anything to my face, thank God. If I had, I think I’d have a lot more regrets than I do.

God gave Stephen the grace, I guess I just need to cling to that as well.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Broken Watch—A Fable

Once there was an elderly man. He lived alone, forgotten by his world. The people of the city had once depended on him, but now he seemed of no use to them.

The Old Watchshop had closed down. The marvelous little clocks that timed the entire city had been made there. Grandfather clocks, children’s clocks, mother’s kitchen clocks and father’s desk clocks were all wound and started there. But it had closed down.

No one really knew why—they never wanted to ask the Old Man, as the called the old watchmaker. Some figured he had grown tired of winding and setting together clocks. Some thought they hadn’t paid him enough gratitude to keep him liking his job. Some believed his “fortune” had run out and could no longer afford watch pieces.

But in any case, the Old Watchshop was closed. The people’s watches ran down. And then the Grandfather clocks ticked their last. The father’s clocks fell next, then the mothers’ and finally the children’s. And then the city was without time. The meetings were never on time, most people never showed up, and there was no telling passersby what the time was. The town was timeless in the worst of ways.

But none of the townspeople thought to ask the Old Man to fix his creations. His clocks kept ticking and kept ticking in his house. In the beginning of the timeless days, as they were called, people had gone to his house to hear the bells ring and know what time it was. Not any more. No one remembered him. No one, that is, except Timmily.

Timmily had gone to the Old Man’s house many, many times. He always knew about what time it was, and for that, the townspeople called him names. So, he removed his watch—the only working clock outside of the Old Man’s house, mind you—and threw it away. He had been the only one to know how to maintain a clock. He knew not, however, how to fix one. One day, Timmily had been waiting all day for his friends to meet. No one showed up. He blamed it on the timeless days and moved on. The next day, he told himself, they’d come. But they never did. Hurt and anguished, he went to go find out what time it was.

As always, he stayed outside the door long enough to hear the bells ring, but this day, no bells did ring. He waited. He realized that today marked the 7th year since the people had first gotten their clocks. And it had been 6 years since they broke. He wondered why the Old Man had let his clocks run down?

He knocked, bravely. No one had ever dared enter the exceedingly large home of the Old Watchmaker. Not even him. But he turned back—to see if anyone was watching—and then darted in the unlocked door and shut it behind him. He scurried to a near-by plant-pot and ducked beneath.

Plucking up his courage, he moved about the house with surprising speed and quickness. Passing a large door, he heard snoring. Peeping through the keyhole—for this was large enough for him to stick his head into—he saw the Old Man, asleep on a bed. Frightened out of his wits by the surprising figure and shape of this man, he darted from the house.

Timmily went home in a daze. He never told his friends of his adventure, but he never forgot it. He vowed that one day, he’d go back to the house and meet the Old Man. For all his deformations and lack of bolts to hold him together, he looked fairly nice. As Timmily oiled his knees, he decided he’d wait a year and go on the 8th anniversary of the clocks.

The year passed, and Timmily remembered his vow. He had crept up to the door way and was standing on the porch, awaiting his courage to be plucked up right. To his dismay, the door was locked. So, he knocked. His wooden hand against the wooden door made little to no sound in the spacious area. Looking about him, he realized the house had grew, or else he had shrunk. He hadn’t been back to find the time for ages, he thought, but the sun didn’t doubt her days.

Thrusting his whole body against the door with full force, he found he had made a clamor with his legs rustling after his torso. The handle turned idly, and a large man peered out. Instinctively, he looked over Timmily’s head. Seeing no one, he turned to go back inside, but Timmily, now feeling quite small and insignificant, called out, “Sir! Sir Watchmaker!?”

The old man looked down and saw Timmily. A smile spread the folds of his face. The face was neither old, nor young. In fact, he seemed as timeless as the town. His hands gestured for Timmily to come in, and the moment he stepped inside—invited, this time—he was amazed. He saw all the clocks all over the walls.

After Timmily explained the situation of the town, the Old Man nodded. “I have seen this. It’s been going on a long time, hasn’t it? About 7 years, now. I myself have been wanting to help them, but no one has even thought to ask me. The Grandfather clocks, the fathers’ clocks, the mothers’ clocks, and the children’s clocks are all simple to fix. But you must know how they work and how they are affected by all the others.”

“Others, sir?” Timmily had not forgotten his manners, but this man made him feel so at home, even though he had no joints or bolts on him.

“Yes. All the clocks are intertwined with one another. Each one is affected by the other. Your watch, the last watch in the town, was running down. It was lonely, but by you remembering to wind it with a word of thanks, you kept it’s spirits up and it’s workings going. But once you stopped doing that, it died. The first clock to stop was the Grand grandfather clock in town square. Because of it’s influence and responsibility, it had worn down. It just gave up, encouraging the others to do the same. Eventually, all the running clocks had given up but yours. But even now, the people’s clocks are still ticking. They are just unaware. Yours is ticking the best, but it is indeed failing you, as well. Such a shame! The only thing I told Adaton and Evalon was to not forget to wind themselves with my letters each day.”

Now everyone in the town had heard of the very first people, "Adaton and Evalon,” and the story of the letters, but no one quite believed them. They were wives’ tales and children’s rhymes and myths for the insane.

“My clock, sir? And everyone’s clocks? I thought every clock in the city had run down.”

“No, oh, no, Timmily. You see, your clock is you, yourself. The clocks you own is not the same as your clock. I made you with a clock inside you. You are a clock. And so is everyone in the town.”

“A, clock, sir?” Timmily stumbled over his words at this.

“Yes. You see, when your clocks ran down, they were the last, no? It was because you were still remembering to wind them with my letters, whether you knew it or not. You still believe in time, do you not? Yes. But many others do not. They don’t believe I exist, and therefore can’t believe in themselves. When they stop believing in themselves, they lose hope. And when they lose hope, they lose their time. Do you understand?”

“I—I think so… You made each of us? And then you have stopped making us, and now that’s why I haven’t seen any infants among us?”

“That’s why. I am making many more of your kin, but no one believes in me, so I cannot give them to your people yet. They don’t want to ask me for any. When you came last year, I was not asleep, but resting. I had set all the clocks in motion and let them tick. I watched and watched, but only you ever came to fulfill your longing. Every one else left behind the very thing they were made for, so that they could ‘grow up’ or ‘fit in.’”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Steps of Healing

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, but they look like trees, walking." Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village."
Mar 8:22-26 ESV  (emphasis mine)

Why didn’t Jesus heal him in the city? Why didn’t He heal him when He took his hand? Why did He lead him away? Why did He spit on him? Why? Why?

Jesus sometimes took steps in His healing jobs. He first –lead him, then –spit, then –touched him again. Each of them involved faith, just different levels.

Allowing Him to lead you is sometimes the easiest part. Physically realizing He is calling you is the first step. You have to leave that place you were called out of, whether it be meaning a spiritual state or physical. And everything God does can have many levels to its meaning. Bethsaida was condemned (Matt. 11:21), “but He would still show mercy to individuals.” (Scofield Reference Notes) In leaving the city, “He … was telling [Bethsaida], in effect, she was unworthy to have any more done within her walls.” (Matthew Henry) But also it was an act of faith for the man. He had to let Christ lead him. He’d probably let others lead him around his whole life—but he probably didn’t have any idea who this Man was but what his friends told him. But, oh, the questions that must have run through his mind!

They must have been similar to the ones in my mind today.

Then, Christ SPAT on him! Now, I don’t really think He leaned over and went *phtew* in his face, but still. He put warm saliva on the man’s eyes, however He did it. The natural response would be to recoil and remove such a thing from one’s face. But Jesus put it on there…

Sometimes you have to endure odd things… But not trying to rub off the oddities of life is one of the hardest things for me… Little elements in my life have sent me reeling, but God put them there…

And, only after touching him again did Jesus actually allow the man to totally see. He asked him if he could see, but the man only saw figures and shapes. We often can’t see the crisp lines. It’s not ‘til He’s done does He usually show us the masterpiece! No painter likes to endure criticism of a work-in-progress. “It’s not finished yet!”

“You’re not finished yet. Stop trying to leave my hands. Let me take you away. Let me change you. Let me. Let go, let me.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

1 Year…

I’ve had 1 year.

1 year of turning on the hot water heater 20 minutes before shower-down.

1 year of people staring at me where ever I go.

1 year of reminding people, “I just woke up. I haven’t done anything yet today.”

1 year of missing America—sort of.

1 year of getting to know my awesome fellow missionaries and their families.

1 year of living in my favorite place in the world right now.

Yeah, I’ve missed you all in America. Yeah, there’s been difficulties. But nothing, nothing dims the light of knowing you’re where you’re supposed to be. I have felt for the past 2 years I belonged in Uganda. But I never, never guessed I could love it as much. The people, the atmosphere, the weather—all of them added to the feeling of belonging, I can’t say I’d rather be anywhere else.

(But I’m really looking forward to seeing ya’ll in America in a couple months!)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dry Milkcans…

As a baby craves milk to grow, so you will crave spiritual milk. 

You can tell when I’m experiencing a dry milkcan. I haven’t blogged for reals in a while. But the reason is, I’ve got a lot of sorting to do. I guess, there’s not really much times when you don’t have to sort through emotions, but now’s a biggy for that for me.

With friends getting ready to leave, people changing and me thinking about the furlough we’re intending to spend in a couple months, I can’t help but take tomorrow’s worries into today’s preverbal hands. “Don’t worry about your life,” keeps echoing in my ears, but letting go is not an easy thing to do.

I have questions. Who am I supposed to be? Where are we exactly supposed to be going? What exactly am I supposed to be doing!? But they seem to still be unanswered. To stay dry and tasteless. I’m hungry, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong cupboard. This one seems to not have anything in it. It’s as if the milk I let set out too long—it’s gone! I can’t seem to feel full any more. I don’t think my worries help any of this.

I know God has a plan, but what is it!? All too often I demand that. Faith is trust without worry. Faith is believing in the unseen, is stepping out trusting that step is there, is not worrying about the one beyond this. And faith is a hard thing. God’s plan is an unrolling scroll, to determine the destinies of all. But we only find this out through revelation. Without trying to find the full milkcans, we can’t be trying to find out God’s will. It’s like wanting to stay up late, but not wanting to reach age 10. It just doesn’t work.

Dry milkcans don’t nourish. They don’t fulfill. They don’t help you grow. They do make it hard to find the full ones. They clutter the room. I just need to empty my heart of the empty ones… living in the past and future doesn’t work when you’re only given the present. Only the time passing now are we given, so I better find those full milkcans.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More than a Prince

Jonathan, son of Saul, son of Kish

         "Nothing can hinder God from saving, whether by many or by few." Jonathan truly believed what he had told his armor-bearer in the moments before his personal attack on the Philistines one night. He had fought them before, at Gibeah, and trusted he was going to fight them another day. His bravest action and most prevalent show of faith was given that night-- he and his armor-bearer alone attacked the Philistine outpost and killed twenty men. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn't have defeated the whole army, but God sent the enemies of His people into confusion and gave the Israelites the victory. He later knew God was giving Israel a new gift-- David-- and told him so. Being a bold and brave man, he was not afraid to give himself to do what he believed was God's will.

           But sometimes that willingness and resolve got him into trouble. Being away the night of the battle (as he fought his own little one over a canyon not far off), he didn't hear his father's oath to kill anyone who ate anything until they had finished their work. He took, and he ate some honey from the forest. After the fact, one of his men told him what he had done, and his father vowed to kill him. But, through the love of his men, he escaped the punishment designated by the king. He also chose to side with David, even when his father was given to trying to kill him. His close relationship with his father was obviously shorn through his choices. Eventually, he died fighting alongside his demon-possessed father on the Mount Gilboa. His boldness and self-will had kept him out of trouble when he agreed with what was right, but that same will had led him to sin in the forest and to face the consequences.

           For the later part of his life, his best friend was on the run from his father. He had given his best  in trying to dissuade King Saul from murdering God's anointed. He had given David his advice to run into hiding-- but not before a tearful parting. His sister had aided in deceiving their father, but he had done his part in securing David's safety until he could leave the city. One of David's hardest times were brightened by the appearance of this one man. He once visited David when he was in hiding in Horesh. During this visit, Jonathan gave encouragement David in as many ways as he knew how. After reminding him of God's promises, he had also reminded him of his own respect and love for him through admitting David was going to rule over him without any apparent hint of jealousy or resentment.

           Jonathan fulfilled his name, meaning gift of God, in so many ways. He was a gift as a warrior to Israel. He was a gift to his father in keeping him from killing David during Saul's early fits of rage. He was a gift to David in his warnings and encouraging speeches. But most of all, he is a gift to us today. His example of boldly doing God's work, and his warning of always heeding God's word live on to serve us today. He was more than a prince, he was one of God's many gifts to mankind.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of Change and Circles

Change never has an end. It never stops. Life is change, if it weren’t we’d all die. None of us could stay the size we were when our mothers gave birth to us. But we didn’t exactly always want to grow when the pains started.

I’ve heard change described as a circle: where it supposedly starts, it also ended. The end of a chapter only starts the next one. A goodbye to one means a hello to another. But those don’t really comfort you as you look at your sunshine moving away and grey clouds rolling in. These goodbyes don’t really seem to bring any new hellos—there’s only one Sun. The airplane that bore me here brought also goodbyes and hellos, but when the airplanes and cars take from me the hellos when giving the goodbyes, there’s no beginning again, it seems. The circles must be circumstantial.

Change. It’s the one thing we don’t want to see any closer; and it’s the one thing we’re trying to get to. And it’s just the one thing we can’t get. It’s a need, I’ll tell you, but it’s the one thing we hate the most. Samwise Gamgee said words to fit many a situation, but I believe he really must have meant “change” instead of “Mordor.” It was the same to him anyhow. He hated walking through so much change.

Walking in circles is pointless. So is trying to avoid change. It’s one thing to know you’re change will somehow be exciting. It’s another thing entirely to know only you will be left without the sun that shines now. Friends leaving, life continuing, relationships ending, friends leaving. Pointless circles that we seem to always walk in while standing on the mission field. But they’re circles we must walk, I just can’t say I’m going to run them.  

When the sun is gone, perhaps the moon will show. They move in circles, too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Vacation fit for the Kings (& us!)

I love my family. Petersons, Thompsons, Harkins, Mills, Kings, and the list could go on. When we get together, there’s no limit to the fun. Especially when a good menu is involved.

Our five-day King-visit started with (well, food first, but then) our favorite family game—Nertz. A game of speed, good eye span and understanding what suit each card is, we often have our most meaningful conversations playing it. “AH!! Cheep-oh! I was going to—ugh.” “Oh, SOORRRY, did you want that card?” Of course, the fact that I was reigning champion was not rubbed in at all… We had tournaments every night they were here, and, sad to say, my growing weariness and Spencer’s increasing skills ended up in me not actually creaming him the last round. The final night’s scores for Nertz was: Me: 2 (or 3, my memory fails in complete exhaustion); Josh: 2; Uncle Matt: 1; and Spencer: 1 & a half. Since Spencer hadn’t ever actually emptied his Nertz pile before, he didn’t understand that even if he had played all but one, had an empty spot open and everything, he still had to get that last card off the pile. I, courteously, tried to explain this problem to him as I deftly added more of my cards to the middle piles. Josh took that opportunity as well, and Nertzed before him… But, seeing as this was his FIRST time meeting “Bob,” (as he named the last card in his Nertz pile every game,) we called it a “half Nertz.”

Our “night-life” of playing cards till bedtime wasn’t the only thing we enjoyed, either. “Floating” the Nile River, swimming at local pools and resorts, watching movies, eating popcorn, having hilarious convos, and learning which kind of “Nert” we each were couldn’t have been better.

Despite the horrendous  sunburns and exhaustion, a vacation fit for the Kings and us was one of the best I’ve ever had (even if I never left home).