Tuesday, November 20, 2012

procrastination...

I am avoiding cleaning out our back bathroom.  It has this really ugly wooden closet that is literally falling apart and holds all kinds of medicines and bathroom stuff.  The odor of the closet is repelling.  The bathroom itself is functional but far from any place you'd want to spend time in.  So I read a book.  I planned English class for today.  I washed dishes.  And all the while that back bathroom mocks me.  It is winning at keeping me distant and disgusted at myself for not just tackling the disfunction.  I mean it's only a bathroom filled with bathroom stuff.  I was supposed to start on it yesterday and I successfully avoided it.  So today to put it off again I logged onto my email.  There in my inbox was a blog I subscribe to entitled, "Life is Messy".  Don't I know it!  I don't want to open up that ugly stinky closet and clean it out.  I don't want to deal with all the expired junk.  Who knows there might even be a mouse or two!  Also it's really hot in there.  There are no fans to stir the sticky humid air.  The cat's litter boxes are in there.  I have English class in less than an hour so I can't possibly begin sorting through the mess...   I'll just deal with it later.  Maybe tonight...  

  http://www.sethbarnes.com/?filename=life-is-messy

The blog ends with stating the first step in dealing with the mess is admitting the mess and admitting the mess gets us closer to grace.  I realize the blog is talking about deeper spiritual messes that lurk within, dark, smelly, crumbling, interior closets filled with junk that must go.  And dealing with interior junk is a life-long process.  Little by little we must be about letting the light shine in and expose all that is hidden.  We must allow growth and change to be part of the process.  Otherwise we are left procrastinating and stagnating.  And like stagnant water it neither refreshes nor quenches but instead sickens and might even lead to death.

 Pray that I will have the fortitude to sort and deep clean all the junk that is languishing within and without.

Even as I write these words my cat is tossing and batting at a large-ish dead lizard right beside me.  The lizard is tailless and soon to be eaten.  What a bloody mess!  Hope the cat doesn't vomit up partially digested lizard.... he's done it before and will certainly do it again...  UGH.

I hear the little pathetic cat retches now... I'm afraid to look.  I've decided not to look.  I've got an English class to teach!  No time for partially digested lizard vomit now.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The fusing of imperfect lives ...something of the divine

"I think of how sometimes God puts people together, maybe more often than we realize.  We can disregard it, lie to ourselves, find the reasons why it's impractical.  But something within the creation of them connects.  I've been afraid of it.  There is something fearful in revealing our true selves, allowing others to peer intimately inside.  It takes such trust, and none of us are completely trustworthy.  It's a risk, and there will be disappointment, opposing views, disenchantment, but the fusing of two imperfect lives is something of the divine." -- "The Salt Garden" by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

Years ago Amanda and I challenged each other to define friendship.  It seemed such an easy thing, to define something both so ordinary and extraordinary and something so intrinsically woven into the human experience.   I mean childhood friendships predate being able to tie our own shoes or print our own names.  Yet I found it to be so illusive and difficult to put to paper, to put words together to definitively define it.  And so I never did complete that challenge.  It was, to me, like trying to capture a wild creature.  Amanda never showed me her definition of friendship either.  We continued our friendship but never defined it and to this day haven't brought back up our failure of that seemingly simple challenge.  I, however, have thought of that challenge from time to time wondering if I could define it yet.  If I could capture friendship on paper, word by word.

Today I was reading "The Salt Garden" on my kindle and the closest thing to a good definition leapt off the screen and stopped me in my tracks.  "... the fusing of two imperfect lives is something of the divine."  That is the best definition of friendship I have ever come across.  God is inherently involved as the author and developer of friendship.  He made the first introductions and has been doing it ever since.  Friendship is often the greatest motivator for me to grow and move forward.  To lean in and drink deep from the fountain of friendship requires trust and risk and care and discernment.  And once those waters get polluted with toxic friendships it becomes even more challenging and an even greater risk.  Some people stand by and watch poisoned waters slowly pass by with bits of refuse floating and sinking up the general area.  You won't find those people drinking deeply from that source.  They stand by, alone and bitter, with sour stomachs and matching drawn faces unable to move forward.  The risk and hard work it would take to filter and clean that stream is just too much trouble.

I've been that person.  I've watched what seemed to be a sparkling source of refreshing and quenching friendship turn blood-red with death, malodorous in it's rapid decay, driving me to my knees in trembling disbelief.  Perhaps that description seems a bit too melodramatic?  Perhaps you have forgotten.  Perhaps you don't allow yourself to swim deeply in those waters.  I have been both the cause of polluting and the recipient of such pollution.  And it does require much courage and strength to filter and try again.  Miraculously we have God to step in and purify and prompt us with the Holy Spirit to dive deep again.

Just yesterday I found out that my Dutch friend Leonie whom I met through my friend Wendy while I was visiting her in Macedonia during my spring break at language school in France made friends with my Dutch friends Jan and Tabitha whom I met in Bongolo before they moved to Senegal where Leonie and her family recently moved to with their work as Dutch diplomats.  So I sent along Leonie's phone number to Jan and that led to a lovely dinner for both families.  I introduced two sets of friends living in a foreign country I have yet to visit.  They are expats from the same country speaking the same heart language living in the same foreign country.  They are Christ followers and I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  Isn't that truly amazing?  And can I really take credit for something so incredible?  The divine has to be involved.  Such things are not native of this small spinning globe hung so delicately within the fragile framework of galaxies and universes and beyond.  I will end my feeble attempts to define friendship with a quote from the great Buzz Lightyear, "To infinity and beyond!"

Friday, November 16, 2012

And so it begins, a new normal

The dreaded time of being the last teammates in Libreville has arrived.  Hannah has flown away, Leanne has flown away, the Envision center is just a memory, and it is back down to just Steve and me as we live and breathe here in the sweltering capital city by the grey-green sea.  I skyped briefly with Hannah last night (before losing power) and we marveled that just over a week has passed since she left.  It seems much longer.  The last time we lost teammates here in Libreville marked the beginning of a very challenging and lonely time and I very much did not want to go back to that thorny place, thank you very much!  I felt we were fairly well recovered from that difficult time and on track for a new normal that involved being actively engaged with teammates and sharing in ministry together.  So I was sorely grieved to realize that new normal was to be tossed out and we were to be ushered into another period of adjustment.  One that did not include close teammates.  One that might take us back to that prickly land I thought we had left behind. Though that time did produce greater growth and dependance on God, like never before experienced, it came with the high, high price tag of pain and uncertainty.  But we are not the same people we were then.  God has strengthened us and given me a strong dose of thanksgiving in the months leading up to this moment.  I am being very proactive in my thought patterns and how I am choosing to order my day to day.  So far so good.

"In the Land of Blue Burkas" is the title of a book (recently downloaded into my kindle) written by a single Christian American woman sharing stories of living in Afghanistan while working for an NGO.  She brings to life the Muslim women living there through her candid conversational stories.  It has lead me into a stunningly fresh appreciation for my Savior Jesus Christ.  As the writer tells stories of the realities of the Muslim women there I am able to see afresh with startling clarity why Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.  In the chapter entitled "Choosing Love" the author very honestly maps out the difficulties she faced daily living in that foreign place.  She shared the staggering weight of her responsibilities in directing the efforts of the NGO which included managing projects, writing proposals, maintaining financial records, attending government meetings, etc, the list goes on, all while leading both an Afghan and foreign staff.  During that time she worked with sketchy electricity, slow internet connection, oppressive heat in the summer and blindingly cold brutal winters.  She poignantly points out she was there ultimately to express love to her neighbors.  And those neighbors were made up of bearded men and blue burka-ed women living lives following hard after their Muslim teachings. She shares many conversations where she and whomever she was with would talk about life and faith.  They about theirs and she about hers.  It is amazing to see the contrast of the Muslim faith and the Christian faith.  Reading this book has been a gift of inspiration to me during this time.  I recommend it  highly. 

I am truly enjoying teaching my beginners English class.  I have about 11 students, mostly made up of the nurses and staff of the clinics at Avea II.  They are a joy to teach!  It is giving me a tangible way to contribute other than just running the guest house.  My favorite part of the days I teach (other than the actual teaching) are the glimpses I get of spectacular sunsets, each one uniquely and brilliantly coloring the sky and clouds, changing minute by minute in aching beauty with a spectrum of pink, yellow, orange, red, blue and purple hues reflected in the shining sea as I drive home by way of Bord de Mer amidst the crush of pedestrians and clotted traffic.  So far life in Libreville adjusting to a new normal has been a lesson of being strong and courageous, of not being discouraged.  I was led to Joshua 1:9 the very day after Hannah left.  I penned these words in my prayer journal, "The US has elected a president, Hannah has flown to Senegal and Steve is flying to Bongolo.  And I sit alone in a hot house, music playing and fans whirling, praying to you Holy God."  And so it has begun, a new normal.

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you where ever you go."  Joshua 1:9

Friday, September 14, 2012

reluctant missionary

A few years ago I read a book called "Reluctant Missionary" written by Edith Buxton.  She is the daughter of famous missionary C. T. Studd and married one of his best known recruits, Alfred Buxton.  The title of the book beckoned me into its dusty pages and I related to Buxton's reluctance and was inspired by her rising to the challenge of being a missionary in the jungles of Congo in the early 1900's.  "The sea journey took three weeks.  On the last morning I was awake early and on deck to catch my first look at Africa.  It was a brown line on the horizon of a dull grey sea.  To those who are susceptible to her magic, Africa can cast a spell which binds you to her for ever.  I still feel that magnetic pull whenever I set foot on her soil.  The age-old earth at your feet, baked by an unremitting sun, sends a thrill through me to this day."  She writes with eloquence and vulnerability.  "Long before we reached Nala I knew I did not fit.  I did not like my fellow missionaries and I am quite sure they did not like me.  I became critical, often speaking ill of my neighbours, I was bored.  Had I not been happily married, I could not have stood the isolation.  There is no place like Africa for finding you out."

That sentence, "There is no place like Africa for finding you out" still proves to be true even a hundred years later. I want to share a story of how I was found out a couple of years ago.  I hesitate to share this story because I like to be well thought of, to be considered a paragon of Christian virtue.  Unfortunately I am more often not.  This story occurred in early December 2010 in the midst of much change and personal heartache.  We were having one last beach day with a missionary family who would be returning to the US, leaving Gabon for good.  Though it was deep into the rainy season we decided to go to a remote beach reached only by traversing muddy roads carved out of dense forest.  We met around 9ish at a local bakery before convoying to the remote beach.  Unfortunately our US Embassy friend had a minor accident on the way out of the bakery parking area and insisted that we carry on without her as she would have to wait for someone from the embassy to help with the logistics of the accident.  We reluctantly agreed and piled the kids from her car into ours.  We drove on for about 30 more minutes before becoming stuck, suctioned really, deep into a muddy, rutted puddle along with another car or two.  We had just poured quite a bit of money into our aging Nissan Patrol and as it was being dug out incidental damage was inflicted to the car and I began to feel irrationally trapped.  I knew the feelings to be irrational, eventually we would be free of the muddy stronghold, yet I felt so overwhelmed and honestly wanted to vomit.  By the time we were free we had collectively decided to turn back and go to a beach closer to Libreville and easier to get in and out of with our cars.  Our embassy friend had joined us by this time and we pulled up to a beach area hours after starting out that morning.

After we unloaded and dipped our muddy feet in the ocean to clean them off a bit, a man was gesturing wildly and talking to Steve.  I drew near and understood the fellow to be complaining that we had splashed mud on his clothing when we drove by.  I looked him over and found no offending mud on his brightly colored jogging suit.  It is customary in this culture to reimburse someone the cost of cleaning their clothing should your car splash mud upon them.  Usually a few dollars will cover the cost but this man was insisting on a larger more ridiculous amount to cover the cost of cleaning his outfit.  Still no mud to be seen on his person.  Steve joked around with the man and offered a more appropriate amount.  The man refused.  Meanwhile an anger rose up within me, one that surprised me.  I was lathered up into a fury like none other by this man.  I found myself shaking some local currency at the man and calling him a thief.  This abruptly brought all around to a stilted silence.  Steve asked if I was alright.  I responded by saying something to the affect of "I want to punch this man!  Will anyone let me punch this guy?!"  Steve then asked if I needed to go home.  At this point all eyes were on me.  I knew I was irrational but the rage inside bubbled up and over.  I turned to the man and said I wanted to fight him.  He was incredulous as were all my companions.  At that point I did some kind of Tae Bo motion with my feeble fists spinning in his direction.  Fortunately the kids were playing in the waves and unaware of my unraveling rapidly into incredulous behavior.  I really really wanted to physically punch this man.  I saw red.  It's the only way I can explain myself.  I'm not a violent person usually.  In fact I've never been in a fight or even threatened to fight someone in my entire life.  I thought I was a lover, not a fighter... I thought wrong.

My dear friend Lisa started to try to explain my bizarre behavior to the man by telling him of our difficult journey that day and how one of our friends had an accident earlier and how we had gotten stuck in the mud, all in an effort to calm down the situation and bring about peace and harmony.  Lisa is a great friend and one that will go to bat for you even when you've gone batty...literally.  Unbeknownst to Lisa, this man was well aware of our friend's accident earlier because HE HAD BEEN THERE!  He had done his best to incite anger towards my embassy friend.  He wanted her to pay for her accident (in some kind of vigilante way) and demanded the gathering crowd to turn on our friend.  Fortunately the crowd benignly ignored the man and my friend was able to take care of the accident with her embassy worker in a dignified manor worthy of a wonderful diplomat.  I, on the other hand, one believed to be sent by a loving God to love and serve the Gabonese, was spitting mad ready to come to blows.  Let me remind you that the accident at the bakery occurred hours before, miles away from our present location.  I was sure the man was an agent of satan sent to antagonize and harass.  I told Steve to get the man away from me.  Steve complied.  The man and Steve conferred together some distance away and a few moments later the man apologized and shook each of our hands and quickly departed.

There was nervous laughter as my friends asked how I was doing.  There were some jokes throughout the day to not get in my way or I may go Billy Blanks on the offending party.  Some even mockingly spun their fists in my general direction.  It was shocking to me how angry I was at that man.  I mean, I really thought I was a nice person!  I thought when I sold or gave away all our belongings and moved to a distant land to love and serve in God's name that I would be loving and kind and long-suffering like all good missionaries.  Wrong.  I was none of those things.  I was tired and frustrated and grieving again the loss of more teammates.  I was overwhelmed and empty.  We had just celebrated our first Thanksgiving with our kids away at boarding school.  By Christmas time we would be the only missionaries on our team in the capital city.  I was feeling woefully inadequate.  I had no love inside to spill out and over onto those around me.  I, instead, was filled with anger and frustration.  It was a serious low-point in my life.  Yet, God met me there.  He loves me and knew me better than I knew myself.  He wasn't surprised by my bad behavior.  He loved me before and during and would love me after.  He allowed me to face the ugliness inside and gently forgave.  He healed and refilled me along the way.

So I can certainly relate to being a reluctant missionary.  I will close with these words of Edith Buxton, "Perhaps there is still time -- time left to learn.  And there is so much to learn -- learning to accept each day as it comes, at peace when the day is over; loving God through loving my neighbour, and, finally, to know that fulfillment which comes from learning to walk in grace.  And this grace must be taken new every morning from the very hand of God."      

Monday, September 3, 2012

Thoughts from a mission cemetery called Blessing

Amidst discarded beer bottles and other refuse on a weedy plot of land lies a cemetery on a high point of Libreville over-looking downtown buildings, rambling neighborhoods and the grey-green estuary spilling out into the Atlantic ocean.  Recently Steve and I went there to take some photos for a man who is writing a book recounting the lives of the first protestant missionaries to Gabon.  The grave stones are scattered somewhat haphazardly in a sad state of neglect.  After driving towards downtown Libreville and taking a cratered road that wandered and wound around an adjacent neighborhood we found the mission called "Baraka" which translates to "blessing".  Behind the mission building lies the cemetery.  It was a sunny hot day with billowy white clouds drifting lazily across a brilliant blue sky, occasional breezes carried up from the sea stirred the sombre air as we walked reverently around the old headstones searching for specific names to photograph for the author.

Many of the simple arched headstones were weather-worn with etched script hard to decipher.  Another missionary friend of ours had taken an interest in preserving the stories of these early missionaries.  She had come years before us and used a sharpie marker to fill in the script to sharpen the contrast and render the words legible once again.  We did the same for the headstone of the one the author was most interested in our photographing.  Even in the bright sunlight the chiseled words were lost amidst the rough stone so Steve carefully filled in the words with the sharpie, bringing to clarity the epitaph so long ago carved out by a dear friend of the deceased.  The dates on the oldest stones were from the 1820s.  One marked the grave of an entire family, husband, wife, and baby, who most-likely from disease, the young missionary couple in their late twenties when they died just days apart.  Many of the graves told of lives cut short, barely into their thirties when they breathed their last breath in this foreign place.  Their gravestones spoke of their passion to reach this place and love the people here, to shine the light of Christ.  It grimly reminded me of when missionaries packed their belongings in coffins.  They counted the cost.  They knew death awaited them but went forth with the promise of eternal life.  Their life was well-spent sharing the gospel of Christ a couple of centuries ago in this very land where I currently live.

As I sat and watched Steve work I thought about what it must have been like for those early missionaries.  I could imagine this mission located on a high point with views of the sea, a great location to catch those precious sea breezes to cut through the oppressive, cloying humidity that hangs like a scratchy wet woolen blanket.  I could imagine away the crowded buildings and neighborhoods that surrounded and could see the cemetery clean and green.  I could imagine the gravestones with etchings sharp and clear.  I could imagine the mourners left behind fresh with the grief of losing another teammate.  The mounds of red Central African earth piled high as yet another of their team lies beneath never to crack a joke or share in a holiday meal or hold hands in prayer again.  As I sat there and contemplated the lives of those who's earthly remains are left in this dirty plot of land I realized I don't really know what hard is.  Sure I've said goodbye to many a teammate and felt the loss of their leaving and the loneliness amidst the crowds of people in this foreign place but I've never buried a teammate or carved out their epitaph on a gravestone.  What a precious price they paid.  I've never seriously feared death or disease.  I've lived in relative comfort.  It's not the comfort and convenience of home, not by a long-shot, but it's not the dangerous and wild place it once was.  I wondered what it would be like to live my life poured out as a drink offering to a spiritually dry and desperate place.  I wondered if I would count the high, high cost and board that ship with my belongings packed in a long pine box waving a final goodbye to all my friends and family.  Would I have the courage to have children and raise them in a hostile environment?  Would I love the people here with my very life?

It really made me examine my life and my commitment here and now.  It made me question how deep is my love for the still lost people here.  I realized my often grinch-like shrunken heart is needing growth.  Please pray for me to love, really love the people here, love them more than my own comfort.  I confess my love for comfort is a guiding force in my life.  I want to count the cost and find it worth it.  Only God can enlarge my heart and He can only enlarge it as I give it to Him.  He's a gentleman, never pushy or controlling.  I love that about Him but hate that I am so hard-hearted and so stingy with my love.  Sometimes I wish He would just make me do the right thing, the loving thing, to take me out of the equation.  But He doesn't, He has given me freedom and a mind and body and life, He has given me the Holy Spirit that lives within and speaks wisdom and guidance... when I pay attention.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Smile because it happened...

The other day while painting the Envision center with Leanne I found myself saying, "Yeah, it's been hard, really hard, but worth it."  In that moment I realized it was true.  What a gift!  In the recent past I've had thought patterns that run a rut around the same mountain of thought, that mountain being all the difficult and heart-wrenching challenges of the past few years.  And it's been truly the most challenging time in my adult life.  But here I am with different thought patterns running around a different mountain of thought, that mountain being gratitude.

The reason Leanne and I were painting at the Envision center is because Envision is leaving Gabon.  The rented house that has been home to Envision for the last five years or so needs to be painted by Gabonese law before returning to it's owners at the end of an occupancy.  It seems a bit backwards to have the renters responsible for the interior painting instead of the owners, but that is just one of many perplexing Gabonese laws.  So Envision is leaving.  It is deeply saddening to contemplate the loss of Envision and all the people it encompasses.  It will mean losing our closest teammates and my dearest friends.  We live in the city and the rest of our team lives in the jungle near the hospital, an 8 hour car ride (on a good day) or an 1 hour 45 minute flight.

Leanne and Hannah have been fearlessly leading Envision for nearly two years now.  They are kindred spirits and I have loved living life with them.  We have shared everything from the mundane to special trips and holidays together.  We have ministered side-by-side and laughed and cried together.  Living in a foreign land is an adventure, one fraught with joy and pain.  To have cultural mates, that is, someone who intrinsically understands where you come from, who is able to share in the heartache and hilarity and sometimes the furious frustration that makes up the day to day living in this foreign place, is profoundly encouraging .  Leanne and Hannah have been that support and lifeline in the midst of this beautiful disaster I call life in Libreville.  I love them dearly and will miss them greatly.

So there we were painting and talking while the music played.  The room empty of furniture, full of paint fumes and memories, echoed as we talked.  Leanne was recounting many of the challenges I've faced living here and I found myself saying it's all been worth it.  Today when I read through my fb newsfeed someone had posted a pinterest-type image of muted colors with a profile of a girl in a hooded sweatshirt hunched over as cold rain splattered, in the background lights from a city are blurred bringing focus to the hooded girl, the mood of the photo is dark, bold words state, "Don't lose faith.  I didn't promise it would be easy.  I promised it would be worth it. -- God"  I usually don't like those often cheesy sayings splashed across images.  I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to those things.  However since I've been living this one it struck a chord within.  It is worth it, the pain of loss, the pain of growth as God shapes and stretches.  I am grateful for it all.

When we first began to process the closing of Envision Gabon Hannah brought up the Dr. Seuss quote, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."  Envision closing is a huge loss to us all, especially as Hannah and Leanne have poured their hearts and souls into this vibrant ministry that has touched many lives.  It's always heartbreaking when something good ends and it would be easy to lament its loss in strident tones of anger and blame but at the end of it all we rejoice that Envision Gabon existed and breathed life into so many people.  We rejoice at the friendships made and buildings built, medical trips made, Gabonese people coming to Christ, the Hope House kids and their infectious smiles, all in partnership with the Gabonese national church and our dear friends at the OSPAC/RBC clinic.  We smile because interns have drawn closer to God and others because Envision Gabon happened.  I am a better person because of Envision Gabon.  I have been enriched by the people and ministry.  I am inspired by Hannah and Leanne and the way they are ending well.  I am grateful for the mountain of memories that will forever be a part of my interior landscape.

           

Monday, August 27, 2012

My confession and explanation of Facebook stalking my kids... and their friends...

So Steve has strongly encouraged me to write a blog.  He's just looking out for me.  He loves me.  In fact last night as I lay in bed, with sleep eluding me, I marveled at his love for me.  We've been married 19 years and he still makes me feel beautiful and witty and wise.  I'm not trying to brag but I am married to a stud pilot with stunning blue eyes that sparkle with humor more often than not.  He just gets better with age.

That being said life lately has been somewhat challenging.  My latest challenges being that I have become a facebook stalker trolling the profiles of my kids (and I must admit, sheepishly, also their friends) for any photos or comments that shed a bit of light of their far away life in Cameroon.  This is the third year we have taken them to a foreign country and moved them into a home and then either driven or flown away.  It still seems crazy to me.  I love the people my kids have become.  They are funny and wise and kind and love Jesus.  Part of the journey from there to here has been this sending our kids off to school in a foreign land and in the midst of all the changes and challenges God has been God and loved them in a uniquely personal way for each of my kids transforming them into the people they are now and are becoming.

After getting over the shock that my kids can in fact survive and even thrive without my constant presence in their day to day.  And what a shock it was, glad they are thriving but a bit grieved and humbled that their need of me is on the less and less end of things.  It's ultimately what parenting is all about right?  Working yourself out of a job...  But early retiring from full-time to part-time is challenging, thus enters the facebook stalking.

I know it's got creepy written all over it but let me explain before you judge me so harshly!  So my kids LIVE in another country, and the internet is sketchy and slow and since they've been away we haven't been able to skype.  Our main form of communication is facebook chat.  Oh how I've come to love that little green dot next to my kids names indicating that they are online live!  My heart jumps up within me and my fingers twitch and start tapping out an overly exuberant greeting.  Then I wait with my heart in my throat for a reply.  Moments pass... painfully... as I steel myself for the disappointment of the false green dot or worse the internet cutting out at that precise moment.  Then I see a little message that says something like, "seen at 4:27" and I glance at the time realizing that they've just received my chat.  Oh joy!  Then I see the message, "Megan is typing" and I can hardly believe in just moments I will receive precious words from my daughter.  Then nothing happens, the message disappears and I am left with nothing.  Curses facebook chat!  I lather up to a furious frustration when a sound rings out and the little chat box flashes with the new message from my beloved!  She has said "Hi".  I am over the moon with gladness at the glowing screen.  Truly.  It's the highlight of my day.  (I've used Megan in this example, it could be any of my three darlings that cause these heart palpitations of glee.)  And for a few moments we have a back and forth dialogue and I hear a bit of her day and before I am nearly ready she types out, "gotta go mom, dinner bell, homework, etc, love you and I'll give you more details tomorrow."  ... And like that she is gone and the green dot accompanying her name is gone as well.

So this is when the real stalking begins... I look at other profiles seeing if anyone has posted pics or statuses about life at RFIS and I've even been known to chat with a friend of my kids just to, you know, say hi and work in something about one of my kids just to get any fresh information.  It's sick, I know.  Sometimes I have to just walk away.  I don't want to be the scary stalker mom of FB.  I don't want to freak out my kids friends and have them report back to my kids that their mom has yet again chatted with them asking lame questions about how their day went at school.  My background in youth ministry doesn't help as I am quite fond of teens and miss hanging out with them in general, which when you aren't in active youth ministry can actually come across as really creepy.  I promise I'm not really creepy in real life.  Ask anyone... except maybe my kids and my kids friends... shudder.

So I am trying to be less facebook stalker and more facebook walker-away.  I am missing my kids so completely.  I thought it would get easier with time but I am just as devastated each time I say goodbye.  I mourn the loss again.  The only solace I have is that they are thriving and have great friends and are growing spiritually and physically and emotionally and educationally and I have the teachers and staff and students of RFIS and the hostel parents (past and present) and kids of UBAC hostel to thank for their love and care of my kids.  Joe, Megan and Sam are truly God's kids first and He provides mightily for them, generously and lovingly.  I am overwhelmed by gratitude in the midst of missing my kids.  I guess that is the testimony of God's presence in my life and in the lives of my kids and their friends. So please don't judge me too harshly when you see the little green dot next to my name on FB chat, feel free to say hi, it just might make my day!

p.s.  I wonder if the joy I feel at receiving fresh messages from my kids can compare to the joy our Father feels when we (His children) pray genuine prayers communicating the details of our day, just to keep Him in the loop and express our love and appreciation for all He does and Is for us?  It reminds me of the time when I prayed for answers about a specific situation for months and was met with silence until one day God whispered in my heart the gentle reminder, "Seek Me alone, not just My answers." Perhaps God has allowed me to experience this time to draw near to Him and know that He wants to dialogue with me and hear about my day and all it's silly details in vivid color.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hope Flight

We slipped the surly bonds and took flight last Thursday morning with a couple of kids from Hope House, the home for at risk and orphaned kids here in Libreville.  Henrica is a beautiful 15 year old girl who many years ago was hit by a car which knocked out one front tooth and seriously tattered the other front tooth.  Since then she has covered her smile.  Our good friend and dentist, Paul Kruth, from York Alliance Church came out in February and said it would be an easy fix but would need to be done at Bongolo.  Famou was with us as well.  A year or so ago Famou was in a serious bus accident killing 10 of his fellow passengers.  Famou broke his tibia and it was set wrong by medical personel here.  He needs surgery to re-break his tibia and have pins put in to allow the bone to heal correctly.  He is 18 and we had a guardian, Flavienne, come along with him as he needs to stay at the hospital for a couple of weeks before he can head back to Libreville.  His surgery has most likely already happened.

Henrica is a smart and hard working young woman who has a dream to someday become a pilot.  Just imagine her joy and wonder when we took off and flew over the city and out over the estuary, our plane's shadow dancing on the water below.  She looked out of her window and shook her head with wonder, repeatedly saying "wow" in whispered reverence.  Famou was in the back of the plane taking pictures and shaking his head in amazement as well.  This was their first time to fly in any plane much less a small Cessna single engine droning out a whimsical poem in the sky.  We punched through a cloud deck with blue skies above and billowing clouds below.  We could no longer see the ground as thick clouds floated and peaked and dimpled like a delicious fluffy meringue.  The blue skies we flew through were clear and clean with cool crisp air streaming into the plane through the adjustable vents.

Henrica sat next to Steve in the co-pilot seat with a headset on and wearing sunglasses with the American flag printed on the lenses.  She listened to everything Steve explained about the various dials and petals with rapt attention.  She even held the yoke "steering" for a few moments, slightly dipping and turning the plane with a shy smile lighting up her face.  Right now there aren't any flight training schools in Gabon.  The odds of this young girl learning to fly are seriously stacked against her.  But, nothing is impossible with God!  Perhaps someday Henrica will be flying a Cessna droning out her own poem in the Gabonese skies.

Within an hour and a half of landing Henrica already had her preliminary dental work done.  Some disappointed tears were shed when she realized that her new smile would have to wait until the end of summer allowing some healing to take place in preparation for the dental prosthetics.  However, we will fly her back to Bongolo to get that new smile before the next school year begins.  There are mean girls, even in Henrica's school, who make fun of her broken teeth and call her ugly.  I can't wait till Henrica beams with a brilliant unbroken smile.  It's often the small things that make all the difference.  What a blessing to get to play a part of Operation Henrica Smile! The Gabonese dentist, Dr. Neni, is married to one of the PAACS (Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons) residents, she is very pregnant and came into the clinic just to see Henrica.  She and her husband, Dr. Tchoba, met and fell in love at medical school in, of all places, Russia.  True story!

We spent a lovely weekend in the jungle and were able to attend the Thompson's farewell party with our team.  They have been fearlessly serving the poorest of the poor in Gabon at the Bongolo hospital for 35 years.  It has been amazing to get to know and love the Thompson's during our four years here.  They are flying away from Bongolo today on their journey to transition to moving to Egypt to start a PAACS program there.  While many of the Thompson's contemporaries think of retirement, Dr. Dave and Becki are starting over with a new adventure which will require a move to a new country and learning a new language.  Heroes!  The night sky was lit by the twinkling lights of a thousand stars as Steve and I walked back to the guest house after the party.

Tomorrow Steve and I fly to Cameroon to pick up our kids for the summer.  I can hardly wait to embrace my babies!  We will spend 4 days there to attend awards ceremonies and allow our kids to say goodbyes to their friends and teachers, some of whom will not be returning next year.  We are looking forward to a great summer, the best part will be setting 5 places at the dinner table, we will all be under one roof!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Holy Sonnet

                  Holy Sonnet 14


Batter my heart, three-personed God;  for You
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labor to admit You, but O, to no end,
Reason Your viceroy in me, me should defend, 
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love You, and would be loved fain,
But I am betrothed unto Your enemy.
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again;
Take me to You, imprison me, for I,
Except You enthral me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.


                     -- John Donne

Dear friends it has nearly been a month since last I wrote.  I am continuing to surrender and accept God each new day.  God is speaking to me and it is wondrously amazing.  Every Wednesday night we host a Bible study for English speakers.  Most of the time it is made up of Steve and I and Hannah and Leanne of EnVision and whatever visitors we have staying at the guest house.  Recently we have added two to our numbers, a young woman I met in Ghana named Ando, she is from Madagascar and her new Gabonese husband, Nesmi.  They work with university students not far from our house.  We have extended the invitation to our Embassy friends and others but for the most part they politely decline.  So it is a small gathering yet significant.  It is significant in that it is the one time each week where we put aside our busy-ness and have unified focus on God.  We take turns leading various parts of the evening.  We follow 4 W's: Welcome, Worship, Word and Works, modeling our meetings after York Alliance Church Life groups.  This past Wednesday I led the Word part.  I've been reading through various books of the Bible every morning after prayer journaling.  Last Wednesday morning I came upon Acts 5 specifically verses 41-42.

"The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ."

You see, before this verse the apostles were busy healing and teaching the crowds that were drawn far and wide to hear and receive this good news.  Those crowds were being healed of sickness and those tormented by evil spirits were being set free.  This made the high priests and their associates, members of the Sadducees, very nervous.  They were jealous of the apostles and out of their jealous fear they arrested the apostles and threw them in jail, but during the night an angel of the Lord appeared and freed them telling them to go stand in the temple courts and proclaim to the people the full message of new life in Christ.

Of course someone reported back to the high priest and their cronies that the apostles were out at it again in the temple courts.  The apostles were rounded up again and put before the Sanhedrin (the leadership of Sadducees) and questioned by the high priest.  The Sanhedrin wanted nothing more than to get rid of these apostles by any means necessary.  One of them spoke out and said if God is truly behind them then nothing they could do would get in the way of God and His plans for the apostles.  So they decided to let them go demanding that the apostles stay away and keep quiet.  And before they let them go they flogged them.

I stumbled over those words about flogging.  I felt immediately defensive, they were blameless and yet still suffered the harshness of flogging.  Pirates get flogged not apostles!!  Yet the apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing!  Wow, that is not the response I would have had.  Not by a long shot!  I wanted to close my Bible at that point and not think about it, not allow it to soak in.  But God reminded me of the prayer I had just penned asking Him to speak to me through His Word.  I reluctantly turned back to the fragile onion skin page and reread the passage.  I thought about my own knee-jerk response and confessed that I am nothing like these apostles.  I want comfort and praise for my hard work.  I prayed that God would infuse me with the kind of passionate focus the apostles had in following after God and all things eternal.  That I might someday rejoice in suffering and count myself worthy of the disgrace for His Name.  It was a bitter prayer to pray and one out of obedience not heartfelt desire.

I shared this with our small group gathered Wednesday evening.  Then we read the above poem by John Donne.  It is one of my very favorite poems.  I love the honesty and the desperation.  I can relate to his need for God to continue to fight for his weak and wavering heart.  Donne confesses his marriage to the enemy of our souls.  He asks the Lord to divorce and break that knot again.  He pleads that God would enthral him and even to ravish him.  Those are strong words!  I love the beginning, "Batter my heart, three-personed God"  I need battering after battering.  I then played a song by the Waiting.  It's an old song but one I have turned to many times as I've wrestled with God.  It's called, "Hands in the air"

If I raise my hands just to lift the shade
Will I reveal a sky heavy and gray?
Will last night be a memory sweetly fading?
How I hate a morning starting out this way
On these lonely raging mornings I would whip You if I could
But You're on the mighty side of strong and the perfect side of good


If I raise my hands will You grab me by the wrists
And will You try to pull me from the fray?
And even if my fingers join together into fists
Will You hold me firmly anyway?
'Cause I would try to escape you but for everyday I'm sure
That You're on the huge side of big and the holy side of pure


OK, hear what I say
As I raise my hands in surrender today
OK, here I will stay
Hands in the air singing, "Have Thine own way"


If I raise my hands so weak and thin and frail
Will You reveal the light of mercy in Your eyes?
If I cry to you faintly will my feeble whispers fail
Or will it find its way to a reply?
'Cause now that I'm exhausted I think I'm ready to admit
That I've spent all my resistance on Someone I can't resist


OK, hear what I say
As I raise my hands in surrender today
OK, here I will stay
Hands in the air singing, "Have Thine own way"


Light from my window sill make my way to the door
I hang my head and still I know You're wanting more
Over the threshold now I move across the yard
Although my will allows, my every step is hard
Now in the garden I carve out six feet of space
There make my will comply, lie down upon my face
Been toe to toe too long, I'm tired of fighting You
I see You were too strong, 'cause I am black and blue
But now I understand what losers do to win
How every dying man is sure to rise again
So I raise my left hand one I raise my right hand two
Under the morning sun, my spirit cries to You


OK, hear what I say
As I raise my hands in surrender today
Right here under the sun
Hands in the air singing, "Thy will be done"
I'm here under the sun
Hands in the air singing, "Thy will be done"
OK, here I will stay
Hands in the air singing, "Have Thine own way
Have thine own way."

Thy will be done, in my life Lord God.  I struggle so much to make my will comply just as this song says, "Now in the garden I carve out six feet of space, there make my will comply, lie down upon my face, been toe to toe to long,  I'm tired of fighting You, I see You were too strong, cause I am black and blue"  I can relate to this need to bury physically my will.  To then raise my hands in surrender and to know the profound truth that every dying man is sure to rise again as God gives us life, true life, dripping with joy and heartache and everything in between.

Then I turned back in my prayer journal to weeks before when I was reading Jeremiah 18:4, At the Potter's House:
"But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands..."

Eugene Peterson in the book, "Run with Horses" says of this, "Jeremiah rubbed shoulders daily with people who were not useful: imperfections made their lives leak, holding neither wine nor water, a failure of proportion made their lives wobble or tip unstable and undependable. Jeremiah had other words for it: sin, rebellion, self-will, wandering."

Jeremiah 18:4
"... so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him."

Peterson continued with, "God kneads and presses, pushes and pulls.  The creative work starts over again, patiently, skillfully.  God doesn't give up.  God doesn't throw away what is spoiled...  The life of faith is very physical.  Being a Christian is very much a matter of the flesh -- of space and time and things.  It means being thrown on the potter's wheel and shaped our entire selves, into something useful and beautiful.  And when we are not useful or beautiful we are reshaped.  Painful, but worth it."

While reading Peterson's book about the prophet Jeremiah he stressed the idea of being both useful and beautiful.  He pointed out in our day and age we have the ordinary utilitarian things of everyday and we have the beautiful and ornate that is reserved for special occasions.  Back in Biblical times the useful things like pottery were made to be beautiful as well as useful.  They didn't have plastic or disposable things.  They had handmade things, unique and beautiful.  I was struck by this notion of God being the potter and not just making something useful out of me but also creatively and artistically molding me into a unique beautiful.  Isn't that just like our God to surprise us with his whimsy and creativity? Because I can get caught up in trying to be useful and agonizing and second guessing and trying to be a "grown-up" with serious weighty concerns lifted to Him in prayer when out of no where God reminds me of His beauty and whimsy!  So I want to be surrendered and battered by my loving God who refuses to leave me useless and ugly, wobbling and leaking, discarded by the world.  He gathers me unto Him and holds me close, peering into my soul and shaking me free from every stronghold of the enemy!  Oh Holy God, you slay me yet again!  "Except You enthral me, never shall I be free, Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me." - Donne

Monday, May 7, 2012

Life lately...

I've been memorizing Romans 12: 1-2 and focusing on the renewing of my mind, asking God to transform my thought patterns.  Robert S. Miller echos my prayers in saying, "I asked God to deliver me from looping thoughts that were leading me around the same mountain and filling me with heaviness and despair."  Since my epiphany I have been steadfast in praying and seeking after God with an attitude of surrender and acceptance.  It has brought a new level of peace.  

In other news I am missing my kiddos with an aching longing.  I got to speak with Joe for 88 minutes the other day and it was glorious, I used nearly $40.00 in phone credit but it was well worth it.  With their busy school schedules and power outages and internet issues talking with them can be challenging.  I am proud of my kids and the way they are thriving in Cameroon.  Their school and hostel are providing great opportunities of growth and care.  Even though Steve and I aren't with Joe, Meg and Sam in their day to day, they are thriving.  God is teaching me how to parent from a distance and stay connected.  It is not easy but then again anything of true worth is never easy.

It is nearing the end of rainy season here in Gabon and with that the skies have opened up pouring forth rain in great big precipitous glory.  The kind of rain that instantly soaks accompanied by the deep rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning strobing in the distance.  It is exciting, inviting us into a drama playing out in the night skies.  I love falling asleep to the sound of the rain splattering against the tin roof.  After a soaking rain the skies seem wiped clean and the air is filled with that unique after rain scent, everything is shining and sparkling with clarity.  Living so close to the rain forest is truly spectacular staring the color green as it is displayed in a spectrum of vibrant hues.  I am thankful for the color green and growth and lush foliage.  God is good.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Epiphany

I had an epiphany yesterday.  It was in fact a banner day for me my dear friend Leanne pointed out as we wrapped up our LIFE group meeting last night.  I have been struggling and wrestling with God for a long, long time now. The subject being peace or more precisely a lack there of.  I know from reading the Word of God that God does give peace to his people, a peace that passes understanding and I have experienced that peace many times in my life.  It is a gift that I seek out and bask in whole-heartedly.  Lacking that peace has caused many sleepless nights and frustrated prayers and conversations.

When I first began to pray about whether or not we should move to Gabon God was curiously silent.  I wrestled for about three months asking God to direct and lead us as we sought out answers on moving to Gabon.  Finally one day after listening to a Derek Webb song entitled "New Law" that ends with Webb singing 16 times, "do not be afraid" I cried out to God once more to give me an answer to my prayer.  I was seeking His will and isn't that what I was supposed to do?  God finally spoke to me in a still small voice that said, "Seek me alone, not just my answers."  It was a startling realization that I had been using God as a magic eight ball of sorts, shaking up prayers and wanting a clear answer to appear out of the murky blue liquid that would say to go or stay.  I wanted assurances that I could take to the bank.  Instead God's gentle rebuke revealed my motives and reminded me that I was not seeking Him alone.  I wanted answers more than I wanted to be with Him, more than I wanted to worship Him, more than I wanted to step out in faith with Him.

Don't get me wrong, we are to pray for answers, however, that should not be the ultimate reason to pray and seek God.  He loves us with an everlasting love and wants to dialogue with us, He wants invited into our everyday.  He delights in speaking to us.  But what I was doing for three months was a white-knuckled demand for answers about my concerns.  Once again I find myself seeking after something from God, white-knuckled and demanding.  I want God's gift of peace but not necessarily God Himself.  I want pain medication to mask my pain instead of therapy to heal my brokenness.  God is all about healing not about medicating pain.

I am miserably uncomfortable in this life I live here in Gabon.  The heat and humidity sap my strength and language and cultural differences are formidable.  Homeschooling then sending my kids away to school has been hugely challenging then heartbreaking and the aviation ministry has been fraught with delays and stops and starts.  Friends and teammates have come and gone, organizational changes are afoot.   Divorce and illness has blackened the landscape near to us and rained it's devastation on us until we were thoroughly soaked.  Is it any wonder I haven't felt very peaceful?  Yet I know that God gives peace to his beloved and it is a peace that passes understanding.  I feel I deserve that peace and I have been quite bitter that God has seemingly withheld it from me.  I have questioned the lack of peace and wondered if it means we are not in the center of God's will and how we went wrong if so.

Years ago when we were in youth ministry we took our youth to a ropes course.  It was a beautiful Fall day in PA.  The leaves were brilliantly dying in a dazzling array of flaming colors and the air was crisp.  We were in the midst of a challenge and that challenge was for the kids to climb a tower hooked into ropes that would hold them if they fell.  You know the type.  I can't speak very intelligently about the rope harnesses and the carabiners and belaying.  Yet there I was holding tightly to a rope belaying for a kid climbing ever higher.  Belaying is the simple but very important process of holding the rope and climber in the event of a fall.  There's all this business about a guide hand and a brake hand while holding the rope.  I didn't understand all the technical aspects of it but I did understand that I was to hold the rope to keep the climber from hitting the ground in the event of what could be a deadly fall.  I held the rope with a white-knuckled grip, straining and cramping my hands and arms.  I said to the expert standing nearby that I needed a break as I was shaking with the effort of holding that rope.  He gently explained to me I was holding on too tightly and I could relax my grip.  I remember thinking that it was a classic problem of mine, making things much harder than they need be.  So with some difficultly I relaxed my grip and found that the student was safe and wouldn't fall to the ground in a disastrous manner.  In fact my fear melted away and I enjoyed cheering the student on to the top of the tower.  It was a small victory for me that day as I learned to literally loosen my grip.

As you can imagine many years later in another country on another continent I am having to relearn to loosen my grip.  I am exhausted from nearly four years of straining effort as I have white-knuckledly held on to the "ropes" here in Gabon.  My epiphany yesterday was simply hearing God tell me to loosen my grip.  I was reading Andrew Murray's book, "The Master's Indwelling" when I came across this passage, "The almighty power of God is working in me.  I only need to get down, and be quiet; I need to be more submissive, and surrendered to His will; I need to be more trustful, and allow God to do with me what He will."  Give God His way with you and let God work, and He will work mightily.  The deepest quietness has often been proved to be the inspiration for the highest action."

Wow, I've been at it again... making things harder than they need be.  I've been straining and shaking with exhaustion thinking it all depends upon me, thinking if I loosen my grip disastrous results will surely come.  I've been seeking peace in the midst of this strenuous effort to medicate the pain and suffering and blaming God for not coming through.  He has been with me all along.  He wants only the best for me.  I so appreciate his patience with me and his steadfast resolve to not leave me where I am but to bring me higher and higher.

"Oh, learn to accept God's will in everything!  Come learn to say of every trial, without exception, 'It is my Father who sent it.  I accept it as His messenger' and nothing in earth or hell can separate you from God." - Andrew Murray

Already I feel more at peace than I have in a long time.  May I continue to loosen my grip and accept and surrender to God my everyday.  Tell me stories of where you have found peace that passes understanding.

Lyrics to A New Law :

(vs. 1)
don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

(pre-chorus)
i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

(chorus)
i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

(vs. 2)
don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law

(pre-chorus/chorus)

(bridge)
what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Re-hydrating in the tropics

"Lectio divina is the strenuous effort that the christian community gives to rehydrating the Scriptures so that they are capable of holding their own original shape in the heat of the day, maintaining their context long enough to get fused with or assimilated into our context, the world we inhabit, the clamor of voices in the daily weather and work in which we live" -- Eugene Peterson "Eat this book"

Confession- I struggle to read the Bible in an alive and vibrant fashion, often I am left dehydrated after reading "living water".  I have felt frustrated and have often given up only to try again.  Don't get me wrong, I believe in the Bible and I believe it has the way, the truth and the light within it's covers.  I just struggle to unlock the life that I know lives in the Word of God.  I have experienced it from time to time.  I have faith and believe but my ability to stay tuned into and focused on the printed Word of God is often anemic.  I know there is a promised land in the crinkly thin onion-skin pages.  I want to inhabit that promised land.

I've been reading Eugene Peterson's "Eat this book".  It has let me know I am not alone in my often fruitless and frustrating Bible reading.  He says, "There is a sense in which the Scriptures are the word of God dehydrated, with all the originating context removed - living voices, city sounds, camels carrying spices from Seba and gold from Ophir snorting down in the bazaar, fragrance from lentil stew simmering in the kitchen - all now reduced to marks on thin onion-skin paper."  I am a romantic and somewhat of a mystic, I love sight, sound, texture; living by my senses is when I feel most alive.  Yet, I love the written word, specifically God's Word.  Yet Peterson points out, "...it is not only timbre and tone and rhythm of the personal speaking voice that disappears in the act of writing it is also the entire complex intricacy of other voices buzzing in the background, children interrupting with demands and questions, thrushes singing, the sound of the rain on the roof, the fragrance of juniper burning in the fireplace, the bouquet of the wine and texture of the bread that accompanies conversation at the table"

Peterson goes on to say, "... we do not read the Bible in order to reduce our lives to what is convenient to us or manageable by us - we want to get in on the great invisibles of the Trinity, the soaring adorations of the angels, the quirky cragginess of the prophets, and ... Jesus."  Somewhat stung I realized that in fact most of the time I want convenience and manage-ablitiy in my day to day.  Here I thought I wanted adventure and passion and to really live but in reality I mostly want uncomplicated ease.  Moving to African has not accomplished that in the least.  I have been mostly miserable since moving here with bright spots of adventure and growth dotting the dismal landscape of my inner life.  Sad but true story.  Steve said to me after having another tearful conversation about the state of life here that I was stuck.  I was not living the life I could be living.  Something has been holding me back... I believe he is right.  I strongly suspect that something is a someone and that someone is me.

It's easy to blame things and other people for the ways discontent within life.  I am very good at making mountains out of mole-hills and listing all that is wrong and focusing and fondling my troubles like a pet of some kind.  I use books to escape my everyday.  Peterson quoted Walter Ong earlier when talking about the written word, "We are the most abject prisoners of the literate culture in which we have matured.  Even with the greatest effort, contemporary man finds it exceedingly difficult, and in many instances quite impossible, to sense what the spoken word actually is. He feels it as a modification of something which normally is or ought to be written."  And Peterson remarks, "Which, of course, is why many of us prefer words written to works spoken.  It is simpler, we are more in control, we don't have to deal with the complexities of difficult, neurotic, or insufferable boring people. If we don't like what we are reading we can shut the book and pick up another - or go shopping, or take a walk, or spend an hour or so in the garden."

The caveat of my discontentment may lie within my desire to have clean lines and easy strides, in my aversion to messy relationships and not being able to know the ending of trials that will answer all or most of my questions.  I want wrapped up neatly predictable story-ending formats to rule my days.  Most problems I struggle with seem unending.  I can't see around the next bend.  I have no assurances that those I love won't fall into tragedy and heart-ache.  I am looking for security and safety in a broken world.  I need God.  I need faith that believes in the end all will work out, that there is a happily ever after for all of eternity.  I need daily communion with God that is alive and active.  I need to hear his voice.

"Jesus' lead-off parable in each of the first three Gospels emphasizes that the centrality of the work of God in our lives is not about reading but about listening: "Let anyone who has ears to hear listen!" (Matt. 13:3-9; Mark 4:3-9: Luke 8:5-8)  The punch line of each of John of Patmos's sermons to his seven churches is similar: "Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches" (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22 NRSV).  Listening is what we do when someone speaks to us; reading is what we do when someone writes to us.  Speaking comes first.  Writing is derivative from speaking.  And if we are to get the full force of the word, God's word, we need to recover it's atmosphere of spokenness."  -Peterson

I want to hear His voice with my whole being.  I want to live a life led by the Spirit.  I want to not be stuck in the murky mire of discontent.  So that is my current hope and prayer. I will keep you posted on this quest for alive and vibrant faith.  Feel free to write if you have struggled similarly.  Have you found ears that listen?  My dehydrated spirit is seeking hydration of the living water.  I have faith that God will answer this cry of my heart.  He is a good God and loves me with an everlasting love.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday

Last night while comfortably snuggled up with my sweetie watching tv something bit my belly and when I jumped up to brush whatever it was that so rudely bit me I was bit again, this time on my pinky finger.  I was outraged and each bite burned for some time afterwards.  I didn't know what it was that bit me and after searching the floor nearby I found the offending insect.  It was an ant so large I could practically make out an expression on it's mean little face.  Steve smashed the ant into a smear on the tile floor.  He's my hero.

We were relaxing after coming back from a short trip to South Africa.  The trip was to renew Steve's Gabonese pilot's license and of course one has to travel to South Africa to renew a Gabonese license... it makes perfect sense...  We were a long way from Libreville while in South Africa, not just in distance but in almost every possible way.  From driving on the opposite side of the roads to the roads themselves, the largest being 12 lanes of smooth pavement lined with bright lights at night.  Malls and movies and restaurants and gently rolling hills marked the way as we rolled along in our little rented jellybean of a car.  Beautiful blue skies filled with billowy white clouds reminded us of Texas skies, as living in Libreville so close to the ocean, our skies are either clear or cloudy, not with billows, light and dark colors marking dimension.

We even made it on our last night to the theater to see the Phantom of the Opera.  It was a great show with a packed house.  We bought our tickets just hours before the show so the only seats available were balcony seats and our sales lady gave us tickets marked "Mr. and Mrs. VIP".  It's nice to be recognized as such from time to time.

We have been so busy lately with travels and will be traveling again on Thursday to Bongolo for a prayer retreat with our team there.  I am looking forward to that time and just a week after that our kiddos are coming to Gabon with another family.  We will be vacationing together at the beach shack vacation spot three and a half hours south of Bongolo lovingly known as Panga.

I will try to be better about posting blogs.  It seems with so much going on my time to blog and digest is fleeting.  I will end with a few quotes I've read lately that are ruminating in my head and heart.

"Our culture worships at the feet of pleasure.  As we "shovel it in," we can become desensitized to our needs - the real hungers in our lives.  - Hollow Sacrifice, Eileen Button

"Help us to want what we need... You
                                                      God
                                                      and may the altar of or hearts tremble with delight at your visitation
                                                                                                                                                   Amen."
                                                                                                                                    - Frederick Ohler

"The noise of arrogance and anxiety deafens the call to lean on the everlasting arms." - Karen Sloan

"God's love is meteoric,
  his loyalty astronomic,
  His purpose titanic,
  his verdicts oceanic.
 Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost;
  Not a man, not a mouse slips through the cracks."  - Psalm 36  The Message

"Earth is drenched in God's affectionate satisfaction."  Psalm 33 The Message