06 November 2013

The passing of time

We've barely made a peep since returning from Kenya.
I will resist apologizing for that.

We are still in the process of settling and unpacking.
Our bodies, suitcases, and our minds.

Some days, it feels like we never left, because we returned to a somewhat familiar place.
Some days, I want to be with our community in Kenya so badly, I physically ache.  
Some days, I wonder what's the big deal?  Maybe I'm overcomplicating the transition.

Then I look at photos for a school project for Joel.  

And I see that when we moved to Kenya, my kids looked like this.

Now they are this.  (Not to mention, there's two more!)

I don't know how to describe the emotions that well up when I look at those photos.  

There's something paradoxical about the time we lived in Kenya.  
It's long and short, all at the same time.  
Simple, and complicated.
Wonderful, and difficult.

And for now, I'll leave it at that.  Because that's all I've figured out.  

26 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

We pray you had a blessed Christmas.  Our recent newsletter is now posted here, in case you haven't been able to read it yet.  Thank you for praying for our family!

11 October 2012

Fear... is good.

We just returned to class from a 4 day mid-term break here at RVA and entered straight into our annual Spiritual Emphasis Week.  I wrote about the last two here (Under The Tree) and here (Under The Broom Tree).  This year our speaker is Dick Brogden, a missionary in Northern Africa.

Last night's two points: God hates sinners and God loves sinners.  One thing he said that really challenged me was that hate is a neutral word.  In our contemporary culture, he argues, we've assigned hate a purely negative connotation, i.e. we've said hate is categorically bad, but Biblically we see a much different picture.  We're to hate injustice, malice, greed and a whole host of unrighteous behavior.  At this point I was right with him.  His next step made me a little uncomfortable. God hates sinners.  Then he brought up a favorite Evangelical Christian line: "Hate the sin, not the sinner."  A line I've used many times myself.  I'm always thinking of a God who hates sin, but loves sinners, but that's only half the picture.  He also hates sinners.  Dick read off reference after reference from scripture where God says over and over that he hates not just sin, but sinners - which was totally sobering.

His point was that unless we understand our sin and God's hate for it, we cannot grasp His love.  Unless we fear God's holiness, perfection and justice we cannot understand (much less accept) His grace, mercy and forgiveness.   It was a very convicting, moving a powerful message.

Some later events of the evening (concerning which I'll be totally vague)  brought up lots of uncomfortable questions about spiritual warfare, demons, etc...  Some students were obviously fearful.  Others thought overt spiritual warfare was a perfectly normal part of a worship service.  One of our staff members made the observation that for kids growing up in the bush surrounded by very animistic cultures, this was nothing new but for kids in more urban settings (more western and developed) this was something totally new.  This made me think:  What is the difference?

I think it has a lot to do with fear.  In the purely natural context, we as humans are powerfully and uncontrollably affected by fear.  Why not also in the supernatural context?  If we fear the supernatural, it has control over our spiritual life.  Like Mr. Brogden said about hate, fear is another neutral word.  In our Western culture, we've constrained fear to a purely negative emotion (I'm remembering the early 90s motto of 'No Fear').  In Christianity, we're quick to pick out the 'fear nots' in the Bible and focus on them when a healthy spirituality probably has a lot more fear of God.*

This also made me think a lot more about how few supernatural things I've seen.  Maybe it's because I fear very little - especially God.  If I fear nothing, nothing has power over me...  but I'm not so special.  Perhaps God's willingness to work in and through me is directly proportional to the fear I have for His power, perfection, and holiness.  So too, my fear of rejection, my fear of living in poverty, my fear of the demonic give pride, greed and envy, and doubt a foothold to work in and through me.  Maybe there are so many miracles on the front lines of Christian evangelism because there is also so much fear.  What if we as a church feared God so much we feared even to speak his name as the Isrealites feared to speak the name Yahweh?

Please pray for our spiritual emphasis week - that students and staff will be open and receptive to God's leading in their lives.  There are sessions from 7:30 to 9:00 the next three nights (from 10:30am to 12:00noon for most of our readers in the Mountain Time Zone)

*We had a student over for dinner tonight who grew up in a non-western culture and family and when I mentioned my thought that Biblically fear is a neutral word, she said, "Of course it's neutral!  Fear is good, too." as if that was a well-established social norm.  When we explained that in the American context fear is largely seen as negative, she was surprised.

24 September 2012

Ants and Slugs

We moved into a new house at RVA this term.  It's got an incredible view and it's a little quieter than the one we were in before.  That's been an unexpected blessing as we returned here to RVA.  The only real negative?  Ants.  Pinching ones.  

We've hung some great swings in the yard.  The kind that carry you out over the edge of the hill and, for a couple of seconds, give flight to little minds and a rush to little hearts.  Big hearts and minds too, really.  But they haven't seen a lot of use lately after a few bad experiences with pinching ants.  One evening after picking ants from Aaron's diaper and pulling a big ant head from between Faith's sliced and bleeding toes (these guys are vicious) I decided to declare war on the ants.  I tried to find their major holes and sprayed Doom (a scary-powerful insecticide) down them.  I killed several thousand.  The next day there were more ant encounters and that evening a carpet of solid ants about 25 feet long and 3 feet wide across part of the lawn and I was out of Doom and feeling bad about spraying so many harsh chemicals around.  

The next day, I decided to dig the ants out.  I started scraping the grass and soil away trying to isolate the holes.  I worked for quite a while and the next day, asked Edward, our yard worker, to continue.  That afternoon, he proudly showed a pretty substantial hole about six inches in diameter teeming with ants.  I decided to wait until evening and spray more Doom down the hole.  I was somewhat optimistic of at least getting them to move.  

The next day I assured the kids it was fine, but... more ant-child trauma.  I considered running the hose down the hole and flooding them out.  Then I came home from lunch to smoke boiling out of the ground.  Edward had decided to burn them out.  "I pushed many of the burning plastics down the hole," he said.  "I am hoping the bad air will kill them."  Of course.  Why didn't I think of that?  The next day there were still trails of ants crawling around, so I ran water down the hole for an hour or so and for the last two weeks, there were no ants!

Returning home from school today, there was quite a line of ants across the path and birds perched on all the nearby roofs.  Then, Heather spotted a slug crawling across the step and a hoard of ants in hot pursuit.  I never realized how much angst existed between our family and the ants until Heather squealed, "Save the slug, save it!"

So I picked up the slug and flung it off into the grass where it was immediately engulfed by a swarming mass of previously-unseen ants.  I raced out and threw him off in another direction.  The reward for my kindness?  A frantic minute pulling a dozen pinching ants out of my pants - not really worth it for a slug that is probably dead by now anyway.  In the taut (and now silent) search for any remaining ants in my pants I realized you could actually hear the ants racing through the hedge. I noticed dozens of slugs and other faster creepy crawlies fleeing the ant hoard as the birds, like vultures, greedily snapped them up.  It was amazing in a barbaric, gritty, life-and-death sort of way.  So I took some pictures.
It's amazing the sympathy I developed for a slug fighting a stacked deck as it was found by first one ant, then almost instantly hundreds more until, overwhelmed, it would fall to the ground and be hauled away in just minutes in small ant-sized bites.

I wondered for a bit why God would make life work like that.  But I guess it's not really supposed to be that way.  At the same time, without the messed-up unfair things about life we wouldn't ever recognize our sin or our need.  So tonight I'm grateful for vicious and heartless ants... I guess.  And the opportunistic birds are beautiful.  But imagine life in a world that wasn't fallen.  I can't wait to be HOME.