27 June 2012

Home Burning

We're wrapping up the school-year here (don't mock us) and I (Jim) am really looking forward to a trip back home.  I've been homesick quite a lot this term.  Totally understandable when you consider this trip will be the first time I get to see so many faces and places in a little over two years.  I really wrestled with this homesickness for the past several weeks.  It's pretty clear that as Christians this world is not our home and I keep feeling like we should be yearning for heaven.  I felt like I was getting a handle this and then my facebook feed blew up with pictures of home burning.

I've been choked up seeing pictures of the neighborhoods I used to ride a mountain bike through on free weekends in flames.  Queens Canyon and the hills behind Glen Eyre, the punch bowls I used to hike beyond when Heather was here in Kenya and I was lonely and which Benjer Mcveigh fell into chest-deep in mid-November.  He wasn't as concerned about hypothermia as the wet floppy disk in his pocket. The crazy hike I took up to Palmer Reservoir and back - scorched.  Along with that lonely little ridge with the mineshaft that I used to visit for solitude to pray and journal.  The mule-deer shed I left under a rock there was probably eaten by rodents long ago but I doubt I could recognize the place today anyway.

Closer to Woodland Park, Nichols Reservoir; where Faith caught her first fish, where we took family picnics and where one evening Kendal Hovel and I fished the miracle rise; has already burned.  The Rainbow Gulch trail From Rampart Reservoir which I used to hike home in the dark, fish in hand, is probably gone by now.

It's been interesting to watch from the other side of the world knowing there is nothing we can do.  Heather and I were trying to figure out if our house is in a pre-evacuation zone or a voluntary evacuation zone or if there's a difference (and ultimately deciding is doesn't really matter).  So I've waited impatiently for updates (as Colorado sleeps) and done ridiculous things like use Google Earth to determine that the fire perimeter map from late Tuesday night Mountain Time shows that the fire is precisely 3.47 miles from our cozy little 95-year-old house in Woodland Park but that it would have to burn through approximately 1/2 a mile of other homes to get there.  I've also noticed how uncomfortably THICK the trees are in that part of town.  And I've also used Google Earth to determine that yesterday when the wind blew this fire into Colorado Springs, parts traveled much more than 3.47 miles.  Most of that shouldn't really matter because our stuff is no longer in that house.  But it still matters a lot to me.

All this has made me realize how attached I am to this life.  I am concerned about a place I no longer live - and wouldn't have lived for long, regardless.  Do I have the same attachment to my eternal home?  Am I as concerned about my eternal home?

Equally as important, I've been reminded how messed up this world is.  Living in Kenya helps highlight how unjust this fallen world is.  But these fires do the same.  The world should be a beautiful place and peaceful place.  But it's not and this makes me long for my eternal home.

Finally, the power of destruction in that fire is amazing.  The first pictures I saw showed a massive mushrooming cloud of smoke reaching to 30,000 feet and I've seen video of people staring at the flames, awestruck as they devour houses.  God is described a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). I forget this aspect of God's character.  A God of Love, yes I remember that - and with it Grace.  But I overlook His power - and forget to tremble.

Let's be longing for our eternal home but lift up prayers for His kingdom here.  Let's pray for Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and Woodland Park and remember He's a powerful God.

17 June 2012

Father of the Century

I have a stubborn daughter.  Obviously a challenge at times, but a huge blessing too.  Here's an example:  Once each term all the elementary students here at RVA check out skates and roller blades and head out to the basketball court for about 4 hours of skating-rink style fun.  It's called the Titchie Skate Party and has BBQ, loud music, louder kids and a whole bunch of beginning skaters.  Faith really wants to know how to skate.  She also wants to learn without falling down.  Earlier this year, I spent about four hours walking backward or legs-spread and in various other awkward positions while holding Faith's hands.  But she had a great smile and attitude and I was having a wonderful time.

Toward the end of the skate party, students are allowed to dedicate songs to people.  Most kids dedicate songs to their friends and teachers.  Part way through these dedications,  the DJ, Steve Peifer, interrupted.  Steve is our college guidance counselor and a really great guy and one of his jobs here is to get students into great colleges.  The guy lives and breathes college recommendation letters and, as a result, speaks in hyperbole.  In this case, Steve interrupted the line of dedications and gave his own: "This next song is dedicated to the most patient man alive.  This guy is really incredible.  The Father of the Century, Mr. Frazier!"

I obviously felt pretty flattered (hyperbole and all).  That feeling lasted about two seconds as Faith looked up at me with big excited eyes and said, "Dad!  They're playing this song for GRANDPA!"

My Dad made a few mistakes while raising two kids.*  But he was and still is a very patient man.*  He's an excellent teacher, loving husband, and just about anything else you'd look for in an example of a godly father.  Both my Grandfathers fit this mold as well.  This Father's Day I feel madly humbled by the Dads in my life.  I'm also incredibly grateful for the role models they've been for me.  Happy Father's Day, guys!

*I speak in Hyperbole too.  This statement is what you call a hyperbolic understatement.  I'm most guilty of making these statements on hikes - "There's just a little bushwhacking."  "The car's just at the bottom of this hill."  "The lake's just on the other side of that ridge." "This hill is pretty steep!"  This tendency has caused many (my own patient Father among them) to mutter mean things under their breath*(warning: this footnote is an infinite loop)

06 June 2012

Listen! Watch!

Believe it or not, missionaries often struggle with really basic tenets of the Christian faith.  At least, I do.  

Giving up a regular job, asking for donations and moving far from home did cause a lot of spiritual growth, but lately I’ve even been wondering why, exactly, I ever felt there was a compelling case for Christianity.*  

Heather and I read book after book and took class after class in preparation for the mission field.  Most of this was great.  I learned a lot.  I firmly believe that a more investigated faith, one which is intellectually tested and well-supported, is a richer, more authentic faith.  But there is a subtle trap for me: the more I know about God, about the Bible, and about historical events from Biblical times the more I rely on my knowledge of these things as the very foundation of my belief.

This afternoon as I was reading a few pages these words really struck a chord with my recent struggles:

“Faith is very far from being a mere conviction of the truth of God's Word or a conclusion drawn from certain premises. It is the ear which has heard God say what He will do and the eye which has seen Him doing it.” ~Andrew Murray

But how can I hear God say what he is going to do if I’m not listening?  How can I see God working if I’m not watching? 

My folly?  Faith doesn’t defend itself with clever arguments or objective proofs.  As I begin questioning our finances, occupation, daily decisions, and my faith itself I tend to slide into the most rational, well-supported arguments.  

Faith is not so pragmatic.  Instead, faith whispers, “Listen! Watch!”  

Calling me to obedience.

*Most missionaries (myself included) probably feel like this is a struggle they can’t really share with others.  It’s hard to talk about a lot of stuff on the mission field but it really shouldn't be, should it?  Missionaries tend to think they have to be perfect and to admit struggle is to admit defeat.  This is not so different from the predominant attitude of Christians as a whole.  Can we change this?