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.

09 September 2012

Thoughts From Home

We've been gone a while.  You may have noticed.  We made a summer visit back home and got to spend almost a month.  It was wonderful to to see so many friends and family.  And miserable to not see everyone.  We enjoyed cheap food and gas (crazy, right?), wide open spaces, smooth roads, odorless people...

In most ways it felt like we'd hardly been gone at all.  There were occasional reminders: Heather learning how to use an iPhone from a septuagenerian in the JFK airport terminal, familiar faces markedly older (especially kids), clear air, and errant turns into the left-hand lane; Police sitting in cars; a lack of visible assault rifles, military camouflage and batting-helmeted security guards; Absolutely enormous cows, sheep and goats.

But for the most part it felt comfortable - normal, really.  And that's probably the most frightening thing for me.  I've learned a lot here in Kenya and when we return to the states in 7 months I don't want to live the same life I lived before.  I want to live more simply - with less stuff (we've even got too much here!).  I want to be more compassionate to the homeless and outcast.  I want to be a part of the church outside Sunday Stained-Glass.  I want to talk to non-Christians daily.  I want to exhort people trapped in a rigid, idolatrous and empty christianity.  Because I still fall into that deep pit all the time.

What if we go back and forget our privileged status in the world or that weird people are the ones God loves to show his most powerful work in, that church isn't really about Sunday at all, that Jesus spent very little of His time with the religious and that a faith wrapped up in Sunday-morning-best is smothered and dies?