Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Poirot cuts a mango

It remains a fond memory,
that chilly August evening in a tiny Filipino village on the side of a mountain, 
cozied up in a rustic hut with our gracious fellow-worker and hostess, 
listening to the rain falling on the tin roof.

She was ready to relax a little after a long day of work, 
and she invited us to watch an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot with her...
one of my favorite detectives ever.
Yes, of course, we'd love to!

It was one of those moments that have a strangely surreal quality,
when, in the middle of that episode, 
Hercule Poirot began to demonstrate the best way 
to cut a mango.

A mango.
To his fellow characters in the movie,
 it was an exotic, puzzling fruit.

To us, nestled in that Filipino village,
it was a common, everyday snack,
growing in the trees all around us.

There, as the rain on the rusty tin roof almost drowned out all sound,
we sat mesmerized, watching Poirot's knife do
 what ours had done countless times;

and two very different worlds collided,
just for a moment in time...
in the heart of a mango.

Monday, February 27, 2012

not your boring minivan

We're impressed with some of the unique ways to get around in the Philippines.

Forget pushing your garage door opener with me for a moment, 
and take a look at a variety of more exciting options...

 Like some of you, many will get to work today by pick-up...

...or by motorcycle.

Can anyone tell what they're bringing home for dinner on the back of this motorcycle?
We did a double-take, too!

Others travel by Caribou and cart...

...or in the family pedicab.

And there's always a plain ole' bicycle.

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, 
I no longer despair for the future of the human race. 
 ~H.G. Wells

The public jeepney is a low-cost transportation option at 8 pesos (20 cents) an adult.

Is the jeepney full?  
No problem!  
Just hop on the top!

Maybe ride a bicycle with a convenient sidecar if you need to haul large loads,

or for car-pooling purposes.

Or hire a tricycle for your morning ride to the office or school.

Isn't this more than enough 
to make you want to trade in 
your boring minivan??!??

Thursday, February 23, 2012

taken at the flood

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
-William Shakespeare

Lightning flashes.  Thunder rolls. Tropical torrents fall.

And Rachel quietly drives their motorcycle to higher ground through the wild drenched dark streets, hoping to let her weary husband sleep through it all.

By 10:30 she knows it’s not to be.  After rousing him, they begin together to shift things away from the incoming water seeping, trickling in at the door. It’s the same routine they’ve used before. Couch on top of coffee table, chairs on top of couch.  As much as possible loaded on the stair landing; pile the dining room table high.

There’s not much more that can be done.  So it’s back to bed, listening to the falling rain.  Until they hear a midnight crash.  He descends to find the dining room chairs drifting in gentle two-foot waves of the lake that was his living room.  Then he spies it: the refrigerator, on its side, floating like an ark through the flood. 

By morning light they’re smiling, joking about the lengths they’ll go to get a little help mopping their floors.  Drenched furniture mingles with soaked diapers and dripping kitchen pans perch in the sun to dry.   Mops and brooms and buckets of bleach water turned black with silt and sludge fill the house.  That ark of a fridge is righted and opened and the eggs are unbroken and there’s a casserole ready for lunch, and they’ll be living without an operating fridge til this crazy thing dries out a little.  

Rachel smiles and says it will make life simpler to have no refrigerator.

As if this flood was a good thing. 
As if all this mess, all this work, all this upheaval was really okay.

Is it a good thing? 
Well, if you believe in God’s sovereignty, maybe it is.
Maybe it is really okay.

And though He does not deprive me of feeling in my trial, 
He enables me to sing, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
I will joy in the God of my salvation.  
Thus I do rejoice by His grace and will rejoice and praise Him 
while He lends me breath.  
Now I am happy in my Savior’s love.  
I can thank Him for all, even the most painful experiences of the past, 
and trust Him without fear for all that is to come.
– Hudson Taylor

There was a tide in this young woman's life, which taken at the flood determined her course.  You, Rachel, chose to not be trapped in misery despite the invasion of filthy brown street water up past your knees, filling your kitchen cabinets with dirt and your entire day with relentless back-breaking work.  You chose not to complain and be bitter and angry and understandably snappy and frustrated.  Instead you chose to go with the flow of what God allowed, and to smile and give thanks. 

Thank you for showing me what it looks like to not be bound in shallows and miseries, 
but to be afloat in a wealth of joy.

*this story of Rachel, my American friend and co-worker, is shared with her consent. thanks, Rach!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

strings and flute

...praise Him with the strings and flute...
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. 
Praise the LORD.
Psalm 150:4b&6

Sunday, February 19, 2012

we're comin' to America

  It's hard to believe, but it's getting close to the time for our family to return to the U.S. for a home assignment!  In just a few short months we'll be saying hello to friends and family.  It seems almost too good to be true.

 This home assignment isn't a vacation, so what is it?  
Why would we up and leave our work here to spend a period of time back in the U.S.? 
The following list describes some of what our home assignment really is: 

  • A scheduled component of the work we do.  It's required of us!  Past experience has demonstrated that these periods of home assignment are a critical aspect of this job.
  • An opportunity for our children to reconnect with their home culture.  When your children start asking if all fast food restaurants in the U.S. serve rice, you know it's time to get them back for a taste of home.
  • A time of spiritual encouragement, training, reconnecting with family and friends, and service in our home country.  We are hungry to hear God's Word all in our own language, to give hugs to our family, to see you! and to learn more that will enhance our work here.
  • An opportunity to share about God's work here in the area of the world where we live.  We are accountable to give a first-hand report to those of you who have a vested interest in this work. (Acts 14:27)
  • A season in which we will continue to live by faith in God's provision for us.  We won't have a paying job during our home assignment, since it's just another element of our regular work, and we look forward to experiencing God's continued faithfulness to provide for us, as He has done so faithfully during our first term overseas!

 In May of 2009 we left our home in the US.  
Amy and Elise were not quite 13, and Michael was 9.

We will return this year with 16 year-old daughters and a 12 year old son, 
all who are looking forward to American food!

We can't wait to see you all!  ♥

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

a huge gap

     The irony is intense; an affluent, beautiful western couple posed in all their expensive Gap fashion glory blazoned on a billboard over one of the poorest neighborhoods in our town.  These shanties line the river, and when the tide is low, the children play in the mud along the banks.

These children aren't wearing Gap jeans.  One pair would cost an entire 3 months of wages.

     The clash of East meets West, poverty meets wealth is common in this city of contrasts.  A fancy brand new mall is flanked by tiny makeshift food vendor stalls fabricated with cardboard, flapping tarps and tin.  On another street a gorgeous new mansion of an apartment building looms a literal stone's throw away from a squatter's shack featuring a mud floor and no electricity or running water.  Zoning is unknown.  Rich and poor live side by side, in stark contrast across a huge invisible gap.

     But I know that there's another bigger gap.  A bigger disparity than the amount of money neighbors may have in their pockets.  There's a greater poverty, and a greater wealth than the financial one you can see here.  And there is no zoning for this huge gap in the U.S. either.  No zoning for those who, because of Christ's poverty, have become rich in grace.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
that though He was rich, 
yet for your sake He became poor, 
so that you by His poverty might become rich.  
2 Corinthians 8:9

Do you, like me, live next door to poverty?
And how might God desire to use us to narrow the gap?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

sweet love

tiny valentine greetings in unexpected places

          By this we know love,
that He laid down His life for us,
     and we ought to lay down 
       our lives  for the brothers.
                         1 John 3:16

Happy Valentine's Day
to each and every one of you.
What a perfect opportunity to remind those you love
of how much you love them!
There was a flurry of activity at our house yesterday...
a creative flurry
                                 of paper and scissors and fabric and computers and dirt,

a whole collection of miniature valentines

lovingly stitched by hand...

all to remind each other
of the love in this family.

so much love, all in one place!

how cute is this?!?

And each one of these works of heart are reminders of God's unfathomable love for us.
loving embroidery

Not only in the sweetness of family love, but in His gifts that make it all possible.

Life and health,
this day,
these resources,
time and energy...

we give thanks.

May we all be faithful emissaries in taking His love
beyond our four walls
to those outside who yearn for such a sweet gift,
such a sweet love...

"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.

Jeremiah 31:3

with love,
 and with thanks to God
 for the gift of each of you
in our lives!

♥ The above is a revised edition of this post from February 2011 ♥

Sunday, February 12, 2012

invaluable intercessions

  I can't really talk about it here in any detail, but Mark is beginning a special 3 1/2 week project (those of you who received our recent newsletter...you can read about it in the requests for prayer) and we would really appreciate your prayers for all of us during that time. 

  Thank you...to all of you who pray for our family.  Your intercession is of immeasurable blessing to us.  And those of you who pray are invaluable partners in this work!

"Brothers, pray for us."  1 Thess 5:25

Saturday, February 11, 2012

short season

 It's soccer season for the high school girls, and Amy and Elise are enjoying the challenge of being back on the field. 

We are so thankful for their great coaches, and for this opportunity, even as part-time students, to be a part of the team!

Because the Filipino school year ends in March, the soccer season is a short one for these young ladies.  By the end of March there aren't any teams left to compete against.

That means it's an intense time of preparation and lots of games condensed into about 9 weeks.

Lots of practice time during the week means that these girls come home very hungry at dinner time.  No cutting back on carbs this month.

Amy coming out of a header  

Elise on offense

"Pressure? What pressure? Pressure is poor people in the world trying to feed their families. Working from dawn till dust just to feed their young. 
There is no pressure in football"
 - Jose Mourinho

Monday, February 6, 2012

made to last

Thursday, February 2, 2012

a greater poverty

I stand next to my sister at the sink.  She may not look like my sister, with her long black hair and brown skin.  But in all essentials, in Christ, she is my sister.   It’s a companionable task; she washes the dishes and I rinse them off, and we talk as we work together.  She tells me of what it was like to spend the night of the flood last July perched on the roof of their home while the waters reached to the door frames and her brother swam to rescue his elderly mother-in-law, and I tell her about the cold Canadian snowdrifts that rose to the door frames in my childhood.  We talk of her desire to learn dress making, and we laugh over my failure to sew zippers. 

Then we talk of housework, and she tells me that she loves to wash dishes, and I silently remember how nice it was to wash dishes in the hot soapy suds of my American sink.  I tell her that I like to see dishes come clean, too.  She then admits with an embarrassed shake of her black hair that ‘I don’t really like to wash clothes though.’  I quickly try to encourage her, saying that I like washing clothes, and that to make the drying and folding more enjoyable, I try to pray for the family members whose clothes I’m handling as I work.  

It’s then I’m bowled over by my lack of cultural sensitivity.  You’d think I’d be just a little more aware after 2½ years in this country.  She sweetly turns to me in reply and says that ‘it’s just such tiring work, scrubbing the clothes, and trying to get the stains out.’  I have a sudden mental picture of her, my sister, squatting at a tub of sudsy cold water, scrubbing between raw knuckles the family’s clothing.  In stark contrast, I envision myself effortlessly tossing dirty laundry into our automatic washing machine, spoiled beyond belief.

How is it that my sister in Christ toils hard over the washing while I push a few buttons? 

How is it that she should perch on a roof in a flood, wondering if they would survive the night, while I am cozy in my house, safe from all the elements? 

How can it be that learning dressmaking might mean the difference between not enough and subsistence for her, while failure to master sewing in a zipper is just a laughing matter for me? 

I have no answer.  
It was the life that God gave to each of us.   
He ordained, and here we are, next-door to one another in vastly different spheres.

And somehow this sister of mine, who labors long and arduous, who faces peril with no financial buffers, is infused with a joy that I don’t see all that often in my own life.  Somehow her radiant smile of contentment and trust in God outshines the smiles of many of her affluent western counterparts.   

How in the world could that be? 

Is it just possible that in a life jam-packed with challenges, her daily desperate dependence on the faithfulness of God has cultivated beauty of character that is worth far more than the luxuries of a washing machine and flood insurance and running hot water? 

God has lavished me with incredible luxuries.
Has He lavished you with luxury too?
But I wonder… have those luxuries done anything to cultivate fruit for His glory in my character? 
Have they increased my thankfulness, my contentment, my faith? 

Or…am I the one struggling with the greater poverty? 
For you say, I am rich,
I have prospered,
and I need nothing,
not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 
Revelation 3:17