Saturday, March 31, 2012

oh, shoot!

It's a war zone in our house tonight.
A Nerf war zone that is.

These three good friends of Michael's, J, J, and B, 
came over to belatedly celebrate Michael's 12th birthday.

First they checked out the arsenal everyone had brought,
then they chose teams,
laid plans, and set up the field.

Time for war.

You can climb on the furniture only in life-or-death situations.
I guess a war qualifies.

Happy Birthday, Michael.
 May you always have such great friends
 to help you celebrate the life God has given you!

we'll be finding bullets for days...♥

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

not tourist-class

I zip open my purse and walk by the guard at the door, flashing it wide at him so he can peer at the contents.  I pause so the woman on the other side of the door can pat my backside, then I make my way to the counter.  There I stand as close as possible to the woman ahead of me, all but bumping into her.  She completes her transaction, so it’s my turn.  I lift my eyebrows and chin in a small fluid movement to the girl behind the counter before placing my order, and I don’t flinch when the change she gives me is 50 ‘cents’ short.  I make my way with my rice and chicken through a thickly crowded room, and sit down at a table with another woman, a complete stranger.  We engage in a bit of conversation about the Department of Education as we eat using our spoons and forks.  She gets up to leave, and, finished with my meal, I rise too, leaving all my food wrappings on the table behind me.   

You might question the sanity of someone who acted like this in public.  But because I’m living in a culture that’s not my own, I’ve had to learn a new set of rules. This is my new normal. It took some time.  And after almost three years I’m still learning.  

Other foreigners who come for short-term trips arrive in this country and are impressed by all the newness.  They are delighted with the novelties of jeepneys and papayas and the beauty of the local beaches and the smiles of the people. They may learn to raise their eyebrows, or to open their purse for a guard, but there’s no urgency to learn all the local ways, since they are just here for a couple of weeks.

They are challenged by some of the temporary inconveniences of no running hot water, no clothes dryers, ants in their kitchen, and no self-checkouts.  They are shaken by the vast chasm between their lifestyles and the poverty they see up close.  They help with a VBS or a medical outreach, hand out generous gifts, and then climb back onto the airplane with their tourist visa in hand, blessed, changed, but happy to be returning home, to the familiarity, security and comfort they know there.

There are parallels in Christianity.  Not everyone has been called to live in a foreign culture, but Jesus has invited all of us to step beyond the bounds of being a tourist-class Christian.  He has called us to a change of culture.   

“Our citizenship is in heaven” Phil. 3:20

He asks us to relate to Him, to become His friend and disciple, to dwell in His house, basking in the glory of His beauty, trusting His strength for the challenges and difficulties, becoming a contributing member of the heavenly culture, sharing in His work of blessing the nations.  

Can I be content to be a “day-tripper” into Christianity?   It’s not enough for me to enter church as a tourist each Sunday, to be delighted with the beauty of worship, to be challenged by the words of Christ, or to be shaken by the vast chasm dividing my lifestyle from the commands of Christ.  It’s not enough to hand out generous gifts in the offering plate before climbing back into my car, relieved to be returning to the pleasures of home, away from whatever might have unsettled my inner security and comfort during the past hour.

“Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” 
1 Corinthians 15:49 

This ‘image of the heavenly’ is our new persona as a Christian. To have any amount of effectiveness as a citizen of heaven, the heavenly culture must be our new normal.  

Just like an expat in a new culture watches and imitates the people around him to learn how to live, how to talk, how to act, so we learn this new heavenly culture.  We watch, peering closely into the window of the Word, observing, noting how things are done in the heavenly economy.  We watch Christ Himself.  We watch faithful believers who have gone before.

Then it’s time to imitate.   

“You also become imitators of us and of the Lord,” 1 Thess. 1:6  

Some of the heavenly cultural norms defy what has always come naturally to me. I tend to be a slow learner. It may take more than a lifetime for me to learn these heavenly ways.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

never cease to be amazed

Did anyone else see any of these things 
on your neighborhood stroll today?

A neighbor walking his cow 
(smart cow stopped for a drink from the puddle!)


Picnic table nappers

A home constructed out of recyclables 
collected by the keeper of the neighborhood trash cans.

With his access to what others have discarded 
and a healthy dose of ingenuity, 
he's built a shelter for himself and his family.

 I just never cease to be amazed at the unusual things I see 
whenever I leave our very ordinary home!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Happy 12th Birthday, Michael!!
Today we celebrate you, and the life God has given to you.
We celebrate the joy you've brought to our family, 
and to so many others, too!  

The following are some of my favorite shots of Michael over this past year:

Last Easter with his good friend, Pau

A theological discussion with Pak A

And on Pak A's motorcycle!
Visiting a monkey preservation
With a friendly guy on public transit

With Mark overlooking rice terraces

Learning to surf

First year on the trumpet

Wave boarding with J.

On the back of Kuya Ronnie's trike

Enlarging the drainage hole in Filipino work-gear

Celebrating a Bible translation with Matigsalug boys!
With Tsinelas, our cat, and his big sister Amy
Walking to church in the village with Dad and Mr. H.
and with all the men in batik at church!

Making friends in the village...
...and leading the pack of boys to play a game of Frisbee
In a relay at school

and placing in a Christmas city fun run
At Christmas with his little buddy, E.

 You have made friends of all ages wherever you go, Michael.
We look forward to seeing what new friends you'll gain this year!
 But our greatest hope is that you will find in Christ your closest friend of all...
...there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24

May God bless and keep you every day of your 12th year, Michael!

For some fun photos of Michael's birthday, visit Elise's blog!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

next family vehicle?

I think I've found our next family vehicle, Mark...
just 30,000 pesos ($700)

Plenty of room for five,
plus space for groceries,
natural air-conditioning
and a great color, too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

not the short end of the stick

One of the underlying fears restraining Christians from abandoning ourselves to doing what God asks is the fear that, if we say yes to His call, we'll miss out in some way; we'll be shortchanged as God strips away the best things in life.

"God is not a deceiver, that He should offer to support us,
and then, when we lean upon Him, should slip away from us."
- Augustine

I’d like to suggest that obeying God's call, even when it means huge life changes, does NOT leave Christians with the short end of the stick. Three years ago we stepped off the beaten track, as Mark left a good job with a great company, leaving it behind for the sake of the call.  Yes, there are things about our home culture, and things about our former lifestyle that we miss, but after living almost three years in this new position where God has led us, our family can attest to having found unquestionable gain.

What exactly have we gained?
* a breath-taking front-row display of God's unfailing faithfulness.
* a whole new perspective on how He works through the body of believers to provide for His work.
* an amazingly valuable adventure full of unique experiences shared as a family that has bonded us together as nothing else could have done.
* a much broader world-view; our children number their friends from many continents, and they have grown to appreciate so much about our host culture.
*  a vibrant community of fellow-workers who, though imperfect like us, share a common goal and have shown unparalleled inclusiveness.
* the daily delight of feasting on sweet red papaya and tree-ripened pineapples.
* lessons in slowing down and valuing relationships from the lovely example of our Filipino host culture
* a status of honor in this country.
* scenic, warm tropical beaches close enough for a restful day-trip.
* an experience of the universality of the Church as we worship together with believers of other languages.
* increasing compassion and respect for the financially poor around us.
* opportunities to grow in ways we never expected. 

"The meaning of earthly existence lies,
not as we have grown used to thinking,
in prospering,
but in the development of the soul."
-Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Would we trade all of this to be back in the U.S. prospering with a consistent paycheck
instead of depending daily on God's provision,
driving an unremarkable minivan instead of riding in colorful jeepneys,
shopping at Target (okay, I admit… I miss Target!)
instead of earning friends among the poor children of the neighborhood?  

Will I ever be fooled again into thinking
that some more material stuff could satisfy?


But our family has lived next-door to how the rest of the world lives. We've seen contentment and joy on faces of the poor. We've shared lunch with blind brothers and sisters, sat honored in National Geographic-like tribal ceremonies, worked and laughed with dirty kids who can’t afford to go to school. We've prayed with friends over illness and death and financial stress and loneliness and fear. We've held babies with lice-laced hair and rotting teeth, sung carols with beggar women, shared water with the thirsty and shoes with the shoeless, swept out flood waters, bandaged bleeding feet.
And it's changed us.
God has changed us.

And I haven't even begun to describe the ministry God called us here to do. Though I wish I could, in this context we just are not able to share about our work.  But in that too we’ve gained immeasurably!

Is all of this worth what we gave up?


Life is short. Eternity is long.
So eternal investments just make good logical sense.

As you answer God's call on your life,
you won’t be left 
with the short end of the stick.

*edited from archives

Monday, March 19, 2012

twice as nice

We're giving thanks today for two special reasons:

      *First, Amy and Elise are back from their trip up to Subic, a city just a few hours north-east of Manila, where they traveled with their soccer team for a tournament last weekend.  They came home with a beautiful crystal soccer ball trophy, having won 2nd place in the eight-school tournament after an intense Championship game, playing into overtime and winding up with a shootout. Welcome home, and way to play!!  You can see more photos of their trip here at Elise's blog!

Elise (on R) and Amy (2nd from Left) take a break with friends between games

        *Second, we officially, as of this weekend, have renters for our house here in Davao during our months of home assignment!!  Hurray!!   This means that we'll be able to just box up a few of our personal items to store in a back room, leaving the rest for the use of those who need a furnished house while we are away.  Now we'll have a home to return to at the end of our trip Stateside, reducing the hassle factors immensely, both going and coming. This is a giant answer to prayer, and we are feeling relieved and delighted!!

What are you giving thanks for today?

Friday, March 16, 2012

can't hold a candle

Today, March 16th, is "Araw Ng Dabaw" which literally means "Davao Day,
but this is one festival that's celebrated the whole week long.
Araw ng Dabaw commemorates the founding of the city of Davao,
75 years ago today!
Happy Birthday, Davao!

The city is alive with parades, contests, dancing, feasting and music.
Filipinos know how to celebrate!

But these celebrations just can't hold a candle to the one that happens
at the birth-day of a new believer in Christ.

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God 
over one sinner who repents.
Luke 15:10

Who can describe the joys that rise
Thro' all the courts of Paradise
To see a prodigal return,
To see an heir of glory born?
-Isaac Watts

*photo credit to 'the mark of an explorer'

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

what did you expect?

It's been a busy day! So while I was running errands I stopped at a little stand like this one to pick up some lechon manok (otherwise known as rotisserie chicken) for our dinner tonight. With some rice and green beans, it will be a great quick meal.

 Rotisserie stands are all over this town - you don't have to go too far to find one.  I always make sure to ask for my chicken not chopped, because otherwise these birds are mercilessly hacked into random chunks of bone, sinew and meat before being wrapped up in a banana leaf to take home. 

But I don't take these banana-leaf wrapped rotisserie chickens for granted.  I remember all too well when Manila was flooded in late 2010, and very few chickens were to be found for sale. Circumstances shift rapidly in a developing country.

Because so many products and goods are available to us here (like the Jolly Ranchers and Stubbs BBQ sauce I saw at the grocery today!) it's sometimes easy to forget that we are living in a developing nation.  I very quickly slip into this crazy American consumer frame of mind where I expect that just because G-mall had Chai tea for a whole year, I will always be able to find Chai tea on their shelves.  But it's just not so.  A common phrase used by helpful sales personnel here is, 'Sorry ma'am, not available.'  If there's no chicken, then there's just no chicken.

As Anne of Green Gable's neighbor Mrs. Lynde says,
'Blessed are they who expect nothing 
for they shall not be disappointed.' 
 -L.M. Montgomery

 So as I head to the grocery store next time, I'll expect no Chai, no chicken, no cream cheese.  And if I find one of them, well then I'll just be delighted!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

man of the house

Mark was only 18 hours into his 26-day trip out of the country when the first mishap occurred.

Amy and Elise's bedroom door blew shut in a cross-breeze, and the lock on the door knob jammed simultaneously.  They were both outside their room, the door was shut fast, and no key could have unlocked that crazy door.

Without hesitation, Michael rose to his new role as man of the house, confident that he knew how to handle this.  He had watched his dad deal with the same eventuality when it had happened to his own bedroom door months ago.  He headed for the tool box, grabbed a wrench, and got to work.

In no time at all Michael had that door knob wrenched off, and then, together with a little mechanical advice from Amy, who happens to think mechanically, he was able to dislodge the jam and give his sisters access again to their room.

His sisters were relieved, 
my pulse slowed to normal, 
and Michael was feeling pretty good about taking care of us womenfolk. 
On top of that, what could be more fun for an 11 year old boy
than to have a good reason to rip off a doorknob?

This Saturday, after Mark bought a new knob, Michael installed it, so the door is now as good as new.  
Thanks so much, Michael!

Friday, March 9, 2012

the prayers of many

Enjoying Dad's photos and stories of his trip

Do you remember that special project we asked you to pray about with us last month?  Well, today it's wrapped up, and MARK IS HOME!!! HOORAY!!!  It's so good to be together again under one roof.

Yes, the special project was a 3 1/2 week trip to two nearby S.E. Asian countries, and we deeply appreciate each and every one of you who prayed for him, and for the rest of us during his travels!!  We hope to share photos soon of some of the interesting things Mark saw on his trip, from a hike up a volcano to views of incredibly disgusting market foods.  (Hmmm...maybe we won't show those photos...!?)

But for now we just want to thank you for praying.  
God has answered your prayers, and we are giving thanks!

" also joining in helping us through your prayers, 
so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf
 for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many." 
2 Cor. 1:11

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

contagious creativity

Things we've been creating around here lately...

...beautiful music...
(Elise performs with her choral class)

...restored order...
(Michael fixes the hinge of a sagging door) artistry...
(Amy designs tile mosaics)

...nutritious food...
(Mark cooks up a batch of his scrumptious bean burritos) where there was none...
(Michael prepares and hangs a planter for the courtyard outside my kitchen window)

...inspired projects...
(Amy quilts a cover for her Kindle)

...growing skills...

“Creativity is contagious. 
Pass it on.” 
-Albert Einstein