protection & presence

The front room is now a grayish color and the dining room looks like a latte. There are crafted things hanging on the walls and thrifted lamps lighting the corners. We have too many pillows, but they are all too wonderful and quirky to store away somewhere. The furniture is nearly all free or craigslisted or thrifted or clearanced. There’s a bronze candlestick holder that our great Aunt used as a doorstop (and could easily double as a defense weapon) that sits on a trunk-turned-sidetable.

My sister mainly brings the inspiration for the decorating of our house and I make sure we’re stocked with cleaning supplies. We’re a funny team – living together for the first time since she left for college in 2001. After about one month, we’ve snuggled in to our new home. Well, our landlord tells us it was built in 1887, so it hasn’t been new in a very long time, but we are shrugging into it like you would a good, worn-in pair of shoes.

And it feels good.

This city has life and we’re pretty close to the downtown heartbeat. If you’re used to the suburbs, our neighborhood would definitely earn the title “sketch” (especially if you stop by at night). But, if you’re inner-city familiar, then you would know our street is pretty quiet by comparison.

In any case, someone said we should get a deadbolt. Our front door is about 50 feet from the sidewalk and the doorknob locks like a bedroom. My sister and I aren’t worried about it, but enough people are that we mentioned it to our landlord.

Protection is something people get a little bit desperate about, a lot of fearful about. We want walls – tall ones – between us and danger. We want schools far away from any threat. We want bad people to stay away from good people. We want there to be some sort of buffer – a moat, perhaps, to keep safe away from unsafe.

I don’t have children, biological ones, anyway. But I am a child and I saw the tension in my parents’ eyes when I said I was going to Honduras. I heard their voices waver even while they said they were trusting the Lord. I could see their raised eyebrows in my rearview mirror as I drove them around Tegucigalpa. “Where’s that moat?” They seemed to ask. When we moved to this part of Des Moines, my dad raised those same eyebrows.

This morning, I read from Zechariah in my devotions,

and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”(Zechariah 2:4-5 ESV)

The prophet said Jerusalem would grow out of her walls. She would increase in number so that the walls could no longer hold her. John Piper writes,

But walls are necessary! They are the security against lawless hordes and enemy armies. Villages are fragile, weak, vulnerable. Prosperity is nice, but what about protection?

To these questions, God lays out His promise, “I will be a wall of fire all around.” In the end, walls are still manmade and can be scaled and stormed by men. But a wall of fire – a divine wall of fire – is a force of protection that cannot be reckoned with. As the city expanded beyond its manmade protection into a weak and vulnerable state, God makes a promise to hover over the weak and vulnerable to offer miraculous preservation.

Piper continues to work through the passage,

And it gets better. Inside that fiery wall of protection he says, “And I will be the glory in her midst.” God is never content to give us the protection of his fire; he will give us pleasure of his presence.

I had to read this on replay this morning. God said, “I will be the glory in her midst.” God is not a cold, stone wall. He is not an inch thick defense plan. God is alive and God loves His people. The fire protects them in the most vulnerable and exposed situations and His presence comforts and pleases like nothing in this world.

Today, God is expanding His kingdom out into vulnerable, exposed, unguarded territory. We are not to fear.

Our Holy God is the best, surest protection and the most pleasing company.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

I almost forgot: the importance of clamará

I was standing between pews of neat rows and English words hung in the air above my head. I was supposed to sing along after the guitar solo opened the song, “Inside Out.” I was supposed to be thinking of God’s attributes. I wasn’t doing either of those things. I was thinking about the word, “clamará” and the first time I heard this melody.

Panic froze my praise. I grasped for the words – the right words – to fill in the space between me and the sky. I wanted just the right words to put my heart’s love to song and English wouldn’t do. The drums swelled and voices harmonized and I stood unable to sing.

I tried to read the words on the screen and translate, but the order is all wrong in English. The phrases are all out of place and the r’s are dull.

I closed my eyes and my heart opened up.

Dios eterno, tu luz por siempre brillará
y tu gloria incomparable sin final
el clamor de mi ser es contigo estar
desde mi interior, mi alma clamará

Every word climbed on top of the next, an expression in process – a verb in past, present, and future tense all rolled into one presentation of praise to my Lord. The word, “clamar” means “to cry out” and I love to picture my soul crying out in a way that rolls over into future tense. In Spanish, the chorus reads,

“God Eternal, your light for always shines/and will shine,
and your uncomparable glory has no end.
The cry of my being is to be with you
From my innermost, my soul cries/and will cry out”

I’m starting to think the notion of “heart language” or “native tongue” can mean many things and sound many different ways. This morning, singing praise to my Savior meant communion behind closed eyes with the Lord in a second language that seemed to better explain the verb tenses of my soul.

A little waterfall followed my communion, but I meant that to be praise as well. I knew the Lord would understand. He speaks all languages and knows the importance of clamará and remembers the events that make it mammoth in my understanding of who He is. He knows each young lady who pushed me to a more honest “clamará” in Tegucigalpa as I desperately wanted to know, love, and delight in Him so that they would, too. He understands the unspeakable desires in my heart that won’t ever find an outlet in letters. He knows my delight is and will always be found in knowing Him, finding out what pleases Him, and delighting to do those things.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Firsts

  1. First time away from my family over the Christmas holidays
  2. First time sunbathing in December
  3. First time I ever hosted a storybook character costume party
  4. First time I ever made bacon ice cream (don’t knock it – I got the recipe from some hoity-toity French chef and I’ll add that I got pretty much all rave reviews)
  5. First time attending Christmas Eve service in Spanish… and having a special prayer time at the end for two elderly ladies from the church who were kidnapped
  6. First time eating Christmas dinner at midnight on Christmas Eve
  7. First time celebrating many holiday moments via skype
  8. First time hosting a visitor in a foreign country for one of the most precious holidays
  9. First time (in Honduras) jamming out in the car to all sorts of songs with someone who DOESN’T think I’m crazy for doing so
  10. First time crafting almost every single gift I gave for Christmas (also the first time I worried like crazy that the recipients wouldn’t understand my artistic ideas and appreciate them enough to not throw away the hours it took to make them!)
  11. First time I witnessed in the craziest display of fireworking power in the hands of pubescent boys with gasoline and lighters and an awkwardly stuffed straw man who was blown to smithereens at the stroke of midnight… to celebrate the New Year
  12. First time the streets of Tegucigalpa were not bumper to bumper (for the entire holidays most of the roads were like a ghost town)
  13. First time I picked up a visitor in the afternoon from the airport and then didn’t let him sleep until 2 am … and then wake him up 2 hours later for our bus trip to the next country over.
  14. First time I achieved 7:47 on my first of four miles on the treadmill! I can thank my high school friend Joelle for this one. I have no idea why, but when I saw she ran a mile in 7:47 it became my goal to make that my first mile, but still run it at intervals. I know this doesn’t make any sense to anyone … but I was so excited!
  15. First time trying out my new treadmill moves (see Patrick Swayze post)
  16. First time returning to school from vacation feeling like I needed a vacation… and at least three days to re-adjust my body’s clock from 3 am to 10 pm bedtimes.
  17. First time (probably in the history of man) that two people started to completely randomly sing this same line at the same time, prompted by nothing in particular, “you get a line, I’ll get a pole, we’ll go fishing in the crawfish pole…” Two brains can actually be random and weird at the same time!
  18. First time realizing how beautiful it is to have someone from one world I love walk around in another world I love equally as much.
  19. First time truly appreciating the power of family tradition and the importance of presence.
  20. First time I had people packing “to go” boxes from the spread of baked goods at my party.
  21. First time in a long while that I started an finished a nice, lengthy book in a few days.
  22. First time taking Nertz to a whole new level: I played in almost every eating establishment open late over Christmas in Tegucigalpa, in at least three places in El Salvador, with students in my house and in public places, individual and groups, and even outside. Oh! and did I mention I have a Nertz Christmas ornament? I do!

Okay, I know if I go on it will get boring. If I get a list out of the way, I generally am more likely to start writing for real. And I know there is at least one person out there (ahem, Hilda) who will keep asking me every day until I get back into the habit.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

back from hiatus

That’s right. I took a hiatus – an “interruption in the intensity or amount of something” – from the blog. I know this means I did everything wrong in the eyes of the up-and-coming blogger. Consistency is key! Well, feeling real life on my fingers was key for the past four days and maybe you’ll just take my word for it.

In the case that you’d rather read a few words, I’ll indulge you with some snippets. In short, I get overwhelmed sometimes. I looked up the definition for overwhelmed, because I love words, and 1, 2b, 3, and 4 seem appropriate.

o·ver·whelm  (vr-hwlm, -wlm)tr.v. o·ver·whelmedo·ver·whelm·ingo·ver·whelms
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf
2.a. To defeat completely and decisively
b. To affect deeply in mind or emotion
3. To present with an excessive amount
4. To turn over; upset

Before my mom starts to worry about an impending nervous breakdown, I don’t think “submerged, affected deeply, presented with an excessive amount of something, and turned over” are altogether negative things.

It’s just too much.

Well, here are the snippets, anyway. Some are good and joyful and some are sad and painful. Maybe you can take all the overwhelming pieces and make sense of them.

  • My light bulb in my room is burnt out and I don’t seem to have the right multi-tool (which I was convinced could fix anything) to unscrew my complicated ceiling light), so I have been crafting for the last few days on my floor with the light of my computer and a desk lamp. I’m a little worried about the following: the color combos I am coming up with, my failing eyesight, the way I insist on spreading everything out around me and then bending over it for hours.
  • Watercolor. It’s amazing! Where has it been all my life?
  • The Christmas decorations have now been up in Tegucigalpa for a good, long month. Christmas songs are streaming out every speaker and you won’t find me a bit disturbed. Whoever made the rule that Christmas can’t start until after thanksgiving obviously never considered that, “Come, let us adore Him” is a year-round invitation!
  • I want to write. Sometimes I want to write ideas and notions so badly that I can’t touch a keyboard for fear I won’t do the idea justice. Words are so weighty. They are heavy and cumbersome and I love them. I wish I could find the space to fit the bulky words that have taken up residence in my soul. I’d love to park them somewhere nice.
  • We are in the final stretch for our Operation Christmas Box. We’re doing our own version of Christmas in a shoebox for the beautiful children of Amor y Fe y Esperanza. I’m so PUMPED!
  • I’ve got chocolate glazed pumpkin cookies cooling in the kitchen and 31 amazing seniors to deliver to tomorrow. Yep – THIRTY ONE seniors brought their Bibles to chapel today. My prayer is that the Word would be ALIVE to them. I watched and then chewed through this message by John Piper on Sunday, “Holding Fast the Word of Life” and I want more than anything that we would hold fast to the words spoken by the Creator of the Universe! “He is the Vesuvius of joy” and we turn our heads and say it is boring. Ouch.
    Here is an excerpt:
  • I hate sin. I mean I really hate it. I know this isn’t a surprise, but this week it was closer, raw, and ugly. I hate sin that causes families to break up and the sin that causes sons and daughters to hurt and the sin that leads girls to believe lies and the sin that prevents me from being at all useful. I hate it.
  • I’m still mulling over ideas about art and beauty. This is certainly one of the topics in which I’d gladly submerge myself, but I can never quite put the pieces together to write about it.
    I love this quote from contemporary artist Makoto Fujimura about art and culture,”We have a language that celebrates waywardness – but we do not have a language to bring people back home.” That’s kind of “it” in a nutshell, I guess.
  • Another thing I don’t mind being submerged in is God’s promises. Whenever I’m faced with hardship or a tough conference or the gnarly sin sneaking in to steal joy all over the place, I remember. I remember God is sovereign. He is good. His plans are never thwarted. Yep, I’d like to be daily “presented with an excessive amount” of His complete sovereignty.
  • Guess, what? THANKSGIVING is this week! I’m super-duper pumped to throw my thanks everywhere. I’m planning a Thanksgiving dinner this Friday for my senior ladies, which will involve a monstrous amount of baking. I’m also super pumped to set up our own version of a drive-in movie in someone’s backyard.
  • Last, but not least… tomorrow is the first-ever pep rally led by the first-ever pep squad coached by first-ever coach (you guessed it) me. I’m pretty sure this is the first time in history that someone is trying to calm high school nerves about a high school event at the ripe old age of 26! I almost couldn’t sleep last night, because I’m just sure the girls are going to get out there (they have absolutely no idea what they are doing) and then run off and I’ll be left to animate the crowd with my antics (which are usually reserved for small dinner parties!). Lord, help us!

Well, there it is. A comeback from a hiatus heaped up high with the verb “overwhelm.”

If nothing else, I pray this night finds you

letting LOVE fly like cRaZy

unplugged

Street in Tegucigalpa city centre, Honduras
Image via Wikipedia

Wow. What a weekend!

I continue to surprise myself at my own tendency for disorganization. I left my keys at work after conferences and my computer on the school bus on the way home. I’ve overlapped about 10 plans this weekend and have succeeded at about two. I am using a friend’s computer to assure you (in case you are staying up late at night wondering) that I’m still keeping it real here in Tegucigalpa… and the October newsletter is almost ready to post!

I do want to report that “God’s heifer,” (read here, bottom paragraph) as my mom has been calling it, resulted in a hefty check that I get to spread around the ministries here like a heaping spoonful of creamy peanut butter. It is truly a gift to watch God’s provision shared amongst those who depend on Him!

Today, I’m doing some reading and baking for the Micah Project folks. Hope to go for a run to clear all the dysfunctional cobwebs hanging out in my brain!

let LOVE fly like cRAzY

SLEEPout photo montage

Please enjoy these pictures from the sleepout last Friday. I know these can’t possibly tell the whole story, but I hope you get the idea: a LOT of joy happened.

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And, as icing on the cake, 6 Micah boys got baptized this past Sunday!! Praise the Lord

God, my place – article by Andrée Seu

This morning as I read this article, I was reminded that our comfort and refuge and peace is not a place in the distant future, but a promise for right here and now.

Be encouraged today by Seu’s words and remember that God invites you into His presence to experience His joy and perfect peace. After Hurricane Matthew loomed on the north coast this past weekend, a safe place seems much more urgent. In God’s grace, Tegucigalpa escaped with only rain, but our brothers and sisters in the North are feeling the repercussions of the tropical storm. Always – in times of uncertainty and in times of great promise – we will find a welcome location. Amen?

She writes,

Being “in Christ” was once an abstract doctrine. No more. It is a location. And when I obey His commands, those are doorways that bring me deeper into Him. The deeper into Him, the greater the experience of peace and joy. “Abide in me,” He says, and I had thought it was a metaphor, when all along it was a mystery.

Here’s the full article: God, my place.

sunshine on a saturday

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I re-organized my room when I returned in August of this year so that my bed is cattywampus in the corner. A long, plant-patterned ribbon stretches down from the ceiling to hold a hanging basket that is growing several books at the moment. Beside my bed, stacks of books have already claimed floor space like good friends claiming the best seats. Creativity finds all sorts of places to hide and I hope I never grow tired of searching it out.

Today, the sunlight drifted in through the window and pranced straight across my morning face at 5:30 am. Even though it was Saturday, the day seemed to be saying there was much to live and that I better start early.

By 6:30, I had already made coffee, enjoyed whole wheat waffles, and finally sent several messages I had been writing in my sleep. I love mornings. Some mornings seem just so suited to curl up in covers warmed by a night’s rest. Other mornings seem to beckon like a playmate outside the front door.

Today the morning beckoned outside my window, but instead of a playmate it sounded like a man on loudspeaker selling avocados, tomatos and onions out of the back of a truck. Well, no simile needed there. He really did start his rounds that early!

But, truly, this day made me thankful to live it.
Do you ever get those?

Even as 5:30 am rolled into 6:30 and and then as 7:30 led to plans for the entire sun-drenched day, I felt more sure that this day was a gift. Maybe it has something to do with my obsession with Germany and the mid-1900s (thank you Bonhoeffer and Eric Metaxas) that I can’t seem to shake, as I read the letters Bonhoeffer sent to encourage all his students to live with a robust courage to live hopeful. Though Bonhoeffer was involved in the conspiracy to end the reign of a tyrant (and also knew of the imminent danger posed to his ordinands in battle), he exhorted them to find joy.

In any case, 7:45 found me on my way to meet a friend and to visit Hospital Escuela, the most affordable (and least sanitary) places to get medical care in Tegucigalpa. After a second round of coffee, we met up with a medical mission team from Arkansas and offered our morning to cut, package, and stuff as they needed. I felt of little use, but hugely blessed by the opportunity to see what the Lord is doing through willing hearts and able hands! Because of their service, this week will be full of desperate-turned-joyful stories of patients receiving medical care.

We parted ways before lunch and set off, my friend and I, on the next adventures Saturday was hiding for us. Currently, she is reading “Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church” by DA Carson and I am reading “Bonhoeffer,” as you well know. Our conversation drifts in and out of the page turns, but I am so thankful to be in community. In fact, I dug up an old post I wrote in 2007 about community and, ironically, Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together.”

Then, while I was digging up posts, I found an old post I wrote after I attended the first ever Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. It rocked my world, to say the least. I’m pretty sure that’s when I picked up Carson’s book (above) and jotted down then these thoughts.

After our book-reading, sun-loving afternoon, we met up with another friend and celebrated a birthday. A night of laughter and new faces and… did I mention laughter? Maybe one of the most encouraging things, as I continue to love learning this language, is succeeding at humor. If I am 3/5 for jokes in the States, then the odds that I would be witty here are pretty slim. As it turns out, I’m not all that bad! And, if I can do anything to add laughter to a room, it’s a good day!

Well, I obviously spent far too much time trying to recap this little Saturday. I hope some of it makes sense.

Mostly, I hope that we

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY!