John Adams, Mr. Bean’s Olympic debut, seeing the suffering of Latinos, and my re-introduction to Spurgeon

Hello, friends!

I am posting a this & that post today because my Sabbath is getting crowded with good things. I am learning to enjoy God as I walk through crowded days as much as when I sit through solitary ones – He is faithful either way.

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I read this article, “Not Like Me,” over at The Curator magazine because I resonated with the opening anecdote of a new father with a notoriously bad driving record driving his first child home in the family car. I think I’ll have a similar moment someday. But, the article mostly focused on this father’s hope for his children – a hope that they would have the freedom to be teachers and artists and writers instead of a computer programmer. I’m not sure how I feel about this idea of progress producing generations more free to pursue less technical careers. He quotes John Adams in a letter he wrote in a letter to Abigail,

I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine. (John Adams to Abigail Adams, [post 12 May 1780])

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Did you watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony? It was a production, to be sure. Danny Boyle‘s dramatic presentation drew 40.7 million people to tune in to NBC on Friday night. I was one of those 40.7 million and I think there were beautiful things and strange things and things I wouldn’t want my children to see (if I had children). This article from the Huffington Post, “NBC Sets Opening Ceremony Record with London 2012 Olympics.” I’m a sucker for good competition and the underdog stories that are so easy to dig up when there’s a world stage, so I’ll be tuning in this week in what will add up to more TV than I’ll watch all year.

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I am so grateful for this article from the Gospel Coalition, “Do You See the Suffering? Our Mirror Eyes and U.S. Latinos” because it says what people aren’t talking about in the political arena: it talks about what we see when we look at people. Take away policies and papers and really look at our Latino population, without mirror eyes. What do you see?

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I have been reading sermons from C.H. Spurgeon – a well-known preacher from England who became famous for his common (some said vulgar) style. I love what he says about studying God,

“There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subject we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold, I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.”  (C.H. Spurgeon in his sermon, “The Immutability of God”)

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let LOVE fly like cRaZy

experience: the great necessitator

A brilliant sunset with purple and gold and rusty hues.
A child swinging with legs pumping and face aglow.
An orchestra woven into the sidewalk and a choir decorating the ordinary day with an overwhelming melody.

Experience is the great necessitator and what it requires is words. I know the whole premise of an amazing experience is that words are insufficient – that descriptions are incapable of the glory of whatever occurred.

But words are exactly what experiences require… because without them we will never understand why a crowd of strangers, wrapped up in their own little worlds, would be drawn together by musical notes to participate in a glorious performance that causes children to wave their arms and grown people to stand with gaping mouths.

Why can music do this? How does man’s creativity wield such beautiful and magnetic power?

Where does this beauty come from and does it have a name?

Today, people all over these great United States are celebrating a day of independence with parades and flags and all sorts of star spangled accessories. But if experiences are simply ambiguous reasons to throw celebrations, we’ve denied experience what it really needs: words.

Explicit, meaningful, deep words that make sense of the beautiful and point to its origin.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the blessing and the mess of it

How is it that the political push for presidency has made a mad rush at the Advent stage?

I have friends – good friends of mine – who have reasons and schpeels and thoughtful arguments about who I should support in the next election. After being out of US politics for three years (not that there wasn’t plenty going on in Honduran politics to keep me occupied), walking around inside its borders feels like another case of the blind leading the blind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful I don’t have to worry if the policeman pulling me over is legit.
I’m thankful there aren’t men with large guns guarding every fast food restaurant.
I’m thankful I can open my Bible in a coffee shop.

But, it’s not perfect.

Liberties, freedoms, greed, possibilities, money, truth, defense, cause… sin – the blessing and the mess of it are mixed together like a good, Midwestern casserole and sometimes it’s hard to tell what ingredients were thrown in.

Reminds me of the human condition – the blessing and the mess of it.

We’ve got people occupying Wall Street because there’s a bunch of money they don’t have.
We’ve got people marching in support of our troops, who are marching in other countries.
We’ve got people rallying to bring those troops home – for good.
We’ve got people protesting abortion clinics and people protesting the elimination of them.

We’ve got a bunch of sinners in this country, can you believe it? I don’t know how that happened.

Wait, yes I do. And I know the way to redemption. His name is Jesus.

God knew, before the foundations of the world, that we would make a mess out of His perfect Creation. He knew we would kill our brothers and hate our neighbors; that we would spit in the face of His provision and throw away manna like it didn’t just fall miraculously from the sky. He knew and He still provided a way.

His name is Jesus.

Nowhere in history can we see a glowing story of human victory over evil. Nowhere in history have we ever been able to redeem ourselves or pull ourselves out of the deep, dark pit called evil with our own strength.

There is a way.

His name is Jesus and God planned that He would be born into the blessing made mess called Creation, so that He might restore us into right relationship with our Creator.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

God, come and be with us. Show us the way into beautiful. Come, disperse the gloomy clouds and put death’s dark clouds to flight. Bring the brilliant light of salvation.

Jesus is the only way to truly see beauty in the blessing and the mess of this life.

Friday night was a strong statement

“Every contact you make with everyone you meet will help them or hinder them on their journey to heaven.” C.S. Lewis

If C.S. Lewis is as trustworthy as I believe him to be (and of course he is), then this statement is worth the many times I have re-read it. It’s got the “spit out, if lukewarm” severity hidden in between the words that describe our relationships in two ways. There is no in-between. Only two options: helping or hurting someone on their journey to heaven.

That’s a pretty strong statement, Clive Staples.

Every single contact? Like, the gas station attendant and the beggar and the person who just passed by my window selling avocados, potatoes, and yuca? Every contact with everyone I meet has some kind of eternal echo?

This past Friday, about 40 ALP students/staff stayed after school for the SLEEPOUT event. After the last buses pulled out of the campus and headed out on their regular routes to drop off students, Micah Project met us at the soccer field to begin our night of fun, fellowship, worship, and service.

Here are just a few pictures. This is a taste of a longer reflection, but I did want to say that Lewis’s words confirm my thoughts that on Friday we definitely helped each other (across lines of economic status, reputation, background, age) on our journeys to heaven. May God be praised for the way His children came together as one body!

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If CS Lewis can make strong statements then I can, too.

Friday night was a strong statement where

love FLEW like cRaZY!

Fuerte, El es Mas Fuerte

Nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible for the God of universe who holds the whole universe in His hands. Nothing.

I praise God because this is True.

A rich man can enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:26), a desperate man can have hope (Jeremiah 32:27) and a young girl can carry the Messiah in her womb (Luke 1:37).

Nothing is impossible with God, Creator of heavens and earth… not tired days or dream smashers or loneliness or failures or sadness or human success or pride or busy schedules. Nothing, nothing, nothing is impossible with God.

Last Sunday, I sang underneath a blanket of stars in the courtyard of the Micah Project with some of the most beautiful and broken voices I could imagine. I love this sacred time in my week, but this past Sunday I felt even more thankful for the worship and communion.

We have been singing this song lately, by Hillsong. In English, it’s called “Stronger,” but I prefer the Spanish version, especially when I am standing next to Nelson or Wilmer. When I stand next to them I want to sing louder. I want the words to be true… I desperately want these words to be true!

The chorus is a fight,
“You are stronger you are stronger
Sin is broken you have saved me
it is written Christ is risen
Jesus you are Lord of all.”

I love that my desperate plea is one God has already answered. He is stronger. He is sovereign He is surprised by nothing and fears nothing. Nothing is impossible with God.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,  what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,  all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,  the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8 ESV)

let LOVE fly like CrAzY

monday: from bizarre to brilliant

You may not believe it, but Mondays are capable of bizarre to brilliant status.

When you start the day off with your clothes on backwards, you have to wonder how things are going to go down. Add to that a proclivity for post-weekend depression (especially after one so beautiful), and you’ve got yourself a recipe for Monday morning disaster!

It’s pushing 10 pm right now and I won’t hesitate in saying this Monday shone brilliantly! I want to pack it neatly into a pretty package and send it to you, so your day might open just as wonderfully, but since I cannot this list will have to suffice. I know all of these elements are a result of God‘s great goodness (and in spite of me), so maybe your Mondays can sparkle too!

REASONS WHY THIS MONDAY IS BRILLIANT

  1. Last night, I set out my outfit for today and therefore squeezed at least seven more minutes into my morning coffee-quiet time-journaling routine.
  2. My morning soundtrack is bumping with some new tunes.
  3. Before school even began, the smile would simply not be suppressed… a group huddled outside my office and I cannot tell you why, but I couldn’t help the top-of-the-morning tilt of the head and lopsided smile.
  4. Mondays always add an extra boost because we have chapel in the morning. There’s something about standing with my seniors in worship that gives me goosebumps every time. (I also love that they’ve been bringing their Bibles lately… nevermind that it might be due to a little baking bribery 🙂 A little bribery always worked just fine for my Aunt Jane during swimming lessons!
  5. We are gearing up for another SLEEPOUT this year on October 22nd and the first promo ran in chapel today… the excitement is building!
  6. Though it is temperaturally (made up that word) impossible in Honduras, it felt every bit like fall today, from the bold sun to the cool breeze… and I wanted to burst out singing Patty Griffin‘s “Heavenly Day” at the top of my lungs.
  7. Over lunch, I got to pray with a beautiful, dear co-worker and God made Himself so alive in those moments of community.
  8. Armed with a can of pumpkin and after beautiful discussion on every topic imaginable (so deep I missed our turn), I started what might make Mondays most beautiful this year. If that interests you, check this out.
  9. On the car ride home, I belted OUT some mad tunes from Starfield, Bright Eyes, and Joel Rakes.
  10. Now, night. I get to sleep sound, curled into my bed.

I praise God for brilliant Mondays!

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

life: worth doing right

Film poster for Amistad (1997 film) - Copyrigh...
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“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
Thanks, mom.

I grew up angry at these eight words because hard work was always the guilty result of this catchy little phrase. It appeared when we discussed our 4-H livestock projects and how little we had worked with them (if you are not from the country, you wouldn’t understand leading a cow around by a halter in your yard). It wedged into conversations about refinishing projects and youth group commitments and grades in school. Many a conversation ended with a knowing, stern look from either Mom or Dad and these words, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Now, working with youth, I wish more parents used this guilt trip method to motivate their kids. I realize guilt should not mainly motivate us to do things ‘right,’ but guilt is not the lesson that has stayed with me these 25 years. The lesson is about worth.

Last night I watched one of my favorite movies – Steven Spielberg‘s “Amistad.” In one of the last scenes, the attorney speaks on behalf of the Africans being prosecuted for insurrection on the slave ship where they were so inhumanely transported in the slave trade en route to Spain.

John Quincy Adams, played by Anthony Hopkins, says these words in front of the Supreme Court (7 out of 9 of which are Southern slave owners),

“Yea, this is no mere property case, gentlemen. I put it to you thus: This is the most important case ever to come before this court. Because what it, in fact, concerns is the very nature of man.”

At this point in the movie, something very human in me connects with the John Quincy Adams leaning against the polished hardwood handrail. I want to shout, as his quiet words seem to do so well, “Yes, gentlemen, what are WE WORTH? What is man worth?” Is our nature – the nature of man – carry some inherent value or is rather something to discard?

I can tell you what I felt about our worth as I watched one of the captured Africans, Cinque, struggle against the chains that bruised his wrists and neck.

We were not made for this.

In Genesis, when God breathed life into the man He’d formed from the dust of the earth, He was intentional. His ways are perfect, so I refuse to believe any part of His creation process was not done “right.” Every piece and particle, from the smallest micro-organism to the most complicated systems in the human body, God designed us exactly right.

In His image we were made (Genesis 1:26-28), male and female He created us in His image. I can’t help but think my parents’ old adage came from a deeper understanding of God’s own very intentionality in our design. If creation was worth doing at all (and, I’ll admit, sometimes I wonder), then God would be the only One able to do it right. I really believe the ‘nature of man’ is a question of beginnings, which (not so ironically) is what the word “genesis” means.

Our genesis (beginning) is bound up in the intentional mind of a sovereign God, whose purposes are forever, beautifully… right.

I say all of this because I am pondering what it means to live life. I made up a word last week when I was trying to process the biography of Bonhoeffer because I was grasping at dictionaries to find a description for his approach to living out theology. I came up with vivology, after a quick greek/latin roots and suffixes search.

The question bouncing about in my head lately has been, “How do I live right?” Because, I know live is worth living (God’s intentional, perfect design)… so it must be worth doing right.

What are your thoughts?

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Today, I’m doing my best to

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.