Saturday, February 28, 2015

Notes from Seminary (10): The Inescapable Mission of God.

There is a concept from Walter Brueggemann humming through my brain as I type. It is essential to engage multiple metaphors when considering the nature and mission of God.
 It is the focus of any single one, independent from the full context of the mission of God that often causes gross misinterpretation and mistakes in our lives. Surely our view on events is no different. When we focus to sharply on what we perceive as our desired outcome, our understanding of the entire universe becomes skewed. This is commonly referred to as tunnel vision.
The Persian King who was not a follower of Yahweh, and yet he was used as the hand of God, to restore His people back from bondage in Babylon, into a new exodus and redemption.
What a truly intriguing observation we have, of how God can use those who do not follow Him, and how blind they can be to their role. It could be that God is using millions to achieve His purpose who don't even know Him. What does it mean to know God? 
It is only by a sincere relationship with God that we can understand our days and steps on this earth. We may not be reconciled to Him, and yet He can still use us. The matter then is simply a question that we must ask ourselves, "Do we have open eyes to see what God is about? 
Am I aware of His fulfillment of mission for creation through creation? It isn't a matter of can we be used by God, but it is a matter of will we see how He is using us? Will we be active participants, yielding to his purpose? That is very much then the deciding factor of whether we lived a blessed life or a cursed life.
If I recognize that God is using me to fulfill His mission, then I find great meaning in not only the successes of my life, but even the failures and heartaches, because I am being used as a resource by the Eternal King and Most High God. This enables me to not roll in self-pity and guilt, but also to not boast in success. 
Whether I live or die, whether I wake or sleep, whether upon the land, or on the stormy deep. Nothing can separate from His abounding love. He will abide with me. I am the LORD's I know (Naylor).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

It's Not a Vacation Until Someone Poops in the Pool

Last week I went home to bury my grandmother. It was only 9 months earlier that we laid grandfather to the earth. There was some small degree of comfort in my heart knowing that she no longer has to wake up and look for him. Their marriage spanned seven decades. There surely were times when they considered tossing it all, or at least wondered why endure the struggle. And yet, they held on and surely that says something to us all today. 

I think they would tell you that the passage of time is swift, and there is merit in the struggle. We are people of deep faith, and surely time no longer carries such weight, and struggle for them, but has given way to a deep reality understanding. I have great peace knowing that they are home.

Weeks before grandmother’s passing, our little family had agreed to a weekend getaway with another missionary family, the Hanson’s. Their family mirrors our own with a blending of biological and adopted children. I suppose it should be no surprise that this is quite common in the missionary community. It’s really not that much of a leap from making strangers family, to becoming family to strangers. I’ve heard it said that generous people are generous people no matter what the circumstance. I do like to think of us in that light.

And so after a week of intense and necessary time honoring grandma Ruth, Kellie insisted that we keep our date with the beach. It seemed needed now more than ever. Because of the cost of airfare, my family had stayed behind while I travelled. I think it was taxing on them to be apart from me and to have to say goodbye to Grandma from a distance. Everyone believes that his or life is hectic. I guess we are no different. Life can get busy and spill over into the night sometimes. Now mind you, I’m not complaining. In fact, I’d have it no other way. But it remains what it is. Life is rich.

We left San Cristóbal at 9:30 in the morning in order to miss the early rush… and then found ourselves delayed behind a beauty pageant parade. Trucks were decorated with paper and balloons, with each representing contestant either standing in the back or standing through a sun-roof. Music blared, people cheered, and would-be beauty queens waived that universal tight-fingered oscillating flip.

We made our way around the  processional and began the drive outside of the city, heading towards the coast near El Salvador. The drive was beautiful as we wound in the sunlight between the volcanoes. Two and a half hours later we arrived at the small dock on a river where we left our cars with a guy named Beto. We never actually saw Beto, but talked to a guy who new him who directed us to a traditionally dressed Guatemalan lady who directed us to park our cars underneath a pole and tarp shelter. We all assured each other that our cars would be there upon our return and we boarded the hand made boat.

What we thought would be a quick shore to shore trip was in actuality a 30 minute or so ride down river. No one would voice it, but we were all thinking about movies where a bunch of morons get led out into the wilderness and knocked in the head. Admittedly, I ‘ve seen too many movies. It’s an addiction. Reality soon crowded back in as I realized the man directing the outboard engine was asking, “Here? Is this ok?” Since none of us had any idea what the place looked like, we said, yes.

“Yes” brought us to a muddy bank with tickling water running down a mildly sloped ravine. He rammed the bow into the mud and killed the engine. I stepped out first and sank above my ankles in the dark brown mud. The boat driver then came around and warned me that I might want to remove my shoes. Since they were already submerged, I decided to simply leave them on.

As I was slopping up the slope with suction and gushy sounding footsteps, a large pig began charging directly my way. There simply was no ability to run and my hands were filled to capacity. I decided to ignore the beast and take my chances. I didn’t want to look like a scared Gringo if the pig was just someone’s pet. I worried that he might attack. My dad has told me stories of mean pigs that could kill a dog or severely injure a man.  I could hear the pig closing in with grunts and weird pig sounds. Our guide from the boat suddenly appeared and shouted at the pig, clapping his hands. The pig turned course and fled into the surrounding trees.

The mud path ended at a sidewalk and the sidewalk eventually led to an open air house. It was beautiful. The bedrooms were enclosed, but the kitchen area, and living spaces were walled on only 3 sides… the open side expanded to a rising dune with a breathtaking seascape beyond.  Hammocks hung in the distance and a sparkling salt-water pool was in between.

It was a perfect lazy night with good food and friends. We were serenaded all night by a barking dog…which is pretty common anywhere you go in Guatemala, and we awoke early to a rooster who chose the yard outside my window as his crowing ground.  The day was off to a calm start on the seaside. The air was salty, the sunlight was warm, and the breeze was cool. Life was perfect.

That’s when we noticed the turd in the pool.

I’ve decided it was the Immaculate Evacuation. There were 4 little girls in the pool. The size of this dookie was epic. It was man-sized. In fact, it was admittedly impressive.  Even if one of those small girls had somehow been able to produce it, we can not explain how it appeared on the other side of the pool.  The pool rapidly emptied to the frantic yelling of parents and the scrambling of children. There was a stray dog sleeping on the edge of the pool, and he carries the blame. I don’t see how though, he was a malnourished dog… and if he produced that tanker in the water, then it must have been the best meal he’d had in his life.

The three boys were down at the beach, Aleksandra was in the hammock, and the adults were all on the porch.  I have no explanation as to the origin of the offending biological waste… but I’ve sure had fun accusing all the kids. And then we had to fess up to the landlord who lives next-door. Kellie and Jessica took it upon themselves to go and explain… and they rest of us didn’t object.  And so Kellie goes to explain to the Guatemalans that the Gringo’s have pooped in the pool. Fabulous.  Kellie put this on her Facebook page, “Phrases you hope you never have to utter in Spanish: "Hay popo en la piscina." That of course translates to “There’s poop in the pool.”
The draining of the pool.
I can only imagine the comments that family is making about the Gringos who pooped in their pool and then complained about it. I’m guessing their saying something like, “if you don’t like poop in the pool, then don’t poop in the pool.”

They had to drain it, scrub it, and refill it as we all went about our day. Every time one of the caretakers looked my way… I felt guilty. It was awkward. It’s been several hours and the pool is still filling. They are pumping salt water up from the ocean. 

The sun has now dipped below the horizon and the surf sounds loud against the silent sky. The moon is a crescent evanescence in an expansive sea of stars. The dog hasn’t yet began his nightly serenade and the chicken is resting for his morning act. I’m a long way from that nine degrees below zero morning that I flew out of Dayton, the temperature swing is one hundred degrees!  My toes are crunching in the dark sand as I sit in the darkness alone on the beach. It feels like I am alone on the earth.

This is renewing to my soul. It’s like I can feel eternity here in the atmosphere.  Something is beginning to bite at my toes though and I’m reminded that I’m not yet in that perfect place where my grandparents rest. I’ll fall asleep to the sound of the waves tonight.

The silent sulker? She seems to have been
no-where near the pool at the time of the pooping

The face-hiding 4 year old napper? She was in the pool at the
time of the incident,but later pooped blueberries
from yesterday's breakfast.

Or perhaps the teen-age gamer? He was no-where
to be found at the time of the incident.

Or could it really have been that dog? 
I have no idea. It suddenly came from no-where.
Be careful the next time you get in the water. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Honoring Ruth: (2) When it Snows She has no Fear

In her own handwriting, in a book she made for my cousin Cameron.
Check out the fifth line from the bottom,  Season: "I love the snow...."
He spoke from his heart, the memories pouring out of him as he set them parallel with the verses. She was the most beautiful lady I've ever known, and she walked with grace and virtue. His words brought comfort to us as we gathered to honor her days. I sat with my mother and father together as we savored this bittersweet and powerful moment. We allowed our minds to drift into memories.

When it snowed in Ohio we never knew if it would be a dusting or a thick accumulation. I've seen pictures of the blizzard of '76 with me standing bundled in the shadow of snow that towered over my head, and I remember the spring that surprised us with over a foot of snow on Easter Sunday. My grandparents lived in a forested area outside of town and hills surrounded their A-frame home. For hours I rode a plastic sled down those hills, with Goldie the Golden Retriever cheerfully bouncing and barking around my laughing descents.

My Mammaw Ruth loved the snow. She would join me for a time and then she'd observe me through the glass with a warm cup of coffee as she sat beside the hearth inside. I remember that day, with the roads still covered, she drove into town so that we could enjoy a Frosty together from Wendy's.

My uncle shared from the podium beside her, as she rested with a Bible in her hands, that she had done exactly the same thing in the big snow of '76. He said that her reply after being told that the roads were too bad was, "well, we're sure to get a good parking place." 

Mammaw Ruth found the beauty in the snow like she saw the beauty in life. She didn't merely appreciate the ethereal shine of the snow while sitting beside the hearth. Sure, that was something to be enjoyed as well and it had its place in her day. But she also felt the wind kiss her face red as she shrieked down a snow covered hill with a boy and a dog. She put a car into drive and heard the crunch of the tires into think and perfect banks of snow as we explored the eerie silence of blanketed roads in search of a frozen chocolate treat.  She did not fear the snow. 

She did not fear the snow, she embraced life. She taught me how to smile and find beauty in the moment, rather than to bemoan the limitations of the day. If the weather was scorching, well... we played with the hose. If snow surrounded us with its arms of silence, we fell into that embrace and celebrated with snow angels. 

I was young. I noticed the fun stuff that she did. But her actions were rooted in something far deeper than the snow that turned our world magical. And this deep foundation gave her the fortitude to be the strong, gentle, beautiful lady that she was day in and day out. For us grandkids, she was our safe-harbor, our open arms, an always perfectly timed hug or kiss on the cheek. She represented the best of our world. 

Proverbs 31, verse 10 though the end describes my Mammaw perfectly. She gave to the poor, she had the confidence of her husband  she prepared what was needed for those she loved, she spoke with wisdom and laughed at the days to come. 

I think back to those moments in that funeral and I can hear the voice of my uncle as he explained, "you see, Mom wasn't afraid of the snow. She'd get out there and she'd enjoy it. She'd make sure that the whole family enjoyed it. Because that's how Mom lived life. She did her best to make sure we were prepared for the unexpected. And when it fell down on us, she had no fear of the snow.

"When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Honoring Ruth: (1) First I Gotta Get Outta Guatemala!

Contemplative moments are something I have enjoyed for as long as I can recall. I was first aware of this the summer of 1994 that I spent walking behind a Skagg three blade, four foot cutting deck walk behind lawn mower. Endless fields stretched for sun-scorched hours as I’d make parallel rows below an open sky.

While it is a traumatic event for many, airline rides though the open sky have now become my arena of thought. The orderly presence of humanity spiced with endless accidental bumps, the cries of children, and the warm jostle of the craft create a unique miniverse that hums with the backdrop of the turbines and the slicing of the thin cold air.

I am considering death, life, eternity, and the present and aware state of my recently passed grandmother. It’s a glimpse into her immediate consciousness that I desire. I want to know what she feels, what she sees, what occupies her thoughts, and what expression is on her face. I consider that a heavenly body may not have a face as I know it. I do not doubt that all this is ongoing, I simply wonder what she experiences at this moment as I brush along the firmament.

This flight carries me to Ohio where I will stand as watcher and in honor of the passing of her life into forever. She has been ill for quite some time, with care from some incredible ladies who have been her friend, her advocate, and her hospice nurses. My uncle Stephen is there, weary from the unparalleled experience of being her primary caregiver. No-one would choose to endure the things he has, and yet I know without doubt that he would never trade it away. I owe him an unpayable debt for his sacrifice, and I envy the depth of his experience.

If you know me well, you know that I despise when people tell me they’ll pray for my safety. With an identity of a follower of Jesus, I understand that safety really isn’t part of the deal. I do believe that God protects, and I can tell you how He has many times, it’s just that I try to focus my prayers more closely to His will being done, His kingdom expanding, and my walking in His favor. And so these past few days when I’ve told people of this homecoming, I’ve been specific when I asked them to pray.

The broad idea was that I walk faithful to the will of God and act in ways that reflect my belief. Specifically… I asked them to pray that I make it onto the flight. Volcano Fuego had the airport closed, ticket prices increased beyond my budget, and my visa is expired. Our family is in the final stage of gaining residency in Guatemala and our visas are past date. I have a letter from Guatemala Immigration that states I am in process, but it is designed to cover me for in country encounters with authorities, not for international travel.

The word from our attorney was that they “probably would let me through,” but that I would need to explain hardship, and explain why I did not have an official travel letter. This has been a concern for me with my limited language skills, and a non-refundable ticket that was made possible by the loving generosity of seven dear friends who attend Journey Church Guatemala.

I was unsure of how things would go with me and the Immigration official. He was all that separated me from the gate. Since the aiport has been closed, about 6000 people were still stranded in Guatemala as of yesterday, and so there was a good chance that I’d get bumped from my flight, or my seat would be double-booked. In order to get the best shot of getting on-board, Kellie dropped me off at the airport at 3:30 am, more than three hours before boarding time. And so a lot was riding on this prayer supported moment.

God answers prayers in many ways. Sometimes the way I expect, and sometimes I have something to learn from an alternate experience. I crossed the yellow line and approached the official at his summons. To my astonishment the entire exchange lasted no more than 20 seconds. He took my passport and begin flipping though the visa stamps. I told him that my visa was expired. He looked up and I handed him my form for in country explanation. He glanced at it, replied, “no problem,” stamped my passport and I was released to travel.

He did not verify a single fact or examine a single stamp. I have never processed through that quickly. I walked away… waiting for him to call me back. But he did not.

And so here I am contemplating grand concepts, big imaginings, and temporal events, all silhouetted with the backdrop of my faith. I’m not sure what the next seven days will bring, but I am sure that I am where I am because I am walking in the favor of God. It is good to return to honor my Grandmother.

-To Continue the Story-

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sweetly Broken: Until Again We Embrace

The times we face that overwhelm us, that threaten to swallow us, that are black and bleak all around us, these are the times when we must stand. So many times we think that if things get tough, we don't have to be obedient to the commands of God. But in these moments we forget that it is the commands of God that provide us a way back to Him. We are the broken. We are unholy and we seek things apart from Him. We think we don't have to be faithful when things get tough, and then it is our unfaithfulness that separates us from the only One who can save us.

Far too often we stick to our belief only when life is safe, but when things get challenging, and we come to that moment for which we were created to stand... we throw away our faith for an easy exit. In that moment we forfeit the person God was shaping us to become. We tell God that the thing we fear to lose is worth more to us than our relationship with Him. We place that person or that thing above Him. "God, I'm not willing to give THAT to you." And we sacrifice our belief on the alter of self. And in that moment we turn our hearts away from God as we mutter, "why would a just God allow this to happen?"

How is it that we do not understand that He created a perfect garden? It was our choice to reject Him that led us away from His embrace. He then sacrificed and suffered to bring us back. His suffering on the cross, taking on my sin, paying the price, was greater. Only humanity could sin, separating us from the eternal life of God, and only the sacrifice of that Holy God could pay the price of death. Life had to die to pay the death tag of sin.

My grandmother, Ruth Mathis was my foundation of faith. I've watched this lady my entire life stare challenges and difficulty in the face. I've seen her weak moments. I've seen when she wanted to run. But more often than that I've seen her hit her knees and become broken before God. I've seen her yield to Him over and over. 

Today my uncle Stephen Skyped me as I worked at my desk. He took the computer over to my little Mammaw as she lay in her bed, propped up with soft pillows and beautiful quilts as the sun beamed softly onto the fabric next to her. She was struggling to breath, gasping rapidly and open-mouthed. I had gathered my family around the screen on this end, and Stephen asked me to talk to her. 

I felt so awkward, uncomfortable and on the spot. And then I realized that this moment wasn't about me, I needed to reach out to her. The nurse said that she could hear and understand us even though she couldn't react. I began to speak to her about our favorite times in the past. After I'd finished, the nurse said that every time I spoke to her, her breathing calmed. 

Stephen asked me to pray. My heart nearly burst as he described how I used to come over as a child and we'd pray together into the night. And then he said, "all right, Chad is going to pray for you." I couldn't talk. I couldn't even breath. Everyone looked at me and I was petrified. I took a breath and began to pray.

I don't know what I said but I felt my soul emptying across the expanse between us. I relived amazing days filled with her energy, laughter, and smile. I remembered the first time she met each of my children, the faith she passed to me, the feeling that somehow the universe was right and God could be good and suffering was worth it because of the way that she loved me. I thanked her for being a Godly woman, and for giving me what I needed to grow. 

I promised her that her legacy continues and that what she taught me I live out and tell to others. She is making a difference and would continue to do so through my children for generations. I told her I love her and I look forward to the day we are all united again in the presence of God. I said my last words to her in the presence of God and in the witness of my family. With my eyes wet, my chest bursting, and my hands trembling, I spoke, "amen." 

Twice during my prayer I had stopped because I thought the Skype session had disconnected. Her rapid breathing had calmed to a regular cadence. Her face was relaxed. She was with us as we reached out and touched God together. This time was a tough time, and yet we had stood together as she had taught me through a life time of living. I will live a life that pleases my God and honors her.

We ended the call. Her breathing was slowed and we all were near weeping. 

A few minutes later Stephen called me back. He had gone to her and told her it was ok to go. She had been fighting all morning with her vitals nearly stopping... and then racing back... to then slowly tug back down. He told her that her Grandma and Grandpa, her mom Elsie and dad Jim were waiting. He had joked that her husband was in heaven honking the car horn... trying to rush her out of the house like on so many Sunday mornings past... and that he was waiting on her. He told her that God was ready to hug her home. He told her it was ok to go.

She took a couple of calm, slow breaths... and then she went home.

I will see you again my sweet Mammaw. Until that time, my days will honor you.

-Click to Continue the Story-

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Now I Lay Her Down to Sleep...

Surreal. I sit at a desk that surveys a foreign landscape. Ash falls from the sky, darkening out the sun as red lava ignites the scrub and brush. But that is all 30 miles away. I can hear trucks power-breaking their engines as they round the bend just up the mountain. Dogs bark without end as they always do and a typical Saturday night party is heating up somewhere as the low atmosphere refracts the sound. The air is chilly. Our power has flickered a few times tonight and soundly went out once. I feared it was from the volcano, a citywide power outage could spell trouble. It was not. My aluminum magnum bat rests in the corner. 

She's dying. I've never lived a day without her breathing on this earth. The nurses say we're down to days... or maybe just hours. She introduced me to avocados when I was a child, and now they grow all around me. She would have loved all the bright colors here. She filled my life with sherbet, ice cream, frosty-malts, cheese-cake, music, and goodness. 

Knowing that she loves me no matter what, has brought me back from the brink and made me want to be a better man. I've seen her cry, listened to her pray (oh... what a prayer), and joined her in many a laugh. Prayer. She could pray like none other. Such thankfulness. Overwhelming sincerity. And always an overpowering sense of hope. 

I spent 8 hours today trying to find a way to her. I don't think she'd know me... I'm not sure? I don't know if I'd even make it there on time. No flights available today. There wasn't a single one. It's probably good. I might have bankrupted the family to get there. Then questions about our visa status. We are in process for residency and I was unclear if I was permitted to leave the country. 

That question seemed to be answered that I could, and so I started again looking at fares. They increased. The only route would be to Detroit, and then a 3 hour drive south. I was nearing the point of hitting purchase, even though I find myself about $450 short (flight, rental cars, forfeited stipend from the school for taking time off)... but surely God would provide. He always has. 

And then the volcano erupted and shut down the airport. Do you believe in signs? I'm the half crazed grandson of a preacher who believes it enough. I know its madness and yet I still believe that God creates these roadblocks. The question then... is to discern if they are a sign for me to stop, or if I am meant to climb over the obstacles in order to learn tenacity, or some other lesson? 

My nose is cold from the chilly air, and sore from a careless swing of my machete last night that sent a piece of firewood bouncing off my face. I'm tired. I contemplate mortality. I imagine death as a sentient being so that I can stare him in the face. I want him to know that I do not fear him. I know the one who defeated him. I want to tell him that when he takes her, do it with the grace and dignity she deserves. 

Fireworks blast in the distance and I have no idea why. Maybe it's part of the party? Maybe it's someone's drunken birthday bash? I'll check airline prices again tomorrow if the airport opens. The last time it was closed due to volcanic ash was 2010 when it was closed for five days. Fuego continues to spew smoke and ash. I expect the airport will remain closed. I wonder if I should be there for her passing? I imagine it as a holy moment. 

I wonder if my family would want me present for the funeral? Would I speak a few words? I can not imagine her gone. So much of my faith was given root by her.

I was away at university when Grandpa Harry died. I was away here in Guatemala when Pop Mathis died. I was eleven when Mammaw Mack Shepherd died. I remember weeping while sitting on my bedside. She was my first loss. I eulogized Mammaw Henry, and also Pop. It is a lonely place to stand on a pulpit above the open casket of the recently departed person you love as hundreds of glossy eyes stare at your shaking hands. My voice was steady for Pop. I was at ease. I knew where he was. 

I have the assurance that I'll see them all again. Of that I do not doubt. And so tonight the ash falls from the sky as it rains in my heart. Darkness surrounds me but it does not consume me. It is well with my soul. If I could sit down with death, I'd ask him to take her. Take her and lead her home. It shatters me when I think of her suffering. 

She loves me so much. "Love so amazing, so divine. Demands my life, my soul, my all." She lived this. She showed me the way. Her LORD suffered so much more. Suffered to reconcile us to the Father. Praise God. 

It is time for me to yield to sleep for the night. I think of so many nights spent at her house and the prayer we'd sing together, 

"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray thee LORD my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee LORD my soul to take."

Good night Mammaw Ruth.  God holds you in His hand. He holds us all. Praise the LORD, it is well with my soul. We'll see what tomorrow brings. 

My Mammaw Ruth with Sterling, my youngest, this past summer.
-To Continue the Story-

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Notes from Seminary (9): What Does the LORD Require?

What does the LORD require?*
The Lord requires an authentic relationship that is founded on covenant agreement. He requires that we return to Him and that we worship Him. He made a way back through covenant agreement where His people must have no other Gods other than Him, and they keep His commands and laws, recognizing that they are the way provided back into holy relationship with God. He desires a heart that loves Him, yields to Him, and is filled with life that is authentic and contagious.

Any routine keeping of ritual or rules apart from the heartfelt desire is empty and meaningless. It does not generate from a point of thanksgiving of God's generous gift to provide a way for our broken and dead creation to be restored. A nation or people that is unthankful can not recognize the generosity of God and becomes self-centered and bitter. Eating and yet not satisfied, putting away but never saving, reaping but never sowing... just toiling away at a meaningless life, taking from others and not living as covenant people.

To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God in more than word and even in more than deed. It is simply who we are to become.

I would categorize our experiences with context, while God is more interested in our content. Sometimes I believe we become too concerned with the actions of others in the faith, or in society at large and become disillusioned, seeing what is rather than what should be. I whole-heartedly agree that often we are guilty of stopping the good work when things get uncomfortable. In fact, we even have our own cliche about it. We talk about God closing doors. 

I'm always skeptical when I hear that language. We risk seeing a trial as a closed door, and we walk away or abandon the call. It could be that we forfeit at that moment the experience that could test our mettle and bring glory to God. It baffles me when I see a follower sure of his path until trial hits. It seems to me that we are called to be light in dark places, and when the darkness falls we drop our torches and run.

My hope is that I can be the type of follower who sees the fallen torch, runs to my brother who is captured by doubt, and stand beside him as he again raises the torch. I believe we are only in true danger when we're standing safely in the light. We are built to bring light into the dark. This means we must face the darkness.

How do we become more real? We fulfill the commission of Jesus right where we are. We daily realign our perspective and seek the face of God. The way of thinking in the U.S. must yield daily to Kingdom thinking in the mind of a Christ follower. I'm not sure we always need to conceptualize it. We must simply recognize it and react. 

When someone slanders us, rather than be consumed with hurt and go into defensive mode, or perhaps even launch a clever counter-attack... we can recognize the moment, seek the face of God for our reaction, and then go and love that person who slandered you. To apologize to them that we didn't do a better job walking hand in hand. Offering help and lifting them up. 

When we understand that we're not at war with each other, but we are brothers and sisters in need of reconciliation with God, then our knowledge of God becomes greater than our love of self. This then, is how we become genuine... we take on the nature of Christ. And when we fail (because I do often), then we must go back in humility and ask forgiveness ourselves. 

*Picture taken late 2012 shortly after we arrived in Guatemala. My mission founder, Fontaine is in the blue t-shirt on the right. Edgar is wearing white, near the center of the picture with his hand extended. He is our operations manager and our link to the people. 

The man he is reaching towards is sitting on his own bed for the first time in his life. With his days spanning 8 decades, his nights have been spent with rough blankets or canvas in a cut out in the dirt underneath his corn-stalk and scrap metal house. 

The level of love and thankfulness shown by this little man, was among the most moving, significant, and powerful moments of my life. This day... for at least a few moments, I felt what it meant "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God."  

The prophet Micah in his book, chapter 6, verse 8.