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22 Aug

Bahir Dar Gonder 2012 110

Summertime.  Vacation sights and traveling.  Being away for awhile.  We used to send post cards.  Do you remember? “Wish you were here!”   We sent those words as a standard closing knowing that we might even arrive at the post card destination before the words were read.  “WYWH!!!”  Now we send emails with digital pictures attached or post on a social site and so the race to beat the post card home has passed into yesteryear.  I wonder how often we really think about the sincerity of that vacation benediction when we post it or write it.  It was meant to be a vague reference of missing someone and a twinge of lonely.  That is its significance in our hearts when we know the time interval of the reunion is measured in days or a week, maybe two.  What is its significance when we know the time interval is measured in three months, one-half year, or longer.  Do the words still float off the fingertips onto a keyboard or cell phone pad or do they then accompany a palpable gnawing ache in the heart?  Does WYWH ever mean WIWT?  The person away from home has usually accepted the necessity of a brief absence from the person still at home. otherwise they would not have went.  Subtract briefness, does it change the equation?

Acceptance of necessity does somewhat erase an elongated time interval.  But without God sharing hope in our hearts of the truths of His economy of sacrifice, are there  times we would close with, “Having  great time. Wish I Was There.”  Sometimes it is a realization of calling that beckons us back from the wallow of self pity and entitlement.  Sometimes it is feeling ashamed of our feelings.  This time it is missing you with more than a twinge of lonely, but having full confidence that God is ever present and supplies His grace to meet our every need.

Does absence make the heart grow fonder?  You bet!

Expressions of Love

22 Jul


We show our love for family and others in many ways; often within a cultural context.  A husband leads a horse to town carrying a sick wife.  A daughter carries enough wood to sell to pay for medicine for a sick mother.  Love has many expressions.  We show our love for God in thankfulness for opportunities to love and be loved. There are many times in life that the love we have for other individuals God has gifted into our lives for a short season; that this love is gifted back to the Giver and laid before His Throne.  The more we love that person, the harder it is to give that loved one back to God as a gift, but in that giving God is glorified in the trust it implies for His ultimate care. We can also express God’s love by sharing hope with hearts that have not experienced love’s expression from the limited opportunities of their lives.

Remember April

11 May

When you, as an individual, not the vague reference you in pronoun form to society as a whole, think back and try to remember the previous month gone by, what comes to your mind?  On April 17-I had Cornflakes for breakfast, or on April 23-I went to Walmart and spent $33. 82, or on April 8-I put gas in the car.  You probably remember the very good, the very bad, or the very special things.

Although the whole remembering thing does seem to get more complicated with passing time.  “Did I have cornflakes yesterday morning or was that two mornings before?”   “Why did I come to Walmart?”  “Empty again, when did I last fill the tank,… yesterday?”  And if your whole month is filled with special, do you, as an individual, try to remember everything or do you settle for the best of the best?  Do you desperately try to hold onto every experience because you know it will not happen again for a long time?  What does special take to be remembered?  And why is it difficult to forget the things you would rather not recall from the bad memories?  Do you ever feel guilty for not making more memories?

When we are here on the mission field, we remember April.  It was cold and wet, but that is not the memory.  We ate out often, but that is not the memory.  We went to Walmart to often to remember, but we did not come back with the recollection of a specific number of trips.  What do we remember?

Some silly things actually…buzzing bees in a box in Ted’s garage,…that chocolate thing,…marveling at the first two black teenagers we had seen since Addis Abeba walking on the street in Bluffton,…and bacon, two kilos of weight gain worth.

But those are not things I want to hold on to fearing they will not happen again for a long time.  I am not looking forward to the next fuel fillup, but I want to remember the pancakes and donuts with my grandson.  I want to remember the last afternoon baseball practice in the back yard.  I want to remember playing bucking bronco with my oldest grandson, maybe the last time because he is getting older.  I want to remember playing dollies with a pink carriage carrying a little black baby doll.  I want to remember the little girl on the cheetah on the carousel.  I want to remember lots of curls, and first  words, cheek to cheek squeezes, being called Grandpallen and GrandmaZuan, and long hugs from grown sons and daughters, and Dads and Moms and brothers and sisters.  Last on  a list which is far from all inclusive…a swimming lesson, a vocal concert preview, and a grandson who always says, “Grandpa, I love you and shows me his latest Lego creation.”

What I want to forget…the guilty feeling for not making more memories.  What do I wish was different…the inability to hold on to the vast multitude of special moments that makes remembering April fill my heart with hope.

To Be a Valentine

14 Feb


“My Valentine”

Left side.  Leaning forward.  Chin in her hand.  Her name is Eden.  She wants to be a psychologist.  Her favorite sport is basketball.  But when she said her name was Eden she became my valentine.  To bad there wasn’t an Avia, Aira, or Saylor.  Then I could have had four valentines.  But one here helps me remember all at home.  Happy Valentines Day to all my Sweeties in Indiana.  Each of you will know one day just how much hope you share with my heart.


12 Feb

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“Do you remember when, we used to sing,…”

Memories can be like magnets.  The inescapable pull toward an object of attraction.  With only a few weeks until we come home for a visit, our minds are often stirred by thoughts of the past.  God does not gift missionaries with amnesia relating to memories of bygone joyful family experiences.  He intensifies them and harnesses that power to share hope with our hearts.

Meaning From Stones

13 Jan

Joshua commanded one man from each tribe to carry a stone from the middle of the dried up Jordan river bed into the promised land so that a twelve stone monument could be erected as a reminder to coming generations of God’s faithfulness.  Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would ask, “What mean ye by these stones?”  Then those who had experienced the deliverance and each generation following would have a testimony to share passing on a heritage of trust.

We should be asking ourselves, what are the stones that we are carrying through the crossing-Jordan experiences of our lives?  What is the monument we are building to leave behind?  Wealth and assets?  What will be remembered when future generations observe the memorials our lives represent?   Will they see God’s hand of deliverance and be encouraged into trust and obedience to the God of our freedom?  Will they care enough to ask the question?  Will the consistency and courage of our example offer a reason for them to engage those truths into their own lives for their own epitaphs?

What are the stones, the examples, that could comprise a memorial that would generate this kind of generational dialogue?  Paul laid out some principles in Philippians chapter four.  Check it out and hold it up to the hope you want to share into the hearts of those who follow when you pass.

1.  Steadfast and courageous

2.  Like minded thinking, unity rather than individualism

3.  Quick to the labor with helping hands

4.  Rejoicing always

5.  Moderation in lifestyle, patient, devoid of strong opinions

6.  Reject anxiety, commit all things to God

7.  Immerse into the Peace of God

8. Focus thinking with mental discipline, meditate on: truth, honesty, justice, purity, beauty, and virtue

9.  Choose good role models to emulate and be one

10.  Give with generosity when God opens opportunity

11.  Practice contentment with Godly wisdom to know the difference between needs and wants

12.  Rely on Christ’s strength to give everlasting Glory to God

These principles are legacy stones, worthy of remembrance.  An inheritance built around finance is a monument of pebbles built on a foundation of sand.

Christmas Package Embrace

8 Dec

“Can you meet us at the German Bakery?”

It was Peggy on the phone and my first response would have been, “But I thought you were in the USA.” Before I could process the incredulity of hearing her voice she chipped in with an explanatory note, “We have brought you a gift package back from your family in the states.”

When it is Christmas season and you are 8000 miles from home, those words are filled with magic. I agreed to the rendezvous and my imagination instantly conjured up images of what children and grandchildren might be doing at this time of year…decorating Christmas trees, making home-made candy and cookies, carol singing at Christmas programs in church, and gift wrapping.

Peggy met me on the patio. Gary was busy taking advantage of free Wi-Fi with a computer download when we walked into the confectionary and sat down. I ordered a small macchiato. Chatting has always been easy with them as they shared news from home and how the special surprise had come into their custody. They had only a half hour before their next meeting and the time went by too quickly. Christmas greetings exchanged, agreements to meet in Ziway, and I was off with the Christmas package.

Once home we decided we could not wait and so we discarded the tissue covering and carefully examined each precious item. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh…no… but just as priceless. Photos, colored pictures, hand-made Christmas cards, chocolate candy and chocolate chips, a book, a documentary, and a plastic baggie full of transformers, matchbox cars, and some plastic sunglasses. Smiles transformed into chuckles and chuckles transformed into lumps in the throat accompanied with very fast eye blinking. No luck, just wipe them away before they run down your neck. How do you put into words hearts filled with love attended by arms aching for a hug?

The word is embrace. It is a lingering connection where something unites beyond the physical contact. It is the melding of love, contentment, hope, peace, and joy. It is sharing and giving with no expectation or demand for return. We were embraced by the gift and we embraced the givers. I think our Heavenly Father felt it also when He looked down upon a manger long ago. He offered mankind the gift of His embrace. He would have gathered us into His arms, but we were separate by sin rather than miles. He was sharing His path to peace and hope and joy and contentment. We could be united beyond physical contact through a connection in the Spirit.

His Christmas package embrace would later say with tears running down His cheeks, “How often would I have gathered you into my embrace…even a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” A few days later He spread His arms on a cross aching for a hug…and a heart filled with love…enough for the gift of eternal life. Sharing hope with hearts and blessings of love at Christmas.

Turkey and Dressing

22 Nov

They say the sense of smell is a very powerful trigger for conjuring up memories which extend or recall the experience. It must be a part of the rationale behind perfume and men’s cologne. It is probably also part of the success of the Thanksgiving Holiday. The aromas emanating from the kitchen and wafting through the house as we entered with three little babies in tow along with diaper bags and the dish we were assigned to bring along. Mom always did the turkey and dressing. We usually entered through the kitchen and then past the long table decorated in harvest colors and complete with cornucopia containing tangerines, oranges, apples, grapes and nuts to crack. We would arrive after morning worship and once in a while some melting snowflakes would leave some tiny wet spots on our overcoats on first arrival. Often Dad would have the prayer as we sat down to an abundant meal…his voice often betrayed by the overwhelming gratitude flowing out of his heart.
My favorite thing was the turkey and dressing. Even though my appetite had been fully quenched, I would often have seconds. Maybe because it was what Mom made. It was her work in the kitchen that made the meal possible and often it was her work in the home that made family possible. Maybe it was because the combination was the focal point of the meal and the meal was the focal point of the expression of my heart. They seemed to fit together. Turkey and dressing. Our family seemed to fit together. There was a simplicity to life. It was one of the reasons we were thankful.
Being separated at Thanksgiving, I remember the aromas. Turkey and dressing…togetherness and thankfulness…simplicity and family. These are the triggers that conjure up the hope shared in my heart of the coming Banquet Table where all tribes, tongues, and peoples will sit together. Turkey and dressing? Probably something even better.

“Long as I Can See the LIGHT”

10 Feb

“Put a candle in the window,” John Fogarty began and the song came to life.  First the percussion…then a single lead guitar tracing out the simple strain…finally evolving into methodical chords.  The pace was slow and steady.  It wasn’t exactly rock and it wasn’t exactly country and it wasn’t exactly blues.  It was exactly all rolled into one and by the sax rift in the middle, a listener felt captured between the lyric lines and the lilting almost waltz-like melody.  The title line repetitively assaulting the ears in waves, penetrated to the soul, invading the psyche with a message that one had heard something deeper than the simplistic interpretation of the mere words.

“As long as I can see the light.”  The song’s story built on a theme for all of life’s wanderlust.  Everything was changing in the Sixties.  Forces were pulling us away.  The songs deepest message was counterculture to the message of the day.  There is a force that draws us back.  Somewhere between, “though I’m goin’, gone, and I’ll be comin’ home soon” there would be a kind of magnetic pull drawing one back to the place where the candle lighted the window.  A refuge.

The candlelight in that window was more than a chasing away of the dark.  It was an illumination.  On the first level…love.  Behind that glowing wick there was a home.  There was something calling, “Come back.”  Maybe beyond the walls that framed the abode and housed the love, there was the truth source that silently drummed, “Return to me.”  Spiritual on the second level.  What first seemed like the simple melody line of mommy and daddy became the more methodical chords of an eternal Father.  And even in the melancholy-sax-blues experiences of life, there was the message ever repeating, “As long as I can see the light, I can find home.”

And home was more than a place to store goods, bounded by seconds, minutes and days.  It came to be the place of love and spirit where true treasure could be laid up.  And the candle in the window glowed with the hope that is shared with hearts that we will not lose our way as long as our focus is on the LIGHT.

Tis the Season…

17 Dec

Fa-la-lah.  Fa-la-lah.   Lah, lah, lah.  What makes you jolly at Christmas time?  When you were four it was presents.  And Christmas candies and cookies.  And, “The Night Before Christmas”.  And snow.  And Christmas trees.  And smiles.  Everyone was happy.  It was easier to tolerate the wet kisses from great aunts and the a-little-too-hard cheek tweaks from great uncles.

By the time you were ten you were dodging the kisses and the tweaks but you were still happy with the smells of Christmas turkey and dinner at Grandma’s house.  And homemade cinnamon bread.  And red Jell-O with big black cherries.  And ping pong after supper to occupy time until the dishes were done.  And presents.  And you had heard “…all through the house…” too many times to be real excited.  Smiles were still good though.

Then came sixteen with twenty-two hot on its heels.  Getting, started to mean less and Giving more on the jolly scale.  Jolly actually began the transformation into joy and hope.  And there may have been a special someone to share the season with.  Jesus had moved from Bethlehem to Calvary and had invited you there for a visit.  And going home for Christmas.  And smiles and hugs.  And your Father wasn’t “the old man” any more but he was getting older.  And your Father in Heaven became the standard for giving.  And He was never changing.

Twenty-eight, thirty-four, forty.  They went by that fast.  You began to learn the meaning of “While I tell of yule tide treasure.”  Relating your own values of “jolly” to the ones God had brought into your life.  And you were the reader of, “…not even a mouse”, and “Let me Tell you How Much I  Miss You” and still enjoying smiles.  Now you were holding on to hope that Christmas would metamorphous in the lives of your listeners.  Peace on earth and good will to men was for more than a season.  And Dad was a lot older but you really wouldn’t mind following his example and his faith.  And the heavenly Father…sharing hope with hearts.

One day we will all be home for Christmas.  Imagine what jolly will mean then.