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Thanksgiving In Ethiopia

18 Nov

Next Thursday, here in Ethiopia, it is business as usual.  No turkey and pumpkin pie.  Not officially anyway.   I know that it must be close to Thanksgiving because the big stores catering to forenge (all people who are not of Ethiopian descent) have put out their Christmas merchandise even though Christmas is not on December 25.   It is actually on January 7.  In Indiana, the leaves are gone and usually the fields are empty and the grain bins full.  The fall chill is in the air and the threat of snow is only as far away as tomorrow.  Some people are looking forward to the biggest shopping event of the year, Black Friday, as a follow-up to all the extra calories from the day before.  Here, the leaves are still on most trees and the difference in temperature is barely perceptible.  No snow in the forecast.  Friday’s shopping will be no different than Wednesday.

But, it is pumpkin season here right now.  Just like where you live.  However, here pumpkins are eaten not carved and they are usually more green than orange.  The harvest season is still going on; many depend on favorable weather for a good harvest here as well.   There are no grain bins or 32 foot grain heads for combines.  Farms are small and everything that is not eaten is sold out of the field.

My favorite holiday…not for the food but for the state of heart.  Giving thanks and counting blessings.  Hope stored in spring planting has come to fruition.  God’s faithfulness again accounted above reproach.  Winter rest will give way to another season of renewed hope and the seasons and the cycle of the year end in a flourish of family togetherness.  Somebody Skype me the stuffing and gravy please.  Are there any mashed potatoes left?

Tormado

3 Sep

Obviously this photo did not come from Ethiopia.  Equally obvious; the writer has fat fingers on the keyboard that hit M instead of N.   Maybe in giving the benefit of doubt; spell check does not work in the title, to irradicate the extra R or exchange M-A for P-E.  Nope, I spelled it the way the snow boy spoke it.  He was not talking about the snow storm above, not a vegetable or something shot out of a submarine; he was talking about a twister.  He’ll be four this month and in an email he was worried.  “I hope you don’t have a tormado, Grandpa.”

So, can one word make a person cry?  Tormado can.  Especially if your ticker-core is as soft as a ripe tomato.  Torpedos away, direct hit on the heart and it stirred up quite a whirl-wind of emotions and memories.  Hence the picture.  We had set out to build a snow fort.  The job seemed pretty big so we settled for snow angels and snowballs and a ride on a snowboard behind a 4-wheeler.  We don’t have snow here in Ethiopia.  And we don’t have tornadoes either.  At least not weather related.  The sun is shining in the picture making it warm enough to have winter fun outdoors.  The preceding snow storm was not even a significant memory.  But because of it, there is an opportunity to reminisce.  Most of life’s storms are like that.  After they pass, in their wake, they bring opportunities for moments of joy to be remembered.  You remember tormadoes, you forget the storms.

The sun is shining again after our tormado.  God was separated from someone he loved.  The good that came from that separation is what shares eternal hope with our hearts.  Our storm was only for a moment.  There is another memory waiting just around the next corner in time.  Hurry to the basement, up periscope, fire One, and pass me a BLT.

Skyping Meals and Getting Hungry

12 Aug

Most of us do not like to skip a meal.  Our stomachs revolt and remind us that they did not volunteer to take part in that decision.  Then along come pictures of food and food commercials.  Have you ever noticed how often this occurs when you are dieting or when you have pledged a fast?  A big bite from a juicy hamburger with some tomato and mayonnaise juice running down to the chin before the enjoyer can wipe their mouth.  A huge overloaded sizzling pizza set on the table as a family looks on anticipating its savory satisfaction.  A Dairy Queen commercial.   These things do not quench an empty stomach’s mutiny.  Quite the opposite, they fuel the fire.  Skipping meals does nothing to keep one from getting hungry.  Looking at food pictures or watching Food Channel is a definite handicap to those counting calorie points.

Hense, we have the subject of skyping emotional meals.  When one is on restricted access to physical contact, does seeing an image fill the empty place of that emotional need.  Or heighten the desire.  We are very thankful for technology that allows for us to visually sample these tasty emotional treats, but sometimes afterward we find that it is like looking at food pictures when you are dieting.  It leaves us more hungry than before.  So, does this mean that we do not want to skype?  Oh no.  We are looking forward to our next overloaded pizza heaped with Andy, Jenna, Crew, Ridge, and Saylor.  Add on a big thick burger topped  with James, Vanessa, and Eden.  For dessert we’ll have a Phillip and Aimee hot fudge sundae with lots of Adin and Avia and an Aira on top.  Who’s counting emotional calories anyway.  Seeing them smiling and well and sharing time shares hope with our hearts.  The time afterward…man does not live by bread alone.

Moth to the Flame

6 Aug

Life is that way.  There are some melancholy days.  Days when memory’s flame burns too intensely producing more than usable light and heat.  Invading thoughts of moments forever irretrivable.  Moments that passed by too quickly and without being truly treasured for their beauty.  They slipped away from yesterday’s now.  Those experiences are gone with the click of the lens.  Instantly becoming digital candles.  They are delegated the name, “Past.”  And we like moths are attracted to the flame.  Drawn by a quest to recapture the heat and the light of love shared and often taken for granted.  We grope our way from perceived midnight darkness yearning for that light and heat.  Closer we come and the remembered pleasure is all that is left but it evades our capture and is so illusive.  Closer…we hear the siren songs, Regret for I-Wish-I-Woulda’ or Recapture of I-Wish-I-Coulda’.  Still closer…the pleasantness of the light and heat turns to blindness and pain.  Temporarily or longer.  We cannot see the beauty of this day nor feel the warmth of the present noonday sun.  Then suddenly the spell of gloom is broken and we see the smiles of the past as if they are now and something assures our hearts that somewhere those smiles are still smiling and those hearts are still loving even as they are being loved.  Something assures our hearts in the hope that the assurance comes from more than Something.  The One who sees past, present and future as one candle is ever-present.  We lay our most treasured love and memory on the alter of sacrifice to His Glorious Flame and concede, “Draw me Father to the Fire and to the Light.  Memories of past meld into dreams of future hope and all that is left is “YOU ARE WORTHY, LORD!”

Now It Is Accomplished

17 Jul

This is the opening line in our old hymn.  It is followed by, “I am no longer mine.”  This thought introduces the last of the long, long posts that you have labored through (or blew off) in the last few weeks.  My apologies to the faithful.  It is said that if you can’t say it in 400 words or less, it won’t be read anyway.  So bare with me one last time.  Or not.  We have been addressing a passion for defending the fatherless through sharing hope with the hearts of orphans by praying the lines of the Lord’s Prayer.  Now it is accomplished.  There are two posts today.  One short.  “I am no longer mine.”  One long.  “Happily ever after.”  Mine or Thine…that really is the question.  I want to embrace the latter.  You do too.  It is a journey, not a moment.  Thanks to all the models in my life that have shared this hope with my heart taking me on this journey.  Not Ethiopia…life.  Please continue.

Tank On Empty, Love Hurts

13 Jul

Sputter-sputter-bbrrooff!  I coast the four-wheeler to a stop on the side of the road and take the cap off the gas tank.  I would not have to look in but I do.  Imagine that, its empty.  Half mile from home…could be worse.  (When we run out of gas, we always turn the motor over one more time just in case it decides to run on magic.)  I did too.   Rryunngg-yung-yung.   I pulled the key and start walking.  When I returned with fuel I knew it would start again and it did.

Sometimes life experiences find us coasting to the side of the road knowing the emotional tank is on empty.  The four-wheeler rides with the grandkids are over for a while.  We have said our goodbyes.  Cried our cries.  Checked the tank and the bank.  Gave it one more test along with the rest.  Pulled the key and set out to find more fuel.  Maybe saying goodbyes well means finding the bottom of the tank.  Nothing left unsaid or unbled.  In the quiet of the motor not running there is still peace.  God is ever present.  The motor is not broke.  It will start again once it is refueled.  When you are walking toward home with God for more gas it’s never far to go.  He is always there to help us fill the tank by sharing hope with our hearts.  Brrrooomm!  Brrrooomm!  Ready to go.

Andy and Jenna, Phillip and Aimee, James and Vanessa, Adin, Avia, Aira, Crew, Ridge, Saylor, and Eden; in our hearts, there is only One Greater Love than our love for you.  You will always know that.  But when the tank is on empty, love hurts.

Affirmed In Love

12 Jul

We were the last ones out.  If we would have yelled out the joy of our hearts, the echoes reverberating in the mammoth empty assembly would have rebounded in a still lingering affirmation of love.  In the most accurate sence, it was not a sending service that was concluded after the last hand shake and embrace.  It was just a family saying farewell.  It was a massive outpouring of support and well wishes that left us overwhelmed in thanksgiving.  It was unity dressed in real flesh and bones and not just aspired-to verbage.  Each of us present had varying degrees of passion and conviction about missions, but all of us present recognized the Holy Spirit’s voice speaking to each of our hearts from God’s passion for missions.  Individual missions, from adoption to community service, to sacrificial giving, to one week short-term trips.  But collectively, God building and preserving His Kingdom.

We anticipated an emotional experience.  It was that.  Those emotions were not crushing.  They allowed us to realize how much we love the special people in our lives.  They allowed us to see how much we love our church and the brethren.  As I walked off the pulpit yesterday morning God firmly implanted a memory of a praying congregation who have impacted our lives in the past.  The afternoon firmly implanted a memory that will impact our lives in the future.

The assurance of your continued prayers deeply affected us.  For some this will be daily, for others it will be weekly or monthly, regardless of frequency we are grateful to have our mission brought to the Father for His blessing.  The power of love to share hope with hearts came to life yesterday afternoon.  Not with the tongues of men, or as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal, and not through a glass darkly, but face to face.

Take Me Back

25 Jun

There she was.  Finally, in my arms.  I had missed her debut, but she was definitely worth an encore.  There were no flashing lights, whirling tunnels, foggy mists, or eerie science fiction techno-noises.  No, this is not a “Stargate” rerun.  But the time machine control had been locked into 1979.

From somewhere near my wife’s southern flank a voice exclaimed, “It’s a healthy boy!”  I really wanted to be manly but this gigantic hairball  crawled up out of my throat and kerplunked down on my tear glands.  By the time the nurse handed me this red-faced, black-haired, still moist bundle there was a river running down my cheeks.  What couldn’t get out through my eye holes came out my nose holes.   So much for manly.  What’s a father to do?  And 32 years went by…

Saylor was her name.  But for a split second she was her daddy.  And then the spell was broken.  So I could be manly again.  What’s a grandfather to do?  Then came that hairball.  This time I managed a cough before the thing made it all the way to my eyes.  I thought fleetingly of her potential and her life that is to come.  Her beautiful little mouth.  Her dark, what’s-she-really-seeing eyes.  Her tiny perfect hands and feet.  The time machine will lock into 2011 in some not-so-far, distant time.  Some little future bundle, for a split second will become Saylor, in her/his grandpa’s eyes.  Another generation of grandparents.  That grandpa will be taken back.  He will see the beauty and perfection of his grandchild.  Even if he is immune to hairballs, he also will become aware of quickly passing time.  Someday he may want back all the wait-till-the-kids-are-older moments he may be tempted to wish away.  I am not yet ready for a bucket list.  But I do know of at least one thing you should never take for granted…quality time with your young children.  Share hope with their hearts in every opportunity.  In the future’s take-me-back moments, you’ll be glad you did.

Flirting…kind of

23 May

Three years is a long time.  But I still remember how it is done.  Lots of eye-to-eye contact.  Sometimes it is even eye-to-eyelid contact, depending on your mood.  A smile.  Maybe even a giggle when I attempt to say something funny.  I say, “You look so beautiful today.”  You say…nothing, but I hope you are thinking, “This guy is too old to be cute, but he is kind of entertaining.”  Actually, when we are together I spend a lot of time wondering what you are thinking.  You yawn.  Oh well, you are probably playing, hard-to-get.  Your Dad is hanging around.  No, he is not mad at me.  He just smiles a lot.   It’s hard to talk normal let alone start a conversation with you when he is listening.  He’ll probably think its just baby talk.  I would really like to be a part of your life but how can I impress you?  Can I hold you in my arms or whisper, “YOU are adorable, and I think I love you.  But that would be wrong…not because of our difference in ages…wrong, because I don’t just think it…I know it.  I do love you because…

Let me count the ways.

Not that you are the jealous type, but I need to be up front with you.  By the time we see each other again, there will be another girl in my life giving you some competition.  Maybe you two can be friends.  I think you will actually like her and you will probably have a lot in common.  Well, at least one thing….some same relatives.  Last of all, it is only fair to tell you that there are already two others as well.  I have been flirting with them also, kind of.  No, I am not four-timing you all, and it really is only kind-of flirting.  After all, it is just part of sharing hope in my heart because I am blessed with four very special granddaughters.

Re-Entry

18 May

It happens all the time.  Seasoned missionaries say that the hardest thing is coming back.  But it used to be home, didn’t it?.  Now what?  Is it the end of the line or just the end of a time.  Was it time; or the right time?  The defining limits of what is home are not the same anymore.  Some places cannot be recaptured.  And some places make other old haunts seemingly un-capturable.  Something changes and that something is usually in a deep place in the heart.  The place you originally said goodbye to…by the inch, is now a purposed reality again…by the yard.  And the letting go of long ago may have hurt enough that the present risk of taking back…it challenges the self protective walls and masks which had been made effectual.

No, relax.  We really are not thinking about coming home even before we leave.  We have, however, started to redefine normal.  Some of that redefinition includes home.  This week, we have been working on setting up a data source dedicated to the emotional/mental health of missionaries in the field for LSM.  The unique stress of serving in a foreign field can exact a toll.  And surprisingly, it affects those coming back home after long-term stays.  Gone one week…in your heart you never left.  Gone one month…it begins to change.  Gone one year…the heart has to relocate.

If you happen to have been a person who has faithfully upheld a missionary on foreign soil and find that they are coming home;  it is not “olly-olly-otts-in-free”.  Re-entry can be like the shuttle with the missing heat deflector tiles a few years back that spread itself over the state of Texas.  While missionaries are gone, AND, when they are coming home your prayers help keep those deflector shields in place and working.  There is hope that is being shared with a heart that is incoming.  It is at that time that there is a heart looking for a way to fit into the foreign field of home.