Wednesday, May 30, 2012

There is forgiveness ... and then there is forgiveness

     I live in Arkansas so it's normal to have sinus trouble, right?  And yesterday I had a headache along with sinus stuff and that's also normal.
     Only my headache wasn't from sinuses.
     How do I know?  Every once in a while yesterday, the random thought, "I need to cry" would sweep across my mind.  Because of that, I knew my problem was heart, not head.
     And indeed, my heart was in pain while the rest of me was in denial.
     My unshed tears (and anger) were for the incredible pain and suffering that happened in Rwanda in 1994, suffering that could have been prevented.  That may sound crazy.  I mean, I'd read two books about the genocide before so ... I'd already shed my tears, right?
    Apparently not. Third book; third bout of crying.
    So  maybe it is a good thing to cry???   I mean, do I ever really want to get to the place where I can read about people being butchered without shedding tears? Without getting a headache? Without, ultimately, crying out to my God, "Why?"  (And I know that maybe we're not supposed to ask God "why" but sometimes He graciously lets me...)
    Last night, the pain was so great that I had no where to go but to Him. As I poured out my heart to Him, He led me to a quote from, of all things, an Anglican Vicar in Baghdad, Andrew White.  A man who also serves in a troubled place, in Iraq, where people lose their lives every day.  So how can reading about one ministry in the midst of a killing field help me cope with the pain of reading about another killing field?  Doesn't make sense, does it?
    And yet I came across a quote from the Vicar of Baghdad  which basically said (I'm paraphrasing)  that he can see concrete barricades and barbed wire from his office window. When he sees those things, he can either say, "How terrible it is to see those implements of war and terrorism!" or he can choose to say, "How wonderful it is that God's presence is here with us, ministering to us!"
    That quote was God's answer to my pain last night.
     The genocide in Rwanda didn't come close to the magnitude of what Hitler did by any means. But in some ways, the butchery and cruelty of it surpassed what the Germans did.  The Rwandans killed nearly a million people in the space of three months and without any concentration camps.  That means that this  genocide was carried out when  millions of ordinary people - people who were stoked on propaganda and fear -  went into what I can only describe as a Satanic killing frenzy, mutilating, raping, and destroying their neighbors and friends in much the same way that sharks go into a mindless feeding frenzy.
    That story is what made me cry and made my head hurt.
     But what brought relief to my heart was the understanding that out of the ashes, God is doing miracles in Rwanda today.
     Please let me explain.
     History shows that it is fairly easy for man to kill. Our human nature tells us that it is very hard to forgive.
     When Americans talk about forgiveness and Rwandans talk about forgiveness, we aren't talking the same things.
     Forgiveness to a Rwandan is not about refraining from saying nasty words about the nut who just cut you off in traffic and nearly ran you off the road.
     It is not even about forgiving the ex-spouse who went into court, hired an expensive lawyer, lied, and took your children away from you.
     It is not even about the pastor who ran off with the church funds and another man's wife, leaving a fragmented congregation and a broken-hearted wife behind to pick up the pieces.
     It is not even about forgiving the drunk driver who hit your wife's car head-on and killed her, as bad as that is.
     It is not even, sad to say, about forgiving the man who raped and killed your college-age daughter.
     All of those things are bad to varying degrees. But none of them are as bad as what happened in Rwanda.
     In Rwanda, it was not unusual for a  mother to  be forced to watch her children hacked to death with machetes before she herself was gang-raped and left for dead. This was very common.  This and much, much worse.
     In Rwanda, a pastor or priest might encourage his people to come to the church for safety and then help lock the people inside so the extremists could kill them more efficiently. This goes beyond, "Our preacher offended some people and now there's been a split in the congregation and I don't know where I'll go to church or how I'll ever forgive him for what he did."
     But the miracle is this:  the Rwandans are forgiving, they are reconciling. Even these things, they are forgiving.
   Today, Rwanda is a nation that has rebuilt, that has risen from the ashes.    Usually when a nation is in ruins, it stays that way for a long time. (Just ask the people of Somalia or Sudan)  Not Rwanda.
   Today, the watch word in Rwanda is "reconciliation" and the people are living it.
    Today, Rwandans are living side-by-side, former killers and former victims. It is not easy but they are doing it.
    I read a quote by a UN General, Dalliare, who was asked, after he witnessed the genocide, "How can you still believe in God after seeing all that?"  He replied that he believed in God because he had shaken hands with the devil.
    The 1994 genocide, as much as anything I've ever read about, proves Satan exists.
     By the same token, the reconciliation and forgiveness that has occurred and still is occurring even as I write this, demonstrates clearly that God is working in Rwanda.
     The Western world failed Rwanda in 1994.  Now we have a chance to help make that up, if in no other way, by at least praying for these people - people whom God loves deeply and unreservedly.
     May we do the same.



Monday, May 28, 2012

It takes a lot of courage...

      If you want to find out how much you don't know that you don't know, move an international into your home:)  If you want to find out how much you take for granted, move an international into your home. If you want to laugh, cry, dance, and pull out your hair - sometimes all at the same time - move an international into your home.
     Why do we have two cellophane wrappers around the bread... I really don't know.  Never thought about it before.
     Tuna salad mixed with rice?  Tastes pretty good, actually.
     What does it mean when someone says, "I will drop you off at your house?"  Umm, probably not what it sounds like at first glance. Actually, it means the same thing as I will run you by your house.  Or I will let you off at your house.  Or I'll bring so-and-so home and stop by for just a minute...  After we had this discussion, I thought,  "Exactly how many phrases do we have that mean either I will come by for a short visit or I will leave someone (something) at your house but I won't be coming in?"   And why do we have so many phrases that indicate a short (or non-existent) visit, a social drive-by, if you will?  We were told in orientation that Africans have a saying:  Americans have watches but Africans have the time.  After working on some English phrases/idioms, I realize that our language reflects our lack of time, i.e., our busy-ness.
      And, quite honestly, today I wondered how it would feel to be one of two black people sitting among about a thousand white people in church, as our student did this morning, singing, "Wash me and I shall be  white as snow?"  I know what that phrase means but would an international know what it means?  Are a thousand white people asking God to make them whiter than they already are:)  (Maybe time to add "tanning beds" to our home vocabulary list... ya reckon?)
      At any rate, I don't know how that would seem to an international struggling with conversational English.  This morning, I just had to wonder how I would feel if I were one of two white people sitting in an all black-church on another continent where I understood virtually nothing of the sermon and very little of the songs while I still struggled with time zone changes.  I really appreciate the fact that our international was willing to go with us and fully understand that for him, it was two hours of zoning out, of experiencing alone-ness within a crowd (even though he never complained).
     What else?  Do you ever smile with delight when you push a button to make water come into your washer, then add soap and the clothes, and simply, wonderfully, just walk away from this  machine while it does all the work?     I had to think about that as well - how many times have I  felt frustrated at having to run another load of clothes?  Maybe a lot of my frustrations are really blessings that I simply take for granted.
     And perhaps the biggest challenge of having an international in the home - explaining things that are simple (to me) while remembering that the person next to me is absolutely brilliant in mathematics, chemistry, physics and also speaks several languages, including  English with a French accent, unencumbered by such words as "You-all" and " 'at's the way it is 'round here."   (Well, I once spoke pig-Latin when I was a kid.  Does that count??? )  Right now, we are teaching/demonstrating  the basics of  the "how-tos" of  American culture. But it is good to remember that within a short time, the one we are helping will be speaking fluent English and at that time we'll realize just how wide his world actually is and how small our own is in comparison.

   But to fully understand how wide his world is, I'd have to fly to another country and within a matter of days, learn to adjust to life without a lot of machines, adapt to his culture where people have more time to visit with each other even though they have less labor-saving devices (like as in: make bread without a bread machine???), and then become fully immersed in a rigorous academic course, in a third language, no less.  
   And for all that, I simply don't have the skills or the courage.
   Que Dieu vous benisse to all the new internationals who have come or are coming to study here in 2012.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wet Sand Hearts...

 Family comes in all shapes and sizes.  Ours is pretty small and there's not really anything you can do about that.  I mean, you can't just manufacture family members out of thin air or twist the arms of relatives in order to get them to multiply like rabbits and as for us, well we have too many dogs, birds and such to think about  enlarging our family in any way soooo that's pretty much that..
     But wait!  There is a way to enlarge your family! We've already done it! It's called open your home to the foreigner, the stranger, the one whom Jesus brings across your path so that you might bless them and they might bless you.
    Ten years ago we invited a stranger, an international college student, to stay in our home.  She became our daughter.
    Today, I heard two very sweet, amazing little girls calling out to me in the pool, Grandma Cathie! Grandma Cathie!  Watch this!  Let's swim here!  Now it's your turn to balance on the water wheel! [They were mistaken about that...]    I just got a mouthful of water but it spit right out really well!
     And probably the sweetest sound to my ears, Grandma Cathie, I just like having you in the water with us!
     I learned things.  That baking is fun and easy - you just put peanut butter on one scoop of vanilla ice cream and you've baked something sweet.  (A great baking recipe for those little people who are not allowed to turn on the oven...:)  That if you put your mouth at just the right angle in the water, you can sound like Donald Duck.     That wet sand is great for making heart shapes in and grass is great for pulling up and replanting in the same sand.   That falling off the balance wheel is hilarious and staying on it gives great satisfaction.  That there are always new worlds to conquer whether on land or sea (er, pool!)
     But that's not all.  After the swimming and the picnic-ing, I got to listen to our daughter describe how God has been working in the ministry she and her husband have had over the past few years. And I kept thinking how she was  searching ten years ago and how, at that time,  I was hoping to mentor her.  And now, ten years later, she is far beyond me in  spiritual experience and how awesome that is.
    And with a daughter and grandchildren, there usually is a son-in-law somewhere  in the mix!  And our son-in-law is a true mix:)  A blend of Godly wisdom as well as  a  zany sense of humor.  I can't be around him without learning something and without laughing, often at the same time.  Together, he and our daughter make excellent partners in marriage, parenting, and ministry - not an easy combination to survive sometimes!  But they do it with grace.
    Sooooo... am I saying that something we did ten years ago, by sharing our tiny home with just one international student, has over the years added 4 people to our family circle?
   Yes, that is what I'm saying!
    God told the people of ancient Israel  to be kind to the foreigner, remembering that once they had also been foreigners when they sojourned in Egypt.
    My husband and I  try to be obedient when we are sure God is calling us to do something. We would be the first to say that sharing your home temporarily with  a stranger from another land is not always easy.  At the same time, we would both tell you that  nothing we've ever done has brought us as many emotional and spiritual dividends as providing home stay for an international college student.
    All I can think is that when God repeatedly instructed the Israelites to care for the foreigners in their midst, He meant it.  And I think He meant it because, quite simply, He has a heart for people who are far from home and from all that is familiar.
    And also for little people who make hearts out of wet sand, distinguish relatives by the continent they live on and/or came from, and spit water with great joy;)
    As others have said, you cannot outgive God.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day...

     This has been a good Mother's Day but a bit weird.  Phil took me out to eat twice!  Once for Mexican and once to Cracker Barrel, both favorite places with me, which probably says something about my personality but I wouldn't like to find out what...  At any rate, we've sort of celebrated over a two-day period and I, for one, never say no to being pampered!
      On the other hand, we've put some "house projects" on a fast track and things always get messier before they get better. So right now, Phil is masking off the kitchen to paint it - something we've been planning for a while. (He's already warned me not to get too enamored of the blue masking tape because it's not going to be a  permanent fixture - he likes neutral colors (beige, browns, etc) and I love bright colors.   And really, I do sort of like the bright blue masking tape but I'll resist temptation...)  So kitchen stuff is in the living room...  Spare bedroom storage stuff is in transit towards the outside storage building, being put into plastic containers and labeled ...
      At the same time, neighborhood kids have been in and out this weekend.  (Someone had the rims off their bike stolen and then somehow, said rims magically reappeared only to have the whole blooming bike disappear and then magically reappear... Basically kid drama that somehow escalates into tears and lots of animated discussion and then, thankfully, fizzles out...).  David's friends have been in and out this weekend.  So we have young guys and tall, muscular guys - usually with a bird sitting on someone's shoulder - and somehow the grown-up guys help the smaller guys solve their dilemmas while our door literally seems to be a revolving one at times and our phone rings off the wall.
     And for some weird reason, I like this (all except for the phone part).  Even though it can be stress at times, I just like having a full house, young people coming and going. (But I have to admit that I also like the fact that David and his friends can drive themselves where they need to be - I've done my time as carpool mom!)  So the coming and going, guys lifting weights and then playing chess on our small kitchen table while Skyping friends overseas; boys complaining about bike thieves who turn out not to be bike thieves, wanting their tires aired up when the bikes turn out just to have been borrowed; kids  wanting to tag along to the gym with the older guys; everyone deciding that David's bird should really be called Frost Bite because  Snow Flake got a little stressed by all the coming and going and showed his displeasure by trying to bite the multiple, proverbial hands that were offered for him to perch on-  all of that has been part and parcel of my Mother's Day Weekend:)
     In the midst of this, I've had some sinus stuff stuff going on which is par for the course for Arkansas in Spring. (Not to mention summer, autumn, and winter). But I had medicine so that wasn't a big deal. In other words, things were rocking along pretty normally for our household when last night, at 10:30, I got what seemed to be a great idea. I was going over a book study that I was going to teach today after church, reviewing  the main points of the lesson, when I suddenly saw a way to revamp the entire thing.  I won't bore you with the details but somehow, this led to me being outside at 12:45 a.m., barefoot and in my housecoat searching for rocks.  That I could write on.
     And that's how my son found me when he came home from the movies - his overweight, geriatric, barefooted mom gathering white rocks out of the flower bed in the wee hours of the morning.  (It's hard to write legibly on a rock with a Sharpie, in case you are wondering...)  I don't know if it's good or bad that he pretty much took this in stride, simply asking me if everything was okay and then going inside when I muttered something about needing rocks for the book study.:) Phil said I should have told him that we were losing our rocks around here...
   This morning I woke up fairly early, still wired about the upcoming lesson, trying to fit it all together in my mind. I went for a walk and worked on memory verses out of James 3 to try to get my heart stilled and focused enough for worship.  And then the day was fully launched  - Sunday School, worship service, book study!  Sunday school was good as it always is.  During worship, I did my last session in the nursery for a while and really, couldn't seem to do anything right.  If I picked up a baby, their little face would screw up and they'd start wailing. Not kidding...   Someone else could take the child and they'd be fine.  If I tried to give a kid a bottle, they'd push it away and start wailing. If I tried to burp them - you guessed it - they'd start wailing.  I didn't even know how to fix the one bottle that I had to fix; clearly, my knowledge about little ones is totally obsolete.  The only thing that hadn't changed since my day was diaper changing.  I guess even modern technology can't transform that chore. So I changed one diaper successfully and that was about it.
    Then straight to the book study where everything (thank you, Lord!) fell into place and the rocks, the band aids (super-size, no ouch ones - also part of my midnight brainwave for the lesson, also something you can write on - a bit easier than the rocks, actually) - at any rate, it  all seemed to work together well to get a single message across - that God brings good things out of the hard places in our lives. (Romans 8:28).   And then a late lunch as well as  a long nap before getting up to speed on house projects once more.
    Really, this whole weekend has been like a kaleidoscope of faces, voices, activities, angst, laughter, headaches, frustration, satisfaction all jumbled into one short time period.  And now, as I reflect back on it all, I wish I could freeze frame it and keep it  for a while.  Because I know some day the house will be too still and too quiet, the birds, kids, bikes, insults, laughter, and tears will be just echoes in my mind and nothing else.  And I know that when that time comes, I will miss all this.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

One, Two, and Three Hersey Bar Days.. :)

  It's been a crazy day... No, that's wrong.. It's been a crazy week.  And it's only half over:)
  I worked with toddlers at church on Sunday as a pinch-hitter. I still can't decide if they were more like a swarm of bees or a hill of ants.  I do know the little people were everywhere.  Running, crawling, tumbling (on mats), pulling toys off shelves, crying, laughing, grabbing at my glasses, dropping sippy cups everywhere  - I'm pretty sure we covered the gamut of toddler emotions and favorite things to do.  Thank goodness that the other two women in that room knew what they were doing!  The kids' faces were as sweet as can be (when they weren't crying or trying to hit each other.. Ha!).  But there were a little too many of them for my toddler-coping skills.  The other ladies seemed to take everything in stride. Me? I came home, took two aspirin and went to bed. ..
   Monday is always a little busy.  This Monday was no exception! But it was a good day and I accomplished some things that needed to be done.
   Tuesday morning I  got a phone call out of the blue asking me to consider subbing next year from Sept. to Christmas break.  I was hoping I'd get a call saying I'd won the lottery... even though I don't buy lottery tickets.  (Seems like other people have won the lottery without buying tickets.. or is that my imagination?)
   I didn't consider the call asking me to sub to be the same as winning the lottery by any means!  However,  I did promise to pray about it.  And I have done that.  Now,  over 24 hours later, I'm still praying only tonight my prayers are:  "Lord, show them who else to call...."   At any rate, I went to my husband's work to talk to him  about the job offer. Then I went to school to discuss things with some of my friends there.  The bottom line is that I would love to work with my former colleagues again but not at the price of subbing for three and a half months!
   When I get calls like that from nowhere, I turn to chocolate. Hit the Hersey's twice yesterday.
   Today?  Let's just say it  was a three Hersey  Day:)  I have wanted to do Home Stay with internationals again, after a hiatus of about 10 years. But I never felt like we had the time once our son hit middle school.  Recently, I heard of a need for home stay and just really wanted to do it. Our son is grown. I'm retired.  It just seemed like it would be a neat thing to get back into the program.   But at the same time, it would mean some shifting around in the house to get ready, etc.  Change, basically. So I didn't follow through on this desire.
   The opportunity to volunteer came a second time; again I wanted to do it and yet I was still  unsure. I felt like there were so many others out there who would jump at the chance to take in an international, people with bigger houses than ours.  However, I began praying about it  and yesterday I told the Lord that if a third call went out asking for volunteers, I'd talk to my husband and if he was in favor of it, I'd say yes.
    Sure enough, this morning there was one more call for volunteers to open up their homes.  I talked to my husband and my son and they were both for it.  So suddenly  things went into high gear around here as  we began  rearranging the spare bedroom (i.e., transforming it from a storage area back into a bedroom), thinking about how it would all work from day to day, researching the student's country to see what their native language is and what types of food they like to eat (bananas, beans, and potatoes - we're good!),  and last but not least, wondering if there is a student out there who likes rat terriers and thinks nothing of seeing a person walk through the house with a cockatiel sitting  on his shoulder:)      At this point,  I still don't know if we'll be allowed the privilege of having an international student live with us again but in the hopes that we will, things are in full swing at the Abernathy house in order to get ready for our new  family member.
Then... Sigh...
Now... Ha!
    I love doing things like this once the person is actually here.  But as I began to pull extraneous stuff (blankets, pictures, clothes that I think I might be able to get into again  some day, purses (that are still good!), a box of Christmas decorations, etc) out of the guest room, I found that today was not a two Hersey bar day but rather a three Hersey bar day!
    Still, I wouldn't trade this day for anything.  We've prayed together, laughed together and  at times, looked at each other with raised eyebrows like, "Are you crazy or am I?"  Only the bird seems to have taken everything in his stride:) For us, it's an exciting thing, to know that someone new from another country may be part of our lives within a few weeks. Our experiences in the past with home stay have been good and in one case, our "temporary" family member became a permanent family member!  So cool!
   On the other hand,  if it doesn't work out this time around, then we'll still have the guest bedroom straightened out and orderly.  So whatever the result, something good will come from it.  But of course, I'm hoping we'll get to reach out to someone, knowing we will be blessed in return.
   Also hoping we will maintain Hersey altitude at 3 bars and holding or  throttle  back down to two or even one tomorrow.  Then yogurt by Friday... :)


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Not a Spiritual Cent, Centavo, Denarius, Shekel...

     I see LOL (laugh out loud) a lot these days. But the truth is, I've reached that stage of life where I have to Think Out Loud because the years have taken a toll on my brain cells and I need to not only think, but also say and hear what I'm trying to process, just for good measure.  And now, I'm also reduced to seeing my thoughts on "paper" soooo... think of this blog as an adult version of the toy my child used to play with, a plastic contraption called "See and Say"...  Basically, today, I'm trying to "see and say" my way through new ideas, at least for me...:)
     I finished  Russell Stendal's book last night and in it, he includes a brief lesson on the Beatitudes.  And it's that lesson I'm trying to sift through and sort out in my own mind this morning.
     I'm familiar with the beatitudes (and even got to see the Mount of Beatitudes when I was in Israel - too cool!).  They are the "blessed are the..." Scriptures which start off the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-10.
   Once I asked some teen-agers to read over these verses and tell me what came to mind as they read them.  The kids came from  a mix of various backgrounds. Most of them didn't understand the verses.  Two of them were actually offended.  Doesn't God mean for us to be happy????  Well then, God doesn't want us to be poor! He wants us to be rich!
   Well, yes.. and no... I mean, blessings should bring smiles to our hearts, I would think. And God's blessings should be like riches in the bank, again in my way of thinking.  And sometimes His blessings definitely include money and possessions and when that happens, it's a good thing.  But His ultimate blessings, I think, go so much deeper. And sometimes extra cash and excessive possessions can get in the way of those blessings... the best ones.
   I think that is what James means when he writes, "Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"  James 2.  It's not that God doesn't love the wealthy.  He loves them and He is, by definition, the giver of all good things.  But if you read the Bible, you have to admit that God seems to like the poor as well.  And that in His economy, richer is not always better. (Luke 16:13-15)
    At any rate,  the opening statement of Christ's most famous sermon is undeniably:
   Blessed are those who are poor in spirit...
   I don't think I've ever heard a sermon start off that way, myself, except for this one by Christ Himself. I think maybe Christ was not a crowd-pleasing preacher... Just a thought...
   At any rate, Stendal thinks that the Beatitudes are not only important for what they say. which is admittedly, kind of shocking,  but also for the order in which they say it. In other words, he feels that the Beatitudes build on each other, lead to each other.
   Looking at these verses as a progression from one to another, this is how the "Blessed are's..." pans out for him (according to my loose paraphrase of his ideas):
 1.   Blessed are those who know that they don't have a spiritual cent to their names; who know that they are spiritual beggars who have absolutely nothing to offer to God.  They come to God in abject neediness and He welcomes them into His kingdom. Awesome!

  2.  Blessed are those who now belong to God, whose eyes have been opened - who see the blackness of their sin because they see it the way God sees it - and now they grieve for those sins.  Those that mourn will be comforted by God Himself.  By God... Himself... Amazing!

  3.  Blessed are those who learn to obey their king - who are meek in that they single-mindedly ditch their agenda in order to follow His.  AS they meekly submit to Him, He  leads them into deeper spiritual territory, even into warfare, giving them a strong desire for His righteousness, writing His law on their new hearts...

 4.   Blessed are those who are now hot on the spiritual trail, hungering  and thirsting  for His righteousness.  Because He gives what they now crave in abundance!  At the same time, lesser things - like acquiring stuff, getting revenge, and receiving admiration - these things drop off the radar screen. Which leads to the next Blessing!

 5.  Blessed are those who are now able to show mercy! For as they show mercy to people they once hated, ignored, or even used in order to get ahead,  they will receive more and more of God's mercy. To paraphrase something LeTourneau said (thanks, Greg!), Christ-followers shovel (money, mercy, etc) into God's work and He shovels it right back. Only He has a bigger shovel!  

  6.   Blessed are those whose hearts are  now becoming more and more pure.  For as righteousness and mercy push out unrighteousness and bitterness,  hearts become purer, spiritual vision becomes clearer (cataracts are removed!) and it becomes  easier  to see Him and know Him as He really is - in all His purity. And those who see God are definitely blessed.

 7.   Blessed are those  merciful, pure-hearted people who now seek to make peace everywhere they go, who pray to be able to bring God's peace into every meeting they attend, every heart they encounter. Clearly, people like these can only belong to God; they are His true children.

 8.   Blessed are those who are persecuted because they live and walk according to a kingdom that is not of this world.
      This is a tough one... Yet it happens and God said it would.  Serving at the pleasure of a foreign King against the displeasure of the Prince of this World.  Living as ambassadors but also like aliens and exiles, longing for home where forgiveness, peace, and love are the norm - where God is... Yet, at the same time, determined to carry out  royal assignments, even if it kills us - which sometimes, honestly, it does.
      So how is there a blessing in this....?
     A view of the old gate of Bayero University in Kano, where 16 people were killed in an attack on a Catholic mass Sunday.                                                      

Red Cross: 21 killed in Nigeria at university church service

    For the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.... That's the blessing in even this.  Not a blessing from our human point of view.  But...
   That's only because we haven't seen the Father's kingdom yet in all its glory.
    They have...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When Pigs Fly...

     Sunday night, I couldn't sleep and then,  just as I was about to go back to bed, my husband woke up. It was three a.m. but I wasn't surprised - in fact, I was expecting  to hear him stirring in the wee hours of the morning.  I knew that Monday would be the start of a new position for him and new beginnings always seem to walk hand-in-hand with a little anxiety, at least for us.  And anxiety - well, it always seems to come a'callin' about 3 in the morning.
      Fighting sleeplessness just makes it worse, I've finally learned.  So I decided, "Why not laugh?  This is as good a time as any..."  Earlier in the evening, as Phil slept,  I had been trying hard not to laugh out loud while reading Rescue the Captors by Russell Stendal.  I like missionary stories - high adventure, stories about what God is doing in other places.  But I seldom find myself shaking with laughter when I read a book like that.  This time, however, was different.
      Russell, as I mentioned in the last blog, was a missionary pilot who routinely flew over the jungles of Columbia.  His parents had moved the whole family to Columbia in order to  serve as translators with Wycliffe; at the time, Russell  was eight-years old.  There's nothing unusual about taking your kids with you when you move. What was unusual is that the whole idea of the move originated with  Russell.
     When he was four-years-old, his father mistakenly thought to improve Russell's young mind by simply reading to him about Indians in South America. The book he brought home, however, was more graphic than he  realized and to his young son's horror, it showed the native men getting drunk and fighting with machetes, complete with blood streaming from their wounded bodies. Russell was shocked and asked his father why they lived like that.  His dad replied that he guessed they didn't know any better. Russell demanded to know why they didn't know better. The dad said probably no one had told them there was a better way to live.  Russell, with the tenacity of a child, wouldn't let this drop - it was a serious matter to him.   The dad explained that he guessed no one cared enough to go over there and help them.  To this, Russell looked up at his dad (who could do anything!) and said, "You care about them, don't you, Dad?  You could go help them!"
      The dad was stunned and then, stumbling around for an answer, hit on the perfect reply.  He told Russell that you can't just get up and go to a foreign country, that first you have to be called by God to do missionary work and then you have to be trained. And then you have to raise finances, all of which takes time.  He ended his satisfactory explanation by telling Russell that maybe he could be a missionary some day when he grew up.
      Good work, Dad!  Handled that well!
      Only, before the father could congratulate himself on a timely answer to his young son's question, he saw Russell get on his knees and heard his son simply ask God to call his mom and his dad to be missionaries so he wouldn't have to wait until he had grown up to help the people in his new book...  :)
       Four years later, the family was on their way to Columbia as Wycliffe translators...
       So what does this have to do with flying pigs?  Well, sometimes missionary work is not what you think it is...
       When Russell was a grown man and a missionary in his own right, he allowed his brother to talk him into something that was, shall we say, um... not wise.  The remote station he was on needed supplies but they had no money for the month.  So Russell's brother talked him into taking their 250 pound hog (she's been raised like a pet... really tame.... won't give you any trouble...) on a 90 minute flight to the nearest town.  The idea was that Russell could sell the hog and use the money to buy supplies.
      Russell was skeptical so his brother gave him the assurance that he thought he needed - Chad promised to tie the hog's feet together and to knot the rope so tightly that that knot would never come loose.  Later, Russell realized that he didn't need assurance that the knot wouldn't come loose - what he  needed  was assurance that the pig's feet wouldn't come loose...
     Several men loaded this unhappy porker onto Russell's little Cessna, putting the hog in the area behind the pilot and co-pilot's seats.  The pig's feet were duly trussed and Russell began barreling down the runway in his little plane. When he began to throttle back to become airborne, gravity took over and the pig went skidding into the rear end of the plane, crashing through the metal baggage compartment. Russell was just barely able to get the wheels back on the runway and bring the plane to a stop before the runway ended.
     To his surprise, the cone of the plane was not damaged and his friends came on board to put the now angst-ridden porker back in her original place. Only this time, Russell took one of the seat belts, which was anchored to the floor, and cinched it between the pig's feet, which were still tied together and held by that reassuring, can't-fail knot.  So now the pig was knotted and grounded...
   This time Russell got airborne and after thirty minutes of listening to the protests of the pig, he began to think the trip was going to be a piece of cake. Then he heard the pig beating against the wall of the plane with her rather ample rear end.  He looked back and to his horror, saw that the pig had gotten her hind feet out of the rope and was twisting with all her might.  As he watched, she managed to break the latch on one of the side doors and then, in a matter of seconds,  her impressive derriere was dangling outside the plane while her front feet were held tightly by the seat belt/rope arrangement, said knot still proudly doing it's job.
    Being a pig and not understanding issues of altitude, the animal started  stretching her hind feet as far as she could, trying to reach terra firma. Which, ain't gonna happen 6,000 feet above ground... But the pig didn't know that.  So she kept reaching for the stars.. uh... the dirt.. while Russell jumped out of the pilot's seat and tried frantically to get the animal's rear end back into the plane.
    Ever tried to pull a hundred pounds of an unhappy pig's hind quarters back into a plane that no one is flying?  Let's just say it didn't work...  Then Russell noticed that the plane was making a lazy turn to the right so this gave him an idea. Why not let gravity do the job?  He jumped back into the pilot's seat and banked the plane so that gravity would be on his side and hopefully raise the pig's hind end higher than its front end.  As he put the plan into motion, he could see that it was starting to work so he put a little more height on the turn and then jumped up to shut the door as soon as the pig's feet came back inside the craft.  Unfortunately, just as he got to the pig, the hind quarters came free and the animal went skidding across the plane, taking Russell with it.  They careened into the door on the opposite side of the craft and this time, Russell's rear end was the one  dangling out an open door. But not to worry - the pig was lying on top of him so he couldn't fall out... Ha!
      He managed to reach out with his hand and grab an iron bar and then he proceeded to hit the pig over the head with it.  This was .. a mistake.  First, the pig had so much fat cushioning her head that the iron bar didn't change her mind about moving.  Second, it did make her royally ticked, however.  Third, it gave her a focal point for her frustration - Russell - whom she proceeded to shower with her  displeasure, literally, as she  released her bladder and her intestines.
     Not good...
      Somehow, he managed to get out from under her - I think it helped when she shifted her body so that she could get a better shot at biting his ankle...  He got back into the pilot's seat - which was a good thing since he had two doors with broken latches and they were both flapping in the breeze at this point.  And besides, a plane sort of needs a pilot...
     The pig, now centered where she should be, pursued her goal of biting Russell's foot so he sat on his right leg, trying to keep it as far away from her as he could while using  one hand to hang onto the door behind  him so that the slipstream wouldn't mess with the craft's balance so much.
      During this time, his right foot went to sleep but his prayer life picked up!!!
      Finally, by the grace of God, he made it to his destination, pig and all.  (And I haven't even told you about the donkeys on the runway... Or trying to land using one foot and one hand..)
      As I recounted this story to Phil, we were both rolling on the bed, laughing uncontrollably. At four in the morning, no less.  It did occur to me during this time to wonder what our twenty-one year-old son would think if he could hear us guffawing hysterically in the stillness of pre-dawn.  I think he sometimes wonders if we are losing it as it is. But he said he never heard us so that was good.
    But after the laughter had died down, I kept thinking about the knot.  The one that was supposed to fix everything, keep the pig in place, etc.  I wondered how many times I have moved forward, confident that problem A wouldn't happen simply because I had a human guarantee, so to speak,  in my pocket. Only to find, that, yes, the promise held. But it was a solution for the wrong problem. The "pig" came lose anyway  as it were...

   I guess I'm saying that it's a good idea to lay our plans before God and wait on Him before we go hauling off with incomplete guarantees. (I sort of think that God would have nixed the 250-pound-porker-in-the-plane  thing had Russell run it by Him first.).
  Also that worry is pretty useless because we don't even know what to worry about lots of times.  We're off worrying about problem A, not even knowing that problem B  exists.  God knows all of it. And He's told us flatly not to worry.  (Philippians 4:6-7)  We are to pray instead - something Russell did a lot of.. only after the pig had kicked open two doors and done his thing.  It's usually better to pray before the pig breaks the door latches...
  And sometimes, not always but sometimes, when anxiety comes knockin' at your door, laughter is also knocking, maybe not  as loudly but still there if you look for it.    So the next time you wake up at 3 in the morning in a cold sweat, wondering what the day or week will bring, worrying because you can't sleep and you need to, just remember: sometime pigs do fly:)
  And God specializes in knotty problems...
 Daniel was brought into the king's presence...[who told him] "I've heard that you can give interpretations and solve knotty problems..."  Daniel 5:13, 16
 Daniel's life assurance, the promise in his pocket so to speak:  "...there is a God in Heaven who unlocks mysteries.."  (Daniel 2:28) and "... holds your very breath in his hands, and to whom belongs everything you do."  (Daniel 5:23)  The Complete Jewish Bible.

Pray first.... :)