Monday, February 17, 2014

Something Different On The Menu Of Life

Some people are adventurous, some are not. Some people like variety others do not.  I'm somewhere in the middle.

While I don't like whitewater rafting, I do like bungee jumping. They both are done here, on the same river. While I have no desire to be in a boat on the river it seems to make perfect sense to hang upside down from a rope 60 feet above that same river.

While I don't live in the bush of Karamoja, I do live in Africa, a place I had never expected to end up when I was younger and unsaved.  But it seems fairly normal now.

When my friend Don brings over an empty tear gas canister that was used to disburse the crowd on the street below his apartment (which had nothing to do with him personally with the exception of his wife having to hide in the bathroom to escape the gas)  I think, "Cool!"

Or when a friend passing through town wants to cook a lizard, "No problem."

So it came as no surprise last night when Ben came out with a plate of roasted meat and said "Bev, wants you to try this before it gets cold."   It looked really good and tasted good too.  Mystery meat! This was not our usual Monday night burger!

What was it?  Think of the song "Hakuna Matata" without the bigger animal. Poomba has come for supper. Yup, BEV'S newest favorite fast food restaurant is "Wartaburger!"

The Christian life is this way.

Putting all the foolishness aside, or more accurately putting it on, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (I Corinthians 1:21 NKJV)

You never know what is going to be on the menu of life each day. As Jesus told Nicodemus "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NKJV)  Following Jesus, being led by the Holy Spirit is the best and greatest adventure you can have. Everyday is different even when it seems the same. There are always people to love, people share your faith with.

Challenges can seem harrowing but whether you are on the rapids with the whitewater towering over your head or in a storm on the lake, Jesus is in the boat. Even hanging upside down over the river holding on to the seemingly thin rope of faith we live the adventure of following Jesus.

Sometimes you don't know what the main course for dinner will be but I know it will be good. Jesus is just that way working all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  What will Jesus have in my life today? I wonder what's on the menu today? I don't know but I'm sure it will be deliciously exciting.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Greatest Tool

I love tools. I like to use them, I like to feel them in my hand. Hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers all make me feel good.. Saws are a little bit different because if you don't take the proper time you end up cutting the wrong piece or cut the piece the wrong length. You have to really watch what you do with a saw. But other tools are much easier to use and the danger of misusing them is significantly less.

Let me give you some examples. The hammer is a great tool. You can drive  a nail with it .You can tap things into place or even beat things into place. The choice is yours according to the skill level you have. Of course you could use a rock but it just doesn't have the same balance as the hammer does or project the same aura of craftsmanship or power. Do you want to be Fred Flintstone, a rock pounder, or John Henry, a steel driving man.

Screwdrivers are fun because they are so vesatile. You can pry with it or clean gradoo (crud that builds or collects on things) even tighten or loosen screws. The whole world of appliance repair is at your fingertips when you hold a screwdriver. Wives go crazy over a husband who can fix their blow dryer.(she doesn't need to know that you have no idea how you fixed it).

Wrenches are great, too! Give a man a cheap wrench set and an hour to play with it and he can have your automobile reduced to a pile of nuts, bolts and strange, wonderous parts that do who knows what. Great advancements in scientific discovery have been brought aboutt from wrenches.The whole medical field of psyhcology began when Sigmund Freud dismanteled his wife's Buick. Working on the car's rearend he told her, "Vhat difference does it make? Now that it is taken apart we can't go back." Thus bringing about the term Freudian slip, or more precisely, Freudian nonslip differential.

But seriously the greatest tool I have ever had in my hand is the word of God. It fits perfectly in my hand. It has great balance when used properly. It can gently tap and align the wayward soul back to Christ or beat into rubble those strongholds that stand against Him. It can cut to the heart of the most defiant sinner or cutoff  the legs of the worst false teachers leaving them no place to stand.

It can pry into the heart to uncover sin and then clean up all the crud that has accumulated in our lives. It can dismantle all the strongholds of the evil one and put us on the rock where our feet do not slip.When we carry and use God's word we are fully equipped to meet all the challenges and problems in life. No other tool can make this claim.

How much would you pay for one tool that could handle every job, that is easy to use because it comes with a full set of instructions It even has a built in support line, the Holy Spirit! All you have to do is get a copy and read it. What is there that you can't love about this offer? Nothing.

That is a tool I can love and use daily. Can you?  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Finding Your Place

I am jealous. I am jealous of my wife, Bev.

We are flying from Reno to Greenville, S.C. and the look on her face explains it all. As we land in Dallas to change planes it is obvious that she has come home. Home to her is Texas. It doesn't matter where in Texas she just wants to be in Texas. I believe that if she was being robbed at gunpoint she would smile because she is in Texas. What is it about this state that makes it more than a location to those who were born here? As we passed from New Mexico airspace to the cloudy skies of Texas a serene smile slid across her face. She was home.

We will not actually visit now but we will in a few weeks. But it is enough for her just to breathe the air at DFW airport as we pass through.

I am jealous because there is no place like Texas in my life. I have places where I used to live and these places evoke strong memories but for Bev, Texas is more than memories. It is the future and the present all at one time. I think the closest I can come to this feeling is heaven.

The idea of heaven intrigues me and occupies a big space in my mind. I have a future there and my citizenship is there. But to say that I know what it is like or what it will be like is too much for me to fathom.

For the day will come when we will go there and see Jesus. We will worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now we need the Spirit to worship God but when the day comes we will know even as we are fully known. Then the smile on our faces will tell the story. We will have survived our temporal lives and arrived at the Holy city of God. I think that explains Bev's current smile.

She can understand the idea of a perfect place. After all she is from Texas and for her that is as close to perfection as the earth gets.

Now if they could just do something about the Dallas Cowboys.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Red Eyed Monster

Ahem, that red eyed monster would be me. Or that would be me with jet lag. What else would get someone out of bed at 3:00 am when that very person just wants to sleep? That's right the international, trans-time-zonal afflicter of sleeplessness, jet lag.

My eyes are red, and puffy and I don't look good today. And there is good reason why this is happening. It is not noon as my body insists it is.  It is early morning and I should be asleep but no, I am up wondering why I am up.

I have to admit that there is an element of divine retribution. Many visitors to Jinja arrive in the same kind of condition that I am in. Unfortunately for them if they arrive on a Wednesday it means they will attend evening Bible study and I see them struggle to stay awake but they just can't do it. I get a laugh watching their faces contort trying not to yawn and I chuckle when their faces slowly slide into a vacant expression that can only indicate peaceful, bliss filled rest. And then I ask a question watching heads snap back as they try to appear awake but it is no use. They are out. The lights are on but nobody is home!

 I  understand their problem better now. 

Once, having come back to the USA with a massive head cold and jet lag, the friends we were staying with took us to their favorite restaurant. I was wearing an old baggy gray sweater that had grease stains all over it, (it was the only warm clothing I had) and I got up to go to the rest room. Two little old ladies were just coming out of the women's side. They saw me, gasped, grabbed one another and backpedaled into the ladies room. I thought, "My that was strange." Normally I don't have that effect on little old ladies. I wondered what was up with them.  I hadn't considered my looks as a factor. But peering into the mirror I saw just how bad I looked. Going back to my table I had to pass these two again. I decided to apologize for frightening them. Of course I didn't look any better and because of the massive head and chest cold when I spoke all than came out was a low raspy noise which sounded like Clint Eastwood saying, "Do you feel lucky? Do ya, punk?" and a cat fighting with a chainsaw. Their eyes grew wide with fear and they literally ran from the diner.

Telling Bev what had happened she told me that I should probably save all greetings and subsequent apologies until after I had shaved, combed my hair and my eyes had least some white return to them. A very wise woman, she is.

Now I just have to go wake her up and ask her for more advice. On second thought maybe I'll wait til morning.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

An Excuse to Live

I was diagnosed with PD (Parkinson's disease) in December of 2005. At that time I struggled not to let my identity become "the missionary with PD." I thought it would be simple. I would just act as if the illness didn't exist. I put on a stoic face (that is a part of PD, the mask, which is a loss of  facial expression). It seemed easy enough to do. But as time has gone on the stoic approach has turned out to be a bad idea. It gave me an excuse to hide. It gave me an excuse to get lazy and to stop caring for people. It gave me an excuse to quit.

I imagine others feel this way. Any sort of chronic, debilitating disease can drain the life out of you. You start to look at what you have lost and forget about what you have. As symptoms get worse and you feel the effects more, the illness eats you up and you become the very thing that you swore you would not become.
All the while you think everyone sees you are not the same. That you are crumbling into the dust. But that is far from the truth. Because we personally feel it we think everyone sees it. But it is only our badly distorted view of our lives.

I write this not to get sympathy or attention but to encourage others and myself that if you look only at what has been taken away you will never see the good things the Lord Jesus has put in your life. I know. The depression I have had from PD is minor but I still have to battle it. It still looms like a dark storm in my rear view mirror from which the tornado can appear at any moment. It is exhausting to try to move forward when I am only looking back. My depression is much worse when my life seems to lie in the past and only struggle and death is ahead. I have come to the conclusion that this is nothing but my sinful nature rearing its ugly head. I start to grumble and complain like the Israelites in the desert who did not see the manna and quail for what it was, God's blessings. I overlook the good things God has given me just as the people of Israel did. It gives me an easy excuse to die.

But God has given me the perfect excuse to live. Living life as joyfully as I can. It is a lot more satisfying than giving up. Why should I, or any of us, rob ourselves of our future and cling so desperately to the past?
At a pastors and wives conference this past week, it dawned on me that God had somehow given me a relationship with all these families. They are reminders of the past when our friendships began but more so they remind of of the future. The chance to see them grow in Christ. See their infants become kids, then teenagers. They are now starting to have families themselves and God has given me a front row seat to their lives. Provided I don't decide to sit in the balcony. 

As Bev and I head to America for the first time in three years, I have been afraid of what I will find. Have we been gone too long? Why do I feel more like I am going on a short term mission trip? I am hearing the Lord tell me, "Be at peace." So I am getting excited about seeing family and friends again.

"I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

That is my excuse to live!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Down The Drain

When I first came to Uganda I was very curious as to which way the water would spiral down the drain at the equator. I took it upon myself to test it when I had an opportunity. Since Bev and I only had a shower with no tub I had to do preliminary tests in the kitchen sink. These tests were inconclusive as every time I would attempt this experiment in physics one of the staff members would come in and ask what I was doing.

I love the people here dearly but they really don't have a desire to perform sophisticated drain water spiral analysis as I do. They would walk up to me and ask what was wrong with the sink. "Nothing" I'd reply. To which their answer would always be, "Good, I was afraid you had broken it." (I've always had the suspicion that my wife had told them to say that.) I would then be forced to defend myself and humbly mention that I was the one who fixed everything around here. I can still see the smirk on Bev's face when J.B. slowly pointed at the six ongoing repair projects in the kitchen and said "Like those?" In my defense, those things would have eventually been fixed, if parts had been available.

But finally after 6 months my opportunity came when Bev and I were asked to house sit for some friends. They had no shower, just a bath. So my first experiment in June of 1998 gave conclusive proof that at the summer solstice the water at the equator spirals the same direction as in America. Subsequent tests during the winter solstice showed the water spiraled the other direction. Further test on the spring and fall equinoxes showed that the water doesn't spiral at all but goes straight down the drain. I was so excited about these last findings that I immediately emailed my twin brother, Jim. I still remember his excited response, "You didn't break the tub did you?"

But the most important thing I learned from this is to be happy that the sink drains or the toilet flushes at all.

Homes in Uganda have three styles of toilet. The third world squat style which is little more than hole to a pipe with water in it. Effective but messy.

The US style, which has the tank mounted on the back of the throne, is better. The problem with this style is the African siphon valve used to flush it. They don't work well and many times to flush it you must pump the handle continually until it flushes and then there is not enough water to finish the job or it never flushes and you pump the handle until the water is gone. At this point the water is over and you must wait to try your luck again once the tank is filled. If you try again too soon it will not flush and you have to try yet again. I believe the ancient library in Alexandria began as a restroom and had instructions on how to flush the toilet. This expanded in size with the addition of How-to-books on flushing until the library was formed or the thing finally worked. This tradition carries on today in most American homes.

The third type is the two piece throne and tank. To function properly the tank must be precisely 105 millimeters above the throne. It never does because it never is. This style of loo is readily identifiable by the bucket of water next to the toilet. You just pour it in the bowl and your trouble is over. Plus it also works as a calendar, provided you watch which way the water goes down.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is It Getting Darker... Or Is It Just Not As Light?

As I grow older it seems that my eyes are not as good as they used to be. I can't run in the predawn darkness like I did ten years ago because I just can't see the potholes anymore. (Not to mention that I am completely out of shape.) The dark I referred to is physical darkness. The absence of light.

Africa just seems to steal the light. Ask any newcomer to this continent about driving at night and they will insist that car headlights here are not as powerful as they are elsewhere. Unless of course they are aimed directly in your eyes. Then they are too bright!

So my question now is, "Is it getting darker or is it just not as light?" This is a spiritual question not a physical one. Here is what I mean.

Jesus told us "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Mt.5:14-16

So many of us come here from the western world and forget that we are to bring light. We are to chase the darkness away not make it darker. How do we "lights of the world" fail to do this? We live like the world does.

When we come to a different culture we have to respect that culture's values except where those values conflict with the Bible. An example from here is drinking alcohol. Born again Christians are not allowed to drink. It just is not accepted here. It may be fine in Germany, England, USA or elsewhere but it is not here. When we do this, people see good works as bad works and the light turns to darkness.

Our style of dress can be the thing that steals our light. If a girl's clothing shows an overabundance of skin on the legs or chest even though it might be considered modest, stateside, no one will listen to her no matter how well she shares the gospel or glorifies God in other areas of her life.

Obscene language is just as obscene here as there so leave it there or the darkness starts to encroach.

But just as the car headlights in you eyes make it impossible to see, so our light can do the same to those in the dark. Public displays of affection are not approved here. The President said last week that if he kissed his wife in public he would never win an election.

But we western Christians come and kiss in public and put hands where they don't belong and wonder why no one takes us seriously when we teach on sexual immorality. Our "enlightened" light then blinds those around us.

Homosexuality is a case in point. The western governments are trying to force Africa to accept and ultimately embrace homosexuality. This is not just culturally wrong it is biblically wrong. The light goes completely out when we make the biblical error as well as the cultural error.  Our western view of tolerance has made too many lights for Christ become dim and the darkness will fast overtake the light if we don't live in the light.

Then Jesus said to them,"A little while longer the light is with you.Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going, While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light."
Is it getting darker or is it just not as light?