Keep your eyes open

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Sep 302012

Sometimes I forget that I am in a third world country. It is easy to have days where you forget between our home being behind a fifteen foot wall, internet access, skype meetings, and social media. Even being driven around, at times I get caught up in what the kids are doing inside the vehicle, or talking and laughing with others. But then I take a walk, and I am completely brought back to reality. The sights, the smells (mostly burning), and the sounds. Seeing what is considered, in America, as dilapidated buildings. Hearing car horns honking (it is a courtesy here to let pedestrians know you are driving near them), and not being able to comprehend most of what anyone says when we walk by. I tend to just shut down, stop looking around and not look anyone in the eye. But I realized this is not because of where I am, but where I come from. We are taught that if you walk in downtown Portland not to make eye contact with anyone, don’t speak to anyone, and keep to yourself. This is the opposite of loving our neighbor and being a light to the world. As Robin and I grabbed a taxi to go pick up dinner, and the taxi (a compact car type) already had two adults in it, my tendency is to not even look at anyone. However as I realized my reaction, and we pulled over to drop them off, I looked back to see an older couple who eagerly waved goodbye and smiled sincerely. In America, if anyone was even willing to share a taxi they almost certainly would not be happy about it. There are areas that are best to stay away from, usually noted by Robin as we walk by, like this afternoon’s “Be careful around here, that is a bar”. Helpful, but alarming as you walk by. At one point Robin asked a police officer if everything was okay with a guy we could hear screaming around the block, to which the reason of drunkenness was given. There are reminders all around of dangerous possibilities, but I need to not shut myself off from the people around me as my own delusional protection. There is a difference between wisely cautious and cowardly doubt.

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,  but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.  And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-33

Flowers in Dormancy

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Jun 052012

While driving through a Central American country, one of the first things I noticed was the dried up vegetation and dustiness of the land. Although we were told that in merely a few weeks the vegetation would be green and lush, it currently looked brown and dormant. It was a scene of houses made of unpainted wood and sometimes metal, landscapes of just dirt or sometimes brown vegetation and fences of barbed wire or wood. It seemed everywhere I looked was bleak and saddening. Then all of a sudden I noticed these beautiful flowers of purple growing along the fence of a house and slowly began noticing them along the fences of almost every house. Among a background of brown these vibrant flowers were like a breath of fresh air.

I began thinking about these flowers that seemed to thrive while most vegetation looked like it was hanging on for dear life. I inquired about them and was told they were Bougainvilleas, that they only bloom during the dry season and while most vegetation is lush these plants are like flowerless vines. This made me recall the last few months where I felt like I was dormant and immobilized in my circumstances. Struggling to bridge the gap of what I know in my heart to be true and what was occurring psychologically. I was like the dusty, dried up ground vegetation hanging on for dear life. It was only in the few weeks approaching this trip that I felt as though I was breaking through these walls. And more than that, had felt God was revealing to me some of the reasons He had allowed certain events which forced me to depend on Him and trust in His plan for me. Knowing He is always in control even when I can’t see past the darkness surrounding me. In my life He was that element that was making these flowers bloom amongst these normally hostile conditions.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I had realized entering into this trip that without these difficult situations I had been placed in, I would have been coming from a very different place both spiritually and mentally. It had been easy for me to say I trust God all the while clutching on to some of the control. But these circumstances had brought me to my knees and showed me how powerless I truly am while He allowed me a glimpse of His power. So that while on this trip I truly could acknowledge that I was not in control at all but could rest in the peace of knowing that He was completely in control.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1b-2

Without Him my life would be like that colorless scene of dried up vegetation, but walking with Him is what allows those flowers in me to bloom and grow.