Sunday, September 25, 2011

Clarity for Conversion

The more I travel the clearer it is to me that humans do not communicate with as much as we communicate at each other. I don't mean to imply that we don't care if our message is clear. By all accounts we care very much. The most read How To...books are are about the lack of communication in marriage, parenting, friendships, politics, and, whatever your hot button issue happens to be. Not surprisingly mine is the Gospel. Wait for it! I can hear you sputtering now, "Which gospel?" and I appreciate your desire for clarity - hence this blogert (effort to explain by blog).
I just concluded a three week trip to Zimbabwe and, as a result spent hours going through security in airports, government compounds and road blocks. As I left on my trip I began by stripping myself of all metal objects for the screening. Not good enough. Seems the gum wrapper in my back pocket was one of the items to be removed before screening. Setting aside the debate over the potential for mayhem found in sugar free (paper, I might add) gum wrapper, I confess what I heard was, "remove all metal objects" when what was said (yes I hung around for the next announcement) was, "remove all objects..."
Naturally, I did the same thing while being screened in Ethiopia only to find that some objects, whether metal of otherwise, were Ok (eye glasses for instance) and was treated as a "slow" child in the class as I took off my shoes. My defense mechanism was to choose anger. These people must be "bad" screeners because they don't do it "right." They, on the other hand, considered me to be the "bad" screenee." Of course there was truth in both given your ethnicity or nationality. Every effort by both officials to announce clearly the procedures was lost on those for whom the local language and/or dialect was foreign.
Is it any wonder that so many people who enter our churches find themselves uncomfortable because there are so many "assumption possibilities" from where to park to when to stand the closing prayer/reading/greeting. So...don't expect guests (or some infrequent members) to understand what you thought you said in response to the question they didn't actually ask.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Hunt

It is before 7 AM in Chiredzi – too early to be able to see the clock – and I am watching my Grand Niece & Nephew (Isabelle & Noah) as they go on an adventure in their back yard. I see a four year old and 2.5 year old walking through a dirt yard spotted with leafless bushes, thorn trees, and sparse, dry patches of grass. There is the occasional pawpaw tree and bamboo growth to add color.
What they see is so much better. They see giant trees to be used as cover from the vicious occupants (beetles, scorpions, spiders and geckos) with deadly poisons. They each hold the handle of the bag holding their survival gear with one hand and their weapons (he a sword [what else?] and she a bow and arrow). The fact that they are actually holding a couple chopsticks does not lessen their courage only found in being well armed.
I cannot hear what they are hunting for, but, since it is the first birthday of their twin brothers, Jonah & Samuel, I assume it is for an appropriate gift to bear to their mother for wrapping and presentation at the appropriate time. Mother will, no doubt, be thrilled.
Dear Heavenly Father, may I be re-visioned with the eyes to see this great creation of yours as a place of new adventure and opportunity. Help me see these chopsticks in my hands as your sword and shield. Give me the courage to use the chopsticks with which you have armed me as courageously and with the same expectation of success as these two precious children. Please help me know that you will accept my meager gift with joy to be admired and used at the appropriate time, Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Sign of Jonah

Like a lot of young men, my wedding day was a day to be endured. I – quite clearly – remember thinking that it would not be the first day I would endure to maintain a strong bond with the woman with whom I truly wanted to share the rest of my life. It is all a bit of a haze of early morning, nervous eating, awkward clothing, stiff ceremony, and, all to lengthy reception.
But God is good and gave me a second chance to have a great first day of marriage. Since the Shona culture requires a wedding in first the home of the bride and then in the home of the groom, Judi and I were required to fly to Zimbabwe to go through the whole process again. Judi was thrilled to be able to wear her wedding dress and I, on the night before that second service, had a chance to thank God for this most important of days that would never be repeated but would always be remembered with growing joy and deeper commitment.
Of these kinds of days, Jill Carattini managing editor of A Slice of Infinity RZIM, says, “There are moments in our lives when we realize that we are beholding the carving of a day into the great tree of history.” 9/11/2001 was certainly one of those days. Just as we recall more than the wedding day each anniversary so we recall more than the tragedy this tenth year after the World Trade Center was attacked and so many died.
We remember the unity of what was a divided nation. We remember the common front of a divided national leadership. We remember the bravery of the first responders and countless volunteers who streamed across the country to do “whatever is needed.” We remember how generous our fellow Americans showed themselves to be – again. We remember how everyone looked to God for strength, courage, and, of course, answers. Each year we continue to look for answers.
God’s answer continues to be for us what it was for the people of His day. The sign of Jonah.