Sunday, November 24, 2013

In which I arrive at church almost late and with no Bible

Sometimes God just surprises me.
I didn't go to Huacarpay last night, like normal, because I had a promotion party for the 6th graders.  To celebrate both the completion of elementary and then high school, Peruvian students have a promotion party.  Last night was the party for 6th grade and I didn't get home and in bed until at around 12:45 am.
This explains why it was hard for me to extricate myself from the warm cocoon of blankets this morning and convince my eyelids to stay open.  This was one of the days when it took a while.
And then God and I had a talk about how sometimes I feel like my faith is like this chloroformed laboratory frog that I'm trying to figure out and dissect.  I mean, I've got the Bible (in several versions and languages), I've got a ton of books telling me how to live it out.  But sometimes, I feel like I'm just reading and going through the motions, not really living it out.  Sometimes I feel like I read too much, know too much, and live it too little.  Maybe the rest of you haven't ever felt like that, but I have.  It's not like my relationship with God isn't real, but I want it to be more real and I want to figure out how to live it every day and in every situation.  I heard this testimony the other day of a guy who had an incredible divine appointment in a guitar shop and really showed God's love to the guy he met up with.  Made me wish I knew how to live out love like Jesus did.  Made me wish I would have showed more love yesterday and I knew how to show it every day.  
And then I got out of bed and there was no water in my house.  This isn't a terribly uncommon situation, but it is rather frustrating.  So I started heating up water to take a bucket bath.  As the water was heating, I was doing other things, when I suddenly looked at the clock and realized that I wanted to leave in about 15 minutes.  So I hurried through my bath, praying "God, please send me a bus to get to church on time!"  I got ready and ran out of the house only about 5 minutes after I'd wanted to leave originally.
I stood on the sidewalk praying "God, please send me a bus!", realizing that if any passed me by without stopping, I'd probably be late to church.  So I started trying to get anything to stop.  On a whim, I decided to try to stop a bus headed to Puno, a town on Lake Titicaca, about 7 hours away.  And, wonder of wonders, it actually stopped.  Both the fact that I tried to get it to stop and the fact that it did are strange in themselves.
I climbed aboard after the driver assured me he'd stop in Huacarpay.  It was a bus in which the passengers are in a compartment separated from the driver's compartment by a wall and a door.  The driver indicated that I should sit in the empty seat in the driver's compartment and I sat, amazed that I actually got to ride to church sitting down and thanking God that I actually got a bus to stop.
And then the driver started asking me about myself, where I was from and what I was doing here, if I enjoy Cusco, if I've learned Quechua, all the normal stuff.  Then he asks me if I like chicha, the local corn beer.  (What a random question, but whatever.)  I told him I didn't, but I do like chicha morada and chicha blanca, both non-alcoholic juices made from corn.  So then he asks me if I drink beer.  I told him I don't, so then he said "Oh, you must be from some religious group".  So I told him I'm a Christian and he sounded surprised to hear there are Christians in the US.  He said he's sympathetic to Christianity, but doesn't go to church because he's always busy driving his bus.  So I encouraged him to go to church before it's too late.  We continued talking.  He asked me if I was a pastor and I told him I'm not.  And then he asked me if I had a bookstore where he could get a Bible.  So I told him "Well, I have a Quechua Bible with me right now.  Here, you can have it."  He looked at me kinda weird, like "I just picked up this gringa off the side of the road and now she's giving me a Bible?!"  He asked me for my cell number and I gave it to him.  He said he wants a big Bible, a new one, and I told him all I could do for him at the moment was give him mine.  I marked the gospels for him and encouraged him to start there.  
We parted with him asking me to be praying for his safety and saying that he'll try to come to church sometime in December and me going "Whoa God, this is a crazy divine appointment!" and assuring him I'd be praying.  
I got off the bus in Huacarpay and felt like jumping for joy.  Whoa, God, you're awesome!   God loves a Quechua-speaking bus driver named Justo!  God loves me!  And, just, wow God!
Eventually, the doubts came.  Was he being serious about trying to make it to church?  Should I have said more or done more?  Should I have even given out my cell number to a complete stranger?  Will he actually read the Bible?  
In the midst of it all, I realized that, you know, God orchestrated it, so I'll leave the results in His hands and keep praying.
And that is how I got to church today almost late and without a Bible.  And how God showed me that He's in control and He knows and cares about how I'm feeling.  And how He reminded me again how it's totally not about me. 
God, You're amazing!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Grace and what happens when "It just popped out!"

So I haven't been blogging regularly for a while for two reasons...
1 - Believe it or not, my life isn't THAT much different than yours, though it's happening in another country.  I'm honestly not sure what to write about most of the time.
2 - I love reading other people's blogs about all their thoughts and things, but I don't think I'm quite up to that par and, quite honestly, I'm not sure what you would think if you knew what all goes on in my head...

That being said, here are a few of those thoughts...

Where do I begin?  Maybe with Jonatan in August of 2008, my first year of teaching, when I realized that, contrary to how I'd always unconsciously looked at myself, I had lots of areas to grow in and I realized for the first time that my sinful nature was much more active than I'd ever realized.  Jesus said that if you are even angry with someone it's the same as murder.  Well, I, this good girl raised in the church who'd always stuck to all the rules, I was a murderer, then.  Cause I was sure angry with  Jonatan and it scared me silly.
That was also the day when God told me that, though I'm surprised by my own sin nature, He wasn't and it was for that precise reason that He died.  It was a turning point in my walk with Jesus.
Ever since that day, there has been a battle inside of me between Romans 7 (I do what I do not want to do) and Romans 8 (there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus).  Ever since that day, I've been struggling to overcome my sin nature.  Ever since that day, I've been frustrated that it still rears its ugly head (and much more often than I think it should!).  And ever since that day, I've been SLOWLY learning about God's grace and love in the midst of it all.
It's now been 5 years and hundreds of students and many good days and bad days since Jonatan.  But the battle is still there.  There have been days when I think I'm maybe finally starting to get it and there have been days when I think I'm hopeless.
Thursday was one of the latter.
This time it was Flor.  She admitted to me that she didn't pay attention in math class because she wanted me to help her after school.  And that did not sit well with say the least!  I'll spare you all the details, but suffice it to say I may have had a right to be angry, but I certainly didn't have a right to react the way I did.
I walked home after school feeling downtrodden, feeling that old familiar voice of condemnation rising up.
And the next morning, in my journey through Romans, I hit 8:1 - "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus".  And those old, familiar questions arose.  God, how?  I don't understand.
And God answered and for the first time I started to see.  There is no condemnation because Jesus took it all  on Himself when He was on the cross and then He took it away and rose again without it.
And then there came Christian Education class and the accusation: "Kusi said..."
I stopped taking down prayer requests and took up my Bible.
Proverbs 18:21 - "The tongue has the power of life and death."
What does it mean to speak life and what does it mean to speak death?  Yesterday, I spoke life and I spoke death.  I looked into Flor's eyes.  Jose Ricardo nodded.  He was there.  He heard it.  He knew.
The surprise was audible.  You spoke death?  They didn't need to know details.  Just the fact.
Yes, I did.  You know, I'm really trying, but sometimes it just comes out.  It's like El Chavo del 8, an old TV program where El Chavo says to his teacher "¡Se me chispoteó!", which roughly translates to "It just popped out!"
I flipped over to Romans 7, which happens to be one of my favorite Bible passages, simply because I can relate so well.  They looked at me as if I'd just grown an extra head as I read "What I do is not the good I want to do; rather, the evil I do not want to do, I do."
20 little faces said "THAT is in the BIBLE???!!"
Hands pierced the air when I asked who has ever felt like that.  You know, sometimes "It just pops out!"  You try and you try to do what you know is right, but it. just. happens.
I looked at the ceiling and raised my hand dramatically as I wailed "What a wretched man I am!" (Which, in Spanish says "Soy un pobre miserable!  I am a poor, miserable man!"  They liked that.)  "Who can rescue me from this body of death?"
They were still awed by the fact that this was coming from the BIBLE, of all places!
They raised their hands.  They identified.  We pray every morning for good behavior.  It was their idea.
And here it was that I began to realize something.  I'm so far from perfect.  I grope for life's nonexistent undo button.  I wish I could be more patient.  But that very weakness, that very imperfection, the very fact that the undo button is nonexistent, also allows me to share the little I understand of the gospel with my kids.
And so I shared.
And we remembered our smashed bread from Easter (see my last blog post) and how Jesus took all our sins on Himself and they crushed Him and smashed Him and pierced Him.  "That bread was FLAT!" they all remembered.
And now, when I mess up, when "it just pops out", God doesn't look at me with His angry face and say "You deserve to DIE!!"  Because Jesus has already taken all God's anger away.  So now I don't get God's anger.  I don't get condemnation.  I don't get death.  I get God's love and His sorrow at my sin.  But the condemnation is gone because it's buried in death with Jesus.
I'm not giving up the battle, but maybe I'm starting to give up hating the fact that it exists and wishing that God would hurry up with that sanctification thing because I'm about to drive myself nuts.
Because without the battle there would be no grace, without grace there would be no good news of Jesus, without the good news, what hope would I have to share with a bunch of imperfect kids who live with me and have to grow up in this sin-stained world just as I do?
What if my battles can give me what I need to help my kids with theirs?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Math books, bread and Isaiah 53

I'm doing the Resurrection Eggs with my kids these few weeks leading up to Easter.  This is the first time I've ever gotten to teach Bible classes at PROMESA and, as much as it fills up my schedule and makes life a bit more hectic, I'm loving it at the same time.  So I decided to start off the year with the Resurrection Eggs.  For those who don't know, they're simple plastic Easter eggs with a Christian symbol of Easter inside.  I'm enjoying seeing how the kids are really "getting it", as well as getting into it.
Today's Easter egg was supposed to contain bread.  As I was contemplating this morning how to make this memorable (besides giving my kids some bread to eat), suddenly Isaiah 53 connected with the Last Supper in my mind.  "This is my body, broken for you."..."For surely he has borne our sorrows and our infirmities...He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.  The judgment that brought us peace was upon him."  And God gave me an idea, which actually spoke to my heart too.
I took some bread with me to school.  And we talked about how the bread represented Jesus' body.  And then I put it inside a plastic bag and laid it on a student's desk.
Math books are about the heaviest thing in my classroom, especially a stack of 20 of them.  So I passed the kids' math books out to them.  "Right now," I told them, "these are not math books.  These are your problems and the times you get sick and all the bad things you do.  How many of you have problems?"  The air filled with hands.  I know some of their problems.  Divorce.  Fighting at home.  Trying to learn languages.  Alcoholism.  "How many of you get sick?"  Again, hands filled the air.
And then I tossed my math book on top of the bread.
The kids' eyes got big.  "You're killing the bread!" the boys shouted.  (They seemed to think this was rather cool.)  "Who wants to put their book on top of the bread?" I asked.  Hands shot up and one by one they all gently placed  or smacked their book on top of the stack.  When the piece of bread had been smashed by the weight of 20 math books, I took it out, now more closely resembling a tortilla than a piece of bread.
And then I read, "He was pierced for our transgressions."  "What does it mean to be pierced?" I asked them.  And then I stuck my finger through the bread and stood there with it on my hand.  "No, don't!" said some of them.  Poke.  Another hole.  Poke.  Poke.  Poke.  And I stood there with my holey piece of bread in hand.  "This is what Jesus went through.
"He was crushed for our iniquities," and I tore the piece of bread in enough pieces for each of us to have one.
I held up the bag with the pieces of bread.  "This is what I deserved.  This is what you deserved.  But Jesus took that punishment for us.  And He carried all our problems, so that when we enter into a problem, we find that Jesus is already there and He is helping us in the midst of our problems."
I can't say they were all sitting there in reverent awe, deeply aware of their sin and how Jesus is already present in their problems.  I can't say there was deep repentance.  I can't say I saw fruit.
All I can say is that Jesus is touching me.  And hopefully He is touching them also.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Had I known...

Had I known the end result, I would never have suggested we play What Time is it Mr. Fox?
I remembered the shiny wood floor and the shrieks of happy kids in the gym in elementary school.  What could be wrong with happily shrieking kids, playing a game together, on a day designed exactly for that?
There were about 4 left, uncaught.  The "hungry foxes" stood in the middle, waiting for the run and the capture.  They never did get the concept of staying inside the boundaries.  "It's 12:00!" they shouted, and pandemonium broke loose until they all decided to form some kind of order again at approximately the right place.
I was there, directing the game.  I was watching them run, thinking "I gotta figure out how to get them to just run to a certain area and then stop."  I missed the running, the tripping, the falling on the ground.  But I felt the tugging on my shirt.  "His hand, his hand!"  And I snapped back into reality and I was the one running.
I saw him laying there on the ground, screaming, his wrist humped at a totally unnatural angle.  "My hand!  My hand!"  he screamed.  I had a brief flashback to my own broken wrist 16 years ago and in a split second, I knew the sickening feeling my mom must have felt as she saw my unnaturally curved wrist.  I picked him up in my arms, only realizing later that I didn't even feel his weight.  I ran with him to the parent with him that day, my only explanation: "He hurt his hand."  Somehow, it didn't seem right to say that I thought he broke his wrist.  Then he was in other arms and I was surrounded by kids, shocked into silence by the horror of the moment.
"Grab hands.  We're going to pray for Rodrigo," I tried to force calm into me.  Were we going to pray for Rodrigo or his family or us?  Maybe all of it.  Their voices repeated my words.  "Lord Jesus, please help Rodrigo.  Please do a miracle in his life.  Please bring peace to him and his family.  Touch him and heal him." 
And then we walked away, the spirit of the game gone.  Josué walked beside me.  "It's not my fault, miss," he assured me.  "He was running and he tripped and fell."  Oh, how I wished for the ability to be like a child, to recognize that it wasn't my fault, to not feel responsible.  Already, the deep guilt of responsibility weighed heavy on my shoulders.  "No, honey, I know it's not your fault.  It's an accident and accidents happen."  How can those words sound so sure when my heart is saying the exact opposite?
And then I tried to figure out what to do.  Everywhere I looked, I imagined accusation in eyes, whispering voices.  "There's the teacher who was playing with the kids when the one feel and broke his wrist."  "She should never have been playing that game with them."  "What was she thinking anyway?  She's so irresponsible."  "You're guilty."
And in my heart, I heard another voice.  "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  "You could not have possibly known what would happen."  "His dad was right there watching.  A bunch of parents were right there watching and no one was saying anything or giving any indication that the game was not appropriate."  "You are not responsible for accidents." 
And yet, the guilt-voices seemed so much more logical, so much more RIGHT than the other one.  I WAS right there.  It WAS my idea.  And now a kid was hurt on his way to the hospital and there would be medical expenses and it was ALL MY FAULT.
A mom from my class came up and gave me a bag of fried pork rinds to share with all the teachers.  I gave it to someone else to give to the teachers as I realized that we had doctors on the grounds and there was something I could do.  Running, I tried to connect all the involved parties, only to find that the child and his family were already on the way to the hospital. So I just went and stood, feeling like I deserved neither the pork rinds, nor the company of the other teachers.  I didn't even deserve the now-smashed piece of bread or the apple I'd packed in my backpack for my snack.  I deserved anger, deserved to feel every ounce of the weight of the guilt piling on my shoulders, deserved the shouting voices of condemnation in my heart.
And yet, they called me over, that circle of teachers sitting on the ground.  I swallowed deep inside the tears that wanted to slide out.  I could let no one see how much of a horrible teacher I was.  But I had to tell the director.  And her calm was amazing, compared to the torment in my soul.  My calm as I talked to her amazed me also.  Those tears stayed deep in their hiding place.
I deserved condemnation (at least in my mind), but it never came.  Instead, I received pork rinds, paneton (fruit cake) and bottled juice.  I received the support of the director.  I received understanding and sympathy.  I received the encouragement of my mom as I relayed the incident to her later.  I received, in short, grace.
Eventually, after a few hours and several retellings of the incident, after talking on the phone and hearing that the boy was fine and "Accidents like that happen", I realized that the condemnation was being overpowered by the love and grace of a God whose truth I could finally begin to believe.
And I heard His voice saying two things in my heart:
 - If anyone wants to enter into the kingdom of heaven, he must become like a little child.  Josué recognized that, logically, it was not his fault.  The kids, after a few minutes, were playing again as if nothing had happened.  As long as I get stuck tripping and falling over condemnation and accusation, I'll never be able to receive grace, love and mercy.  I'll never be able to trust God or just trust that what He says is truth.
 - And had I known what would happen, I would have been God.  If I make myself responsible for the entire world, I am putting myself in the place of God.  And He doesn't exactly need (or want) a replacement.
Not saying that I've learned these things yet.  Just saying God's spoken them and I've heard them.  They're THERE. 
Had I known...I wouldn't have suggested What Time is it Mr. Fox.  But then again, accidents don't require games or teachers to happen and bones break even under the hawk-eyed stare of parents.
Had I known...I would have been God.  So I guess I can maybe think about letting Him worry about His own job and just do mine.  I think that's what He wants me to do anyway.
Oh grace...will I ever understand you?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Inspired by GT

I read my Bible and I hear songs playing through my head.  Really.

Growing up in the 80's and 90's we had several children's tapes of Bible verses set to music.  The tapes belonged to a series called GT and the Halo Express.  To this day, I could probably sing some of the verses better than I could say them.  Seriously.
So when I decided I wanted to teach my kids Bible verses, I started putting them to music.  And, lo and behold, the same thing happened!  And then I ran into a problem.  We were memorizing verses for which I didn't know any songs.  So I started making up my own songs.  Or God started making them up for me.  Whatever the case may be, I sit down at the beginning of each new month, look at the verse, and most times a song pops into my head without too much effort.  And the fun thing is, I'm learning the verses too, with my kids! 
I'm kinda disappointed this year because I don't get to teach Bible class to my kids.  I don't have enough hours in my day (literally).  However, the teacher who does teach them has been enthusiastic about singing the Bible verse songs with them.  The other morning, during Bible class, as they were working on coloring a worksheet, they just started singing Luke 10:27 and didn't stop!  It was too good an opportunity to pass it up, so I ran to the office and grabbed the school camera.  When I came back, Miss Martha, the Bible teacher, had encouraged them to sing all 4 of the verses we've learned this year!  So I stood in the doorway and got them on video.  Perfect?  Nope!  But it was special to me.  Enjoy!

Click here to hear my kids singing. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Of Fleas and Flies

We were in English class, working on some vocabulary words.  I was concentrated on what we were doing and looked up just in time to see Andreas hit Joshua over the head with his pencil case.  Of course, being the teacher and looking out for the well-being of my students, I was like "Andreas, WHAT are you DOING?"  Innocent as can be, he looks at me and says "There was a fly on his head!"  At which point I completely cracked up laughing.  And you know that when the teacher cracks up, that means the ENTIRE CLASS follows suit!  And you can probably imagine how hard it is to try to get some seriousness back into your class when 21 kids are looking at you giggling. :)  Oh my...

And then, just as I was getting ready to head home, I was handing back some math books to Miss Rocio's class, homeworks that were not done or incomplete that need to be completed.  I was explaining to Yanpier what he needed to do in his book and noticed he had an odd expression on his face.  As I finished explaining to him, he looked at me (again completely innocently) and said, "I just swallowed a flea!".  At which point I cracked up again.  I think he thought I didn't believe him because I was laughing at him and he kept saying "No, I really did!  I'm not making it up!" (which made me laugh even harder)!  I finally had to explain to him that I did believe him, but it was just funny to me what he had said.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Toad's Garden

Source: Frog and Toad Together
(My apologies to Arnold Lobel. This is a paraphrase, not an exact quote)
Yes, this does have a point. Read to the end.

The Garden
One day, Toad walked to Frog's house. Frog was in his garden.
"What a beautiful garden you have, Frog!" said Toad.
"Thank you," said Frog. "It was a lot of hard work".
"I wish I had a garden," said Toad.
"Here are some flower seeds. Plant them, and soon you will have a beautiful garden," said Frog.
"How soon?" asked Toad.
"Very soon," said Frog.
Toad ran home. He planted the seeds in his garden. "Now seeds, start growing!" said Toad.
He walked up and down a few times. He looked at his garden. The seeds were not growing. Toad put his head close to the ground. Very loudly he said, "Now seeds, start growing!!" But the seeds did not grow.
Toad put his head very close to the ground. He shouted, "NOW SEEDS, START GROWING!!" But the seeds did not grow.
Frog came running. "What is all this noise?" he asked Toad.
"My seeds are not growing!" said Toad.
"You are shouting too much," said Frog. "Your seeds are scared to grow."
"My seeds are scared to grow?" asked Toad.
"Of course!" said Frog. "Let them go for a few days. Let the sun shine on them and the rain fall on them. They will grow."
That night, Toad looked out of his window. The seeds were not growing. "Maybe they are scared of the dark," said Toad. "I will read them a story." Toad took candles out to his garden. He read a long story to the seeds. The next day, he sang songs to the seeds. The next day, he read poems to the seeds. The next day, he played music for the seeds. Finally, exhausted by all his efforts, he fell asleep. He awoke to Frog, standing over him, saying "Wake up, Toad! Look at your garden!" There, where he had planted his seeds, were small sprouts.
"Now you will have a beautiful garden, too!" said Frog.
"Yes, but you were right, Frog," said Toad. "It was hard work!"

In the middle of the story this morning, as I was singing along with Toad, God suddenly spoke to me (He sometimes chooses interesting times to speak). Being a teacher (or a parent, I suppose) is often like Toad in his garden. You want those little seeds, those little hearts, to grow and RIGHT NOW, if possible! You talk till you're blue in the face. You yell sometimes. You do everything you can possibly think of to get those little seeds to grow! And then, exhausted by all your efforts, you fall asleep. And suddenly, one day, you wake up to the realization that, somehow, God has been working in their hearts and there are little green sprouts coming through the soil. You see some hope! Oh. Right. It was God.
It was a good word. Hopefully, it encourages you as much as it did me!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Breathe in...breathe out...

I've been told here in Peru that I shouldn't tell blond jokes. They consider me to be blond here. :) But, at my own risk and in order to make a point, I'm starting this post out with a blond joke.

So once there was a blond who was always wearing headphones. She wore them to sleep. She wore them to eat. She wore them to the gym. She wore them everywhere. One day, she went to the hairdresser's, still with the headphones in place, and asked for a haircut. As her hair was being cut, the hairdresser asked her to please take off her headphones, to which she responded, "I would, but I cant. If I do, I'll die." So the haircut was completed around the headphones. The same scene was repeated in 3 months and in another 3 months. Finally, the hairdresser got fed up and yanked the offending headphones off her client's head. As promised, the blond dropped over, dead as a doornail. The hairdresser got curious and wondered what in the world was playing over those crazy headphones. As she held them up to her ears, she heard this: Breathe in.....breathe out.....breathe in.....breathe out.....

I thought of this joke as I was reading Psalm 23 today. Really. I read a phrase that I've read over hundreds of times but never really processed. It goes like this:

He restores my soul (v.3)

And that means....? Good question! I asked the same thing. So I turned to my parallel versions and languages, which is where I go anytime I read a verse and go "Huh??" According to the NIV in Spanish and the Quechua Bible, it means that he gives me new strength. According to the Reina-Valera in Spanish, it means that he comforts my soul. According to the Message, it means that God gives me a place to breathe.

A place to breathe....hmmm.....

You know, I've often been thankful that breathing is an involuntary action. My life would have been extremely short had it not been for that fact. How many times do we sit down at the end of the day and say "Wow, I haven't gotten a chance to breathe all day!"? Thankfully, PHYSICAL breathing is involuntary.

It occurred to me this morning, though, that I think I could use a pair of those headphones to help me to concentrate on spiritual breathing. Unfortunately, it's not so reflexive.

Spiritual breathing......say what?! Let me explain.

First, let's think about the basics of breathing. Hang in there. I'm a teacher. I'll get past the science lesson in a second. Breathing consists of two opposite, interrelated and interdependent functions - inhalation and exhalation. Take away one and you die. Plain and simple. Okay, so what does this have to do with God, besides the fact that He created the concept? This is what He showed me this morning. Some things in life are "inhalation" things. They are the things that fill us up. They're different for everyone, but some things I thought of are devotional times, listening to worship music, quick prayers in the middle of the day, reading a good book, vacation, retreats, etc.... Other things in life are "exhalation" things. They are the things that we don't enjoy doing, the things that simply need to be done, or simply things we do where we are pouring out of ourselves into the lives of others (which, though rewarding, is many times still an exhale). Some examples I thought of are: waiting in line, taking care of a screaming baby, teaching 70 kids every day, serving all day at a restaurant, tense relationships with other people, fear, insecurity, lies, etc....

Now, here's the thing. The world thrives on exhalation. The world will take, take, take and never give. The enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). And that is exactly what he will do. Unfortunately, our human default setting is "exhale". Maybe a typical day looks like this:

Get up, get ready for the day: exhale
Spend time with Jesus: inhale
Make breakfast: exhale
Get kids off to school: exhale
Road rage on the way to work: exhale
Nonstop work all morning: exhale
Lunch break: could be either, really...
Nonstop work all afternoon: exhale
Concentrating on the road on the way home: exhale
Make supper: exhale
Listen to kids fighting at the supper table: exhale
Wash dishes: exhale
Family time: inhale (hopefully)
Get kids off to bed: exhale
Pray with kids: inhale
Adult time: inhale
Sleep: could be either, really, depending on the quality of your sleep...

So you could really make a million adaptations to this list. But the point remains. The world will find an infinite number of opportunities to make us exhale. Unfortunately, we are the ones who need to find opportunities to inhale. It's not necessarily a natural skill.

The second part of that verse in John 10:10 says this "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full" (Jesus speaking). Matt 11:28-30 says this: "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus has come to allow us to inhale. Jesus has come to restore our souls, to give us room to breathe, to give us new strength. The thing is, the only way we can have all that is to make time to allow Jesus and His inhalation to pierce through the world's exhalation.

Uh huh. And that looks like...? To be honest, I'm not sure what it looks like for you. It looks different for everyone. Here are some of my "inhales":
- Devotions
- Walking to and from school while listening to music
- Writing
- My list of 1000 gifts (taken from the book One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp)
- Journaling
- Quick moments to connect with God throughout the day
- Scrapbooking
- Good conversations
- Andes mints while working on schoolwork
- Comfortable chair to relax in
- Looking at the mountains outside my windows

The list could go on and on. Your list is probably completely different. God's challenge to me this morning was to concentrate on that breathing in and breathing out. It's not instinctive. That's why I'd like a pair of headphones like that blond had. It's a learning curve. And yet it's possible. It also struck me this morning that this is how Jesus lived. He did it naturally. So it also helps me to be more like Jesus and walk in "paths of righteousness for your name's sake" (Ps. 23:3)

You restore my soul.
Breathe in.
You lead me in paths of righteousness
Breathe out.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thank you, Jesus, for...

I decided to let my kids write this blog post. :)
While talking yesterday in class about Thanksgiving, I asked them "What can you say thank you to Jesus for?" This sparked a nearly half-hour spontaneous pouring-out of thanks to Jesus for...well, pretty much everything! So I decided, since today was their reading group day, to have them write down a list of things they are thankful for. It turned out to be a very popular journal idea! Here is a compilation of most of the things they wrote (minus the duplicates - and yes, they wrote all in English!). Enjoy!

Thank you, Jesus, for apples.
Thank you, Jesus, for my eyes.
Thank you, Jesus, for my mouth.
Thank you, Jesus, for bananas.
Thank you, Jesus, for my books.
Thank you, Jesus, for bears.
Thank you, Jesus, for my school.
Thank you, Jesus, for oxygen.
Thank you, Jesus, for the earth.
Thank you, Jesus, for my pets.
Thank you, Jesus, for water.
Thank you, Jesus, for my friends.
Thank you, Jesus, for my family.
Thank you, Jesus, for plants.

"In my garden are flowers, butterflies, and insects. The insects are nice. And I said:
Thank you, Jesus, for insects.
Thank you, Jesus, for life.
Thank you, Jesus, for plants.
Thank you, Jesus, for my family.
and thank you, Jesus, for your creation."

Thank you, Jesus, for my house.
Thank you, Jesus, for Miss Bethany
Thank you, Jesus, for Daniel Monkey. (my little teaching assistant!)
Thank you, Jesus, for Miss Nancy. (the fourth grade teacher)
Thank you, Jesus, for Diego. (a classmate)
Thank you, Jesus, for everything.
Thank you, Jesus, for my teachers.
Thank you, Jesus, for my sister.
Thank you, Jesus, for me.
Thank you, Jesus, for food.
Thank you, Jesus, for Peru.
Thank you, Jesus, for people.
Thank you, Jesus, for cats.
Thank you, Jesus, for dogs.
Thank you, Jesus, for my brother.
Thank you, Jesus, for my mother.
Thank you, Jesus, for my father.
Thank you, Jesus, for love me. (unedited version)
Thank you, Jesus, for Mr. Jacob. (a guy who is helping with English classes)
Thank you, Jesus, for Fabricio. (a classmate)
Thank you, Jesus, for English.
Thank you, Jesus, for Shifu. (her dog)
Thank you, Jesus, for Miss Bethany, Nancy, Luz, María Esther, Dámaris, Marisol and Miss Ruth. (all teachers at the school)
Thank you, Jesus, for ice cream.
Thank you, Jesus, for my bed.
Thank you, Jesus, for animals.
Thank you, Jesus, for stars.
Thank you, Jesus, for the night.
Thank you, Jesus, for flowers.
Thank you, Jesus, for trees.
Thank you, Jesus, for my name Maricé.


Monday, November 14, 2011

And that's the way life goes...

Think fall into winter, think spicy gingerbread in the oven, filling the whole house with its delicious aroma and hot apple cider in warm mugs clutched by cold hands...
Yeah, my mouth is watering too. So when my support team (MST) decided to have a skype virtual meeting tonight and mentioned bringing those snacks on their end, I thought it would be fun and delicious to have them on my end also! So why am I still sitting here with a watering mouth and not rolling and cutting out stacks of gingerbread cookies or nursing my second mug of hot apple cider? Glad you asked! Let me explain what it takes to make these two simple treats in Peru.
Gingerbread is not that complicated. There's only one problem, technically. The molasses. Molasses, as far as I know experientially, does not exist in Cusco. So getting molasses for cookies means going to the Wanchaq market (a 45-minute ride one way in public transportation) and paying about $4.00 for a 1/2 liter bottle of algarrobina syrup from one of the women who sells juice in the market. This syrup comes from a tree and has a taste that approximates molasses. Days slip by in a blur of school, schoolwork, church, school trip, emailing, creating dramas for school, etc. And before I know it, I no longer have time to take said 45-minute trip downtown to purchase my bottle of algarrobina syrup. Save the gingerbread for another day. It would have taken forever to cool the dough in my fridge anyway. My fridge is, I'm suspecting, on its last of over 20 years of legs and is not refrigerating the way it should be. And then, as I'm looking for a substitute recipe for chocolate chip cookies, I find it! The answer to my sticky molasses dilemma! Chancaca syrup! Cha-what?! Chancaca syrup. Chancaca is a sugar cane product. The best way I can describe it is to call it burnt sugar made into balls and sold in the market. According to my favorite Andean, high-altitude cookbook, a molasses-like product can be made with chancaca balls boiled and dissolved in water. Make a mental note: I have to try that! And as I begin to measure out flour and soften butter to make my chocolate chip substitutes for spicy gingerbread goodness, the guy comes with the gas can that will make my oven work. Great! Except not. Apparently, the valve that connects the hose to the gas can has somehow broken. The gas delivery guy doesn't have another one. Making my oven work again will require a trip downtown to a hardware store to buy another hose and valve combination, apparently. And who knows how to put one of those on a stove? Not me!
Mission postponed. The great chancaca syrup and gingerbread experiment will have to wait for another day. :( My mouth is still watering...
The other part of my idea was hot apple cider. Sounds WONDERFUL! I think it's been about 3 years since I've had any of that warm, sticky goodness. My stomach is happy with just the thought of it. But...there is no apple cider in Peru. I look online. The Wiki community, that source of free information on just about anything, comes to the rescue. WikiHow contains easy instructions to make apple cider with apples, a blender and cheesecloth (I think I can substitute a strainer). Then just boil it with the spices and voila! If I can't have my gingerbread, at least maybe the apple cider will come through for me.
Oh right. Except I have no gas. I can't boil the apple cider. That would be a problem.
I am not a missionary for nothing, however. It is not that easy to make me give up. I've got the idea. My mouth is watering. Now it's just a question of a new gas valve, chancaca, and time. One of these days, hopefully, I'll be able to write part 2 of this story, while savoring my tasty fall goodness.
I love Peru, but, yes, that IS the way life goes...