Wednesday, September 29, 2010
You know you're in California when . . .
Sunday, September 26, 2010
cultures within cultures
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
What is Normal??
Sunday, September 19, 2010
On the Mount
a tale of redemption
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Christmas Carol in September
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Monday, September 06, 2010
If by sea or land I roam . . .
a tale of parenting
Saturday, September 04, 2010
This week's schedule
do, if you are in the area!
Tuesday, 7 September, 7 pm, showing our video and speaking at the
Presbyterian Church of Wyoming, in the Cincinnati suburbs.
Wednesday, 8 September, noon, speaking to medical students at the
Univeristy of Cincinnati (contact Dr. Chuck Schubert).
Wednesday, 8 September, evening Bible studay at the Bond's.
Thursday, 9 September, evening gathering at Dr. Emily Pearce's in
Saturday, 11 Septbember, open house from 6:30 pm on, in Chicago, at
the home of Dr. Sandi Hoogland and Dr. James Melia.
Sunday, 12 September, speaking at both services, Lawndale Community
Please contact us, or the people mentioned above, if you need
information or help finding any of these venues. Our hope is that
over the next month we will stoke strong fires of prayer for East
AFrica, for our teams in Bundibugyo, Mundri, and Nairobi, for our
family and our kdis, for the Kingdom in hard places. Our hope is that
all of you who have read and wept and prayed and pulled with us over
the last decade-plus will feel thanked as we interact face to face.
And our hope is that God is orchestrating some divine appointments out
there to draw in the next wave of missionaries.
Notes from a week in the burbs
of Northern Virginia is foreign. This place changed (thousands upon
thousands of new homes, malls, stores, highways, nationalities) since
I left 30 years ago as a just-turned-18 year old heading to college
from my rural redneck high school. And while Northern Virginia was
becoming urban and gentrified and complicated, we took a road that was
marginal and poor and simple. So now we are re-entering this world as
outsiders, who need to study the clues, and make the effort to
appreicate and assimilate. At least a little.
So here are some notes on a week of trying. First, Jack and Julia.
Community soccer was a pleasant surprise. Jack and Julia entered
teams in spite of missing the deadlines, and both fournd themselves
(in my humble side-line soccer-mom opinion) quite competent in their
age groups, the first time they're not playing against people 2 two 5
years older than they are. They've each been to two practices now,
and loved it. As Julia pointed out, a lot less shoving and more
orderly drills than she's used to. The only down side is that she
doesn't know the girls yet, and Miss Ashley isn't there. At Jack's
practice we even struck up conversation with another mom, who in
classic TCK paradigm was also a newbie like us, an American returning
after 3 years in England, super-friendly. We exchanged phone numbers,
and I called to arrange for Jack to play with her son the next day.
Julia has a friend on the street, too, who invited her over to play
games. They had a piano lesson in the neighborhod with a contact
through church, and Julia took an initial clarinet lesson and Jack
drums at the local music store. We're doing Geometry and Journaling
as our token home-schooling each morning. They can run and ride bikes
and juggle balls, we eat cereal and fresh fruit for breakfast and cook
spaghetti or grill on the patio for dinner. One night we invited a
family from church over, and another night friends passing through the
area called and joined us for dessert, and both of those opportunities
to host leant a sense of belonging.
Bouyed by all this illusion of normality, I braved unbraiding (!
tedious !) and a haircut. The last time I had my hair cut by someone
besides Scott trimming straight across my back .. was four years ago,
and the guy kept saying things like "oh, your hair, where have you
been, when was your last cut, do you see these ends, what are you
doing with your hair, this is terrible, you need moisture!" It was
humiliating. So I was on edge (which I know because I cried over a
sappy song on the radio about Letters from War, had to sit in the
parking lot and listen to the end before I went in the shop . . ).
But this time my hairdresser was delightful. I was initially
intimidated by her stylish 100-pound 20-something frame, perfect
streaked straight hair, tattoos peeking from under funky short shorts
and knee-high boots, various piercings . . . but she carried on one of
the most caring and seemingly interested conversations about our life
in Uganda the whole time, never bemoaned my awful curly hair, was
cheerful and competent, and connected with me as she shared about her
infant daughter's neurosurgery with the renowned Dr. Ben Carson at
Hopkins. In the end she did not miraculously change my hair from
being unruly and curly and frizzed, but she did her best to give it
some shape. And I so enjoyed the time, I didn't mind the lack of a
Now we were really on a roll. Kid activities, hobnobbing with fellow
parents on the fringes of the field, entertaining, personal hygiene,
and who could know we didn't fit in? But a few things always stand
out and strike us as peculiar. For instance, the bright green small
pick up painted with pictures of pets and in fat happy letters, "Doody
Calls". Yes, this is a pet waste removal service. Lest you should be
bothered with emptying the kitty litter, or scooping the dog poop, you
can call this handy truck to come and do all the dirty work for you.
I'm told people even have dog-walking services, NOT while they're on
vacation, just for every-day. On our street the only human beings one
sees most days are the lawn-care services who swoop in like a swat
team, roll out their mowers and blowers, and leave the lawn pristine,
or the dog-walkers. So many daily tasks are either too menial (hire a
service) or too complex (call an expert) to waste time on. There is a
definite trend towards making everything so complicated that it is not
worth your time to figure it out. Scott wanted to add one channel,
Fox Soccer Channel, to my mom's cable for $15/month for the next 4
months, so we (especially Jack) could watch some Premier League
games. But no, even though it is advertised, it turns out that it
took him multiple phone calls, weathering long sales spiels, and then
the cable people were so flummoxed by the idea of adding a limited
service that they just had to augment my mom's package to the ultimate
level for four months, at the same price, because they didn't know how
to do less. Which led to complcations in her phone line, and who knows
what else. The marketing pressure comes in every contact, try to buy
a gallon of milk and someone will be pushing you to open a new savings
card (so they can get your email address to send you even more
marketing schemes). A life in the burbs is one of gasping for breath
amidst waves of offers, choice, opportunity, services. In Bundibugyo
it's straightorward, people ask for what you have, and you say yes or
no. Here it is presented as asking to help you, to give you some
great deal, and when you say no you're potentially losing out . . but
in reality it's the same thing, just through a screen of illusion.
Now this is not complaint, just observation, which I'm told is allowed
if you are a long-time true-blue citizen but somewhat suspect if
you're a recent arrival. Don't get me wrong, we had a great week. I
did not have any idea I'd be able to integrate Jack and Julia into any
organized activities, and now that I did, we're on the road for a
month. Leading to double unhappiness. They grieve home (Africa), but
at their first taste of settling here (America), I'm uprooting them
again. Bad planning, mom, but how could I have known months ago when
we committed to this trip that we'd be missing half the season for the
youth soccer league? Will we be able to take back up where we left
off? Or are we doomed to always be catching up, off-schedule, missing
Fenelon calls that living by faith. Hope I can explain that to two
kids who want to kick a ball and play some music instead of spending
untold hours in the car.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
there outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago. We've read that story a
hundred times, more probably, but this time it really stuck with me.
This man enters the Gospel story for only 6 hours or so. But in that
short time, he goes from reviling Jesus, hateful, insulting, crowd-
pressured, resentful, scornful . . . to a changed man who recognizes
Jesus for who he is, expresses faith, and heads to Paradise. All of
that change occurs while his hands and feet are immobilized and his
body is physiologically failing. No clearer picture of how helpless
we are to effect change. No clearer picture that God's power can work
in the most unlikely of circumstances. Something very real but very
hidden occurs between two near-corpses, something that changes this
man's eternal destiny.
We are not exactly nailed, but in some ways trapped in suburbia far
from those who hold our hearts, and feeling just as helpless. One
child starting college: bewildering array of choices, hard-to-find
classes, required print-outs but no printer, pouring his heart and
sweat into making the club soccer team, feeling the let-down that the
promise of wonders has been revealed to be tedious hard-work among the
masses of freshmen in entry-level classes. One child alone in
Africa: also busting his anatomy to make the soccer team, and his
brain to be the lone Junior again in BC Calc, and to be himself. One
team in Uganda: a direct lightening strike took out their power this
week (how not-subtle an attack), turmoil and chaos as the district
insists that under-age but shadily registered-to-vote students be
released from school to participate in elections, a multitude of team
illnesses, and the ever-difficult-to-negotiate cross-cultural lines of
expectation. One team in Sudan: planning for the next year when the
whole region could flare up in war after January's referendum . . or
not, in which case we want to be ready to move forward. We listen to
all of these, and promise prayer, feeling helpless to really offer any
worthwhile words of comfort or wisdom, let alone real aid.
And there is something about plunging across cultural lines that
refocuses one's view of one's own sin. I don't like to think that I'd
challenge Jesus to get off the cross and rescue me in a haughty and
complaining voice. But is it any different to worry, and stew, and
complain, and notice all the things about this time that aren't what I
would choose? As we get distance from our normal life I remember the
friend-wounds of coming face to face with ways I judged and hurt
others. And I'm not proud of the weary, short, way I often react
here. Not good.
Six hours on the cross, five months in America. Not a peppy self-help
change-your-life program, but a nailed down helpless look-only-at-
Jesus state. If the thief can change into a spiritual human who will
be communing with Jesus by doing nothing more than looking at him,
then anything can happen. For those I love (friends, good classes,
direction, joy, fair elections, peace, power, healing). And even for
me, a changed human ready for the feast.