Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Parables.

I learned the word parable at a young age from Rob Evans, better known in Christian circles as "The Donut Man."  The self-proclaimed donut-repair man released his first album of kids music in 1982 and it was called "Bible Parables."  He was a regular at the children's tent at the Creation Festival, and the tape was constantly in our tape deck at home and we memorized the songs-- my mom even pulling out the old guitar and singing them together with our church kids' group that she called, "Bible Friends" (which was the name of Evan's second recording in 1983.)  Really all of that is unnecessary back information, but I had fun reading Bob Evan's website this morning and remembering about this early influence on my life. I did learn a lot from him...  End of digression.

It's been a really, really lousy week for me.  Ever since deciding to try to really live a life of discipline that will draw me closer to God, it seems like there has been a force working against that.  I have been physically unwell and sort of laid bare before God physically and spiritually.  This morning seems to finally be a bit of a moment of clarity after a week that brought me to my breaking point in so many ways.  (I have a funny story about trying to run away from home last week, but that's another story for another day.)

One of the things that I decided was that I wanted to weigh and consider the thoughts that were going through my mind before I spoke them. (Or tweeted or facebooked them.) Speaking too quickly is a terrible habit/area of sin for me that God is revealing over and over.  So I got this notebook out of the school supply closet and my favorite kind of pencil (DIXON Ticonderoga), and decided that when I was feeling angry, or grumpy, or happy, or content, or whatever (because I "feel" a lot), I'd just write it down and filter it through later-- trying to determine what is actually useful information to share with another human being (whether in person or via the interwebs.)  There's so much noise in this world and I've been so guilty of contributing to it.

So-- I have pages and pages of my rants and raves. I was re-reading them this morning. It reads like the pages of an insane person's diary, if the truth be told.  But there was this one verse that I read the other night that stood out in the pages of scribbles.  It is from the book of Mark, chapter 4.  Jesus has just told a parable (or "a story" if you read The Message version of the Bible) and then is explaining it a bit later.

Starting in verse 10, it says this--
"When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories.  He told them, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom-- you know how it works.  But to those who can't see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight.  These are people --
Whose eyes are open but don't see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don't understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven."
He continued, "Do you see how this story works?  ALL my stories work this way.""
--

I had written that passage down because I am a big believer in stories.  I love a great story.  I love hearing them, reading them, telling them-- and I am also a big believer in living a life that tells a good story.  So reading about Jesus talking with his beloved friends about WHY he tells stories was inspiring to me.  I have sort of felt like part of my "job" in being a missionary is to tell the stories of the things I see and experience here.  So it was great to kind of be affirmed in that "calling."  Wait for it...

But then, this morning, I read more (and had this moment of clarity that perhaps I've missed a bit part of the point) in Mark 4:33-34.   These words are written after Jesus had told another parable about God's kingdom.

"With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity.  He was never without a story when he spoke.  When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots."

This morning it hit me like a ton of bricks. The kinds of stories Jesus told were parables.  He wasn't just telling a story for the sake of telling a story (as I am so often guilty of doing), the point was that it was a parable. A parable is a special kind of story that also has a hidden meaning aside from the obvious (I learned that years ago from the Donut Man and spent 10+ years in children's ministry teaching this kind of stuff to kids... I knew that already.)  The idea that Jesus spoke in parables wasn't anything new to me, but this morning I just started to wonder--

  • What if God STILL speaks in parables?  
  • What if every story, no matter how basic it seems, has a hidden meaning that points us to Christ?
  • What if everything we see and experience is just another one of his parables to teach us about the kingdom of God? (Remember, he said, "ALL my stories work this way.")
  • Could it be that our ENTIRE lives were meant to be parables?  
You see, we live life and, on the surface, things can seem so clear.  But couldn't that be Jesus "fitting the stories to our experience and maturity?"  In verse 34 it talks about how it wasn't until Jesus was ALONE with his disciples that "he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots."  We need to be alone with Jesus if we are going to discover and make of the hidden meanings of our parable-life-stories.  He is the only one with answers.  He is the only one who can untie the knots and sort out the tangles.

So my new challenge is to find the hidden meaning in our stories.  What do they tell us about people?  What do they tell us about life?  What do they tell us about the kingdom of God?  Let's spend some time with Jesus.  Maybe he will explain it to us.

And PS- if you have an extra moment of time to waste, go check out Rob Evans website.  It's quite amusing to me as an adult.





Thursday, January 17, 2013

Missionaries pretending.



I have explained in the past our theory of Haiti years.  In short, the idea is that things wear through at the same rate of dog years-- one year in Haiti ages something at about the rate it would age something in 7 years in the states.

Nothing is exempt.

For example, here is a picture of my Bible that was brand new when I came to Haiti less than 4 years ago--

Looks like I have really been knee-deep in the Word, doesn't it?  I mean I've only worn through one other Bible since I truly started walking with God in the 15 years prior to buying this one.  I must be going through the Bible at a break-neck pace!

Unfortunately, it's embarrassing to admit that my 3.5 years on "the mission field" (whatever that means) have been marked by the LEAST Bible reading/prayer/fasting/God-seeking, etc. than any others that I spent before I was a "professional Christian."  And I don't think I am alone.  Many people I know (who are legitimately inspired by their faith in Jesus) enter ministry with great fervor and dedication to the disciplines that make faith grow.  But for whatever reason, it's after making great leaps of faith that their disciplines seem to slack off.  

And our lifestyle seems to support this lack, because to other people, we're missionaries-- aka Super Christians.  And so it appears that we're steeped in all things spiritual when, in fact, we're relying on our former experiences to ride us through.  Well, at least I am guilty of that.  (I really shouldn't paint with such broad strokes when talking about other missionaries.)

And because my Bible ages in Haiti years instead of actual years, it's even easy to trick myself into thinking that it's all good.  Sure, I didn't get to "my quiet time" today (or even this past week, come to think of it), but it's all good because I am a professional Christian.  I mean come on, look how worn my Bible is.  I have obviously been putting in the time.

But now I am at this point where I feel like the things I've learned can't hold me anymore.  The things I've studied aren't enough to keep me growing.  Opposition and pain aren't being tempered by new insights brought to me by a living Word that's alive and active, because let's just be honest, I haven't really consulted it much lately.

So here's to 2013.  Here's to a year of spending less time wallowing in my own difficulties feeling helpless.   And here's to a year of spending more time in the Bible, more time in prayer and fasting.  More time given in devoted discipline to the God who brought me where I am today, in the HOPE that he will bring me even father.  

It is my goal to wear through a Bible *legitimately* this year, and not just rely on my harsh environment to do it for me.  

Who is in it with me?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

365 project

Hey friends--

Just a note to mention that I added a tab on the blog to chronicle my 365 project (one picture + comment each day of the year.)

Check it out here-- will be updated each day (ish).  Now friends that don't facebook can follow along, too.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

2% forested

We often hear how Haiti is terribly deforested, but I don't often think about what that means or what that looks like.  I recently read that only 2% of Haiti is still forested.  (As opposed to 60% in 1923.)

From Wikipedia: "The most direct effect of deforestation is soil erosion.[2] An estimated 15,000 acres (61 km2) of topsoil are washed away each year, with erosion also damaging other productive infrastructure such as dams, irrigation systems, roads, and coastal marine ecosystems.[3] Soil erosion also lowers the productivity of the land, worsens droughts, and eventually leads to desertification, all of which increase the pressure on the remaining land and trees.[2]"  

I have written before about the flooding we get with hurricanes (or even a good rain) and what that looks like.  But when we took an MAF flight to the states a couple of weeks ago we flew over Haiti at a low altitude and I was reminded what that statistic looks like from above.

Thought I'd share.