Today is Ash Wednesday. The one day of the year when many Christians all over the world will have ashes put on their foreheads in the shape of the cross. This marks the beginning of Lent, a time of waiting in expectation of Easter- Resurrection Sunday. A time of contemplation and inner examination. A time of anticipation and adoration. A time of waiting.

When we wait, we choose. Sometimes we choose to grumble and complain. Sometimes we choose to get frustrated or worried. At times we choose to rejoice and give thanks. Many times our choice depends on what we are waiting for. More often than not, it depends on the kind of person we are. Ultimately we wait patiently or impatiently. It all depends on what’s inside us.

I have read an article and a book recently that have greatly impacted my perspective on patience and what it means to be a patient person. The article is called Silence, Patience and Presence. It is from Fuller Studio. The book is called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren. Below are some quotes from both that I hope will impact you as much as they did me.

From Silence, Patience, and Presence – Fuller Studio

Being patient means waiting for a God whose patience outdistances and outlasts our own – we only have a brief span of life to wait; God has eternity. Peter Blum

Christians believe that through cross and resurrection we have been given the time to be patient in a world of impatience I am often in a hurry and busy, but this is not the same thing as impatience. Patience does not mean “doing nothing.” Rather patience is sticking to what you’re doing because you believe that is is worthy and worthwhile. Stanley Haurwas citing John Howard Yoder

Learning to weep, learning to keep vigil, learning to wait for the dawn. Perhaps this is what it means to be human. Henri Nouwen

Ones willingness to be wronged, to absorb evil patiently without retaliating, helps to break the cycle of vengeance and opens up the possibility for healing and peace. Hence though forgiveness is a constitutive practice of peace, forgiveness is unimaginable apart from patience. Philip Kenneson.

Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life. Simone Weil

From Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren

When we practice the Sabbath, we not only look back to God’s rest after his work of creation but we look forward to the rest ahead, to the Sabbath to come when God will finish his work of re-creation. We recall together that we are waiting for the end of the story, for all things to be made new.

In the liturgical year there is never celebration without preparation. First we wait, we mourn, we ache, we repent. We aren’t ready to celebrate until we acknowledge, over time through ritual and worship, that we and this world are not yet right and whole. Before Easter, we have Lent. Before Christmas, we have Advent. We fast. Then we feast. We prepare. We practice waiting.

We want happiness now. Fulfillment and gratification now. I get angry when I have to wait because it reminds me that time is not at my bidding.

Our problem with time is a spiritual problem, one that runs right to the core of who we are as human beings…. Indeed, these distortions drive us into the arms of a false theology: we come to believe that we, not God, are the masters of time. (Dorothy Bass)

Time is a gift from God, a means of worship. Time revolves around God – what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.

We live in a waiting world, a world where time itself, along with all of creation, groans in childbirth, waiting for something to be born. We are waiting and hoping. Our present reality is fundamentally oriented toward what is to come.

Waiting is an act of faith that is oriented toward the future. Yet our assurance of hope is rooted in the past, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and in his promises and resurrection. In this way, waiting, like time itself, centers on Christ-the fulcrum of time.

Scripture tells us that when we “Hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom 8:25). We live each ordinary day in the light of a future reality. Our best life is still yet to come.

I have a friend who has struggled with cancer for a long time. She said to me one day,”I always felt like I was waiting for the gift. But I have come to see that the waiting is the gift.” There is more happening while we wait than just waiting. God is at work in us and through us as we wait. Our waiting is active and purposeful.

The church father Tertullian wrote –

The singular mark of patience is not endurance or fortitude, but hope. To be impatient is to live without hope. Patience is grounded in the Resurrection. It is life oriented toward a future that is God’s doing , and its sign is longing, not so much to be released from the ills of the present, but in anticipation of the good to come.

Even now as we wait, God is bringing the kingdom that will one day be fully known. We can be patient because we know there are gifts promised by a Giver who can be trusted.

May your Lent be filled with peace, the presence of God, and patience.

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Valentines Day is coming up. The day of love and romance. A day where people will celebrate love – love for spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends. They will celebrate with things they love, like roses, candy and wine. At least in the United States. Here in Mexico it is also know as dia de amistad, day of friendship. People will not only do something with a romantic interest, but friends will take time out to express their love for each other in special ways.

It’s too bad English only has the one word “love”. We love our spouses or romantic partners. We love chocolates and flowers. We love our friends. We love our mother. Other languages have different words for different kinds of likes and attractions. The Bible uses that English word “love” many times, but in it’s original languages of Hebrew and Greek, it has different words to express different types of love. One main word the Old Testament uses for love is “hesed” or “chesed”. The word Hesed or Chesed/Cheset is connected with love, goodness and kindness but means more, a bit like the English word “charity” “mercy” or “grace”.

Greek uses words like “eros”, “storge”, “philea” and “agape”. Eros refers to “passionate love” or romantic love; storge or familial love; philia to friendship as a kind of love; and agape refers to “selfless love“, the kind of love God has for us and wants us to have for one another and for him. Agape love is more about Devotion to God and to our fellow human beings. The other loves are more about emotional attachments or attractions.

The Bible has a lot to say about agape love. Jesus said the two most important commandments of the Old Testament are about love –

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your

soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

(Matthew 22:37-40)

Love is devotion to God and neighbor.

Jesus gave concrete examples of love in Matthew 25:35-40 when he said –

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.

I was a stranger and you invited me in.

I needed clothes and you clothed me.

I was sick and you looked after me.

I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him,

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?

When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink?

When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?

When did you need clothes and we clothed you?

When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King (Jesus) will reply,

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these,

brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Lots of devotion and commitment to helping others. Not so much emotion.

Paul wrote a lot about love. Many people call chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthians the love chapter –

Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not boast, it is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others,

love is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil

but rejoices with the truth.

Love always protects, always trusts,

always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

We can see the devotion and a little emotion.

Paul also prays for the Ephesians –

I pray to the Father, that you,

being rooted and established in love,

may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,

to grasp how wide and long and high and deep

is the love of Christ, and to know this love

that surpasses knowledge.

(Ephesians 3:14-19)

More devotion; no emotion.

1 John tells us –

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.

Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Whoever does not love does not know God,

because God is love. This is how God showed his love for us:

He sent his one and only son into the world

that we might live through him. (1 John 4:7-9)

Great devotion.

I like what C.S. Lewis says about loving our neighbor –

“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor;

act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.

When you are behaving as if you loved someone,

you will presently come to love him….Whenever

we do good to another self, just because it is a self,

made like us by God, and desiring its own happiness

as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love a little more,

or, at least, to dislike a little less.”

(Mere Christianity)

Maybe, in the end, it is all about emotion. Perhaps, when we are devoted to doing God’s will and helping those around us, we will be happier people. It could be that God loves us and wants us to be happy, and the road to emotional happiness and well being, goes through Devotion. This Valentines Day, lets try some Devotion, some good old fashioned Agape Devotion, and see what kind of emotions we have at the end of the day.

Next week, Foundation For His Ministry’s Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, will celebrate twenty years of existence. Twenty years of helping the poorest of the poor. Two decades of making disciples, of meeting the physical, emotional and educational needs of children who have been abandoned, abused and neglected. Casa Hogar (as it is called in Spanish) has been following God’s call and God’s example of making beauty, sharing truth and doing good.

Twenty years ago this 14 acre plot of land in the Tlacolula Valley was nothing but a half finished building and a lot of big thorn bushes. Now it is a place of beauty, with many gardens and wonderful architecture.

Mission Courtyard
Flowers and Fountain

Twenty years ago leaders of Foundation For His Ministry began sharing truth with people of the region. The indigenous people like the Zapotecs, Mixes, Mixtecs, as well as native Mexicans heard the Good News that God loves them and wants them to be happy; that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; that through Jesus they can have peace with God and live an abundant, eternal life. Oaxacans from pre-school age to old age heard the truth about life and death; good and bad; heaven and hell. Pastors and missionaries went into area prisons and remote mountain villages preaching hope, restoration and renewal to those who felt hopeless, helpless and lost. Children from the Home learned and continue to be taught the truth of God and his Word in morning devotions, Sunday School, church services and youth conferences. They learn the truth of God’s World in our primary school called Oasis. They also hear and apply truths at special events like swim camps and at mountain retreats.

Needy Children Who Learned to Love One Another
Hearing the Truth
Sharing the Truth of Jesus Birth

Twenty years ago, missionaries from FFHM came to Oaxaca with a vision of doing good. A vision of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick and taking in the stranger. For two decades servants of Christ have been cooperating with God, FFHM, local and regional authorities to make a difference in the Kingdom of God and Oaxaca’s seven regions. Doing good by meeting felt needs, and more importantly, meeting the deep spiritual needs of people in southern Mexico who are walking in darkness. FFHM has been bringing the Light of Life to thousands of lost souls for these last twenty years, and, God willing, for the next 20 years and more.

Feeding the Hungry
Learning to Garden
Mixing Concrete to Build a School

Sometimes I wonder if people read accounts like this and think that we must be some sort of Super Hero Christian Saints. We are not super hero Christian saints. We are just ordinary people doing ordinary things following an extraordinary God as best we can. God has opened our eyes to certain needs and we clumsily walk along the path that God has put before us to travel. We are sinners who have been forgiven. We are beggars who have found some bread and share with other beggars. We do the best we can to love God with all our being and love our neighbors as ourselves, and we fail mightily everyday. We hope to find God’s strength in our weakness. We pray for grace in our times of need, which are often. We could all easily pray the prayer of Saint Thomas A Kempis in his classic book The Imitation of Christ –

O God,

Deal with us according to your loving-kindness,

not according to our wickedness and iniquity.

We offer unto you all our goodness,

though it is exceedingly little and imperfect,

that you may mend and sanctify it,

that you may make it well pleasing and acceptable in your sight,

and ever draw it on towards perfection;

and furthermore bring us safely,

slothful and useless poor creatures that we are,

to a happy and blessed end.

May we feel ourselves assisted by your grace, enriched by consolation,

protected from dangers, freed from pains;

and that being delivered from all evils

we may joyfully give you exceeding thanks.

Pardon our sins and mutual offenses.

Take away, O Lord, from our hearts all suspicion,

indignation, anger, and contention,

and whatsoever is able to injure charity and diminish brotherly love.

Give grace to the needy,

and make us such that we may be worthy to enjoy your grace,

and go forward to the life eternal.

Amen.


Orientation is important. Perhaps the most important part of life. Here are some definitions:

Noun – the determination of the relative position of something or someone (especially oneself)

The relative physical position or direction of something

The adjustment or alignment of oneself or one’s ideas to surrounding or circumstances

In high school and college I went to freshman orientations. These were intended to help new students orient themselves with the geography of the school. I learned where the library, cafeteria and different classrooms were. After orientation I always knew where these places were, no matter where I was. That was important. To this day I have bad dreams that I am in some large school and I am disoriented and can’t find my class, or worse yet, the bathroom, and I really need to go!

Orientation is important for everyone. Orientation is not just knowing where we are spatially, but also knowing where we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Many people’s lives are oriented around the wrong things. For example, some people orient their lives around money and the accumulation of wealth. Acquiring wealth makes them happy, at least for awhile. With money they have a house, a car, a savings account. They can have nice clothes and eat at the best restaurants. With wealth they have security and status. They know where they are by how much money they have.

Other people orient themselves around sex or drugs or power or education or family or work or politics. There are countless things we can orient ourselves around. Good things and bad things. I am reminded of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Verse 40 tells us that Martha was oriented around all the preparations that had to be made. Her orientation led her to be “worried and upset about many things.”

Mary on the other hand, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Her orientation was Jesus. Jesus told Martha that “few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

May I suggest that we choose to orient our lives around Jesus? I recently read about a comedian whose life was oriented around being a comic. He couldn’t imagine his life oriented around anything else. Then he heard about Jesus, and how he would live a happier, more complete, more contented life, if his life was oriented around this God/Man. He didn’t believe it. He fought against it. But he couldn’t get Him out of his mind. Finally he gave in. In his words, he began to orient his life around God, and discovered, quite to his surprise, he was happier, more complete and more content.

I like that he used the word “orient”. Some Christians use the words Saved, Born Again, Converted, Redeemed or Rescued. Those words indicate important aspects of what it means to be a God Follower, but not the entire package. I think the the concept behind the phrase “to orient myself around God” encapsulates the entirety of what it means to be a Christian. When I orient myself to God, my whole life, every moment becomes related to God who loves me and gave himself for me.
There are many Bible verses that refer to this kind of orientation:

Seek first the kingdom of the heavenly Father and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37,38)

Rejoice always, pray continually give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


My life is oriented around God at a mission that helps needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico; a mission run by FFHM. Our mission statement states that we exist to make disciples of Christ. A disciple is one whose life is oriented around the teachings and practices of a person or organization. We aim to orient the poorest of the poor in Mexico to lives centered on Jesus. This ministry takes in children whose lives have been oriented around abuse and poverty, neglect and rejection. Showing them the love of God by meeting their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs enables them to reorient themselves toward a better life. Once they see themselves as dearly loved children of God and orient their lives around that truth, they are able to live happy, fulfilled lives.

We all want to be happy. God created us in his image; he created us to be happy. We can all be incredibly happy. It just takes the right orientation.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what the author of Hebrews thought about when he or she began writing about the incarnation. Hebrews 2:9,14,15 says, ‘We see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone…. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what the angel of the Lord was thinking of when he told Joseph to name Mary’s son Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21) It was Jesus death on the cross that accomplished salvation from sin.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Herod was thinking about the newborn king. “When the magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ “

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Paul was thinking about in Philippians chapter two when he wrote, “And being found in appearance as a man, Christ Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.”

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Paul was thinking about when he thought about his own death. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. Paul thought about Christ’s birth and death and resulting reconciliation with God. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled shall we be saved through his life.” (Rom. 5:9,10)

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. This Christmas maybe we can change our focus a bit. Sure there are gifts, decorations and family gatherings to consider, but perhaps these last few days before December 25th, we can orient our thoughts toward something more substantial, like death – the true reason for the season. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Jesus was born to die so that we can live. Let’s embrace death to self so that we can live meaningful lives in Christ. God became flesh and dwelt among us and died for us because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death, and celebrate!

Reasons Why Jesus Was Born

 

I read an insightful article from Fuller Studio entitled Silence, Patience and Presence. I especially liked what the author, Dr. David Augsburger, had to say about Silence, and want to share some with you. He begins the article recounting an experience when he was a young pastor and went to be with a man whose wife had just died. They went for a long walk in the rain. Neither man talked. When they got back to the house, the man told the pastor to go home. On the way home, the pastor, the author of the article, felt ashamed, an utter failure, because he had not give the man any advice or words of comfort. Later he realized that silent presence was probably the best pastoral care that he could have given.

He follows with some wonderful quotes about silence.

To every thing there is a season …

A time to weep and a time to laugh,

A time for mourning and a time for dancing,

A time for silence and a time for speech. (Eccles. 3:4,7)

——

Silence is the gift we give when words are untrustworthy, unnecessary, unwise.

——

Those who know do not talk; those who talk do not know.”

Chinese wisdom from the Tao Te Ching

If your speech is no better than silence, be silent.”

Dionysius the Elder

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Abraham Lincoln

——

Silence precedes speech:

only the one who has learned to be silent is prepared to speak.

——

No moment of silence is a waste of time.”

Quaker Rachel Needham

It is often more effective to fast with words than with food.”

Rabbi Vilna Gaon

The deeper one’s nature, the more time is necessary for solitude.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Nothing in all creation is so like God as silence.”

Meister Eckhart

Those who hear the word of God can also hear his silence.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Richard Rohr’s Prayer from Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.”

In silence and hope shall be your strength.”

(Isa. 35:15)

—–

Silence is the language of respect.

—–

Be quick to listen, slow to speak.”

(James 1:19)

Job and friends:

seven days of silence waiting for the sufferer to speak first.

_____

Ezekiel: at the end of his journey, to be present with Judean exiles:

For seven days I sat in silence dumbfounded.”

**************

One who loves God loves silence also.

One who loves Christ loves the silence of the desert.

One who knows the Spirit knows the winds of silence.

If we root our lives in silence we grow deep into God.

Dr. Augsburger

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of silence after reading this article. I wonder if I spend enough time in silent reflection of God and his will; of Christ and his sacrifice; of the Holy Spirit and what he is saying to me. I am concerned that maybe I speak useless words without thinking that may offend or hurt a brother or sister. Perhaps I need more time alone to consider the deep things of the Father and the Word and listen to his still, small voice. I will go off by myself to a quiet place and give it a think.

I have been reading Deuteronomy lately and a certain phrase seems to keepdefender popping up, that is Foreigners, Fatherless and Widows. These three groups of people seemed especially important to God. Check these verses out:

God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.         Deuteronomy 10:18-19

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.          Deuteronomy 14: 28-29

Rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name-you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you.      Deuteronomy 16:11

Be joyful at your festival – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.         Deuteronomy 16:14

God wants his chosen people to live in community and respect and care for one another, especially those who are poor and powerless and most likely to either be forgotten or taken advantage of. That would be the foreigners, fatherless and widows.

God takes special pains to remind the Jews that they were once foreigners in Egypt and to remember how unpleasant that was – to be used and abused. It was bad, don’t treat the foreigners in your midst like that.

With regards to the fatherless and widows – well, in that patriarchal society the male head of household was everything. The breadwinner. The family representative. The protector. If the father died the outlook was pretty bleak for the surviving spouse and her young children. Relatives were expected to help them out. But God goes beyond leaving the burden of care to the extended family. He wants all the people of the community to not only help them out, but to respect them, remember them and include them.

That was then, and this is now. That was God’s commands to a group of tribes that lived thousands of years ago. What about our tribes today? Does God expect us to continue to help the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows? Or is that the governments job and the church can pretty much ignore those people and get away with it. God will wink and look the other way. Maybe, maybe not. James, the brother of Jesus wrote to the church that true religion that is pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Perhaps people who fail to look after orphans (the fatherless) and widows have already been polluted by the world.

In the United States there are more fatherless and single mothers than ever before. Doing some research on the internet I was surprised to learn that there are aproximately 13 million single mothers raising 22 million children and that about 60% of children living in mother only families are impoverished while only 11% of children living with two parent families are impoverished.

In the Gospels children seem to have a special place in Jesus heart. I don’t think that has changed, and perhaps none are closer to him than the fatherless.

The foreigners, fatherless and widows were on the bottom rung of society in ancient times, and even today they struggle more than most. There are other groups in the United States that are struggling and many feel hopeless and helpless. As I was considering the plight of many foreigners, fatherless and single mothers, three other groups came to my mind that God may be calling the church today to not only give a hand out, but a hand up, spiritually and economically speaking:

The department of Housing and Urban Development reports that there are about 554,000 homeless people in the United States.

There are about 16.1 million mentally disabled people in the United States.

5.5 million veterans have some type of disability.

Thank God for all the churches and various ministries who help these millions of people with encouragement, programs and spiritual direction. Everyones greatest need is the love of God and living in right relationship with God. God loves everyone and wants everyone to be happy. Sometimes God calls a church or individual to be part of the answer to relieve human misery; to bring joy and peace to a suffering soul, whether that person be a foreigner, a fatherless boy or girl, a single mother, a bruised and battered veteran, a homeless person or a mentally challenged individual. Helping people in need helps us to be happier people. Just ask God, he’ll tell you.

Rejoice – verb – feel or show great joy or delight

rejoice1

I have been reading Deuteronomy lately. Three times in chapter 12 the Israelites are instructed to rejoice. Two of these instances hearken back to my last post. Moses relays God’s instructions to the people that when they take control of the Promised Land they are to gather in a place that God will designate and offer sacrifices and offerings and rejoice. They are to celebrate God and his rich blessings that he had given them.

The third instance of “rejoice” in the chapter occurs in verse 18. Moses tells everyone that they are to rejoice before the Lord their God in everything that they put their hand to. This reminded me of what Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” ( Philippians 4:4)

Moses told the people to rejoice in everything they put their hands to, and Paul tells people in the church emphatically to rejoice in the Lord always. After meditating on these words I decided, at least for one day, to be intentional about rejoicing in the Lord.

I get up pretty early most mornings, and when I went outside to begin my workday, it was still dark, and the sky was filled with stars. I rejoiced in this beautiful sight and gave thanks to God for his marvelous creation. All those stars! God didn’t have to make all those stars, but he did because he loves us and wants us to be happy. He wants us to rejoice, to feel great joy and delight.

I’m the gardener at the home for needy children here in Oaxaca, Mexico. One of my jobs is to water the soccer field. I turned on the sprinkler and rejoiced that we have water that keeps the field green and the kids have a wonderful place to play their favorite sport.

My wife, Anita, is the kitchen supervisor and was making breakfast that morning. Walking into the kitchen I rejoiced in the dedicated wife that God has given me, and that we could work together in ministry. Helping her make quesadillas I rejoiced that the children and staff would have a healthy, nutritious meal to start their day. I thought of Jesus words, ” I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.” I wondered what the children would have had for breakfast, if anything, if it wasn’t for this home for needy children.

Afterwards I drove some of the teenage girls to their school in Oaxaca city. I rejoiced that they could go to a private Christian school and get a quality education that would prepare them for whatever career they might choose. I rejoiced that God chose me to be a part of their lives, to make a difference in who they are and what they would become.

And so went the day, rejoicing intentionally in the Lord and all that I put my hands to. I realized that no matter what we do, we have three choices in how we emotionally react. We can complain about what we see wrong or negative in our situations. That makes us angry or depressed. We can react indifferently which makes us apathetic. Or we can rejoice, which makes us alive to God’s presence and his blessings. This makes us happy, and after all, God does love us and wants us to be happy.

Most of the day the rejoicing thing went great because all my situations were pleasant ones. That changed toward the end of my day.

After work I took my daughters, Sally and Kelly, to their piano class. While they learn tunes on the keyboard, I teach the piano teachers daughter English. It’s a barter deal where no money exchanges hands and everyone is happy. I rejoiced that my girls enjoy learning the piano and I could bless the music teacher and her daughter with English skills.

When we finished we went to a little piece of property that Anita’s dad had given us. We are in the process of building a tiny house and have planted a few fruit trees that needed to be watered. I rejoiced at the thought of these blessings as well.

What we encountered upon reaching the property was not a blessing. Some mischievous young truant, or so I guess, had crawled under our fence, had climbed to the top of a shed where we keep a water tank, and had broken off the water valve, unleashing a thousand liters of water. How could I rejoice now?

I felt violated that someone had come onto our property and distressed over the waste of our water by some random act of vandalism. While I stared in disbelief, my daughters kept asking me “Why?”. ” Why, Daddy, would someone do this? “

I told them that this is how a lot of people act in the “real” world. I explained to them that they live in a Christian community and go to a Christian school, and while Christians aren’t perfect, they normally try to live by the standard of love, and that is what they are used to. People in the world who are not Christians, many times just live by the moment and if it makes them happy to cause pain to others and destroy things, they just do it.

After saying these words I found cause to rejoice. I told the girls that we needed to pray. So we prayed and rejoiced at the work God had done in our lives and was continuing to do. We thanked God that nothing worse had happened and prayed for the person who had done this, that he might see the light and come to know the love of God and find his joy in Jesus and not in random acts of violence.

We got back in the car and drove home. Most of the anger and frustration had left me, replaced by the “peace that passes all understanding.” Some disappointment remained, but it helped me to think of Paul’s words to the Roman church, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And in this I rejoiced.

 

dissappointment

mex indp1

What do you get when you combine dozens of children, the colors red, white, green, Jenga, Dolores, gritos, September 15 and a pigs head? You get a grand Mexico Independence Day celebration at the Home for Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico!

Yesterday we celebrated the big day with lots of games, food, music and fun. Adults and kids here at Casa Hogar made their own teams and set up booths, some for games and others for food. The food included corn on the cob, melotes, beef, chicken and pork tacos, and pastries (even a Chinese dish from a staff member who spent three years in China). There was coffee, hot chocolate, soda and champurrado to drink. There was a prize for best food and booth. Anita, my wife, and her mother worked together on the tacos and some of the muchachas and girls helped with decorating the booth and serving tacos and coffee. The pork tacos were made from a pigs head and won first place (last year Anita won second place with her grasshopper salsa, but that’s another story).

tacos dolores madre

Anita’s mom making tacos

pig head

Today a pigs head, tomorrow a taco

dolores

“Dolores” – made by muchachas

All of the staff and children at the mission were encouraged to invite friends and family, so there was a good crowd on hand enjoying the fiesta. Anita is the kitchen supervisor. She invited the people who supply our tortillas everyday and the couple who bring us fresh chicken once a week. There were people from the church gathered together as well as families who work with other ministries in the area. It was a wonderful gathering and as they say, “a good time was had by all.”

 

God loves us and wants us to be happy, and he loves it when people of faith get together to have a good time. Not only does he love it, he commands it. In the Old Testament he commanded the Jewish people from all over Israel and all over the world, to gather three times a year for worship, feasting and fiesta. There must have been hundreds of thousands of people all crammed into Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to their Loving Creator and rejoice and celebrate God’s goodness with their fellow citizens.

It’s the same in 2000 a.d. as it was in 2000 b.c. God doesn’t choose people to be “Lone Ranger” followers, but to follow him as a community of faith. He not only calls his people to come together to worship him and serve him, but also to celebrate him and enjoy him as a faith community in unity, forever.

unity

Miriam-Webster Definition of Cretan – a stupid, vulgar, or insensitive person:clod,lout

At church on Wednesday nights we have been studying Paul’s letter to Titus. Most ofcretans the letter talks about what is good. Love what is good. Teach what is good. Be an example of what is good. Be eager and ready to do what is good. Learn what is good.

At the end of chapter one, Paul writes about a group of people who are incapable of doing what is good. Those people would be the Cretans. Paul quoted a Cretan philosopher who, talking about his own people, says that Cretans always lie, are brutes and lazy gluttons.

This is somewhat unfortunate for Titus as he is on the island of Crete, ministering to said Cretans.

I have been doing some thinking about those Cretans. I have come to love the Cretans. Why? First of all, God did not take a pass on the Cretans. He didn’t say that those good for nothing Cretans are hopeless and that it’s a waste of time, effort and resources to share the Gospel with those people. No, he had Paul doing some evangelizing there. Some were converted and became followers of Jesus. When Paul had to leave the island, he put his trusted companion and son in the faith, Titus, to continue the work. Then Paul wrote him this letter instructing him what he needed to do to establish a strong church there.

The take away here is that no matter how bad the Cretans were, God loved them and wanted them to be happy by radically changing the way that they thought about right and wrong, good and bad, God and man.

The second reason I love the Cretans is that I was a Cretan, and sometimes still act like one. In fact, according to Scripture, we are all cretanish until we start walking in the Way of Christ and with Christ. Colossians 1:21 says that “once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Until our spiritual eyes are opened and we are illuminated to the Truth of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are all just a bunch of Cretans. Ephesians two says that we were all dead in our sins, until Christ Jesus made us alive. Another way to say that is that we were all Cretans. We were all liars, brutes and lazy gluttons.

We were all liars, and mainly lied to ourselves. We told ourselves that we were pretty good people and deserved to go to heaven.

We were all brutes. The dictionary says that a brute is a cruel, unpleasant or insensitive person. In one way or another we all acted cruelly in that we were insensitive to those that were different from us. To those that offended us we wished in our hearts pain and destruction on them. Sometimes we could even feel that way toward our own family members. Jesus said that as we think in our hearts, that’s the way we really are. While we may not have killed anyone, we have hated and cursed others and acted unpleasantly toward others.

We were all lazy gluttons. We were lazy in that we made no effort to know God, to serve God, to follow God. We were gluttons in the sense that we continually fed our pleasures, feasted on what we thought was good for us, with little or no concern for others. We dined without stop on the lusts of our flesh, the lusts of our eyes and the pride of life.

We were all just a bunch of Cretans, until the day that God rescued us from that slimy pit of existence, and forgave us, redeemed us and adopted us as his dearly loved children who could now live joyfully in right relationship with the Father.

Thank you God for not giving up on Cretans!

mercy

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