Monday, June 30, 2014

Hello, Is this ...?

Though Ben is an orthopedic surgeon, I had to learn my husband is a public servant first and foremost.   I know what it is like to have phone calls at 2 in the morning, on every holiday of the year, and on a rare day off.  I know what it means to live life conjoined to a telephone and how family plans can evaporate like droplets in the sun.   I know how sometimes the ring of the phone sounds grim like a ball and chain.  I know what it is like to wish for temporary deafness.  Being one of the sadder and wiser wives, I also know that loss of hearing would only delay the inevitable.  People must be heard and people must be treated.  There is a hurting world at our doorstep.

Understood.  Frankly, it was a high improbability to be assigned a new unlisted phone number which the man of the house was so sought after.  Yet, we came to possess by "accident" a special number that many desperate people dial hoping to reach that special someone, the Pastor.  

It breaks my heart to listen to message after message. 
"My brother passed away unexpectedly, I wanted to see if you could do the funeral service. Please call me back."

Though still recovering from childhood phone phobia, I did call them back and left a message on their machine to let the person know their pastor no longer had this number.  I didn't want them to feel abandoned in their grief.

Death after death rings our phone.  We have more funeral requests than weddings.  Life is sad for the pastor's sheep that can't find their earthly shepherd.  The church's recording supposedly gives out our phone number.   The congregants are starting to wonder why the pastor is never in.  I spoke to one raspy-voiced lady three times on the phone telling her this was not the pastor's home, she called back twenty more times over the next two weeks.

A man with a voice like a sad violin confided on our machine, "I am having some big problems.  Going through a tough time, and I need to talk to you." 

Sometimes, callers just assume that I am Peggy, the pastor's wife, and start telling me that maybe we should send flowers to so and so. I get calls from travellers at motels.  I get calls from other pastors with foreign accents.  This pastor was well-connected, but remains elusive.

I have come to see how every pastor is a public servant first and foremost, like my Ben.  The similarities go on, a pastor is a binder of the broken, a defender of the weak, an authority in his field, a listening ear and a provider of counsel to diminish pain and suffering.  Likewise, me thinks a pastor is most contacted after office hours. 

Isn't it God's sense of humor to give us a pastor's number, so both phones can be ringing at once.   As Ben tends to his patients, I wonder if I am suppose to have a praying ministry with these strangers on the phone that leave haunting cries for help.  After all, under the new covenant, every single Christians is commissioned as "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."   (1 Peter 2:9)  

So if you call our house and ask to speak to the pastor, maybe one of  these days I will say, "He's not here, but can I pray for you?"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Happiness in Megapixels

  Fritz may be a natural behind the camera.  He took some winning photos in the western light.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Spinach Can Promise

After Teddy watched Popeye, he came to me and asked if I could buy spinach so that he could get strong. With English being his second language, I looked at the sweet boy and thought I won't disillusion him of the amazing power of spinach.  Therefore, I said, "Sure."  I could have added that last week those green crisp leaves he didn't like on his plate were spinach, but I didn't.  Next time we ate spinach, I made sure to point out to Teddy, "This is spinach like Popeye eats."  Suddenly, he found it very good. 

Okay, I laughed and thanked the writer of Popeye, but truly false advertisements are rampant in life.  Much of the false advertisement starts in our own noggin.  You and I are one heck of an ad campaign. We fall for the most obvious of empty can promises though we filled the cans ourselves.   Spinach can promises are universal and a simplified term for an if/then syllogism.   If I have this, then I will have that.  Anyone who has taken logic knows that a false premise will lead to a faulty conclusion.  But the spinach cans keep beckoning with a worthy desire for something good like strength, love, courage, friends, well-behaved kids, happy husbands, a nice home, the list goes on. 

Maybe I have completely confused you.  Here are some examples of sin-canned thinking or pleasant lies:
If I am a good person, then good will come back to me.  If I just love my kids enough, then my kids will have whole relationships.  If I just have more money, then I will be more generous.  If I just have more education, then I will have more courage.  If I just have more "me time", then I will be a pleasanter, more altruistic person. 

 Please don't assume I am saying there aren't truthful if/then statements.  There are.   The Bible is chock full of them.  Here is Luke 9:23-24:  "Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.'"

If you read those verses carefully, you find not just one but three if/then statements.  The Biblical life is portrayed with the jagged edge can full of temporal loss, personal hardship and human rejection.  Make no mistake few want those things.  Christianity is an ad campaign like none other.  It is 100% truthful.  In what we, mortals, might call insanity, God makes all these horrible promises, and yet we become recruits, because Jesus himself chose to be the first to take up his cross and lay down his life.  With great cost to himself, God exchanged the cans on the shelf.    Look no more for the spinach cans.  Instead when you see the jagged edge, remember Jesus who sliced much more than his hand to open for us all the contents of unmerited favor, a purposeful life and eternal glory.  Dear Teddy, If you feast on that, then you will be stronger than a million Popeyes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

First See Yourself as a Penny

This morning I made an emergency run to the grocery store.  That happens quite frequently around here.  We are usually out of milk, though I buy five to seven gallons at a time.  Well, while we were on our milk run, Teddy and I realized we needed a few more things like bread and cookies.  The very things that taste so good with a big cold glass of whole milk.   But to get to the bread we walked by the watermelons.  My son loves watermelons.  We chose the prettiest one.  To get to the cookies, we walked by the root beer, which made me think it has been months since we have had root beer floats.  As you can see my cart got fuller and my Teddy was more scrunched in between the "essentials".   With speed walking in my platform heels, even with diversion items we scudded right out of there as if a storm was a brewing, little did I know. 

In the parking lot, I packed the essentials into the car and my precious Teddy with them.  I returned the shopping cart like a good citizen.  As I walked the car length back to our vehicle, I saw one shiny penny.  I stooped and picked it up.  And lo and behold, there was a second penny. 

I shouldn't have been surprised, because God tends to send me twos when he is confirming something.  (Let me give you some background, ever since I have thought of pennies as picking up the least of these which we are called to do as Christians, pennies escalated in value.  In fact, now I would term myself as an aggressive penny picker-upper.  That's what Christ did for me.   He took me of little value sitting in the dirty parking lot of my sin and gave me worth.)   Though Teddy received my material loot that morning, it was I who tucked away the intrinsic lesson that God cares about my son and me.  What precious pennies to meditate on through the day. 

When the storm of a stranger's accusations broke loose not long after, I saw the God who willingly and eagerly picks up pennies.  I will not be talked to as if I have no value, because I know God cares for me.  Let me tell you how much.  I will not be intimidated by such falsehoods, because I know who we follow and I know how He picks up pennies.  There is pure delight in his eyes. There is a rush in his footsteps.  There is holy caress in his hand.  I was the recipient of all that and I refuse to become worthless in my God appointed life.  I was minted for Him, therefore I bear His image and I submit to His valuation and not yours.  He loves me!  Maybe you couldn't hear that I was shouting that.  That is the terrible thing with written word.  To leave you in no doubt, HE LOVES ME! 

As I shared the ridiculous things this Lover of Pennies did for me and my son, the stranger began to cry.  I don't fully understand the cause of those tears, but I hope that the anger broke so that when that person finds herself a "penny" may her gaze turn heavenward to the only God who cares deeply about the least of these.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Golfing for Teddy

Teddy got his first invitation in the mail.  He was invited to golf with Scottish Rite Hospital. 
He didn't want to go.  I insisted he try. 

I knew beforehand that golfing would be difficult for Teddy due to his joint contractures, but why not be outdoors and try something new.
The boy who told me he did not want to go for many days actually enjoyed himself.  He connected with the ball in his own unique way.  He even hit two balls that the team played off of on their four person scramble.

He came home with a huge smile and his very own set of golf clubs due to the generousity of the hospital. 
My sweet boy got the bunny ears.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ink and Tears

Some books just make you cry.  Hence, you have our melancholy suggestions. 
Neighbor turned against neighbor, and within 3 months 1 million Rwandans lives were violently ended.   This book is written by a Tutsi who was hidden by a Hutu in the midst of the genocide.  As a survivor, she writes through the horrific pain and guilt of being alive while her loved ones were buried.   She writes about her Catholic faith sustaining her and how the message of Jesus' love and peace can rebuild a war torn country. 

As my hero here on the home front read a moving paragraph towards the end of the book to me, his eyes watered.  I know this has to be the real deal to illicit such a response from my Mr. Unemotional.

Another Ben read.  This one I hope to read too.  The author seems to have a great conversational writing style.  This is the reason I often choose books by their titles. 

After adopting, I now want to understand more about the life of orphans everywhere.  This book will incite anger and cause more mixing of ink and tears.  The great news is that the book has an incredible ending. 

This is an insider view into Islam and how the pure message of Jesus will cause internal friction to any other worldview.   Though externally there may be rejection of truth, Jesus used a persevering Christian to love a seeker of meaning into the Meaningful Life.  This qualifies as an ink and tears book, because the author had to weep as his journey to Christ meant his family and community turned their backs on him.
My Chinese son has changed me, so I quite understand how an organization was born through the author's own adoption story.  With approximately 600,000 orphans in China alone, you can understand the need for love and attention to those who have already lost so much. The year we adopted Teddy, he was one of 7,092 children internationally adopted by American families.   When you single out China, Teddy was one of only 2,306 children adopted by Americans that year.  Despite all the good work Half the Sky has introduced into orphanages, it is no substitute for a real mom and dad.  Many children wait for the stability and affection of a family.