I had priority seating to this wonderful interaction.

I sat on a dirty couch, in a small room, where 2 cows had been locked up, in that very room as well, just minutes before.  That was normal… cows sharing a room with people in their home. There were 2 other dirty couches in this mud brick home, both being occupied by 2 members of this village family and 2 of their friends.

The village men were quiet at times, one even catching a 10 minute nap while sitting on his couch.  They were humble in their manner and spoke only in their native language.  They had darker skin, weathered by the sun.  When the older gentleman smiled, it felt very warm and genuine.  The younger one, nephew to the patriarch of this home (who was napping), was having a friendly discussion with the friend, occasionally getting distracted by the action-packed show on the TV…the TV that was in the room of this mud brick home, that had a stall inside of it for the family cows…that had no proper plumbing.

The friends were quite different, more like me in fact.  They had lighter skin, were taller, had larger feet and noses, and when speaking to me, had my accent.  They weren’t weathered.  At the same time, the friends were much like the villagers as well, choosing to get all of the good out of their well-worn clothes, speaking too in their language, even in this village’s dialect.

I witnessed the comfort and casualness of their friendship as we sat there with the villagers and exchanged what seemed like pleasantries.  The friends were very familiar.  Even though they looked different from each other (except their clothes), they fit right together.  They laughed together.  They addressed their children as they scrambled in and out of the room, much in the same way.  Their body language…hand gestures, arm position and relaxed posture suggested to me that they were very comfortable and much acquainted with each other.

At some point, one of the two friends took out a memory card and handed it to the young man.  The other friend was facilitating the interaction with a verbal explanation.  He explained to the young man that the Gospel of Luke had been translated in his own language and dialect. 

They sat for a while longer…the TV still a bit of a distraction, even for me.  There was a real personal and holy moment going on while in the background a badly made movie for TV was being aired…people getting shot and falling off of buildings.

The distraction agitated only me, I think.

There was what seemed like a long wait until the young man eventually plugged this memory card into his phone and began listening.  His friends were good at waiting.  Then we all sat there as the 1st chapter of the Gospel of Luke was read.  I didn’t understand a word that was being read, but for some reason, my eyes welled up with tears, even as they do right now in writing this. God was reaching out to His beloved creation, breaking all barriers to do so, to tell this young man that He loved him and wanted a relationship with him.  It was very moving, yet very ordinary and normal.

After the first chapter, the young man turned it off and they again exchanged pleasant and familiar conversation, one often leaning into the other or gesturing with a touch of the hand.  It was all so different (the cow, mud brick house, dirtier living conditions) and yet very similar (friendship, familiarity, ordinary).

I’ve played this scene over and over in my mind since it happened.  It was ordinary and routine and simple, even in its extraordinary place and setting.  It was ordinary much like me sitting in a café on Bayview Terrace, having conversation with another mom, discussing parenting, sleep deprivation and schools.  It was simple, just like developing a relationship with someone when there is a common thread…our daughters for example.  It was routine as it is always routine for me to discuss my children.

God hasn’t called me to go to language school for 2 years…He hasn’t asked me to live in vastly different circumstances or settings…I don’t have to do anything outstanding except to be myself, enter into relationship and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance…yet what is extraordinary is that the Creator of the Universe is redeeming mankind, through the shed blood of Christ, one relationship at a time.

Hallelujah!

Our time together ended and I left with the 2 friends of the villagers.  I won’t get to witness what I think will be the end of that story…salvation in Christ for the young man who was seeking truth.  I can however, see that same story played out here, in my relationships, in much the same way…living authentically, being available, answering questions about my faith…all without the cow in my living room.

I am unsure exactly how it all came about.  I know however that she is from a broken family and at some point was encouraged to begin living with her father.  After that did not work out, I believe she came back to live with her mother and step family again.  Because of various issues and circumstances, I believe she found herself again, out on her own, but with no place to go this time.  She is quite young.  She lacks some skills that I take for granted.  I assume that everyone knows how to manage a checkbook, how to interview for a job and how to pay rent on time.

Not everybody does.

Those skills have to be taught.

Enter another family…who invited her to temporarily live with them.  She was physically taken to job interviews which eventually yielded her 2 or 3 part-time jobs.  Since she has no car, she had to be driven to her jobs daily.  They drove her.  She was taught how to budget her new income.  She was shown how to prepare for moving into an apartment…planning for a deposit and other utilities.  She was assured, when she felt insecure, that they would continue to help her with her plan even after she moved into her apartment.

More importantly, she began attending church with her friends.  And most important, she began a relationship with her Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  By the grace of God, she has already been or will soon follow Christ in believer’s baptism.

All because love does.

Love allowed a messed up and confused young lady to live with them.  Love showed some basic skills to her so she could start again.  Love drove her to work.  Love assured her.  Love invited her to church.  Love lead her to her Redeemer.

I was reminded of this story this week when Ben’s class was in charge of their school assembly and each of them were asked to dress up as someone they admire.  You see…if I were asked to do that, I’d dress up as my brother Scott and my sister-in-law Susy.

 

Matthew 25:31 – 40

When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you have 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, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”  The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

I was a student at the University of Texas and was attending Hyde Park Baptist Church.  The time had come to make public my profession of faith by following in baptism.  I was real scared to proceed with baptism, however.  I was scared to walk down the aisle of my church, first of all.  As much as I love attention, I did not want that attention.  In addition to that, I was afraid that I would make a total fool of myself because every time I went under water with my face up, it would go up my nose and then I would snort around spraying it everywhere.  I was convinced it would be a humiliating experience.  Mercy said no.

It was time though.  I was being lead by the Spirit of God to make my profession public.  The Spirit was gaining strength over my fear.  I love that.  But the fear was still there.  So I planned to walk down the aisle of my beloved church on a particular Sunday when I knew not as many people would be in attendance…at least then less people would see me trip and fall or see my dress blow off or some other crazy catastrophe that my mind mustered up.  I sat up close to the front.  I calculated that fewer steps meant less opportunity for tripping.  I wore my favorite dress.  That was some consolation even if it was about to fall off of me in front of everyone.  It was all very irrational…and Mercy said no.

At the invitation, I stood to go forward and the music began and to my surprise and delight my favorite hymn of all time began to play and be sung…Amazing Grace.  I had been drawn to the words of the song since I was a girl.  It seemed so fitting right then to be comforted by those very words again as I stood in fear… Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now I’m found, twas blind but now I see.  Once I got forward and spoke to my sweet pastor, he had me sit down in the front pew until the invitation was completed.  And wonder of all wonders…I did not trip and fall and at least by that point, my dress had not fallen off.  A young lady from behind me tapped me on the shoulder and told me she liked my hair.  I exhaled a bit more.  And then I was introduced to the congregation, along with a few others.  I was a bundle of nerves, but Mercy said no.

My church was large enough that we had baptisms regularly, but generally our head Pastor did not do all of them.  This disappointed me as I had a deep love for Dr. Smith.  However, it was on the date when I was scheduled to be baptized that he was to be the one performing it…a fact that I drew great comfort from…Mercy said no.

The rest of the story was that I was baptized and my faith, although weak and anemic, was made public.  My pastor didn’t forget me under the water.  And the water didn’t even go up my nose causing a spray.  The battle in the unseen world had been decided and was made public.  Fear lost.  Jesus won.  Mercy said no.

I was reminded of this funny story just this weekend and I told an abbreviated version of it to my very own Mary.  She, along with Dave and Ben have this past year made their profession of faith in Christ.  And it is this weekend that they each plan to follow Christ in baptism.  Mary is feeling nervous.  She is not irrational nervous…like maybe her dress will blow off, but has had fear of standing up front and speaking her testimony to our congregation.  Mercy will say no again.

It was mercy that loved an irrational girl to have courage.  It was mercy that gave comfort to a silly soul who worried her dress would fall off.  It was mercy who sent a compliment and a song.  And it was mercy who sent the gentle hand of a Pastor.  It was mercy who loved a wretch like me.

I am grateful today for God’s mercy towards me.  I am grateful for my life.  I am grateful for my husband and my children.  I am grateful that my children know the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.   And I am greatful that all the times I’ve been scared, Mercy said No!

That’s Ben on the left… he’s a bit shorter than his opponent.

Ben began playing lacrosse this year. I didn’t know anything about it before the season began, but am slowly learning the ropes. It is a fast and physical game. Ben is 9 and plays in the Under-13 Division, so we do sometimes have size mismatches! Similar to ice hockey, the game begins with a face-off. Ben’s coaches often send him in for “the face”, because he wins it consistently. Today he was 4 for 4.

For Ben this is simply a fun game, and he is having a good time. But as I looked at this picture tonight, I was reminded of Winston Churchill’s words. Perhaps we all need to hear them from time to time.

“…this is the lesson: Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Winston Churchill, October 29, 1941, at Harrow School

The Face

Almost there

Ben also had a nice long run in today’s game.

On the run

If you like Man vs. Wild, you’ll like this book. My son Ben gave this to me for my birthday. We’ve watched a few episodes together, and the men of the family thoroughly enjoy watching Bear Grylls eat a yak’s eyeball or whatever else he can find to survive.

Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography

I loved this book. I honestly can’t remember where I ran across the title or what made my interested in it, but I couldn’t put it down. It is a painful story with some laugh-out-loud funny moments and a redemptive theme. Highly recommended.

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts

The List is another book I received around the holidays. I don’t read that much fiction, but I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It is a work of fiction with a few historical facts at its core. Set in post-WWII London, it tell the story of displaced Jewish families trying to build a new life.

I received I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 around the holidays. Being a bit of a geek myself, I thoroughly enjoyed Doug Edwards’ account of what it was like to work for Google during the early years. The last fourth of the book felt a little slow as the internal Google politics seemed to go on and on, but overall a good read.

I’ve removed the books page from the blog and replaced it with a “books” category. There’s a link to the category list at the left of the page.

Robbie gave me SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper for my birthday. She knows I like both contemporary and historical military writing. My interest started with the 50th anniversary of D-day in 1994 and my discovery of Stephen Ambrose. Ambrose suffered through some controversy in his later years, but his writing was compelling.

Seal Team Six tell the story of Howard Wasdin, who suffered through a rough childhood before a distinguished career in the Navy. It is a good read, although it is a bit ironic to read about the unbelievable demands of SEAL training while sitting comfortably in a soft chair!

Happy 13th Anniversary to my beloved.  My heart still skips a beat when you walk into the room!!!!!