It moves me almost every Sunday. I can’t help it. When I see my brothers and sisters in Christ post their pictures of church, and especially of the Lord’s Supper, I am reminded that God’s Kingdom ignores whatever lines we’ve scribbled on the Earth. Its citizens hail from every tribe, every nation, every people group. And every Sunday, I eagerly swipe through my feed, hitting a love react on every picture someone shares of their time.
It reminds me that there’s a bond. A Bloodline. A heritage.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
A highly contagious virus has spread rapidly across the world. It’s a surreal feeling, because most of the time, natural disasters happen other places, but not here. Or they happen here and not in other places. I struggle to explain what it’s like, and people either pity me or try to ignore the situation altogether. But not this time. This time, we’re all in it together. My friends in China, my friends in Italy and France, my friends in the United States, my friends in Tanzania . . . we’re all facing quarantines and homeschooling and difficulties getting supplies.
And for at least one Sunday, I see the CHURCH, the real church, the Bride of Christ rise up from her surroundings and shout “I AM HERE.” For one Sunday, people stop going to church, and start being the church. They start reaching out to their community, because they have no jobs to keep them too busy to help. They wake up and start looking around, because now they have little else to do. They start finding ways to be the churchwhen there is no building to hide in.
And that’s why I was moved to tears this time. Why every picture I saw of the Body and the Blood was a beautiful, resounding anthem to Communion. And it didn’t matter if people had wine or grape juice or grapes, or even water (after all, our Savior did turn water into wine). It didn’t matter if the bread was unleavened or not. What mattered was that One People gathered to “DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME” and by doing so, “proclaim the Lord’s death” until whatever day He decides to return. We all came flocking to His table, because what we longed for was Communion with Him and each other.
We made a loud and clear declaration that Sunday. We declared that our faith transcends hardship, mild or oppressive, that it cannot be shut down or locked away or quarantined. We declared that we are a Community of believers, and it doesn’t matter which piece of land we live on, we serve the same Lord and were all invited to His Table.
And maybe we didn’t have the elements of Communion perfect, but I think we found the heart of it.
I was 11. I stood at the top of the steps and looked at my father, waiting for me down in the water. A week before, the speaker had said, “What excuses are you telling yourself? Are you going to go another week without giving your life to Jesus? What’s keeping you from turning your life over now?” And, like the Ethiopian, I realized I had no reason not to. And now I stood at the brink. This was the moment of change, the descent into the grave, the steps into new life.
My foot touched the icy water and a shiver ran up my spine. Another step. The water was cold, but my heart was on fire. Another step. I gasped. The chill wrapped around me. My father took my hand. And down I went, into the grave, death to the old me. I was buried with Christ and raised again. I was alive! So very much alive!
Do you remember? Think back. Do you remember plunging down and bursting out? This is the moment to remember that bond you made with Christ. This is the moment to reminisce with Jesus. To break bread and drink the fruit of the vine, to sit and commune . . . and remember. Remember what He did for you. Remember your walk together. Remember your life in Him. Do this . . . in memory of Him.
My daughter is three years old. She’s at the age where she likes to experiment, to test limits, and to learn about life through experience. I’m a big advocate of allowing children to learn through experience and consequences.
A while back, I bought a pair of shoes for her. They’re much too big, so I put them away for later. Today, she found them. Instantly enamored, she begged (and begged and begged) me to let her wear them. Finally, I decided to let her do it.
Just outside our house, she tripped and fell. She cried. I picked her up and asked if she wanted me to change her shoes. She wiped her face and shook her head. “No.” So we continued our walk. The whole time we were out, she spent the time tripping and falling. She had to move slowly, and not run like she loves to do. But every time I’d ask if she wanted to change her shoes, the answer remained the same. “No.”
And here’s my question for you today– do you have anything in your life that’s making you trip and fall?
Do you have anything that’s hindering your relationship with God? Maybe it’s not a bad thing. Maybe it is.
Is there any hindrance in your life that you cling to, because you like it, because it makes you feel special, because it makes you feel good?
Is there anything in your life that God has asked you to give up, because you’re not ready for it yet?
Is there any great desire that you have, any blessing that you yearn for so bad it hurts, and hurts, and hurts?
Is there anything in your life that’s slowing you down. Preventing you from running ahead, from soaring high, keeping you from being truly free?
Maybe you’ll get to have it in the future. Maybe not. I’m not God, and I don’t know all the blessings He wants to give you. But I do know that sometimes, we have things (habits, behaviors, hobbies, loves, addictions) that come between us and unhindered joy. And if we could begin the process of letting go, we’d find out it’s easier to follow God.
What will you shoes today? (Gosh, that was bad. Sorry.)
Sometimes, when you face obstacles on your journey, it is that you may see the Lord clear the way before you.
March and April have been emotional months for us.
On Wednesday, March 14th, Mike’s father passed away suddenly. It was a big blow to the entire family. He was the kind of man you dream about having in a family. Kind, caring, loyal, patient. A good man, loved by almost everyone who knew him.
We decided to fly up as soon as possible. There was one setback, though– although we had begun the process to get Caleb’s passports (he has dual citizenship), we had not received them yet. We spent all of Thursday explaining our situation to the proper channels and asking for expedited processing. Thankfully, they complied, but couldn’t get us his Chilean passport until after the weekend.
We talked as a family, and decided that it was best for Mike to fly up that evening and spend as much time with his mother as possible. We filed the paperwork necessary for me to travel alone with the kids (Chile has laws preventing parents from travelling alone with their children, to prevent kidnapping). Buying the tickets was going to be a heavy blow to our budget, but it didn’t matter. A close friend of Mike’s sent a message: “Let me and my family buy your tickets.” I have rarely seen Mike so deeply moved, and this one one of those rare moments.
We bought the ticket and he flew out that night. I stayed with the kids, for the weekend. I’ll skip over the anxious days and several frustrating “not ready today” moments, straight to Monday.
I had read that morning that there was a big protest holding up traffic on the highway and delaying travel. I hoped it all cleared up by the time I left that evening. I called to see if the passport was ready. The answer was a resounding NO.
I cried, and prayed, and cried some more. I called to cancel my ticket, because they had assured me it would be ready on Monday. I felt like we were facing obstacle after obstacle, and all I wanted was to have my family together. Please God, just give me this. My own spirit challenged me. What if He says NO? I pondered the question. Reluctantly, I handed over my will. I’m not happy about it, Lord, but I’ll take whatever You decide.
And around 4:00 PM, they called again. “It’s ready.”
Overjoyed, I hurried off to retrieve it, and called to re-book the flight. It was too late. I would have to fly out Tuesday night. No matter. We had the passports, and our family would be together again. I remembered then, about the protest. Good thing you didn’t have to travel today. It would have been very difficult to get there in time.
Tuesday evening, my friend Sara drove us to the airport. She arrived much too early, but we went anyway, thinking a little extra time wouldn’t be such a terrible thing. At the airport, we ran into Jim Hurley (a missionary friend), who was there to drop his parents off for their flight. We commented on the coincidence, took some pictures, and continued on our way.
When Sara headed back home, I went ahead and started to go through security. A little extra time spent inside the airport wouldn’t be too bad. And that’s when I realized . . . I had forgotten the paperwork clearing me to travel alone with kids back at home.
I cried, and prayed, and cried some more. I sent some messages to Mike, and he calmed me down. I ended up calling our neighbor and close friend, Malli, who sent her son to our house to pick up the paperwork. They called an Uber to take him to the airport. Back at the airport, I paced nervously, waiting for news. I berated myself and my forgetful brain, prayed some more, and paced some more. Each minute that ticked by meant that we got closer to missing our flight. Good thing Sara showed up too early.
I called again. The Uber driver had refused to go to the airport, so they had called another one. More minutes ticked by. “He’s on his way” texted Malli. One knot gone from my stomach, but he still had to arrive. I prayed for no traffic, and no delays. I got another message. “The Uber driver refused to go into the airport, so my son is running up from the entrance to get to you.” Mike suggested I see if Jim was still around. I found him still at the airport, just getting ready to leave. I asked if he would watch Lydia while I ran out to meet up with Malli’s son. He did, and I ran to the entrance. Good thing Jim just happened to be there when you needed him to be.
I met up with Malli’s son and got the papers, thanked him profusely, and ran back inside. I picked up Lydia, thanked Jim profusely, and we hurried into security. They took the papers and the rest of the process went smoothly. When we arrived at the gate, the agent waved us in, because it was time to board. We made it in the nick of time.
Once we were situated in our seats, I heaved a deep, deep sigh. Gratitude, relief, and wonder filled me. I realized then that, even if God had, indeed, said NO to this trip, I would have been all right. But I was grateful for His help every step of the way, and for each “coincidence” that got me to this moment.
We arrived in Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon. The reunion with Mike was tender, and long-awaited. For Lydia, the joy of rejoining her Papa was added to when she saw the beautiful and fresh SNOW. And though it was probably not a blessing for many, for our little family, it was the promise of God’s pure and gracious provision for His beloved children.
Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing very much, in terms of “missionary work”. I spend most of the day with my kids. Sure, I get an article translated and uploaded once a week or so, but that’s about the extent of it. I spend most of my day with my kids. If I am truly honest with myself, it doesn’t feel very spiritual or “missionary-like”.
I don’t know if it’s just to make myself feel better, but when I start to fall in the trap of feeling unimportant or useless, I remember the paralyzing fear I felt when my daughter was born. It sounds unreasonable to remember a fear when I’m seeking comfort, doesn’t? Bear with me.
When she was born and they wheeled her into the room, I was struck by the enormous task ahead. There she was, all tiny and helpless. I’m responsible for a human being, I thought. And it was terrifying. I was responsible for raising a kind, decent, loving human being. I was responsible for teaching her about God and the person He wants her to be. I was responsible for keeping her healthy and generally happy.
This awe tends to get lost in the shuffle of day to day life. I’m just trying to survive each day, but still do a good job. And now there’s two, and things feel more difficult than before. I spend most of my day getting food ready, doing a minimum of housework, and occasionally remembering to do some kind of educational/developmental activity. And because I admit that I am a computer-holic, I remove myself and the kids from the temptation of computers/tablets/TV as often as I can by taking them out to the mall or to a park. Disconnect from tech. Connect to fun, and games, and nature. Go to the library and bury ourselves in books. Have an oh-so-healthy meal of chicken nuggets.
I’m responsible for raising human beings. It may not feel grand or spiritual, but it is a task that is worthwhile– valuable. I don’t know what they’ll grow up to be, and I’m only just beginning to get an inkling of their personalities. But I know that, whatever else, they will know they are loved, by their parents and by God. They will know that they must love, themselves and others. They will know that Truth is worth searching for, mysteries are worth exploring, and adventures are worth having. Beyond that, we’ll see.
I’ll do my best. Because it’s the best job I have right now.