Friday, July 25, 2008

Mafalda says: *present* yourself to make a change

I've worked a night shift (2-11pm) and an early morning 8-hour shift at the hospital in the last 24 hours. Today I literally only sat down for 20 minutes to inhale my lunch. So when I got home I doctored my foot blisters and decided to sit on the couch and read nothing too heavy to rest my brain (and my spine!). I grabbed a comic strip book of one of my favorite cartoons ever (right there with Snoopy): Mafalda. I bought this book in Spain a few years ago to remember this cute little 5 year old Argentinian girl with an inquisitive little mind, who always gets her foot stuck in her mouth, continually asks her parents deep existentialist questions, but also makes you laugh at her innocence! For a 5 year old, she is deeply concerned about humanity, world peace, and rebels against social injustices.

The following is the translation of one of the strips. "Guys! It turns out that if you don't hurry up and change the world, it ends up changing you!" I'm NOT trying to overspiritualize everything, but the strip made me think of Romans 12:1-2 and I had a faith-growing moment meditating on this verse, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

There it is. God in the comic strip. All truth is God's truth! ~Inés

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

avocados, simplicity, thankfulness, new job

My friend Cari works in the slums of Uganda with orphans and 60 year old women who can't read. I was reading her newsletter today and I had to read this about 4 times because it cut thru my heart. Read it slowly so you won't miss what you're supposed to catch. Try to picture it in color:

"Right now, both the literacy classes and the Bible studies meet in an open field under an avocado tree."

OPEN field. UNDER. An AVOCADO TREE. 60 year old women. Some who have never attended school. [This is yet another reason that supports my pet peeve of people not driving places (like for Bible studies or fellowships or to be with friends), because it's "too far away"]. My husband is reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. One of these habits is being proactive. I think these Ugandans under the Avocado Tree are pretty proactive to me. Pretty determined. They will get places one day. Especially the 60 year olds. It's pretty simple: you can't read, you're a woman who depends on other people, you never went to school or never finished, and now there's classes under the avocado tree... what makes you stop trying? what obstacle seems too large? how easily do you give up? do you bust down closed doors or just think, oh well, it's a closed door, it's too hard to try...?

I just got a shot of determination all of a sudden! Because of the avocado tree and the determined women sitting under it in the heat. Which leads me to giving away my shoes. I know, how does this thought connect? I've been giving away my nice things lately. Because it doesn't really hurt when you give away the things you don't like anymore. I'm trying to simplify again. I don't need flip-flops in all different colors. I need to finish all my body lotions before I buy another one. I have to wear all my nice clothes that have been hanging in my closet for ages, because I paid money for them! So I dress up for no reason at all. What if I get hit by a truck tomorrow? Here I've been waiting for a *special* day to wear these nice skirts and dresses? Good grief! Just wear it and look pretty. Today is special because anything could happen tomorrow. Life is not guaranteed. Turn off the lights when you're not using them. Shut the tap water if you're brushing your teeth. I recently actually started using the towel holders for our wet towels after we bathe, because having *decorative* towels on the towel holders that weren't used suddenly felt insanely impractical to ME (i'm not calling you insane if you like decorative towels, because I love creativity and color in the home). Buy generic brands. Recycle. Switch to green energy-saving light bulbs. Save money so you can give a lot of it away to those who need it.

So let me jump around some more. I'm just thankful for all that I have. I'm thankful for a new job. Gas in my car. A rooftop over my head. HEALTH. Clothes that protect me from the elements. Food. A spare bedroom for people who need it. Opportunity to work. Health benefits. And so many more things...

I'm not saying that *things* are important or above people. But when I look around and see all those *things* that have been entrusted to me, that make my life easier and more comfortable, I have to give thanks to God for them, even if it seems silly. Because, if you're not thankful for the little things, why would God give you big things to be entrusted with? Again- NOT that I'm aiming for big things. But you know what I mean. This is not about being materialistic, simply being thankful for even the darnest, stupid, little things that have been given to us as a blessing, in order for us to be a blessing to others. That's the catch.

So today, I'm thankful for the cooler shade provided by Avocado trees.
God, life, and learning. All under an avocado tree. Oh joy!


Friday, July 18, 2008

God forges us into His image and we forge things

Our friend Mike Deibert started a Vocational School in Nicaragua to help (and mentor) young men learn a trade in welding, blacksmithing, working with metal, and fixing diesel engines. I've been amazed at how much he has accomplished in only a few years time. He literally went around the USA looking for donated tools, scrap metal, and whatever else you need for a welding school-- filled a container and sent it to Managua. I'm sure there's more to it but I don't know all the details!

A few weeks ago he sent another of his amazing updates on the school and his students. Here is what he wrote. It spoke to me in so many different levels. A picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps when you read him and look at the picture he's pointing at, it will speak to you and your life in a way that my words can't.

For me, it represented: hope & congratulations! (with an exclammation mark). As I look back to the past several years, I can get bogged down with the failures & mistakes I've made, while overshadowing what God has done in me and others thru the trials. But when I saw this picture God straight up said to me, "Inés, look where you have come from! Imagine what more I will do in you and through you! You're doing great kid! Keep on keepin' on!"

Okay, I hope the picture speaks to your heart. YOU and I are truly in God's hands and on our way to all that God has for us.... Mike writes: Things have been progressing at the vocational school. The first accomplishment I’d like to share with you is about one of my students, Jaime. Jaime is one of my students who has been with me since the start of the vocational school. He has shown great willingness to learn and exceptional leadership among the other students. In the picture you can see some of Jaime’s progress. You’ll notice two chairs in the picture. The chair on the right is one that Jaime designed and built six months ago. The chair on the left is one that he designed and built two weeks ago. Can you see the progress? Can you see how far he has come? I am very proud of him and believe he is on his way to being all God has for him.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Even a good house on solid rock needs a little water

My brother and sister-in-law came to visit us from San Antonio a couple of weekends ago. We had a fabulous time visiting with all of our humongous family, walking the Big Dam Bridge (a bridge over the dam; what did you think I said?), talking and talking. Ali began telling us a story about their house. A few months ago they had noticed a crack on the floor tile but didn't think anything of it. Later they realized that the crack was spreading across the house and even going up on the wall. Come to find out, an inspector later, they found out the foundation had cracked because the soil around it was dry...too dry...even for Texas weather. I can imagine my brother wide-eyed and blinking, "hmmm....I guess a year of not watering the yard and just letting nature take care of itself, didn't do us any good."

So a few days ago I was driving around thinking about how spiritually dry I have felt for some time now. My brother's house came to mind. I also reminisced about a sermon my father preached 2 weekends ago. It was about the wise man who built his house on a rock vs. the foolish man who built his on sand. We all know how that story goes. But I never thought of the opposite possibility. Rather than, "the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-- and great was its fall." (matthew 7:27)... There *can* be such a thing as not enough H2O! Hmmm..."there was a drought in Texas, my brother was saving on the water bill, the sun scorched the soil, and it started to get to the foundation; and it cracked-- a great, BIG old crack, like all things BIG in Texas!"

I meditated on this while I was driving. You can have a great foundation, but how amazing that the soil's humidity around you can still affect you to the point where your walls crack? So I began thinking that for some time now (more like years), I hadn't been fed on a regular basis in one way that I expected or needed. My previous job description kept me from personally munching on a Sunday morning sermon, meanwhile regurgitating a simultaneously interpreted sermon into another language for someone else to think about. I stretched myself in ways that led to my detriment & deterioration over seven years (only listening to perhaps a dozen sermons without interpreting). True, I did self-feed thru inductive Bible study and learned from others in informal settings. But I realize how much *I* (Inés) need & love the Word of God taught to me, a little, ignorant sheep, from a shepherd. I think back to when Jesus asked Peter 3 times if Peter loved Him, and Peter responded, "Lord, you know I *like* you.", and Jesus would reply to that, "then feed my sheep." What an intense command to Peter! It required not just that Peter *like* Jesus, but that he *love* Jesus, as well as the sheep he would feed! (And do you know who taught me this truth?? Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, 8 years ago! And I never forget.)

So, I'm going to this new church where I actually get to sit & listen, and the only thing that catches my heart is the Word of God taught in power, in love, with the Spirit's anointing, and it's like I've never heard these words before! My "giggles, hmm's and my amen's" must be surprising and maybe even annoying to those sitting around me. But you don't understand, when you're thirsty and you get a cold, glistening glass of water, it's like no better drink in the world! I feel like a little child hearing for the first time. I'm sure there are other issues that contribute to this melancholic mood, but I'm taking it one step at a time, and this is one thing I've figured out.

The Lord's promise to us who are thirsty,
with dry, cracked foundations,
with having received insult and injury, is this:

"And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
from doing your own pleasure on my Holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight...and honor it...then you will take delight in the Lord."

Isaiah 58:11-14.