Monday, August 31, 2009

on behalf of the slave

Insightful excerpt from the letters of David Livingstone:
"The strangest disease I have seen in this country seems really to be broken-heartedness, and it attacks free men who have been captured and made slaves. Speaking with many who died from it, they ascribed their own pain to the heart, and placed the hand correctly on the spot, though many think that the organ stands high up under the breast-bone. Some slavers expressed surprise to me that they should die, seeing they had plenty to eat and no work....It seems to be really broken hearts of which they die."

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." - Luke 4:18-19

Speak and act on the behalf of the broken-hearted.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

why i enjoy good children's books

For those who know me (what a scary way to start a sentence!) I have have a few peculiar delights. One of those delights (the word "delights" reminds me of Aplets and Cotlets) is reading children's books. Not the modern kinds that try to dumb down life for a child to monosyllable onomatopoeia's. I like the charming depth of the old kind. Ha! You scoff, "Daniel, you always think older is better." Not true. I am thankful for indoor plumbing. I believe that a book makes a good companion. As much as I would like my children to spend time with other children that enjoy roaming in the wild and reading by a crackling fire I want them to enjoy the company of thoughtful literature that brightens the imagination and deepens the heart. Did I mention charming earlier? Yes, I did. I do not mean unrealistically fantastic or a means of escapism. What I mean is a taste of Eden's dew. You see, I believe God made the world quite a charming place, or as the Bible would simply say, "good." Yes, it is fallen too. That is only the second part of the story. The first part of the story is that it was made "good." The fall came in a far second and of that fact I need no reminder. Nearly every day last week I heard another story of broken relationships or bitterness of soul. So what do I mean? What charm is there to be had that is not mere fantasy? Let me tell you as I explain the book I picked up again this afternoon. The book titled Five Little Peppers: And How They Grew by Margaret Sidney. This is the first of the Little Pepper series published in 1881. It is the story of a mother ("Mamsie") who is raising five children on her own, the youngest perfectly named Phronsie. Told here: "But [Mamsie] met life too bravely to be beaten down now. So, with a stout heart and a cheery face, she had worked away day after day at making coats, and tailoring and mending of all descriptions. And she had seen with pride that couldn't be concealed her noisy, happy brood growing up around her, and filling her heart with comfort, and making the Little Brown House fairly ring with jollity and fun." You see, this story is doing something other than spinning a fancy tale, it is showing the beauty of truth. Truth which is not so complex that it has to be meeted out in philosophy textbooks, but is better illustrated in the hardworking mother with disheveled hair and a dirty apron. This story and 1 Corinthians 13 illustrate in the subtle brushstrokes of words how love is expressed. The way 1 Corinthians 13 leaves us is making the final claim that "these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." And I know, dear reader, that at this point I have lost many readers. Many, many would replace one of these three with pain or loneliness. A poem recently given to me by a friend left these lines after every verse: "Is life suffering and pain? / She said it made things easier to believe / Life is only suffering and pain." So what brings me to read with realism the chapters (with titles such as "Making Happiness for Mamsie," "The Cloud over the Little Brown House," "Sunshine again," or "Polly's Dismal Morning") of this classic children's book? Because there is a faith that is more solid than fear and hope more sure than despair and I am loved--O how truly I am loved. I realized again this last week as I led a Bible study on the Gospel of Mark at a new house where the girl had shrines in her room and was reading a book on how Jesus took advice from eastern gurus before his public ministry that the resurrection is a big claim. It is more fantastic than claiming that Mamsie brings joy to her "five little peppers", including Phronsie. I believe that God the Father so loved children that he sent His own Son to die. That is only the first part of the story. There is pain and loneliness even in this story. Those feelings are not lost in this story. "By His wounds you have been healed." He came to not to merely get close to your pain, but to take it away. He want to have your pain. He not only wants you to accept him as Almighty God, but as Loving Father. Oh isn't it charming? "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)

Ha! So read good childrens books.

Monday, August 24, 2009

the hold

"I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ." - Philippians 3:12

Paul had been "laid hold of" and so he sought to "lay hold of". What are you pressing on for Christian? To lay hold of that for which you were laid hold of. By whom have you been laid hold? You were laid hold of by none other than Christ himself. "Because He loved me..." (Galatians 2:20) is the reason.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

aliens and strangers

Today I went back "home home" for a salmon dinner with my family. Do not take it as mere maternal bribery to bring the wayward son home; actually, the authentic Alaskan salmon was a treat provided by the Spanish-speaking girl from Guatemala who lives in one of the side rooms at my parents. She has grown quite attached to my mother. When I arrived there was a Spanish-speaking family, the Sanchez family, from our church already sitting in the living room, squeezed onto the left-most side of the couch. They had come to take Juliana to stay with them for the whole weekend. Or so was their intention. Juliana kindly told them that she would only stay one night because "Cindy [my mother] would miss her too much." Juliana is what some would call an "illegal immigrant." I will give you a face to remember the next time you hear about bi fences being built on our southern border. When Juliana traveled across the desert she went 5 days without food or water. This very week her uncle was just found laying face down in the same desert. The Sanchez Family has been working with the border authorities to see if there was any word on his whereabouts. They said that there are days when upwards of 50 immigrants are found dead in the deserts that have no natural division, but are claimed by two countries that don't have a care for the wandering soul that seek their own promised land. It is a lucrative business for the human traffickers that promise to guide the way. The pace is relentless and the standards inhumane. These are humans. But it is no matter to the human trafficker if some cannot handle the pace or take the successive days without food or water. They get their money either way--dead or alive. Pray and consider when you hear again about the border: who is my neighbor (Luke 10:25-37)?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

submission: the road less taken

I had lunch today with a friend who is a pastor in the Bremerton area. We ate at Taco Del Mar--mutual ground with filling food. If you have ever sat in a Taco Del Mar you can imagine the setting: fish with sunglasses, hanging surfboards, and a thatched-grass umbrella. We sat underneath the umbrella. He had performed a wedding that I went to last week and we talked about that for awhile. He did an excellent job. During the ceremony he told a story to illustrate the relationship of submission between a man and his wife. As the story goes, whenever his wife has had a string of stressful days with the kids he grabs her by the shoulders and looks her in the eyes (I added the shoulder part) and tells her to go shopping or buy her favorite drink at Starbucks. This, he said, is the righteous view of submission: allow me--submit--to love you.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

water for body and soul

Saturday morning I left the attic of a few friends in Ocean Park, WA to run along the beach. Shoeless I iced my legs in the last reaches of the waves that roared threats of coming further. When one prays alongside the ocean no question can match the response offered by the illustrated testimony of nature. For God to show me faithfulness he only needs to direct my lifted heart towards the repeated pounding of the waves. For me to begin to guess the limits of the knowledge of God I need only to look as far as I can towards the western horizon. For enjoyment I only needed to touch the sand and have my mouth catch the first spray of salt water or feel the retreating tide steal the sand beneath my feet each time they land only to rise again and carry me down the shoreline.

Sunday my father spoke on the stories of Luke 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost child. In each there is one lost, one seeking, and a party. We are the first, God is the second (do you know that you are sought after?), and the third is when we understand the other two points. Two weeks ago my little sister responded and asked God to come into her heart. The moment came when she was at the Dunes Bible Camp (also in Ocean Park, WA) and she heard the lyrics to How Deep The Fathers Love, "it was my sin that held Him there / until it was accomplished / his dying breath has brought me life / I know that it is finished...." For the first time she saw that it was her sins that were there with Jesus at his death. Today Stephanie was baptized. As my Dad prepared to dip her beneath the water he found it hard to speak. There have been years of standing at the door waiting for her return. Our growing church family and many relative, who Stephanie had excitedly called when she returned from camp, joined us for the celebration. She is home! Celebrate with us.