Sunday, August 31, 2008

his name is King

Two weeks ago a grizzled dread-locked musician showed up for Sunday morning worship at the International Fellowship. He came with the young dread-locked artist who has attended almost two months. Rinaldo at first brought his 3 year old nephew named Sprite (after the soft drink), but invited his Rasta uncle this time.

I greeted this "elderly man" (have since found out that I am older than he is) and chatted over tea with him after the service. We had a mutual acquaintance in the Culture House in town. Monday he went back to the fellowship house, asked where I lived, and tracked me down. This was a feat because he was given some circuitous directions by the resident pre-teen.

To be sure I was surprised to see him at our gate, but he said he wanted to talk and had obviously taken some effort to find me. He shared a burden on his heart which had to do with the mutual friend at the Culture House. (I had already heard her side of this problem, since I tutor her in English every Wednesday afternoon.)

We sat for over two hours on our front verandah and King (that is his name) regaled me with stories of his life in the resistance movement, famous people he knows and is related to (nephew of the assassinated first president of Frelimo). He has traveled the world; music is his passion; Rastafari is his ideology. Please just look it up on the internet, I had to. I only had the vaguest notion of what it entailed and could not begin to explain it to you. Suffice it to say, it is Afrocentric and revolutionary.

So, middle-aged white woman converses with world-traveled troubador full of resentment for neo-fascist feminists. What does one say? He wanted someone to hear his resentment at being marginalized and treated contemptuously.

What a beautiful opportunity to beg pardon and tell a story about a God of love who created us for fellowship. And we spurned it. So He came in flesh to explain and open the communication again. Then we killed him. King heard me through. I hope he saw the parallel: God doesn't force Himself on us. He gently calls us.

The problem has not been resolved. But what amazes me is that he came back to fellowship this morning. He was very subdued. He wouldn't stay for tea. Nevertheless, he came. . . . why?

Maybe Holy Spirit is blowing fresh breezes through King's dreads. Maybe something miraculous is going to happen. I don't know. But I've resolved to take the opportunities that come. Don't shortcut something that seems a detour.

"When Thou callest me to go through the dark valley, let me not persuade myself that I know a way round . . ." (Baillie)


Saturday, August 23, 2008

early Sunday morning

Today as I spent my earliest moments with my Lord, this passage of petition shone out in the book of prayer that I use:

Teach me to use all the circumstances of my life today to bring forth fruit of holiness:

Let me use disappointment as material for patience:
Let me use success as material for thankfulness:
Let me use suspense as material for perseverance:
Let me use danger as material for courage:
Let me use reproach as material for long suffering:
Let me use praise as material for humility:
Let me use pleasures as material for temperance:
Let me use pains as material for endurance.

--John Baillie

I need to focus on the purposes of the circumstances in my own spiritual formation--not as things to be endured, overcome or a means to an agenda I have in mind.
"Invitation to a Journey" defines spiritual formation as "the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others."
God put us here and chose us time out of mind (whatever that means) to conform us to something very unimaginable so that we can help others. I shudder to think of when I have been a block to trip over rather than a help, but He forgives contrite ones and still uses their weakness to point to His great power.

Must get ready for church.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The King of love

On Saturdays when I teach the women at church, we usually sing some choruses that I have "created" from great hymns that I love and Portuguese verses they need to learn. Every once in a while, I manage to translate a hymn nearly as it was. Seldom does the translation also transcend to the culture. But this lovely one worked and, believe it or not, the little 12 year old boy requests it every week.

(Andaiti is another story in himself and I'll tell about him another day.)

Here are those ancient words--a variation on David's incomparable 23rd.

The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His and He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow my ransomed soul He leadeth,
And, where the verdant pastures grow, with food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love He sought me.
And on His shoulder gently laid, and home rejoicing brought me.

In death's dark vale I fear no ill with Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me.

And so through all the length of days Thy goodness faileth never:
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise within Thy house forever.

--John B. Dkyes

This marble table is in the Vatican, in a room full of incredible table tops. You can see why I chose this one!

Monday, August 18, 2008

church windows

Lord, how can man preach thy eternal word?
He is a brittle crazy glass:
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford
This glorious and transcendent place,
To be a window, through thy grace.

--George Herbert

I love the church windows in the ancient old basilicas and cathedrals. Stained glass or not, there is something about the quality of light through those carefully architected casements. What a reminder for me that I am a window for others to see God's grace. If I am following "instructions," that is.

Lately I've shared dryness and disappointment. They are part of being a child of God, but mainly because children take their focus off their parents occasionally. When I was disappointed about the poor response of the women, it was because they had become my goal. I had things I wanted them to learn. I'd forgotten that I was teaching for Jesus, and I just happened to be teaching them. Whatever and whether they learn is not my goal. Jesus is.

Isn't the window metaphor great? We are glass for the rays of God's love and grace and justice and mercy and all His other attributes to shine through. It isn't about the windows and it isn't about the folks on the floor looking through the windows. It is about the Light.

I have such a long way to go.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

just a little silly

Instead of writing some of the profound things that are going on in my head these days, I thought this silly picture of Bell in the Vatican with Laocoon would bring a little relief.

I tend to take life a little seriously and maybe I should follow Luke's advice and "Chillax."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

what are we doing here?

Ever have one of those "what am I doing and why am I doing it" times?

I spent a lot of time asking God questions like that a few nights ago. He was gracious enough to allow this insight to come across my reading path:

"It is precisely because of the eternity outside time that everything in time becomes valuable and important and meaningful. Therefore it is of urgent importance that everything we do here should be rightly related to what we eternally are. "Eternal life" is the sole sanction for the values of this life."
--DL Sayers

So teaching half-hearted marginalized women is a task with eternal significance. How I embrace it makes a difference.

A walk that Bell and I took down to the Italian coast from Sant' Agata was a joy. It reminded me that God blesses us (and uses us )in the small or random or impulsive things just as He does in the big over-all things. Her expression is a precious reflection of that awareness that it is all from God and He is relating to us through His world and the details of our llves.

Yes, the Mediterranean is that blue.

Monday, August 4, 2008

a dry time

On July 24, 2008 Steve Godbold was freed after over nine months of being hostage to a rebel group in the Tibesti region of northern Chad. The same week a friend with metasticized cancer received the "all clear" from her doctor. The tumor is dead.

What marvelous answers to prayer--both miracles--in so short a time.

But my eyes have not been upwards as they should. I have been in a desert. "A dry and thirsty land where there is no water," as my version of Psalm 61 reads--hyperbole sometimes makes me feel better.

Sunday we had no service in the fellowship. We are looking for a neutral venue. God is working in us and has plans for our growth, spiritual not numerical. Things take time, especially in Africa. God isn't in a hurry anywhere on this planet. (Ask Steve about 9 months in his Chadian desert.)

So when I was singing through some old hymns on Sunday, this one touched my heart. I feel kind of sorry for my kids and their generation which knows so few of those ancient, strong, pain-begotten hymns. Hear the longing in the words of this:

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand--
The shadow of a mighty Rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat and the burden of the day.

Upon the cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart with tears two wonders I confess--
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O Cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face.
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the Cross.

--Elizabeth C. Clephane

This mosaic is in the convent of San Marcos in Florence where Savonarola lived and served.
Click on the picture if you want to see a beautiful large version of it.