Sunday, October 26, 2008

just love gardening

Don't spend enough time in the garden, but every minute I do spend is restorative. Almost like a cup of tea. This is a bee sipping from a fancy amaryllis whose name I cannot remember. (something about apples)

little Evaldo

Saturday, the day our church has Sunday school. Why don't we just call it Saturday school? Who knows.

I am training Dina and Felismina to teach SS, so I find myself there at 8 a.m. and hope either or both of them will show. Kids are always there. Yesterday one of my trainees showed up 15minutes before the end of SS, so I guess it was pretty good. (I did ask her how she was and her answer was "normale" which in this culture is code for: not very well at all, thank you.)

The story of the day was Job, but that is not the story I have for you. Your story is "Evaldo." He attended yesterday. He is about three, the son of the ex-pastor. Chubby, cute, and imperious, he has been used to having an important father, getting his own way (by creating scenes), and being the darling. Almost a year ago his mother birthed Cristina, and he has been in competition ever since.

Combine that with the stress at home of parents who don't love each other, big step-brothers who abuse him and disrespect his mother, and a father who beats his mother and you have a pretty good idea of his mental state. He is the terror of Sunday School. He attends under the supervision of his sister, Raquel, a quiet unobtrusive eight-year-old. He hit other kids, threw shoes (everyone takes them off), beat the drum, and stretched out on the floor for a few improvised tantrums. Each time I explained what was unacceptable and several times picked him up and placed him outside the church door (we meet just inside the door). This was resisted, and he came back in banging wood against the doorpost, but found himself outside again.

The time for drawing pictures came and Evaldo made sure he was inside. He was supplied with notebook and colors. He tried a few offensive attacks, but calmed down. Once he began to shout at Dina and I told him to speak in a respectful voice or head on outside. He actually began to whisper. The change was so radical the other kids started laughing. They had never seen him respond so.

He still had another time out or two, but generally didn't command attention the whole time. At the end of class, I wheeled my bike down the steps. He grabbed the front tire. He likes wheels. So I let him "help" me get the bike outside. Just before mounting the bike, I impulsively asked him for a hug. He gave me a blank stare. (maybe he didn't know the word?) I picked him up--heavy little blighter--and tried to hug him. He was stiff as a board.

"Will you come to Sunday School next week?" I asked. He nodded.
I hugged a little tighter. "Did you like the story?" He put his head on my shoulder, nodding.
"Can you try to learn your memory verse with Raquel?" Another nod. Then his little arms tentatively crept around my sides and he hugged me back.

I wonder how long it has been since anyone just hugged him.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

rare jewel

For two weeks I have been mining the book “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.” It is rich. But God isn’t limited to book learning. In this week, four friends have suffered in ways I have never been called. Suddenly my boundaries seem very pleasant. In fact, I am overwhelmed that I have no reason for discontent.

--First Laureen asked for prayer at fellowship. Her baby, Glady, (9 months) was in hospital for a week with malaria. Laureen is a Kenyan Muslim who converted to marry and then was abandoned by her Christian husband. She has found her Lord and will not go back to Islam, even to receive help from her family. She lives in a room behind a “big house”. Her room has a light bulb, a mosquito net and mat, no furniture to speak of. She has a 3 year old as well, Rachel. Laureen teaches English to get by. She has never asked for a thing but prayer.

--Then my Brazilian friend went to Maputo to get a check up. She had prayed for a baby for two years and found she was pregnant four months ago. The check up discovered that the baby must have died and been reabsorbed. Her pregnancy had continued, she grew, the placenta and cord grew, but there was no baby.

--Another friend who has fought several rounds with cancer has been told there are new spots on her lungs
--Veronica shuffled up my driveway Thursday morning while I taught Bell. I didn’t recognize her at first, her husband had beaten her very badly. She had blood down her dress front, swollen eye, injured arm, broken spirit. He prophesied that she would get tired of the treatment and run away from him. Her husband is the pastor who was removed from leadership in February because of his adultery.

I don’t believe in comparison, but often get caught in its trap. Seeing the pain these friends are facing, I could scold myself and point out how “good” I have it, and it would be true.
But God is teaching us each different lessons. He also wants us all to find our contentment in him--no matter our situation. Be it cancer, death, abandonment, illness or abuse, He is God in Heaven.
And Heaven Rules.
Remember after Nebuchadnezzar’s rather unusual lesson, he said:
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” Dan 4:37
From the mouth of a pagan king. Wow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content.
Philippians 4:11

Wish I could say the same thing. But I am on the right track; I'm learning.

Last week when I was visiting a friend and grumbling (rather more freely than I do in prayer updates and on the blog) about the slow progress with the chronological Bible storying with women and the leadership transition in the fellowship, aforementioned friend bounced out of her chair with a: "Have I got the book for you."

I love books and it's a good thing. Because this one is like a 2x4 over the head. It was published in 1648, which gives you an idea of its timelessness and integrity. Jeremiah Burroughs, Puritan extraordinaire, wrote, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment." The theme is the verse I started this post with.

His description of contentment is: "that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposals in every condition." Then he explains what he means for the next 212 pages. You'll be hearing more from me on this, be assured. It should take me months to work my way through this book.

For me, this little cul-de-sac in Venice would be a great start for a contented frame of mind.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A thought from Dante

I walked through this weekend, having relinquished two beloved family members to the vagaries of Mozambican travel. Luke flew to Maputo (the capitol) to take his SAT test. Return flights were booked for days, so he returned on the infamous "chapa." Phil drove to Morrumbala on roads that must be seen to be believed.

Isabel and I had some great "girl time" safe at home.

Dante's words reminded me that whatever the outcome of the weekend, God was reliable.

"In His will is our peace." Six one-syllable words. But they say it all.

His will is completely secure. Not necessarily safe, by our definition of safety. But in His Hands, we are secure. I lighted on those words, briefly at first, then kept coming back.

If I am not a peace, where am I regarding His will? And if I am in His will, why should I not be at peace? God's will doesn't come with the type of guarantee I would draw up. But it does promise His presence always. That is all I truly need.

Well, the guys are back, safe and whole. But if the scenario had played out differently, God would still be in control, and my peace would still depend upon His will in my life.

Here are some photos of the ferry over the Zambezi River. If you strain your eyes, you might recognize Luke and Bell waiting for the pedestrian embarkation time.

You can also see the type of transport Luke took on his "cross country" trip.