29 October 2010

Because we have died / Porque hemos muerto

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” --Colossians 3:3.

What does that mean to us? Do we live in the simple profundity of that truth?

Do we cast our gaze to the heavens, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God? Do we look to the hills, from whence comes our help? (Our help comes from YHWH, the Maker of heaven and earth). Do we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith? Do we choose not to look to the right or the left, laying aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us? Do we set our minds on things above—not on things on the earth? Do we count everything else as rubbish, that we may gain Christ and be found in Him? Do we seek to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made like Him in His death?

And so we return to the beginning. We DIED, and our lives are HIDDEN with Christ in God.

YHWH, teach us your ways. May we delight myself in Your wondrous, mysterious, miraculous, powerful, just, loving nature revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son Jesus Christ. May we take up my cross daily follow You on the road marked with unspeakable suffering and joy. HIDE our lives in Yours, YHWH. Amen.

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Porque habéis muerto, y vuestra vida está escondida con Cristo en Dios. --Colosenses 3:3

¿Qué significa este a nosotros? ¿Vivimos en la profundidad sencilla de esa verdad? 

¿Buscamos las cosas de arriba, donde está Cristo, a la diestra de Dios? ¿Alzamos nuestros ojos a los montes, de donde vendrá nuestro socorro? (Nuestro socorro viene de YHWH, que hizo los cielos y la tierra). ¿Ponemos los ojos en Jesús, el autor y consumador de nuestra fe? ¿Elegimos no mirar ni a la derecha ni a la izquierda, despojándonos de todo peso y del pecado que nos asedia, corriendo con paciencia la carrera que tenemos por delante? ¿Ponemos la mira en las cosas de arriba, no en las de la tierra? ¿Estimamos todo lo demás como basura, para ganar a Cristo y ser hallado en Él? ¿Luchamos a conocer a Cristo, y el poder de su resurrección, y la participación de sus padecimientos, llegando a ser semejante a Él en su muerte?

Y entonces volvemos al principio: Hemos muerto, y nuestra vida está escondida con Cristo en Dios.

YHWH, enséñanos tus caminos. Que nos deleitemos en tu naturaleza tan maravillosa, misteriosa, milagrosa, poderosa, justa, y amante—revelada por la vida, muerte, y resurrección de tu hijo, Jesucristo. Que tomemos nuestra cruz cada día y te sigamos en el camino marcado con sufrimiento y gozo inexplicable. Esconde nuestras vidas en la tuya, YHWH. Amen. 

03 October 2010

¿Te gusta Panamá?

Do you like Panama?

Yes, I say.

Yes because my family prayed that God would give me brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers in the faith here, and He already has. Jarelis, a good friend and coworker, has been praying for our friendship since she heard that an “American missionary” was coming for 11 months. A lot of my coworkers are close to my age, and all are dedicated believers with a good sense of humor to boot.

Yes, because when you finally get out of the city and take a deep breath, you can smell the salt (I love that!) and see the wide open sky, painted by layers and layers of ominous rainy-season clouds. And you swim in the ocean with friends, even after the clouds open up and you have to squint your eyes shut because it’s raining so hard. Here, everyone swims in the rain, during the rainy season at least.

Yes, because people are so friendly. When you walk into a room, or when someone walks into a room, you say “Buenas” to everyone. When you leave work, you say goodbye to everyone. A random lady somehow connected to the bookstore comes in and gets my email address so she can show me around “this beautiful country.”

Yes, because people love to practice their limited English with me, and get really delighted when they construct a comprehensible sentence. It makes me laugh, but in a happy way. It’s the familiar joy of learning, the pride of doing something different. 

Yes, because I am learning so much. In spite of the frustration that comes with not understanding people the first time, (who knew peninsular Spanish could be THIS different from Latin American, or specifically Panamanian Spanish?), I love it when things do finally click and I learn new expressions:
“Dale, pue” is Panameño slang for “Do it, then.” It’s the favorite phrase of my friend Sara, who works in accounting at the bookstore.

“¡Alla la vida!” said with hearty emphasis, means the same thing as “¡Chuleta!”… both are expressions of surprise, and can be either negative or positive. I just recently picked up on the former, and saying it is an instant recipe for laughter.

One of my favorites is “¿Qué sopa?” –ghetto for “What’s up?” Taken literally, it would mean, “What soup?” If you know Spanish, it should make you happy that this is BOTH a Spanglification (what soup, what’s up), and a simple reversal of syllables (qué pasó). Well, it makes me happy anyway. =)

No, I think to myself in the back of my head, during those moments between wake and sleep.

No, because the security guards at every convenience store and bank are a constant reminder of the state of security here, and the congested streets always smell. Because not even natives trust the maps in the confusing streets here, making it difficult to explore or feel independent. Because as a young, blonde American, I stand out—sometimes to the point of feeling like a piece of meat. Because I have to ask people to repeat themselves until we are both frustrated.

Then I realize that most of my unspoken “No’s” are so pitifully selfish, and most of my “Yes’s” are such bountiful blessings.

Integrating into a new culture isn’t going to work well for self-centered bigots. Since when have I been that American? By the grace of God, I’m not. I will not be.  

“No se trata de Abby, se trata de Dios.” (It doesn’t have to do with Abby, it has to do with God.) Those were the words of my Colombian friend Loyda on a bus in Sevilla so many months ago.

Then she opened up her Bible and read Joshua 1:8 to me: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
YES. Yes, because my God is with me.

Yes, because here I am going to learn the Bible in Spanish. I am going to memorize God’s Word in Spanish. In Spain I just wanted to read the Bible in my heart language. Here, I am realizing that if God is calling me to work with Spanish-speaking people, I need to know the Bible in Spanish.

The first passage I’m memorizing is Philippians 3:7-21. All of it speaks directly to my transition and walk with God here, but especially the first few verses:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

AMEN. Gloria a Dios. 

04 September 2010

looking for order in chaos

Many people have asked me to start a blog. I've been to lots of interesting places and done lots of interesting things, so it seems natural that lots of interesting thoughts should be going through my head. Somehow, though, I feel inadequate to say anything--even when called upon to speak. I suffer from what a friend detests in her own friends, and which drives her into the throes of classic literature in search of characters who do not have such an acute "lack of ability to express themselves." 

In searching for material for a speaking engagement, I found one thing over and over: stop talking about yourself. Let him who glories, glory in Christ. In Christ alone. 

I read the parable of the prayers in the temple--one through the proud lips of the Pharisee, and the other from the sorrowful, downcast tax collector, crying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" 

I read HOPE International's blog, where Richard Foster describes our detestable ways of serving ourselves even while we serve others: "Self-righteous service requires external rewards. It needs to know that people see and appreciate the effort. It seeks human applause—with proper religious modesty of course. True service rests in hiddenness. It does not fear the lights and blare of attention, but it does not seek them either. Since it is living out of a new Center of reference, the divine nod of approval is enough."

I read Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove's book, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: "It is very easy to fall in love with the great things...but we must never simply fall in love with our vision or five-year-plan. We must never fall in love with "the revolution" or "the movement." We can easliy become so genuinely driven by our vision for church growth, community or social justice, that we forget the little things, like caring for those around us."

Several days ago, as I lay in bed praying, a tune abruptly came to my head. "Be Thou My Vision." I haven't heard it for a long time, but the words learned in childhood flooded my mind "...naught be all else to me, save that Thou art! Thou my best thought, by day or by night..." It hit me. My vision, what I want to do with business as missions and where I will end up--a question of utmost importance in my mind, is worthless. I cannot look to my vision, I must look to CHRIST. CHRIST, be the center of my life, be the place I fix my eyes, be MY VISION! 

Earlier in the the aforementioned book, I happened on the moniker for this blog: 
"...community can be built around a common self-righteousness or a 
common brokenness. Both are magnetic and contagious."

It's my sincere prayer that whatever I write here, would not come from a place of superiority. I'm not out to save the world. I'm not the answer. I am broken. But, that's okay, because the kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit. In the words of J.R. Miller,

"Christ is building His kingdom with earth's broken things. Men want only the strong, the successful, the victorious, the unbroken, in building their kingdoms; but God is the God of the unsuccessful, of those who have failed. Heaven is filling with earth's broken lives, and there is no bruised reed that Christ cannot take and restore to glorious blessedness and beauty." 

I'll close with one more borrowed thought, this time from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31: "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." "