Saturday, June 30, 2007
but at dusk, we did make it in safely to richardson, where we caught up with mr. c and old neighbors mr. and mrs. b, out in front of the house where i grew up. for whatever reason, we didn’t go inside, and so got eaten up by mosquitoes! when mr. c’s son d (a childhood friend) arrived with his family, we went out to another cajun spot, razzoo’s, where we enjoyed a fabulous dinner. the food was great, but for me, the real treat was a chance to catch up with d and meet his wife and kids. we talked about our lives, our kids' exploits, and our spiritual journeys — just a fantastic evening. later, we toured mr. c’s house, which is full of amazing photos he took himself, as well as an incredible number of awards, trophies, and other memorabilia that he’s collected in his storied life.
today, we are making our way to roswell, nm (of ufo fame), through central and west texas. the weather is cooperating so far — a blessing given that there has been a ton of rain in these parts, leading to devastating floods and loss of life. president bush and texas governor rick perry have declared much of the state a disaster zone, with rain still forecast for most of the next week and the ground already saturated. we are seeing some evidence of flooding, but where we are traveling, most of it has receded for now.we expect to be in roswell in the early evening, then get out early tomorrow to see the ufo museum before we head to flagstaff, our outpost for visiting the grand canyon. afterward, it’s back down to los angeles, where we’ll drop of m’s mom and visit with her family. b and i hope to take in a pro soccer game as well, over at the home depot center (the soccer stadium, not the home improvement store!), after all of us celebrate the 4th of july together — something our family hasn't really done for the past three years, while we were living in quebec.
this part of the trip (from richardson to los angeles) is the most treacherous leg. we’re going through country with a small population and relatively little traffic, where cell phone reception is spotty (i have no reception at all as i type this), and where temperatures can be blistering (as high as 120F/50C). traveling mercies take on a very concrete and immediate meaning for us now, and we’d appreciate your prayers.
the girls reminded me today that we are now at the halfway point of this adventure and overall, we are having a good trip. our stays have been far too brief, and we have wished we could stay longer to visit with family and friends or to explore the various cities we've stopped in. the van is crowded with five (m's mom is joining us from the dc area to los angeles), and the road is long, so you can imagine that we get pretty tired (and in my case, sore) by the end of a day. we've been battling some mundane health issues as well, which doesn't help. sometimes, we get a bit grumpy with one another. but on the whole, i think it's been a remarkably peaceful and pleasant time.
a long road trip is a good time to reflect on the big transition in our lives. i'm grateful for the time to consider what God is doing, as we make our way, incrementally, from where he took us to where he is taking us now.
the road goes ever on and on,
down from the door where it began.
now far ahead the road has gone,
and i must follow, if i can,
pursuing it with eager feet,
until it joins some larger way,
where many paths and errands meet.
and whither then?
i cannot say
bilbo baggins (from j.r.r. tolkien's lord of the rings)
Thursday, June 28, 2007
after that, we hurried on to mobile, where we've spent the past 28 hours with m's father's family — what a delightful (though far too brief) time! life is different here, a fact of which we are constantly reminded, in everything from accents to food choices (everything is delicious, but fried in bacon grease!) to real estate prices. we've enjoyed visiting with family we haven't seen in nearly a decade; in some ways, it's as if we'd never left; everyone is so familiar and friendly. the passage of time is marked primarily by the growth of everyone's children (used-to-be little girls and boys are now bigger than we are!) and by a number of folks who have moved or passed on.
tomorrow, we head through mississippi (my mom's home state), then louisiana (with a planned visit to opelousas, hometown of m's maternal grandfather), and on to richardson, texas where we'll spend the night (with mr. c, our across the street neighbor during my growing up years and a supporter of our ministry for quite some time). God willing, we'll get in around dinner time, then leave very early the next morning.
we'll traverse central and west texas (dodging rain and floods along the way) and find our way out to roswell, nm. yes, that roswell. we picked that spot for two reasons. one is that it's a good midpoint en route to the grand canyon; the other is that the truth is out there…
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
predictably, we were packing until the last minute. after our goodbye party, we went home and packed until we had used every box in the house. of course by then, it was about 4am. even so, we climbed out of bed at 5:30, and were on the road by about 6:45. the roads were strangely quiet, and we exited both the island and the country without much fanfare.
that day, we stopped off in cambridge for an all-too-brief lunch with german friend (and former mcgill international student) m. we had hoped to meet up with my m's cousin j, but after a couple of unfortunate miscommunications, we simply weren't able to connect. that was sad, given that we probably won't be in that part of the country again for a good while.
after lunch, we made our way to flushing, ny (where we stayed in the hospitable queens christian alliance church), a subway ride from manhattan. the next day, we enjoyed the metropolitan museum of art, lunch from a hot dog vendor, a brief visit to central park (where b and i threw the frisbee), delicious italian ice, and the broadway production of mary poppins.
then it was on to the dc area, where we visited with m's sister's family. we celebrated n's birthday on our first full day there — can she really be 15? — by spending the afternoon in the national gallery of art (with lunch from a hot dog vendor outside the smithsonian complex and a couple of sorbets, including a lemon-basil concoction that m enjoyed, but the girls thought tasted like hair conditioner!). on the home front, we enjoyed cousins l and s, hanging with uncle p and aunt l, and worshipping at their church, gateway community church. the service was fine, but what really stood out to me was what a caring and supporting community of faith they have been for l and p. they really have some wonderful friends there.
yesterday, we drove all day, through the shenandoah valley and the blue ridge and allegheny mountains, to atlanta. other than the scenery from the van, we didn't get to see a lot (it's too long of a drive to stop often), but we experienced one of the worst thunderstorms we've ever been in (not a small statement, having lived in montreal) when we were passing through south carolina — a huge downpour, accompanied by truly frightening thunder, lightning, and hail, in spite of the fact that it was about 90F!
today, we went out to the martin luther king jr. national historic site (reflections on that in a future post), then ate lunch over at the morehouse campus with the hope of visiting spelman. but when we got there, we were turned away because of major construction; that was a bit of a letdown. later, we joined friends s and l, who treated us to a delicious southern meal at the iconic mary mac's tea room. afterwards, we took a driving tour of downtown atlanta, taking in, among other things, the fountain of rings in centennial olympic park.
tomorrow, we head to the gulf coast — first, to the beach in pensacola, then on to visit with m's father's family in mobile. we'll post more (hopefully including a photo or two) when we get a chance.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
that wonderful group of people represented everything that we love about montreal — a wide range of nationalities, cultures, ages, and spiritual stories, and together with that, the overwhelming faithfulness of God. there were people from at least 14 countries, students from both ministries we've been overseeing, cmds and inter-varsity's international student ministry (including christian students who will be ministry leaders next year and not-yet-christian student friends), and church friends from a number of churches that we've been connected with (including a committed prayer partner of m's). there was one friend, still exploring her spiritual journey, whom b and i met at a computer store. there was a student friend we met while ministering over at dawson college after the shootings this past fall. a number of our ism volunteers came out, along with a couple of the inter-varsity staff and their spouses — all good friends and committed ministry partners. we've loved and prayed for them all, cried with some, tried to help them resolve conflicts, and done our best to point them to Jesus. leaving is hard.
but the mood of the evening was joyful; it was a little bit like a wedding reception. there was lots of chatter, people getting to know one another, tons of food, not a few tears. at one point, the international students presented us with a book of photos and personal notes — a kind of yearbook to commemorate our time together; that was a highlight. we were asked to pose for lots of photos, group hugged, prayed for, blessed, given gifts, and in many other ways, lavishly loved and appreciated.
we didn't leave until after the restaurant had closed. and as we stood outside the door, we lingered with our friends for a long time. they didn't seem to want to go, and i know we didn't. there is something beautiful about being together with people you love, and something awful about being separated from them, even if it's only temporary. instead of goodbye, the french say au revoir, which means "until we see each other again." we are still praying, still hoping, that we will see every one of those people again — most especially in eternity. oh what a sound we'll make!
even now upon the earth there's a glimpse of all to come
many people with one voice, harmony of many tongues
we will all confess your name, you will be our only praise
all the nations with one voice, all the people with one God
and what a song we'll sing upon that day
(from matt redman's "there is a louder shout to come")
Monday, June 18, 2007
this is becoming an increasingly uncomfortable place to live. for instance, i can't find the things i need anymore. yesterday, i preached my last sermon here in montreal, but remembered the night before that i had already packed my dark socks. i had mostly decided to just wear white socks, but in the morning, i realized that i had also packed all of my ties! so i had to find the appropriate box and re-open it. my shirt was a bit wrinkled, but i couldn't iron it, since we had already given away our iron!
another thing i notice is that we think of our material possessions very differently now. things that we've spent a lifetime acquiring, we are ready to give away. it's not that we don't care about them, but they're too much trouble (and expensive) to move, and i just wish someone who could use them well would take them away. in some cases, we're hoping for some better replacements in the next location, but regardless, knowing that we're moving relativizes the value of the items we have now.
there comes a point in the packing when a place stops feeling like home, when most of the things that matter have been prepared to be shipped to the new place, and many things that matter less are being jettisoned. we haven't moved into our new place yet, but we already know the address, have seen the photos, and more and more, begin to think of that place as home.
all of this should sound at least vaguely familiar. this mortal life is a wonderful gift, but it is a temporary accommodation. and throughout the course of it, we should be increasingly 'in boxes,' laying up our true treasures for the next life. i suspect that if we're doing it right, this life feels less and less like 'our place,' and we look forward with increasing anticipation to the new place — the one we have only seen a glimpse of, but have already begun to think of as home.
where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
in my Father’s house are many dwelling places;
if it were not so, i would have told you;
for i go to prepare a place for you.
if i go and prepare a place for you, i will come again and receive you to myself,
that where i am, there you may be also.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
i prayed and prayed to be healed, but to no avail. the problem persisted, and i began to learn to cope with it. over the past couple of years, i've started to wear long sleeves even on a hot day, hats, and 60+ spf sunscreen. when taking precautions, i found that i could be out in the sun for up to an hour before the problem started. it was inconvenient, and i figured i'd never be able to swim in an outdoor pool again or play at the beach. but i thanked God that it wasn't the kind of debilitating illness i've experienced in the past. there are certainly worse problems in the world.
but this spring, i began to notice a difference. i seemed to be able to stay out in the sun longer without any significant problems, maybe just a bit of itching. i have not taken the big step of taking off my shirt outside or walking around barefoot (which would expose especially sensitive areas), but i have been out in short sleeves and shorts since early may and haven't had one case of hives yet. i just got in from hanging the laundry and other than being quite warm — after all, it's 29C or just over 80F and i was in direct sunlight in the hottest part of the day — but i can't really sense any ill effects at all.
i don't pretend to understand why God allows these things, or why, even unbidden, he chooses to remove them. but i am grateful and as we move on from montreal, i'm happy to leave it behind! :-)
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
when Jesus is my portion? my constant friend is he:
his eye is on the sparrow, and i know he watches me
“let not your heart be troubled,” his tender word i hear,
and resting on his goodness, i lose my doubts and fears;
though by the path he leadeth, but one step i may see;
his eye is on the sparrow, and i know he watches me
whenever i am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
when songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
i draw the closer to him, from care he sets me free;
his eye is on the sparrow, and i know he watches me
i've spent the last 24 hours or so singing and meditating on this classic song, which was given to me during a prayer time years ago when i was anxious about something (hard to imagine, i know). whatever i was worried about has long since been forgotten, but the song has remained as one of my personal favourites. it doesn't hurt that the first time i ever heard the hymn — a fixture in african-american worship services — it was done in a contemporary r&b style by deniece williams. you can find a nice version of it (by lauryn hill) here.
it's not God's eye on me personally (though i'm certainly glad for that!), but on international students (some of whom are in their spiritual infancy or still gestating), on our volunteers and other ministry partners, and on all of quebec that is comforting to me today. i cannot see very far down the road, but i know he is watching over the people and ministry that i love.
so while i can't help feeling a bit of responsibility (having been 'tamed' by people here)…
i sing because i’m happy,
i sing because i’m free,
for his eye is on the sparrow,
and i know he watches me
but joy cometh in the morning
another person might be rejoicing right now. on monday, we had the chance to celebrate f's birthday, one of our international student friends who became our sister in Christ this year. then last night, we had a wonderful time of celebration with our international student ministry volunteers last night, recounting all that God has done in the past three years and dating back to before we ever got here. we really love those people and how they have represented the love of Jesus to our students. the whole evening was catered by four of our friends (two inter-varsity staff partners and their spouses), who pretty much did all of the work while m and i connected with volunteers. and this morning, i've spent a good while reading e-mails from friends expressing their love for us and their appreciation for our friendship and influence. that's plenty to be grateful for. and i am grateful. God has been so generous to us in this place.
but my tears this morning are not tears of gratitude, but of heartbreak. i worry about who will look after some of our friends, especially the baby christians and young married couples. i'm curious about how the ministry to international students will progress in our absence. i look at a province that is less than 1% christian, and i wonder who God will use to reach this place; it seems like it makes more sense to bring christians to quebec than to call them away.
and then there's my heart. we love people here, and it is truly awful to contemplate leaving them. i feel terrible. and yet, i know it has done me good. i know the truth — God is the one who watches out for all of us, and if He is able to bring people as unlikely as us to 'establish ties' in this place, He can bring others. but this morning, that only makes me feel a little better.
it was then that the fox appeared.
"good morning" said the fox.
the little prince responded politely
altho when he turned around he saw nothing.
"i am right here" the voice said, "under the apple
"who are you?" asked the little prince, and added,
"you are very pretty to look at."
"i am a fox", the fox said.
"come and play with me,"
proposed the little prince, "i am so unhappy."
"i cannot play with you," the fox said,
"i am not tamed."
"ah please excuse me,"said the little prince.
but after some thought, he added:
"what does that mean---'tame'?"
"you do not live here," said the fox,
"what is it you are looking for?"
"i am looking for men," said the little prince.
"what does that mean---tame?"
"men,"said the fox,
"they have guns, and they hunt.
it is very disturbing.
they also raise chickens.
these are their only interests.
are you looking for chickens?"
"no," said the little prince.
"i am looking for friends.
what does that mean---tame?"
"it is an act too often neglected,"
said the fox.
"it means to establish ties."
"to establish ties?"
"just that," said the fox.
"to me, you are still nothing more than
a little boy who is just like
a hundred thousand other little boys.
and i have no need of you.
and you, on your part, have no need of me.
to you i am nothing more
than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes.
but if you tame me, then we shall need each other.
to me, you will be unique in all the world.
to you, i shall be unique in all the world. . ."
"i am beginning to understand,"
said the little prince.
"there is a flower. . .i think she has tamed me. . ."
"it is possible," said the fox.
"on earth one sees all sorts of things."
"oh but this is not on the earth!"
said the little prince.
the fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.
"on another planet?"
"are there hunters on that planet?"
"ah that's interesting! are there chickens?"
"nothing is perfect," sighed the fox.
but he came back to his idea.
"my life is very monotonous," he said.
"i hunt chickens; men hunt me.
all chickens are just alike,
and all the men are just alike.
and in consequence, i am a little bored.
but if you tame me,
it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life.
i shall know the sound of a step that will be
different from all the others.
other steps send me hurrying back
underneath the ground.
yours will call me, like music out of my burrow.
and then look:
you see the grain-fields down yonder?
i do not eat bread.
wheat is of no use to me.
the wheat fields have nothing to say to me.
and that is sad.
but you have hair that is the color of gold.
think how wonderful that will be
when you have tamed me!
the grain, which is also golden,
will bring me back the thought of you.
and i shall love to listen
to the wind in the wheat. . ."
the fox gazed at the little prince,
for a long time.
"please---tame me!" he said.
"i want to, very much," the little prince replied.
"but i have not much time.
i have friends to discover,
and a great many things to understand."
"one only understands the things that one tames,"
said the fox.
" men have no more time to understand anything.
they buy things all ready made at the shops.
but there is no shop anywhere
where one can buy friendship,
and so men have no friends any more.
if you want a friend, tame me. . ."
"what must i do, to tame you?
asked the little prince.
"you must be very patient," replied the fox.
first you will sit down
at a little distance from me
-like that-in the grass.
i shall look at you out of the corner of my eye,
and you will say nothing.
words are the source of misunderstandings.
but you will sit a little closer to me,
the next day the little prince came back.
"it would have been better to come back
at the same hour," said the fox.
"if for example, you came at four o'clock
in the afternoon,
then at three o'clock i shall begin to be happy.
i shall feel happier and happier
as the hour advances.
at four o'clock,
i shall be worrying and jumping about.
i shall show you how happy i am!
but if you come at just any time,
i shall never know at what hour
my heart is ready to greet you. . .
one must observe the proper rites. . ."
"what is a rite?" asked the little prince.
"those also are actions too often neglected,"
said the fox.
"they are what make one day
different from other days,
one hour different from other hours.
there is a rite, for example, among my hunters.
every thursday they dance with the village girls.
so thursday is a wonderful day for me!
i can take a walk as far as the vineyards.
but if the hunters danced at just any time,
every day would be like
every other day,
and i should never have any vacation at all."
so the little prince tamed the fox.
and when the hour of his departure drew near---
"ah," said the fox, "i shall cry."
"it is your own fault," said the little prince.
"i never wished you any sort of harm;
but you wanted me to tame you. . ."
"yes that is so", said the fox.
"but now you are going to cry!"
said the little prince.
"yes that is so" said the fox.
"then it has done you no good at all!"
"it has done me good," said the fox,
"because of the color of the wheat fields."
and then he added:
"go and look again at the roses.
you will understand now
that yours is unique in all the world.
then come back to say goodbye to me,
and i will make you a present of a secret."
the little prince went away,
to look again at the roses.
"you are not at all like my rose," he said.
"as yet you are nothing.
no one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one.
you are like my fox when i first knew him.
he was only a fox
like a hundred thousand other foxes.
but i have made a friend,
and now he is unique in all the world."
and the roses were very much embarrassed.
"you are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on.
"one could not die for you.
to be sure, an ordinary passerby would think
that my rose looked just like you
--the rose that belongs to me.
but in herself alone she is more important
than all the hundreds of you
other roses: because it is she that i have watered;
because it is she
that i have put under the glass globe;
because it is for her
that i have killed the caterpillars
(except the two or three we saved
to become butterflies);
because it is she that i have listened to,
when she grumbled,
or even sometimes when she said nothing.
because she is my rose."
and he went back to meet the fox.
"goodbye" he said.
"goodbye," said the fox.
"and now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
it is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"what is essential is invisible to the eye,"
the little prince repeated,
so that he would be sure to remember.
"it is the time you have wasted for your rose
that makes your rose so important.
"it is the time i have wasted for my rose--
"said the little prince
so he would be sure to remember.
"men have forgotten this truth," said the fox.
"but you must not forget it.
you become responsible, forever,
for what you have tamed.
you are responsible for your rose. . ."
"i am responsible for my rose,"
the little prince repeated,
so that he would be sure to remember.
from the little prince by antoine de saint-exupery
Saturday, June 09, 2007
the time felt productive from the beginning, as some things became clear early. we got an idea of the size of home we wanted, and roughly, of the location. we agreed that we wanted a home that was big enough to host lots of people, but that it needed to be close enough to the plant site for the church that people would actually come visit; no use having a huge, empty home. we figured out which schools in the area we preferred to avoid, and got an idea of where we might want b and n to go. we discovered, not surprisingly, that homes are consistently more expensive in the assignment areas for the better schools, or the closer they are to bellevue. and late in the week, we learned that the school maps we'd been using (downloaded from the district website!) weren't accurate; the district has changed the boundaries, starting next year. but even when calling official sources, we were getting some wrong information about which schools the girls would attend if we bought a particular home! thankfully, the new maps were available online (though not in an obvious place).
over the first six days of looking (we took a rest on sunday), we saw over 40 homes, mostly in renton and kent (the area just to the south). our typical pattern is that m has an idea of what she's looking for (how big, how many spaces, where people will fit, are the spaces open, well-lit, flowing?) while i am usually more focused on external factors (accessibility, neighborhood, school assignment, re-sale potential). m tends to compare to the ideal and knows when she's not looking at it; i try to figure out how to make a particular home work for us. those concerns and approaches are complementary, and it's not hard to see how we might help each other — or run into a conflict here and there!
we looked at everything in our price range within about four days, and couldn't find what we were looking for. i began to think that we might need to extend that range a little bit, so as to increase the pool of available options. and in fact, raising the bar on our purchase price allowed the agent to find more homes for us to consider, a couple of which looked (to my pragmatic eye) like they might be possible fits for us. then on sunday at church, a couple even offered to sell us their home for what we could afford — a very generous offer, considering the house was well out of our price range — but it wasn't really a fit. we were, however, struck by God's reminder that he could provide for us in unexpected ways. so at that point, we were encouraged and had some possibilities, but it was clear that neither of us really wanted those homes; they just looked like they could be workable compromises — an idea that typically sits better with me than it does with m.
at the end of the week, m could sense my impatience and made it clear that she was willing to make an offer on one or two of the homes we had seen. after what started as a difficult conversation, i tried to communicate that i didn't want her to have to settle. but with a day to go, i could feel myself wishing that she'd just pick one. she felt that God would give us what we asked for; we just needed to keep asking and seeking. i was persuaded, but not by much.
on the morning of the day we were scheduled to leave, i was busy planning an alternate strategy (rent for a while, get rid of a bunch of our things and find a place to store the rest, etc) when m asked me to look on the internet one more time to find some new homes to look at. i was not very enthusiastic, so she did the looking herself. she did find one for us to look at, but since the agent had found a few homes (because prices appeared to be falling in that area; they never even would've appeared in our search earlier in the week, as they were out of our price range), we elected to take a look at those. all of them were located in one of those areas that used to service a less-desirable school, but had been switched into the 'best' school in the district. they were also a short distance to the freeway, and about 10 minutes from renton.
the first home we saw that morning was pretty good size, well-lit, and nicely landscaped. it had some nice rooms and a place for a deck. it even had a view (one of the things m thought God might throw in as a bonus). i liked it. m liked it. and so, after looking at a couple of more houses in that neighborhood, we decided to make an offer. while we packed, our agent put it together and later that afternoon, she explained it to us. by writing the offer creatively, she was able to offer the sellers almost their asking price, while keeping us within about $4,000 of our original price. after that, we loaded our luggage into the car, and headed to the airport. but en route, our agent stopped by the house to present our offer to the seller, while we walked the neighborhood. after what seemed like an eternity, she came back out with a smile on her face. not only had the seller accepted the offer, they had discovered a clerical error in our favor. the $4,000 that was removed from the offer price left us at exactly our original price point. amazing!
in the fingerprint of God, christian astronomer hugh ross examines the evidence for the existence of God from what we see in the cosmos. primarily, he calls attention to the various ways in which our universe seems perfectly fine-tuned to support life — as if someone designed it with us in mind. when i look at all of the things that are falling into place in our search for a house, i also see a similarly finely-tuned process, one that no doubt has us in mind. the fingerprint of God, indeed.
and have no compassion on the son of her womb?
even these may forget,
but I will not forget you.
behold, i have inscribed you
on the palms of my hands