Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
as chronicled in an earlier post, our recent road trip took us through atlanta in late june, where we made a visit to the martin luther king jr. historic site. i had been once before and thought that it would be an important, thought-provoking place for our family to explore together. i was not disappointed.
it was a day of mixed emotions and deep reflection for me. i was inspired by the courage of those who had risked their jobs, their reputations, their lives and those of their families, in the pursuit of justice (though admittedly a bit uneasy with the family part). i was challenged by their commitment to non-violence in the face of savage opposition, which reminded me of Jesus who when reviled did not revile in return, nor did he exercise his considerable power to destroy his enemies but instead, laid down his life for them. could i do what they did? i had my doubts — my first inclination is to make as few waves as possible and to look after what's best for me and my family — and felt ashamed of my selfishness and fear. where is the valor that comes from faith in a God who loves the world and does the impossible? i grieved at the recollection of the awful things that one group of people inflicted on another because of race and the desire to preserve their own privileged position; if anyone has reservations about the reality of sin and evil, do an internet search of 'lynching' and get back to me. i wondered about my family's experience of those times; i was born in the early 60s and my family is from the american south. how did we respond when churches were being bombed and children were being murdered, when race riots were exploding and cities were spontaneously combusting?
i found myself in tears at many of the exhibits. the site has a variety of displays with photos, newspaper articles, and video running on television screens — images and audio of the angry, hateful words of white bigots, of the memories of blacks who endured those years, of race riots and calls (both black and white) to racial warfare, of dr. king himself, his resonant voice making impassioned pleas for equality, racial justice, and non-violence on one monitor, and denouncing the u.s. government and calling for a massive redistribution of wealth on another. the one made my soul soar; the other made me squirm uncomfortably. my brain and heart were overloading; race relations, economics, military power, national security, and foreign policy — all one giant web of interconnected issues. i'm not sure i even view that constellation in a coherent way, much less a christian one.
i realized how conflicted i felt when i went to the display where they invite visitors to leave a note of reflection. i read the words of others — sobered, thankful, questioning — and i was full of thoughts. but i just couldn't write anything down. i was all over the emotional map, and my words seemed feeble and inadequate. i was appalled and revulsed by the history of the country that i love. i was grateful for the fortitude and sacrifice of those people, from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, who put their lives on the line in the hope of change. i was embarrassed by my ignorance and self-centeredness. i was amazed by how far we've come as a nation — america is certainly a different place than it was even fifty years ago — but disheartened by the on-going power of racialization and prejudice (both personal and systemic), the wide disparities they produce in opportunities and outcomes, and the reluctance of majority culture americans to recognize them. that discouragement is exacerbated by the fact that some on the underside seem unwilling to step up, resigned to their plight, while others revel in cultural elements that perpetuate many of these problems. to quote aunt ruby from tyler perry's regrettable movie version of madea's family reunion — "is this what we paid for?"
and when i look at american society and government in 2007, i wonder if our generation has the courage and determination to tackle such problems. to be honest, it looks doubtful. substantive debate on real issues is hard to come by. politicians are reduced to sound bites and talking points derived from focus groups; do any of these people have real principles or convictions of their own anymore? and i think we have to accept some of the responsibility for their shallowness; do we have the patience to think critically about intractable social problems, the willingness to face hard choices, and the courage to make great sacrifices anymore?
inspiration. vision. fear. doubt. grief. disgust. hope. discouragement. impossibly complicated problems. heroic sacrifices.
to me, an american with southern roots, a man of chinese descent with a black wife and biracial children, these are not abstract issues. they are personal and real. and as a follower of Jesus, i know that he intends a better world than this one. the word of God says he's planning on it — a world where people are not confined by race or gender, where they have the freedom and resources to exercise their God-given gifts to his glory and to bear his image in the world without the debilitating effects of sin. what will it mean for me — for all of us who have committed ourselves to him— to follow him there?
doesn't God have anything to say about the great problems of our day? surely he does! shouldn't the church be leading the way — in repentance, in love and service, in public policy, in moral vision, in personal sacrifice?
jew nor greek,
slave nor free,
male nor female.
we are all one in Christ Jesus.
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then i will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 chronicles 7:14
then i saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. and i saw the holy city, new jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. and i heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
Monday, July 16, 2007
of course, that feeling is accentuated by the fact that there is very little furniture here (just a few items the seller left). the shipment of our things from montreal has been delayed by 10 days, and given our experience with this moving company (described by b as 'sleazy'), i can imagine it taking a lot longer than that. for the time being, we're camping out on air mattresses, eating on paper plates, and starting to furnish the place with loaner items from generous friends at the lighthouse. the process of getting phone, internet, and garbage service has been frustratingly slow, but hopefully we'll have all of that nailed down this week.
there is still a bit of work to finish up with inter-varsity, but we've spent much of the last week getting acclimated to the new ministry environment. last week, i attended a leadership meeting (with the elders and the ministry area directors) on tuesday, had a breakfast meeting with pastor w on thursday, and introduced the family at the ministry community meeting on saturday. yesterday, we attended both worship services, then went up the hill to a delicious korean bbq at the home of d and k, who were hosting their small group for lunch.
i feel like there is a word about 'home' that will come out of this, but it's still percolating. for now, we're glad to be here, even if it's one of those already-but-not-yet kind of things.
Monday, July 09, 2007
today, i was awakened early by a phone call from montreal. apparently, they were missing (lost?) the paperwork that would allow our possessions to cross the border. since we were out at the coast, there just wasn't much in terms of office equipment, but after about two hours of various attempts, we were able to get the needed forms to them. nothing is ever easy in a transition.
later, we drove up the coast to cannon beach. it is a beautiful spot, but on this day, it was also cold, windy, and foggy. we took a walk on the beach there, but rapidly retired to mo's for lunch, then continued our journey, eventually turning eastward along the columbia river.
we arrived in issaquah, wa around 7pm, in time for a delicious korean meal with b and n who are hosting us here. actually, n has moved out to create space for us — a generous act that made me feel pangs of regret; we hadn't intended for that to happen (it didn't the last time we visited). tomorrow, we hope to sign on the house, and to close by the end of this week. tomorrow evening, i'll attend my first elders meeting at the lighthouse.
here are some of the statistics from our road trip:
- distance traveled — 5427 miles/8734 kilometres
- days total — 20
- number of hotels/motels — 3 (a total of four nights)
- van breakdowns — 3 (two in new mexico, one along the arizona/california border)
- hottest spot — mojave desert, 112F/44C
- coldest spot — oregon coast, 65F (but seemingly much colder with the tremendous wind
at first, i saw God as my observer,
keeping track of the things i did wrong,
so as to know whether i merited heaven
or hell when i die.
he was out there sort of like a president.
i recognized his picture when i saw it,
but i really didn't know him.
but later on
when i met Christ,
it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride,
but it was a tandem bike,
and i noticed that Christ
was in the back helping me pedal.
i don't know just when it was
that he suggested we change places,
but life has not been the same since.
when i had control,
i knew the way.
it was rather boring,
it was the shortest distance between two points.
but when he took the lead,
he knew delightful long cuts,
and through rocky places
at breakneck speeds,
it was all i could do to hang on!
even though it looked like madness,
he said, "pedal!"
i worried and was anxious
"where are you taking me?"
he laughed and didn't answer,
and i started to learn to trust.
i forgot my boring life
and entered into the adventure.
and when i'd say, "i'm scared,"
he'd lean back and touch my hand.
he took me to people with gifts that i needed,
gifts of healing,
they gave me gifts to take on my journey,
my Lord's and mine.
and we were off again.
he said, "give the gifts away;
they're extra baggage, too much weight."
so i did,
to the people we met,
and i found that in giving i received,
and still our burden was light.
i did not trust him,
in control of my life.
i thought he'd wreck it;
but he knows bike secrets,
knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.
and i am learning to shut up
in the strangest places,
and i'm beginning to enjoy the view
and the cool breeze on my face
with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.
and when i'm sure i just can't do anymore,
he just smiles and says… "pedal."
"the road of life" (author unknown)
from holy sweat by tim hansel
Saturday, July 07, 2007
after a quick lunch and nap, m and i continued on to san bruno, where we gathered with some of my old stanford classmates to celebrate 80 years of marriage — that’s 4 couples x 20 years, as all four couples got married in 1987. because we’ve lived far apart (h and a in places like france, hong kong, and belgium, we in canada), it was the first time we'd been together in years. c and n hosted us all in their newly remodeled home — a stylish two-story with a view of the bay and the airport. absolutely beautiful. it was a joy to see each other, exchange stories, and discover how much everyone's kids have grown! afterward, i found myself thoughtful about how our lives have turned out some 20+ years after graduation — the purposes to which we’ve given ourselves, what we’ve accomplished and what we’re still seeking, possible roads that were not taken.
the next day, we had a leisurely morning before heading over to j and j's in los gatos for an informal get together with family and friends. it was an all day affair — eating, swimming in the pool, and a whole lot of getting caught up with one another. among the highlights were getting in some time with family (especially my nephews and nieces) and visits from friends c and r from crossroads bible church (my home and sending church of 23 years), m (an intervarsity staff friend who brought his four children), and former ssu intervarsity student r, who (along with her 3 boys) surprised us in the driveway as we drove up! later that evening, we spent some quieter time catching up with j and j, who hosted and arranged the day; what a blessing they have been (and continue to be) to us.
early on the morning of july 7 (b's 17th birthday!), we continued our northward trek. we had made plans to stay with the n family (good friends and supporters) in medford, or. little did we know that it would mean staying in one of the most amazing homes we’ve ever seen — a 5,000 square foot wonder designed and built by c, who did the remodel on our home in berkeley nearly a decade ago. it was lovely, wonderfully functional, and nicely appointed; once again, God had arranged unusually pleasant accommodations. we had hoped to catch a play at the shakespeare festival in nearby ashland, but we arrived later than we intended, and after doing a bit of research on ticket availability, decided to spend the evening with our friends — a divine appointment, i think. after a delicious home cooked meal, we went for a walk in the oregon countryside, played football, soccer, and frisbee on the lawn, and enjoyed warm fellowship together. their kids were much more grown up than the last time we saw them, and every bit as delightful.
as we near the conclusion of our trip, we have marveled at the hospitality of the many people who have hosted us along the way. they have opened their homes (some large, some more modest) to welcome us. they made space in their schedules to spend unhurried time with us and have generally gone out of their way for us. we have played and prayed together; they have have given themselves. i’ve never been what some would call 'wealthy,' but all of these folks make me feel rich — and blessed of God. we belong to such a big, diverse, generous family! i know i shouldn’t be surprised, given that all of this is the fulfillment of Jesus’ own words. his promise is true.
"truly i say to you,
there is no one who has left
house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms,
for my sake and for the gospel’s sake,
but that he will receive a hundred times as much
now in the present age,
houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms,
along with persecutions;
and in the age to come, eternal life."
Thursday, July 05, 2007
yesterday, we celebrated our first fourth of july in a few years. it was a low-key day, with family and lots of good food, but nothing like fireworks or the previously planned soccer game (to which we were unable to obtain tickets). combined with the realization that our schedule wouldn’t allow n to go outlet shopping today, i think that was a bit of a bummer for both girls. but it was nice to catch up with family we haven’t seen for a while, including m’s cousins k and m, her uncle m, and her grandmother (‘mumma’).
we also said goodbye to michele’s mom p, who joined us on the trip across the south, from herndon, va to culver city. as you can imagine, she's a pretty good sport to put up with all of us for over 3,000 miles in a minivan! it was a treat to have her along.
today, we got out early and had breakfast in westlake village with the s family; it was a treat to see their new home and partake of a delicious breakfast cooked up expertly by w. we were also treated to a brief piano recital (chopin!) by a. wish we’d had longer to catch up.
we took us-101 north, a drive that b described as her favorite. it’s slower, but cooler and more beautiful than the oft-traveled interstate 5. the van was rock solid, thank God. the weather in this part of the world is gorgeous, and we’ve enjoyed being surrounded by the mountains again.
as the mountains surround jerusalem
so the Lord surrounds his people…
surround us, Lord
surround us, Lord
we need to be in your presence
surround us, Lord
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
but this was different. we were stuck on the side of the road just outside of kingman, az, in 110F/43C heat. the van had given out, just after we’d finished cresting a hill. there were no prior indicators of trouble on today’s drive, though it was obviously similar to what we experienced in new mexico. and we began to pray.
i think for some of us, there was something disheartening about encountering the same problem again, after God had seemingly already miraculously won that victory. but it was also familiar ground, territory that had been ‘taken’ before. and as we prayed, b very matter-of-factly acknowledged, “Lord, we are completely dependent on you.” it wasn’t an attempt to manipulate God, still less false humility (the kind of thing that gets said because it sounds right); we all agreed as soon as we heard it. being broken down in the middle of the mojave desert has a way of clarifying these things, if they weren’t sufficiently clear already.
since you’re reading this, you have probably already inferred that the prayer was answered positively. within about 15 minutes, we were back on the road to los angeles and a visit with m’s mother’s side of the family. we are expecting to arrive in the mid-afternoon, after a relatively early 6:30am start. when we get there, i do hope to have the van looked at, not an automatic with the independence day holiday coming tomorrow.
but the thing that’s really on my mind is what God has for us in all of this. m has been a prayer warrior for a long time, the kind of person who lives through prayer and wins victories there. i pray and on occasion, have received amazing answers from God; but i have to confess that i don’t think that i’ve done the heavy lifting in prayer in many areas of life (preaching and worship leading being notable exceptions). and i believe that, among other things, God wants me to learn to take and hold territory in prayer. i have been the long-term beneficiary of an intercessor wife and dozens of other prayer warriors who have upheld me, our family, and the various ministries in which we’ve been involved. but i have had the sense for a couple of months (at minimum) that God is opening the door for me to take this next step in learning to live by faith.
i’m not so self-centered as to think that all of this is for my benefit only. i know that there is something that God is giving to my daughters in this — in m’s modeling, in my taking hold of what he is offering, in their own concrete dependence on him, and in the experience of his powerful, miraculous response. you think that there might be something he has in this for my mother-in-law as well? ☺
a special ‘shout out’ to those of you who are interceding for us: thank you for keeping us in prayer. day by day, i am reminded that this is about more than getting to the seattle area safely (though that is a concern!). as always, it’s also about how God is shaping and meeting us, calling us into a deeper dependence on him and into a more profound confidence that he will always come through for us. we really do seek and find our life in him.
now it came about after this that the sons of moab and the sons of ammon, together with some of the meunites, came to make war against jehoshaphat. then some came and reported to jehoshaphat, saying, “a great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of aram and behold, they are in hazazon-tamar (that is engedi).”
jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all judah. so judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD; they even came from all the cities of judah to seek the LORD. then jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of judah and jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court, and he said, “o LORD, the God of our fathers, are you not God in the heavens? and are you not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? power and might are in your hand so that no one can stand against you. did you not, o our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people israel and give it to the descendants of abraham your friend forever? they have lived in it, and have built you a sanctuary there for your name, saying, ‘should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you (for your name is in this house) and cry to you in our distress, and you will hear and deliver us.’ now behold, the sons of ammon and moab and mount seir, whom you did not let israel invade when they came out of the land of egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), see how they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from your possession which you have given us as an inheritance. o our God, will you not judge them? for we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
2 chronicles 20:1-12
one thing that caught me by surprise was the diversity of the crowd, gathered from all four corners of the earth to see one of the true wonders of the natural world. from lunch time until we left, i know that i heard people speaking spanish, french, german, portuguese, and several languages i couldn’t identify. we saw buses full of tourists from asia; we encountered many folks from latin america. and we ended up in longer conversations with a family from reston, va (near where m’s sister and her family have been living for the last year and expect to return to in a few years), a college philosophy professor (an expert in existentialism) from baltimore, and a family from bothell (in the seattle area, not far from where we’ll be church planting). all of them were enjoying a taste of the awesome wonder that our souls crave, a hint of the beauty for which we were intended.
if there was a downside to our visit, it was not having enough time to hear the ranger talks, hike or ride into the canyon, or go on one of the many interesting tours (including a visit to exposed fossil beds, explorations of the animal and plant life in the canyon, and an examination of the formation of the canyon). we hadn’t even left the rim of the canyon before different ones of us were already saying that we need to come back to see more!
o lord my God
when i in awesome wonder
consider all the worlds thy hands hath made…
then sings my soul
my savior, God, to thee
how great thou art!
(translated from "how great thou art" by carl boberg)
Monday, July 02, 2007
the fun was only beginning, however. after our late start, we got on the road later than planned — in the hot part of the day (about 100f/38c). we were tooling along without a care, north on highway 285 toward interstate 40, when suddenly the van lost power entirely; i was hitting the accelerator, but the engine just seemed dead. i guided it over to the shoulder, but was slightly dismayed. we were well outside of roswell, and still 61 miles from interstate 40; i wasn’t sure how long it would take for help to arrive, and it was a bit warm to be stuck on the side of the road with no air conditioning. thankfully, friends d and c from the lighthouse had outfitted us with a cell phone, and we had reception in the spot where we broke down (not true maybe 10 minutes earlier), so i called aaa to ask for help.
while we were waiting for the tow truck, m suggested that we pray (yeah, i hadn’t really done that — duh). and afterward, she asked me to start the van. it started up, and it was clear that we would be able to drive again. so after a quick call to aaa to cancel the tow truck, we got on the road again, full of praise and thanksgiving. but 20 miles down the road, we broke down again, just outside of a little community called vaughn, which was apparently shut down for sunday. not a great option for getting help. we prayed again, and fired up the van, which started again. after a brief discussion on why God answers some prayers so quickly, while others seem to take longer, we had a longish worship time. as m prayed during that time, it’s ridiculous that it takes a broken down van to get us to seek God earnestly!
this time, the ‘repair’ seemed to hold, and we drove quite a ways without incident. while we were refueling, i found an internet connection and sent off a quick prayer request to our e-mail prayer partners to let them know what was going on. then outside of albuquerque, we ran into a huge traffic jam in the middle of the desert. seriously. to this moment, i still don’t understand why there was so much traffic. part of the problem was road work that had reduced the freeway to a single lane, and we had seen a sign earlier that there was an accident out that way earlier in the day. but i did not expect to be stuck in traffic for 90 minutes, covering a scant 16 miles. many (wiser?) drivers had pulled off the side of the road to wait it out, but we trudged onward, hoping in vain that the jam would clear up sooner rather than later. i had hoped to have us in flagstaff by about 10:30pm, given our late start, but as i type this, we are headed for a 2am arrival [note: we arrived half an hour after that, but it was actually 1:30am in arizona, which is in the mountain time zone (same as roswell), but does not observe daylight savings — an 11 hour trip that was supposed to be just over 7 1/2]. that’s a bit of a bummer, but i’m just glad that the van is running. at least it’s cooler to drive at this time of night. ☺
tomorrow, we will likely sleep in a bit (given the late arrival), then head out to the grand canyon. even after all of those years of living in california, this will be our first look at it. temperatures inside the canyon will prevent us from going down inside, but we will tour the rim and get a good look from there.
my help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
he will not allow your foot to slip;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
behold, he who keeps israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
the LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
the sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.
the lord will protect you from all evil;
he will keep your soul.
the LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forever.