Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crazy Things Jesus Said

Back on October 4th, I (Jeff) mentioned that I would share with you some of the things that my students thought were crazy things that Jesus said. Again, I think that this interests me bacause I too seldom gloss over many of the absolutely startling things that Jesus said. He was definitely not out to win a popularity contest when he said:

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26 (NLT - emphasis mine)

I chose to post the NLT translation here because it includes the softening disclaimer "...everyone else by comparison..." While this softening comment probably accurately portrays Jesus' feelings on the matter, it is not in the original text. Read it again excluding these 4 words.

Is Jesus trying to pick a fight with me? Is he trying to discourage me from following him? I thought Jesus wanted me to love others, not hate them. If Jesus' words disturb you, let them disturb you...they disturb me. When I read this, I see Jesus pointing into my heart and saying: "Jeff, sometimes you love these, these, and these relationships more than me, and your actions, decisions, and worries show it." So then, what am I going to do with this crazy thing Jesus said?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Somos Nicas"

Translation: We are Nicaraguan.

Okay, well not by birth...but this morning, we obtained our Nicaraguan residency. If you remember, several months ago, we had to travel to Costa Rica in order to "re-enter" Nicaragua as tourists. [A tidbit of "visa" information for Nicaragua: a tourist visa lasts 90 days and the government allows you to "renew" it for another 90 you a total of 6 months. However, after that second installment of 90 must leave the country for 72 hours.] Sounds fine and good--a chance for vacation, unless you have three children whom need to travel with you. This morning as we waited in the Immigration Building, there were a smattering of complaints over the "waiting." I asked the disgruntled "wait-ers" if they would prefer taking the bus to Costa Rica. The immediate response was a very quick, "No, that's okay, we'll wait here." (Uh-huh, that's what I thought.) So, while obtaining residency is important for many reasons, the #1 reason for our family would be to avoid the day-long bus ride to Costa Rica.

Obtaining residency has been quite a process...lots of paperwork, mailings (thanks to Bruce & Debbi for all your trips to the post office), proving you were born in New Jersey, standing in lines, being told "no" this morning due to our documents "not being ready" (thanks to our lawyer, Cecilia for pushing the issue). After some deliberation of the "people behind the window" at the Immigration Building...God parted the Red Tape Sea, and granted us passage and favor to the Land of Residency. So, join with us today to give God the glory for this miracle (well, it feels like a miracle to us). Thanks for all who have helped us and have been praying for us throughout this process.

Now, if only instaneous fluency in the Spanish language came with the residency card!

Friday, October 21, 2011

One Year Milestone

One year ago, today, we arrived in Nicaragua. Toting our 10 footlockers and 10 carry-ons (including the cat), along with assorted dreams, hopes and expectations--we started our "new life" here in the land of lakes and volcanoes.

By God's grace, strength and mercy--we've come a long way. Those first days, weeks and months were full of tears and frustrations. Yet, here we are--celebrating our one year milestone! We have found, that while each day brings the unplanned (and a certain amount of culture clashing), we are indeed settling into and enjoying life here in Nicaragua.

As we take time this weekend to reflect on this past year, remembering on God's Mercy and Faithfulness...we plan to post a blog of answered prayers from this past year. Tonight, however, we are planning on going out to dinner to celebrate this milestone. Ironically, we are going to go to an Italian restaurant to have calzones.

We are eternally grateful for your prayers, support, emails, calls, goodies (sent through travelers), blog-following, and your friendship! Thanks for being a part of our family's journey (and adventure) of faith.

Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:21-24

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Random and Raw Thoughts on Poverty, Wealth and Guilt

This is a journey--the thoughts, the struggles, the tension that surround the vast divide between wealth and poverty. As I laid in bed last night, I thought of my clothes dryer. Random, I know. But, it has been raining for about 10 days straight now...nothing dries; in fact, things that were dry have become damp. We are thankful to have a "secadora" (a clothes dryer). Generally, we try to hang laundry on the clothesline when we can...but that has been impossible this week (unless we are looking for an endless rinse cycle). As I lay there in bed, I realized that, at times, I have guilt over owning and using the dryer, a luxury item of sorts. I don't want to feel guilty for using my, why do I? Thus, I started thinking about the "blessings" we have...particularly because here in Nicaragua I can see clearly the contrast between "have" and "have not". If my friend "Sally", who doesn't have a dryer, had one...she'd use it and be happy about it, right? Perhaps, those that don't have the "blessings" that I have....maybe they have other blessings that I don't have. Do they feel guilty for having something that I don't have? Really, these "blessings" (their's or mine)are from the if I struggle to enjoy I essentially scoffing at God, who gifted them to me?

I continue to search Scripture for answers and perspective. Sometimes that seems to muddy the waters...but then isn't that what we need the Holy Spirit and wisdom learn and grow through the struggle. Again, I find myself at Paul's words to the Philippians in chapter 4:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I'd like to know Paul's secret...because, quite honestly, I am not content. I guess I will press on...seeking that learned contentment that Paul talks about...learning to enjoy the gifts that God has given me without guilt, but rather with an attitue of gratitude and willingness to share. It is ironic, isn't it? If I were in the States, I'd probably be struggling with not being content because I'd be wanting more...and yet, what I had there is more than I have here. Interesting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dangerous Territory

Tonight at dinner, Andrew asked Noah a question about Spanish. Noah paused to ponder the question...and answered appropriately. Jeff and I exchanged a glance that implied, "do you know what they are talking about?" Ella, being the observant child that she is, repeated the question to Jeff and Spanish...and yet, we STILL needed to ask for a translation.

Yes, we have crossed into dangerous territory. Our mistake was letting on that we didn't understand. Now they know that if they speak fast enough, their parents may not fully understand the "secret code."

We needed a renewed motivation to keep studying our Spanish...and now we have one.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rainy Season Lesson #37

It has been raining nearly non-stop since Monday.

Lesson: envelopes have the ability to seal themselves when the moisture content in the air is off the charts.
Solution: wrapping envelopes in Glad Press-n-Seal helps stop envelopes from self-sealing.

On the upside of constant rain...the plants are well watered and growing nicely! We now have lakeside property. We've gotten great use from the rainboots we brought with us from the States. School is sometimes closed because of "rain".

Monday, October 10, 2011

Celebrating 10 years...of Andrew

Andrew turned 10 last week. An entire decade old. Amazing. Doing the school party/pi├▒ata thing is not as "cool" for a third-grader as it is for a preschooler and first-grader. So, for Andrew's birthday--the first one celebrated on Nica soil--we had a skate party with some of the American boys in the neighborhood. There is an old tiled tennis court in our neighborhood...perfect for skateboarding. Andrew and his friends had some good ol' boy fun...skateboarding and rip-sticking, while Ella scootered around and Noah rode his little bike. Andrew had a great time trying out his new skateboard!

Happy 10th Birthday Andrew!

Enjoy some photos from the celebration.

The Birthday Boy

Yup, Jeff still remembers how to catch air.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Crazy Things Jesus Said

I (Jeff) am currently teaching a 9th grade Bible class. Tomorrow, I am going to add a little 5 minute interlude into our class time. I am asking that each day, one student come to class with an example of one crazy thing that Jesus said.

As I think about it, I am reminded of something that C.S. Lewis wrote. He eloquently described how we must decide if the historic person of Jesus was either a lunatic, a liar, or truly who he said he was. As I have thought about it, I find that it is very easy to dismiss the possibility that he was a liar (i.e. he knew that he wasn't who he said he was, but he kept the charade going); there is just too much evidence to refute this theory. However I linger a little longer on the possibility that he was a lunatic i.e. he honestly believed he was who he said he was, but he really wasn't.

I guess someone could be sane and still say some "crazy" things, and maybe that is more the category of things I am talking about, but still, Jesus said some crazy - dare I say - insane things. My temptation is to gloss over these things, or to rationalize the things he said so that he fits into the image of a "good guy", a "good teacher", or a "moral man". However, he didn't intend to fit neatly into one of these categories...he actually had a snappy - challenging retort for the person that dared to call him "good". So, the challenge to myself is this: will I seriously meditate on the "crazy" things that Jesus said, or will I gloss over them, seeking to keep him manageable...on my terms?

I will share the comments from class on this blog as they occur, but for now I will leave you with the one that has been on my mind for a few months as I have been talking with a few guys here on the question of "who was Jesus?"

John 8:24 "...unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be (the one and only true God of the universe who happens to be standing in front of you in human form), you will die in your sins." (NLT) [emphasis mine]

Maybe it is just me, but that sounds a little crazy...yet, I am not ashamed to say that I believe him.