Thursday, April 20, 2006

Longing for Narnia, Heaven & Lima

The Chronicles of Narnia have a permanent spot on my list of favorite books and they've won over my kids as well. On our recent trip to Texas and Georgia, we listened to the Focus on the Family audio CD's of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In the book, the characters are admiring a painting of a sailing ship that looks like the ships of Narnia. Suddenly, waves on the painting begin to swell, the kids get sucked into the painting and back into Narnia. The audio CD has great sound effects and listening to the story again sent shivers through my body. I paused the CD and asked the kids, "Where do you want to be right now?"

They answered, "Narnia!"

I agreed. Having read the books countless times, it only takes a few sentences before I'm wishing I was back in Narnia--having a great adventure. Lewis was trying to communicate with our emotions, to help us yearn for heaven by touching that place in our hearts that yearns for beauty, adventure, camaraderie and justice. I often pray that the Lord will help me to yearn for heaven more than I yearn for the things of this world. It's so easy to feel like this world is two dimensional, when compared to the way I envision Narnia. Heaven has got to be 100 times better, but I don't often imagine it that way. Sometimes our imaginations need a little help. With this in mind, I sometimes take my yearning for Narnia and intentionally dream about Heaven. It helps to keep things in perspective. For example, driving an old mini-van (which Lena calls our “Kleenex box on springs,” doesn’t seem so bad, when I know that my final destination is heaven. Of course, Narnia is fantasy, so it wouldn’t be healthy to spend a lot of time yearning for it. But heaven is real, and it is healthy to yearn for it with that same kind of exhilaration I felt when the kids got sucked into the picture. When we exhibit excitement and anticipation about going to heaven, it shows that we're living out our faith with the right kind of priorities. The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV), "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

Glory is good. I can't wait.

I do another version of this regarding Peru. I often dream about what our lives will be like there. Sometimes my dreams are realistic, sometimes they're ridiculous fantasy. An example of the latter is when I'm riding my scooter. I have a Honda Scooter that I ride when the weather is great--usually to the grocery store with Hannah’s or Colton's arms wrapped around me. Now, a 45 year old man, riding a scooter to buy milk and cereal is not the picture of adventure. But it's all about adventure in my imagination. When I'm riding and the air is fresh, I dream about living in Lima and my heart connects with the great adventure that awaits us. I'm filled with faith building anticipation. Ironically, the air in Lima is not fresh. Lima is infamous for choking smog and high humidity. That doesn't matter, I still like to dream about it. The Lord who called us to Peru is good. In spite of Lima’s smog, I know that God has good things in store for us. So I nurture the expectation of positive adventure. I don't feed this expectation without an understanding of the difficulties that lie ahead--that would be to set myself up for a huge disappointment. But I'm also not going to spend my time worrying about the difficulties that lie ahead. The move over-seas is so costly in terms of the separation we’ll experience from family and friends, if I focus on the hardships all the time, it would be overwhelming. So I nurture the spirit of adventure and combine it with the gift of faith--believing that God has good things in store for us. One of the best ways for me to do this is by riding my scooter to the grocery store.

Jere 29:11 (NIV) "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Galveston, O Galveston!

Last week, on Palm Sunday, we had the joy of presenting our Peru call and preaching at Cathedral in the Pines in Beaumont, Texas. Afterward, we spent three days on the beach near Galveston, TX, with John and Tami Flick (previous XA pastors at Western Michigan University). We had a wonderful time. When we first arrived on the beach, Willy immediately stripped off his clothing and ran in the waves. I tried to get him to at least put his underwear on, but he refused. The pics are hysterical, but unsuitable for public posting. Instead of Willy's wild romp, here's a self-portrait of me and Abi on the beach.

After Galveston, we drove to Atlanta, GA and spent two days with my sister's family. We called it the farewell tour, since we will not likely see them again before we leave the country. While in Atlanta, we visited the Coke Museum and drank coke products from around the world. They had "Lilt," my favorite pop from England. Unfortunately, they did not have samples of Inka Cola--the #1 soft drink in Peru.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Willy's Wisdom

Willy says the funniest things. Today he said, “Jesus is the miracle of the God…and that’s why we have to be nice to everyone."

Our Call -- The Pregnancy Prophecy

When we tell the Story of our calling to Peru, we usually begin with the sweaters we received on Christmas Eve 2003. (stay tuned for "the Sweaters" post -- coming soon to a blog near you!) But the story really begins on Dec. 23rd, 2003 at about 10:30 pm. We'd just had my family over to celebrate Christmas, but what was on my mind was the question of whether or not Lena was pregnant. We hadn't told anyone about our suspicions. I was certain of it--so certain that I'd bought Lena a pregnancy test strip, which came back negative. I didn't believe the negative report, so a few days later I bought another one. After my family left for the evening, Lena tried the second test strip. This time it was positive. As we looked at the positive test strip, we both said, "The prophecy is true!"

Six years prior, we received a prophecy that we'd have four kids. We had previously said that we were only planning on two kids...three at the most. Will (our third child) was a surprise. Abigail (the fourth) was a total shock! As we stared at the postitive reading (a little blue plus sign), we could feel God's hand on our lives. He didn't ask our permission to have another child--we'd already surrendered our lives to him. At that moment, a fourth child seemed like an incredible addition to our already stretched organizational capacities. But it didn't matter. We knew in our hearts that God was in control. We came to realize that the fulfillment of this prophecy was part of God's plan for revealing to us just how much He was in control. The next day we received two sweaters and a message from God. The pregnancy test strip (and the prophecy it fulfilled) prepared our hearts.