Congo and Cameroun, Bolivia of the heart. Thoughts gleaned in the global south. Love affair with language. Can rootedness be non-geographical?

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My Third Day of Christmas

“On the third day of Christmas my Lord God gave to me…”

  • that when my early 70’s Mixmaster from Oster shimmied off the kitchen counter and crash-landed on the floor, though the plastic casing broke in one place, IT STILL WORKS! Afterwards, I learned that for “small bowl use” the turntable that goes under the small glass bowl needs to be set into a different hole than the one I had it on. Also, the Lord God gave to me the fact that the bowl, which went flying together with the rotating mixer, didn’t break! My mixmaster machine, from the early 70’s, is olive green of course, and must weigh 30 pounds. Side note – ya can see why Kitchenaid took off and Oster stayed behind, on stand mixers. But I do appreciate my Oster – someone just gave me it, and, I’ve not yet waded through the 3 inch small print manual that tells about the blender and food processing parts. I was making divinity candy, and picked the machine up out of the 3-inch-deep dent it made in the kitchen floor and finished the divinity. Yay. Thank you, God.
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Faithful

“As we have heard, so have we seen.”

At this time, in this world, WHEN, and OF WHOM can we say that the two short clauses of this sentence match up with each other, and it’s true?

My family rejoices together on this! My family can say, together, that Psalm 48: 9 is true!

Truly I am a MOST BLESSED woman, and mother, and grandmother!

Psalm 48:9 says in part, “As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of our God.”  Whose promise can be trusted? Who follows through on commitment perfectly? Who never fails you?

God. He’s the only one. With God, “as we have heard, so have we seen”. I know we can say that in our family, and, the simple capability and propensity of each one in our family – the wife and mother, the husband and father, the son, the son, and the daughter – to say that, is…

precious beyond belief.

God, thank you for Your faithfulness.

The Love of God

“The love of God…

is greater, far,

than tongue or pen…

could ever tell.

It goes to past…

the farthest star

and reaches to

the lowest hell.”

-part of an old hymn

 

Hot peppery muesli-granola!

This past Christmas season I made some granola from scratch, both to have for ourselves and to package up as small gifts. Pouring honey and chopping almonds, my thoughts returned to our first many years of living in Bolivia, when I’d made granola every week, as the only breakfast cereal my family ever ate. That’s because, in our rural area of Bolivia, there was not one packaged breakfast cereal of any kind available to buy in a store.

It didn’t bother me. I pretty much reveled in my abundant opportunities to cook and bake from scratch during those years, partly because I knew it was healthier for my family, partly because I appreciated being able to have a part-time house helper which, to have then, was part of the culture there, reasonable in cost, then, and a GREAT way to help a woman have a great job in the context, there and then.

To be honest, deep in my heart, having a helper there each day to wash the dishes I messed up cooking or do a bit of cleaning always made me feel spoiled and like a queen of my castle, albeit a castle with rough cement floors and an undyed muslin, chicken-wire and straw ceiling, on which the rats scurried at night!

Back to making granola.  My first efforts turned out disastrous, though the recipe was simple! My kids wouldn’t eat the stuff.  Neither would Paul! I grabbed a spoon and taste-tested it. VERY HOT-PEPPERY!

Hot-peppery breakfast muesli – WOW! No wonder my poor family didn’t want to eat it!  What was going on? I was obviously missing something, somewhere.

A little easy sleuthing quickly turned up the answer to my homemade cereal’s  sinus-clearing, eye-streaming flavor. The oat flakes I would buy in the open outdoor farmer’s market nearby, from an open “quintal” (or one hundred-pound burlap sack) had been ground at the local grain mill. And the local grain mill had huge grinding stones that ALSO ground all the villagers for a hundred miles’ dried chili peppers, red and yellow, which were THE food staple of the region.

This discovery, and all these years later, makes me think of the “DIFFERENTNESS” of every little thing, when one moves to a foreign culture.

When Christ came to this dark, violent, sorry and confused world of humanity, did he just exchange his scenery? No, he became one of us – he “incarnated”, as a human being, yet without losing his “God-ness”, his God-message.

We might think on these matters, and aspire to “incarnate” to a more significant extent in our host countries and cultures, really living among the people and sharing their daily lives with them, walking in their shoes, respecting them, loving them.  How? Well, aside from the obvious ways, there is also prioritizing  attitudes, just – attitudes of respect, of humility, of not being in a hurry, of being willing to listen, of carrying oneself as a learner. Often, I fail badly at this. We can’t even begin to do this aside from being one hundred percent in God’s grace, letting it imbue us. And even then, we’ll mess up, and be so bad at incarnating God’s love. The wonderful thing is, He wants to use us anyways, and will. And people are (very often) incredibly gracious and forgiving, of our mess ups.

When we go, let’s not be surprised or offended by the “hot-peppery granola”. Let’s ask our God to help us meet a challenge, and then the next, and onwards to many others, with his own grace and humility, and let’s live with the people, deeply sharing life with them and learning so many wonderful lessons from them and from the HONOR and PRIVILEGE of being a guest in their country and culture.img_3213

Christmas Day 2013 in the Village

THE TUTUMA FULL OF MOQOCHINCHE (the traditional gourd village bowl full of spiced juice made of dried whole rural highland peaches) THAT DOÑA ABUELITA PASSED TO US.IMG_1759Gathered for breakfast at that same wooden round table Christmas morning we discussed a bit of Dallas Willard, where, in particular in his “The Spirit of the Disciplines” book he waxes eloquent in communicating his passionate belief that modern-day dichotomization of life into “spiritual” versus “nonspiritual” categories, is DAMAGING to persons and to the church, and that the practice of basic “spiritual disciplines” such as prayer, Bible reading, silence, solitude and SERVICE, among others, can be extremely helpful to the Christian.

Just then, ancient Doña abuelita’s cane was heard tap-tapping slowly on the cement walkway just outside the village house and her ancient, grizzled head, topped by the ubiquitos black dusty misshapen felt bowler hat appeared outside the screened window.  One of our group quickly went out to speak in Quechua – her only language – with her and returned to announce, “Doña abuelita needs 80 adobes moved, so, how about it, boys?”

Seeing as the “boys” in question were our four sturdy and kind-hearted HUSBANDS, all in their fifties! – it touched my heart to see how our “boys” immediately mobilized themselves to rush out there on Christmas morning and practice a bit of what we’d just been “preaching” to ourselves over breakfast – service to widows (of which Doña IS one – an 85-year-old widow, in fact, whose only home and extremely scant possession was a tiny adobe block two-room hovel and bare mud courtyard just outside the house of our friends).

Three hours later (!) our “boys” reappeared in the kitchen, sunburned, covered in bee stings and red dirt, panting and exhausted, and with a couple of three-inch cactus thorns having pierced their shoes.  Adobes are HUGE!  Each one weighs at least 25  pounds!  Doña was content, even happy, and our “boys” were FULFILLED with the activities of their very unusual Christmas morning! Later we heard that it was all over the village that the gringos had moved adobes for old Doña abuelita.

A Blazing, Shining Starry Christmas Eve

IMG_1777God gave me a gift on Christmas Eve four nights ago! P. and I had traveled out from Cochabamba with friends in their jeep on the 23rd, first on all those highland roads to and through the city of Oruro, which sits on the Altiplano (the GREAT, HIGH PLAIN of the ANDES of PERU and BOLIVIA, that stretches majestically between the Eastern Cordillera and the Western Cordillera of the Andes Range, and then on to Potosi, an old historic city that lies at 14,000 feet altitude!  In Potosi we met up with two other foreign couples, both very old friends of ours, as well.  The next day, Christmas Eve, we all traveled in two loaded-down jeeps out to the very rural village of Y. where one of the couples had lived and served for the past 15 years, and they still had a house that they had had built, in Y.  Our aim was to do two days of Christmas vacation together, in our friends’ house in the peaceful rural area.

We arrived early afternoon, unloaded the vehicles, deeply breathed the slightly thicker air, and shed one or two of our warm clothing layers, seeing as Y. sat at only 10,000 feet in the Andes, and felt downright balmy and invigorating after the previous part-day and breathless night spent in 14,000 feet Potosi.  Of course here deep down in the southern hemisphere we are in the height of full summer, same as in Australia or New Zealand.  It’s always so cold in Potosi that many people won’t even go there in the winter.

We filled the rest of the afternoon with sipping water, pulling the Christmas tree out of the jeep and setting it up in the living room, searching for and locating  its feet/stand deep in the recesses of a kitchen cupboard, and making homemade ornaments and a tree-topper, since all its ornaments and lights had been stolen off of it – poor little naked tree! – last Christmas Eve in the entryway of the new outreach medical clinic in Potosi.

Later that evening, maybe around eight, we had raclette and apple cider for dinner, gathered around our friends’ round wooden table in the village kitchen.

About ten we we watched “Joyeux Noel”, a movie based on the true story of the “willful fraternization” of the German and Allied troops in the front lines and trenches of World War One, in 1914, and it was wonderful.

At 11:30 p.m., Christmas Eve 1913, our host and friend said, “Let’s go outside the house and see if any stars are out!”  So we did.  And God gave me my Christmas gift.

THE HEAVENS DECLARE THE GLORY OF GOD!  That rural Bolivian highland sky was FILLED with BILLIONS of STARS, with the planet Mars, with the SOUTHERN CROSS, ORION,the Big and Little Dippers, with Casseiopea,  and so many constellations, all blazing brightly, that we couldn’t stop looking at them all.  It was so beautiful and majestic it made us all want to forget about the crick in our neck from gazing up so long and hard, and just keep on worshipping God together for the rest of the night for the beauty and majesty and variety of His CREATION!

I’d grab a stone for my pillow when eiderdown duvets surrounded.

These are a few thoughts for us drawn directly from Genesis 28: 11b – 15.

“Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring! I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

I’ll speak only for myself but I believe MANY people are like me in this: I STRONGLY tend to live my life with a concept of limited good (there’s only so much ‘goodness and abundance” in existence, and, it’s not enough to go around so therefore I’ve got to A. opt out and cower in my corner or B. scramble and compete really hard to get my share and then feel entitled to what I’ve “pulled myself up by my own bootstraps” to own.

We’re talking worldviews, of course, and there are other ones too, one of which might be ” I’ll work my way to God’s pleasure in me, through my own niceness and good works and giving. ” This one’s VERY popular!

And there is an alternative to these, and other, worldviews. And, yes, it’s another worldview!

It’s simple but not easy.

It’s believing God, when he says, “I will take care of you.”. It’s believing God, when he says, “I have so much MORE for you than just a rough hard stone for your pillow. It’s believing God when he says to me, ‘I can and will remove ALL your failings and bad thoughts and bad doings from you, forever, even the ones you haven’t done YET, and I see you as PERFECT and BELOVED, by ME, permanently and forever.’

“It’s all about the relationship, Child Mine. I want to walk close with you forever, alive with you!”

It’s believing God, when he says to me, “I love you SO much more than you could ever even begin to conceptualize. I created you! I have AMAZING plans for you, which you can access if you only believe me and walk close with me and trust me, plans for you to love and serve others and, in doing so, to find deep fulfillment, joy and happiness in life. Plans for you to live DEEP in relationship and community and in worship, of me.

God says to each of us, “I am deeply, infinitely, and personally GOOD, in the universe, and in your life, if you’ll let me in.”

In the passage, the patriarch Jacob had his plan; he was scrambling, he was going to be content with getting away from his brother Esau who wanted to kill him, since Jacob had stolen, like, ten million dollars, from him (his birthright!). And he was going to do it on his own, he was going to (continue to!) scratch and scrabble and make do and pull himself up by his bootstraps and survive and scramble and be a street rat and try to “bless” himself!

And the INFINITELY GOOD GOD of the universe and beyond intervened, for Jacob, one night while Jacob was scrambling and “woe-is-me-ing” and God gave Jacob a true vision of God’s abundant, good and personal plan for Jacob’s life, and when he woke up in the morning and lifted his head from that hard rock “pillow” in the wilderness, Jacob began believing God, and walking with God. And it was a long process, through years following, and Jacob messed up lots more times, but he didn’t let go of his walk with God, and he learned, and he grew. Spiritually. Little by little. Partly because he learned to repent, and ask and take God’s forgiveness, and other people’s forgiveness, for his mess ups.

So, I think there’s a lot of hope, this Christmas time, and every. single. day. of. every. person’s. life.

My first (and beloved!) real home, Sakbayeme, where I lived from age three through age seven, with part of my community there.

My Second Day of Christmas

“The second day of Christmas the Lord God gave to me…”

  1. messages from my coworker in Bolivia with promises of fresh new photos soon of the CHILDREN in the outreach, and news that my coworker is doing fine and getting some much-needed rest.
  2. two deep, positive, quiet conversations – one with my spouse and another with a friend.
  3. naturally made cilantro salad dressing on my lunch salad.
  4. driving, myself,  all the way to and through Exeter, to the mall, everyplace, all around. (getting used to driving in this nation – I can do it, but I lack confidence and enough hours logged, through the years)
  5. fragrance booster powder for the laundry – I had not known such a thing could be bought, until my daughter clued me in. I like it…

The First Day of Christmas

“On the first day of Christmas” the Lord God gave to me:

-a northern New England December 25th to enjoy that was FLOODED with brightening sunshine, now that winter solstice is past, for hours and hours and hours

-Skype or in person visits with six groups of LOVED ONES

– interactions with each of my five grandchildren

-a good solid night’s sleep, seven hours straight without waking up; thus, refreshment.

-more Christmas cards, arrived in the mail!

Isaiah 43 and Isaiah 58

IMG_4364From Isaiah 43:

Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  I will bring you children from the East, and gather you from the West, I will say to the North, ‘Give them up’, and to the South, ‘Do not hold them back.’  Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by My Name, whom I created for My Glory, whom I formed and made.

‘You are My witnesses’, declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.  Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.  I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from Me there is no savior.

From Isaiah 58:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked to clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear.  ……………… If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.  He will strengthen your frame.IMG_6294