Monday, February 25, 2013

The Grandeur of God, the Nearness of Eternity, and the Value of the Soul

“I grieve that my love is no stronger, and that I am no more like Him. I wonder at His glory, and sink before Him with shame. How is it that the soul being of such value, and God so great, eternity so near and yet we are so little moved?”--William Bramwell

Do the grandeur of God, the nearness of eternity, and the lostness of man change the way I live my live?

I guess so, in a measure, if you compared my life with a typical 30's churchgoing career woman--after all, I've left my claim on a career and moneymaking to go and live in (gulp) Haiti, of all places--but I don't want to be compared with her! I want to be compared with who Jesus wants to make me, who I would be, should be, could be, if the grandeur of God, the nearness of eternity, and the lostness of man fully impacted me. Let me not shy away from the full brunt of those three forces. Let me look them full in the face and be blasted by their heat, until my hard heart be melted and I am no longer "so little moved." My heart is not great enough to bear the weight of these factors. It shrinks back in alarm. It shies away. It shields itself. It hides its eyes. It cries, "I cannot bear to gaze on even one of these aspects. I have not the love to offer in response in the measure that these great truths demand."

How will I seek to keep these realities ever before my mind when the bare writing of the above paragraph caused me to seek a few hours of escape on facebook? Honestly--how will I do it? By putting up a poster on the wall? By setting an alarm on my phone? God grant me the grace to not only keep these realities before my mind, but to change the way I live my life! Only through Jesus--and, in fact, amply and abundantly through Him--can I properly fix my perspective onto what truly matters.

Contemplating these realities, even a little bit, makes it obvious that I must change. Change how? What is it precisely that God is asking of me that the flesh fears so greatly? What do I think will be the requirement that comes with looking at the grandeur of God, the nearness of eternity, and the lostness of man? I somehow instinctively know there will be a demand, and the flesh is so afraid of facing that demand that it insulates itself and contrives methods to keep from ever looking in the first place. What is this fear? I do not approve of fear in my life--yet so far, in this area, I have rather permitted fear to reign than venture the merest glance into these realities.

This is what I'm afraid of: I'm afraid that if I look too long and hard at the lostness of man, I will have to witness. I'm afraid that if I gaze properly upon the grandeur of God, I will have to do crazy-looking things, like fall on my face and cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy!" I'm afraid that if I dwell on the nearness of eternity, I will have to cut away many enjoyable things that have no eternal value. All of these have one thing in common: They spell death to the flesh. So rather than approach the searing-hot grandeur of God, accepting my death bravely, I prefer to pretend like I don't know it exists. Rather than open my eyes to the lostness of man, die to the flesh's protests, and witness, I prefer to blind myself to their plight. Rather than walking right up to the nearness of eternity, accepting what it means, and ruthlessly stripping all unnecessary things away in light of it, I prefer to go on playing with my meaningless little toys.

This is an unacceptable state of affairs. The flesh's self-preserving trick of playing clueless, ignorant, and blind has been found out.

Now that I see that, I will walk in the truth. The truth says that the flesh was dealt with on the cross, destroyed, buried. So the flesh has no business sparing itself (or sparing "me," as it so dearly likes to phrase it) from the death, embarrassment, or cutting away that God invites me to experience. I am already dead. More of the same should hold no terrors for me. Oh, I need to witness? No problem. I am already dead to embarrassment, self-consciousness, and self-reliance. Oh, I need to fall on my face and do something weird, like cry aloud "Holy, Holy, Holy?" Okay. The old man who dislikes that kind of thing was nailed to the cross and can no longer have a say in the matter. Oh, I need to eliminate worldly pleasures, like reading books and oversleeping and eating too much sugar? Well, that can't possibly hurt at all, because the old man who used to like those things is no longer part of the picture.

What freedom! What glory! What joy! What possibility! When there is no longer anyone to protest, there is no longer that hindrance to walking in the fullest obedience. Experiences of past failures (for instance, my refusal to witness on the metro in Madrid) no longer hold their dread prediction that future calls to obedience will turn out the same way.

And so I step towards this blinding searchlight rather than hiding in the shadows, and I invite the Master to do His work.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Haitian Improvisation

When I was in Spain, I thought it was incredibly innovative to discover that you could wash windows without paper towels. I hand never done it any other way, but the Spanish women used newspapers. "Ah!" I thought. "What a brilliant money-saver." But here in Haiti, I think the level of improvisation is deeper and more creative. When you do without something, you just find something else to make do for the task at hand.

For instance...

Fingernail clippers


Rolling pin


Mop bucket

Baby wipes

Ironing board

No picture available: Tin can full of water sitting on the ground next to a bar of soap =
Handwashing station

Cereal Bowl

Math manipulatives

CD scratch repair kit (works!)

Strep Throat Cure (chew one whole every so often) (works!)

And then there are the things that have a proper use, and they're donated from America, and the Haitian has no idea of what they are or what they're for, so they come up with another use for them.

Clothes drying rack

And then there is another category: Things that Haitians have and use all the time that the American wouldn't know or understand without being told, like our charcoal grill range. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Returning a Water Bottle

I had forgotten about this story until I was catching up in my journal and it came back to mind. Incidentally, this happened the same day as my Moto Ride Through Port-au-Prince

I was thirsty and hot. I paid the moto driver and then asked one of the nearby street vendors for a water bottle. It cost me 25 gourdes, and I asked if they had another one. They didn’t, but they went to get one from another vendor.

While they were gone, I opened the one I had. I tore off the plastic shrink wrap and opened the cap. The cap opened without ripping away from the little ring that is supposed to stay below the plastic lip at the bottom part of the lip of the bottle, and I thought, “Oh great. This is one of those bottles that they warned me about.” Joanne’s interpreter, Dony, had warned me that sometimes they took these bottles and refilled with them with different water which wasn’t safe to drink. When the vendor came back with another water bottle, I noticed that it was filled to a different level than the one I had. Without removing the shrink wrap, I twisted the cap slightly. I could see that it, too, was going to be able to unscrew without punching off the little safety ring. “Yep,” I thought. “These are bogus…not from the factory that the label says.” I had already paid for the second bottle, too, and I asked for my money back for both of them. I explained quite nicely and calmly that this bottle looked like it had been opened before, and I couldn’t drink that water, because it would make me sick. It made me sad to do it, because I was extremely thirsty, and I really, really wanted water, but I couldn’t drink water that was going to make me sick.

The guy gave me my money back for the second bottle, but not for the first. The reason for this, which I didn’t understand at the time, was that I had removed the plastic shrink wrap from the first bottle, and everyone had seen me do it. I could barely understand the Creole spoken around me, but I could gather bits and pieces of phrases here and there. I asked again, calmly and a bit beseechingly, for him to give me my money back. A crowd of people gathered around, and they all started speaking loudly with each other in Creole. One man came, as it were, to my defense, and I thought for a minute that I was going to get my money back. 25 gourdes is about 60 cents, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I thought it was perfectly reasonable to expect to return something that showed obvious signs of being opened before and refilled. The man seemed to be demanding that the vendor return my money back to me. However, several people stepped in and said something I didn’t understand, which I afterward surmised must have been them reporting that they saw me take the plastic shrink wrap off, which, in their minds, meant that it certainly had not been opened before I touched it. The man shrugged his shoulders and disappeared into the crowd.

Another man shouldered his way forward, picked up the water bottle, and set it down with a decisive thump on the top of the cooler. “Take this bottle, and go away,” he said.

In that instant, something in the back of my mind told me that I ought to take his advice, go away, and just drop it. However, I didn’t obey my instincts.

“No, I want my money back,” I said, still calm, unruffled, and unafraid. “I can’t drink that water. It will make me sick.”

“Then take it and throw it away,” he said in exasperation. “You’ve lost it.”

That didn’t make any sense to me. Why had I lost it? Only afterward did I realize that in their minds, the presence or absence of the plastic shrink wrap (which I had taken off myself) formed the definition of “opened before,” while to me, it was the plastic cap itself, and the water level, and the whole aspect of this bottle being a “re-bottled” water. We were talking about two different things, and I didn’t know it, and they didn’t bother to understand my point of view. “No, I want my money back,” I repeated. I stood there, almost like a Haitian approaches an American, with my hand out, standing there without speaking.

More conversation ensued, more heated discussion in Creole by all the bystanders. Another person commanded me to take the bottle and go away. The voice in my head told me I’d better listen. I sighed. “Okay,” I agreed. I picked up the bottle and walked away.

Later, motivated by my extreme thirst, I drank the water. It didn’t ever make me sick.

But after that, whenever I walked by those vendors, someone would make a comment about a water bottle and 25 gourdes, and the whole crowd would burst out laughing. The first time it happened, I apologized humbly in my broken Creole for my role in that whole drama, but that caused another burst of laughter. It was somewhat intimidating to walk by there after that, because I felt that I had unwittingly made enemies, simply because I didn’t understand.

Aside: It’s interesting how one comes to understand things here. Having gone through this experience, I understand that it’s not quite as simple a matter as it is in America to make a return of a simple item. There is no such rule as “the customer is always right.” There is no allowance made for the defectiveness of an item being grounds for a return. Now I understand—but if some seasoned missionary had tried to tell me as much (which no one ever did, because there are so many of these things, no one could possibly keep track of them all to tell the newcomers), I would have believed it, but I wouldn’t have understood.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Melted by His Goodness

"Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Romans 2:4

The Goodness of God!

God gave me a gift that I have been asking Him for, that I have been appearing repeatedly before His throne to pray about. He answered my prayer, and the answer is full of His abundant goodness. 

Curiously, the answer came the day after one of my worst days, a day when I behaved particularly badly, gave way overmuch to the indulgences of the flesh, wasted time scandalously, and went to bed feeling guilty for having failed to walk in the light. 

The next day: God's response? Boom! Your prayer is answered. The thing you have so long desired is granted. 

Ah, the goodness of God! 

Smitten by the consciousness of my failings, I look to him with a heart that leaps full of love and gratitude, staggered with amazement at His mercy. Part of me cries out, "Don't you see my shortcomings? Don't you want to frown in disapproval and close off your heart to me for my sin? You know better than anybody that I DO NOT DESERVE THIS!" Another part of me cannot help but rejoice in His bounty. More than anything, the hard, guilty heart that instinctively seeks to withdraw and hide from His presence in sullen defiance is coaxed back out into the light, melted by His gentleness. 

God doesn't lead us to repentance by holding staunchly to the strictness of the law and waiting for us to get our act together before He will make a move in our favor. He leads us to repentance by His goodness. His goodness! His lovingkindness! His love that loved us first, before we ever loved Him! His tender mercy! His gentle, compassionate touch! He overwhelms the guilty heart with goodness, goodness, and more goodness, until that heart cries out, "Ah, Lord God! You are good, and I am evil, and your goodness is so beautiful that I give up! I yield!" 

So then, how dare I treat a child or a brother or a lost soul with anything other than the goodness of God that God has shown me? 

God leads me to repentance with His goodness. Do I seek to lead others to repentance with my hardness? 

God melts my heart by loving me so tangibly that I overflow with the astonishment of it all. Have I ever done that with a sibling or a student or a sinner?

Hardness breeds more hardness, but goodness breeds repentance. Who would have thought? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To Love the Brethren

Happy Valentine's Day!

Relationship status aside, it's a good day to talk about love.

What have you done lately to show your love to the body of Christ?

How much love have you felt lately for your brothers and sisters in Christ?

I got to experience this sort of love in action recently. It was February 2, a Saturday, and some guests were going to be coming in to Club Indigo. I was commissioned to get their rooms ready, so I went to check on the various rooms in question. One just needed the beds made and a general once-over by the cleaning ladies, but the other was in serious need of help. I opened the door and was instantly taken aback by the foul smell. Four full trash cans, some with poopy diapers in them, were in different parts of the room. The floor was smeared with all sorts of unknown filthiness. Toys were piled in the corner and in the closets, and just the touch of them left your hands feeling grimy. Pieces of dismantled cribs were scattered about, and everything had an air of disorder and carelessness about it. The previous occupants of the room were some of our Haitian nannies--wonderful women, but with different standards of cleanliness--and lots of children.

I set to work to clean the room, a song in my heart and a determination in my head to improve it as much as possible. I collected my cleaning supplies and set to work. I gathered up all the toys and removed them, stacked all the crib parts neatly in one place, swept the floor, washed the windows, and took out the trash. But then it came to scrubbing the floor. I had a brand-new mop head, and it was was very nice, but I didn't have the handle for it, so I had to get down on my hands and knees, wring out the mop with my hands, and scrub vigorously. The floor was full of little areas of black stuff stuck on, and I was sweating and breathless by the time I had done half the room. One of the missionaries discovered me at my task and gave me a pair of gloves, for which I was extremely grateful.

As I worked, tirelessly and unceasingly, trying to beat the clock and finish cleaning before the guests' arrival, I asked myself, "Why am I doing this?" I thought of the person who was going to stay in this room, and I knew the answer: It was for love. Not the worldly kind of love, that admires a man and seeks to attract his attention. Not an awkward kind of love, that gazes from afar and wishes hopelessly for a relationship. Not a passionate kind of love, that comes with beating heart and fluttering eyelashes and rosy lips. No--it was the love of the brethren, godly love and esteem for a fellow believer, love that was willing to take action and do something practical and a wee bit difficult for another's sake.

The book of 1 John has a lot to say about loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him." 2:9
  • "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." 3:11
  • "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." 3:14
  • "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." 3:16
  • "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment." 3:23
  • "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." 4:7
  • "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." 4:11
  • "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." 4:12
  • "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 4:20
  • "And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also. 4:21
  • "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him." 5:1
  • "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments." 5:2

Let us not become so sullied by the world's definition of love that we cannot genuinely love our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a pure, strong, unquenchable love that has nothing to do with romance or personal attraction. The world does not know of the existence of this love and cannot understand its selflessness. But as God loves us and lives in our hearts, He begins to fill our hearts with His love, which spills over toward our brothers and sisters. It is a sweet thing to know God's love in this way.

~ ~ ~ ~

By the way, see my previous Valentine's Day post for my thoughts on my current relationship status. I am in love, too.

And this post from a blog I read is worth your time whether you're married or not. Excerpt:

"I used to think it was hypocritical to act in love when I didn't feel like it. The truth is? It is actually hypocritical for me to act what I feel instead of who I am and have been made in Jesus Christ!"

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Jesus, the Bread of Life vs. Peanut Butter and Jelly

It was February 3, and I was making my lunch. "Oh, Lord, not peanut butter and jelly again!" I sighed inwardly. I inspected my bread closely, picked off a little bit of green mold from the crust, threw it in the trash can, and spread the rest of the slice with peanut butter and jelly, with a little frown on my lips and a mild feeling of revulsion in my stomach.

Suddenly my complaining attitude received a check.

"You have Jesus."

Instantly, I saw it. I have a treasure of inestimable value in Jesus. I have incomparable riches, right here, now! I am vastly, extravagantly blessed.

A smile spread over my face and a genuine happiness came into my heart. My eyes lit up and the feeling of revulsion and complaining disappeared. I started praising Jesus aloud as I contemplated who He is to me and how grateful I am for Him. He transformed my attitude as I fixed my gaze on Him.

"Jesus! You are my bread, my water, my living delight. I praise you for being in my life. I thank you for the food you have provided for me. It doesn't matter what I eat or if I eat. I have you, and I will have you forever, and I will feast on the riches of your presence and enjoy the glories of the treasure that you are. You are more wonderful than a gourmet buffet. You are richer than chocolate. You are more to me than all the flavorful and tasty foods in the world. I offer myself anew to you, and I delight anew in the enjoyment of have you in your completeness available to me all the time."

Jesus as the bread of life became so real to me in that moment.

For the rest of the day, whenever I thought about food, spontaneous praise arose from my lips and I renewed my verbal declarations of delight in Jesus as better than any food.

And how tender and loving He is! He provides! That very day, I got the unexpected gift of a barbecued chicken dinner. Someone else gave me some deviled eggs and potato salad, which I put on a plate in the refrigerator for the next day's lunch. Since then, I have had more variety of food choices in my diet--cabbage stir fry, a can of tomato basil soup, fruits like grapefruit, banana, and mango, an exquisite dinner at the buffet at a neighboring resort last Sunday, and the gift of a dinner ticket for the buffet here. How tenderly He cares for His children, and how adequately He provides!

He provides Himself first, and He is more than enough. But because He knows our weakness and knows that we are but flesh, He also provides for the satisfaction and nourishment of our bodies. He provides more than we deserve and better than we expect. What a matchless thing it is to be in His service!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our Strength for Prayer is in the Lord

by William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour

Again, consider the Christian as addressing himself to any duty of God's worship, still his strength is in the Lord.

[1. Prayer.]

Would he pray? Where will he find materials for his prayer? Alas, he 'knows not what he should pray for as we ought,’ Rom. 8:26. Let him alone, and he will soon pray himself into some temptations or other, and cry for that which [it] were cruelty in God to give; and therefore God puts words in our mouths: 'Take with you words and say,’ Hosea 14:2. Well, now he hath words put into his mouth. Alas, they will freeze in his very lips, if he hath not some heart-heating affections to thaw the tap. And where shall this fire be had? Not a spark to found on his own hearth, except it be some strange fire of natural desires, which will not serve. Whence then must the fire come to thaw the iciness of the heart, but from heaven? The Spirit, he must stretch himself upon the soul, as the prophet on the child, and then the soul will come to some kindly warmth and heavenly heat in its affections. The Spirit must groan, and then the soul will groan. He helps us to these sighs and groans which turn the sails of prayer. He dissolves the heart and then it [i.e. prayer] bursts out of the heart by groans of the lips by heavenly rhetoric, out of the eyes as from a flood-gate with tears. Yet further, now the creature is enabled to wrestle with God in prayer, what will he get by all this? Suppose he be weak in grace, is he able to pray himself strong, or corruption weak? No, this is not to be found in prayer, as an act of the creature; this drops from heaven also: 'In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul,’ Ps. 138:3. David received it in duty, but had it not from his duty, but from his God. He did not pray himself strong, but God strengthened him in his prayer.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Head-On Collision With a Moto

It was supposed to be such a simple trip, just a little drive around the corner, a five-minute trip to visit someone's house, no more. I took the keys to the white car, affectionately dubbed "Old Trusty," and headed down the road.

About 1 minute from my destination, I turned off the main road onto a side road. I was going quite slowly--maybe 5 mph, though Old Trusty's dashboard is pretty useless at telling me any information. The spedometer needle hangs motionless at 0. The tachometer needle is stuck all the way over in the red. The odometer stopped clocking somewhere around 190,000.

Suddenly, a moto appeared, zooming around the corner, riding right in the middle of the road, and heading straight for me. I quickly slammed on the brakes and came to a complete stop. A satisfactory thrill came over me of having avoided an accident, which feeling vanished an instant later when he hit me. His reflexes were not as fast, and his speed was too great for him to stop.

Thud! His tire whacked squarely into the middle of my bumper, and the moto and driver collapsed on the road in front of me. The driver slowly arose, limping slightly and holding his crotch, which he tried to disguise by rubbing his leg.

I sat in shocked silence.

I was just in an accident, I thought to myself. What in the world am I supposed to do now?

I was white, I was a woman, I was alone in the vehicle, and I didn't so much as have a phone on me. (Mine died overnight, and I have been having a lot of trouble with my charger, which I plug in but it won't charge.)

What was Haitian protocol? Would I just leave? Would I call the police? How would they determine who was at fault? What did people usually do? The only accident I had seen was one where some driver hit a moto on the highway and kept right on going. I couldn't just do that.

A crowd quickly gathered, and everyone began angrily chattering in Creole, accusing the "blan" (white person) of wrecking this guy's moto and hurting him. The fact that I was white was a bad deal for me. Jackpot! Everyone was thinking. Milk this one for all it's worth.

A car appeared in the road behind me, so someone moved the moto from in front of me, and I pulled over to the side of the road to let that driver pass. Now I was tempted to just drive away. Would that be leaving the scene of an accident? Would I attract an angry crowd of people running after me and throwing stones? What in the world was I supposed to do? One thing I was determined not to do was exit the vehicle. So I just sat there in the car, with the engine running and my windows rolled up, watching the people and waiting to see what would happen.

A bystander came up to the passenger side and motioned me to roll the window down. I did. He said something in Creole and I caught the word "hospital."

"Is he going to the hospital?" I asked.

"Ok, great!" the bystander said. He waved the moto driver to come over, and was about to open the back door of my car for him to get in.

"OH, waaaait a minute," I thought. "They expect ME to take him to the hospital?" I said in broken Creole to the bystander that I needed to use the phone, and I had a friend just down the road. "I'll be right back," I said. I drove off. Was I doing this wrong? What could I do?

Fortunately, the house where I was headed was right down the road, and thankfully, some of the Haitian staff from the creche were there. I explained the situation to one of the guys, and he went to take care of it.

Later, when he came back, I thanked him and asked, "Were they really angry with me?"

"Yes," he said. "The guy said his leg was broken."

(The guy's leg was obviously not broken. He was barely limping.)

"What did you do? How did you handle it?" I asked.

"I gave him 1000 gourdes and sent someone I know to take him to the hospital," he said.

About 2 hours later, I was getting ready to go, so I got in the car and put it in reverse to back out. However, I noticed that the gates were closed. I asked the security guard if he could open the gate. He came up to my window and said a long thing in Creole, the basic gist of which I understood to be, "That guy is sitting outside our gate now, threatening what will happen when this white car comes out."

Oh my word! I thought. Here in Haiti you can't ever go back through the same intersection where you had an accident, because everyone there hates you. I imagined driving back by that fatal spot and having a hundred stones flung at the vehicle that was so obnoxious to them. "White woman hitting one of our Haitian brothers--how dare she?" (Excuse me; he hit me, not the other way around, but there's no way they will ever admit that.)

So the same Haitian guy from our creche came back to take care of him once again. This time the moto driver was demanding from us the cost of fixing the moto. But our Haitian staffer told him to go claim it on his insurance. The guy argued with him for a long time in Creole, none of which I understood. Then our staffer escorted me out of there until I was safely out of reach.

So that was my adventure of the day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Sprinkling of Blood

Notes from my personal Bible study

"It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." Hebrews 9:23
Notice a very interesting fact: Christ didn't just apply His blood to the people, but to the heavenly things themselves. He appeared as our High Priest in the Heavenly Holy of Holies, bearing His own blood, with which he sprinkled the heavenly things themselves, the way Aaron did in the sanctifying of the tabernacle.

When you think of a man going into a tent made of skins and sprinkling animal blood over everything, you may think, "Okay…that's kind of random…and gross…" It seems meaningless. We grasp its holiness only by taking God's word for it that it is holy. "Well, God said it, and He's the boss, so I guess that makes it so," we reason, still not understanding.

But this passage contains a key to moving our understanding beyond that. Ask yourself the question: "The heavenly things themselves needed to be purified? How could they possibly need to be more pure than they already are? They are in heaven. Everything in heaven is holy. There is no blemish or shadow on anything in heaven. How could they possibly attain a greater degree of holiness than they already have?"

And then you see it--a picture of the Son of God, the beloved of Heaven, the light of the Father's eyes, He who is Himself the infinite holiness of God Himself, unsurpassable in perfections and loveliness and sinlessness. 

He walks slowly and purposefully into the heavenly temple, bleeding. 

He is bearing a bowl of blood---His own blood, which He poured out willingly as the sacrificial Lamb of God. 

He dips His fingers in the bowl and sprinkles, sprinkles, sprinkles. Every drop lands with searing testimony: "I was spilled out of the veins of the Holy one of God!"

You don't get anything holier than this. Yes, the heavenly temple, holy as it already was, could be "purified" and attain a greater degree of holiness than it already had through this ceremony. The life of the flesh is in the blood. Jesus gave His life---the purest life that has ever existed or ever can exist for all eternity. He collected the symbolic evidence of this life, the blood, and sprinkled it on "the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry" (9:21) and "the book, and all the people" (9:19). This was in the heavenly realms, on the real, original items, not on the earthly shadows made after their pattern.

Aaron's priestly sprinkling of blood on the tabernacle gained its significance from Christ's divine action, not the other way around. God didn't tell the Israelites to institute the sacrificial system and then see it wasn't working and then say to himself, "Oh great, now I have to go down there and shed my own blood, since I've already said it has to be by blood, and I can't lie." The sprinkling of animal blood wasn't an innately holy thing that God copied later in His own more drastic measure. No! The sprinkling of the earthly tabernacle was the copy, and the Holy blood of the Son of God was the original. Aaron sprinkled blood over "the patterns of the things in the heavens." Animal blood sprinkled over a tent made of animal skins could be holy, and not random or meaningless, because it foreshadowed an event of staggering holiness that the Son of God Himself was going to perform. 

Imagine the collective gasp of all the angelic host when Jesus appeared to do this work. Imagine the pang to the Father's heart at the bleeding wounds of the Son. On earth we see him die on a cross and get buried in a tomb, but the author of Hebrews pulls aside the curtain for a peek into what was going on in the Holy of Holies in the temple in Heaven. He is the sacrificial lamb slain on the altar, His is the blood spilled, and He is the high priest who intercedes our case on the basis of this sacrifice and this blood. 

What a multi-faceted and complex and beautiful part of the gospel! 

So when He sprinkles His blood on YOU, what do you think happens? 

Jesus's blood is so much more holy than the very temple of heaven that the sprinkling of it "purified" that temple. This holy, pure, spotless Savior sprinkles His blood on a sinner, and every drop lands with searing testimony: "I was spilled out of the veins of the Holy One of God!" God sees the blood. The blood represents Jesus's very life, His righteous, holy, pure life. God sees Jesus when He looks at the sinner. The sinner is covered by the spotless righteousness of Christ. The blood has purified you. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

1,000 Words vs. A Picture

Why I came to be grateful my camera fell in the sand


I grew up writing. I wrote letters, journal entries, and reports. I have notebooks full of my old pencil- and crayon-decorated writings. I read back over them and laugh at my imagination and the things I said. My pen pals and I exchanged packs and packs of letters. Writing was more natural to me than speaking. In a face-to-face conversation, I would often find myself frozen, unable to think, but with pen to paper, the ideas flowed. I remember asking myself on more than one occasion, "Well, how would I write it?" in order to release myself from the uncomfortable position of not knowing how to say what was in my mind.

I grew up reading. Reading was as second nature to me as breathing. I learned to read at the age of 3 and cannot remember not knowing how to read. I devoured books at the expense of social interactions. I read every book in our house and was quickly exhausting the ones at the library.

I grew up storytelling. I would sit in the sandbox and create a giant mountain, decorate it with a few sticks and pine needles, and begin telling a thrilling saga of the tiny people who lived there, enjoying they way all the other children would pause pushing their dump trucks, edge closer, and listen with rapt attention.

Writing is a friend, a familiar ally, a standby. If I want words, they come. If I want to portray a scene, I can. If I want a rich description, I can write one. If I want to make a situation sound humorous, stodgy, technical, Victorian, or childlike, it's not that hard. Words and I get along.


I take really mediocre photographs. I love photography, and I've had a camera at my side almost every day since 2002, but let's face it: my photography is not world-class. I'm more of a kodak-moment type of girl, and my pictures are just everyday snapshots. After eleven years and thousands of photographs, I don't show a great deal of promise for being the next up-and-coming talented photographer.

And that's ok. I'm not aiming to be one. I'm not trying that hard. I don't really even care if I have a nice camera. The little point-n-shoot is good enough for me. I don't deserve any special accolades. And I don't need any special self-esteem boosters, either. I take the pictures that I take. I'm okay with that.

Writing + Photography

Something happened to my writing when I added a camera to my life, something so subtle that I didn't recognize it until suddenly the camera was gone.

Memories that I would want to capture, which I would have previously written down, could now be captured simply and easily with one click of a button. Snap! went the camera, and then I was off the hook to actually go through the trouble of a journal entry.

If I had written it down, it would have come with thoughts, emotions, descriptions, and interpretations. I could have highlighted attitudes and personalities, reasons why things happened, and all kinds of things invisible to the camera's lens. Writing transmits ideas, not just the way things looked. Great photographs can transmit ideas, too. But my photographs were not in that category. All I really ever captured was the way something looked.

There was something really funny going on here,
and I know we were crying with laughter,
but I no longer have a clue what it was. 
Over and over, in multiple, multiple situations, I have a photograph, but the funny memory attached to the photograph is something I have to supply, something not recorded anywhere other than in my brain, something that only I can enjoy when I look at the photo. If I had written the memory, on the other hand, then everyone would be able to enjoy it. It would still be sparkling with freshness and laughter, transporting the reader back to the moment when it happened. But unfortunately, my own memories of the specialness behind the photo often fade, leaving me only with the way things looked. The photo looks commonplace and there doesn't appear to be any reason why it was taken or what story it tells, or indeed, why one should not hit 'delete.'

This habit of taking photos created a laziness in my writing. "Oh, I don't need to describe that now. I have the photo," I would say to myself. Then, when I would write something, I would skimp on taking pains for all the parts that I had photos for, and my writing would inevitably disintegrate into a boring recitation of factual information; what we did and where we went and who we were with.

I think back to some of the letters I used to write, before I ever had a camera, and I was able to capture situations and frame them uniquely and create a tiny little masterpiece of writing around the event I was describing.

And since I haven't had a camera, that ability has begun to come back to me. It's better than the best picture I've ever taken. Now that that old laziness is no longer an option ("Oh, the photo will tell the story"), the wit and sparkle of my writing has begun to revive.

You would think that writing plus photography would be better than writing alone. And it is. Who wants to be faced with a wall of plain old text? There's no doubt that visuals capture the eye and draw the reader in. I'm not saying anything to debunk that. I'm all for appealing layout, world-class photography, and proper typography.

But I'm just now discovering that for me personally, my best writing comes when I am unable to do any photography. Considering that my photos aren't that great anyway, no one will be the poorer for their absence. Leave the photography to someone else, someone who is actually qualified, whose images actually speak, and let me write.

Now let me go find someone else's picture to illustrate this post.

All of that said, I do realize that the lack of current photos on this blog will cause a general outcry, and may even cause me to lose some readers. It will only appeal to those who read, i.e, who have time and interest to read, not to those who merely scan. Believe me, I've been going through camera starvation, and if I get another camera (or unclog the sand from mine), I will post pictures again. Part of the reason I have neglected this blog since the beginning of the year is that I don't have any more photos to add to my posts. But hopefully, in the meantime, to those who do read, the quality of what you read will be more worth your time.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Things you will need in Haiti

These are a few items that the newcomer might not think of. Some of them will apply to everyone, but not others, depending on what kind of place you live in. They are available for purchase in Haiti, unless noted otherwise.

Buckets. You will probably need more than one of these. A bucket is not just a bucket. It is a hand washing station, a shower, a water-drawing tool, a trash can, a storage container, a mop bucket, a measurement tool, and so much more.

A hand pump for water. Clean water comes in large blue Culligan jugs. If you don't want to lift and pour these heavy jugs for every glass of water you drink, this plastic, relatively cheap pump is a helpful solution.

Rope/String. The first thing you'll need it for is lowering your bucket into the cistern to draw water. But there will be many other random unexpected uses for it, like holding your broken crib rails up, rigging a system to mount your mosquito net when you don't have a hook in the ceiling, or tying strings to the balloons (that you brought from the US) at your child's birthday party.

A propane/gas stove. Because it works whether you have power or not.

A hand-held fan. Nicer than fanning yourself with your Bible during church.

To be continued as I think of more items. Feel free to suggest other things in the comments!