Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Multi-Tool

I have a couple of multi-tools that are really, really useful in Haiti. This amazing multi-tool comes with the following features and would be useful for missionaries, parents, teachers, veterinarians, military personnel, and more. It would be good for even the very youngest of children, for it was designed with their safety in mind.

Half a bowl (but I have two so I can put them together)
Eating utensils
Half a musical instrument (works when you use two together)
Directional arrow
Acoustic clicker
Blunt force whacker
Expressive nonverbal language features
Bottle opener
A number of hooks
Toilet Paper
Rolling Pin
Massage tool
Abrasive scratch

You would think, with all these features, that my multi-tool would be bulky and more trouble than it's worth, but it fits in a pocket and it's really easy to wash. I love my multi tools so much--I would hate to lose one!

(It's a riddle. What is my multi-tool?)

Monday, April 22, 2013

25 Reasons I am Thankful for Ants

My roommate and I are trying to turn a habit of complaining about ants into praise to God in all things, so we challenged each other to come up with 25 reasons we are thankful for ants. Our theory was that our two lists would not be alike, so we would end up with 50 reasons why we should be thankful for ants. We wrote our lists without consulting each other, but I think that there ended up being bit of overlap. (See her list on her blog.)
  1. Thank you, God, that ants provoke a lazy person to be diligent (Prov. 6:6)
    Ant-eaten holes in my clothes
  2. Thank you, God, that when I find my clothes swarming with ants and see the holes they have eaten into the fabric everywhere, it reminds me to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matt. 6:24)
  3. Thank you, God, for this major incentive to mop every day, which keeps our house lovely.
  4. Thank you, God, that ants clean up trash like dead cockroaches and so contribute to tidiness and order.
  5. Thank you, God, that ants are impossible to kill. This inspires me to be the same way when Satan sees me: constantly invading and never worth the bother of squishing because I will merely wriggle into shape again and crawl on my way.
  6. Thank you, God, that ants can wander around the same square of tile for a long time without finding anything or getting anywhere. This inspires me to not lose heart in the midst of seemingly pointless labor. 
  7. Thank you, God, that ants successfully carry really big loads. This inspires me to never be daunted by my littleness compared to the size of a project. 
  8. Thank you, God, that ants bite hard! This gives me a chance to thank You in all things and rejoice even when I suffer. 
  9. Thank you, God, for how the ants unify the missionaries--everyone unites in the fight to make the house inhospitable to them!
  10. Thank you God, for how ants can fit into really little cracks, like little reconnaissance robots. That's cool. I'm thankful that ants are cool. How lame. I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel. I've run out of all the obvious ones. Lord Jesus! Make me really, truly thankful for ants! How can I praise you for ants that crawl on me and bite me and eat my clothes and ruin my food and swarm everywhere over the floor? Help me.
  11. Thank you, God, that ants look ahead and plans for the future. I am thankful that even in such a little (seemingly senseless) creature, I can find an example of this kind of wisdom. 
  12. Thank you, God, that the ant is responsible without anyone telling it what to do. That inspires me to be the same. 
  13. Thank you, God, that the ant does its seemingly insignificant job faithfully and consistently, because that is what You have designed it to do. That inspires me to do what You have designed me to do faithfully and consistently, too, even when it seems insignificant.
  14. Thank you, God, that the ant has a master sense for food. Within minutes of us dropping a crumb, it will be surrounded and an ant highway will have developed. It makes me consider: Do I have that same hunger for spiritual food? Do I immediately sense the smallest crumb that drops from heaven? Do I seize it, and tell all my friends, and get them to help bring it back to my home and to my life? Thank you, God, for this lesson. 
  15. Thank you, God, that ants make no sound. They do their work in silence. They get squished in silence. Thank you, God, that they don't sound like mosquitoes!
  16. Thank you, God, that ants are so numerous! It shows me what impact numerous tiny things can have. They suggest that I never again need to wonder if my numerous prayers are having any impact.
  17. Thank you, God, that ants can burrow through the cement walls and floor of my house. That's amazing. I thank You that this means they can get in. They can also get in through the open windows and doors. I thank You that in every way, our house is not closed off to them, even though I don't feel very thankful, because you only allow what is good.
  18. Thank you, God, for ants being fast. Sometimes I have to try two or three times to get my thumb on top of one of the hyperactive ones. That helps me to speed up my reflexes, which I'm sure is good for my brain. 
  19. Thank you, God, that ants are edible. I'm sure I have unwittingly eaten lots of them. 
  20. Thank you, God, that ants are organized underground. At least the vast majority of them are probably out of sight at all times. 
  21. Thank you, God, that ants are not 3 feet long. What horror that would be!
  22. Thank you, God, that ant bites are not poisonous. If they were, I'm sure I would have died by now. 
  23. Thank you, God, that ants are under man's dominion and I'm allowed to kill them without committing murder. 
  24. Thank you, God, that for the whole first 30 years of my life, I never even knew what it was like to have to face this problem. 
  25. Thank you, God, that you created the ant, that you declared it very good, and that you have a purpose in teaching me to be thankful in all things through this little creature. I am yours, ants or no ants!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Easy vs. Hard (vs. Harder)

It's easy to be a fun, nice older sibling. Misbehavior problems are just relegated to mom.
It's hard to be a fun, nice teacher. Misbehavior problems tempt you to become hard and stern.
(It's harder to be a mom. Teachers get to let the children go at the end of the day.)

It's easy to throw your clothes in the washer.
It's hard to wash them by hand in a bucket.
(It's harder when you are on the third day of a 101 degree fever and you've eaten two meals in the last two days.)

It's easy to pour yourself out for kids' enjoyment when you get to give them back at the end of the day.
It's hard when they're around you, 24-7.

It's easy to take a shower in cold water. I often wish it was colder.
It's hard to take a shower with no water.

It's easy to have patience when you understand what's going on.
It's hard when you have no chance of understanding, because even if you understood the language perfectly, the cultural aspects would still be inexplicable.
(It's harder when people take advantage of that fact and maliciously keep you in the dark)

It's easy to keep your house clean when you can close your windows and doors, suck up dust with the vacuum cleaner, fill your mop bucket with running water, and turn on the light to see where you're cleaning.
It's hard to keep your house clean when you constantly have people tracking in and out, gaping openings for dust to come in at every window, ants burrowing their tunnels in the mortar between your tiles, and no water.
(It's harder when you're doing it in the dark by the light of one kerosene lantern.)

How do you respond when things are hard (and then harder)?

Paul was "pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life." (2 Cor 1:8) But his response was a bracing call to the surrendered life:

"But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us." (2 Cor. 1:9-10)

When things are hard, it is an opportunity to rejoice, because God's resurrection power is made that much more available to us. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Prerequisite for Discipleship

A study from Luke 14:26-33

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, s
aying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 
Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 
Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 

Ou Dunatai (Vs. 26, 27, 33) ου δυναται

Ou means “not.” Dunatai means “to be able or possible: - be able, can (do, + -not), could, may, might, be possible, be of power.”

Not possible. Can not. Not able.

I was struck by the repeated instance of this same phrase three times in this passage. Just one simple little word in English, “cannot,” but it carries with it such a vast wealth of meaning.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” the Bible says. So where is this word “can’t” coming from? Jesus Himself is saying it. Is there any such thing as the word “can’t” in a Christian’s vocabulary?

“Cannot be my disciple.” Not able to be a disciple of Jesus. Not possible.

“All things are possible to him that believeth.” “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

The only way to reconcile these two facts from Scripture is to divide the world into the two categories that the Bible divides us into: In Christ or Not In Christ. The person who is in Christ is enabled by divine grace to do all things. The person who is not in Christ is under divine judgement  and unable to do anything to please God.

So Jesus’s words here reveal to us that it is not possible to be in Christ as long as we are holding on to the things of the world (family, possessions, our own selves, and all that we have). There is not such a thing as a Christian who is holding on to the things of the world and a “better” Christian who has surrendered all those things. According to Scripture, it is impossible for a man to be Christ’s disciple until he denies himself and surrenders everything to the lordship of Christ.

Proton (vs. 28, 31) πρωτον

Proton in Greek means “firstly (in time, place, order, or importance): - before, at the beginning, chiefly, (at, at the) first (of all).”

Think of our English word proton. It came from this Greek word. We cannot see an atom, and we think of it as the smallest building block there is for all of the elements of the world, but a proton is even smaller. Atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. So a proton is a building block for the smallest building block.

Take that concept and apply it to this verse. When Jesus says “first” here, he means backing up all the way to the beginning of the beginning. Sit down FIRST and count the cost. It’s mockery, it’s death, to begin to act like Jesus’s disciple and then refuse to give Him everything.

The Builder and the Warrior

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”

Who in the world would expose themselves to this kind of mockery?

“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”

Who in the world would expose themselves to this kind of danger?

How do these two examples relate to the point of the passage?

The builder and the warrior are analogous to a man who tries to follow Jesus without giving everything up.

Jesus says, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

Without first (proton) forsaking all that you have, you cannot (ou dunatai) be Christ’s disciple.

---If you are not Christ’s disciple, you are not In Christ.
---If you are not In Christ, you have none of the righteousness of Christ.
---If you have none of the righteousness of Christ, you must stand before God in your own righteousness, which is like filthy rags.
---If you stand before God dressed in your own righteousness, you will be exposed to mockery (see the builder) and death (see the warrior).
  • Mockery, because everyone will see that you started a foundation called “Disciple of Christ” in your life, intending to build a tower of righteousness, but you ran out of supplies and your tower remained unfinished, whereas if you had taken Christ’s righteousness, it would have been enough to create a perfect and complete tower. 
  • Death, because God’s wrath is poised against you, and your own righteousness provides you an insufficient defense to protect yourself from being crushed by its blow.


In order to be Christ's disciple, you must forsake all that you have. Your own life, your own righteousness, your own treasured possessions. Retain possession, and renounce discipleship. Let go, and become worthy of Christ and be found "In Him," not having your own righteousness, but His. An interesting dilemma. All or nothing. Take Him, and forsake everything, and end up finding everything in the long run, or seek to retain everything, and leave Him, and end up losing everything in the long run. 

I choose Him. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

In which I unwittingly flush my underwear down the toilet

...yet another episode in the series "Please Protect Me From Myself"...

How does one flush underwear down the toilet without knowing it?

I'll tell you.

But to understand the story, you first have to understand my washing machine. I have the most brilliant washing machine ever.

5-gallon bucket.
Toilet plunger. (Clean, brand new, clearly labeled for Laundry Use ONLY!)
Add clothes, water, and detergent.
Plunge up and down while you memorize Scripture or read an interesting book.
30 minutes later, wring clothes out and remove to rinse water.
Rinse, squeeze out, and hang to dry.
Voila! Clean clothes!

Today I washed a load of clothes while I happily read my Kindle. Laundry used to be my most dreaded chore. I don't really know how to wash clothes by hand, and it inevitably took a long time, was very frustrating and backbreaking and boring to me, and hurt my hands. So this new system with the plunger and the bucket is a great relief.

I washed my clothes. I rinsed them. After rinsing them, my rinse water had turned quite black, but I shrugged my shoulders and said to myself, "That's life." I don't have the luxury of enough water or enough time to rinse my clothes until the water runs clear. I had a pile of little twisted logs of clothes that I had wrung out, and as usual, I disposed of the water in the toilet. But as it poured out, I saw a black pair of underwear slip over the rim of the bucket and disappear in the toilet bowl. My water had been too black to see it.

"Oh no!" I thought. "Now I'll have to go fishing for my underwear in the toilet bowl!"

But my dismay at this thought quickly amplified when it all flushed down, underwear and all. Now it was gone.


"Oh no, no, no, no, no!" I said, wringing my hands. "Now our toilet is going to be plugged."

I put on a pair of rubber gloves and dunked my hand in the toilet bowl, squeezed it down the hole at the bottom, and fished to see if maybe it was right there. It wasn't.

I pulled my hand back out and doused the glove in bleach. Hopeless.

At that point, I figured it was just a matter of waiting to see what happens. Would we have to find out the hard way whether our toilet was plugged or not? None of us knew how we would retrieve the underwear at that point. So all I could do was hope for the best. Couldn't call a plumber.

What else could I do?

I prayed.

"God, can you please see that pair of underwear safely all the way down to the septic tank?" I asked.

(Can you believe I asked God to look into the tubing of the toilet and the septic tank to watch over a piece of underwear, of all things?)

Do you think God smiles at requests like that?

But so far, he has answered, because all evening, the toilet has flushed just fine.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bestowing Goods to Feed the Poor

"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor...and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." 1 Cor. 13:3

Being here in Haiti, I am struck by this verse. It is not the bestowing of goods that counts, but love. I believe we could accurately say that even God, if He had not love, could bestow all His goods to feed the poor (which would result in the immediate alleviation of all poverty, since God has infinite resources), and it would be worth nothing. In other words, it would be preferable to have a world with poverty and a God of love, than to have a world without a God of love and no poverty. Our grief in seeing poverty everywhere around us in Haiti should be outweighed by the rejoicing that we have and serve a God of love.

It is an eye-opening concept that I could continually give away to the poor all the way to my last possession, and it would be worth nothing if I had not agape; and it surprises me that anything but love could motivate me to do such a thing.

However, on the other hand, if love did motivate me to do this, then it would be worth something. Bestowing all my goods to feed the poor appears in a list of of quite the pinnacle of Christian activities.

  • Speaking in tongues (vs 1)
  • Prophesying (vs. 2)
  • Understanding ally mysteries (vs. 2)
  • Having all knowledge (vs. 2)
  • Faith that can move mountains (vs. 2)
  • Giving my body to be burned (vs. 3)

These things evoke a certain wide-eyed wonder in the world. They catch people's attention. One could say, "Whoa, he just foretold the future," or "Look at that! He prayed and that mountain moved." In the same awestruck (yet not comprehending) tone, someone could say, "Whoa! That guy just gave away all his goods to feed the poor. Wonder what he is going to eat now? Let's watch and see what becomes of him." It can be a tremendous, tremendous testimony when motivated out of love (just as it can be nothing when motivated otherwise).

What does love look like in the person who gives all his goods to feed the poor?

1. Love for God
God's love has so transformed this person that he says, "God, I trust you." When God asks him to give up something precious for the sake of a poor person who is going to consume it, perhaps ungratefully, and then still need more, he does not resent the fact, but looks with glowing love at the Savior, and cheerfully gives it up for Him who gave up His life for him. When God asks him to give again, he doesn't get tired of it, but trusts God as he further reduces his own possessions. And when God asks him to give up his last cent, his last thread (imagine if you had given up your house, but you had two sets of clothes, and then God asked you to give one set up), he still says, "Lord, I trust you," and commits the keeping of body and soul to his faithful Creator.

2. Love for the Poor
There is a kind of giving to the poor that demoralizes him, keeps him aware of the shame of his neediness, and perpetuates his poverty. Many books have been written and many great minds have bent themselves to figuring out this problem, but the answer is simply love. If the person who loves God goes on a mission by God to the poor person to give him something, then God's love in His servant will overflow and spill onto the poor person. The poor person will feel loved, cherished, valued, and treasured. The shame of his poverty will begin to be healed, not exacerbated. Love will win him and set him on his feet in a way that money never can.

How far am I from this level of agape love? I barely give to the poor, much less give sacrificially, much less give "all my goods." How much do I love? Do I trust God enough to go all the way through with something like this if He called me to it?

I do not think God calls everyone to give away all their possessions--but I do think that whether God ever calls us to do that or not, we ought to be ready and willing to lose all our worldly goods, and even our life, for His sake.

I claim that I would give up my life to God. I tell Him so in prayer. But what if He asked me to give up my computer? I cringe at the thought. If I would not be willing to give up my stuff, would I really be ready to give up my life?

And what does God want me to do tomorrow, and the next day, and in the coming week, with the vast poverty that surrounds me? Are my goods fully at His disposal? Do I fully love? Do I love Him? Do I love the poor?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

100 things I love

Got this idea from a friend's blog and thought I'd give it a try.
  1. Jesus
  2. The Bible
  3. Missions
  4. My family
  5. Witnessing and seeing someone come to Christ
  6. The color orange
  7. Homemade chai tea
  8. Playing Liebestraum on the piano
  9. The book of Hebrews
  10. Hiking Roan Mountain at sunrise
  11. The medina in Fez, Morocco
  12. Tinkering in Photoshop
  13. Hymn singing
  14. Long road trips
  15. Downtown Malaga, Spain
  16. Knitting hats
  17. Baking cinnamon raisin bread
  18. "Cities and Knights" scenario of Settlers of Catan
  19. The Sacred Harp
  20. Learning other languages
  21. Thanksgiving dinner
  22. Skiing fast enough for the tears to stream out of my eyes
  23. Teaching anything to anyone
  24. Green & Black's Espresso Dark Chocolate
  25. Crocheting doilies
  26. Drawing horses
  27. Virginia (the state)
  28. Card games with my grandma
  29. Reading biology textbooks
  30. Being alone
  31. Kayaking to the rope swing, and swinging on it
  32. Tatting yards of lace 
  33. Doing my hair in old-fashioned styles
  34. Eating Granno's apple pie
  35. Reading Les Miserables 
  36. Travel
  37. Diving off a high rock into a lake
  38. The Elroy-Sparta bike trail
  39. My Kindle
  40. The city of Oxford, England
  41. Embroidery
  42. The Kentucky Derby
  43. Long, handwritten letters
  44. The third movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata
  45. Swinging in a hammock
  46. Gothic lettering
  47. Painting
  48. The Appalachian Trail
  49. Spanish Flamenco dresses
  50. Cashews
  51. Sitting in a lawn chair under a palm tree
  52. Deep conversations with friends
  53. Holding baby chicks
  54. Running as fast as I can down a hill
  55. Modeling play-doh into animal shapes
  56. The Sodium-Potassium pump
  57. White sandals
  58. Lots of heavy blankets on my bed on a cold night 
  59. Daffodils
  60. Making homemade black raspberry jelly
  61. Cockatiels
  62. 100% Deet bug spray
  63. Sharpie Markers
  64. Giving piano lessons
  65. Aunt Elaine's cheesecake
  66. French Toast with strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream
  67. Lush green hills under blue skies
  68. Building a snowman
  69. Climbing to the thinnest branches at the top of a tall tree and swaying in the breeze
  70. Eating with chopsticks
  71. Hot weather
  72. Door County Cherries
  73. Ice hockey with friends on a frozen pond
  74. Making gingerbread houses at Christmas
  75. Jumping off a diving board
  76. Making handmade cards
  77. Cutting paper snowflakes
  78. Eric Ludy's sermons
  79. Carrot-Beet-Spinach juice
  80. Tackling an intellectual puzzle
  81. Bonfires
  82. Hudson Taylor's 2-volume biography
  83. Developing PowerPoint presentations
  84. Folding Origami flowers out of Hershey's kiss wrappers
  85. Public speaking
  86. Chess
  87. Reading aloud
  88. String quartets
  89. The organization Betel
  90. Finale software
  91. Looking at the stars
  92. Going to a wedding
  93. Giving gifts
  94. Horseback riding
  95. Fall colors
  96. Butter on frozen bread
  97. Mississippi Mud Cake
  98. Cold showers
  99. Peppermint Lattes
  100. Thinking about heaven

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Emilia's Donuts

Haitian Donut Stand. Photo credit: Emily Brown

When I first started going to the market, I noticed an old woman on the side of the road, frying donuts. People always say, "NEVER buy anything from street vendors!" But I decided to break the rules. I bought five donuts for 25 goudes, ate one, and shared the rest with friends. It was delicious! It tasted like the homemade donuts from the Betty Crocker cookbook. And we never got sick, so now, we pass by and stop to get a donut about twice a week.

Haitian Donuts. Photo Credit: Emily Brown

In a land where everything is expensive, this is quite an affordable treat. One donut = 5 goudes. That's about 12 cents.

Emilia with her bowl of dough
Photo Credit: Emily Brown
We have chatted with the woman who makes them. Her name is Emilia. She sits there with a big bowl of dough on one side and a pot of boiling oil on some coals in front of her. She uses her fingers to break off a section of dough, rolls it expertly between her hands into a log, makes it into a circle, and dips it in the oil. After frying it to the perfect golden brown crispness, she stacks it onto a metal platter, making a fragrant, steaming mound.

Just imagine--all she has to do is walk out her front door, light her coals, and sit in a chair by the street with her little donut operation. She fries up her whole batch of donuts, and in a few hours, when the last one sells, she goes home.

We talked about the contrast between what it would be like for her to set up her little donut stand on the sidewalk in New York. She would have to have a business license, insurance, health inspections, nutrition facts, ingredient labels, and who knows what other permits and paperwork and red tape. How much would she then have to charge for her 12-cent donuts? How much would this cut into her ability to make a living?

I'm not against regulations and structure. I think it's a good thing to keep food poisoning to a minimum.

But if a Haitian can make donuts on the side of the road, pulling the dough into pieces with her hands, not wearing gloves, and the Americans who enjoy the donuts don't get sick... perhaps we have too many regulations in place. Just thinking.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Doing Preschool

Teaching the sounds of the letters
Photo Credit: Emily Brown

It is amazing to me that we are already doing preschool. We designed, planned, and launched a program to serve the preschool kids, who desperately needed instruction. And so far, it is going smoothly!

We still have lesson planning to do, and there are still things that we can hone and tweak, but for the most part, it's up and running. Emily and I work together to teach a large group class for one hour, broken up into four different 15-minute segments. Then we take the kids three at a time for personalized instruction tailored to their developmental level. We have three half-hour blocks for different groups. Then we come back and do another one-hour group class.

The kids have been very responsive, interested, and well-behaved. They have all showed great promise for learning quickly and catching up where they were behind. It's exciting to have this chance to work with them!