Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Leaving Ur


The house where I grew up in Panama.

The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. Genesis 12: 1

This passage always gets me...it touches me very deeply because I identify with the scenario fully.  I too, was called to leave my own "Ur" behind...and I did...

Without trepidation or hesitation, I just did.  I knew I had to.  One of my dear friends had applied for a full-ride scholarship to go to college in the United States and won it, so the next year, I did it too.  Winning that scholarship was the way God materialized His call...and over thirty years later, here I am, in my own personal land of milk and honey.

As I read the passage again, I remembered, not long ago, writing about this.  I visited that post and it all stands true today still, so I copied below some excerpts of the musings I published back in 2018, which I called:

Restless Soul

I have to say that dear, old Abe is a very intriguing person to me. I absolutely love the passage where God calls him out of Ur. I love Abraham's resolve to obey God and leave the only place he had ever called home, even when the destination was completely unknown.

There is something terribly romantic about that, in my opinion.

And the reason I find it romantic, I think, is because I can identify with the idea of leaving home...and everything one has ever known, to go to a place that you haven't even heard of before.

My journey certainly did not impact the history of the world or the salvation of the people of God...I didn't become the Mother of the three major world religions or anything like that...but it did involve a change in my personal history and the bursting of my own little bubble. I didn't pack camels and take the whole family with me. In two suitcases I carried what I could fit, completely ignorant of how ill-prepared I was for my future, most of all, for the insane Western PA winters.

Sigh...

It's been almost 30 years, but I still don't know the full extent this experience will finally have in my life or the lives of those whom I have met along my journey. But one thing I do know... the journey has left me with a restless soul.

For instance, as we consider the difference of a life "settled" and a life as a nomad, dwelling in tents, I can't help but thinking how appealing the wandering life-style sounds to me. I love the idea of camping. I'm obsessed with looking at real estate listings, always looking for a potential new house.  The thought of constantly moving fascinates me.  I often say things like: "let's sell everything, buy an RV and go travel everywhere!" My family ignores me, and chalks it all up to me being insane.  But, the truth is...I am not joking!  Deep inside I have a distaste...a fear, perhaps, of settling...of growing roots...of becoming so accustomed and comfortable in one place that I get stale or way too attached.

I get restless when I am in the same place for too long. I don't like the idea of "settling." I'm afraid of the concept because...if I'm honest with myself, I'm afraid of losing...probably not so much of losing my freedom...but, of losing the place where I've settled. I'm afraid I will fall in love with it so much, that one day I would not want to leave it, but someone of something will come in and take it away from me...and my heart would ache so much I couldn't bear it...like it has already happened when I lost my childhood home in Panama...and now is out of my reach forever.

I loved my parents' house. I loved everything about it. I loved my bed. I loved the way the wind moved the curtains in my room on a breezy day. I loved the cool, old-fashion tile on the floor. I loved staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out shapes on the wood beams. I loved the little patio off the kitchen where I spent endless hours, days, weeks, months and years hanging out with Rosa while she sat at her sewing machine, cooked, washed clothes, or just spent time talking to me about nothing important in-between chores. I loved reclining on a "taburete" and just letting my mind wander at the sound of the rustling leaves in a hot summer afternoon.  I loved the yard full of fruit trees. I even loved the ugly pepto bismol shade of pink in my bathroom... it just added to the overall vintage-feel of the entire house... I loved the smells, the sights, the sounds.  I loved it all and I felt loved every day I was there.

I never imagined, in my wildest dreams...that one day, that would not be my home anymore. I never expected that the grand gate at the bottom of the hilly driveway, which so many nights I shut and locked, would be one day, shut and locked in front of my face, while standing on the other side of the fence, perhaps forever...but that is the way things are today, and it is very hard to reconcile.

It's no wonder that a tent might sound suitable. After all, you can pack it up and take it with you everywhere you go... I can drive my house around if I live in an RV. I can go to the beach and to the mountains, and my house will follow me! How convenient!

But that's not what I'm supposed to do. Deep down, I know it, and I accept it...but it scares me.

I wonder if Abraham ever felt homesick for Ur?  I wonder if in his wandering years of looking at the stars and pondering what the Lord told him about being the father of countless generations, he ever thought about going back to the place where he came from?

I think about moving back to Panama often.  Retiring there is one of my dreams.  I don't know if it will happen.  But, one thing I know: it won't happen soon.

God called me out of my Ur many years ago, and even though I didn't know where I was going, it ended up being my own personal land of milk and honey... so, if I am supposed to learn something out of this whole thing, I pray it may be that no matter what happens, God loves me, and regardless of where He calls me to, He will go before me, and He will take care of all my needs...here, there and everywhere.

May He give me rest and peace to trust in Him.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Beauty out of Ashes


God can work greatness out of messes, beauty out of ashes...I love to think about this. This promise is one of my favorite because it gives me hope.  I look at my life, and the trail of messes and ashes I've left behind so far is too noticeable for me to be able to hide.  Therefore, reading and pondering what Isaiah says in chapter 61 gives me the necessary boost to keep on going trusting that My Lord is by my side,

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty,
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.  (Isaiah 61: 1-3)

In a day in age when the news ressemble, perhaps, those that might have been reported by the town crier in Sodom and Gomorrah, we tend to despair.  The world seems to be sinking in its own filth, and the people of God don't know what to do.  Brothers against brothers, sisters against sisters, parents against children, children against parents, parents against parents, nations against nations, how is it all going to end?

The fallen state of humanity is really evident, and we think it's the worst it's ever been...but, is it?  Isn't it just a case of how history repeats?  Ever since Genesis, right after the Lord declared His creation as "Good" it all seemed to have been steadily going downhill...or is it that it sank into the abyss at once, and it has not climbed out, but just seen moments when the rays of light have reached the bottom with its brightness making us think we are ascending, only to find out we are still in the darkness of the pit...?

I know...I've woken up in a fun mood today, haven't I?  Actually, I have!  That's why I want to focus my eyes on the promise of hope in Isaiah rather than on the self-inflicted destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I want to hang on to the Word that says that "the Spirit of the Lord is on me!  I hold on for dear life to the truth that proclaims "freedom for the captives, release from darkness, comfort for all who mourn and a crown of beauty instead of ashes" for all who seek Him!

I'm looking forward to living the life of the redeemed rather than the life of the lost...for I am an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor by the grace and mercy of My Lord, Jesus, the Christ and Savior of my soul!  He is a miracle worker, thus, He will know how to turn my ashes into beauty...my messes into greatness...my Sodom and Gomorrah into the New Jerusalem, His Holy Land...in His Precious Name. Amen!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Tower of Babel

I'm fascinated by languages.  I better be, right? Being a language teacher, and all...anyway...I wish I had more time so I could pick up another one.  French has always seem very intriguing to me...so fancy and with such "je ne sais quoi"...but the time hasn't come for me to do that yet.  In the meantime, my thirst for language has to be quenched by oscillating between English and Spanish, which keeps me plenty busy.

I love how language and culture intermingle to the point that, to learn another language well, you have to also study the culture of the people who speak it.  Otherwise, you would never, fully understand why things are said the way they are, which means, you'll never have strong proficiency. 

For example, in Latin American Spanish, we have two ways of saying "you":  a formal "usted" and an informal, "tú". English speakers think of this as a nuisance invented by Spanish teachers just so they can take points off on tests willy-nilly.  Guess what?  There is a cultural reason, deeply rooted in who the Spanish speaking people of the Americas are. 

The Spanish speaking cultures in Latin America are very hierarchical.  There is a clear distinction between who we must address formally or informally.  Hispanic Moms spend most of their time tirelessly teaching their children respect, so when they go out in the world, they know exactly who they can address informally and who they must address formally.  Their future livelihood depends on them knowing this distinction.  If the now-young-adult kid shows up at a place of employment and addresses the boss with "tú" without the boss' permission to do so, it is certain the kid is not going to keep that job for very long.  One can really offend people by not adhering to the unwritten rules of formal v. informal in Latin America. 

When Americans traveling to Spanish speaking countries in Latin America decide to try their Spanish with those they want to do business with, and use the informal format to address them...not only their Spanish speaking counterpart would think they are being rude, but they would misinterpret it as if Americans just don't care.  They might smile and nod.  Inside, though, they are already dismissing the deal due to the perceived lack of respect.  Hence, the cultural ties to the grammatical rule that American Spanish-language students don't think it's important or relevant. 

I'm not sure why I'm talking about this.  Perhaps, it is because the semester is about to start and I'm prepping for class.  Or maybe, it is because I was reading about the Tower of Babel and the language connection emerged naturally.  But it is always intriguing to me why God decided to confused language and make it so it is different in each region.  You'd think He'd like to keep the harmony of all speaking the same language and understanding each other without the need for deep study of each other's cultures and linguistics...I'd be without a job, but...you know what I mean?  It'd be so much easier to get along.  Why did He purposely confused the language to separate people?

I don't pretend to know the mind of the God Most High.  Not at all.  But, reading the passage in Genesis 11 one more time, I imagine that God's decision might have had something to do with men's actions.  Instead of building an altar to the LORD to worship Him, and to exalt all that He had done for humanity, giving Him all the glory, humanity set out to build a tower that would be the physical representation of their might-an altar to themselves to exalt their own accomplishments:  

Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves... (Genesis 11: 4a)  

They feared that if they didn't build this monument to self, they would be scattered over all the earth.  How far are our thoughts from the mind of God.  It was exactly the opposite.  Building the tower was, precisely, what caused what they feared: not only God confused the language, but He scattered them over all the earth.

We are so proud.  We build things and create things and believe it is all because of our superior intellectual abilities...when, in reality, we are nothing without God.  All we have and make is because God gave us the capabilities to acquire and perform.  It doesn't matter what language or culture we speak and live in, God's hand designed it all to the last detail.  From the nuances of Spanish to the precision of English, the credit of it all belongs to God.  And if we were to build something, it should be an altar to express our thanksgiving for His presence and His Love...not a tower so we could pretend to be gods.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Drama Pill

Dylan enjoying the bliss of the drama-pill - first road trip to Myrtle Beach
Call me crazy, but I do enjoy road trips.  The whole idea of a road trip makes me giddy.  We have had our share of them, and now that the kids are older, we're good.  There's no major issues.  But, I still remember the first, major road trip we took with them.  That was a different story.

Since Dylan has always been...how shall I put it nicely? A bit of a challenge when it comes to riding in the car, we waited to do long road trips until he was older.  First we tried a 6-hour-long test ride.  It was quite awful, but we managed.  So we decided to enlist on a trip to Myrtle Beach with the Dieter family, and...needless to say, I was super excited, but a tiny bit worried too.  Therefore, I overpacked.  I combed through Pinterest and all over the internet for family-road-trip-tips.  I printed games.  I created individualized travel packs for the boys.  I bought those things we hang on the back of the front seats so they could organize their stuff.  I filled every corner with snacks.  I tucked kleenex, wet wipes and hand sanitizers in every pocket of the car. We even rented a big, giant SUV so we could have more room.  I made sure I had lots of Dramamine handy.  And off we went.

The thing with this first trip to the beach was that we all decided to travel caravan style.  About 5 cars riding together along the highways, connected by cell phones.  That's fun and all, but it could cause problems, like delays.  What was estimated as a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour nightmare.  By hour 10, I ran out of resources...well...almost.  I still had the Dramamine (or what became known as the "Drama Pill" in our household).  I dug into my emergency kit, and a few minutes later, the drama lessen and the ride became peaceful.

I wonder if Noah ever had to pull a "drama pill" out of his emergency kit?  Did he even have something like a drama pill?  Maybe it was more like a drama rod, huh?

Talk about a long trip, confined on a floating building with not only his family, but the families of every other animal that ever walked or flew around the world, and not even a picture window to try to play the licence plate game!  WOW...unfathomable. 

Do you think Noah ever asked himself, in the watches of the night, tossing and turning with the waves of the storm, listening to the sounds of the animals and the crashing of the thunder: "What was I thinking?"  Do you think he ever asked: "Are we there yet, Lord?"

I bet he did.  Over one hundred and fifty days trapped in the Ark...yep, I bet he did.

Finally, after the added delayed of waiting for several birds until the one dove did not return, Noah and his family got out.  Can you imagine the exuberant bliss that he must have experienced when the door of the ark opened and he stepped outside onto dry land?  The praise spilled out of Noah onto the altar that he built.  The burnt offerings caught God's attention and Noah's attitude of gratitude did not go unnoticed.  What a great example for us today:  to give praises and offer thanksgiving to the Lord as the first thing we do when coming out of trial. 

I remember making it to the beach that very first time.  Dylan was still a bit drowsy, but we got out of the car and stepped onto the warm and silky sands of the Atlantic Ocean.  The sound of the waves and the warmth of the sun on our skins melted away the memories of the trip we just left behind.  I did not build an altar, but I do remember thanking God for the gift of allowing us to be there, witnessing the majesty of His creation, knowing that  “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8: 22

Praised be the Name of the Lord in the easy rides and in the rough sailing.  Praise be to the Lord always!  Amen!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Feeling Old

I often feel old...I mean, yeah, I know, I am old...but...I feel like I got a late start in life.  I guess I'm a late bloomer of sorts.  So now, I feel stuck.  When I think of my friends and other women my age, most of them are already having grandchildren, while I haven't even graduated a kid from high school yet.

Sigh...

I'm ashamed for complaining about this.  I should be grateful, counting all of my blessings.  Instead, I'm begrudgingly going through life...wondering if I'm going to make it...thinking everyone who sees me with my boys might believe they are my grandchildren...sigh...

I wonder how Noah felt?  He was like 600 years old when God told him to build an ark that would hold the seed of a new civilization.  Hmmm...There's nothing in the Bible that indicates Noah might have complained about the assignment.  I can't find any under-his-breath comments reminding the Lord about his advanced years, faltering knees, lower back pain, failing vision or achy joints and fatigue.  I guess 600 years was the old 40s or 50s back then, but still!  I don't think I'd be up for weekend-warrior type of projects, let alone ark-building at my age!

But Noah didn't even flinch.  He listened to God's instructions and went right to it.  Didn't question it.  Didn't ask "why me?"  Didn't point to younger fellows who might have been better suited for the job.  He took God at His Word, and obeyed Him without hesitation. 

I have a lot to learn from Noah, that's for sure. 

The Lord knows the right timing for everything.  He doesn't rush through things.  He lines everything up perfectly, so, when the time is right, things unfold.  The reason I feel stuck and late is because my timing is not aligned with God's timing.  So, what am I to do?  Well...I need to pray for the Holy Spirit to help me accept and welcome the perfection of God's designs, and the wonder of His timing.  I pray I remember that, indeed:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  Eclesiastes 3: 1

I'm not old.  I'm experienced.  I'm not late.  I'm pacing myself.  I'm not stuck.  I'm taking refuge in God's loving arms, learning how to wait for Him and how to accept the beauty of His perfect timing.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Noah's Times


One can't help but wonder if the world is finally coming to its end when watching/reading/hearing the news today.  I'm not going to go over the headlines here, we know what they are...and if you don't, I'm just going to say: it's really bad out there.  I wonder, though...what would the news had been broadcasting in Noah's time?

Hey, I like that, The Noah's Times newspaper.  Ha! 

Anyway, if we go to Genesis 6, I think we got our front-page headline:  "Wickedness in the world."  They had population explosion, unnatural and confusing relations happening between groups that were not meant to be together, the human race tearing itself apart and...who exactly were the Nephilim?  I have no idea, and, actually, I don't think I really want to know.  The only thing clear was that God was not happy and He decided it was best to start over after wiping out all that existed...yikes!

Don't we feel like that sometimes, still?  I know I do.  I look around and I wonder, how in the world is this going to ever going to get any better?  Has humanity reached that point when God says, enough?!

I don't know.  But it sure feels that way.  God is Holy.  He cannot be where holiness does not exist.  He is Sovereign.  And He is Just.  But He is also Faithful and Loving.  All His qualities define Him; therefore, He is Trustworthy.  Back in Genesis' times He took care of His remnant.  Those who belong to Him were saved and constituted the rebirth of the earth.  And, since Our God is the Same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13: 8), He is with us today the same way He was with Noah back then.

The way I see it, the ark was like a metaphor for the way God acts:  the boat where all those who belong to Him find refuge, strength and salvation.  In other words, the ark is Jesus the Christ, the One who carries us safely through the storm and destruction, and delivers us securely onto the shores of eternity.

I don't want to live in constant fear due to threatening circumstances and/or to the current state of the world.  I want to trust that God has already built His New Ark: Jesus, confirming His new covenant, and that He will sustain us by His sufficient grace either until the rain stops, we breathe our last or He comes again.

May the promises of God give us the assurance of His protection and help us sail the rough waters of today trusting The One Who Commands the winds and the waves.  Amen!


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Gift of Faith

I spend most of my time stressing out about making sure my sons have what they need...and want.  I remember, vividly, fine combing all McDonald's within a 50-mile radius to buy the silly beanie babies that came with the happy meals when Grant was about 5 years old.  The kid has always had a fascination with collecting, so he knew exactly how many of those beanie babies were going to be released, and he tenderly asked me if I could help him get them all...so I couldn't resist and...I believe...we got pretty close to the goal.

Then, there was the stupid fidget spinners...at least I think that's what they were called.  Mercy ME!  I tell you, Dylan became obsessed with them...so I did too.  I remember this one time, he came back home from school so excited about this one special one that he saw one kid had at recess, and he wanted it so badly, that I broke the bank and went to the crazy toy store called Play Things Etc. known by its uniqueness and bought the stupid thing...actually, I bought 2 of them just in case the one would break we'd have a back up. 

Sigh...

I can't help it.  I want them to be happy and not to have to go without...like I did.  I never, EVER, got toys other than for Christmas.  NEVER!  And even for Christmas, I only got like 1 or 2 meager things.  At around age 8, I started saving money so I could buy my own toys myself...I discovered how the whole thing works pretty early in my childhood.  My parents weren't very careful about that...so...not much fantasy and wonder for me, thank you very much!  And I HATED IT!  I never asked for anything because I knew I wouldn't get anything.  I saw my friends, all through my childhood and adolescence, getting stuff that my savings would never be able to buy me...and I felt left out and miserable most of the time.

I don't want my kids to feel like that.

But...where does it stop?  The fidget spinners quickly turn into $150 pair of shoes.  The beanie babies could become a car...and the stress to fulfill my sons' material dreams becomes debilitating and all-consuming.

Thank Goodness for my husband. (But don't tell him I said that, please!)  I have to admit, however, he was placed in my life by God's Hand to keep me from going over the ledge.  "The gift of faith is all they need," he said recently...and that humbled me to no end.

I never thought of it that way.  I think about my own life and see that, even though my parents didn't give me all the "stuff" I wanted, they gave me the gift of faith.  They took me to church and helped me create a discipline for seeking God that carries through to today.  They gave me a life where God was always an important part of it.  I never had the latest trends in toys or fashion, but never do I remember not knowing about The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.  And there's nothing else I need.  I have it all!

The stress to try to provide my kids with all the stuff they want is an unnecessary burden I carry due to my own sense of dissatisfaction.  I feel as if I give my kids all they want, I will fill a void I have in my heart.  I long for something I don't know how to acquire, so I fall in the trap of believing that showering my boys with all the material things they'd want will make me feel better in my own disappointments and insecurities.  I'm going in the complete opposite direction to accomplish that, though...fulfillment is found in contentment:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 12-13

The most effective way to avoid envy, insecurities and a dissatisfied heart is to trust in the Lord and delight in Him, I read once...and they pointed to Psalm 37: 3-6

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun”

May the comforting words of this psalm be a guiding light in this new year for all of us who struggle with contentment. May the Holy Spirit reveal to all of us that a satisfied heart is only found in surrendering to Christ and in trusting on the assurance of The Father's Provision, Faithfulness and Love.  In the name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.  Amen!