Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snow Turns to Mush

I've included this picture from our deck to prove it snowed big, fluffy, white flakes on Christmas day. It even snowed a little amongst the rain yesterday afternoon. Now the snow is receding quickly. For today I've included a slide show of the ice festival in Harbin, Manchuria, China. The temperature in this northern China village stays below freezing for half the year. Makes our short week of low temperatures seem very insignificant. Here's slide show:

I've also finished Three Cups of Tea. The main point for me was also listed on the back cover. This quote found on page 150 is from Haji Ali, the chief of Korphe (the first village to have a school built by Greg Mortenson). "If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways. The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die."

Then Mortenson responds, "That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life. We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We're the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Our leaders thought their 'shock and awe' campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them."

I have more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them. I'm struck by the power of this sentence, and its influence on my upcoming trip to the Sudan, Lord willing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Next Steps

Dear friends,

The arrival of this letter coincides with the advent season in which Christians celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God with us. This simple stable birth is the middle of a larger story that began with “In the beginning was the Word . . . “ from John 1, and in which the final chapter is yet to be written. But I know that in the end, “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father.” (Philippians 2: 10,11) This story is the context for my vocation, and when I think about doing God’s will, a quote from Eugene Peterson comes to mind. “Praying ‘your will be done’ cannot be pulled out of the Jesus context, his stories and prayers, and then used however we want.”

You likely know I no longer work for Bellevue Christian. After thirty years working in schools with young people in grades seven through twelve, I received a clear call to pause, like a rest in a musical phrase, wait and remain open to God’s direction. As I keep an ear attuned to silence and the still small voice of God, I have agreed to work half time for Alta Vista, a Christian service organization dedicated to helping Christian teachers bring a distinctively Christian perspective to their work with students. This work is the second context from which I write this letter.

The third element to this musing catches me slightly off balance. The picture is murky, and most of the time I find myself in a state of wonder and imagination. I’m unsettled and restless because the future picture is small and blurry in the center of a very large canvas. If you remember C.S. Lewis and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, like Lucy I am poised to walk into the painting just as Lucy walked through the wardrobe the first time, having no idea what lay on the other side. However I know without a doubt, as the canvas sits on the easel, the brush gently held in the Painter’s hand strokes the image of a masterpiece.

This new work of art with the Alta Vista team is to assist teachers and leaders of schools in the developing world as they create and sustain schools that clearly operate from a distinctively Christian perspective. Assisting schools in the developing world fits Alta Vista’s vision which is “to participate in God’s kingdom agenda by helping to equip people for faithful, visionary, competent, and compassionate discipleship in whatever circumstances they may find themselves.” To some extent one of our team members, John Van Dyk, has already been cultivating the ground for international work. With his help, Alta Vista is beginning to collaborate with organizations in Nicaragua, Haiti, and Mexico with the hope of fostering sustainable Christian schools and indigenous leadership.

I’m writing to let you in on what God is teaching me and to make these two requests. Would you pray with me in this effort? The idea is in its infancy. How might Alta Vista join what God is already doing around the globe? Secondly, a goal of $10,000 has been set to provide seed money for this new project. The funds would provide resources for two to three visits by Alta Vista team members to schools in the developing world. Two of our team have already worked in schools in Haiti, Mexico, and Central America. We would like to continue and possibly extend that work. For example, the Lord is opening an opportunity for me to join a colleague who left Bellevue Christian a year and a half ago to start a school in the Sudan, Africa. There she has helped start a secondary school, the only one with one hundred miles, in the village of Yabus in the Blue Nile region three miles from the Ethiopian border. The school serves adult men who have had some elementary education in refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia or Khartoum. If the Lord allows, I would plan to visit in February for two to three weeks to help enhance science curriculum and to assist in training teachers to teach from a Christian perspective. Your prayers for me personally and for the larger work of Alta Vista would be greatly appreciated.

Should you wish to give monetarily, your tax-deductible gift may be sent to

Alta Vista
P.O. Box 55535
Seattle, WA

Please mark it “Global Project” so it goes into the correct fund. It would be our hope that after the initial financial goal is reached, we would be able to approach Christian foundation with a more detailed proposal after having visited schools in other cultures and thereby multiply the initial investment.

I leave you with the hope that this advent season of anticipation will draw you even closer to Christ and the will of the Father for your life and with another quote from Peterson’s Tell It Slant. “The mature, sane enduing counsel of our best pastors and theologians is this; keep Jesus’ prayer, ‘Your will be done,’ in the storied and praying context of the Holy Scriptures. Quit speculating about the ‘will of God’ and simply do it – as [the virgin] Mary did, as Jesus did. ‘Will of God’ is never a matter of conjecture. It directs a spotlight on believing obedience.”

Grace and peace,

Monday, December 22, 2008

One Foot and Counting

Finally, before bedtime last night, the ruler was completely covered by the snow. That's a foot on the ground in Bellevue. In the thirty-six years I've been living in the Seattle area, one foot of snow is a first. I love it. The snow quiets the landscape and calms everyone down a bit as long as one stays off the roads.

A visiting pastor, David Means, encouraged us to re-establish the wonder of Christmas by writing ten original compliments to God. Mine are listed below.

Complimenting God:

+ You are the God of all history. Your word creates the story of human lives, of my life.

+ You are my King and my God. Even the smallest work of your hands is beyond what I might do in all eternity.

+ You know the deepest secrets of mankind. You know my heart is wicked, and yet, you love me.

+ Your creative work is beyond compare. The clouds, the snow, the mountains, the heavens and all your creatures celebrate your great imagination.

+ You laughter shakes the whole earth. Your smile is from horizon to horizon.

+ The depth of your grace and mercy is beyond compare. They are deeper than the fathoms of the ocean's deepest abyss.

+ Your faithfulness is as delicate as a snowflake and as powerful as an avalanche.

+ Emmanuel, God with us, keeps watch for eternity. I will never, ever be alone.

+ Your word is true and your promises are as sure as the way light penetrates darkness. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

+ Your eyes penetrate my heart with love like a laser beam. Their warmth surrounds me like a down comforter. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Yesterday was Day 8

I missed posting this entry yesterday because I refused to pay for WiFi at Starbucks. I was lead to believe I could have two hours of access if I used my Starbucks card. Alas, I was unable to connect so today I'm back at Tullys! No problem connecting here. Here's the post a day late.

How I live from today forward is the critical issue. When I confess the sin that so easily entangles me in the brier of defeat and despair, God's grace in forgiveness cuts the vine and frees me from the thorn. I am free indeed to run with God the race set before me one lap at a time. Or I can return to sin and be conformed to a life stuck in the brier patch where I become like the sin that surrounds me - confined to its image. I would rather run (or in my case ride) today's race with God as my guide.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Determined Rose

A solitary rose determined
To rise on a single stem
Winter’s cold nor pasting rain
Subdued gentle beauty

One doughty rose
Autumn’s final guest
Reposed to greet winter
With dignity

Carol brought my attention to this solitary rose atop one of her rose bushes. She labeled it "the determined rose". I dedicate this short verse and an accompanying to the idea that a simple rose is determined to last as long as possible in spite of the weather.

Secondly, I found this refreshing notion that I don't need a lot of lists to be in accord with God's work.

"The kingdom of God life is not a matter of waking up each morning with a list of chores or an agenda to be tended to, left on our bedside table by the Holy Spirit for us while we slept. We wake up already immersed in a large story of creation and covenant, of Israel and Jesus, the story of Jesus and the stories that Jesus told. We let ourselves be formed by these formative stories, and especially as we listen to the stories that Jesus tells, get a feel forthe way he does it, the way he talks, the way he treats people, the Jesus way."
- Eugene Peterson, Tell It Slant: p. 154.