Oh! What a Tangled Web We Weave

I passed through the dining room and flipped on a light near Bethie’s desk and the water station. I just happened to glance at a blue, plastic drinking cup sitting on top of the large water bottle, and something caught my eye.

I had knocked that cup off just yesterday and put it back up there not knowing who was wanting it there. So, within 24 hours, a small spider had completely taken over this cup. I’m not sure what it was planning, but I guess it figured if it pulled this off, it would eat like a king for years!

(I found it challenging to take these pics as the placement of the lighting was an absolutely essential element. I ended up opting for mostly monochrome and some effects to help bring out the intricacies of all the webbing.)

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Peace (A Communion Blessing)

Though we’re strangers, still I love you
I love you more than your mask
And you know you have to trust this to be true
And I know that’s much to ask
But lay down your fears, come and join this feast
He has called us here, you and me

And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
[Falling] on these souls
This drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In this Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

And though I love you, still we’re strangers
Prisoners in these lonely hearts
And though our blindness separates us
Still His light shines in the dark
And His outstretched arms are still strong enough to reach
Behind these prison bars to set us free

So may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In this Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Like those little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In this Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

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Jumping in the Dark

One of the MK’s from our team (Ben) invited Dayton to accompany him and his sister to an indoor trampoline place to celebrate Ben’s birthday. We’ve never been to one of these kinds of places before, so it was a fun experience.

I can tell you that you’ll need better photog skills than I possess to take good pictures in a large dark room with some bright window lighting in limited areas. It was challenging, but I got a few that came out more or less ok. I definitely need to keep learning how to manage the camera settings and a lot of other elements involved, but it was fun to try.

In case you’re wondering, Ben’s sister is active in ballet as you might notice from her flexibility and gracefulness while jumping.

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Me, My Selfie, and I (in Puebla)

I’m not really going to put up a narcissistic post, but I am in the pictures, and they are selfies, so that’s probably a subjective statement.

Friday morning we took off in our van with its newly rebuilt transmission (seemed to handle the mountains well) and headed the 3 hours to Puebla. Dayton was signed up to take the ACT test at Puebla Christian School on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. until noon.

We got there on Friday in time for Beth to teach her Geometry student, Emma Bult (a daughter of the director of Camino’s Puebla Biblical Seminary). Emma takes all her clases at PCS, but she struggles in math and needed a one-on-one teacher this year. It’s been very difficult to do this via the Internet due to some special needs involved, but Beth found teaching her in person was truly a joy. So, we were glad we at least had one opportunity for an in-person class session.

While we were there we also got to catch up with some teachers and staff at the school and for Beth to talk to some students (and their parents) to whom she is giving a weekly tutorial session online for an Algebra class. Several of the MKs are struggling with some of the concepts and mostly are struggling with following their teacher who is brilliant but who apparently doesn’t have the patience for re-teaching or explaining concepts more than one way. Sometimes math students need to be taught multiple ways to solve equations because they may connect better with one method over another. So, Beth spends an hour every Wednesday afternoon with several boys who have questions and need some re-teaching. This is new and has only had one session, but it went well, and everyone seemed excited to continuing through the semester.

Of course, our main ministry here has always been MK Education, but over the years that side of ministry has decreased due to missionary attrition, but it seems to be on the upswing again. We’re glad to see that happening. We sure would love to see more workers for the harvest down here. So many missionaries have left in recent years (not just our mission but many others) that there apparently are gaping needs in Mexico for all sorts of ministry types.

While having a great conversation with the temporary fill-in principal (just this semester), I noticed Keith Myers had a WV coffee mug and so I couldn’t resist asking him where he was from. Yup, Fairmont, WV. Turns out, we are both supported the same church in that area. Small world. So, in order to preserve the memory of our chance to meet him, I took a selfie. This was not the first selfie I’ve ever taken, but it probably was one of the first 5 I’ve ever taken. I don’t take them very often. I guess I did it right. That looks like us.

 

Later that afternoon, I accompanied our country facilitator and host for the night on a quick run to Costco since he needed to pick up some foods for cooking up a special meal.

While we were there, we providentially ran into a couple that is fairly new to our field and are still in language school there in Puebla. Zac and Jennifer Malthaner are doing an amazing job learning the language and are a bombshell of joy and bubblyness (it’s probably a word…don’t look it up though) that is fun to be around. So, in order to preserve the memory of our providential appointment in Costco (along with Jonathan Baker to my left, your right, I took a selfie. BTW, Zac and Jennifer are young enough to be from the selfie generation and I had to laugh while they corrected my selfie-skills. I guess it came out ok.

 

That meal we were shopping for was for our co-workers, Chalo and Beth Sandoval. Beth has been undergoing chemo for leukemia for some months now, and thankfully, Friday was her last chemo treatment. By the time Jonathan and wife Barbara had the meal ready and we went over there, Beth had only been home for about an hour. We’ve prayed often for Beth and Chalo, and it was a blessing to be able to see them in their home and to preserve the memory of our visit with…you guessed it:

 

Finally, strange thing happened Friday evening as we were sitting around chatting and watching YouTube videos with our hosts. My hands began to break out in some sort of allergic reaction. I took a Zyrtec pill, but it didn’t help. I didn’t want to take a Benadryl because I needed to be alert for the 3 hour Saturday afternoon drive back home. I finally took a Benadryl and promptly slept for about 2 hours. I woke up with no real change and things just seemed to get worse from there.

By 10:45 I knew I was not going to sleep with the itching and blistering and burning, so Bethie and I went to an emergency room (not the one that almost killed me last year) and they wrote a prescription for a cream and an injection. I got the injection. It seemed to bring the itchiness down and I slept ok. Unfortunately, the hands look more red, though possibly trying to heal. They’re beginning to itch again. Not sure if I need another injection or a different medicine. Fortunately, it hasn’t spread past my elbows and is only on my forearms and hands/fingers. (No problems breathing or anything serious so far.) We have no idea what caused it. It’s possible I’m allergic to Puebla, but I hope not!

I don’t know if taking a picture of one’s hands is considered a selfie, but I took these pics with my regular camera, so I don’t think so. But just to preserve the memory…

Other than the fingers-thumb placement, and just based on the redness and swelling, I can’t really tell my left hand from my right hand. According to Jesus, that’s a good thing, so I’m gonna go with that.

Gotta hand it to me for reaching around with my left hand to snap the picture of my right hand…not that I know which is which or anything.

 

 

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Weekly Flowers

One thing I’ve been trying to be more intentional about is buying my wife flowers regularly, at least while we’re in Mexico. They’re inexpensive here and we enjoy looking at them, and yes, sometimes we do stop and smell the…roses (or whatever flowers we may have that have a nice fragrance). It seems most don’t have much notable fragrance. Hey, I just buy them. I didn’t say I know anything about them!

Here are some I picked up today (about $6.50 USD, glass vase included!).

Some other flowers from recent months (I don’t always take pics of them):

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“Bethie Crocker”

What do you do when your husband buys a dozen too many apples that were on a great deal at Sam’s Club a week or two ago?

That’s right: “when life hands you apples, make applesauce.”

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Four Questions

Today, I came across a secular article regarding four questions to ask of those who seek to “volunteer in Africa.” What I read there struck me as some pretty good advice from a secular perspective that overlaps with advice that seems applicable in a spiritual perspective regarding missions. You can read the short article here.

I hope you’ll take an extra couple minutes and read the article (entitled: “Dear volunteers in Africa: please don’t come help until you’ve asked yourself these four questions”).

If you don’t have time or interest, here are the four questions without the explanations and thoughts of the author (which are quite good):

1. Would you volunteer abroad if you had no cameras with you?

2. Does the agency have the same intentions and values that you do?

3. Are you going to be doing more harm than good?

4. Would you trust yourself enough to do this job in your own country?

 

To add some thoughts to what you have just read, I think this also applies to missionaries, and especially perhaps for short-term missionaries (i.e. days, weeks, to months). These four questions might provide us with a simple litmus-test (other requirements notwithstanding; just some “rules of thumb”) for missions ministry.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with taking pics to document your work, but one’s personal motivation is certainly worth a critical self-evaluation. It’s always important to get down to why one wants to serve, minister, and go. One pitfall is to approve of anyone who “wants to go” with little if any introspection or evaluation over the “why?” (i.e. motivation for going).

In reading the first question/point, I was reminded of a “tract” that Keith Green wrote three decades ago in which he hit on this point of motivation. He mentioned that he gets asked repeatedly by people who attend his concerts how they too could break into “Christian music” like him. His typical response to these people was to ask them if they’d be willing to serve without ever being in the spotlight, working backstage…hard work…sacrificial work…with nobody noticing them, nobody applauding them, nobody even thanking them for their work. Would they be interested in that kind of work/ministry? Would they still sign up for it? If not, then his conclusion was that they weren’t worthy to be musicians for Christ because they weren’t truly wanting to serve Christ with a pure motivation. They were in it for more…for themselves and their own sense of well-being and of being appreciated, applauded, praised, and perhaps even glorified.

Of course, that’s hard to absorb and to accept as it hits at our pride. No doubt, at times, we all struggle with wanting to serve Christ while also not wanting to go unrecognized for doing so. But Keith was right on (in the vernacular of his day) because this is exactly what Jesus taught:

  • in regards to giving, Jesus taught us “to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing.”
  • in regards to recognition (i.e. pride), Jesus taught us (in his cultural context) to take the least regarded seat at the table rather than accepting the place of honor as if we felt we deserved it.
  • in regards to praying and spiritual service, Jesus taught us to do so in secret, in the closet where only our heavenly Father sees what we’re doing rather than doing so publicly in order to be seen by others.

In all these things and in many other teachings of our Lord, Jesus is knocking our pride. It’s our pride that is naturally at the center of our stage, and our pride must be knocked out of the spotlight. Doing so necessarily knocks us out of the spotlight too. As John the Baptist famously said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

I could also tie this issue of pride into the other 3 questions.

For example, we might not even care if the agency’s intentions and values are the same as ours as long as in going our ego is stroked by our hidden or perhaps simply unrecognized prideful agenda (Q2). We might not notice or even care if our “ministry” does more harm than good because our pride is satisfied by what we’re going to do and why we’re going to do it, or at least even by just what we think we’re going to do and why we think we’re going to do it (Q3). We might not ever do the same ministry at home because either we’re not really qualified to do it (and overseas the needs are so great we could simply “get away with doing it”) or because we find it easier to go somewhere distant and reach people with the “love of Christ” while we find it difficult at home because we find that our neighbors are simply “harder to love” (Q4).

All of this is not to discourage us from wanting to serve overseas or anywhere else, but we should always be quick to distrust our motives and to self-evaluate through Spirit-filled introspection. It’s not for me to do that for you or you for me. We need to “examine ourselves” and to be sure that our motives are worthy of our calling. I think this is a reminder that is timely for us…all the time.

Humility is the key to all ministry in the name of Jesus Christ, and I believe these four questions are helpful in identifying whether our ministry-motive is based in humility or in pride. Let’s remember to examine ourselves and answer them honestly.

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