Monday, April 30, 2012

thank you (post-jail and other thoughts)

It was my brother's birthday a few days ago. He's twenty years old now, and once more there is so much perspective in a year. This time last year he'd been in jail for something like ten months. We wrote letters to one another, sometimes just talking about things we remembered. He liked me to write him stories so sometimes I did that. I've written before that in some ways we really got to know each other through those letters, got really close.

How do you thank God in something like this? How do you say, thank you for the fact that he was homeless, used cardboard as a blanket, was in jail for a year? And yet, in some ways, my brother is not the person he was before all that. Leaving him in that mess to come here when all I wanted to do was fix things for him, take care of him, was the hardest part of leaving. But Josh is a constant reminder of God's faithfulness: he loves and has taken care of my brother much better than I will ever be able to, just like he promised. You thank him because he's sovereign. And infinitely good. And when you step back, look at him instead of all the junk, you see this and you see him up to his ears in it, a God who put on skin and lived it all like we do.

I read Habakkuk today, and there's this (3:17-18):

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior."

That's something.

This year we got to talk on Skype which is just about the best invention ever. In a week or two he'll graduate from high school. In the fall he starts college. I got him some books for his birthday and he told me he was rereading them (yay he's a rereader like me!), that he liked to because, having read them the first time in jail, in reminded him of where he'd come through, where he won't be going back.

So this is for all of you who prayed with me for him. This is to say: look what God did! Look at my brother. Thank you for that.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

stormy night

I woke up the other night, heart beating wildly, the first nightmare I've had in recent memory. I'd fallen asleep what didn't feel like long before, hard rain and praying, telling God how much I love storms and mountains and the sea, the bigness and wildness of it all.

I was aggravated that I'd had the dream, frustrated--these words fit perfectly. And to my surprise, as I realized when I thought about it all the next morning, I wasn't afraid. I had been while dreaming, of course, but it didn't cross over into being awake. And for that I praise God, for the marvelous work he has done in my life. I read these verses that next morning, and how true they are (from Psalm 27):

"The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?"

At some point I heard that it was still raining and so I thanked God for the rain, for the sound of it, and fell back asleep. And so I fell asleep like I did the first time, thanking God for the weather, for his mighty power we see in the way the ocean churns up a vast hurricane, how the sun comes up and the wonder of a dawn, how it 'takes the earth by the edges and shakes the wicked out of it*'--and it does this every single morning, has for millions or billions of mornings. God continually astonishes me.

*If you're wondering, this is from Job 38:12-13. God is legit a poet.

Monday, April 23, 2012


"My thinking has led me to believe that there is a collective cultural consciousness or memory which is related to words. I would suggest that there are two parts to it: a collective memory of a specific race, and a collective memory of all men as to what man is and what reality is.

Thus man, in his language, "remembers" (regardless of his personal belief) that God does exist. For example, when the Russian leaders curse, they curse by God, and not by something less; and atheistic artists often use "god" symbols. This, I believe, is a deeper yet simpler explanation than Jung's view of god as the supreme archetype arising (according to him) out of the evolution of the race. Moreover, in man's language, man also remembers that humanity is unique (created in the image of God), and therefore words like purpose, love, morals carry with them in connotation their real meaning. This is the case regardless of the individual's personal worldview and despite what the dictionary or scientific textbook definition has become.

At times the connotation of the word is deeper and more "unconscious" than its definition. The use of such words trigger responses to a greater degree in line with what the specific race has thought they mean and how it has acted on their meaning, and to a lesser degree in line with what really is and what man is. I would further suggest that after the worldview and experiences of the race form the definition and connotation of the words of any specific language, then that language as a symbol system becomes the vehicle for keeping alive and teaching this worldview and experience.

It would therefore seem to me that the whole matter is primarily one of language, as man thinks and communicates in language. I would say that in this context the division of languages at the tower of Babel is an overwhelmingly profound moment of history."

--Francis Schaeffer, in a footnoote in The God Who is There

(I would just like to add that he is quickly becoming for me now what C. S. Lewis was for me in high school and college. Blowing my mind, seriously.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


It's been raining all week, the slow steady kind that never seems to get anywhere. It just falls, blurring up the edges of everything. None of the heavy summer downpours of Wilmington, none of the brief violence of the weather in the humid sub-tropic. I miss the way it carries you places, the way you can lean into it when there are no words. It changes fast there, ushering in the new as quickly as it's carried off the old.

I was lying on my bed earlier today, praying and listening. These days there's not much to say, whether here on the blog or elsewhere. But it's good to be quiet, to be still before my God. I thought about rain, could see it falling down on me, imagine hills bare except for a few trees. The Lord is sending rain. And also, that I am to keep watering. There's so much more to it and it's all so complicated, but I am thankful for a God who is there, who is constant and steady, unchanging. That his provision is good, gives life to the dry hills so that they no longer mourn.

"Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants." Deuteronomy 32:2

"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14

Monday, April 2, 2012


Sometime in February was a year that I've been here. Despite my inclination toward sentimentalism (mostly just on the blog--I'm a strong Myers-Briggs T but all the F in me seems to make its way out here), there was no one-year-anniversary blog.

But today was one of those days. It was the kind you look back and see all the space of a year, all its change, the things it pulls along behind it. We did our first official evangelism event today--surveys about Easter on campus--and sitting in the sun praying with one of my students, I was astonished at the things God has done for me.

This probably falls in the category of your classic crossing-culture stories, but this time last year I went with the students to do surveys in the dorms in Bucuresti. And it was horrible. Actually, it was the only time I've cried in front of anyone here about anything. I'd gone along with two guys, one a coworker and fellow Link staff, the other a Romanian graduate. Two months in I could have some conversation in Romanian but there was no way I'd be able to do anything in terms of discussion, so I came along as self-appointed pray-er. I'd stand there, listen, and pray the whole time while following as much conversation as I could.

I'm not really sure how the next part happened, but the whole time Andrei, the Romanian guy, kept trying to get me to join in on the conversation. It should be said that I'm not exactly articulate when speaking English (if only I could write everything!) and so some days there's no hope at all in Romanian. And at some point, with the best of intentions, he put me on the spot and there I was attempting to explain the biblical role of the Lamb in the Old Testament and what it had to do with Easter and Jesus. To be fair, he started by explaining I was learning the language, but I was (and usually still am) too stubborn to speak in English and, however it really was, the whole thing felt like watching a train wreck.

About an hour layer, about to get on the metro, after an hour of stewing in my own frustration, I guess Andrei asked me how I thought it went. And I just sort of stood there and said who knows what and then started to cry so spent the next five minutes waiting for the train staring at the ceiling.

What a difference a year makes.

Today I went paired up with a student who's stepping into new leadership, who's learning and growing in a lot of things. She was nervous before we started and I did the things for her my staff must have done for me, and we went out having conversations with people about God and Easter and all sorts of things. Lots of cool things happened. One pair of students we approached turned out to be a girl who'd just come to Petra (a local church that started out of the student movement) for the first time Sunday (neither of us go there so we'd never seen her before), who was looking for community and opened up for thirty minutes with the girl I was with. The other one was an atheist and the two of us sat for that same thirty minutes talking about how much our bodies do that we don't even think about, how he thought we were just animals and there wasn't any purpose of life but a continuing cycle. It was a great conversation, actually, and we think he'll come to our Easter event Wednesday. We're praying anyway. And another girl recognized me--one I have no memory of whatsoever--she said that I lived in X neighborhood, that I came to the little store she worked at. She lives in the same neighborhood and said she's interested in reading the Bible.

It is incredible to see God work and today was so encouraging. The funny thing is that it didn't have much to do with language. Language is surely the biggest outward and quantitative indicator of change over this last year, being able to do things I wondered if I ever would, especially given what it looked like last time we did surveys. But that was background. Stepping into one of, what is for me, the few natural places of leadership that isn't simply relational (I'm talking about evangelism, although to be fair that is super relational...) and showing, leading this student, watching her learn and trust God in something scary. Watching her get excited about it. This is what this is really about. It isn't just rhetoric.

And it's also a reminder of just how much this is his work. And he isn't a God who swoops in to save the day after a desperate half-meant prayer (if you're lucky). He's the sovereign God who was weaving things into the answer to that prayer way longer ago than we can imagine. This was my other favorite part of the day, sitting there in the sun with her, talking about how we are to pray without ceasing, praying for students we'd just talked to.

So then. We're going out again tomorrow, this time to the dorms. Pray for us!