Friday, January 4, 2013

Center Stage in Addis

It was 2:00AM. The light tropical thunderstorm had just passed through the valley and was slowly fading into the rounded hilltops that surround that part of the city. The air was cool, wet and fresh. Small bursts of lightning softened inside the remaining clouds tactfully defined the shape and feel of the landscape as the low, rolling thunder showcased the acoustics. The street lights traced the main road up and around the long slow curve to the intersection midway up the hill where it was stopped by a smaller cross street that loosely marked the end of the small business district and the beginning the shanty town. In the center of the intersection was a triangular island of raised concrete dimly spotlighted by two faded streetlights on the back corners.
The trio, a tenor, a deep chested alto and a thin soprano surveyed the area and took the stage. The vantage point of the island was sufficient for a good view in any direction. Still, only a few pedestrians and some lone vehicles could be seen passing slowly by, but clearly the trio were not performing for the crowd least not that crowd.
The alto was clearly the leader of the group. With relaxed demeanor and confidence, he took the stage first, strolling to the front point of it and scanning the horizon for any would be critics. With his companions following trustingly to either side, he took a deep satisfied breath, and with the penetrating force a train horn in an opera house he belted out the show starting Woo-Woo-Woo-WOOF as only a dignified, capital hound could ever do. Addis was their town and this was their night.
Well with an opening as grand as that, no one else could help themselves, The tenor in the group caught the last not of the opening so smoothly it sounded as if one continuous voice had just changed songs without even taking a breath. When the soprano caught the rhythm he punctuated it so well that every self respecting mutt within earshot (and that's a long, long shot) had to contribute.
As entire square miles of city turned into the sort of echoing roar you would hear at a Super Bowl or a World Cup or a very very large, unsupervised dog pound, it seamed nothing could stop the celebration of how absolutely wonderful it is to bark at the top of your lungs against the soothing calm and beauty that the  night had provided so well. Nothing that is except the two official looking men with large, matching sticks approaching the stage at a quickly metered step. The group, obviously familiar with these critics, retreated back stage at a quick but not panicked stride. In the time it took for the critics to disappear down the same ally the trio seamed to have taken, the altos' head popped out from the bushes just behind the stage, carefully scanned the horizon and then victoriously returned to front and center with his companions in step behind him. As they again took their places he filled his chest deeply with the cool night air, paused for affect, and with  self satisfied tilt of his nose to the sky, he belted out again what the masses had apparently been anxiously awaiting for at least a full minute. This time before the first measure could even be finished the raucous cheer consumed the entire valley. On and  on the celebration continued into the night with no further interruption.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Faith Like a Two Year Old

When I came around the corner into the Sunday school room, he was sitting (not by choice) with his back against the wall and screaming angrily at the world for not catering to his latest preference (I can relate). As soon as he saw me he stopped, mustered all that was left of his self control and composed himself with a still troubled but satisfied look of accomplishment on his face. I was proud of him and he knew it and a grim little smile snuck through the tears and snot that had glued his chubby little face into a frown. "What a difference seeing daddy makes", my wife quipped on the way out, and I realized as soon it hit my ears the significance was much greater than the moment.
Regardless of knowing what we aught to do... -"seeing is believing" seams like a true enough expression but I hesitate to say it. If it's worth saying at all to ourselves as believers, how do we really see Him anyway? It seams like good advice but faith can be an unsatisfying answer when you're just desperatly looking for something tangible to keep you stable for a minute.
The other night at dinner I was explaining to the kids the difference between knowing someone or just knowing about them, which of course was followed with the sage advice that "we need to know Christ, not just know about Him". "Like you know me", I explained.
"How is that helpful", my wife asked? "They can't see him like they see you". I stumbled and sputtered but still didn't have a good answer.
It's faith. It is different. I know the ways we can reason around it and work up just how real and tangible He is right now, but I still just long to see His face in person and have it snap me out of this selfish stupor I still struggle against... like my sons reaction to me. I guess the difference in reality is that it was just a picture of the future, not the present. It's faith.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Favorite Shoes

My Favorite Shoes

My favorite shoes are five and three.
They tie themselves and talk.
They smile when I put them on
And giggle when I walk.
They greet me in the morning
And wrap tightly to my feet.
I walk them to their beds at night
Before they go to sleep.
They force me to walk rather slow
And cost me quite a lot,
But every day I'm more in love
With these shoes that I've got.

I long to be like my children in some way almost every day. What better way to travel than scrambling to cling to His feet with an eager heart and a giddy, trusting smile. Mathew 19:13-15, Proverbs 16:9

Saturday, January 14, 2012


We played UNO last night. By "played" I mean attempted and by "UNO" I mean a game approximately similar to UNO but adapted (by the minute) to match the learning curve (or lack of) of a five, three and one year old who where all deliriously happy to sabotage each other (and themselves) at every opportunity...or even without one. Like I said, rules by the minute.

We started with a five card hand to shorten the game to a bit less than the entire evening. We did OK with matching numbers and colors but the strategy gets abstract fast after that. Take hiding your cards for example. To Zach that meant methodically splaying the cards out face up under the coffee table while he sat on the floor beside it. The idea was that he could easily assess the best card to play next at a glance and no one else could see the dastardly deed he was planning of course because his cards were "under" the table. Ana on the other hand opted for an entirely different strategy. Remember when the really cool people would roll a pack of cigarettes up in their shirt sleeve? Well replace the cigarettes with a stack of UNO cards and the sleeve with the belly of your shirt and you have a fool proof method for confidential card play, with the possible exception of when they roll out of your shirt face up on the table. No matter, just pack them back away quickly (ten or twenty seconds) and you've resecured your advantage.

Now lets address some real card play. We'll start with the Wild Draw Four, because it's the most fun (decimating family members with one of these gems is the pinnacle of fun right?). In a regular deck there are four of these babies. In our game there are five. Four of them function as normal(ish) and the fifth one wanders around the table growling like a (nearly) harmless monster and randomly drawing (not necessarily four) cards from the deck or any unwary players hand only to randomly distribute them across the table, or floor (where they interfere with Zach's strategy). Concerning some other cards of consequence: for less than proficient readers (three years old) Draw Two's are challenging. For less than proficient attention spans Reverses are more so, especially if mom and dad where distracted by the fifth Wild Draw Four when the Reverse was played. In that case the confusion is settled by whoever played last before the Reverse...this causes more confusion. In the end, winning becomes somewhat of a sacrificial act of mercy and the end becomes a win for everybody.

OK, now I can't help comparing this to the Gospel (you knew this was coming). The Numero Uno has written the rules (which include an exceptional amount of grace) and created the most rewarding (and perhaps challenging) game in the world. Like colors and numbers (and poorly hidden cards), we help each other match chapter and verse to the last card played in our life. And we  sometimes wait nervously for the the next color to be called when the Wild is played. Yet for all the variety in the game, the cards in the deck never change. We engage each other and play our hand for the joy of the fellowship it provides. And the greatest rewards come not by winning, though there's great joy and reward (and occasionally havoc) in trying, but just by choosing to stay in the game (Hebrews10:23-25) even when it's a bit confusing; and perhaps even surrendering the victory to someone in the family who never saw it coming. Oh yeah... and the first one to play everything they've got wins (2Timothy 4:5-8) ...UNO!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The King of Hearts

No stranger king was ever born than on that winter night,

To commoners away from home with livestock at their side.

The King of all creation had departed from the womb.

The world hardly noticed for it hadn’t any room.

Born to seek the low and lost, He sought no earthly throne.

A stranger to the ones He loved, He walked the earth alone.

Born to set His “kingdom come” upon the hearts of men.

Born to seek the prodigals and bring them home again.

Strange enough, the ones he sought would kill Him on a tree.

Stranger still He knew and chose the cross to set them free.

The Savior to the world of men departed from the tomb.

Now one heart at a time He asks, “Have you any room?”