I don’t know of a good way to introduce these. Some are momentary observations, some are unripe opinions, some are (prayerfully) immovable convictions. All are thoughts from the last day or two.
- Our court date is Wednesday, April 25. I want to put this at the top because I don’t want to bump it from anyone’s mind who’s praying for us and the other families.
- Cindi emailed me and said that an American family adopting from a nearby orphanage was recently approved by our judge for their adoption. This is good news. But not good enough to warrant our trust. In many situations in life we have the choice to lean our hope on statistics or sovereignty. I choose the latter because it is invincible and unfailing. Probabilities and percentages can rightfully bolster hope and give encouragement, but only the kind of hope that is secondary and tentative. Each statistic is like a grain of sand. Multiply them and you still only have something that can be washed away immediately. But God’s providential goodness is a rock. It cannot be moved. This is a good place to stand.
- I went for a walk in the late morning to pray for our court date and other things. I also wanted to walk because I’m used to walking after three weeks in Africa and it feels a bit lonely just driving everywhere. When you walk in Uganda you see 25 people for every car. When I walked today I saw 25 cars for every person. I went and sat at a picnic table in the shade at Hart Park. There were only a few people there, mostly down-and-outers. I thought two things: (1) This is a good place for the gospel. (2) Parks are beautiful, peaceful, family-friendly and meditation-friendly places that are all over the place in my town. Almost no one goes to them. That is very strange.
- I brushed my teeth yesterday. When I finished brushing, I cupped my hands beneath the faucet so that I could wash the foamed-up toothpaste out of my mouth. I spit out four mouthfulls of water before it hit me that I could actually swallow some of this water when I finished rinsing, without the risk of getting sick. I never did that in Uganda.
- It felt strange walking down the hill among the dorms at TMC yesterday after our late-afternoon RD meeting. I saw several students walking around. I had the sensation that I was walking among a small society of people who don’t know what they have. The reason I felt this way is that I talked to numerous people in Uganda who dream of getting an education in the States. Meanwhile, we apply to multiple schools and choose from our options. It’s not wrong that we have more, and they’re not better for having less. But it’s good and right for us to realize the fact.
- My allergies are kicking up today. I knew they would. I’ve never had them tested, so I don’t know what I’m allergic to. But I had almost zero allergy problems in Uganda due to the change in climate and biological culture. I’ve heard (and I’ve confirmed with a friend who’s a medical student) that part of the reason why allergies are so rampant in America is that we’re such a hyper-clean society. Our immune systems don’t have much to fight, so they make enemies. Perhaps there is an illustration here regarding tests, trials, and trivial complaining.
- There are many privileges to being a citizen. You realize that when you arrive in the States and waltz through the “Citizens/Residents” line at LAX as the hordes of foreigners wait in the “Visitors” line. I remember arriving in Uganda, standing in line for a visa, and watching the residents arrive. Yesterday morning I observed the international visitors as they very obviously watched the line of U.S. citizens, feeling both curious and strangely out-of-place in comparison. It’s nice to be home — I speak the language, I know the customs, I recognize the food, I have a routine, and I have many caring friends welcoming me back. But I actually feel lonely here. I know a few practical reasons why, and I’m not going to turn this into a bleeding-heart post. Suffice it to say that though I appreciate America and the privileges I enjoy, I just don’t feel at home. I feel like a foreigner, an alien, a stranger — a strange person, in fact. God is so real and the gospel is so central and Christ is so glorious, but almost every person that I pass on the streets doesn’t know that. They live like the opposite is true. This makes the world a lonely place to be if you love Christ and cherish holiness and want to see the Son honored as He deserves.
- I turned the TV on last night and found that there were more than the five channels we had at our hotel in Uganda. This means that there will always be something to watch that will momentarily satisfy our pathetically meager appetites. Earlier I had checked my email and used the internet and realized that when you have fast and consistent internet access, it’s easier to spend more time surfing websites and blogs. Even after only checking up on Todd Bolen, TeamPyro, DesiringGod, DrudgeReport, and ESPN.com, I felt very exorbitant. That doesn’t mean I was exorbitant. It just means there are other perspectives available besides the common one.
- I turned on my laptop yesterday afternoon after being home for a few hours. I ran the cursor arrow over the wireless internet symbol in the bottom right corner of my screen. The tiny computer monitor symbol was a bright light blue with two little green curved waves coming out the right side. I was connected. A rectangular box popped up. It said this:
Wireless Internet Connection (TMCwirelessOM)
Speed: 48.0 Mbps
Signal Strength: Excellent
I stopped and thanked God for this fast and immediate connection. I would’ve felt very guilty had I just opened up Microsoft Outlook or Internet Explorer and started into my work. I had to express my gratitude first, because I felt very thankful. I don’t usually do that.
- My friend Matt Telle picked me up at the Van Nuys FlyAway. We went to In ‘N Out for lunch. It was very strange to watch the line of people move so efficiently, to order and know that my cheeseburgers and fries would be ready in only 15 minutes, and to already know exactly what my food would taste like and how much of it I was getting.
- I read some internet headlines yesterday as I looked at what we call “news.” I thought, “Most of these things really don’t matter at all. How strange that we give them such attention.” My opinion is that this triviality is not an issue of culture (though America is certainly one of the leaders in it) but one of worldwide shallowness. We were made to marvel at God and we read celebrity gossip.
- I have a friend and co-laborer who’s currently spending a week providing biblical counseling on the campus of Virginia Tech. I have another friend who recently sent an email update informing those on his missionary update list of his recent and prolonged discouragement and distance from God. Both are people I respect and whose friendships I value. One is the spiritual hero of my college years (and he still is). These two emails have reminded me again that life and the spiritual battle is not a game, and that no matter how hard we try to run towards fashion and video games and fitness and sports and shopping and academic respectability and appreciating homes and depreciating sacrifice and financial stability and career advancement, life is deeper than those things. It’s hard to live with a relentlessly watchful, sober-minded, spiritual mindset because it demands constantly squinting at what’s invisible and making choices that usually seem strange when they’re right. But it’s wise, no matter what the world tells you, because triviality only makes sense until the judgment.
- I have another friend and mentor who’s laboring joyfully and without complaint in pastoral ministry. And I mean laboring. I just talked to his wife today about what his schedule looks like and the preaching, teaching, studying, training, and counseling he’s doing along with being a faithful husband and father (which he is). I know many other people who are laboring in similar work. It was good to hear, because my friend is doing good and right things with a good and right attitude. He will not look back and see a wasted life. I needed the exhortation of his example today.
- I read this yesterday on the plane from Amsterdam to Los Angeles. It’s 2 Chronicles 33:9-13. It left an impression, especially the last sentence: “Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel. The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the LORD brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.”
- #14 was going to be last, but it reminded me of something. I’ve found that oftentimes when someone quotes Scripture on a blog, I tend to skip or skim it in favor of reading the person’s own words. Many times I have to fight hard to focus and concentrate on the Scripture that’s being quoted. I think there are a few reasons for this, but I don’t think that most of them are good.
I close with a verse that’s printed on the back of the shirt I’m wearing. I’ve been told that my struggling friend in #12 who’s more spiritually committed than almost anyone I’ve met chose this verse years ago to go on the dorm shirt for the year. It’s from Job 13:15. It says, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” If only we were all so surrendered.