Some Thoughts

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.

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.
     
  3. 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.
     
  4. 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.
     
  5. 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.
     
  6. 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.
     
  7. 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.
     
  8. 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, TeamPyroDesiringGod, 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.
     
  9. 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
    Status: Connected
      
    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.
     
  10. 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.
     
  11. 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.
     
  12. 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.
     
  13. 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.
     
  14. 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.”
     
  15. #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.


6 thoughts on “Some Thoughts

  1. Thanks for your encouraging words, Gunner. I am truly built up by reading your blog. [You would probably know me better as “Tim’s Mom”. He was your classmate in college and Seminary…which is how I started reading your blog.]

    Keep us focused. We are “elect exiles” and should never forget that.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I checked in to see how things were coming with Judah and was encouraged and challenged by your list. Thank you for blogging.

  3. Confession: I also skipped the passage, and went back to read it due to the overwhelming conviction the Holy Spirit used you to inflict.

    Glad to hear that you’re still rocking the old Slight shirt. They can take the boy out of Slight, but can’t take the Slight out of the boy.

    Was that the first time you’d been to Uganda, or have you been before? I don’t know if you’ve made this mistake, but never by a hamburger in Uganda. they’re horrible. it’ll make you appreciate In ‘n Out more and more.

    someone should write a book about how to deal with coming back from these cultures. I relate with everything that you’re saying, and it can be so difficult to deal with. You don’t want to be the same. You don’t want to think like you used to, but you have that little voice in the back of your head that tells you it is inevitable. Then there is struggling with looking down on people who don’t have the same convictions. I’m not saying you do this, but its something that I’ve struggled with.

    You’ve seen these amazing things, heard these testimonies, seen how people live, been blown away at their joy in thier situation, and take it all with you when you come back. To me, one of the biggest struggles is how to communicate this back into my own life and how to communicate it to others without sounding pretentious. I don’t know, but someone needs to write a book on it.

    Check out the Caedmon’s Call song “Roses”. It totally echoes all of this. he thinks about this old man and his wife who grow roses, and all he does is work in his simple field thinking about how God has blessed him so. Then the bridge say, “Now I’m back at home, all alone, and I’m trying to find my thoughts. That old man so inspiring, but the TV’s always on, and the phone it won’t stop ringing, the bills they won’t stop screaming, to pay for all the things I never really needed.” That’s my heart. That’s how I feel.

  4. Gunner,

    We are praying about Judah!! It was such a blessing to get to experience a little bit of Uganda with you guys, even if it was just for a day! Thanks for the frequent updates! Thank you for the reminder not to take what I have for granted and not to get caught up in/waste my time on the frivolous things also! I had to laugh about the tooth brushing. It took me several days to stop hesitating before I put my toothbrush under the facet!

    ~Kara Rehrer

  5. Gunner,
    Our Heavenly Father continues to put you at the forefront of our minds and hearts. I prayed for you throughout the last couple of days, picturing you traveling home without your family. God has reminded me of the following verse and I have prayed it for myself as I trust in His sovereignty and NOT statistics! “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” I realize that the “straightness” of the path is relative to my closeness to Him and is not necessarily how I picture it (convenience and timeliness). I continue to be challenged to depend and draw near to God in this process and appreciate your reflections so much. The last three times we have returned from Uganda, have been very similar to yours. Our prayer is that we won’t EVER be comfortable with our American excess again. We have never been the same and I’m sure you never will either. Oh, that we would all be LIGHTS in this DARKNESS, Daniels in this Babylon we live in! Let us NOT be conformed to this world, Lord, but to your will we pray. God bless you as you walk in Him. Our prayers are with you now. I think the judge may be waking up now, gotta pray some more!

  6. Gunner, I identify with so many of these things. I find it encouraging to hear you articulately describe things I often feel in a less clear way. For example:

    I was just talking to Ash the other day about how though I am a Christian and claim to love Christ above all else, I often don’t act that way. I often shy away from sharing the gospel with all but a handful of my co-workers. It would seem that if I was wholly “saturated with the gospel” (as John Piper states it) I would be more open about my faith.

    Re: #11. I totally agree.
    Re: #15. I skipped over the scripture on #14 started to read #15. I wonder why we do that.

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