Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blood, Thunder and Lacunae

Last night our daughter Jennifer (the History major at USC) recommended a great book by Hampton Sides, Blood and Thunder (Blood and Thunder is also the title of a sports magazine devoted to coverage of contemporary women's roller derby – but this blog is about the book). Through the complex life of Kit Carson Blood and Thunder tells the story of the decimation of the Navajo nation.  It’s a great read and (thanks to iPad and continued jetlag) I made it through the first few chapters last night. 

I loved this description of one of the characteristics of the Navajo nation:

 Navajos hated to complete anything – whether it was a basket, a blanket, a song, or a story.  They never wanted their artifacts to be too perfect, or too close-ended, for a definitive ending cramped the spirit of the creator and sapped the life from the art.  So they left little gaps and imperfections, deliberate lacunae that kept things alive for another day.

Even today Navajo blankets often have a faint imperfection designed to let the creation breathe – a thin line that originates from the center and extends all the way to the edge, sometimes with a single thread dangling from its border, tellingly, the Navajos call the intentional flaw the “spirit outlet.”

Most of the imperfections in my life are unintentional but the gaps and dangling threads always provide an outlet where God is at work.  I'm learning that its good news that our stories are incomplete.  Our stories are written in both intentional and unintentional lacunae.  And often it’s in the ways that God fills those gaps that we find life.  Instead of worrying about my incompleteness and imperfections I am grateful for the outlets they provide to experience God’s grace.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Promise Keeper

 Two weeks ago I was traveling across the steppes of Mongolia with N.E.T. Vet missionaries.  And as I posted yesterday, I’m still working on getting back on Houston time and continuing to process the experience.

Christianity was first introduced to Mongolians just 20 years ago.  Think about that for a moment.  Everyone you meet is a first generation Christian.  It was as close to the first-century church as I’ve ever experienced and at times I felt as if we were traveling through the book of Acts.

Two weeks ago today we were invited to a couple of “barbeques” in local gers (think sheepskin igloo).  “Barbeque” usually consists of various parts of a variety of animals boiled in a pot.  The first was delicious.  The second unfortunately had too many parts that I recalled from high school biology classes on the digestive system.  It was the only meal along the way that I politely declined (others I politely “tasted”).

Following the second barbeque we all crowed into our van for a prayer service and the most pressing topic was a drought the region has been enduring (just like here Texas).   We prayed that God would move the way He did when Elijah prayed for rain and then we drove back across the steppe to our own ger for the night.

The next morning we awoke to the sound of raindrops on the ger!  The joy of the 7 of us sleeping inside was contagious and beautiful.  We prayed and then celebrated when God answered.  I was reminded that we don’t stop and do that nearly enough in our busy, scheduled and practical lives.  It continued to rain off and on the next fews days and late one afternoon we were blessed by an amazing complete double rainbow.  Our leader, Tsendee, said it quietly, simply and best:  God keeps His promises.

I’ve needed that reminder today.  As sometimes happens a “barrel of pastoral care concerns” overturned and I’ve found myself in conversations with individuals and families whose lives have been turned upside down.  As I’ve sat and listened and prayed with them I’ve been listening for the sound of raindrops, trusting that God does indeed keep His promises.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mongolia - for all the joy!

I am one week back from my trip to Mongolia and still trying to find the right time zone and still processing an amazing journey.  I returned with both my head and heart filled with wonder at what God is doing.

In the coming days I’m going to attempt to post a few reflections on the trip (try in part because I’ve been such a reluctant blogger of late). 

Perhaps the most lasting impression (beside the taste of airagfermented mare’s milk) was the beautiful hearts of the V.E.T. NET staff.  I was humbled as I watched them care for some of the least of God’s children and inspirited by how boldly and naturally they shared the gospel.

On our last night in the countryside I chose a section from 1 Thessalonians as a final devotion together and as I return home this has become my prayer for our Mongolians ministry partners:

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?  Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.

My journey to Mongolia was a witness to God answering that prayer as His love increases and overflows to touch hearts – even mine!