Better than a Stained Glass Window- church in the tropics

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IMG_2621I’m sitting in church appreciating the artistry. The colors- green, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple are at their brightest, most true hues. It’s not a stained glass window I am looking at; it is the beautiful outdoors and the artist is God.

Beyond our little clearing I see lots of green- short banana trees, tall leafy trees and bush. It makes the perfect background for the colorful blossoms, flowers and shrubs, some planted in rows and others popping up randomly. The meri blouses of the women arriving at our gathering reflect the bright colors of nature. (A little black meri blouse? Never! The more colorful, the better.)

We sit in rows of bright green plastic chairs. The wind blows the big blue tarp that gives us cover, threatening to unfasten it from the frame it is tied to. Two of the men get up and tighten the ropes and all is well. The children dressed in their Sunday best sit quietly all together along one side of the gathering. They sing along and pay close attention during the message

Our song lida leads us in the first song, How Great Thou Art. How fitting! It begins, Oh Lord my God When I in awesome wonder, consider all the works thy hands have made…..

Enjoying the bright, colorful, amazing creation surrounding us, it is with joy, awe and worship that we sing the chorus, Mi litimapim nem bilong yu;Yu antap olgeta….

Reminding us that that we live for now in a fallen world, a pesky rooster crows somewhere behind us. A red ant bites my toe and I move my feet to escape it. We sing a few more songs. Then the message starts and I jot down some points to remember.

1) Dispela world I gat troubles, says the pastor. We see evidence of this every day. The devastating loss of a loved one, a child with malaria or even the small annoyances of an ant bite remind us that this is a world full of troubles large and small.

2) We do not have to navigatim dispela life without Christ! Nogat! ‘I have told you these things so in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart. I have overcome the world’, says Jesus. And,’I will never leave you or forsake you.’ Oh, blessed relief, we are not alone as we navigate through this life!

3) Life is olsem a puff of smoke. Life is short; live it to glorifyim Papa God. Great biblical advice! Fulfillment and joy can be found in this short life as we follow God – and then there is heaven!

As the last verse of ‘How great Thou Art’ says,

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, to take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.

Then I shall bow with humble adoration and there confess; My God How Great Thou art!

Yu Nambawan , Yu antap olgeta, Yu wanpela, Yu Bikpela!

 

We Take Time – lessons from life in a Developing Country

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And just like that (snap fingers) I’m a serious saver. I put my leftover morning coffee in the fridge for later. And instead of wasting data by viewing news online, my breakfast newspaper (the Australian Daily Telegraph) came wrapped around the meat I bought at the butchery yesterday; it’s from last year, but still interesting. Both the small and the significant parts of everyday life here are savored.

Coffee, food and news are on the insignificant list, at least compared to time with people. Few and far between are the days I have spent with my friend Kelly. About 15 years ago we lived across the hall from each other and ever since across the world. Kelly was my daughter Olivia’s mentor and Olivia babysat her girls. I know we have this little of window of time to remember and catch up. I’m not hurrying through these days.

Kelly’s daughter, Sabra, once said, as we were eating pizza in the bush and wishing it had pepperoni on it, ‘Don’t wish, ENJOY.’ Enjoy and savor the moment; live each day as if you have it only once because that is the reality.

IMG_2617Across the road I have new friends with whom we worship on Sundays. We sit outside in rows of chairs, ‘One, Two…..Sing!’ our way through naispela songs and open the Bible together. We communicate in English and Pidgin or Pinglish as my friend Anna likes to say. We don’t rush through the service; we linger after church. We talk, hug, laugh and learn more about each other each week. We take time.

Being here in this land where the sun shines hot and bright and every breath of wind is appreciated reminds me of all that is important. My soul is refreshed and I think I will purpose to live an island style life in the middle of Maine when I get home. Waste not. Take time. Savor each day.

Dispela de God I bin wokim; yumi amamas na litimapim nem bilong em. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 

 

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Conversation101- lessons from a relational culture

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In the last two days we have traveled from the USA halfway across the world. We came through four airports in busy western cities and I was struck by how many people are on their phones, ipads, or other devices….ALL THE TIME. Wherever we were – sitting and waiting, having a snack in a restaurant, standing in line, almost everywhere people were looking down at their devices or as my Gramps calls them ‘little machines’.

Our destination was a little known, small Developing Country (now the politically correct term for third world countries) in the south Pacific and our first stop was in the capital city airport. Looking around, I saw no one looking down at their devices! Everyone was present in the moment. I sat down next to a lady and she evidently saw me as a person worth her time and … get ready…. looked me in the eye and TALKED to me. It happened like this: Meri 1) Yu go we? Meri 2) Mi go long Nambis. Yu go we?  Meri 1) Oooo i hat long Nambis! Mi go long Hailands. Meri 2) Naispela!

See how that works? One asks a question, the other answers; they look at each other. And we were strangers! We just chatted along until my flight was called. It’s Conversation 101. There’s probably an app for that but let’s not find it – let’s just practice talking face to face. Even people in Developed Countries can do it if they try.

This morning we went to the local town to get groceries. I saw people walking and talking together. On one street corner two men were shaking hands and laughing; up the road young girls and boys were walking barefoot and chatting on their way to school. At the Market plenty of meris selling fruit and veggies talked to me as I stopped by their tables of produce. Some asked me where I was living here in this town; one even complimented my Pidgin English (which, by the way, is rusty).

Lest I be misunderstood I am not saying this country is a utopia or paradise. Crime in the cities is high, piles of rubbish are out in the open, the health facilities are deplorable, and there is not a whole lot of money to go around. But this is a relational culture and the people talk to each other!

I wonder-have we in countries where technology is taking over lost something in the process? And in relational aspects of life, which is the Developed Country now?

 

 

 

 

My mouth can’t come down from smiling

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IMG_2588Grief does not have an end date. You learn to live with loss. It settles down in the nooks and crannies of daily life and perhaps one would think looking from the outside in that you, the Loser of a Loved One, have ‘dealt so well’ and found ‘closure’ and blah blah blah.

The truth is the feelings of loss are still there. The day of remembering comes every year as sure as Christmas and New Years and Easter and birthdays and there is no chance we will forget what Feb 27th is to us. This year -8 years on- the sorrow and tears came and God in his magnificent kindness sent a little angel to help me through the day. Well, actually she is my grandniece and her family has known more than their own share of sorrow.

Sofia and I played games and chatted our way through the day. And just in passing she told me very naturally and matter- of- factly, I have a brother and sister in heaven. So of course I told her, I have a daughter in heaven. Very organically and simply we told each other one of the most important parts of our lives. We spoke their names, not in some sad heavy tone but in the way that we speak the names of those we know and love.

Elizaveta   Simeon    Olivia

In this less than a minute conversation I felt like a cloud of kindness sent by God settled in around us, blunting the pain of loss and encouraging me to leave the ‘making sense of life’ up to God. In other words, trust him like a child trusts a loving parent. And then Sofia and I played tic tac toe and dot to dot.

As I began my run this morning (my last day in the states until August – this afternoon I leave for PNG) the sun shone on the snowy mountain peaks, the IMG_2590air around me was clear and cool and the sky above a beautiful blue. How fitting it is that during this week of memories we are heading to Papua New Guinea. Olivia once told me she was not afraid to die but she worried that her parents would be ok. I think she would be – or is (I don’t know all there is to know about heaven) – cheering us on. Go, Mom! Go, Dad!

All of these thoughts were going through my mind as I ran on the ‘Angel Path’ and I was brimming over with thanks to God for half- minute miracles, sunshiny mountains, blue skies and the hope of heaven. I came around the last corner of my run and looked up to see a beautiful rainbow. To paraphrase my grandniece, Sofia, I am so full of joy that my mouth can’t come down from smiling!

 

Long de namba seven, God i bin rrrrrest

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Years ago we sat under the shade of wide sweeping trees in Papua New Guinea worshiping God in a mixture of English and Melanesian Pidgin. ‘Yumi (you and me) sing now’, said the leader and later, ’Yumi share nau.’ It was lovely singing to God with his dear people in His lovely creation.

Sometimes there was Sunday school and the children learned Bible stories. One Sunday morning, seven of the children filed in and stood in front of the gathering ready to show us what they had learned. They had been studying the days of creation and so each child took a day and told what God had created on that day.

‘Long de namba wan’, said the first,’God I bin mekim kamap lait.’ And so it went on through the days of creation. De namba tu, tri, poa, paip, and sikis …….

1535402_10151813458127541_1111963590_n(1)So now it was time for the 7th day. Our little 6 year old Olivia stood next to her best friend, Rejoice. She spoke loud and clear. ‘Long de namba seven’, she said with a pure PNG accent, ‘God I bin rrrrrest.’ -that last with a pronounced trill. The people smiled and chuckled along with us as our seemingly out of place blonde little one fit in.

I have been thinking about this. God, having finished the work of creation, rested-not because he was tired but because he was done. He spoke Creation into being and he holds it together by the word of his power, the strength of his might. He’s not struggling to do so and He’ll never weaken or fail or change. As powerful as he was at creation, he is now. In the vernacular of today, He’s got this. Totally and completely and without question. Period.

In that I rest. And smile. And exhale a sigh of relief and trust.

This morning as I ran in the cold bright sunshine and gloried in the beautiful creation, I laughed with the joy of it all. The loveliness of the day surrounded me and I thought of God holding the world (and me) together. The memory of that Sunday long ago was fresh in my mind; I could hear our sweet little girl speaking those words of truth.

‘Long de namba seven, God I bin rrrrrest!’