ZAF

10/10/2009

“We put the walls up, but Jesus keeps them standing.
He doesn’t need us, but He lets us put our hands in.
So we can see, His love is bigger than you and me.

And we all can feel the calling,
to make the world a little smaller.
And so a girl got on a plane,
for two weeks in Africa.”

-Caedmon’s Call-

I’m headed to South Africa today.  My long awaited journey to the continent of Africa is finally here.  I’m very excited.  Though my flight isn’t until 8pm tonight, so in typical me fashion, my packing is strewn across my room…

My excitement is tempered with sorrow as a brother in Christ back home has gone to be with the Lord.  Dear friends are grieving the loss and I am very sad to not be there with them.  Now I fly even further away, an entire ocean still keeping me from crying with them, listening to them share memories of their friend.

I am hopeful being in Africa, like any new place I visit or person I meet, gives me a more complete picture of heaven and therefore joy and the wiping away of tears.

Lest you worry, this isn’t one of my wander around alone trips.  I’ll be visiting with fellow North Carolinians, my friend Jeremiah and the Passaro family, who work with this preschool and church for God’s glory in ZAF!

http://bonginkosi.wordpress.com/

http://churchontheridge.wordpress.com/

Photos, thoughts, etc.  when I return…

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Everything sad is coming untrue.

I repeat this to myself often.  This truth gives me great comfort today and many days.  The truth is rooted in scripture, and given layer upon layer of beauty by a pastor, a fictional writer,  a musician and a tree:

Literature:  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Sam believes that Gandalph died.   At the very end, Sam having slept for quite a while and then coming to consciousness, Gandalf stands before Sam, robed in white, his face glistening in the sunlight, and says:

“Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?”

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”

“A great shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from bed… “How do I feel?” he cried.” Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel” –he waved his arms in the air– “I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!

All the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

Pastor:  Tim Keller, The Reason for God

“Jesus spoke of his return to earth as the palingenesis. “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things (Greek palingenesis), the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne.” This was a radically new concept. Jesus insisted that his return will be purged of all decay and brokenness. All will be healed and all might-have-beens will be.

Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as he thought) but alive. He cries, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” The answer of Christianity to that question is – yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.

Embracing the Christian doctrines of the incarnation and Cross brings profound consolation in the face of suffering. The doctrine of the resurrection can instill us with a powerful hope. It promises that we will get the life we most longed for, but it will be an infinitely more glorious world than if there had never been the need for bravery, endurance, sacrifice, or salvation.”

Musician:  Jason Gray, song “Everything Sad is Coming Untrue, Part 2”

The winter can make us wonder
If spring was ever true
But every winter breaks upon
The Easter lily’s bloom
Could it be everything sad is coming untrue?
Could you believe everything sad is coming untrue?

Broken hearts are being unbroken
Bitter words are being unspoken
The curse undone, the veil is parted
The garden gate will be left unguarded

Could it be everything sad is coming untrue?
Oh I believe everything sad is coming untrue
In the hands of the One who is making all things new

When the storm leaves there’s a silence
That says you don’t have to fear anymore
The trees look greener, the sky’s an ocean
The world is washed and starting over

[Listen to and read more about the song here (i think the best of the song starts at 2 minutes):  The Rabbit Room]

The God of the universe, Revelation 21:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

Tree:  The Beauty of the Former Things, Liss, EnglandIMG_7326

This week Melissa and I tried a new little routine:  I take the littlest munchkin, Kate, out for an hour in the morning so Melissa can have some quality home school time with the older kids.

Kate loves bike rides on the ‘Oregon Trail’ since she’s been outfitted with a cherry red kid seat.  So, I figured this might be a great chance to get a workout in while entertaining the (almost) three year old.  I have to say, the workout was really, really fun!  It went something like this:

30 minutes : Cycle loop on bike paths cutting through fields passing lots of cows and blackberries and ending up at the huge park near our house.  No ipod needed as Kate sang almost the entire time:  wheels on the bus, supercalifragilistic…, spoon-ful of sugar, you get the idea.

25 minutes :  At the park, including:

– Kate on swing = Me sprinting around the entire set of swings between pushing her.  Believe it or not, this was really entertaining for her (and, no doubt the old folks and business people walking by).

– Kate on see-saw = Me squats and jumps.  This is my favorite!   Squat down and jump up, ballet style 20 times.  Or mix it up to short, isolated quick squats.  She really liked the variety of the ride on the see-saw.

– Kate running from see-saw to slide = Me doing high knees alongside her.  Her sprint is exactly the same pace as my high knees. Perfect!

–  Kate on slide set = Me doing push-ups on the angled mini-climbing wall things meant for the kids to climb up on to the slide set.

– See-saw again, x20.

– Kate on wiggly springed horsey ride = Me on the other wiggly springed dinosaur holding on and then doing leg lifts.  It’s like one of those half-domed ball things in the gym, the instability uses core strength.

– See-saw again, x20.

5 minute:  cooling down bike ride home.

I’ve seen magazines write about this kind of “exercise while playing with your kids” and never known if it could work.  After one morning, I’ll say it does and could really be a great for moms and dads who are looking for more time to time to workout and spend with their kids.

The best part is I think it was actually fun for Kate too.  For kids, it seems to me, if you’re moving alongside them in play, it feels like you’re joining them in the experience rather than just supervising.  It was super fun and I’m excited to get to do it again!

“And I can’t wait to see this dream in which I’ll be a child again and

feel happy again because everything will be still ahead, everything will be possible.”

-Andrei Tarkovsky-

CAN09 = Contemporary Art Norwich 09 = The art festival I walked around in Norwich the failed bike adventure day.  It was at multiple venues across the city so a perfect catalyst for exploring.

My favorite exhibit was photographic works by Norfolk-based artist Frances Kearney.  One author describes her work in relation to film director Tarkovsky:  “The notion of finding sanctuary in nature has echoes in the films of the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky whose characters frequently escape the city to find solace in the landscape.…Kearney and Tarkovsky are asking questions about the role played by the country in relation to the city.  On a more fundamental level, they are also exploring the degree to which solace is linked to time and place.”

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Here’s how a festival brochure describes her work:  “These fictitious, carefully constructed, large-scale colour photographic tableaux explore the idea of finding sanctuary  in nature during childhood.  The works consider how notions of fear and anxiety are often projected by the adult viewer onto the subjects, yet absent in the experience of the girls depicted.”

The title of this series was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Big Two Hearted River; returning from war to find his village dstroyed, Nick seeks solace in fishing for trout.  When Kearney returned in 2006 to live in her childhood home, she realised how important the landscape was to her sense of well-being.

Kearney says:  “A few months after returning, I realised that it was “the edge” I had longed for:  the point where the land meets the water, in this case, the sea.  I have realised that living by water is immensely important to me as is the open sky, space and freedom for one’s soul that this region provides.’

Yeah,  I ate this up.

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“Clearly the images have been created rather than captured; instead of lying in wait for the ‘decisive moment’…Kearney plans and deliberates; these are not split-second responses to fleeting moments…her images occupy the present tense of paintings, in which the moment is extended into an endless continuum.  Because of their beauty, clarity and intensity, her images are often compared with film, but these narratives unfold only in the imagination…as viewers, this gives us the chance, deliciously, to indulge our longing for beauty and desire for meaning.”  (Sarah Kent)

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Kearney took the photos in her native Norfolk’s broads.  Ironically, the setting is where I was to have been cycling that day, so at least I got to see what I was missing.  Which might have looked something like this:

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“Can solace be sought, or must one lie in wait for it?  As a state of mind, maybe it can be accessed anywhere and, if this is the case, perhaps the children in these complex multi-layerd photographs provide some sort of key to its attainment.”  (Kent)

A few weeks ago I went to Peak Districk National Park.  The catalyst for the journey was a concert review opportunity (Ray Lamontange and Josh Ritter) in Sheffield, the major city just east of the park.

I left early in the morning and traveled by 3 trains to Sheffield, arrived at my pub/inn to eat my packed lunch then catch a bus into the park.  The park is full of tiny, well preserved villages.

I decided to visit the village of Eyam because of it’s interesting mark on history.  During the plague, the disease was largely contained to densely populated cities (ie London).  Eyam’s local tailor and the couple he shared a flat with came down with the plague and died.  The source was traced to a bolt of fabric he brought from London and contained a flea or two carrying the disease.  The plague made it’s entrance to the countryside and now all villages were in danger.

The pastor or Eyam gave the town an idea- to quarrantine themselves in an effort to contain the plauge to their village and prevent its further spread.  Eyam citizens agreed to the plan – meaning no one left the village.  They set up quarantine boundaries high above the village and two drop-off points were arranged where deliveries of food and supplies were left (one at a well at the top of a hill- the well had divets carved out where they left money soaked in vinegar to kill the germs).  About 1/3 of the village died from the plauge.  It’s impossible to know the impact of the town’s sacrificial decision but historians and disease specialists agree their choice prevented the plague from spreading in the English countryside.

Then it was back to Sheffield for a half pint and to see the concert.  It was wonderful music.  You can read the official review here on Consequence of Sound.

The Rabbit Room

10/02/2009

I made it to Oxford.  I went to The Eagle and Child Pub where the likes of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien used to sit and drink in a room called “The Rabbit Room”.

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I sat there, first with a group of German (maybe?) tourists.  Then they left.  Then I was….

Alone.

In the same room Lewis and Tolkien sat in.

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I sat looking out at the Oxford street.  My eyes filled with tears of awe and I could hardly contain my geeky grin.  I wrote a bit, and sipped my Ginger Bear Ale half pint and dedicated it to Malachi Foard Hunt, whom I knew was making his entrance to the world!

And the Oxford YHA is fantastic.  Stay there if you go to Oxford.

And then I went to see Josh Ritter.  Again.  Really fantastic.

Cambridge beats Oxford in beautiful old buildings though, hands down.IMG_7236

L’abri

10/01/2009

I just returned from ten days at L’abri, which is French for ‘the shelter’.  L’abri Fellowship was started by Francis and Edith Schaeffer at their home in Switzerland and now there are several L’abris all over the world.  I attended England L’abri in the small village of Gretham about an hour southwest of London.

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It’s hard to explain, and therefore comprehend, what L’abri is until you’ve experienced it.  I will say I had high expectations and reality was both different and more than I expected.

A major theme is space.  There are families who live there who make it their work to create space, shelter, saftey for people to come and be human.  At L’abri, being human includes physical work (gardening, cooking a meal for 25 people, cleaning toilets, dusting baseboards), mental exercise (reading, studying, thinking, asking questions, being challenged), recreation (volleyball and cricket at daily tea breaks, going on walks), being creative (arraging flowers, playing music) and relating to other humans in community (sharing a room with 10 other girls, eating meals together, serving meals, doing dishes).

So, it’s not a retreat center.  You don’t go to “get away” and be alone.  However, you do get to get away from some things we busy ourselves with that eat up our space- both physical and mental.  So, no internet (except on a shared computer and only a few times per week), no tv.  It’s amazing what our spirits do when left to wander…it really forces you to reckon with your emotions and thoughts and fallen natures of our hearts.  No hiding from others or from God…

So, here’s one day:

7:30 AM : Awake

8:00 AM:  Breakfast in the dining room with everyone.  Toast, jam and hard boiled eggs.  Tea.  Morning devotional reading by one of the workers from Dietrick Bonhoffer’s “Life Together”:

“The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth.

Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

8:45 AM : Reading in the “Morning Room” (my favorite room in the house)

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9:30 – 11:00 AM :  Study time.  Here are things I read/listened to while I was there:

The Healing Path by Dan Allender

Beyond Identity by Dick Keyes

Are Women Human?  by Dorothy Sayers

Collected works of Emily Dickinson

Cash:  The Autobiography by Johnny Cash

Some Hemingway short stories

Mars Hill Review (a literary journal with essays, poems, short stories, music reviews.  all around goodness.)

Forgiveness:  Lecture series by Dick Keyes

“Ifs” by Amy Carmichael

11:00 :  Tea Break on the lawn.  Tea, volleyball, cricket, frisbee tossing or chatting.

11:30 – 1:00 PM Study/reading

1:00 PM:  Lunch with half of the students/workers (about 12 of us).  Anyone can introduce a topic.  Topics at lunches included:  How do Christians live out their gender/sexual humanity appropriately?,  What can we expect from God?,  Is it fair to generalize about people groups, gender, age, nationalities, etc?  What’s helpful/hurtful about generalizing?,  Considering the Levitical Jubilee law for modern society- what could we apply today?  How could we treat the poor?,

3:00 – 4:30 PM:  Work time.  Weeding the gravel driveway or helping cook dinner.

4:30 PM:  Tea break.

5:00:  Back to work.

6:30 PM:  Dinner with half of the group in a home.  No formal topic, just conversation.  My favorite meal was a butternut squash and red lentil stew with rice and fresh bread.  My favorite dessert were baked apples with crushed cardamom and sweetened yogurt.

8:00 PM:  Evening activity:  Lecture (topics included:  What is spirituality?, The gospel of Mark, The book of Job)  or film followed by discussion (Babette’s Feast).  OR free time:  going to local pub, painting/drawing/art time around a table while others played guitar/piano.

In the midst of all of this I was introduced to new places around the world:  Hungary, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Canada, Brazil, and Scotland and enjoy the familiarities being around people from my neck of the woods:  South Carolina and Tennessee!

In summary, perspective was the theme of my time there.  My eyes were opened to the sheer enormity and amazingness of this Earth and every thing and every one in it.  Ultimately, a renewed sense of the enormity and glory of God.

I’ll never be able to convey the experience to you.  If there is even an inkling in your heart from reading this that you might enjoy or need time like this, you should go.