Yesterday on the Weather Channel

Epic scope, conflict, drama, danger, survival: the Weather Channel’s got everything. The Weather Channel is an intensely American experience. It’s one that, for me, highlights the contrast between the two continents I live on. I don’t have a TV in Peru, but, even if I did, South American cable systems don’t carry the Weather Channel. It’s North American weather, of course, so why would they? It’s only when I’m in the States that I get to see the Weather Channel. Maybe I’m weird, but it’s fun to be back and watch those sophisticated, animated, meterological models eat up our continent again.

weathermapLike yesterday. Here comes an arctic front out of Canada sliding its cold colors down the corridor east of the Rockies, curving southeast into Texas. Then here comes a second front up from the Caribbean–a warm storm burgeoning northwards out of the Gulf. “Lots of moisture,” the meteorologist says, as always. And these two fronts are crashing into each other right now, as we speak. They’re colliding over east Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, blending, morphing into something bigger, something with a stronger sense of purpose, something more serious with deeper colors, turning north, gaining speed. Undulating like a snake, the black line between freezing and not advances inexorably up the map, trailing blue rain ovals to the south, pushing white snow oval north. The white ovals multiply, covering the whole northeast; white and blue ovals stack up over the midwest. Indiana shows white; Kentucky, a frozen baby blue. Now the whole country east of the Mississippi is animated, outlined, and colored in. It’s a huge storm system, but it’s always moving; the entire sky is always moving. The sky will take the whole huge thing north and east into the Atlantic tomorrow, they say. Out over the Atlantic to harass shipping there, I guess, and to keep Icelanders pinned to their version of the Weather Channel. (How do you say, “Oh, no! Not again!” in Icelandic?)

Early this morning I open the back door and peek out. Sure enough, the cold Kentucky morning is blue, not white. Rain, not snow. The Weather Channel was right.

American meteorology. Very cool.

Obediencia “Heuristico”–Español (English below)

El mensaje de ayer de Adam Russell, el pastor del Vineyard Campbellsville, fue un mensaje “heuristico.” Fue el tipo de mensage que hace que un serie de focos se prende en el cerebro para traer luz a la mente.

“Heuristico” es una palabra que aprendí en mis estudios posgraduados. El diccionario lo define así: “Técnica de la averiguación y del descubrimiento.” Por lo común escuche esta palabra en referencia a los articulos o libros que lo más inspiraron commentarios extendidos y generaron nuevas ideas y nuevas direcciones.

Eso es lo que el sermón de Adam hizo para mí ayer. Fue heuristico, especialmente su perspicacia sobre la obediencia. Adam citó el dicho de Jesús: “Si guardas mis mandamientos permanezcarás en mi amor.” Este dicho es algo dificíl para nosotros, dijo Adam. ¿Que tiene que ver obedencia con amor? La respuesta de Adam fue lo que hizo que los focos de mi mente se prendieron. Obediencia es la puerta de entrada para acercarse a Dios, dijo Adam. Es la puerta de entrada lo cual nos lleva al amor del Padre.

Adam utilizó el ejemplo del hijo prodigo. Mientras que moraba el hijo en el cochinero ¿estaba experimentando el amor de su padre? ¿Lo sintió allá? Claro que no. El hijo tenía que regresar a la casa de su padre y allá encontró su amor de nuevo. Regresar significa arrepentirse en esta parabola y arrepentirse significa obedecer a Dios. ¿Porque? Porque regresar a Dios Padre es la voluntad de Dios Padre para todos sus hijos que se alejan. Regresar es obedecer.

Este acto de obediencia del hijo prodigo fue la puerta de entrada a experimentar el amor de su padre otra vez. Eso no es decir que el padre no le amó a su hijo mientras él moraba en el cochinero. Por cierto le amó. Es que el hijo no podía experimentar este amor ni podía sentirlo ni permanecer en este amor hasta que volvió a la presencia de su padre.

Cuando yo escuché este ayer entendí algo nuevo de un tema en que he estado pensando mucho recién. Esto es el tema de someterse. Someterse a Dios es lo que nigún ser humano ha querido hacer desde los tiempos del huerto de Edén hasta hoy. Queremos ser Dios no someterse a Dios. De todas maneras someterse es un requisito absoluto para toda creatura que quiere experimentar communión con su Creadór. Personalmente yo he tenido que rendirme y volver a Dios muchas veces. He visto que cuando me someto así siempre encuentro los brazos abiertos del Padre. Siempre me abraza y me perdona y me restaura exactamente como Jesús nos prometió. Los brazos amantes del Padre siempre esperan a todos que regresan a Él.

Gracias a Dios por su misericordia y gracia y amor. Gracias a Dios que nos espera con sus brazos extendidos, no para agarrar y castigar sino para abrazar y consolar y restorar. Wow! No hay nadie como Tu! Te alabo Padre. Eres tan bueno!

Gracias, Adam.

PD: Les invito a todos mis amigos Castellano hablantes. Por favor indícame los errores que he hecho en cualquier “post” que pongo en mi blog. Quiero mejorar en mi escribir. Muchisimas gracias.

Heuristic Obedience

Adam Russell’s message yesterday at the Campbellsville Vineyard was heuristic. It was one of those that make a series of light bulbs light up one after another in your head. Click! Click! Click!

“Heuristic” is a word I learned in graduate school. Webster’s definition is “involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving.” It’s a word I most often heard used to describe articles or books that inspired extended discussions, that generated new ideas and new directions.

That’s what Adam’s preaching did for me yesterday. It was heuristic. Especially the insight about obedience. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,” Jesus said. Tough to swallow, Adam said.  What does obedience have to do with love? His answer is one that set off a lot of light bulbs for me. It’s a gateway. It’s the door leading into the Father’s love.

Adam used the example of the prodigal son. Did he know, experience his father’s love when he was languishing in the pig pen? No. He had to go back to his father’s house, and that’s where he found it. To go back means to repent. To repent is to obey God. The prodigal’s obedience was the gateway to experiencing his father’s love again. Not that his father didn’t love him while he was in the pig pen. Of course he did. But the boy was cut off from feeling it, knowing it, abiding in it, until he obeyed his dad and went back home.

The lightbulb that went off for me was this: obedience is submission. It’s what human beings haven’t wanted to so since Eden and still don’t, but it’s an absolute requirement for creatures who want to fellowship with their Creator. And as I know from giving up and going back time after time (He’s not counting, but I am), submission is walking into the Father’s waiting arms. His loving, waiting arms. It’s something I need to do every day.

Praise God for His mercy and grace and love. For waiting with His arms extended, not to grab and punish, but to embrace and comfort and restore. Wow! There is none like You! Praise God.

Thank you, Adam.

Dripping Wet

When I was little, I remember thinking that I could run out in the rain and not get wet. I thought I could track each raindrop as it fell and dodge out of the way. I really did. I thought I could zig-zag: left, right, left, left, right–like a soldier under fire–and not get hit.

The problem is I still think like that in some ways. I think a lot of us do. I think I can pick up whatever book, watch whatever movie, play whatever video game and nothing bad about it will rub off on me.  In other words, I’m sixty-two years old and find myself still thinking that I can run out in the rain and not get wet.

I believe the Apostle Paul is talking about this kind of thing when he says, “Do not be deceived.  Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33).  We immediately understand the “bad company” part, even though we don’t believe it in practice. But why does he first say, “Do not be deceived?”  I think because we are deceived, constantly, into thinking that we’re grown-up and bullet-proof and nothing bad is going to rub off on us no matter what kind of company we keep. No matter what TV shows we watch, no matter what novels we read (my failing), no matter what video games we play.  We convince ourselves that we can easily maintain our own, better, higher, individual point-of-view regardless of the electronic, literary, imaginary, and physical company we keep.

But have you ever watched as a friend starts hanging out with a new group of people? How your friend starts picking up the way that group talks?  Their gestures? I think the simple fact is that human beings are sponges..  We absorb what’s around us and start becoming like the company we keep. No matter the medium in which we hang out with our new friends. No matter how old we are.

There’s no way around this.  It’s human nature.  So what do we do?  I think we need to admit that we’re still little kids in some ways and submit ourselves to the same kinds of safeguards that little kids need, like older-brother Paul said. Make sure we play where it’s safe: on the playground prepared for us, instead of out in the street. Listen to Daddy’s warnings about who to play with. Let Him introduce us to good friends in every medium. Don’t sneak behind His back to watch that scary, nasty stuff on TV.  Don’t play electronically at doing things He’s forbidden us to do really. That kind of thing.

Sounds boring and ridiculous for adults, doesn’t it?  But really, when it comes to this kind of thing, some adults are not very adult at all.  I know for sure that I’m not. I’m dripping wet.

Going to Nashville

I’m driving down to Nashville tomorrow to attend a conference of the Anchor churches. I hope it won’t be too icy. (Thank you Bree and Brian for letting me use your car! I’ll be very careful.)

The Anchor’s founder, Joshua Stump, was the worship leader for years at Jerry Bryant’s Nashville Vineyard. They parted ways and Joshua and Brian Bann and Ryan Adams and a bunch of great people started the first Anchor Church.The first Anchor church was a Vineyard for awhile, but I think maybe it was a little too radical for our getting-more-formal (Is it?) movement, so it went independent five or six years ago. Since then, Joshua has founded a second church, the Keeill, in Nashville; Brian Bann is pastoring the original Anchor; and several churches from around the States have associated themselves with the movement.

Joshua has visited Peru guilleyjoshuaseveral times. This is him with our pastor in Laderas, Guillermo Sifuentes. Also, as of last year, Ryan Adams had brought his Anchor School of Ministry students three or four years in a row. He recently accepted his own pastorate in Orlando but is talking to his new congregation about coming down to visit us in Peru also!

Anyway, all the Anchor churches are getting together this weekend and have given me 20 minutes to talk about the Vineyard Laderas de Chillón. Please ask the Holy Spirit to help me choose my words and, especially, ask Him to open the hearts of those He wants to touch on behalf of our family in Laderas de Chillón. When He does that, it seems to be completely independent of any of my bumbling words or efforts. Which is a good thing.

How does it feel?

Today Matt Rogers gave me a haircut (Disco’s Chop Shop, Main St. across from Druthers, Campbellsville, KY). Matt and I were part of the group from the Campbellsville and Nashville Vineyards that visited Peru in 2005, so Matt knows something of the contrast between here and there. “How does it feel to be back in the States,” he asked me.

I never quite know how to answer that question. I think it’s because I feel so many things. I told him it’s like traveling between two planets. But one of the even stranger things is that one planet (Peru) knows that the other (the U.S.) exists but not vice versa.

When you get to know everyday South Americans and they get to know that they can trust you, they’ll start asking about the States. The U.S. is in the news a lot down there, and about half the TV shows on cable in South American are exported U.S. series overdubbed into Spanish. (CSI is hugely popular.) They know the U.S. can’t really be like TV so they ask: What’s it really like? Does everyone live in big houses in the suburbs like on TV? What do they like to eat? Why do they shoot each other so much?

Americans, on the other hand, don’t ask much about South America. It’s not that we don’t have the potential to care. It’s just that there’s nothing here that brings it to our attention, while everyday life here demands every ounce of attention we’ve got. There is, actually, some South American TV programming on our TV cable systems (I saw some Colombian soap operas on my sister’s system in Texas), but it’s in Spanish so we surf right by. And U.S. papers and the TV news don’t say anything about South America unless there’s a disaster.

So how does it feel to be back in the States? It feels like being stuck between two planets. Not really on one and not really on the other, either. Spacewalking. It feels sort of like spacewalking.

Trash Pickers

I took the photo of the little boy in the photo above just down the street from my apartment in Lima. It was garbage day and, along with his mom and dad and several siblings, this little guy had been walking from house to house in our barrio all afternoon sifting through the bags of garbage that people left on the curb for the garbage truck. He and his family members untied every bag, sifted through it, took out anything valuable and/or recyclable, and put it in the woven plastic bags that the boy’s standing in front of. All the bags and the load in the moto, the motorcyle car, are the family’s take for the day. It’s the boy’s job now to guard the stash until they get back.

New Year’s Resolution

I’m a Vineyard missionary in Lima, Peru. For eight years I’ve been living and working with a wonderful group of brothers and sisters in Christ at the Vineyard Laderas de Chillón in Lima. One of the things I’ve been the worst at over that period of time is communicating with friends in the States about what’s going on with me in Peru. I’m in the States now, and I just spent several hours with a small group of some of my dearest friends who patiently saw me through my tears of frustration, then took me to school. Blogging school. Free-blogging school.  Teaching me about blogs and links to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all of it automatic and almost self-perpetuating. I’m sixty-two years old so this is like Mars to me. Sure, I’ve heard about it. I’ve even seen it as a distant red dot low on the horizon in the night sky, but I’ve never been there. Now I’m going. New Year’s Resolution. On my way.