Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hidden Danger Can Hurt

During our first year in Zambia we lived in the bush about two hours from the capital city of Lusaka. I was responsible for the infrastructure of a large mission station that consisted of 300 bed hospital, 600 student secondary boarding school and other programs. My job was to make sure that there was a dependable supply of water and electricity. During periods when the electrical supply was interrupted we generated our own with two large generator systems. The systems were aging and hard to maintain. After the rainy season one of the streetlights shorted out, effectively turning off the entire street lighting system. They were wired like some Christmas lights, one goes out they all go out.

I spent days trying to track down where the short was. With over 75 lights to check it could take a long time. Each light had to be inspected, which meant hauling a ladder to each pole and climbing to the light and checking the connections for malfunctions. Each pole was about 22 feet in height. I had one of my workers help me with the job. His name was Office, but everybody called him Black. He would help with the ladder and hold it so it wouldn't slip off of the pole. That was kind of a joke because he only weighed about 90 pounds and I was more than double that.

After a day of inspections we got to the last pole of the afternoon. It stood near a secondary road that was used for foot traffic more than vehicles. I really wanted to find the break in the system as well as get done for the day. With the ladder up and and me 20 feet off the ground I began to check the light. A rather disturbing and surprising noise told me in a millisecond I was in trouble. Ants had eaten through the base of the pole, just under the surface. My weight was more than the old pole could stand.

As I rode the ladder and the pole to the ground I saw my faithful friend Black, trying to hold up the ladder and the pole. It only took him a second to know he was not going to stop my wild ride to the waiting hard ground. The pole and ladder knocked down a fence and I hit the ground. Instinct told me that I did not want to stay on the ladder as it slammed into the pole and the ground, I needed to try and roll off the ladder before impact. I was able to do just that, as the ladder got close to the ground I went over the right side and landed a few feet from the pole and ladder. It seemed OK until I felt a rather sickening pain in my right ankle. I have had a few broken bones so I knew that my ankle was broken.

Black and I got back to the shop and a moment later I heard all of my men laughing, some to the point of tears. It seems that Black told them how he tried to hold up the ladder and the pole as I rode it down to the ground. His gestures about trying to hold up the pole were priceless. I nursed the broken ankle for a few days and I eventually found the break in the wires. Upon close inspection of the broken pole it was easy to see why it broke. Over the years the ants had chewed tunnels through the pole. The danger was hidden just under the surface, covered by a few inches of earth.

Our world is full of hidden dangers, they wait just under the surface. Things may appear safe, normal, everyday, but underneath can lurk a danger that can cause real and lasting pain. My right ankle is still ugly, no treatment for a broken ankle in the bush. How many of us are scarred due to hidden dangers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Have you ever been truly breathless? I guess I have been only once or twice in my life. The first times was at the birth of our middle daughter, Hilary. I was able to be next to Donna during the c-section that brought Hilary into the world. It was the most awesome experience up to that point in my life. The doctor delivered Hilary through the surgical opening and he handed her to me. Yes, to me, I was the first person to really hold her, amazing and breathless. Two descriptive words that still don't do justice.

The second time was such an incredible experience that even today when I talk about it I sense people's disbelief. I stood and walked on some of the very ground that Dr. Livingstone stood on more then one hundred years ago. His journey across the African continent has never been equaled. The work that he accomplished in the name of Christ changed the south of the continent forever. Really, a man that will stand as one of the greatest missionaries to Africa of all time.

There is a town in the Southern Province of Zambia that bears his name. The town is located on the banks of the Zambezi River. The Zambezi River is the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in the south. Victoria Falls, one of the greatest natural wonders of the world is at the small town of Livingstone. Around Vic Falls there are NO safety fences or guard rails. A brave soul can walk right out to the very edge and look out across the largest water falls in the world. Just after the rainy season it would be impossible to have a conversation with a person if you were within hundreds of yards of the massive walls of water that crashed into the gorges below. Breathless and unable to speak I stood amazed.

A time is coming when standing in the footsteps of Dr. Livingstone and holding my newborn, as breathless as I was, will pale in comparison to the time I stand before my Holy and Awesome God. I will be breathless, for their will be no need to fill my lungs any longer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Even the birds like WalMart

I don't have much desire to go shopping, I guess I have no desire to go grocery shopping and even less desire to go to WalMart. It is not that I have anything against the store, quite the opposite, competition is good.But, I know that if I did much shopping in WalMart I would end up in jail, or at least in court. You see, I have no patience for crazy people armed with a steel cage on four wheels.

The first time some crazie hit me with a cart as they tried to get in front of me to beat me to the express check out I would hit them with my stick. It is no ordinary stick, (fancy term for cane) my big brother made it for me and it is one fine piece of wood. The handle has a natural curve and it is a bit on the heavy side. Now, I wouldn't mean to hit that crazy it would be just a natural reaction to keep my self from being injured. Boil all of this paragraph down to this: I don't go in to WALMART. I sit in the car or truck, prefering my truck.

OK, I hope you are still reading this because I do want to get to a rather funny yet very important point. It was during one of my many handicapped parking place vigils that I watched a rather fascinating event take place. In the parking lot there seemed to be a lot of sparrows, you know, the birds Jesus talked about. As I watched I saw one little guy run, skip, whatever they do, under a car.

And then I watched him jump between the front grill and the radiator. And to my surprise and he had just entered the Little Birdie Buffet. For 4 or 5 minutes the little two winged glutton gobbled down on bees, horse flies, moths, dragonflies and, don't tell Donna, a butterfly. I tell you the flying porker ate so much it was a wonder he could even get off the ground.

I have been dealing with anxiety lately, a lot of it. It is unusual for me as my kids will attest to be anxious. I have been able to identify a couple of reasons. I have allowed a few cares to slip in. I am thinking of retirement and the path seems rough. Donna and I have our land and it is gorgeous. It fronts a small river in Northeastern Michigan. God helped in that matter.

The next is an issue that many of us deal with; health concerns. Due to my spinal cord injury I am pretty limited in what I can do. That, bothers the #$#@ out of me. Donna is going through some pretty heavy health issues that make mine pale in comparison. So, I am not sure what our golden years will be like..

The words of Jesus come to me, "Not a sparrow falls to the ground without your heavenly Father knowing." If God can take care of His birds with a WalMart store He will take care of us. I guess I need to go and sit in the WalMart parking lot for a few hours and put a couple of things to rest.

Thanks to the Sparrows.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Misery and Mercy

In the process of working on a book I came across one of the most captivating statements made by Saint Augustine. He was commenting on the encounter Jesus had with the Scribes and Pharisees in which they tried to trap him with Old Testament teaching. A woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus, where was the man, and they quoted the passage that condemned her to be stoned. As Jesus laid open their deceptive hearts and guilty lives they left him and the woman alone.

In a way that only Jesus could and can do, all condemnation was renounced and he gave her freedom and a challenge. His mercy set her spirit free and his justice warned her of the consequences of actions. The two left alone, the guilty and the guiltless, the sinner and the sinless, the lawbreaker and the advocate. Alone before God, as we all will be at some point in time. Back to Augustine. He writes, "the two were left alone: Misery and Mercy."

Doesn't that thought just thrill your heart? Picture with me the most vivid example of human misery. A soul ensnared and chained by actions and depravity, lost in despair and ruined by repetitive failings. Mercy enters the room and it flames with light. A head hung low with eyes focused on dirt is lifted heavenward. The scars and bruises of life are covered in the healing oil of Mercy. Mercy, the very act of God in which the pain and guilt of sin is removed and the deepest understanding of new life and forgiveness is revealed.

Facing my Creator I will stand, "The two were left alone: misery and Mercy."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thoughts on Moving and the Collection of Stuff

I wonder when mankind began collecting stuff. I don't think our very early ancestors had to many worries when it came to moving around the land. Favorite spear for hunting and hide for keeping warm were probably pretty much their only concern. Later they had to figure how to keep and carry their fire, no need for a moving company yet. When Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt their bags were packed and they were ready to go, the taxi was waiting it's blowing, sorry wrong thoughts. They had their sandals on and their stomachs were full and the staff was in their hand. No extra stuff on their move, nothing to slow them down or distract them. So, when did we start with this collecting of stuff?

It only took the movers four hours to unload their truck, it will take us four weeks to unpack the boxes. I look around and so many things we have because they bring back a special or important memory. End tables that have been around for fifty or sixty years, they look old and worn, yet we will keep them and pass them on because they have significance for us. The same is true of countless pieces of glassware, pottery, pictures and the special item that brings a smile or a tear. Going through some items that belonged to Donna's mom have been especially touching. A bag of quilt squares that are close to one hundred years old, passed down to the fourth generation.

I spent some time questioning the need to hold on to things. The question bothered me for some time in light of the fact that January 22, 1997 our house burnt to the ground and with it 23 years of precious belongings, baby pictures, school work from the children, baskets made by hand by a lady in a leper colony who had only a part of a thumb. All turned to mud and ash. A few things survived because I had left them in one of the barns.

I would like to say that I am a man who lives a very simple and uncluttered life, that might be my desire but it is not my reality. There are many items that hold a great amount of significance for me. I guess as long as I keep them in proper perspective it is fine. I don't worship or turn anything into an Icon, a few things could come close. I have a three volume set of sermons preached by John Wesley that is priceless. They were printed at the turn of the 19th century and never read cover to cover because many of the pages remain uncut. Those books I hold very dear, yet I know their place.

I guess I will always have stuff and will always think I have too much stuff and will always think I should have less stuff.