Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Cold Room and A Cold Message

The words from the radio, "On a cold and gray Chicago morn another little baby child is born in the ghetto, and his momma cries" as I listen to Elvis sing I can hear the phone ring downstairs. The voice of Elvis continues and then I hear my mother gasp and begin to cry herself. My bedroom is unheated and cold so it takes a moment to get our from under the covers and head for the stairs. I open the door and the kitchen and dining room are to my left. My mom is crying and my dad is hanging his head. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Lucille are at the table with them.

My dad tells me that the V.A. hospital in Allen Park has just called and a cold voice using cold words tells the Galloway family that Thomas Galloway has expired just minutes ago. The coming hours are a blur and yet a flurry of activity. A call to a funeral home, people in the house, friends calling, sports fans calling and crying. A newspaper calls and words are expected to give detail to a young life, a big Marine, put into a grave, not by an enemy bullet but by an enemy in his blood.

It was early May when Tag first called to give us the devastating sentence that would lead to his death. He had been promoted and his marine buddies had punched him in the arm to congratulate him. Days later he was black and blue from his shoulder down to his hand. The Naval hospital in Pasadena diagnosed him with leukemia and he was headed home as soon as possible. Once in Allen Park at the hospital the full extent of his illness would come down on us like a wrecking ball turning brick to crumbs. Within a couple of weeks massive blood transfusions were required and people from all over the downriver area gave their precious gift.

Tag fought hard and had some brief times of strength and we hoped for recovery. But, when he went back into the hospital as the Oak and Maple leaves came down he commented to my dad that he would not be getting out this time. He never made it home again. They say that the line of cars for his military funeral was a mile long. It didn't matter to any of us at the time. We only knew that our mom and dad were burying our brother.

My parents were never the same and neither were we. The years have come and gone. In 1987 I conducted the funeral for my dad and he was laid to rest next to Tag and my mom. All of us question the unexplainable and we are left with no answer. At times we even doubt the wisdom or even existence of God. Thousand of troubled souls abandon faith and embrace nothingness and emptiness. I have traveled the road of doubt and have questioned the very truth of God.

I am glad that I doubted and questioned. I am glad that I honestly searched for purpose and meaning for mankind. In my search, which has taken me some years, I am convinced more today than ever before that: He was, He is, He always will be. In spite of my belief or unbelief He is.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Monster from the Detroit River

As soon as school got out for the summer it was time for two of my favorite past times- sleeping out and fishing in the Detroit River. At night my brothers and I would catch night-crawlers. Our neighbors who watered their grass were fair game for our late night, flashlight guided, worm hunts. The slimy fish food was tossed into a can and when our slippery and succulent (for the fish) casche reached three or four dozen then it was only a matter of waiting for daybreak.

With the rising of the sun it was off to the river. We would ride our bikes to the Grosse Isle toll bridge. Once across the bridge the bikes were ditched on the side of the road and over the fence we went, fishing poles and worms at the ready. Many will remember that during the mid to late sixties the Detroit River was a bit of a hazardous, combustible, and slightly green movement of what was called water. Needless to say the catch of perch, bullheads, carp and the occasional bass were never eaten due to their combustion properties (smelled like gas).

Well it just so happens that one of our fishing excursions was on an unusually hot day. So after our time of drowning worms and rescuing flammable fish my little brother and I decided to take a swim. We crossed the bridge and went down to the Riverview docks. Off came the jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes. Standing on the end of the dock in our white Fruit-of-the Looms, into the river we dove. After a few minutes of cooling off in the refinery tributary it was time to get out.

Little did I realize, and of course my little brother, who is obviously dumber, he never had a clue, what would happen to us as we enjoyed the coolant. As we climbed onto the dock our white Fruities were a sickly mix of grape green and pea soup. As our luck would have it, as we stood on the dock, a Riverview Police patrol car drove into the parking lot of the dock. We must have looked like Green River Monsters, and I was sure we were beyond recognition. The patrol car did a slow circle in the lot and left.

Well it must have been fate or the Detroit River Specter, but the officer recognized the Galloway kids and promptly told my father of our excursion into the river and the green aftermath. He, dad, was waiting for us when we got home. After a ton of verbiage on the risks of swimming in the river he let us go. We did a lot more fishing that summer but we decided to deal with the heat and stay out of the river.

How many times have you and I thought we were going to get away with something? I could take hours re-telling stupid episodes in which I was sure I would never be found out. Most of the time I was found out, usually in record time. Remember what the Bible has to say about trying to hide your sickly green Fruities, "be sure your sin will find you out."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Slam of the gavel

On Saturday a friend of ours will be conducting an auction at our farm in the Hubbard Lake area. People from far and wide will come to look over, poke through, examine, and probe, through all kinds of stuff. An old antique cream separator, antique apple picking bags, old bouncy horses, a powered wheelchair, 100 gallon tree sprayer and lots of other stuff will go before the gavel of the auctioneer.

I agreed that there would not be any "reserves", that means that what it sells for is it. What I think is worth ten dollars may only be worth a buck. The highest bidder gets the prize, or junk, just a matter of opinion. Now, for the most part it is not such a big deal. Unless, unless something that we value, what determines value, is sold for a pittance. Once it is put into the hands of the auctioneer that is it. Now, a very positive point is this, I have complete, 100% trust, in the auctioneer. She has conducted hundreds of auctions all over the state. And, she is a good friend.

So, this Saturday a lot of stuff will leave the property, never to return. For the most part I will not miss any of it. Donna and I are beginning a new phase in our life and I am enjoying every minute of it. She is pastoring a wonderful congregation and I get to write and work on a mammoth carving and other wood projects. There will however be a bit of sadness as a few of the real treasures leave Genesis Farm.

I am so glad that the value of humanity in general, and me in particular is beyond measure and price. Even mankind in his ugliest hours has the same value as in his most noble and glorious hours. You were not bought back with corruptible things as with silver or gold from your sinful and former ways. But you were bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The highest price ever determined was the price that had to be paid. The lifeblood of the incarnate Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of all that was, is, and to be, was the price.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dance of the Innocents

I closed my eyes as the gifted fingers of our pianist brought to life "Amy's Lullaby." With the world around me shut off I envisioned the lullaby. Jesus is standing on a hillside covered in a blanket of daisies. To his right the hillside slopes away and the flowers converge into a blanket of white, as bright as the purest snowfall. The daisies seem to be dancing as a gentle wind moves up the hillside. Up to his knees in the dancing and waving of the petals he is smiling. He is not grinning or cracking a little smile, like one who is trying to be restrained or respectful. He is smiling with his mouth open wide, for all the world to see.

As the breeze moves and the petals dance I am captivated by the sound of giggles and laughter. It is the laughter of children, the music of the soul, giggles and squeaks, and the beautiful blending of the glee of boys and girls. Up the hillside they come, some running, some skipping, some falling and tumbling in the field of dancing flowers. Jesus is standing there with his arms outstretched, with such a smile that he is expecting all of the children to jump into his arms.

As the children run and dance and skip their way up the hill they take no notice of the language, color or clothing of their partner in the dance. There is no language in laughter, for it is universal, there is no disdain of clothes for all are wearing the same white, white as bright as the snow, the same white that Jesus is standing in. Theirs are the colors of every nation and every tribe that has ever graced the earth.

As they dance and laugh I can sense that these precious children are the Innocents. Fragile and helpless sons and daughters of the land. Innocent ones taken from the earth, from the arms of their mothers and the sheltering strength of their fathers. Taken by the evil design of men. Taken by the greed and envy and lust of those whose hearts are consumed with the thirst of power and rule.

Many of the dancing Innocents move towards Jesus and I can tell by the purity of their smile that they are laughing and dancing by the grace of God, as their lungs never filled and their feet never felt the earth. I know as a certainty that these that are dancing the Dance of the Innocents are so happy to see Jesus. They feel his embrace, their spirit innocent and free does not sense the wrong that has been done and wish for the day that all mankind will join them in the Dance of the Innocents.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Going to Bed Hungry

It must have been one daunting task to feed seven kids everyday of the week. In our house there were five boys (small horses), and two girls. Mom used to pack our school lunch everyday which meant almost a loaf of bread just for those. And, I never met a boy that only ate one sandwich of any concoction. Mom also made our treats, cookies and cupcakes, by the gross.

Well, as boys will be boys, one of the precious cupcakes came up missing just before supper time. Supper time, means mass grazing for the boys, we didn't have much money but we sure did eat good. Anyway, mom got really upset and knew it was one of her male offspring. How did she know? Nobody confessed to the cupcake caper so dad sent all of the boys upstairs to bed with no supper. No supper, a fate worse than death for five stomachs that required a constant flow of substance for survival, yet alone to thrive and become pillars in our community.

Off to bed, we climbed up the stairs, I was mumbling something to be sure. The three older boys started to argue and accuse each other of the cupcake caper. As the accusations and denials flew across the bedrooms an awful truth began to descend upon us, we are gonna get hungry, in fact we might even stay up all night fighting the severe hunger pains that would descend upon us any minute. With the pains of being famished descending so did the tears.

An older brother, who shall remain nameless, unless he doesn't buy me a steak dinner, headed down the stairs making his speech of confession and blubbering words of contrition. It only took a minute for the rest of the herd to descend the trail and gather at the feed trough. I might never know if that brother was the real culprit of the cupcake caper. In fact, he may have just been the one that was most hungry. After all he did turn out to be six foot six inches. That my friends is a big horse.

Jesus took a lot of time when it came to dealing with food and our earthly needs. On the hillside He fed thousands with a minuscule amount. He grilled fish outside for the disciples. In the upper room He opened a door of grace with bread and wine. And, during a great Jewish feast He declared that He was the Bread of Life. I am so blessed and glad to know that I don't have to go to bed hungry anymore.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Precious in His Sight

Remember, "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world." The truth of that simple Sunday School chorus has brought untold thousands of people closer to God and to the Jesus Christ, lover of all life. I was reminded today of the very special people in the world that are life lovers.

During my teen years I lived a couple of houses down from Mike, we all called him Mikey. Mike was a special needs child, born with Downs Syndrome. One of his greatest times was when he could wrestle with somebody. More than once I was on the receiving end of Mike's great strength. Man, did he love to wrestle. And, on an occasion he would get a little to excited and aggressive. When he knew, or was stopped, from his exuberant body control over his opponent he was always quick to apologize by giving a hug and saying, "I love you." Mike was a joy to know and have as a friend, yes, a friend.

Mike was a "Love Giver", it was his gift to the world and the world was better off. Who on earth, seriously, has the knowledge, wisdom, insight and right, to make the determination of who is a contributor to our world and who is not capable of contributing. It very well may be that at sometime, say, the next century, that the capacity to contribute to the world may become a determining factor in matters of health care or even giving birth. The technology is already upon us in the diagnosis of pre-born health issues.

If, and I say if, our society, our world at large begins to label those who can contribute and those that will take from society, God help us. Indeed, we will need His help. I for one, don't ever want to think of a world where a "Love Giver" like my friend Mike can't wrestle and say, "I love you."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Watch Watching

How many of us are guilty of watch watching? Do you suppose that everybody that wears a watch is guilty of watch watching? Is it kind of like, "A watched pot never boils?" Well, what do I mean, watch watching? I used to see it almost every Sunday morning worship service. First comes the wiggles, the weight adjustment (those pews are so hard), and then Old Joe starts looking at his watch. The closer it gets to noon the more he looks at his watch. I wanted to, but never did, bet somebody that one day Old Joe would either smack himself in the face as he whipped his watch arm up to his glasses, or he would get whiplash as he turned his head to make sure the clock on the back wall was in sync with his watch.

We try so hard to squeeze God into our concept of time and space. When we pray we want an answer right away. If the answer doesn't come quickly we may even try to manipulate the issues to force His Hand. We ought to understand by all of the illustrations in the Bible that God (Jesus), doesn't wear a Rolex. His time is not our time and His timing is perfect. Let me illustrate that point. For ten years Donna and I waited for our letter sending us to Zambia to arrive. We did all of the right things. We prayed a lot and kept informing the administration of our burden and calling.

The letter did come, after ten years of waiting. We left the USA and headed to Zambia the third week of September. After a week of orientation it was already October. On October 7th in a very remote area known as Chavuna-Chinjawa, some fifty miles from our home, a malnourished Tonga mother was dying as she gave birth to a tiny four pound little girl. A superstitious uncle carried the fragile, near death infant, for two days and placed her into Donna's hands. And, he turned and walked away.

Some people may say all of this was coincidence, chance, happenstance. Do you really believe that? I don't for a minute. God in His timing, according to His perfect knowledge and understanding had all of this scheduled right down to the second.

God please help me to stop watch watching.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Knocked Down By a Parasite

The nausea and fever were the first clues that something was wrong with me. I tried to fight it off for the better part of a day and it began to dawn on me that I wasn't going to get any better. I figured that I had better walk up the road to the hospital and have then stick me in the arm and check for bugs. The five minute walk from the house took me twenty and I was soaked with perspiration. The ultra-polite lab student took some blood and I waited a few minutes for our Dutch friend to give me the news.

It didn't take long for the news to come back to me, and everybody else. The big Magua (white guy), has malaria. Well, they put me in one of the small private rooms and tried to make me comfortable. My dear friend, Elvis Shimamvwa, came and told me that if I was good he might bring me a coke. He also told me about the coming malaria attractions that I might look forward to. Like a headache that could make your head explode and digestive issues that are better left undescribed.

I settled in my room and Donna was in to see me. We talked about the only mosquito that we had seen in the last two weeks. There was one lone pointed-strawnosed bugger in Zimbabwe that I couldn't kill. He must have got to me because it takes 5 to 10 days for the parasites to start their work. Later that evening I had some other visitors in my hospital room in the bush. The roaches must have heard that there was a big white guy in one of the rooms. And, they all wanted to come and see me and do relay races down the walls and across my bed.

The headaches and other bodily dysfunctions continued for about three days and then I began to feel a bit better. The anti-malaria drugs began to help and I knew I was on the mend. I realized that I was fortunate because hundreds of people around us died every year of malaria. After a couple of more days I found myself home for a few days rest. The doctor told me that I would feel pretty powerless for a couple of weeks, but should get back to normal.

It is amazing what a small unseen object can do to a person. that Zimbabwean mosquito stuck her straw-nose in to get some blood for her babies and she deposited a parasite that can only be seen through a microscope. Once inside the parasites began their work of reproduction and the destruction of red blood cells. The tremendous headache is caused by the dead blood cells moving through the circulatory system and ending in the brain.

How many dangerous little things do we allow in our lives? I don't know about you, but I can make an excuse or rationalize away a lot of little things. I read once that, "Sin in the heart is more dangerous than gunpowder in the cellar." God help me to allow the search light of your spirit to reveal the little things that want to knock me down.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stars in a Father's Eyes

As I watched Ana turn the corner in the 400m relay I couldn't believe what I was a witness to. Here, before a couple of hundred people, a young lady who was not supposed to live and when she did survive could hardly walk, was gaining on her opponent. She was well behind when the baton was handed off to her, about 30m, due to a difficult hand off at the second leg. Ana was the last runner, the runner who would have to catch up, if they were behind. Well, behind they were, as I watched her turn the corner she was gaining fast on the other runner. Each leg is 100m so the other runner had a clear advantage.

Within 50m of the string Ana pulled up even. The crowd of people were in an absolute uproar. Every person was up on their feet watching this incredible display of determination. I was at the the finish line and looking over the fence, staring straight ahead at Ana. I was yelling at the top of my lungs, "Dig Ana dig, Dig Ana dig." Well, did she ever dig. At the finish she won by a stride and a bit. When I came back down to earth, wiping a lot of tears from my eyes, my eyes met Donna's and we smiled.

Our smile was only a small indication of the joy and thankfulness we had in our hearts and spirits. Our Zambian Speedster was a testament to the Love and Mercy of God. He was the One who gave her strength and determination. He was next to her those many nights when she was so close to the door of death. He was the One that broke the power of the seizures that racked her little body that rainy night in the bush of Zambia. He was the One that gave her the will and the determination to prove every death prediction wrong.

That afternoon, as the crowds cheered and the team-mates hugged and laughed, I was a father with stars in my eyes. I knew that in the darkest night the stars were always there. Even during the storms the stars are still there, and so is the One who hung the stars in space. The stars in my eyes remind me of the Lord, who by His spoken Word cast the universe into place.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Charlie was a disgusting man

Everybody knew that old Charlie was a homeless vagabond. He trudged up and down the streets, at times in the middle, in his gray wool coat and blue stocking cap pulled down on his head. His gray hair was as short as the stubble on his face. It didn't matter what time of the year it was old Charlie dressed the same. All of Charlie's earthly belongs were kept in his red wagon, a Radio Flyer, that was given to him by some kind hearted person.

We hadn't been in our ministry very long when we first met Charlie. We heard about and saw Charlie long before our first meeting. He came around the church on a pretty regular basis. There was always some food in the kitchen or fast food burgers in the freezer. Charlie knew he could eat at least once a day at our church. Well, when we met Charlie for the first time it was late August and still pretty warm. Charlie looked, and smelled, pretty bad, he was living up to his reputation.

Donna, being the kind heart that she was, looked at Charlie with compassion and love. Looking at him she was able to see past the coat, the smell, the dirt and the reputation. She saw a man loved by God, but only by a few people. After finding Charlie something to eat she asked him if he would like a shave and a haircut. He told her that he would really appreciate it if a pretty lady like her was to cut his hair. She led Charlie to the basement bathroom and I found a kit that contained a comb, shave cream and razor.

Donna trimmed Charlies hair and then his eyebrows, which looked more like bramble bushes than eyebrows. When she finished his eyebrows she asked if he would like her to trim his mustache. He told her that it would be nice because he hadn't been able to for a while. Well, what Charlie didn't tell Donna was that he chewed Red Man (tobacco) and it had been years since his mustache had been trimmed. You can just imagine what it was like when Donna ran the comb through Charlie's mustache and about two inches of it came out of his mouth. I had to find her two other combs to complete the task of the mustache trim.

There are unlovable people all around us. Contemporary lepers cross our paths and some of us turn our self-righteous faces away from them. The people that I shun might not be the same people that you would shun and so on and so forth. The fact of the matter is quite simple and plain: That is wrong and we are to love the Charlies of the world as much as we love our self. Jesus did not really give us a lot of options about who we should care about and who should be thrown aside.

God help me to see all people the way I should.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Son Dies of Measles

Mr. Ngoma's three year old son had died of measles and the men came to me and asked if I would say some words at the childs grave. The family lived just outside the mission station and it only took a couple of minutes to make the walk. On the way, Harry, a friend and brother, told me the child had come down with the measles and died in the morning. As I walked down the dirt road with Harry I thought about disease that killed people in Zambia that we didn't think much of anymore. Ana's half brother was almost totally blind due to measles, and now a three year old has died.

I arrived at the village and was greeted by Mr. Ngoma and the other adults in the village. I expressed to him and to his wife my sorrow. About 100 feet from the huts was a small grave that had been dug, about three feet deep and about the same in length. In the bottom of the grave a slab of limestone had been placed. It seemed to fit almost perfect, with the sides and edges all chiseled to the shape of a rectangle. As I waited by the grave three of Mr. Ngoma's brothers arrived, each was carrying at least one piece of limestone. I was amazed as I watched the men place the slabs of stone in the grave making a perfect fit of each piece.

After the last piece was placed in the grave, with the cover set to the side, the son of Mr. Ngoma was brought out of the hut. He was wrapped in his blanket and was very tenderly placed in his hand hewn coffin. The perfectly hewn lid was placed on and one of the elder men began to place dirt on the coffin. After a few minutes the dirt began to mound up and another elder came forward with a tree limb about eight feet in length. The limb had been stripped of all small branches and twigs. The elder man began swinging the limb over his head and slamming it down on the mound of rust colored earth. After a minute or so of this compacting of the ground more was added.

The process of covering the grave continued for around ten minutes. When the men were done with the grave the earth had been tightly packed. Before I was to say a few words the traditional means of farewell took place. The child's plastic cup was placed at the head of the grave. It was to be his marker. At this point a tribute by his mother was given that left me deeply moved for some time. She came to the side of the grave and knelt down next to her son. She removed her wrap exposing her breast. And then she expressed breast milk onto the grave of her son. Her farewell to her flesh and blood was the most tender and moving tribute I had ever witnessed.

I spoke for a couple of minutes about the love Jesus had for all peoples and especially for children. After a reading from the bible I prayed and Harry interpreted into Tonga my prayer. I walked away from that simple grave side service deeply moved and comforted in my own soul in the knowledge of Christ and His great resurrection plan.