CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Next spiritual adventure coming up…fast!!

Ok, that’s a bit corny, but I couldn’t stop myself.

Our church leaders have called for a week-long fast starting at 6:00 PM on March 1, 2012.  I have fasted in the past, usually for a day, consisting of water only, or water and Gatorade.  Beth and I have also done the “Daniel fast” for ten days during Lent.

The Daniel fast is based on the book of Daniel in the Bible, in which Daniel and his companions ate only vegetables for a time period.  The fast consists of fruits and vegetables only; no meat of any kind, no dairy.  No processed anything.  No processed flour (white or whole), no baked goods.  In my viewpoint, if it tastes good, you can’t have it.  No coffee, no tea, no soda pop, no milk, no juice.  Just water and veggies.  Basically, if it grows in the ground or on a tree it’s fair game.  Other than that, forget it.

Ok, I’m not a big veggie fan, I take multi-vitamins so I don’t have to eat veggies.  So a ten-day period of time in which that’s all I eat is not exactly something I’m going to jump up and down for.  The Daniel fast is basically a vegan diet, only more restrictive.  Joy, rapture.  How about instead of the fast, I just give myself a papercut and squirt some lemon juice on it?  It’d be kind of painful, and over more quickly.  No, I guess not.

This year the fast being planned is a bit different.  It’s only a week-long, so that’s a bit more palatable (pun intended).  However, it’s not precisely like the Daniel fast.  Here’s the schedule for this year’s fast: Day one is water only.  Day two and three is water and juice only, and the juices are 100% fruit juices only, no preservatives or additives of any kind.  Day three through seven are then Daniel fast oriented.

From a physiological perspective, I know that this will be good for me.  There are all kinds of physical benefits from a fast such as this.  Spiritually, I know this will be good for me as well.  Fasting is a spiritual sacrament that is assumed.  In other words, the Bible doesn’t say, “If you fast,” but it says “When you fast.”  It is assumed that we will fast.  Just as it is assumed that we will pray.  The fact is, I don’t fast enough.  Not that I’m looking for a regular schedule for it…

See, I’m not just fond of food, I love food.  I love the taste, the texture, the smell, the appearance, everything.  I’m certainly no gourmand.  I love all kinds of food, from hot dogs and beans to a nice roast and boiled potatoes to squab and asparagus.  If you need to get classified information from me, there’s no need for torture.  Just set me down in front of an “everything” pizza and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.

With that as background, I think it is easy to see that I am not looking forward to this fast.  I am really, really, not looking forward to it.  But.  I have committed.  And I know God is here.  And God uses situations that appear to be unsavory (another food reference, there) in huge ways.  As an example, I seem to remember reading something about a missions trip to the Dominican Republic.  This is going to be interesting.

(for more information on the Daniel fast, check it out at http://danielfast.wordpress.com/)

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Thank you, Father.

I think it was probably clear that God did a great work in me during our recent week-long mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Unbelievable, awesome, needed, wonderful. But then we come back to the “real world,” with all its distractions, troubles, irritations, frustrations, and on and on.

The past couple of weeks have been good, but not necessarily easy.  I have been reconnected to God in a way that I haven’t been in years.  But the tendency, I think, is to fall into accustomed patterns, familiar habits.  Kind if like slipping into a comfortable pair of boots that you’ve worn forever.  But sometimes, even though they’re comfie, they are useless, practically speaking. They are no longer waterproof, and maybe not even eater resistant. They have holes in them, no tread, and can only be held together with duct tape.

We had planned this trip last fall, but my mother began her final adventure here on earth, and Beth and I had to postpone this trip.  At the time we were a bit frustrated.  We needed that time for major decompression, just to regain some strength to continue.

But isn’t God’s timing amazing?

We came down to Black Bear Cabins Thursday evening and will be leaving tomorrow, Sunday morning. Although I gave a good attempt, I cannot tell you how much we were looking forward to it. The solitude, quiet, woods, winter, everything. In that, we were not disappointed. The cool thing is that it has been more than we expected.

Yesterday was a day of introspection for me. Beth notices and remarked that I was “reflective.” Good word. I had a song running through my head all day. It was Kari Job’s “We Are.

Kari Jobe sings “We Are:” http://youtu.be/f0vKeICJBMI

I’m not sure why, but it just kept playing over and over in my mind. And it was great to reflect upon.

Today, the song in my head is Sidewalk Prophets‘ “You Love me Anyway.”

Sidewalk Prophets, “You Love me Anyway:” http://youtu.be/f0vKeICJBMI

The emphasis here is on “How You love me.” And that is sweet water, pure music, balm to the soul.

God used the D.R. as a foundation to bring me back closer to Him; a huge rocket engine to gain liftoff. This weekend has been a booster to keep me from falling back to earth, to keep my trajectory toward the heavens.

I am refreshed. I am renewed. And I am in love with my King.

Oh, I cannot wait!

Last year, Beth and I “discovered” Black Bear Cabins in Cook Forest.  On our first trip there I was somewhat filled with concern and consternation.  When I think of a cabin in the “big woods,” I think of moss on the roof, musty on the inside, perhaps a bit, uh, “unkempt.” Nasty fireplace, bugs, and maybe rodents.  I’d rather sleep in a tent.

However, what a great surprise!  The cabins are clean, heated, small kitchen, and in great condition.  Our weekend was really relaxed.  Quiet, beautiful setting in the woods, we loved it.  We determined to not let that be the last time there.

So, through the spring and part of summer, we decided to make another reservation in the fall.  We did, and we were really looking forward to the trip.  My mother became ill just about the time we were to go, and we had to postpone the trip.  The management was kind enough to allow us to just pick another weekend.

And that’s this weekend!!  Oh, man, the anticipation.  No phones, no computer, just Beth and me, reading, relaxing, maybe watching a movie, but mostly just hanging out.  We packed a couple of books, some magazines, and a couple games.  And of course, I cannot leave my most excellend cigars behind, either.  I wouldn’t rule out a walk in the woods, either.

Just a bit more about Black Bear Cabins.  They’re located just outside Cooksville, PA, near Cook Forest State Park.  They’re open all year, and reservations can be made with a phone call.  They are now associated with Gateway Lodge Bed and Breakfast, and reservations are made through Gateway Lodge.  Although I cannot personally vouch for Gateway Lodge, Their setting is also gorgeous, clean, and a fantastic setting.

 As much as I love scuba, I am looking forward to a weekend of “enforced sloth,” with maybe a walk or two included.  This is gonna be great!

Check out Black Bear Cabins at: http://blackbearcabins.com/ (disclaimer:  I borrowed the above photos from their website).  Check ’em out.  I highly recommend this spot! 

You know, as I read this over, it sounds like a paid endorsement.  I wish!  I am raving about Black Bear because I love it that much.  And we will be there soon.  Just not soon enough!

I am just not used to this (part two).

Sunday morning, I woke up mostly refreshed and ready to go.  Surprisingly, my cold was still present, but only a fraction of what it had been.  I have never had that dramatic a turnaround inside of a few hours before in my life!

We got ready and went to church.  Beth had already told our worship team leader I probably wouldn’t sing, but I felt fine.  I’m a tenor, and often tell people that “real men sing real high.”  I wasn’t confident in my ability to hit the high notes, but one of our singers gave me a few Fisherman’s Friend cough drops.  Between the miraculous health turnaround, and the cough drops, I sang better and “purer” than I have in a while.  Very cool!

Pastor Bob gave his message, dealing mostly with fasting as presented in the New Testimant.  Our Elders have called for a church-wide fast, starting on March 1, and continuing for a week.  I will post on that topic another time.

The message was timely and well done (no shocker there),  and I was called forward to give the presentation.  The report went very well, and I could feel God’s presence.  At the end, I was grateful for God’s blessing, and was told by a number of people that it was well done.

What surprised me was how I felt most of the rest of Sunday.  I have been in theater productions, singing, band, and other “performance” type things most of my life.  And normally afterwards I’m jazzed, elated, high as a kite.  Not this time.  I couldn’t really place it, but if anything I felt like I was unworthy.  I was uncomfortable with the kind words spoken to me after the talk.

T.H. White wrote a book, The Once and Future King, consisting of three stories of King Arthur and his knights.  I am relating the following from memory, but I have not read the book in several years.  Almost every legend of King Arthur contains an affair between Lancelot and Guinevere.  In White’s version, they are in anguish over their affair, as they both love Arthur, but seem compelled to continue the affair.

In the second “book,” a knight falls ill, and it is determined that the only thing that will save him is the touch of a knight that is “pure.”  Lancelot is considered to be the “purest of the pure,” but refuses to touch the sick knight, due to his affair with Guinevere.  The other knights try, but nothing works, and the ill knight is dying.  Lancelot, dreading the moment, steps forward to touch the knight.  He knows that when he does, the truth will out.  But he has no choice; he touches the knight.  And the knight is healed.  The kingdom rejoices, the knights celebrate, but Lancelot, kneeling on the ground, weeps with a broken heart.  He knows the truth, and God, in His graciousness, worked through Lancelot in spite of Lancelot’s deficiencies.

That’s how I felt yesterday.  Totally unworthy, and levelled by God’s grace.  Rather than being elated, I was troubled.  Unworthy.  Low.  Amazed that God can speak through someone like me.  “Oh, wreched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24.  I am just not used to God usingme!

I wasn’t exactly depressed, but I was other than happy.  And I was that way most of the day.

But it occurred to me that I couldn’t stay that way, and Beth encouraged me to not get stuck in that place.  I think that’s the trick.  I think it’s good that I reacted as I did, but if I stayed there it would turn into a blackness that would just drag me back where I was before.  That is the last thing I want at this point in my life.  So, praise God!  If I did well, if I did poorly, God loves me no less and no more, and wants relationship with me.  That is beyond cool.

I am just not used to this (part one).

When we returned from our short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic, we talked about sharing our experiences at church, First Baptist Church in North East, PA.  I know this is pretty standard fare for people serving in this capacity.  One goes on a mission trip, comes back, and talks about the trip at church.  What isn’t standard is that I was “volunteered” to speak.  I kind of thought we would all speak for a couple of minutes, but was unanimously (minus one) voted down.  It was decided that I would speak for the group.  Lovely.

Our pastor, Bob Klecan, agreed that a presentation would be appropriate, and he figured ten minutes would be a good time for the report.  He scheduled me to speak yesterday, February 19.  I wasn’t too worried about it, I write fairly well, and I belong to Noon-Time Toastmasters in Erie, PA.  So I was comfortably confident I could turn out something coherent and present it in an acceptable fashion.  This isn’t to brag, I’m just saying that the basic skills required were not a huge concern.  I just wanted to honor God with what I did.

Through the week I worked on it, and as of Saturday I had about four minutes, thirty-eight seconds.  Wow!  Expanding this would not be difficult, I was happy to add stuff that I had been afraid would not fit.  Beth made a couple of suggestions which I incorporated, and I got the talk ready to go.  I made a few fine-tuning changes later on Saturday, and even Sunday morning until just before service started.  I prayed about it, Beth prayed about it, and we prayed about it together.  I was confident that I would at least present it ok, and not embarrass myself.  Good enough for me.

I have been fighting a cold for a week or so, but getting better.  I did not think that would be a factor.  However, on Saturday I sneezed for about five minutes straight.  When I was done sneezing, my nose became a faucet and my sinuses were completely clogged.  Beth and I serve on the worship team at church, with Beth being one of the guitarists, and I am one of the singers.  With the unbelievably nasty cold hitting like a blizzard (uh, flood?), I was doubtful I could sing, and was concerned about my ability to talk on Sunday

The cold hit me mid-morning Saturday, just before I started working on the talk.  So, I did what I would expect anyone in that position to do.  I took my laptop, got a cup of coffee, and headed out to our unattached, unheated garage to work on the missions report.  One might ask why in the world I would do that?  Well, the answer is that I had determined to smoke one of the Dominican cigars I brought back while working on the report.  And I’m not permitted to smoke my cigars in the house.  So, I was left with no choice but to work in the cold, cruel wastes of northwestern Pennsylvania, sheltered only by an unheated garage, and with a nasty cold no less!  See how cruel my wife can be?  (Kidding, honey!!)

In any event, I was fairly calm about the whole thing, cold and all.  We went to bed Saturday night, and I prayed (and we prayed) that God would take away the cold for Sunday morning.  Vitamin C, zinc, echinacea tea, NyQuil, and lights out.  Interestingly, Saturday night I wound up doing an all-nighter; I’m at the age where that means I don’t have to get up even once to use the bathroom.

Maybe I’m just easily amused.

On Sunday afternoon, they described the various jobs we could do.  I wound up working for the medical team, and volunteered for crowd control.  It fit in well with my background and experience, and I did pretty well with it, too.  I’m a pretty big guy (six-foot three, 240 lbs.), and John figured it wasn’t that I was talented, it’s just that I take up so much room in the doorway, no one could get around me even if they wanted to.  Real funny, John.

Anyhow, on Monday The Medical team set up in a small church, and we established the entrance and exit points.  I got myself set up, and was on my way to getting a rhythm going.  Debbie had written out a few phrases for me in Spanish that were quite useful, such as espera aqui (wait here).  She also taught me “basta,” (enough) which she laughingly called a magic word.

As Monday was running, an older guy came along and saw the crowd waiting to get in to see a doctor.  He started yelling at the crowd, and was pretty loud and angry.  This continued for a couple of minutes, and some in the crowd turned and looked at me and made a circle around their ear with their finger.  I guess that’s a kind of international motion for “nuts.”  This old guy saw them doing that, and in addition to yelling began using the same motion, and pointing in our direction.  I can’t be positive, but I’m pretty sure he was either saying that they were nuts for going in to see these foreign doctors, or else he was saying everyone inside were crazy and if you’re smart, you’ll stay away from them.  Either way, he kept at it for probably five minutes or so.  I finally got tired of listening to him, and caught his eye, and yelled at him, “BASTA!!”  Holy smoke, it is a magic word!  He shut up like someone flipped a switch.  He stood there a second, then turned and walked away, turning and yelling as he went.  Wow, that was kind of cool.

One of the things they wanted us to do at MGM was to go to a different local church almost every evening.  Very good experience, very interesting, uplifting, and educational.  Since she had first gone to the D.R., Beth had talked about one of the churches she attended, the “cowboy church.”  She was really looking forward to going back, and hoped that we would indeed go to the “cowboy church” when we were there.  Sure enough, one evening we were scheduled to do just that.  We dressed appropriately, got in the cattle trucks, and away we went.  It was about a half-hour, maybe a bit more one way on back roads and multiple turns.

About two-thirds of the way in, Beth leans over to me, and says, “Just so you’re aware, this is a pretty Pentecostal church.  Last time there were people whirling and dancing, and one woman kind of hysterically crying.”  Oh, be still my beating heart!  I believe in the worship gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I am much more comfortable worshiping in other ways.  And really, Beth, you couldn’t tell me this a half-hour ago?  I’m kind of stuck now, I’d never find my way back even if I did try to get home from here.  Great.

Once we got there and were unloading, I asked Beth, “So, what was it that you liked about the service here?”  Beth’s reply?  “Oh, I didn’t like the service at all.  I just liked the ride out.”  In all fairness, the ride was truly spectacular.  The scenery, the stars.  Unbelievable.  Orion was right overhead, and you could almost count the “seven sisters” in the Pleiades.  I truly loved the ride.  And I truly love my wife.  But at that particular moment…

I actually loved the truck rides.  That is one of the plethora of things I didn’t want to do before the trip, but even rides of an hour and twenty minutes were fine.  Just another pleasant surprise.

I remember on one ride, we went over a rather substantial river.  Not an uncommon occurrence, and often there was on either side of the bridge three or four crumbling remains of old bridges.  Apparently, when a bridge is destroyed by a hurricane, instead of rebuilding the old bridge, they just build a new one and re-route the road a hundred feet or so.  Not sure why, but there it is.

Anyhow, on this one trip, as we went over the river I leaned over to John and said that I wouldn’t mind scuba diving that river.  John said, “Um, from what I’ve heard, there are parasites in the rivers here that look for, uh, ‘crevices’ to live in and they do bad things.”  What??  I think I’ll re-think that position.  Nasty parasites.  Leave my crevices alone!

It was on another truck ride that I had my finest moment.  My sense of humor is considered by some to be, uh, “juvenile.”  I prefer to think of it as “finely tuned.”  Anyhow, potty humor and bodily functions are nearly always funny, and this trip was no exception.

We were on the way home from a fairly distant village, and I was in a good mood.  The temperature was warm and the wind as we stood in the back of the truck felt great.  I had a full water bottle, and realized that this was a great time for a prank.  I unscrewed the top, and let go with a huge fake sneeze while simultaneously snapping the water bottle up into the breeze.  John was covered in water, and having seen what I did, laughed and said what a shame that his water bottle was empty.  Unfortunately for me, the nurses behind John didn’t know it was a prank and thought I had sneezed all over everyone in the truck.  It wasn’t until the next day that I found out their mistaken impression, and had to explain myself.  I felt kind of bad, but is it wrong that I couldn’t stop laughing?  I also had to explain myself to one of the doctors that thought I snotted all over her, too.  She kind of saw the humor in the situation, but I guess the nurses and her don’t have as finely tuned a sense of humor as I do…

Not just solemn lessons learned.

This has been a very interesting journey.  On this blog  site, I have chronicled my frustrations, my reservations, my anger at going on a short-term missions trip to the Dominican Republic.  And I have posted that much to my surprise and gratitude, it was a fantastic trip.

But in reading my posts about the trip, it might seem like this was just a solemn, pious, boring trip.  And it was anything but that.  I haven’t laughed that hard or that often in a great while, and my wife Beth said the same thing.  Of course, some of the stuff wasn’t funny to me except in retrospect, and I was so cranky about the whole thing that the laughter didn’t start until at least Tuesday or Wednesday, but that’s ok, I’m a bit slow sometimes.

It started on Sunday.  Saturday night when we arrived, we were told some of the rules, with a full orientation to be given on Saturday at 3:00 PM.  One of the things we were told right up front is that the septic systems in the D.R. cannot handle toilet paper, and they have a strict rule about not putting used toilet tissue in the toilet and flushing it.  We had to put it in waste containers beside the toilet.  In fact, our friend Jen told the entire group that if you forget and put the tissue in the toilet, “Don’t flush.  Go fishing.”  Hardy-har.  Real funny.  Especially since I forgot (just once).  Any idea how gross it is to have to retrieve such an item and put it in the waste container?  *Sigh*

At the Sunday meeting, we were introduced to the various areas available for us to volunteer our time during the week.  I had no idea what I was going to do, but at least I would be with one of my teammates from our church.  I was not real comfortable being in that place with a bunch of people I didn’t know, and took comfort in knowing I would be around at least one of the other four from home.

I am not a handyman.  I’m not too bad at home projects big or small, but I don’t enjoy them.  And (speaking in my attitude at the beginning of the week) if I had to go on this stupid trip I’ll be hanged if I do anything that smacks of handy work.  So when they said they had light construction and painting, I was able to rule them out in about a nano second.  Beth, my lovely, supportive, wonderful wife, who I held tighter on that trip than Linus held his security blanket, pipes up in a chirpy, cheerful voice, “I’m gonna paint!”  Say what?  Great, just great.  One down, but I have three to go.  Out of the remaining three, I’m fairly sure I’ll be with someone from home on one of the groups.  Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the kids in the village?  Not likely, before the end of the week, I’ll likely wind up in a Dominican jail, and wouldn’t that be just lovely?  Steph decided that was for her.  Two down, two to go.

Then there’s the prayer team, which went into the villages with the medical, dental, and optical teams (and VBS).  Ok, I pray frequently, but walking around asking strangers to pray wouldn’t likely happen at home, let alone in a place that, as we all know, I was not real thrilled to be at in the first place.  Debbie, John’s wife, decided to go with the prayer team.  Three down.  Now I’m getting nervous.

I asked John what he thought he might do, and he said he was thinking about going with the medical team.  Whew!  That’s what I was thinking, so now I’m a bit relieved.  Wow, I was worried a bit there, God, thanks that John’s going medical with me.  John and I went and sat down, and listened to the presentation by the medical team leader.  After, oh, maybe five minutes, John leans over and says, “I’m gonna go see what the prayer team’s gonna do.”  Are you kidding me??!!?  Real good, God, way to maneuver me into a position of maximum discomfort.  Was that really necessary?  Well, yeah, I guess in retrospect it kind of was.  And I have posted on what God did with it.  I can kind of giggle about it now that I’m on this side of the situation, but I gotta tell you, I was less than happy at the time.

John often wound up riding on the same cattle truck that I did, since the prayer team travelled with the medical team.  So I did have the comfort of a friend nearby, at least for the ride out and back.  But after he left me sitting on the bench, I shoulda heaved him over the side.

…more to come…

Is honor a bad thing?

John, a friend of mine, texts me Bible verses fairly frequently, and occasionally a quote or thought.  He sent me a quote a couple of days ago.  Here it is.

The Decline of the Secular University, C. John Sommerville writes, “An ethical system based on honor is a self-regarding ethic, while one based in charity is an other-regarding ethic… With honor goes a concentration on pride rather than humility, dominance rather than service, courage rather than peaceableness, glory rather than modesty, loyalty rather than respect for all, generosity to one’s friends rather than equality.”  John then asked if I agree or disagree.  Here are my thoughts.

In the above quote, clearly Sommerville is not talking about honor, as it is defined.  Honor defined is usually something similar to, “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions: a man of honor,” (Dictionary.com).  What Sommerville is referring to is a life based on honor.  That is, I think, a life in which honor is the central tenet of one’s existence.  Kind of, to borrow a Star Trek reference, a Klingon approach to life.

My first thought about the quote is that I see what Sommerville is driving at.  But I don’t entirely agree with him.  The opposite of honor is dishonor, and no one would prefer a life that is based on that.  So, right away we can disregard honor’s opposite as an appropriate lifestyle.  However, Sommerville is not advocating a life based on the opposite of honor.

Broken down, Sommerville seems to be defining honor as “Concentration on pride, dominance, courage, glory, loyalty, and generosity to one’s friends.”  I think Sommerville’s point is that he is advocating a life that is based on something superior to honor, a life based on “humility, service, peaceableness, modesty, respect for all, and equality.”

Ok, now look at each word individually.  Pride.  Dominance.  Courage.  Glory.  Loyalty.  Generosity to friends.  Humility.  Service.  Peaceableness.  Modesty.  Respect for all.  Equality.  I realize that a couple of those words or concepts have negative connotations, such as pride and dominance.  But in a proper context, each word or concept is a positive, and I think, a Godly concept.  I know I’m going to catch some flak for that, especially for pride and dominance.  However, on these two words, let’s look at a couple of thoughts.

If I am an architect and I design a truly beautiful building, is it a “Godly” thing to denigrate it, to say it is nothing?  That is what many Christian sources would espouse.  Of course we should give God the glory, but is it “ungodly” or “un-Christian” to be pleased with a work well done?  Think of a Christian singing artist.  Should they not be pleased with the beautiful songs they write, produce, sing?

And dominance.  How many times did God command the Israelites to completely dominate their enemies?  Think of Paul in his epistle to the Galatians.  Clearly he was asserting his dominance over the false teachers that had crept in.  So, in certain circumstances, dominance is a good thing.

Conversely, under the proper circumstance, each and every one of the words Sommerville used can be a negative.  I will show what I mean with just a couple of the words above.

Peaceableness is a good thing, right?  But what happens when a madman breaks into your home at 3:00 in the morning and charges you with a butcher knife held high.  Is it a morally superior, or a more Christian position to be at that moment and whatever the cost, peaceable?  I think that argument silly, at best.  Further, look at the New Testament.  There are several instances of soldiers being saved, or Christians, or whatever.  How sensible is it to expect a soldier to be peaceable, no matter the situation?  Or a policeman.  Perhaps someone would argue that yes, no matter what, the soldier or policeman would be taking a morally superior, or more Christian, approach to shun violence no matter what the situation may be.  Until it is someone dear to that person that a terrorist is about to behead.  Or their loved one that a maniac is about to mutilate.  I think that any sane person would want a soldier or policeman, even if a Christian, to use whatever force necessary to save their loved one.

What about service, that’s a good thing, right?  Sure is, but should we always be in attitude of service, no matter what?  We provide service to our children when they are born.  They are helpless and cannot survive without a caregiver providing for all intents and purposes, unlimited service.  We do this because it is what they need, and because we love them.  But at some point it becomes our task to train them as well as care for them.  And as time goes on, if we have done our jobs as parents, we serve them less and train them more, until the day that they “leave the nest” and strike out on their own.  But what if we “served” them their entire lives?  What if we never told them “no,” but provided them their every whim, their every desire?  Service would cease to be a good thing, and at some point, a bad thing.

Finally, go to any Bible concordance and look at “honor.”  There are probably dozens of references using that word.

My point here has been that each thing is neither always good nor always bad.  What is important, I think, is the attitude of our hearts.  Do I have a heart centered on Christ?  Or do I have a heart that is centered on (fill in the blank, using any of the words in the Sommerville quote).  I think that anytime my heart is not focused on Christ, I have missed the mark.  I cannot focus on pride or humility.  I cannot focus on dominance or service.  I must focus on Christ, and Christ alone.  I do not think that the Christian life and a life of honor are mutually exclusive.  But anything that takes our focus off Christ has become an idol, and therefore, evil.

I’m going to go out on a limb, here.  I am asking for comment on this.  My arguments make sense to me, but that isn’t the end of the matter.  I am asking for you to comment on this and give arguments, with or against me.  I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Friends (part two).

When we got to the Dominican Republic on Saturday, January 28, we got our bags and went to the parking lot where they had a cattle truck waiting for our bags, and a school bus for us to ride to the Meeting God in Missions facilities.  I think Beth told me that the truck was one that we would likely be riding on that week.   Remember, at this point I was still very much unhappy with this whole concept.  So here I am in a country I don’t want to be in, waiting in a parking lot and loading my luggage in a truck that really don’t want to be riding in for an entire week, getting on a school bus that I don’t want to ride in to go to a place that I don’t want to have anything to do with.

The driver was a rather big guy that didn’t smile at all.  We sat in about the second or third seat, and I had a real good view of him in the mirror above his head.  It seemed like his eyes were at half-mast for most of the trip.  At this point in our adventure, I am not impressed.

Later on, I learned his name is Victor, and he drove for us quite a bit through the week.  He didn’t seem overly friendly, and as I loosened up, I just kind of figured he simply wasn’t real outgoing, and let it go at that.  Maybe around Wednesday, I saw him smiling and laughing at something, and remember being a bit surprised.

While travelling, I made a couple of jokes with him as he was driving, usually on a difficult stretch of road.  I asked Beth how to say “go faster” in Spanish, and would holler it out to him.  He looked back in the mirror kind of surprised, I guess, that someone would be talking to him, and when I told him to “go faster,” his eyes got real wide, and he kind of smiled and shook his head.  Well, well.  I got to where I liked Victor quite a bit.

At the end of the week, Beth and I sorted our clothes, which to take home, and which to leave (we had decided before leaving home to donate what we could before we left).  I’m a fairly big guy, and in talking with Brian, I realized that there aren’t very many Dominicans or Haitians that could possibly wear my clothes.  It’d be more likely that a family could get a couple of my shirts and make a tent.

In any event, one of the guys I thought of was Victor.  He’s a big guy, too.  I had an Edinboro t-shirt, so I gave it to him at the end of the week.  Makes a great photo.

Braulio was one of the drivers, and it seemed like he was one of the senior drivers there.  He drove when Beth was in the D.R. a couple of years ago, and she really enjoyed riding the trucks with him at the wheel.  He also is a big guy, easy-going, and has a good time with the people at MGM.  Just a lot of fun.

Tito is the brother of Meirka, a Dominican woman who Beth connected with last time.  Tito is really athletic and muscular; you should see him swing a ball bat.  He was kind of the door guard, making sure that unauthorized people didn’t get in, and that the gates were locked/unlocked at the appropriate times.  I had a chance to sit and talk (kind of) with him a couple of times, and really, really got to enjoy being around him.

I was honored to give a couple of shirts to Braulio.  Tito got my suitcase.

I know that it could look like the “rich” American giving cast-offs to the “little people.”  Yep, I am an American.  Yep, by D.R. standards I’m probably wealthy.  Yep, I gave from my surplus.  But in my case, I was honored to give good stuff to people who I considered to be my friends before I decided to give them anything.  I refuse to apologize for where I happened to be born, and I like to help my friends wherever I can.  And thanks to God’s mercy and grace, I was able to serve for a short time in the Dominican Republic.  I was surprised to become friends with a few of the Dominicans with which I came into contact, and I was pleased to give them items that they could find useful.  And I am the richer for all that.

Friends (part one).

We were fortunate that when we went down to the Dominican Republic, we were able to stay with some friends of ours that are full-timers with Meeting God in Missions from our Church.  Brian and Jen Heinrich have been with MGM for a year or so, and we haven’t had a chance to spend time with them for quite a while.  Actually, we didn’t have much of a chance to do that last week.  They were busy doing their jobs, and we were busy doing our stuff with MGM for the week.  But it was nice to grab a few minutes here or there to talk with them.  It was nice to get to know their kids a bit better, too.  Their oldest daughter, Jamie, is a really sweet kid, and it was pretty cool to get to see her moving in and out with the people down there, both DR nationals and visitors from the ‘States.  It was also neat to see their son Elliot running around, too.  He’s seven, and still a kid.  he has a bit of a hard time with the Dominican kids, and hung around with the visitors a lot.  I like him.

It was also very interesting to meet new friends, too.  There was one young man who went out with us every day and helped translate between the staff and the Haitians.  His English wasn’t great, but he worked hard at helping.

Through the week I had taken several of those packaged peanut butter/cracker  snacks to hand out to kids or to anyone I felt “led” to give them to.  I also took Kashi bars and peanuts for me to eat.  No lunch, so I would grab a handful of peanuts when I felt like I needed something.  I would usually eat one pack of the peanut butter crackers and a Kashi bar through the day, too.

On Monday, I had been handing out some of the peanut butter crackers, and I thought it time to open one for me.  I looked over, and Tommy was sitting kind of between helping.  I went over and gave him one of the peanut butter cracker packs to eat, and he seemed to appreciate it.  Through the week, we made a habit of this, when I ate one for me, I gave him one, too.  It only took a day to start to feel a bit of bonding with him.

I noticed a lot of the other young interpreters were wearing ball caps.  But not Tommy.   He was “capless,” with his hair just running wild.  I had taken a cap to wear if I needed it, but found I didn’t need a cap, so I just kept it in my backpack.  I considered giving it to Tommy at the end of the week, kind of a “grand going away” present.  But by Wednesday, I felt prompted so strongly (actually I felt like I was being squished, the feeling was so strong) to give Tommy the cap, that I did just that.  You would have thought I just handed him the keys to a new Lexus.  He put it on his head, but it was sized for me, so it kind of looked like a shopping bag would on me.  But the next day, he came in wearing the cap, and looking proud.  I was, too, a bit.  My new friend Tommy.

At the end of the week, he came into the dining area, and handed me a note.  I will type here what the contents were, and as they are in the note.

“Mr: Clark Peter

I hope God bless you greatly going to find a nice week here in Hato Mayor.  For me was a nice Pleasure to share with you During this week and Establish a Friendship much appreciate that.  You know someone special treat others will back here and I hope that we can see a lot more time.  For you and your wife blessings and other family blessings much… Thank you for the attention that you gave me during.  Not at work never forget you for the cap.  God fill you and your rich blessings, barns be filled.   God will save you and yours.  Te Quiero Amigo!!!”

I love you too, Tommy.  You touched my heart.

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