The Ultimate Culture Shock

This last Christmas I spent a lot of time thinking about the differences between Jesus’ life in heaven, and what he stepped down into, to be made flesh and live among us.  Let’s see, from being able to dive into the rainbow of glory and the embrace of the Father, to walking by faith and not sight.  From being a focal point of heaven’s adoration, to growing up a poor commoner of an oppressed nation.  From the fellowship of mighty beings calling out the holiness of God, to being jostled in dusty streets by those doubting His goodness.

That, my friends, is culture shock.

Learning life here in Costa Rica, I feel some of it, too.  After four months of “no way,” I honestly got emotional the other day in the grocery store.  I let myself use my fun money to buy a favorite treat: Swiss cheese at $8 a pound (in Nebraska, you pay $4).  I cried the first time we test drove a car for sale because I missed my “Ferrari”—our nice used minivan purchased with 90,000 miles on it.  When my dear mentor was dealing with a sore hip and couldn’t reach her toenails to cut them, it broke my heart.  The offer to stop by every week for a little pedicure was on the tip of my tongue, but nail clippers don’t work over the phone.  These are small things, I know.  But life in a new culture is full of them.  They pile up around you, and sooner or later you have to work through them if you are going to move forward.

We know that Jesus dealt with changes much greater and more profound. He gave up his face time with the father and all that he had, to walk out God’s calling.  He even did it without sinning.  What does that mean to us?  To me, it means that he is worthy to ask us to live in a new way to bring the Father glory.  When something is hard for us, Jesus understands.  We don’t have to hide the struggle. He’s ready and waiting for us to invite him into the furnace, and he has the power to help us walk through the flames.  Swiss cheese or no Swiss cheese.

Light of Dawn

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.  Hebrews 4:15-16

In all their suffering he also suffered,
    and he personally rescued them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them.
    He lifted them up and carried them
    through all the years.  Isaiah 63:9

How I Met a Best Friend

The Christmas lights were twinkling over bright packages, and I knew we had a problem.  Two boxes Matt had just placed under artificial evergreen with my name on them were the exact size and shape of the ones I had wrapped for him.   A surreptitious shake confirmed it.  We had bought each other the same game and expansion pack.  However much we enjoyed Settlers of Catan, there was no need for duplicates.  I can leave cards and gifts unopened for days on the mantle to savor the anticipation, but am barely able to keep from bleating every gift idea that comes to mind for my husband.  The “spill it” pow-wow convened immediately.  A few minutes later Matt headed out into an ice storm to take back the more expensive set because the return window was closing in.  We were suddenly short on gifts for each other, but the humor of our like-thinking made for even better memories.

Full of holiday treats and contented thoughts, we gathered for worship a few days after the last of the balled-up wrapping paper shot hoops into trash bags.  Our church family was entering a season of focus on God’s word, and Pastor gave us a tour of the One Year Bible.   I saw it across a crowded sanctuary and knew we were kindred spirits.

Oh, I had followed a one year reading plan years before, with ribbons in four different places and a sticky note travelling dutifully down the printed schedule.  It was cumbersome.  I found myself taking liberties and reading ahead in different sections on an alternating basis because keeping track of assigned verses somehow crimped the flow.  I had read it that year, though.  Without a plan, my time in the word often dwindled into the land of “should be’s.”

But opening to the single ribbon mark for each day’s portion of old and new testaments, psalms and proverbs, pre-measured and printed out for me in order, would make the whole process a joy rather than an effort.  I thrive on structure and confess to being a reluctant “looker upper.”  Those bible studies where you need to look up nine different verses to answer one question, we don’t get along very well.  But get me in the word and I can breathe in the presence of my savior like nobody’s business.  And isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?  Besides, how could I not be drawn in by it’s good looks?  Soft green and dark brown with an imprint of flowers and leaves, it was a beautiful invitation to come spend time with my Lord.

So after service, Matt and I bought each other bibles for Christmas–he chose a more manly edition.  We read along with our church family, got behind and caught up as needed, finishing the year closer to the Lord than we had started it.  As he moved on to a new translation and a new plan for the coming year, I lingered over my new friend, debating.  It would be fun to do something different, but there was so much I enjoyed about our time together.  I wanted another pass through all those underlined verses that had come alive to me the year before, and the notes I’d written in the margins–yes, I’m that kind of person.  I loved being in the Psalms each day, hearing the heart of others who struggled with circumstances (and sometimes the Lord’s response), choosing to praise His name again, proclaiming His faithfulness.  I needed the permission that this structure gave me to take time away from busyness and spend it in the word–not to mention the forced march through Leviticus and Job.  So my green bible spent another year at the top of my reading pile.

And each New Year since then, it’s been the same.  Sometimes I feel like it would be more intellectually noble to do a different plan or one of the other great translations, but each year the journey through is richer, and more blue ink decorates the pages (some of it bestowed by our youngest).  We have history together.  It’s been glued where repeated falls from the arm of my chair finally broke the cover away from the binding.  And let’s not count crumbs in the cracks between pages.  We have a rhythm.  When I fall behind (I think two months is my record), I just double up on readings until we are back on track.  This bible isn’t just a commitment, it’s a best friend who calls to share secrets with me over coffee, to comfort me over the day’s frustrations, to hold me accountable, and speak the Lord’s love over me.  In my book, intellectual nobility always pales in comparison to the warmth of intimacy.

A Good Morning

Teach me your decrees, O Lord;
I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found.
Give me an eagerness for your laws
rather than a love for money!
Turn my eyes from worthless things,
and give me life through your word.  Psalm 119:33-37