Drinking Deep

When it comes to coffee drinking, I’m a lightweight.  Between a temperamental stomach and nerves that kickback 12 hours post-sip, it’s better that coffee and I enjoy each other in small installments.  Costa Rica produces some of the best liquid caffeine in the world, though.  So I feel obligated do my part and drink in the delicious culture.

At the local Chinese import store, I found some sweet little cups that are a great fit for my dainty joe capacity.  But filled with compassion for friends who come over for cafecito, I also bought an extra-grande mug—the kind you instinctively hold with two hands.

Seeing them hang side by side like David and Goliath makes me smile.  And gets me thinking.  For some things, small cups can be a blessing.  It’s good to have limits on what can turn from a blessing into a curse if taken in the wrong quantities.  Cheetos, for example.  Or television.  Perhaps shopping purchases.  Fill in your own blank.  Small cups can help us keep things in perspective.

But what size cup do I have offered up to the Lord?  I confess that sometimes in this busy season I feel full with a shot of devotion reading before classes, a squirt of bible time during lunch, and a measure of family prayers at bedtime.  Or maybe it’s just my day that feels full.  My heart definitely isn’t.  The schedule holds out a dainty espresso cup while my spirit sighs over the slosh in the bottom of the empty decanter.

And I’m reminded again that if I get everything done, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Flawless Spanish + Balanced Checkbook + Clean House – Love = 0.  I don’t know how to walk this out perfectly, but I’m going to keep trying.  I’m going to pay attention to my empty places and invite the Lord in to fill them.  I’m going to make space to be with Him and trust for His grace over the rest of the To Do List.

I stand before you, busted by my own sentences.  One of the fullest weeks yet has just drawn to a close.  We did all kinds of assignments, spent half a day in the bureaucratic jungle to get our Costa Rican driver’s licenses, and shared a bible story (with a minimum of 23 required grammar elements) in 20 minutes of Spanish for a language exam.  Lots of boxes successfully checked.  But even as I chatted about idiomatic phrases with the friendly faces on my language route, I knew I was running on empty.

2014-02-07 cups 004Thank goodness for the new mercy of this morning.  Praise God that He is a well that never runs dry.  I hold up my cup again, and He is ready to fill it.  When it comes to relationship with Jesus, I want the extra-grande.

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.”  Isaiah 30: 15a

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

My Herd of Pigs

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my herd of pigs.  No, I haven’t taken my Do-It-Yourself  heart to a new extreme.  The neighbors can thankfully attest that there are no squealing stinkers in residence out back.  But I’ve got quite the herd, I realized this morning as I read Matthew 8:23-34.  Jesus had just conquered a massive storm to cross the lake.  He was so wiped out he slept through it all until his disciples shouted him awake, in fear for their lives.  He wondered why they were so afraid.  Where was their faith?

And with a word from Him, the wind and sea went calm.  As he disembarked, two men possessed by demons so strong that chains couldn’t bind them (hmmmm. . .wonder if they had anything to do with that little squall on the way?) met him at the shoreline.  Jesus ordered the demons to leave the men, but gave them permission to enter a large herd of pigs away yonder.  The entire herd stampeded down the hillside into the lake, drowning itself.  All the townspeople rushed out to see Jesus, “but they begged him to go away and leave them alone” Matthew 8:34b.

See, those pigs were probably the livelihood of an entire town.  401K plan, checking account, Costco membership, you name it, they were it.  Two men were set free from their former lives of misery and terrorizing the region, but the people were thinking about their pigs, so they couldn’t see the wonder of Jesus.

We met with three realtors in the last week.  Received enough recommendations for new paint, new carpet, staging, and de-cluttering to leave me mourning on the shore for several days.  The stained glass window my mother-in-law made for our bedroom.  The gardens we’ve been cultivating for years.  One bedroom per child and enough quiet to nap in luxuriantly on Sundays.  Kitchen cabinets that Matt painstakingly refinished.  The salary that’s been such a blessing for 14 years.  I’ve been tempted to ask Jesus to go away and leave me alone.  I was so busy looking at the overwhelming task list and cute curly tails, that I’ve been missing the wonder of Jesus.

Why am I so afraid?  Where is my faith?  There isn’t a single word to calm this storm in my heart, but rather an invitation to a constant conversation that will speak peace over the wind and waves of each moment.  I still like my herd of pigs, but I’m asking the Lord again to change my heart to want what He wants for me.  I want to see the wonder of Jesus in little hearts blooming at the Home of Life, in team members embracing new intimacy in their walk with the Lord.  I want to see myself standing on the shore hand in hand with Jesus, set free.

Matthew 8:23-34

New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus Calms the Storm

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Jesus Heals Two Demon-Possessed Men

28 When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes,[a] two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area.

29 They began screaming at him, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?”

30 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. 31 So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.”

32 “All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.

33 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.