This week, while driving down a street in my home town, I saw a car advertising Paramormal Consultants. I was totally unaware of the extent to which paranormal activity, ghost busters etc. was becoming a big business. This morning I went to a huge fundraiser with thousands of books and found a section of several boxes on paranormal. I also discovered that several people paid 15 dollars to participate in a paranormal event or investigation looking for evidence of ghosts or spirits in a well know historical home in town.
Also this week, I noticed several new vape sites as well. Vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes; risks include a lung disease known as popcorn lung which results in shortness of breath. Addiction to nicotine is still possible and even more likely. A block and a half away from my apartment there is a store with its windows covered by paper but with a sign that medical products are available – most likely an illegal marijuana store. In another store we passed by a line of people waiting to buy a lottery ticket. One man said to his wife as he left that maybe they should stop buying tickets.
Why tie these things together? How did I become so out of touch? Looking for pleasure in any one of the above does not provide lasting pleasure or freedom nor enrich life. True joy is found elsewhere. In Nehemiah 8:10, when the lost book of Moses was found and Ezra read to the people so they might understand it, we read that Nehemias advised the people to eat well and celebrate because “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Why link paranormal experiences, drug related experiences unearned wealth? These are not the things which bring joy into our lives. The question I ask myself is why we have failed to teach instead that the joy is in the Lord.
My family gathered a few days after Christmas. My sister came from Michigan and my brother and his family from a distance of an hour and half north. It was first time we had been together for two years and it was a real blessing to be together, eating, laughing, playing games and moving furniture. We talked about a family photo and I said I could not remember ever having had one.
We have lots of photos of people in the Dominican Republic who call us uncle or aunt or Mama Barbara or Papa Lloyd. We call them part of our Dominican family. Sidney volunteered to take a photo for us. So we lined up and now there is a family photo. Photos are precious not because they are photos but because they remind of us special memories. People in the Dominican often ask us about our families and we have suggested to anyone who goes on a mission team to prepare a small photo book with pictures of their family, their home and their city. Now we will have a new photo to show people next time we are in the Dominican Republic.
A couple of days early, I finished my reading of the Bible from cover to cover in one year and so I began to read in Genesis and the account of Noah. It struck me as a new year begins, that God has been so good to his people over and over. When God decided to wipe mankind from the world because of its evilness, he found favor with Noah. So Noah was spared, instructed to build an arc and bring into it his family and animals, male and female. Noah obeyed; the rains and the flooding came; then after the rains stopped and flooding slowly subsided.
When everything was dry, God directed Noah to leave the ark. He instructed Noah to bring out his family and the animals and to multiply and start over with animal life etc. God struck a new covenant with Noah to never flood the land again. The rainbows we love to see are a sign of that covenant. Man had a chance a second opportunity. If 2018 has been a difficult year for you, if you need a new start with God, may you enter and live in 2019 in obedience and relationship with God. If 2018 has been a year of rejoicing and blessings, may 2019 continue to show you God’s glory. And if 2018 has been a year of stretching and growing closer to God, praise him for his wonderful ways.
God had given more than one chance to begin again. Christmas decorations and manger scenes remind us that the baby came to restore relationship with God and to make possible forgiveness and eternal life. Reflect on that gift and seek more of his presence in 2019.
We are enjoying a great multitude of Christmas songs and carols with different focus or messages. Some are joyful and celebrative like Joy to the World or Hark, the Herald Angels sing. Others are nonsensical as the songs which speak of mother being run over by a reindeer or of mummy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe. Some are more quiet and worshipful such as Away in a Manger or Silent Night. At least one I know seems to be haunting as it asks Mary did you know your baby would deliver, heal, and that he was the son of God.
The angel, Gabriel, came to Mary in Nazareth to announce to her that she would have a son conceived of the Holy Spirit. Did Mary know what this meant? Most likely not but she responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Did Mary understand that her son her son would be followed by many as he taught them? Did she understand that he would die on the cross? I think not.
Repeatedly the carol asks Mary did you know. How could she know? Her baby was worshipped by shepherds, visited by the magi, found in a stable under a brilliant star, escaped to Egypt and grew. The carol causes me to ask myself, did I know that receiving that child as my savior would change my life. Did I know that the way I thought about Christmas would change forever? No more than Mary knew of the miracles her son would perform for the glory of God. The sleeping child that Mary held in her arms, that was born in a stable was and still is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
May the question I leave you with be did the baby Jesus birth and life haunt you this Christmas. May you search to know true meaning of Christmas this year! May you find peace and love and salvation this Christmas.
We sat down to eat at the pastor’s home and each one of us had a huge bowl at our place – a bowl big enough to hold the potatoes for a turkey dinner for a family of 12 -15 people. Today we were dining on sanchocho. Sancocho is a special Dominican soup which is almost a stew. It contains large chunky vegetables like, yucca, plantation or potato and carrots and some kind of meat. Most of the meat is chicken; sometimes there might be more than one kind of meat. Quite often sancocho is served with a local cracker like flat bread called casaba. It can also be called manioc or yucca because it is made from grated yucca. Many Dominicans dip the casaba in the sancocho or put a spoonful of juice on the casaba. Sancocho is often served at a party or special event. Along with the soup one adds rice to their bowl and then enjoys. Sancocho is one of Lloyd’s favourite Dominican meals.
After sancocho, you could say but I didn’t eat much; I only had one bowl but the size of the bowl is huge. We had travelled to share a meal with a pastor and his family. About twenty people were sharing this meal. We planned to eat outside in the backyard but the rain forced us inside. When I finished my bowl, I was quite full even though it was only one bowl.
A word I heard often while in the Dominican Republic is mio or es mio its mine. A child with a toy he doesn’t want to share says its mine. A mother says to her child it’s mine when the child tries to pick up her cell phone, “It’s mine”. When it is time to eat, the child says “It’s my plate,” to indicate he wants to eat the fruit himself rather than be helped. When someone tried to pick up my tablet, I had to say “It’s mine.”
But I quickly realized that mine is a word used often here in Canada as well. We live in a society where people like to do things my way. I date myself when I refer to Frank Sinatra and the song “I Did It My Way.” But I also found there is a Spanish version of the same song, “A Mi Manera”. As kids grow up it is my phone, my time and my friends instead of my toy. As adults this can become, my money, my job, my life, and my time.
The thinking can become very dangerous: my time, my money is counter to the thinking of marriage and commitment. The two never become one; unity doesn’t develop and what is mine never becomes ours. Divorce can be a consequence of my way thinking. Families are hurting because instead of our way someone insists on doing things my way. Churches can split because someone wants to do things my way rather than for a common good.
Let us think and be careful of my way thinking as Isaiah 55:9 states, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
What to you see each day as you go about your routine? Are your eyes open to what is happening? Being part of a mission experience can open your eyes.
I saw a Haitian child who cannot stand on his own because of problems with his feet and leg. He gets around by pushing a broken stroller or crawling on his knees. I saw pastors living in homes with nothing to eat in the fridge and no sheets on the bed. I saw a pastor give away a pair of shoes and some socks to a person from his church and a suit jacket to another pastor in a nearby church. I saw a woman cooking for her family over a wood fire because her stove no longer functioned and the gas tank for the stove was no longer serviceable or safe. A new stove and gas tank were delivered and installed.
A woman who borrowed money for an emergency appendix operation came each day to where we were to help clean and cook and earn some money to pay the loan for her surgery. I saw benevolent food packages purchased and delivered to four homes. The rice, beans, oil, sugar and tomato sauce and spice along with eggs, onions and cod would feed the families for almost a week. I drank coffee served by a woman who went next door to make the coffee as she had no money for the gas tank in her kitchen. Needs like these also exist here in Canada. Do you see them? Do you respond?
In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”