Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Flesh, Spirit, and Time

Time is an interesting thing.  As humans, everything we do revolves around time.  Especially in the Western mindset.  Then you move to a Latin country, and bam!, time isn't as important anymore.  People and events take priority over time.  Detailed schedules and pacing your day to accommodate events based on when they occur just don't happen.  It truly is a change of culture and way of living. 

I must be adapting into our Latin culture because I noticed I haven't blogged since July!  How unWestern is that?!  Sheesh...

In reality I have blogged many times in my head since then.  I've had some amazing pieces.  You would have been impressed.  Some deep theological/spiritual thoughts, some humor mixed with regional mishaps, some personal thoughts...  It was good.  Maybe one day scientists will learn how to infiltrate our brain and connect it to blogs, FB, Twitter...  Hmm, maybe not a good idea.  Plus, we already have that with God.  Why ruin a good thing. 

Probably the most important thing is that between then and now I have done a mega amount of growing.  Yep, mega.  There's something about living through ups and downs in life that sweetens our disposition to change.  You have to ascertain if you'll be changed toward something good, or if it sours your soul. 

The most important lesson I have been learning is I have held on to this earthly life too dearly.  It's all about me.  It's about my wants and needs and when they are not satisfied, I rebel.  Sometimes I can get really nasty (especially within my own family) or it's internal when around others. 

Why is that?  It's the battle between the flesh of this world and the spirit of God living in me.  Since we are not in our glorified bodies yet, we wrestle daily with making decisions.  So how do we make the right decision?  What is the right decision? 

Very basic to begin with.  You either believe there is a God or you don't. 

If you believe God exists, than know He has left us a manual: the Bible.  For the moment, throw out religion; that is, churches and denominations and any other preconceived thoughts you have about God.  Take a Bible and talk to God, ask Him to teach you what you need to know and begin reading like crazy.  Begin to truly understand this life. 

Christianity is and isn't about time.  It's about time in the sense that the passing/doing of an event molds you, stretches you, grows you.  Or you can be stagnant I guess.  You don't have to grow.  But really feeling life and existing through the eyes of the Creator brings contentment, even as you live in a dead world.

Pst, this is a dead world.  This is not what God intended.  But He gave free will and choice.  If you get stuck on the evil of this world, it's no wonder you get angry at God.  But the open eyes of the one that sees this free will created it, also realizes God allows you to choose.  A demanded love and respect is not love. 

So, I have been going through my own wrestling matches.  But it has helped me know God more.  The turning point was listening about Jesus' temptation and the whole 40 days in the desert thing.  There is no more powerful real-life understanding than fasting to see we are truly a meld of flesh and spirit.  I did some "real" (I've attempted before and never really learned from it) fasting during a critical time in my life.  My eyes were opened to the war of flesh and spirit.  Let's just say the spirit was strengthened. 

But it's a daily war.  And with each new battle and victory, I become better prepared for the next.  The spirit takes charge a little more each time, creating contentment over the sorrows and disappointments of the flesh.  To borrow a phrase, it's a good thing.

Do you have some time?  I encourage you to listen to this sermon/message from Pastor Bob Coy about fasting.  I think you'll enjoy it.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll move you.  Just do it.  Trust me.

Find Them, Feed Them - Tempted

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is Unseen

We get stuck on stuff.  The story about "The Boy and the Filberts" by Aesop gives us a great visual through words:

A boy put his hand into a jar of filberts and grasped as many as his fist could possibly hold. But when he   tried to pull it out again, he found he couldn't do so, for the neck of the jar was too small to allow the passage of so large a handful. Unwilling to lose his nuts but unable to withdraw his hand, he burst into tears.
A bystander, who saw where the trouble lay, said to him, "Come, my boy, don't be so greedy. Be content with half the amount, and you'll be able to get your hand out without difficulty."

 Now, the moral of that story is "Do not attempt too much at once", but I think there's another side.  I say the moral of the story could also be:  "When we don't let go, we get stuck."

II Corinthians 4:18 offers some great advice:  "...we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

It's all about the Unseen.

Let go of the stuff, whether you have it now or not.  It's OK.  I can say that.  We have/had stuff.  We were big stuff at one point too.  This move to Brazil was a HUGE change to what we were used to.  We had to let go of  the stuff to move on.  Literally.  

I made a music video presentation (all original photos/video clips) based on one of my favorite songs, "Steal My Show", by TobyMac.  It's a great visual of some of the things we had to let go of, but came here to see.  Oh, and work on that unseen eternal stuff.  Now that's good stuff.  ;-)

Btw, leave it in the small screen because it blurs when you expand it.  Sorry.  But not bad for my first music video. If you prefer, you can click on the following link for the YouTube version.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Be Prepared

Besides being the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared" resonates in our household like air to the lungs.  I shake my head in disbelief and awe at the twists and turns my life, and now my family's life, has taken.  We really should write a book!  From my birth in Brazil (Becky), to living the corporate life and making a very good living (Bill), to homeschooling, to our ridiculous and wild traveling, to now living near the Amazon in Brazil.  We would have you laughing, crying, amazed, wondering about us, but hopefully most of all, thinking about your own life.  Are you prepared?

Prepared for what?  Whatever comes your way.  For the accounting of your life to God.  For surrendering your will to be molded.  For giving up control of your orderly world.  For being responsible.  For whatever is needed at different times of your life, with a touch of humor on the side.  

My kids are teaching me what I seemed to have forgotten when I was their age.  Take a chance.  Enjoy the moment.  And I'm teaching them what they need to learn (grudgingly at times...).  Endure what you don't like (like sitting through a Brazilian service even though they can't understand most of what is said).  Washing dishes by hand.  Cleaning house.  Walking or riding city buses.

This is a tribute to all who have learned to "be prepared" and who understand what Paul means when he addressed the Philippians:  "...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

We are in a season of not having plenty (on purpose - we chose to live near a 3rd world part of Brazil) but we have also lived in the plenty.  And just a note to the plenty.  Use what God has given you to strengthen others around you.  Don't feel bad about having plenty.  And those not having plenty, don't berate those that do. There is a season for both.  

I hope you enjoy this Prezi.  It is an awesome way to visually present things, and since we have so many photos (over 500!) of our recent trips to the river communities, this is a fun way to show them off.  It was hard to pick only a few, but at least you can get a feel for the areas we go to (all within 1-2 hours of us).

Monday, May 13, 2013

All things to all people


A two syllable word, yet it holds so much meaning.  It can mean mold-able, or pourable.  If you apply it to a human being the meanings are endless ( no pun intended). 

I had the opportunity to go on a medical mission trip this past week with another ministry we are on the board of, Amazon Reach.  One of the translators was not able to go last minute and I was asked to go.  It turned out to be a great opportunity to be fluid.

Fluid in the sense I could go.  Fluid in the sense I could be put into any situation to help translate.  Fluid in the sense of adjusting to the living conditions (sleep in a hammock, possibility of no showers, and no privacy).  Fluid in the sense of being all things to the people in the community.

The team that went was from all over the world.  There were 5 South Koreans (2 from the USA actually), 5 Brazilians, 1 from Barbados (in the Caribbean), 1 from Germany, 1 from New Zealand, and 2 from the USA. 

I loved it.  Felt like I was back at my MK school, PACA.

We traveled about an hour by boat.  Most of the communities we passed had wooden huts by the river and everyone gets around by boat.  Keep this photo in mind to compare it to the last one.  The extreme differences will amaze you.  Fluid.

The first thing we did was set up our hammocks.  This community had electricity and running water.  We were able to stay at the local elementary school.  Some people slept outside.

That afternoon we helped out with the children's program.  The following 2 days they had double the amount of kids.

The next morning we set up medical care.  This is the "triage" and "pharmacy" area.  I helped here filling out "fichas"/ info sheets and translating for the gal that was taking blood pressure and blood sugar tests. 

The lady that did dental saw over 25 patients while we were there, extracting teeth, filling cavities, and doing cleanings.  Check out the dental chair!

Future doctors?

Day 3 we were off to visit families in the community.  I was the whitest person there.  And this after getting tanner than I usually am!!  Oh well.

Day 4 the German gal and I visited this family.  The grandfather has been sick and rarely gets out anymore.  I shared Psalm 145 with them and prayed.  I left them the New Testament I had and hopefully they will continue to read it.  So, not only am I the whitest, but the tallest.  But they were so accommodating.  Love Brazilians.

Remember the photo with the huts and canoes?  This is what we saw on our way back to port in Belem.  The extreme difference in lifestyle is astounding.  And the difference in distance is only 6-10 miles!!

Fluid.  All things to all people.

There is so much to learn about the river communities and the people in Belem.  They live in the same area, but most don't even connect with each other.  We hope to be the bridge to connect the two so their own will be willing to disciple these young Christians.  And many on the islands/communities have some form of religion, but most have syncretism - belief in Jesus with the addition of other beliefs.

We appreciate all who pray for us, support us, are involved with us, and stay aware of our happenings.  We love it!  Nothing like having an encouragement team behind you to keep you going.  So, thanks again for being part of our lives.

Psalm 145:13b-16
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not my will

The last 3 years have been the hardest since we started Believer's Bridge in 2007.  In 2007 we lived in a nice comfortable HUGE  house, Bill had a regular job and began working on the ministry.  We had financial "security" (or at least the perception of it) and didn't realize how easy life really was compared to thousands across this planet.

Our home in AL (yes, all of it).

Then in July 2010, after our initial research trip to Brazil, Bill was let go of his job and we were thrust into raising funds for our ministry and ourselves full-time.  Even then God was preparing/cushioning the way.

We had bought our 200 sq foot RV sometime before the whole event.  Used mainly as a means to vacation ($18-24 a night is SO much cheaper than staying at a hotel!  Free if you can stay at a Walmart or other stop), we then toyed with the idea of using it to travel across the United States making people aware of Believer's Bridge and raising financial support.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: New RV

I realize now that the little light bulb that goes off in one's head doesn't shed light on all the details of what one's ideas entails. 

If I had known I would spend hours on the road, confronting broken down engines, popped tires, sometimes sleepless nights due to either cold or heat when your heater/AC doesn't work, showers in a space of about 3 sq. feet (and having to turn it on and off to save water while one showers), I may have decided to stay home in the warmth and comfort of a real bed, the use of a washer and dryer at any time, and the use of a real oven.  Warm continuous showers are probably a huge plus as well.

But one doesn't know these things when one signs on to become a missionary (or a peace corp or military personnel for that matter).  Oh, you might read about the hardships, but actually living it is entirely different.

" “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” " Jesus said.

Or another passages He says, "He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” "

Looking back I can relate to Jesus.  But also know, I don't think any of us will ever fully understand while in our physical bodies the kind of agony of decision Jesus went through.  I never once have sweat drops of blood while going through a stressful decision or event.

What I have been learning is to surrender my will.  One. painful. step. at. a. time.

I believe this Easter I will have more understanding of that moment when Jesus agonized and fought with his physical nature to surrender it all to God, the Father, so that we could live in eternity with God without pain or torture in hell.

It is an amazing and eye opening moment when you can better understand an event when you yourself have agonized with your flesh to rule over it so that your will is not done but God's.

God tells Cain this very thing:
" "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” "

Jesus' death on the cross is salvation from life in hell due to the sin that entered the world.  Accepting this truth and believing it gives anyone a deposit for eternity.  But our living here on earth requires us to battle the sin that crouches at our door.  

Not my will but Yours be done.   How do you live that?  Find the answers in God's manual, the Bible.  

Wishing you an Easter full of understanding and hope!

The Message - Isaiah 53:11-12

"Out of that terrible travail of soul,
    he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
    will make many “righteous ones,”
    as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
    the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
    because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
    he took up the cause of all the black sheep."

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wringing laundry...and not other things

It was one of those days a few days back.  I determined to catch up on the laundry that just seemed to accumulate since it is nigh to impossible to do more than 1 1/2 loads of what most Americans would call a normal load of laundry per day here. 

For three days straight I toiled washing load after load by hand, hanging the wrung out pieces to dry on our makeshift clotheslines.  We get two options.  I can either hang it in the back under an awning of sorts (no direct sunlight, but it can stay hanging when it rains) or up front either on the balcony or front entrance.  The front fragrance is a mixture of diesel and various flavors of assorted smells.  The back fragrance is usually that day's lunch, which, of course, includes beans and rice.

The last day of the three days I had just finished my last load, exhausted but knowing I had triumphed.  I hung my last garment, started walking to the kitchen when I began smelling that unmistakable cigarette odor.  What happened next was NOT a pretty sight. 

I flew to the back muttering and grumbling quite loudly in English and Portuguese, letting the smoking man visiting my downstairs neighbor know how frustrated I was.  I did not care.  I had not spent my last day of laundry toiling to get the sheets clean just to have it smell like cigarette smoke!!  Oooh, I was angry.  I wanted to wring his neck.  I yanked every last piece off, throwing it over my shoulder, continuing to mutter loudly, walked into the kitchen and closed the door loudly and soundly behind me.

The kids watched in amusement and fascination while I stormed to the front telling them about the "inconsiderate smoking man downstairs" and proceeded to make room on the front lines for the laundry.  Sanguine personalities, such as mine at times, must be entertaining to watch.

It took awhile, since Josh commiserated with me, adding his own two cents about the smoking man, but when I finally calmed down I started thinking about how hard it truly must be to love one's enemies.  Personally, the thought of wringing the guy's neck seemed much more satisfactory than treating the whole situation with grace or mercy. 

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8 

Just let that sink in a little.

Read it again.  sink, sink, sink...   Is it soaked in yet?  Yeah.  And we are supposed to imitate Christ.  Ouch.

So, that's an area we can all work on, loving when the world looks on and says you are justified in not having to love.  Grace and mercy.  Harder for some of us than others.

I want to show you another reason doing laundry here is toilsome.  In the photo below I am holding a filter that has ?, rust? iron?  We are not sure, but it stains the laundry if we do not filter it out. You can see a distinct line of where I already brushed some of it off, it is not a shadow.  Amazing.

Here's my "load" of laundry, about 3 sheets in the basin.  The filtered water is flowing out quite nicely right after I have cleaned it.  I can fill a 5 gallon bucket in about 20 minutes (after 10 minutes the flow begins to trickle more).  Than, if I want to have more water, I would need to clean it again to get another full bucket in 20 minutes.  Otherwise, I could let it trickle through for an hour or more.  Either way, it's tedious to continually clean the filter or takes too long to let it trickle.  This is hard work!!!

Now for some fun photos.

Awhile back we visited missionaries on an island.  Oh. wow.  Not only was it humorous to get there, but we did enjoy their beach.  That in itself was worth it.

First, we boarded a city bus and rode for 40-50 minutes.

We saw many interesting sights.  Coconut water anyone?

No?  How about some oranges?  $4 for a bushel full.

 Views around town


Next, we boarded a large boat and navigated for 30 minutes.

 We are learning to fit in.  Everyone wears flip-flops here.

 And these are the sights we will see on the boat.  A HUGE difference from the city.

 We make it to the island of Cotijuba!  It has been 1 hour and 20 minutes since we left Belem and our house.

But wait, there's more!  Now we get to ride the "bonde".  Think of it as a redneck Disney golf cart ride...except through mud and potholes for 20 minutes.  No cars are allowed on this island, so this is public transportation.

 Some typical sights.  Ah, look, this boat is for sale.

 We leave "down town" behind and head toward our destination.

 This made me think of the slogan, "Beef, it's what's for dinner."  

 The bonde drops us off.  We have arrived!

 The life of missionary kids...

Ok, so there's a few perks to living on an island.  We are glad to know these missionary friends.  We've been told we are welcome to come back.  Sounds good to me!  (just have to travel almost 2 hours and endure some potholes...)

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  II Corinthians 1:3-4

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just Adjust

You know, Pavlov was onto something. One accustoms oneself to one's own culture. Adjustment to another culture takes time, but can be done. And the adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks isn't too far off either. However, with enough self-control, a proper amount of help, determination, and freedom to still live part of your old culture within the new one, it can be done. A healthy dose of the fruits of the Spirit cushion the whole adventure into a much better experience.

 I think that was the part we were missing there for awhile. Sometimes one reverts to raw instincts (AKA the flesh) when faced with something challenging, like sports or traffic, or living in a new unknown-ish environment. One thing we have concluded, when people tell you something, make sure you only take it as their suggestion, not necessarily fact. This will make learning to be flexible much easier. ;-)

 So, here's a run down of our first full month in Belem, Brazil. The first week we spent living in a room of missionary friends until the house we were to move into became available. During that time I got my voter's registration card which then allowed me to get my CPF (like a SS card in USA) so we can now ship our container of household goods to us. (I will be SO happy to get a washing machine!!)

 The second week we moved into our upstairs house rental, where we unpacked our suitcases and 10 plastic totes. We managed to bring a portable/camping stove, microwave, a large toaster oven, a few camping chairs, cooking “gear” (pots, pans, cups, dishes, etc.), air mattresses, sheets, and pillows for bedding. Friends are letting us borrow chairs and tables, and a portable AC unit. We figured out how to Jerry-rig another window AC unit so the kids can have AC as well. We tend to just turn the AC on at night because we have been told electricity here is outrageous. We shall find out...

 The subsequent weeks we continued settling in, knowing the area, meeting new Brazilians, and Bill's permanent residency taken care of and all official documents sent to Brasilia for approval. And just today I managed to get my RG (Identification Card) which will now allow us to open a bank account. Woo hoo! There doesn't seem to be an end to the amount of paper work or documents we've had to do. But in reality, were the situation reversed, I am sure foreigners in the US must have to do a lot of paperwork just to live there as well.

 But the end is in sight. In fact, we will be visiting another missionary family on one of the islands soon and I think we will all enjoy the get-away. We met them at another missionary couple's house on New Years. We hope to see where and how they live and pick their brains on how things have been working for them.

To help you visualize our new environment, here are a few photos. Enjoy!

You can see a bunch more photos at

Scrumptious pie crust cinnamon twists from my little oven.
The boys' current sleeping arrangements.  Apparently hammocks are very comfortable.
Doing laundry by hand and kids on technology.  What a contrast!
Muffin size apple tarts.  Yum!  Recipe coming soon.

The living room, boys' bedroom, and office.
Kitchen, complete with "cupboard" (plastic tote) and "pantry" (shelving).
My oven.  Woo hoo!
Laundry room and 2nd kitchen-ish
Our "backyard" (it's actually just a cement balcony where I can hang laundry.  That's the neighbor's house on the ground level.)