Thy Kingdom Come…

One family's journey crossing cultures in pursuit of the kingdom of God

Archive for the category “Reflections”

Where are you Christmas?

Where are you, Christmas?
Why can’t I find you?
Why have you gone away?
Don’t you remember
the girl you used to know?
My world is changing;
Presents I’m rearranging.
I wish I could find you in December.
The next year has started now.
And I’m happy Jesus Christ was born.

By Grace

Our Seventh Week of School…Random Reflections

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted on the blog.  I just got on Facebook for the first time in two months (Facebook welcomed me back!).  And I finally managed to get the August email/newsletter out in September (Now, about the September email…).  It’s been a crazy, sometimes overwhelming start to the school year and we’ve now found ourselves with four weeks in which were taking turns being at home with the girls.  It’s good, though, really good.

It’s not that there is nothing to communicate.  Things are going on and there are even more to think about.  It’s just that there is hardly a moment to slow down and allow the thoughts to settle down and become coherent.

So, now that I finally seem to have such a moment, albeit a brief one, here are few things and thoughts.

  • The ceremonial turning of the first shovel of dirt to commemorate the beginning of construction on a new high school building at Bingham Academy.  It seems that I get to benefit from five or so years of the work of others as they have developed a vision, raised money, and  drafted plans to build a building for the high school students.  Currently, the high school students have classes all over campus wherever there is room so they will benefit from having their own building.  It is currently scheduled to be finished by the rainy season (Summer) of 2013.  That would be great, although, based on my limited experience with building projects here, I will hold off on the excitement.
  • Professional Development in London.  Yep, when you teach at an international school, professional development options will take you further away from home!  Bingham uses the Cambridge International Curriculum and is working on developing a Spanish program for the students.  We currently offer Spanish for grades 6, 7, and 8 and will start to offer Spanish for the high schoolers next year.  I was able to go to a conference that will enable us to implement Spanish at the high school level using the Cambridge curriculum.  By the way, I also saw the Tower of London, London Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Sr. Mary Woolnoth of the Nativity (John Newton’s, author of “Amazing Grace”, church), and Westminster Cathedral.
  • My First Activities Week.  Starting in grade 6, students at Bingham get to go on class trips to various places in Ethiopia.  It is one of the many ways the administration, faculty, and parents focus on the spiritual AND intellectual/physical development of the students.  Each class gets the chance to learn more about Ethiopia, how God is working in the world and in their individual hearts and lives, and has the opportunity to interact with teachers, administrators in a different setting than just the classroom. Planning for this has been going on full-force (although this has not been primarily my responsibility) this week as the trips take place next week.  I will be going with grade 6 to Menagesha, said to be the oldest state park in Africa.  More on this later.

Home

We’re in the midst of filing out piles of paperwork from re-entry cards to ministry profiles to insurance claims.  They all ask similar questions in different ways.  Where do we live?  What is our permanent mailing address?  Where is our citizenship?  Are we going for a visit when we fly from Ethiopia to the U.S. and back or is the “visit” part the other way around?

What and where is home?  When one lives and has a job as a guest in a country that is different from that which one grew up in, different from where one holds citizenship, different from where one’s family resides and the location of which changes every few moths or years, that can be a complicated and confusing question.  Depending on one’s viewpoint or, more accurately, one’s state of mind at the moment, one could be privileged to have multiple homes or pitied and considered “homeless” (in a sense).

And, to add to the questions, there is empirical and anecdotal evidence that when children grow up with this kind of lifestyle they will be forever changed because of it.  They are called “third culture kids.”  They grow up without a sense of home in the traditional sense of a particular city or house.  And they get used to fluid and constantly changing relationships as they experience peers coming and going, changing from year to year.

A wise counselor advised us to encourage Grace and Hannah to view home as where the four of us are together, therefore emphasizing relationships over place.  This is good, especially for our situation, but then I wonder, what if something happens to one of us?  What about when they leave for college, probably in a country different from where they spent all of their elementary and secondary school years and different from where we may then reside, but is technically where their passport says is home.  Can they feel like this is home?

So, is home a place?  Is home where a person’s most intimate relationships reside?  Can home change throughout one’s lifetime or will it always remain in one place or with a few people?

In the end, I don’t think we have to choose between home as a place or home as a relationship.  It is and will be both.  Jesus speaks of leaving his disciples in order to return to the Father.

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.'”  (John 14:28)

He also promises to prepare a place in his Father’s home for his people.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  (John 14:2-3)

So, Jesus leaves the realm of the purely physical and visible world in order to return to the heavenly realm of the Father, all with the intention of making it our home as well.  And in Revelation 21 we see the physical and spiritual realm fully and perfectly combine in the new heaven and new earth as God’s heavenly realm is fully visible and fully redeems all things on earth.  And so our home is and always be will be a place.

But Jesus also says…

“You know the way to the place where I am going.”  (John 14:4)

Thomas doesn’t understand and questions this.  Jesus answers…

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)

The key characteristic of the new heaven and the new earth is the very presence of the Father.

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”  (Revelation 21:3)

In the description of the new city, the new Jerusalem, the Father is the only and perfect source of life and light…

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city…There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”  (Revelation 22:1, 2a, 5a)

And so our home is and always will be a relationship with the Father, through Jesus the son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I am”

I set out to do one thing and ended up accomplishing another.  I decided to study the “I am” statements that Jesus makes in the gospel of John.  Next year I will be teaching World Geography at a Christian school where the students are led to consider how what they are learning relates to a Christian worldview.  We will study topics like water usage and shortages, food supply and distribution issues, and the production and access to electricity.  Well, Jesus makes such declarations as “I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the gate (for the sheep), I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and “I am the true vine.”   Since, in these statements, Jesus uses the things of everyday life to teach his disciples, I thought I could do the same.

The problem is that once I started rereading and studying these passages, I was reminded that the central point Jesus was making in all of these was different from what I wanted them to make.  Instead of offering concise and interesting passages that explain God’s concern for all of His creation, they offer an important reminder that, although our physical concerns and the problems and potential provided by the earth and environment are important to God, they are not primary.  Of utmost concern to God is whether we, and all of creation along with us, are reunited to Him through the death and resurrection of the Son.  When this remains central, other things fall into place.

I don’t think concern for physical needs are absent from the Biblical account of the fall and redemption, nor were they absent from Jesus ministry and the way he demonstrates God’s care for his creation.  It’s just that they are not central.  We could participate in feeding thousands of people (which Jesus and his disciples did before his declaration, “I am the bread of life.”)  Hopefully Jon will use surgery to fix thousands of things that go wrong in our bodies and he might train hundreds of other surgeons to do the same.  Bekah might teach and mentor hundreds of students.  Grace and Hannah will hopefully influence and be influenced positively through their interaction with their teachers and classmates.  But, if in all of this we lose sight of Christ then we’ve missed the point and really do not have much of value to offer.

I still think the Bible reveals to us a God who cares for His creation, is still active in redeeming and restoring it, and that creation care, ecology, and development issues are important things for God’s people to study and apply themselves to but, for now, I will rest in the reminder that Christ is central to all of this.

“The Body and the Blood”

I felt strange walking back into the service for communion at the end of it.  I had spent most of the service in and out of the sanctuary.  I had no idea what the sermon was about, and I had only caught bits and pieces of the liturgy because I was busy trying to keep Grace and Hannah from keeping everyone in the sanctuary from concentrating on worship or escaping the church compound and finding their way into the city.  After 9 months of not attending a regular worship service or Sunday School, they now have NO idea how to behave in church.  And yet, the weekly taking of communion was something that both Jon and I loved about our church in Atlanta and we hadn’t been able to since we arrived in Ethiopia 9 months ago.

So, I gathered myself and entered into the church, full of frustration, feelings of defeat and even anger at my kids because, here we were, finally, at a church with a real Sunday School for kids and they couldn’t even let us participate in the service in peace.  I walked up and stood in the row at the front of the sanctuary.  As the person officiating the service offered me the cup and said the well-known words, “The blood of Christ shed for you,” I felt a sense of something wash over me.  Relief?  Love?  Acceptance?  It was more than that and yet included all of that.  It was a sense of the loving, intimate grace of an infinitely holy God.  I realized again that Christ’s work on the cross and his victory over death is the basis upon which we can rest and the power by which we serve.

If I fail as a parent, as a spouse, as a daughter, as a missionary, as a teacher, or as anything else it matters in that there are consequences for others and myself.  But it doesn’t change my status as an adopted child of God, as member of his redeemed community.  It doesn’t take away his promises to renew his image in me (although I wonder at the progress sometimes) and recreate the rest of his world to reflect his glory.  And this realization gives me strength to hold a child who is kicking and screaming out of pure frustration when all I want to do is run away from the intensity of the emotion.  It allows me to go to another Amharic lesson even though the progress is painfully slow.  It keeps me from caving under the many demands, decisions, and yet another set of transitions as we prepare to move to Addis.

So, after participating in the gift of communion, the sacrament given to us in order to remember and further participate in God’s work of redemption and renewal, I left with a renewed sense of peace and purspose.

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