of uh-oh and a battle to the death

 

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I was trepidatious when I opened my eyes early yesterday morning to see Alex, already in a collared shirt, grabbing his backpack. On the days he teaches at seminary, he’s gone by six. Though it’s only his second week teaching it is already a struggle between “Have a great day, darling” and “Uh-oh,” in terms of my morning greeting. In faith, I opted for “Have a great day, darling.” (And followed it up with “uh-oh” after the door shut.)

After preparing to do this for a decade, there is a tremendous joy in beginning and things in Alex’s classroom seem to be off to a great start. For which we thank God. But my own experiences on the teaching days have been . . . hair-raising. (Better terms eluding me, I looked that up in the thesaurus. It suggests ‘shuddersome’. Yes.)

His first morning teaching I was so nervous I decided to clean out the car. I thought our van was dirty in ‘Merica! You should have seen our car eight days ago. It was full of sand and sweat and dirty streaks on the upholstery from countless children clambering in and out all summer. All of our children are packrats, collecting bits of rubbish and random samples of tropical plant matter for later study that never actually happens. The car is the receptacle for most of these non-rare specimens, since the day I outlawed under-their-pillows as an alternate location. (No doubt further solidifying my credentials as a Mean Mom.) So the car needed the love and hard work is my best panacea for anxiety. I backed it into the courtyard, filled a bucket of sudsy water, and gave Hugh and Wally the job of washing the outside. I geared up and headed for the interior. At the same time, in a city two hours away, Alex was beginning to teach.

I scrubbed all the upholstery, cleaned the windows, washed the mats in the sun, and swept out the sand. All went well until I removed Wally’s chair and tipped his seat up to clean underneath.

When I spotted one.

There was a cockroach the size of a quarter hanging out under there. Believe it or not, in Indonesia this counts as a little one. Nay, an infant. I’ve lived here for a year now. (Also I’m an adult.) I wasn’t going to freak out. I kept an admirable calm while I backed slowly away and went for the chemical bug-killing spray can. You would have thought I was strolling through Target with a Starbucks coffee in one hand. I leveled that baby at the roach and let loose.

And cockroaches by the hundreds came pouring out of the interior of the seat. They spilled down the upholstery, ran in all directions in the interior of the car, spilled out the door, and rushed over the ground. Two ran over my feet and one ran up my leg. There were babies, adults, and granddaddies: ranging from pea-sized hoppers to bigger brown quarter-sized runners. God be praised, there weren’t any of those titanic four-inchers like the one that came running out of my face cloth early yesterday morning.

I have no idea what sound came out of my mouth but I can promise you it was both disturbing and impressive.

I would love to describe the next few minutes to those interested but I am afraid a more precise record of those events will be forever lost to the world. (Unless my helper was watching from the house, which I sincerely hope she was as her job is, at times, too boring.) All I know is that I went beserk with the spray can and the broom. The fumes got so thick my tongue went numb and at one stage I sacrificed my left foot in order to whack to death the cockroach that was on it.

After I finally finished sweeping everything out I sprayed, waited ten minutes, went back and swept out the dead, sprayed again, etc. for an hour. When I finished our car was gleamingly clean, there was no sign of life, and the courtyard was littered with enemy carcasses. I looked at the clock. Alex was wrapping up his first lecture. (How did it go, darling.)

I forgot to tell you, as I backed away for the spray can in the beginning, I startled a seven-inch brown snake lizard, who had apparently been sunning himself behind the car. In his haste to flee the scene he actually touched my foot. I was so focused on slaughter that this event, ordinarily momentous, did not impair my calm.

You ‘ve heard of the classic “fight-or-flight” response to threat? For many months in Indonesia my automatic impulses were all “flight”. Apparently that stage is over. I’m all fight at the minute and the score last Thursday was firmly Me: 1, Enemy 0. So praise God for that.

I need to, because yesterday was another teaching day and I backed into a guy’s motorcycle with the car.

Posted in Indonesia, Keep Calm and Carry On | 17 Comments

no where else

“Where else have we to go? You alone have words of eternal life.”  John 6:68

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Early last week my father sent a message: my second cousin, her husband, and their three little children were suddenly killed in a horrible car wreck. They were pre-field overseas workers, training to serve in the world’s largest least-reached people group: the Japanese. Now they’re all with Jesus. Last summer as we were traveling on countless car rides and flights from place to place, I remember thinking, What if . . . after all of this struggle and preparation and travail and prayer and effort and expense and emotion . . . the plane goes down? And we never get there? And thinking, That wouldn’t be God’s plan. Foolish, arrogant me. Thinking that I can comprehend the ways of a perfect, sovereign God. I am left now, telling myself over and over through the tears, Surely he knows what he’s doing?

It makes me run for Jesus. There’s no where else to go. With my head spinning with confusion, my heart hurting for the family, I launch my question at him like I’m throwing a heavy and unwieldy burden that drops almost on my own feet. This is a harsh one, Lord! And the Man of Sorrows is there. He meets me in that place. His eyes that once saw God turn his back as he hung to his death. Reminding me we “judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace” because “behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.”*

I stand with my mouth shut as I begin to see the impact of my second cousin’s life and death around the world. They were compelled by the state of 130 million Japanese—because Jesus is. And he will build his church—and is using them, as they wanted, to do it.

 

On Saturday Indonesian authorities foiled a plot on the part of ISIS-affiliated terrorists. They were trying to launch a rocket bomb at the Marina Bay Hotel in Singapore from the nearby island of Batam. We were touring the Botanic Gardens at the base of that hotel one month ago. Among our friends and acquaintances here, someone’s always in Singapore. We have friends on Batam now and Saturday night we had a new family to dinner—headed, after language school, to Batam. It was close this time. The fiery darts of fear are thicker in the air. And I want to scream aloud, “Has the whole world gone crazy?!”

It makes me run to Jesus. There’s no where else to go. I run fast and I run scared. And the King of kings is there. He who is coming to the world’s rescue, leading heaven’s armies on a white horse and wielding a righteous sword. We are not, never have been, and never will be defenseless. He is Faithful and he is True and this world has not spun out of his control.

I stand with my mouth shut and hold in my hands the very great and precious promises. They are all YES in Jesus.

 

Jesus is our only hope. He’s our high tower, our fearless leader, our nearest comforter, our sheltering wing.

Run.

Run. 

And cling.

 

 

*From William Cowper’s God Moves in a Mysterious Way 1773
Posted in Jesus | 9 Comments

a broom of her own

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Brooms have become tools of great importance in our lives. I remember having dinner with some friends from India last year, and they were describing the differences they noticed between daily life in India and that in the United States. One thing they said really surprised me. “There’s so much more house work, because of the dust. You leave something out, you come back, it’s full of dust.” I thought that was descriptive hyperbole. I realize now it wasn’t.

With windows that are never shut in a house floored with white tile, we have to sweep everything out every day. Just so you know, that’s a royal “we”. It’s the kind of “we” that really means “the house helper does it”. Also the children, who have become obsessed with brooms. Even Wally, who is always staggering around the kitchen under the weight of a broom twice as tall as he is. Indonesian brooms are really cool. They are usually bundles of stiff straws bound with a cord, often with a stick of bamboo in the center as a broom stick. Of course, there are more modern plastic brooms here, but these don’t tend to last in our family. Probably because they are frequently called into service as cockroach-smashers. (I’m serious, we’ve destroyed three plastic brooms in this way to date and there was no end to the madness in sight until Alex’s mother came to visit and gifted Alex with a heavy wooden meat-mallet, now designated for this purpose. We’re notching the handle for every kill.)

Even with a helper, I find plenty of cause for sweeping around here. I like sweeping. It’s such a classic, universal activity. Like all cleaning, I’m always struck by the redemptive metaphor.

And I love it when the children learn things by watching the people around us. Yesterday I found Harriet in the courtyard making a broom. She had gathered a pile of straws and bound them to a stick, and she was busily engaged in trimming the ends.

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“Mom, I’m making a broom. Can I paint the handle when I’m done?” Norah was so interested in the process that she immediately enrolled in broom-making class, as offered by Harriet, a veteran with one broom successfully made.

“Hey, Mom. Take a picture of me, like, teaching Norah, okay?” She’s the younger sister, she needed to capture this rare moment.

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I love the innate ingenuity of childhood. It’s really fascinating, the way they are so curious and absorb the world around them and put their own creative twist on it. Though to be honest, I was less keen on the innate ingenuity of childhood when Walter sweetly stuck a stick in my eye yesterday, also when Hugh found the bucket of white powdery ashes from the grill and made it “snow” thickly over everything in the courtyard, including his own hair. I should have been more understanding–he was just providing me with another opportunity to indulge in the universal redemptive metaphor of sweeping.

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Harriet’s broom turned out excellent. She painted the handle bright blue and red and embellished the handle with a ball of pink fluff (that was her creative twist). She announced that she was going to gift the broom to her new kindergarten teacher, along with her reversible picture of a tree and a volcano. (One way it’s a tree, turn it upside-down, it’s a volcano.)

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I can only say I hope the teacher understands the magnitude of this gift, as the broom is, at the moment, her most treasured possession. She was riding it through the house all morning, the foreboding of this slightly witch-like activity alleviated by the fact that she was singing the words to Psalm 121 at the top of her lungs.

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Posted in Little Ones, Make Do and Mend | 8 Comments

pinterest is bad

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Girls, have you seen the Pinterest fails? You know, the professional Pinterest photo somebody saw of a perfect crafting experience and its lovely outcome . . . and then photographic evidence of their own botched operation? The first time somebody sent me a link to one of those sites I did the snort-laugh. (I believe it was to one of you, O readers, that I am indebted. Accept my public thanks!) Some of you will now go and view it and fail to get the joke because these attempts, my friends, are not actually at all funny. They are sad. They are only funny if you look at them with an immediate, guilty sense of self-recognition.

I am crafty. The quandary of being born a craftish-type person (and you know who you are) is that such heritage does not guarantee talent. If it comes with talent, you’re “Artistic”. If it comes without, you’re a Time-Wasting Idiot.

It is for my fellow time-wasting idiots that I describe today’s efforts. (That is me, above, conveniently wearing my “I’m blogging this” shirt. All unplanned, people.) This week I managed at last to get a can of chalkboard paint. Alex purchased it for me and the man mysteriously insisted he also buy a bottle of thinner. If I were running this errand in an English-speaking country or an air-conditioned store I may have pressed for instructions. Alas.

I’ve seen the clever things people do with chalkboard paint and today was my day to join them. I ignored the Indonesian words on the can and pried it open. My initial plan was to paint a big square of the wall in our courtyard at kid-height. If successful my children could rapidly become chalk-covered little people wearing dirty little clothes at any hour of the day in a very short space of time. I pried the can open, found to my surprise it was only half-full of a very thick wet-cement like substance, dipped in my best paintbrush, and advanced it toward the wall of the house. Half an inch from contact I remembered that we are renters. The brush shook spastically in my hand as I wrestled with temptation, causing the goop to drip perilously near my best jeans. My conscience won, and was confirmed immediately by Alex who felt that glopping it on the house was probably not an excellent plan.

But we had a cheap mirror from the street market that fell off of our dresser and shattered (right before our guests arrived on Christmas Day, actually) and I repaired the frame and saved the plywood backing . . . I decided that this should become a chalkboard. I began glooping and smearing the stuff onto it. When it wouldn’t spread and the brush began to make deep unsmooth-able tracks in it I began to think perhaps there was some purpose in the bottle of greasy thinner. It was too late to mix it into the paint (is that even what you do?) so I poured some on top. Then I kicked it over by accident and it spilled and soaked into my jeans and all over my ankles. At this point I think the fumes began to go to my head (or maybe sooner?). I tried to paint the stuff on some Mason jar lids, getting at least as much on my hands in the process. (I could hear Alex calling from the house, “The Benjamin Moore website says don’t get it on yourself but that’s for the American kind . . . “) When I had maximized the damage, I brought everything to the kitchen sink for cleanup. A rag soaked with the thinner was not removing the black from my hands, but optimistically I poured some into a plastic container to put the brush in. The chemical fumes were intense (lunch was in the oven, Alex said it smelled like meatloaf with paint thinner sauce). Two minutes later I tried to lift the plastic container out of the sink and learned that the thinner had eaten through the plastic and black-painty-oily-thinner splashed all over the kitchen sink. And wouldn’t come off.

(“What are you doing, Mommy?”)(“Oh, just . . . nothing. “)

Forty-five minutes with steel wool, folks. And to remind me of (one of) today’s crafting adventures my best jeans, the stones in the courtyard, my left heel, and, of course, the new chalkboard–remain deeply black.

Nailed it.

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Posted in Make Do and Mend | 10 Comments

of praying for light

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
—1 John 1:5

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Checking the news early this morning I learned of the strangling of a young Pakistani woman in an “honor killing” almost certainly conducted by her own family. I keep thinking about it, about the things happening around the world in God’s name. I keep thinking about Jesus, who was also killed in the name of religious law, in the moments of his death pleading with the Father for the forgiveness of his killers. I keep thinking about how he said, “They do not know what they are doing.” He knew they were striking blind, like a fistfight happening in the dark.

This morning before church I was standing at the stove, thinking about these things and searing vegetables for a casserole for dinner when I heard Hugh, who had been building a tower with magnet-tiles in the corner of the kitchen. “I’m praying at the mosque. I builded a mosque so we can pray.”

Norah has always made up little songs to sing to Jesus and sung them in her high-pitched, repetitive little voice as she’s crafting or playing. Lately the melody of every song I hear her singing is the yodel-like drone of the call to prayer, which sounds through our house five times a day.

We are surrounded by the blind.

When we pray for them, what do we pray? Are we praying for our safety and protection, or for justice, for their capture and punishment? Or are we praying for light?

We know that our God is a God of justice and it is a comfort that all things will be made right. I can understand why the writers of the psalms plead with God to give their enemies their just deserts. But the fact remains that God didn’t give me mine.

Fear is powerful–and fear tactics are their best weapon. Unless we have love.

 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
–I John 4:18a

Posted in Jesus | 8 Comments

of the putu man and spontaneous delight of children

Hi Strangers. Anybody remember the series Starting Again: Five Dos and One Don’t in which I gave all of my free and unsolicited advice to pilgrims? Quite astoundingly, considering I was living in Europe at the time and had not yet encountered Indonesian cheese, I wrote the following (here): You are allowed to hate the cheese. You can tell your husband once in a while that you hate the cheese. (Don’t tell the children.) Then invent the cheeseless taco and have something local that’s delicious for dessert. It was like a premonition. I’m not going to discuss the cheese. But these days, that local something we find for dessert is heralded by a steam whistle.

(Really? I haven’t written in two months and I’m writing about dessert? Yes.)

It’s the putu man.

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He comes at night, with a steam cart. In Indonesia it’s always well and truly dark by six, and we’re usually around the big table in our kitchen having supper. He signifies his advent with a high-pitched steam whistle, like a roving tea kettle. When we hear it, which somehow we do under all the hubbub of the supper chatter and clatter, silence falls.

Then, “It’s the PUTU MAN!” And they’re off. Everybody furiously shoves on flip-flops while Alex steps into the road to head off The Putu Man. When he stops, everybody gathers around to watch the putu-making process.

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Putu (poo-too) is a Javanese treat that consists of little rolls of steamed rice with coconut and palm sugar inside. While the children watch, fascinated, the putu man packs the rice into little segments of bamboo and sets them over his steamer to cook. (Hot tip from me to you: If you are going to feed the children street food, feed it to them really hot!)

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When the putu is done, he rolls it in a bit of newspaper and it is carried into the house by excited little people.

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(Where Wally remains, abandoned in his chair, wondering where everybody went.)

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Putu for all of us runs just under fifty cents total. It’s worth far more than that for all the fun. I love the spontaneity of not knowing when we’ll hear the whistle, the sudden delight and the mad dash when we do. Baskin Robbins was never this much fun.

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Posted in Indonesia | 10 Comments

of losing Grandma

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Yesterday on the other side of the world my family gathered to remember my Grandma. Grandma went to be with Jesus on Leap Year Day. I guess you could say she made the biggest leap of all, isn’t it, entering heaven. It was just a month after her 95th birthday.

There is gratitude behind the tears. My grandmother was unbelievably wonderful and I had her for 35 years. There is peace behind the tears also. She was ready to go. She wanted to see Jesus and she was looking forward to seeing Grandpa again. (He always made her laugh. Everybody else, too.)

Looks like everyone is coming . . . except us, of course.

That’s the part of this life we live that weighs the most. While my family were gathering in the church it was nearly midnight on Java and I was painting the kitchen ceiling blue. (What do you do on Saturday nights?) I wish I could have been there to remember her together. Maybe it would help me let her go. But Jesus is enough, he always is. He’s near us in our sorrow and he takes the sting out of our grief with his glorious promise of eternal life, in which Grandma is now rejoicing at last.

We’ll see her on the other side.

 

 

 

Posted in Jesus | 2 Comments

of java on java

Alex: “Feel like an adventure this Saturday?”
Me, instantly: “NO.” Adventure is something of which, I feel, we have enough at the minute.
Alex: “It’s a coffee plantation.”
Me: “I’ll pack a picnic.”

There are times when I forget that we live on an exotic tropical island. Last weekend I was reminded. A very short drive from our new home there is a mountain covered with coffee trees that are covered with coffee beans and we went there and it was beautiful. (Thus I prove to you I am in language school by the thoroughly awkward sentence construction that now characterizes all of my communication. Although just why learning to speak Indonesian should mean I can no longer write in English this I do not know.)

We took a ride on the “Tourist Train”, a sort of golf cart in disguise, that begins at the rubber trees, drives past a nutmeg grove, winds through the coffee trees, and concludes in a grove of cocoa trees.

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That’s nutmeg growing on the tree, folks. The road winds up the mountain through acres of stunted coffee trees. Most of the trees on the plantation are at least forty years old but carefully pruned to keep them at a reachable height for the more than 600 people who will come in August to harvest the beans. Coffee trees do best without direct sun, so there are taller trees planted throughout to provide shade for them. Isn’t this road stunning?

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I think they look like rhododendrons from afar. Only so, so much better because they are laden with clusters of the world’s most magical and delicious bean…

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The children were all about picking the beans and tasting the beans . . . then immediately back to just picking them again. They’re inedible, so our harvest is now just sitting on the kitchen table in the apple bowl looking cool. (“Mom, you drink that stuff?”)

Yes, dear. Yes, I do.

It’s actually a bit of a quest to locate good coffee here–most growers find greater economic advantage in exporting their harvest. But we were able to buy a bag of locally-grown roasted beans from the plantation before we left.

Here’s Harriet immediately after she exclaimed, “Well THIS is a whole lot funner than I thought it was gonna be!”

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The best part was when suddenly, careening around the edge of the mountain, we were granted a view of the rice paddies in the valley and the volcano behind. The pictures don’t do it justice. We’ll take you here when you come visit.

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We lingered so long on the trail that the cart behind caught up with us. This was a great little partnership. We were taking pictures of coffee. They were taking pictures of us.

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There was a rusty metal playground, ATV rides, a zipline, and the inevitable bouncy castle. There were wonderful cappuccinos served to us as we sat in a little straw hut. But my favorite was definitely the sights like this one:

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And this one–isn’t she beautiful under the rubber trees?

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This last photo sums up how we felt about this adventure. Things are looking up.

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Posted in Indonesia | 2 Comments

The Easter Invitation

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I saw this window in the cathedral in Bath, England.

As some of you may remember, Alex and I wrote a series of twenty-four Advent Readings for the Very Young for our daughters (and this blog) back in December 2012. I just wanted to mention that I also wrote twelve Easter Readings for the Very Young (in 2013) to post for the 12 days leading up to Easter from the Wednesday before Palm Sunday (March 20, 2016) through Easter Sunday (March 27, 2016). I’ve provided a list of headings below, if any one is interested in joining us in reading these with our little ones.

As I prayerfully considered this project, I decided to base the readings on the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the Gospel of John. Thus there is no reading on “Jesus is the Lamb” and I have gone to the synoptic Gospels for the account of the Last Supper. I have begun four days before Palm Sunday to get us thinking on the life of Jesus before Holy Week begins. That way, even though we may be reading at the moment in different places in the Bible, we can all pick up here and know where we’re at. Activity suggestions for some of the days are included. Beside each day are listed the materials we will use for the activities, in case anyone is interested in the same activities and would like to prepare.

The memory verses we will be reviewing nightly with this series are John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” and Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Easter Readings for the Very Young
Wednesday (before Palm Sunday): Jesus Opens the Eyes of the Blind (John 9): blindfold
Thursday (before Palm Sunday): Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10): stuffed animals: lion and lambs
Friday (before Palm Sunday): Jesus and the Disciples (John 11:1-16)
Saturday (before Palm Sunday): Jesus Raises Lazarus (John 11:17-57): roll of toilet paper
Palm Sunday: Jesus Enters Jerusalem (John 12:12-19): palm branches; real or paper
Holy Monday: Jesus Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14): 2-3 pieces poster board, brown construction paper or cardboard
Holy Tuesday: Jesus Has the Greatest Love (John 15)
Holy Wednesday: Jesus Washes Feet (John 13): water, soap, towels
Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22): bread, grape juice
Good Friday: Jesus Dies On the Cross (John 18-19:1-30): a few candles
Holy Saturday: Jesus Is Buried In the Tomb (John 19:31-42): felt or paper figures
Easter Sunday: Jesus Is Risen (John 20): bells, musical instruments

You are very welcome to join us! Please do send along any suggestions or ideas you may have for helping our littlest ones understand the Savior that we celebrate at this season.

Posted in Easter Readings for the Very Young | Leave a comment

of dwelling rights

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A matter for much prayer at the minute is our pursuit of a new visa. Perhaps these words will not carry much meaning for some but for anyone who has taken up residence in a country where they were not born, they are significant. Perhaps if you have done so, you have had a chance to reflect on how being born in a nation makes you an incontrovertible part of it. You belong to it and thus it belongs to you. All the rights and privileges of a citizen, a fully-invested member, are yours as a matter of course. No one may contest your right to be–and to stay–present.

Not so the immigrant. Somehow permission must be obtained: not just the right of entry, but the right to remain. Dwelling rights, regularly renewable—must be yours. There are papers, fees, and processes that must be engaged in and outcomes are ever uncertain. We last engaged in this process last spring, leaving, as we thought, adequate time to receive our first visa before we departed the home shores on July 22. But these things do not always (ever?) go according to plan. Our visas did not arrive. A few days before we left Boston we learned they were stuck on a desk in New York. With our passports. Thus rendering our impending (and expensive) departure for Asia impossible. There were prayers and heart-burnings and many, many phone calls. In the end Alex drove to New York and was able to pick up our passports and visas (probably with the ink still wet) and drive all the way back again, thus missing the last day with his family. At three o’clock the next morning, we headed to the airport and left the country.

It was during that time that my scheduled Bible reading happened to be Psalm 87. When I read it, I could not believe it. Who knew that a Visa Psalm was in the Bible?! I could not remember ever reading of entry rights and dwelling rights before—but it’s there. It’s about the citizenship everybody’s trying to get and the only one that really counts: citizenship in the city of God.

1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God.

Have we pondered of late what glorious things are spoken of the city of God? Could this be real: “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away . . . behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:2-5). Are we ready to be done with the dark yet? Are we ready to be done with tears and death and brokenness? How can that even be true, says my mind. The next thing he says: “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” How do we get a visa for that city? Who has the dwelling rights in that one?

4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
‘This one was born there,’ they say.

Is that a typo? The list of nations that know this city is a list of the enemies of God’s people. Rahab is a recognized term for Egypt and Tyre was a Canaanite city. What are they doing in Zion? And they are claiming full citizenship—“This one was born there.” In the psalm that comes right before this one it says this: “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name” (Ps. 86:9). But how do they get in? How do we get in?

As it happens, the visa-granting process to the kingdom of God is simple. It’s simple because no one needs one. Every single citizen of the city of God was born there.

5 And of Zion it shall be said,
‘This one and that one were born in her’;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The LORD records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.’

O the greatness and beauty of the incredible mercy of our God! I read this and I can see him, writing each beloved name in indelible ink with a flourish, his countenance broadly smiling with satisfaction as he changes the birth records of humanity. You—you, were born here. The full rights of citizenship are incontestably yours. There are no processes, or papers. There are no fees. Permission needn’t be obtained and re-obtained for you, you’re a native.

But you weren’t born there, cries our accuser. You were born in the dark.

Oh, that was the first time, we say. I’ve been born again.

7 Singers and dancers alike say,
‘All my springs are in you.’

 

 

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode;
on the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

See! the streams of living waters,
spring from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint, when such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace which, like the Lord, the Giver,
never fails from age to age.

—John Newton

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