Saturday, November 10, 2007

A New Perspective on Toys, Tools, and Treasures

For a while now we've taught our kids that most things can be grouped into three categories: toys, tools and treasures. You only play with toys, not tools (the computer, the car, dad's hammer, the blender, etc.) or treasures (our china, the quilt made by Great Grandma Scribner, our marriage license, the necklace my Granddad gave me when I was a little girl, our photographs, etc.). You don't use toys as tools. You don't even touch some one's treasures without permission, because those things have special value to the owner. Etc. We are to be good stewards of all of our things; toys, tools and treasures and use them for the purposes they were intended. It's been an effective way of having the kids think about the things we have and how we use them.

In Bolivia it is interesting to see things that I'm sure used to be some one's treasure (or at least status symbol) used as tools. Things here are more often used for the purposes they were intended. Things don't tend to be status symbols like in the States...especially 'name brands' although unfortunately there is some influence sneaking in from western cultures in the more professional class. Let me give you some examples. Cars are used as tools to drive. They are to get from one place to another. As I said there are beginning to be exceptions, but for the most part cars are tools not status symbols. Not something to be used to make someone feel better about themselves. Take mahogany wood. It's used for tables and chairs because it is a hard wood and makes good furniture in even the most humble of houses, not because others will see it and comment on how nice is. Another example is clothes. Clothes are used to clothe your body, not to give you a sense of self worth because they have the 'right' tiger or horse on them. For instance the little girl I saw who lived on the street the other day didn't know that she had on a $200 Laura Ashley dress. All she knew is that she had something to cover her body. Some one's 'treasure' had become the 'tool' it was intended to be for a little girl in South America. I find it interesting and even amusing that things that were purchased as status symbols in the US are then discarded at a yard sale or to a thrift store because something newer or better has come out or because the person has too many things stuffed in their storehouse/closet already. Then those items end up getting shipped here and used for the purpose that they should be used for.

It's liberating to use things for the purposes they were intended. Think about it. Do you ever buy something because of the image you believe it projects? Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that we should only buy things we need. I am saying that we often blur the line between 'tools', 'toys' and 'treasures'. Our 'tools' and 'toys' have become 'treasures' because we have so much money invested in them. Our phones, computers, dishes, cars, and clothes become 'treasures' instead of 'tools'. I once knew someone who wouldn't let their own children sit on the sofa in their house because it was white and it's purpose had become for decoration, beauty, and status not for use. Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't have beautiful things, but I believe the things we have should serve us not be our master. How much time and energy to I spend maintaining, storing and caring for all the things that I bought to serve me? Are they now my master? Have my things become more important than people? Do I spend more time, energy and money on things that will eventually burn than on people or the kingdom of God? The things I struggle to accumulate and strive to have will they be thrown in a dumpster or sold to a bargain shopper at a yard sale for a dime by my children when I die?

I know how the line between tools, toys and treasures can be blurred. It's happened to me. Sometimes I still find myself grieving the loss of some of my things that I rid myself of in order to come to the mission field. For instance, last night I was crying....yes, crying....over the loss of my Christmas tree. Yes, it did have special sentimental value because it was a fixture of our holiday celebrations and tradition. Yet, it was just a THING. Sometimes I blur the line between stuff and the memories I have with the stuff. It's the people and the memories that are important not the THING. Certain clothes or other items were much harder to let go of than others because they had found a 'treasured' status in my heart. When I had to get rid of the things that wouldn't fit into our 2 bags each that we were able to bring with us it was a good lesson to me in what is important and why. I want to continue to guard my heart against having tools creep into treasured status.

'Treasures' are important. Some things have sentimental value to us because of who gave them to us or who made them for us. Some things we buy because they are beautiful and we enjoy looking at them. We buy other things that can help us do things better, or faster, or more comfortably. That's not wrong. It's a matter of the heart. Are we buying the new computer, oven, furniture, car or shirt because it can be a tool for us to use or in order for others to think better of us? I've found more and more that I want to use even the treasures I have. I want my kids to grow up remembering sleeping under Grandma's quilt and eating on our good dishes. It's not the stuff that's important. It's the people. I remember when I was a little girl on vacation with my family we came across a car accident in the mountains that had just occurred. A man was lying in the road likely dying. My dad and mom did what they could to help him and ended up leaving him wrapped in a quilt that was given to them as wedding present years before. Now that was a good purpose for that comfort a dying man. I'm sure the ladies that put their time and effort into quilting it would have been pleased. It wasn't meant just to be kept in a box in the attic. It was to be used and to be enjoyed.

The Bible teaches that where your heart is there your treasure will be. Are my treasures here being stored up in bigger houses and barns or are they in heaven? Am I investing my resources in the lives of others, in the people He gave His only Son for, and in the kingdom of God? Or am I simply treasuring the tools He's given me to reach this world for His glory?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Game...(another guest blog from Joe)

I took my teenagers and went to a professional soccer game last Sunday afternoon. It was a fun event. We were told to not go to a night game, because night games are quiet a bit more ‘eventful’ due to the fact that fans have all day to consume alcohol, so they are drunk before the game even starts.

We went with some friends, one of whom is a great soccer fan, so he was able to fill us in on details. Here is a copy of our dialogue:

Joe: Are these games really safe? I feel a little uneasy.
Monte: If you don’t come to night games…cuz the fans are already drunk…and if you don’t sit anywhere else but here. These seats cost a lot more (they are $3/seat), but they are pretty safe.
Joe: Why?
Monte: Look behind you. This is the low section so we can have good seats, but only a few rows of people behind you. But more importantly, the opposing team fans sit on both ends of the field. You don’t want to be anywhere near that section.
Joe: Why?
Monte: Watch and you will see. Anytime action happens on the field, a foul, goal, or perceived bad call, the fans that feel wronged take it out on the others. They will throw bottles full of soda, rocks, or other stuff. One of things that happens a lot is they ignite fireworks and shoot each other. If there is a goal, you may have someone stand up with a Roman Candle and shoot balls of fire into the other fans section. Sometimes, they shoot these balls of fire at the umpires and players.
Joe: Don’t they get caught?
Monte: If it is a firework that repeats itself so that the police can backtrack it they will, but if it is a one shot, or a bottle, no one even tries.
Joe: Another question. Why are their so many police in full riot gear, complete with Kevlar, helmets and riot shields?
Monte: They protect the players and umpires from the fans.

This dialogue continued as I sought to fully experience this cultural event. Here is how it unfolded.

There were fireworks off and on, set off by the fans, until the players came on the field. You knew it was time for the players to come, because the riot police went to the locker room doors and formed a ‘turtle shell’ with their shields—think Roman Soldiers defending themselves from the enemies archers. This turtle let the bottles bounce off of the plexiglass shields rather than the players skulls.

Then, the bands began to play. Suddenly, HUGE fireworks went off IN stands. Fireworks like you see in the park at the fourth of July. Sparks showered down on all the fans in the same section, and smoke bombs went off. The huge marching drums began to beat. Then the same thing happened on the other side for the other team. The drums competed against each other for volume and overall African Tribe Beat. Let me put a note here. The drums started as the players went off the field…and NEVER stopped. The entire game, an hour and a half, there were thirty drums going BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. Did I mention they did this the whole game? Like, never stopped?

Then the play began. It was a good game, with a lot of fan interaction, some occasional fireworks, and some bottles. At the end of the game, after the players left the field, the riot police went to the middle of the playing area. They met the umpires there, formed the ‘turtle shield’ and protected the referees as bottles bounced off harmlessly.

We waited until the most aggressive appearing people had left, and then went home. It was a lot of fun watching…and every once in a while we looked at the soccer game too. In the words of MacArthur…we will return.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Hope's Birthday Pics

Hope turned 6 on October 4. Here are some pics of her special day.
She had a piñata where you pull ribbons and one of the ribbons releases the candy and prizes. Much more femine than whacking it with a stick. :>)

The piñata released its treasures!!!

Hope checking out the goods.

She wanted a pinapple upside down cake.

The bear Paul and Grandma bought for her. She loves to sleep with it.

An exercise trampoline is just the right size for her and for our house, too. It's a popular attraction for all the kids. The older ones like to use it as a launching pad to see how far up the stairs they can jump.

Hope wanted to go to Burger King for her birthday meal. BK is the only "North American" kind of fast food in the whole city. We don't go there too often since it costs as much or more than most of the fancier restaurants around town. Also, the food's isn't so great. Once Joe got some kind of bug from undercooked chicken there. However, we had a good time on Hope's birthday.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Finally Pics from David's Birthday

It's taken a while for me to get these up. But I'm sure you'll enjoy them just the same. David turned 11 on September 30. He's growing up quick! He's becoming one of 'the older guys' to stay up a bit later and have a few more privileges. He thinks that's very cool.

Here we are at Papa Gallos...David's favorite place to eat in Cochabamba.

Yummy, yummy hamburgers!

Some old classics that we found here...Twister, some dominoes to build and knock down and Fruit Stripe favorite when I was a kid.

Legos from my dad and mom

David wanted chocolate chip cookies instead of a cake.

A birthday kiss

Encouragement from Music

Christian music is more important than ever to me. I especially like praise and worship music, however, I have a very broad definition of P & W. It encourages me. It lifts me above my circumstances by causing me to focus on God and His work. Unlike a lot of people who enjoy music as 'background noise', I don't.... generally speaking. This tiny flaw in my personality is a constant irritant to my best buddy and long-suffering honey, Joe. Often he will have music playing in the background and I usually turn it down. It makes it hard for me to focus on the task that I am doing even if that task is talking with my friends or family. If the music is low enough for me to concentrate it's usually too low for Joe's liking. He puts up with me though since he pledged for better or for worse. When I listen to music especially Christian music I like to focus on listen to the words, to worship along. Because of this I most enjoy music with really good lyrics. Although I enjoy all kinds of music, I tend to listen to my Christian favorites over and over in order to be built up in the Spirit. Being on the mission field, one of the things I miss is keeping up with the new Christian music that flows in a steady stream in the States. There is always something new on the Christian music stations there. Joe and I have talked recently about listening to satellite broadcasts in order to stay current. (I'd like to interrupt this blog to put out a plea to all my friends: It is my desire to keep with current trends in all areas. I don't want to be stuck in 2007. So, when I come back to the States for visits and for home assignment, please tell me how out of style my choice of dressing and hairstyle is... if indeed it is. Go shopping with me. Help me! I'm begging you. I don't wanna be a missionary that still wears the clothes, has the hair, uses the technology, uses the illustrations, and sings the songs of days gone by. So there you have it. I have given you permission to speak into my life and help me out. God is unchanging. He's the same yesterday, today and forever. But methods of sharing Who He is change constantly. I want a platform to speak from. I desire to keep as current as I can in order to appeal to those who need to hear of Him. I want to be all things to all people so that by all possible means some might be saved. I need to know and understand those means for the sake of the gospel that I might share its blessings...and of course I'd rather not look like a dork, either. :>) ) Okay now on to the point of this blog....and you thought I didn't have a point. You thought I was just rambling in English because I can. You thought I was using my word dump of my native tongue since I can't do it here. Anyway, music encourages me more than ever and I thought I'd share some of my favs and maybe some of them will encourage you too.

I love anything by the Newsboys but especially the albums Adoration, Devotion and Go. It seems that the Newsboys must be tracking my life (yeah, like they don't have anything better to do...just a bit of an egocentric statement, huh?) because it seems like they write and sing just what I need at the time. When Adoration and Devotion both came out I was longing to find music that just praised God. When Go came out we were headed to the mission field. I also like them because the lead singer and starter of the band is a pastor's son. I have a tender place in my heart for pastor's sons and I love to see those who are living for our Lord.

Next, I like Caedmon's Call. I especially like their album Share the Well that came out of their missions trip to India. (Do yourself a favor and at least listen to the songs "Jesus is All I Need", "Share the Well" and see if you're not convicted.) This band again was started by pastor's kids...brothers and sister. How cool is that? And they're from Texas to boot. No wonder I like them. I also like their albums In the Company of Angels: A Call to Worship and In the Company of Angels II: The World will Sing. You can't go wrong with Caedmon's Call.

The 'old school' part of me loves Michael Card. His lyrics are hard to beat. My favorite Christmas album ever is The Promise. Poiema is excellent as well.

Now on to Jars of Clay's Redemption Songs. Remixes of some oldies but goodies that makes them new and fresh and helps me focus on the words.

I also like the album Rescue: Live Worship by Newsong. You gotta love guys who've been around for a while and still churn out great stuff. This stuff really ministers to me. A couple of weeks ago I had to miss church, this album was my praise and worship for the day. I dare you to listen to "Arise My Love" without lifting your hands in praise (even if you don't generally do that).

Casting Crowns album Casting Crowns is awesome as well as is their album Lifesong.

Third Day's Offering has been on my list ever since I first heard it and I think it will be there for some time to come.

A Collision and B Collision by the David Crowder Band have some good songs on them.

Phillips, Craig and Dean is another of my favorite groups. Check out their Ultimate Collection. They are all three pastors as well. Joe doesn't think that's be able to preach and sing too.

Of course I can't forget Chris Tomlin. Check out his albums Arriving and See the Morning. Where does this guy keep getting this good stuff? It must be from our Lord. :>)

Of course my favorite song writer of all time is Jake Holman (my son). Honestly he's written some pretty cool stuff since we've been here. He has really deep lyrics. Look for his work in the future.

Let me give you a small piece of advice: find some person or group whose music ministers to you and GO TO THEIR CONCERTS. Right now I can't go to any concerts, but you can bet that I'm saving money now so that when we are back in the States I can see some of the guys/gals in person. Not because I worship the ones that sing the songs but because I worship the God that they sing about and their songs cause me to think on Him.

You might notice that one thing that many of these songs/albums have in common is a burden for the lost in the world. It is a prayer of mine and Joe's that because of our ministry at least 100 people will go into the harvest to be a part of the work God is doing by drawing every tribe, tongue and nation to Himself. It's an awesome work and I'm so thrilled to have a part in it. We've been praying to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth workers into His harvest. It's ready. Are you? Why don't you spend some time thinking about the possibility of serving our Lord cross-culturally to the uttermost parts of the earth. More on this at another time.

In the meantime, check out some of this music that has inspired me in my walk with the Lord and see if it encourages you too. There are lots more great groups and albums that I didn't list. If you have one you'd like to tell me about, I'd be happy to give it a listen.