The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Can we be 'humbly proud'?

I remember when we had a guest speaker at Riverside a few years ago who seemed to brag and brag about his ‘children in Christ’. I remember that I thought it …unbecoming and perhaps even un-Christian to act like it was of his doing that those souls came to Christ.
I remembered it clearly as it ran through my mind today as three of my students accepted Christ in baptism. I honestly did not think it was my doing, but I did think how awesome that I had a small part in their understanding God’s call, His love, and His desire for our lives. Was I a little proud? I cannot lie, I was. Do I feel a sense of responsibility for their Christian training for the future, absolutely. Do I think that the glory of this day was my doing? No way! Their parents planted, I watered, and GOD gave the increase. God convicted their hearts. The blood of Jesus saved them and brought them into a relationship with God. But it sure feels good to have gotten to water a bit!

In truth I am honored and humbled that not one, but three, encouraged by the class, decided to follow Christ. As I began this new class with the teenage girls (which began January 2) I wanted to make sure they understood the call to follow Christ as I understood it:
It has little to do with fear of hell, or duty or responsibility, but everything to do with God wanting to have a personal relationship with us, but being unable to in our filthy, sin-stained condition.
I wanted them to understand that Jesus came to earth as the solution to this problem, and His solution is a permanent one, offering continued, permanent forgiveness to those who believe He is who He says He is.
I wanted them to understand that God loves us so much that He gave His Son so that He could be with us daily in the form of the Holy Spirit.
I wanted them to love Him the way I love Him.
Praise the Lord, there are some who do understand! They understand and want that relationship with the Creator of the universe! And God let me help! I know, some of you are saying, “yea, so what! We have done that before”, but isn’t it just as amazing and renewing each time? I am still deeply in love with our awesome God, and still in awe that He could use this filthy, sin-stained sinner to help bring light to His beloved. I’m just sayin’, it don’t get any better than this!

Friday, January 28, 2011

One step forward, two steps back

Last week our neighbors and friends, Jose and Marlenis, asked if we could drive them to Caña Blanca so they could pick up some supplies from their little rented farm place. Today was the day. We left at 8 this morning for the rough but beautiful drive. They rented a farm there last Spring from our rich neighbor. It has a small house, next to a creek for water, and they were raising a few head of cattle and corn and beans on the property.
Last November the land was sold and they were told they must get the cattle off immediately, but could wait until the bean crop was harvested before moving themselves. The contract they had signed was not honored, but they were satisfied with being able to at least harvest the beans before leaving. We are talking truck patch – size plot of land full of beans – all of their money went into planting and fertilizing the crop. The cows had to go because the new owners plan to plant coffee, and poisoned that part of the land with herbicides that would kill the cows.
Unfortunately with the cows moved, Jose could not milk them daily, and had to travel every day to take care of them in town. This became impractical, as it is a 3 hour walk to the farm from here, and some may remember it was Jose who broke his ankle last year, and he still has problems with it. Necessities forced them to move back to town.
So, there we were today, in this perfectly remote, jungled area with wild birds, and many other animals scampering about. It was so peaceful and calm, yet they were tearing down outbuildings, and collecting their meager belongings (which all fit into a 5 gallon bucket and a large cook pan) to move back to town.
Fortunately Marlenis has a small house just up the road from us that was built for her by the government about 20 years ago, so they are not left with no place to go at all. However the lot is very small, and they have worked hard to purchase two horses, 2 pigs, and a few chickens and turkeys, with no place to safely keep them now. It seems a common occurrence here, to finally think they are getting a bit ahead then be thrust back down. Such is the resignation of the folks here. It is sad, but we understand better why they are so accepting of whatever fate comes along.
Jose has found a temporary job building fences just north of town, and so they will not starve, but they are heart-sick to leave behind the months of work, the tranquility and peace of the farm and knowing it was their own hands that produced their food. Me too. It was good to be with them for a time today. That is, after all, what ministry is all about – helping those who are down when they need it most - reminding them that they are loved, by us and by God.
I know how blessed we all are, and I ask you today to just take a moment to think of Jose and Marlenis, say a prayer for their tomorrows, and remember a prayer of gratitude that you have a home, food, transportation, all the things we take for granted daily, knowing that others, like these dear folks, have nothing but faith in God to help them survive.
All because of Jesus!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lynn's Random Thoughts

I’m a little embarrassed to write my mundane post since Joy was so spiritually minded with her last couple of posts. I have read the book she recommends if that counts for anything. The first success story from Joy’s Bible class for teen girls – Ingrid, a 16 year old wants to be baptized on her birthday February 6. Ingrid is a great girl with a good Catholic background.
The pigs survived our castration (mutilation) of them.
We have had some good reports about our lamb meat.
This summer (summer is the dry season, Dec. 15th to March 15th) is very cool. We have not seen lows at night of 51 degrees. We’ve had to add a second blanket to the bed. Day temps are still in the high 70’s to low 80’s. Of course if you take note of the weather strip on the blog, you already know this. It hardly rains at all during this 3-month period, making our summer very dry. Even though our average annual rainfall is 4000mm (157 inches) it mostly comes in the 9-month rainy season. We have to water every day during the summer because to ground is sandy, and it absorbs water like a sponge. We have lost several shrubs and trees in the past because of being gone in the summer.
Here is one little quote to help you understand our culture. We have told you before that there is very little violent crime here, but thievery is common. We were in the truck sometime ago conversing with a Panamanian lady. She was talking about a neighbor of ours and she said “He’s not a bad person, he just likes to steal.” ‘nough said.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Who's in charge of your heart?

It is so deeply imbedded in the human character to think of oneself above and before all else. How can we change that? And further, we see everything through the glasses that we are wearing today, in this moment. When I talk with my neighbor just after I have been fuming about my child’s behavior, and she is struggling to accept that her father is getting old - forgetful – all that comes from my mouth is ‘relationships are so difficult’. Really? How pitiful is that? My ‘sour apple glasses’ just affect all that I see and do, and ruin significant God-moments.
If only I could…put God’s heart first, wow! What a difference that would make! So, as I am committed to doing just that, why do I so constantly fail? I know that I am not alone in this. I have both witnessed it and felt the sting of someone not hearing my heart because they are caught up in their own. I see that both sides need understanding, forgiveness and a closer walk with the Maker of the universe. So here is the kicker…I cannot hope to be more like Jesus when I don’t constantly study Him, who is God, to know Him better.
May God grant us all better vision as we seek to serve Him and as we cultivate relationships with His people!

Sunday Afternoon Road Trip

Sunday afternoon we took a drive out to a small…spot called Quebrayana. Not really a town, or even a pueblo. Really it is just a few houses on the side of the road by a creek. We were looking for Bijao – a large leaved plant that the locals use to wrap up tamales before cooking them. We wanted to get a start of it going in the garden to help out the neighbors, who are always looking for it just before birthdays or special occasions. I have not personally made tamales by myself (too much corn is not good for my diabetes, and the tamales here are almost pure corn mush) but I hope to at least learn to make them for others. Tamales are ‘fiesta’ food. Special occasions warrant tamales, Arroz con pollo (a rice, chicken and vegetable dish), potato salad and chicha (a drink made of the available fruit at the time). Now, that, friends is party food!
Lynn and I got kind of turned off of tamales a couple of years ago when the neighbor, selling tamales for a school function, brought us tamales made with fish, bones and all, and also some made with pork. The pork tamale had a bone, some uncooked fat, and blood. I was sick just looking at them. However, we have learned that if we know the person cooking, we can make an informed decision about whether they are edible (the tamales, not the people). Generally we just buy them for whatever cause and let Saly, the Dalmatian decide whether they are any good. When we go to parties, it is a different story. That becomes a more delicate issue. Lynn’s normal way of dealing with that is to slide it onto my plate at the first available moment. Not fair, but what can I do without drawing more attention to us not eating them. I end up being the guinea pig, but searching for a friendly, out of the way dog to share with!
Okay, back to the trip – we came across a large Indian family standing on the side of the road about two miles out of town (dirt road, mind you, middle of nowhere) waiting for a ride to come by.

We stopped and asked where they were headed, and they told us Quebrayana, so we said hop in. As they were getting in I noticed that one of the girls was Florencia, a student of ours from the school at Caña Blanca. Most of the family climbed into the back of the truck, but Florencia and one of the boys asked if they could ride in the cab. We said of course, and they talked our ears off until we reached where they said they would get out to go to their home. We could not see a house at first, but stopped to let them out. The father thanked us for the ride and asked if some time we might come out and pick them all up to go to church with us. Unusual request, and it tickled us. The oldest boy, who had been riding in the cab, asked me if he could ask a favor. I said he could ask. He then asked if we could get him a pair of shoes. I told him we would try, asked what size did he need, and what kind of shoes he preferred. His name was Carlos, he was 13 years old, and I knew I had not seen him at the school (thanks to Kelly Martin and others, we took shoes to all the students in Caña Blanca last summer). I asked if he went to school, he said no, he worked cutting grass and weeds whenever he could. We took a picture of the younger children and mom, who said not a word the whole time. Then we headed out. After we crossed the creek and made the bend in the road we could see a house or two, so felt they were not far from home. We hope to get some black tennis shoes for Carlos today, and when we deliver them, see what sizes the other younger children need. The Caña Blanca children are not part of our scholarship program at this time, but the generous help we have received from Riverside folks will provide shoes and a bit of food for this family. A great ministry opportunity God placed in our laps!

The trip was also successful in spotting a couple of new birds to add to our bird-watching list. We have started trying to identify the thousands of birds we see normally, and are enjoying it. The only drawback is that my camara refuses to get the photos in time, so I end up with blurry pictures of wings flying away from me! (Okay, might be the photographer instead of the camara – maybe. Lynn says the camera cost too much to be at fault, so it must be me!) At any rate, we spotted a pair of Collared Aracari Toucans and a Crested Oropendola - All beautiful, colorful birds, and yes, I did take these photos, so there is hope that someday I will get some good ones! That alone would have been worth the trip without having met the family. Bonuses left and right!
The trip was also successful in finding Bijao. It is now planted in the garden and looking healthy and grateful for the water! Fred, the truck, performed magnificently with the very awful road conditions, and we had a lovely afternoon!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Journey Thoughts

On good days I am convinced that I don't have room in my mind or heart to consider whether, by helping someone, I am enabling the one asking for help - just making their problem worse. There is no room for me to wonder whether the one asking is deserving or not.
I honestly don't believe that God calls us to judge people,, but to serve them.
Then there are other days when I fail to see with God's eyes, and look instead, with my own. My sin-stained, faulty human eyes that see laziness or squandered opportunities; selfishness and desire for instant gratification more clearly than need.
When I can think clearly, that is, when I allow God to speak to me, I understand that I see those things more plainly because I have witnessed them in myself. I have known each of those motivations. I am guilty, guilty, guilty! But then I remember that I am also forgiven, forgiven, forgiven! And never have I been deserving. Praise God!
So, if I want to be like Jesus....

I am reading Invitation to a Journey by M. Robert Mulholland Jr.. If you are ready and willing to move closer to the likeness of Christ, I highly recommend this book. Simply by defining 'spiritual formation' he opens the whole can of worms; "Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others."
I have always thought it was all about me and Jesus, how about you? Mulholland makes a pretty compelling arguement for it actually being about others more than ourselves. I am now convinced that my spiritual growth is directly affected by how I interact with others as much as how I interact with others is directly affected by my spiritual growth.
Something to think about.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Pigs are Here!

and I had forgotten how much I LOVE PIGS!
We went to the neighbors to pick up the pigs, expecting 35-40 pound pigs, but found instead these adorable little guys! We are super pleased because we knew we needed to castrate them this week, and were dreading the bigger size.
As we got out of the truck, Sidilio (our neighbor who is about 75 years old) had the two piglets in feed sacks ready for us to take, and one, we shall call him 'Runner' broke out and the chase had begun. We spent 20 fun-filled, out-of-breath minutes trying to get him back in the sack. It took two of his grandchildren, his wife, his grown daughter and Lynn and I to get it done. The other neighbors were hiding in the bushes watching and laughing. It was too funny!
The feeder you see was Lynn's work. AS I mentioned, we expected bigger pigs, so it looks a little intimidating right now - I think they may sleep in it! But they will grow fast. We have always made our feeders of wood, but felt we should try with concrete, still using the same design to make them use their butt muscles and thus grow that ham to its biggest size!
As you can see, the little buggers are just gorgeous! I can't wait to get them used to me so I can pet them and play with them. I can't help it, I just love pigs!

Tomorrow is a new day, with many new opportunities. We are preparing to paint the house, plant the garden again, I am teaching English, Lynn is moving plants from one place to another... okay, that is a kind-of joke. I just kid him about it because he changes his mind alot on where to put the flowers and plants. Lots to do in the community as well, getting ready for the school year. For those who have pledged support of the children and have not yet deposited the money, the time is upon us, and thank you again! The kiddos are 'matriculating' this week!

Thank you Lord for all your blessings, though some may be more difficult, we are grateful for the growth that results from them all!


Sheep, Pigs and Cocks

Yesterday we killed and dressed two of our sheep. Actually our neighbor, Junior did most of the work. We gave him half of the meat, and we gave 5 or 6 of our neighbors part of ours. George was the older of the two. We had some of his ribs today for lunch. Very good! We spent yesterday morning building a concrete feeder in one of our hog pens. We are supposed to get two pigs today.
We loaned out chairs to our neighbors across the road for a fiesta they were having last night. For those of you who haven’t visited us, the house across the road sets back about 100 meters. Fiesta means very loud music and beer, in this case, only until 2 am. We could hear the music and feel content that they were sitting in good chairs. After 4 hours without sleep, Joy was not so charitable in her thoughts.
The chairs have been a good ministry. We lend them out quite often for birthdays and the like.
Last weekend we loaned them out to another neighbor for a fiesta which we later learned was a cock fight, an accepted money making form of entertainment here. We have since decided to refuse the use of the chairs for cock fights, not on Scriptural grounds but because we believe them to be cruelty to animals. Last Sunday after the Saturday night cock fight, the church van narrowly avoided hitting a drunken patron of the fight staggering down the road, rooster in hand (an apparent winner as the rooster was still alive).
This Saturday night’s cock fight was in Caña Blanca, which made our road busy from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am.
Joy had her teen girl’s class today. I believe she is doing a really good thing. We had a good fellowship at church today. There are more bilinguals attending now, but of course it is still a Spanish service, as it should be.
Yari is doing good with her crutches, and seems very happy. She gets frustrated when she can’t go and do like normal, but accepts it and finds other ways to occupy her time. We have extended her facebook time, which helps.
TasselB is almost well, feeling fine and playing again like a puppy. She is still eating the strawberries before we have a chance to pick them, and we are, for the moment, okay with that.

A lovely Sunday evening - Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Farm Hellos and Goodbyes

Well, TasselB, who was bitten by Patch, our male dalmatian last week, is recovering well. She is up playing today. However, we decided that if Patch would bite her, he might be a danger to children who come by, or to Tas again in the future, so we have found what we hope will be a good home for him with friends on a farm in Caña Blanca. He left on Sunday. I am sad, but believe it was the best decision for everyone.

Sunday also brought new life to the farm in the form of a new baby sheep. He is a male, and already jumps and plays, entertaining all but his mom, who worries too much! She tries to keep him close to the house, but he is quite independent!

Trusting that those we love are safe in their homes, warm and fed. I am jealous of the snow! Just really shows that no matter what we have, the 'other man's grass is always greener'! how silly and ungrateful we humans are!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In David again...

Saturday – spent the day in David again. We had several errands to run. We took TasselB to a big city vet for a second opinion. She is fine. Yari stayed here with her sister and mother. It is very hot in David, and we do not like to go except there is a McDonalds there and we always seem to be there at lunchtime.

I was reminded today, not for the first time, that immodest dress is quite prevalent here. Females dress very sensual here. Modesty is extremely difficult to teach our young girls. They have been taught, almost from birth, that sensuous is good. It is part of the culture. Mothers pass it on. Of course many girls have had their first baby by the time they are 16. Joy is starting to teach the teenage girls class at church tomorrow. I pray, and ask that you do also, for her success.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Busy but Blessed Day in the Life

Today is Friday. It seems every day is an adventure, and very busy right now. Yari is learning to cope with the cast, but is spiking a bit of temperature off and on. I am worried, but not over-worried yet.

TasselB is recovering, still needing various injections daily. Tomorrow I will give them to her here at home. This afternoon some friends came by and were telling me horror stories about the vet we are using. The 'gringos' call her 'doctor death for dogs'. apparently several pets have been taken to her for neutering and died within days of the surgery. I do worry that she is overmedicating, and she did have a baby goat die two nights ago when I had Tas there. The goat seemed strong, bawling loudly and clearly when I arrived, then 5 minutes later it was dead. Have not decided what to do about further treatment.

Patch, the male who bit Tas now has a new home several miles from here. I hope he does well. He isa good dog, other than biting my baby. I think it had to do with the female dalmatian being in heat, but am unwilling to take a chance on a repeat.

Lynn is working away on the yard, and it is looking really good. I always kid him that he is forever changing the design, digging up plants and trees to move to a better spot. he had done it again, but it really does look good. We will see how long he leaves it this way! He enjoys the tinkering, so I am happy!

We are praying for Leon Davenport's family, and trusting that God will give them peace for each moment. A good man, gone home!

Have a blessed weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Today is Tuesday. At least I think it is Tuesday. Tomorrow we go to hopefully get the cast put on Yari's foot. She has been in pain most of the time since we got home. She tries to be brave, but at times she just yells out, "Oh, Man!", one of her favorite sayings that has now become her mantra. We have had a steady stream of visitors since she got home. Good for her morale but not so good for the foot. It is still swollen, so I am doubtful that the doc will put the cast on tomorrow. Today she has been less active, with a stern lecture from me that she must stay in bed, in bed she has stayed.
Yesterday I was not here to supervise, and the family kept her hopping here and there entertaining. why, you might ask, was I not here? Well, let me tell you phase two of the New year for Lynn and I!

We finally got home for the hospital around 3 pm on Sunday. right at 4 pm I heard yelping and Lynn running out the back door. For some reason,our dalmatians, or one of them had Tas (my baby, who is an 8 year old french poodle)down, and in just a couple of seconds had ripped her stomach open. When I got her cleaned up enough to see the damage, we knew she would have to have stitches, but it was Sunday afternoon, so we just watched her closely until Monday morning.

Monday morning I took her to the vet - a new one, but the only one I could find in the office. After Tas bit her a couple of times, she sedated her and looked more closely at the wound. She saw that the tooth had done damage inside as well as on the surface, so we had to do surgery. I was the assistant. the surgery was done on the top of a old children's wooden desk with an IV hanging from an old TV stand, and, well, lets just say, I was not impressed with the quality of the sanitary conditions. the surgery, along with IV antibiotics and all took about 4 hours. Her surgery time had rivaled Yari's!

Prognosis at this point is guarded - she must go in daily for IV antibiotics and pain meds. She ran fever through the night, but has none at this time. By the way, Tas's doctor is giving her stronger pain medicine than Yari's doctor is giving her. the latter just sent her home with a prescription for extra strength Tylenol!

Today was also my first day of English classes. They went well enough, considering how tired, stressed and overwhelmed I am feeling. Oh! A very neat thing happened during Tas's surgery. The vet, who spoke only a little English, counseled me saying," You know that God uses these times to remind us of His power and our need for him in our lives. He draws us closer by lending us his strength and power in difficult times." With teary eyes, I just smiled and said, "asi es"(that is absolutely right). In my distress and worry I forgot to be salt and light, so she was for me! It put things back in perspective for me!

Rocky start to the new year, and if it keeps up like this, just imagine how much growing we can do! Before you know it I will be sitting in God's lap! That will be alright with me!!!
Blessings & lessons to you all!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Exciting Start to the New Year

Well it’s Sunday the 2nd and I’m sitting in the Hospital Chiriquí waiting room. Yesterday Yari broke her leg – compound fracture just above the ankle and dislocated the ankle. She was spending the afternoon with her mother and family. She went down a slide at the park and landed awkwardly on her right leg. It is a bad break requiring plates and screws. We could have taken her to the regional hospital, but she would have been put on a list and might have had to wait up to two weeks. Here the surgery was done last night and she may get to go home today. Joy was able to stay with her during the surgery. The cost of hospital and surgery is going to be about $2500, plus the various trips and meals here. Yesterday was the 1st day of the year and this accident busted our new budget wide open. If anyone wants to help, we could surely use it. Yari is a ministry for us, but we’re sure you have your own personal ministries as well.

We are missing church right now. Joy was supposed to start her teen girls’ class today. We also planned to feed lunch to about 20 people from the church, but our plans were changed. Joy spent the night with Yari while I went home to take care of the animals.

Joy just came out of Yari’s room. The orthopedic surgeon has decided to wait till Wednesday to cast, so we are going home about 12:30.

There were 3 doctors involved in the 4-hour surgery. The head doctor was so proud of his work that he told Joy he took pictures to show his colleagues.

Yari’s biological mother spent the night but took the bus home early this morning. She is back now and will ride up the hill with us to take Yari home.
We just went to Do It Center and bought two pillows for the trip home. By the way, the trip down yesterday afternoon took about 45 minutes – usually takes over an hour. I never went over 110 km/hr.

It’s 5:00 and we’re finally home. The bill was a little more - $2950 – because it was worse than expected. There were three breaks with one piece of bone about the size of a 50 cent piece floating just beneath the surface of the skin. We still have to go back Wednesday to have the cast put on, and then there will be 4 months of physical therapy. But we are all alive and relatively well, gracias a Dios (thanks be to God).