She's the ONE

A couple weeks ago, my daughter turned one. She's quite a charming little one too. Full of tears and smiles and giggles and curious gazes. She managed to sprout 3 top teeth to compliment the two bottom ones, just in time for her first cake feast.

Blaise told us yesterday morning that she was blowing on her crackers to cool them off.

Happy year number 2!


deceitfulness of riches

As for what was sown among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. -Matthew 13:22
The parable of the sower was read in yesterday's sermon and this phrase jumped out at me: "deceitfulness of riches." As a stand alone verse, it debunks the prosperity gospel that resonates through much of evangelicalism. Even here in Guatemala, I hear people talking about the blessings of the Lord when they refer to physical gifts or riches.

I believe that physical gifts and riches can be a sign of God's blessings in that they are a consequence of charity, or love, but they are not the blessings. The true blessings that God gives are those described as the fruits of the Spirit:
. . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. . . Galatians 5:22b-23a
These are signs that the Word mentioned in the parable has taken root and fruits are abounding. When the watching for God's touch on someone's life by watching their finances, we miss the fact that the great saints in history were not wealthy, they never allowed wealth to choke God's Word in their life.

About two years ago, I was seriously contemplating the life of a commune, a life described at the end of Acts 2. The culture I am a part of mocks this belief because of its naïvety and because it is not practical. I see it differently: it is based on faith (not naïvety), it is very practical as it frees up funds for social action. Based on some reading about monastic living that is being explored by Emergent Christians, I hope to revisit the idea very soon.


Five Hundred Facebook Friends

I've reached this milestone. The curse/blessing of my existence has been that I've lived in so many places and therefore have met people from all over the place.

As much fun as Facebook is, there is the limitation that the majority of the people who have joined it are between 15 and 45 years old. This excludes a great portion of friends who are either technologically handicapped or who don't have any interest in sharing photos, news and messages through the internet.

Amber keeps reminding me that a substantial portion of my friends come from short-term mission teams and that I wouldn't be able to identify them if I met them. Jealousy rears its ugly head.

I enjoy finding out that friends I had in college or junior high or who I met on a trip have gotten married or had children or are traveling. It's cool to know that hundreds of people are thinking of me too.

I actually have to go and confirm yet another friend now. 501. Cheerio!


Cycling the Old Highway

There is a man made highway from near where I live through to Guatemala City. It is 40 kms shorter than the paved highway people take with their vehicles, but takes many hours more of travel because of sharp climbs and descents.

In the spirit of adventure, I think it would be a cool experience to travel a local portion of this highway on bicycle. We leave at 6:30 AM to beat the noon-day sun. We cycle 14 kms south of Tactic to a place called Pantin. The mist is still rising from the valley when we pull off the highway onto the old #5.

I think maybe I have over packed with water (2.6 L), but as it would happen we could have used perhaps 4 more litres. I also carry snacks, the patch kit, the human patch kit, tools, cameras, swimming trunks in case we come upon some pools, money, Swiss Army Knife, and TP.

My neighbour Walter and a visiting friend, Garth from Calgary accompany me on this trek. Early parts of the road remind me a lot of some country roads in eastern Canada, the pine trees especially. We climb steadily up for the first few kms. It is rough going due to the heavy bikes, unreliable gears, gravel/dusty road, and our combined lack of biking preparation.

After the initial climb, we descend the first of two passes. The landscape changes dramatically; there is virtually no green except the lingering pines and "mague" plants. The heat becomes intolerable and the sun climbs up over our heads.

We take a break every couple minutes, usually when we find shade, often to fix a rear wheel that keeps kicking out of position so it rubs against the frame. Going down hurts more than going up because the road is rough and we have to ride our brakes down, bruising our hands.

Though going up becomes more tedious as time wears on. We are getting dehydrated, exhausted, and hot. We have a second mountain pass before we reach our destination in Salamá.

After riding down an incredibly steep road into the Salamá valley, we arrive at a small store where we buy 3.5 L of water and some other cold drinks. We recuperate quickly and finish the last 4 kms to the city where we have a lunch at Pollo Campero.

The decision is unanimous: we take the bus back to Tactic.


Zaporozh'ye, 1993

I am 17, one of 25 in the Canadian Youth for Ukraine (CYU) team. The first time I fly: Halifax-Toronto-Amsterdam-Kiev. I wake up with pen marks on my shirt and ears popping as we descend into Ukraine. We are fed borscht and fresh cucumbers at a church when we arrive. The train ride to Zaporozhye lasts 10 hours and rolls over gaps in the tracks every 1.5 seconds. We are told to watch our shoes so they aren't stolen, I hardly sleep the entire night.

A blond prostitute in a tight red dress frequents our hotel. She is middle aged and has bulges in all the wrong places. Our team plays Zoom-Schwartz-Pygliana and Rook in the lobby before and after devotionals. We travel on electric powered buses. Rush hour is bad because the coaches are stuffed with people with strong B.O. One time a girl from our group faints. Supper is at 9:30 PM each night after our evangelistic crusade. Breakfast is at 9:00 AM, lunch is at 2:00 PM at an awful cafeteria where cats with body sores stroll under our tables. The soup is weak. The cottage cheese patties are zingy. I familiarize myself with the Cyrillic alphabet. Lenin statues are everywhere.

I teach conversational English to a group of teenagers every morning at a cultural center by the Dnepr River. The girls in my class use egg whites to keep their bangs up and they wear the same clothes to class every day. Oksana is a beautiful brunette. Olga has dyed blond hair. I am a magnet for attention as I could be a ticket to Canada if I married one of them.

On Canada Day, we play volleyball by the river. I see my first Geiger counter and it beeps wildly around some people; we are downstream from Chernobyl. Our translators are Irish, Elena, Natasha, and Kostya. The girls are gorgeous and a few years older than I am. They all emigrate to the USA and Canada in the following years.

During our 1/2 days off, we are allowed to wander the industrial city. There are Michael Jackson bootleg tapes in the market. US dollars are preferred to the rapidly inflating Koupons, a temporary currency being used since the break-up of the Soviet Union. I buy huge chunks of sunflower seed halva and bags of fresh plums and cherries which give me stomach aches. Wesley and I play Paper-Rock-Scissors for a used dombra, a four stringed instrument native to central Asia. I win. I also buy a $15 button box, a couple wooden flutes, two paintings, and heaps of typical Ukrainian handicrafts including the matryoshka wooden dolls.

I get very sick. I rush out of a supper at a church and puke between rows of squash plants in a garden as a goat looks on. When I think I'm better I go to the cafeteria for lunch a couple days later. I get nauseous when I see the cats and smell the cottage cheese patties so I walk the 4 blocks back to the International Hotel, but I faint on the sidewalk by myself. I come to as two Ukrainians carry me into a government building. I've soiled myself.

A large brass band plays outside the lavish conference and performance center that we used for our crusade. My turn comes to do the special music at the nightly youth meetings. I play a piece on my classical guitar. A man has an epileptic seizure in the front row in the middle of my performance. At another meeting, a man interrupts the talk by shouting that we are preaching lies, that the leader of the Mary David church is the new Christ and is going to be crucified in a few months. Some strong men haul the young man out of the hall and kick him several times. He loses a large can of coffee which spills all over the floor. Some of the posters we have up in the city get defaced and our evangelist has 666 scratched onto his forehead. Another night, I preach the sermon. My topic is the Ten Commandments.

We visit a museum on an island in the river. A heavy metal band invites me and a friend to watch them practice. A church family has many of us over for an amazing lunch. Wesley buys a violin from a violin maker. We watch the city handball team practice. They are wearing very old and torn up tennis shoes. My friend's student invites us to meet his family. They live in a high rise apartment that has no elevator. The feed us kvaç soup, a weak local beer with some tiny squares of ham in it. Cars that look like Ladas are everywhere, but they are called Zaporozh'ye Cars. We see almost no other cars.

We take a holiday to Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov. All the women are in bikinis except for the girls on our team who are wearing one-piece bathing suits. One of our leaders' sons is on the team and he is very dark compared to his father; we call them Night and Day. I play lots of Rook.

300 people are baptized in the Dnepr river. They wear white lab coats over their bikinis. I'm not convinced they are all being baptized for the right reasons, but it is an awesome sight. Our team takes up a collection and we pay for a salary of an extra pastor for a year in the city to do follow-up for these baptisms.

Our last night in Zaporozh'ye, the meeting hall is packed. Backstage, a man I gave a package of guitar strings to gives me a huge tomato and an equally huge kiss on the cheek. Nearly all of my students have shown up to give me gifts ranging from traditionally painted handicrafts to Soviet era medals to a full sized Russian language atlas. Everyone returns to the train station as we depart the next morning.

I am humbled beyond words.


Tonight . . .
paparazzi fireflies lie in waiting in the hedge

the moon smiles like a Cheshire cat, casting jet black shadows on the charcoal ground

beneath a cloud ceiling, behind a mountain wall, a couple makes sparks where the thunder is

distant angels linger around Orion's belt, glistening


We own a stove fueled by propane. The pilot light does not work, so in order to use the stove top elements or the oven, we've got to use matches.

Last night, I lit the oven to cook some taco shells and shortly after I lit it, it went out leaving the propane valve open with no fire to burn it up. I realized quite quickly that it had gone out because it wasn't heating up, so I sniffed to see if there was much gas in the air and didn't smell anything too strong. I lit a match a few steps away from the stove and brought the match slowly down to the oven element. No fire, so I opened the oven valve. It lit and...


It lasted about 1/2 a second and lit up the whole base of the stove. The propane had settled low so I couldn't smell it. I checked my knuckles and eyebrows, all the hair was still intact.

My children's nerves weren't intact though. After I let out a howl of surprise that sounded exactly like my father when he lets out howls of surprise, they began to cry uncontrollably. We consoled them for a few minutes while they cried without knowing what they were crying about.

Then I relit the oven. Mmmmm tacos.



pounding the mudcakes off your shoes
"listen" say your eyes
"it is my turn"
"i've been busy"
"open your curtains, no secrets now"
"have you got any lemons?"
your forehead veins pulse and bulge
this is serious

when you've stopped insisting
when i can recollect my thoughts
i see through your veil
you've recoiled and i know
you don't really mean it
it was all a show
of force
to persuade me, so that i will lose

you are scarce, insecure, and dry
i close my curtains, retreat
and try to forget

I've got to stand up straight, he's watching

Recall a recent post about switching to new runners? Well, my son Blaise saw me taking the photo of my shoes and decided this was something that must be important, fun, and right. He lined up shoes all over the place. His little shoes. Our rubber boots. Then he asked to have photos taken of them.

I love this little fella. It's clear to me that he loves me too. There is definitely some affection in his voice every morning when he says, "Papa, I poo-ooped." There is more affection when he gives me hugs and kisses.