The noise.
The shuffling.
The clatter.

The chatting.

The crying children
This cacophony was not a marketplace, but a house of worship!

Every Friday our church is chaotic. But it was especially so this past week. There were 5 babies to be baptized, brought by families, cheered on by friends, many of whom don’t normally spend their day off in church.

The baptism promises were spoken.

Some will keep them.
Some will not.

The liturgy continued.

Sometimes heard.

Sometimes not.

The creed was read aloud together.

Some from faith.
Some from habit.

The sermon was preached.

Some listened.
Some laughed.

Just when I was about at wits end from the commotion, I understood.
This was the environment that Jesus taught in.

He didn’t demand silence or full attention from the crowds.

He was doing what the Father sent him to do. Saying what he was given to say.

I appreciated again the Christ-likeness of our priest. His huge capacity to be kind, to offer grace, to be a peaceful presence, to move towards his God-given purpose in the chaos.

I’m not like that. I have to work hard in church to attend to what Jesus is saying and doing. To refrain from judgment. To extend grace. To not run screaming into the parking lot! But I choose to stay. I don’t want to be like those first 12 followers of Jesus who told kids to be quiet and kept them from Jesus. Or like the crowds waiting for Jesus to arrive, expecting great miracles while telling the man crying to Jesus for healing to shut up. I have to embrace this experience as another aspect of my cross-cultural adjustment here. And as some mysterious and not very tasty medicine for my own healing. (Christ have mercy!)

We were invited to the Lord’s Table.

Some came.

Some did not.

And all the while

Children ran around the aisles.
People moved to chat about business.

No attempt to whisper.

No recognition of a holy moment.

A holy place.

A holy Person.

But hymns played on.
Sung by some.

Ignored by others.

The man behind me was making noise, too.

His clear voice ringing out the truths of God in song.

Like a prophet’s voice raised above the harangue of the marketplace.
It’s a parable of the Church in the world.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear. 

Jennifer is one of those people I wished lived next door. She's got something I need - the ability to hear God in chaos and to invite others into the chaos to hear Him, too. You're invited too. http://allthingshenderson.blogspot.com

I had to laugh. When I went to her blog to get the link, I saw that she's reviewing this book: Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World by Dr. David Jeremiah
. How did the publishers know she was the perfect person for that job?

It's easy to pay attention in silence.


changing currents

We’ve been making coffee in a cheap little coffee maker my husband bought here in Dubai before I came. This morning we decided to use our US coffee maker - an expensive machine I gave to my coffee-loving husband as a Christmas present last year. Shipped all the way from Madison to Dubai.

The “step up” transformer plugged in.
The filtered water poured.
The coffee beans ground.
A prayer prayed for everything to go well.

It looked and smelled beautiful as the stainless steel machine began to do it’s work.

A few minutes later something was wrong.
The water was not dripping.
The light on the pot – and the “step up” - was off.
The kitchen smelled like burnt rubber.

It wasn’t a problem with the materials – all the right ingredients were there.
It wasn’t a spiritual problem – after all, I did pray in faith. (And as my friend Bob will tell you, God does care about good coffee.)
It was a wiring problem. What was a beautiful, useful thing on the other side of the planet was not adequate here. Things need different wiring. Or they’ll blow up.

I think our family has what it takes to succeed here: cross-cultural and vocational experience and skills, local and long-distance support of family and friends, determination, creativity, a good dose of fear of failure, and faith. But we need re-wiring. We might have worked beautifully on another current. But we are feeling the need to step up to the challenge of living and working in a totally new way here. I trust it will happen before we blow up.

Re-wiring is possible. It’s not just necessary for cross-cultural living. It’s healthy for life.

Changes to one’s thinking and perceptions happens slowly over time. (Hopefully!) But some of the most radical and useful transformations happen when we get out of our daily environment and routine and immerse ourselves in something new.

Apart from living in another culture (including my years in Los Angeles!), some of my most significant re-wiring was done as a student and young staffworker while at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship camps at Bear Trap Ranch.

You don’t have to move to another country or attend a camp to be re-wired. Look at your calendar: do you have 1 hour or 1 morning/evening or 1 day in the next few weeks where you could get away from your routine environment and activities?

1 hour: Go for a walk in a quiet, beautiful place. Give yourself space and time to breath.

1 morning/evening: Go to a seminar or workshop on a topic that is outside your normal range of interests. Give yourself freedom to open your mind to new ideas.

1 day: Go to a nearby retreat center. Give yourself over to silence, to study or to spiritual direction. (For ideas on how to use a day away, contact me or find some excellent resources on InterVarsity’s ministry exchange.)