Friday, January 6, 2017

He's here!

Happy Epiphany!  For me this is a time to reflect on the incarnation of our Lord Jesus.  When the wise men arrived to see the baby Jesus, everything changed.   Jesus was now manifested beyond the Jews to the whole world.  This is a time of year I reflect on His presence, His incarnation and what an amazing thing that is.  Imagine, the Creator of the Universe, our Lord and Savior is here, now, in our world, in our lives.  Every day.

I returned to Honduras right after Christmas in time to attend a huge concert at which our LAMB Worship band from the Children's Home performed.  It was a big deal and hundreds of people attended, and cheered, our kids!  I was so proud of them I thought my heart would burst.  These teenagers, composing their own songs, practicing hours on end, brave enough to get up in front of a sea of strangers to worship the Lamb through their music.  Sublime.




Before the concert we visited the “Mega Nacimiento” or huge Nativity village.  A nacimiento is more than the traditional nativity scene.   I love the various Honduran holiday traditions.  Some are delicious like the nacatamales at Christmas.  Some are amusing like the "Año Viejos" which are effigies filled with firecrackers lit at midnight on New Year's Eve.  The nacimiento is the most charming tradition with Honduran pueblos (villages) built at the foot of the nativity scene.  The “Mega Nacimiento” was more like a bustling city!  

Nice house!
Joseph's carpentry shop
Marketplace
Pinata to celebrate!
If you don't have a donkey...
They went to church too
Bar with Coke and pool
Local gas station
When ya gotta go...


Some of the scenes were amusing but a wonderful reminder that the Risen Lord is with us...in Bethlehem, in Tegucigalpa, in your town, everywhere, every day!  

So, look around.  See Jesus. He is everywhere. Take Him by the hand and follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."












Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hopeful Waiting

My favorite verb in Spanish is Esperar.  Esperar means to wait.  It also means to hope.  To me, esperar means hopeful waiting.

Waiting is hard.  Waiting can mean suffering.  13 years ago, a 2 year old boy was found wandering the streets.  Social Services sent Jose David to us as an orphan. For years, as he grew up with no one at visiting day, no family to call his own, he fell into a depression, feeling unloved.

Waiting can mean hope.  When he was 13, a young couple, Ashlee and Ryan Graham came to LAMB on a mission trip.  When they mentioned they wanted to adopt, I introduced them to Jose David.  It was love at first sight!  They immediately began the adoption process!
Where the love story began in 2014...


Recreating the scene 2016
Waiting can mean heartbreak.  Soon after Jose David met the Grahams, Social Services gave us a phone number that led to his birth mother!  Jose David was overjoyed.  “Amanda, will you call my mother and give her directions to visiting day on Saturday?”  That Friday, we learned that the mother had been beaten up by her boyfriend and had run off.  Jose David was stricken when he realized he would spend yet another visiting day alone.

Waiting can mean doubt.  Ashlee and Ryan were working hard on the US side to move the adoption along.  On the Honduran side, a year passed with no progress at all.  Jose David all but gave up.  Twice now, it seemed, he was within reach of having a family, only to lose it.

Waiting can mean frustration.  Finally, earlier this year, things started to move in Honduras.  The birth mother agreed to sign over her parental rights but had lost her national id card.  Our social worker, Oneyda, drove 2 hours to take her to the registrar but… the mother wasn’t home.  When Oneyda returned a few days later she was there. At the registrar the forms were filled out…but there was no toner in the printer.  A week later, Oneyda picked the mother up, and drove her to the Tegucigalpa registrar.  Yes, they had toner!  But, they didn’t have the paper to print it.  Finally, on the third try, she did get her id.

Waiting can mean God's hand at work.  Ryan and Ashlee finally got the first court appointment.  But... Ashlee called me from the airport, "Ryan's passport expires 1 day before our return!  They won't let him on the airplane.  What should we do?" I told her to get on the plane (I couldn't bear telling Jose David that no one was coming.) I also told Ryan that there are express passport companies that will give him a new passport that day.  A few minutes after Ashlee took off, Ryan called back, "I called Passport Express.  They told me they were booked solid for 2 weeks...(my heart sank) but someone had just called to cancel.  I have my new passport!"  (My heart soared with joy and thanksgiving to our merciful Lord.)

Waiting can mean growing closer.  When Ashlee arrived, she and Jose David were both nervous.  They hadn't seen each other since the first meeting.  To break the tension, I stuck a name tag on him labeled, "Jose David Graham."  The next day, Ashlee and Ryan took him clothes shopping.  I noticed he had folded over the edges of the name tag and had it in his pocket.  Every once in awhile I would see him glance at it.  Later that day, he asked Ryan and Ashlee, "Is it ok if I call you my parents?"  They answered, "We would love that!"  Jose David stepped away for a moment to compose himself privately and came back grinning.  It was on this trip he took on the new name, JD.


His new family in Pennsylvania was growing closer too. For his birthday, his extended family made a video.  "Hi, JD!  I am your grandmother."  "Happy birthday, JD, I am your cousin" and so on.
His little brother and sisters were excited to have a big brother too!

Waiting can mean fear.  As time dragged on, again stuck in Honduran bureaucracy, I was consumed with fear that the adoption wouldn’t go through.  I filled our prayer wall with prayers.  I showed Jose David a positive face but inside I was falling apart.  His 16th birthday was fast approaching which would have ended his hopes for a family.

So, what is hopeful waiting?  It is soldiering through all the challenges of waiting… with faith, believing that God will provide the family JD had prayed for all his life. Sometimes that faith is an act of will.  Repeating with conviction that God WILL provide, despite evidence to the contrary.  It is knowing, that somehow, someday all will be well.  It is remembering all the miracles God has delivered and asking, “Why would He stop now?”

At LAMB, we have seen over and over during hopeful waiting that God is faithful.  On December 9th, JD Graham stepped off the airplane and into his new family’s arms!

As Paul wrote to the Romans: For in hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 

So, we wait patiently, expectantly, hopefully for His provision, for His redemption, for His love for us.  All of us.  Each of us.  Amen.

Signing the final adoption papers and celebrating JD Graham's first birthday!

JD Graham and his parents!

Celebrating JD Graham's first birthday!


Traveling to his new home and taking his first flight
Seeing him off

Praying before takeoff
Family reunion at the airport
Life in Pennsylvania:

JD's whole family:


Happy family, JD!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Follow the sign

I am well known for my non-existent sense of direction.  I can get lost in a closet.  It is even harder to find my way in Honduras where there are no street names or addresses.  Fortunately, I live close to the airport.  I just look for a sign to the airport  and soon, I am on my way home.

I am studying the Gospel of John right now.  John doesn't write about Jesus' miracles, instead he writes about His signs.  That got me thinking.  Signs point you somewhere.  The sign isn't the destination.  No, you follow the sign to get to the destination.

I got to thinking about situations I have called miracles, and, indeed they are.  However, I wondered how I would think about them differently if I called them signs instead.  A few days ago Suzy posted before/after picture of Alex Eduardo.  Alex was 14 mos and weighed 11 pounds when he came to us and, the doctor said, was weeks from death from malnutrician.

Before
After
He is 4 now and doesn't walk. He jumps! Everywhere! He is healthy, adorable, energetic, sometimes naughty, and full of life. The fact that we got him, how and when we did, and his recovery is a miracle. But what if we look at the same set of events as a sign?  What is this sign pointing to?  It points to life.  Jesus said, "I am the bread of life," exactly what a starving baby needed. Jesus, working through many people in Honduras and the US restored Alex's life.  Alleluia!

The other miracle that is harder for me to think about is Yarely.  We prayed for the same miracle - the restoration of life that God granted Alex.  Instead He gave her and us the miracle of resurrection surrounded by many tangible assurances that He was with us in our grief and that Yarely lives with Him forever.


Can we see Yarely's death as a sign too?  If so, where is it pointing?  Again, it is pointing to life.  This time, not physical life but, instead, spiritual life,  the life Jesus came to give us -- His physical life for our spiritual life.  Alleluia.


"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die."   

 So, brothers and sisters in Christ, follow His signs...to life.  Everlasting life
Alleluia

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pórtate bien (Behave yourself!)


I often say to the children or even to friends as a humorous goodbye, "Pórtate bien!"  Behave yourself!"  I certainly said it to my children as they grew up.

We have a pretty clear idea of what that means when we say it to a child, but what does it mean when we say it to an adult?  The Bible tells us in the letter to Colossians, 
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." - Colossians 3:12

What does it look like to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience?  Every Saturday, for me, it looks like the baggage guys at the Tegucigalpa airport.  These are the guys who look out for the teams as they arrive in baggage claim, "Amanda?" they ask to locate my team. So many team leaders are relieved when they see those friendly faces ready to help! They have guarded baggage, helped a team member through the airport when they travel back alone, helped me personally many times.  I trust them and depend on them for so many things.  It is wonderful to have my airport family watching over me and the people I care about.

They also care about each other.  This is a competitive business for little money, yet they operate like a family.  This includes my other friends, like Roberto, Alfredo, and Patricia who are older, disabled, and unable to work.  They come to the airport looking for help.  Recently, Roberto was in the hospital.  Every week I gave some lempira to Alfredo or one of the baggage guys to give to Roberto.  All these folks are poor and could have used the money to feed themselves and their families.  Guess what?  Roberto received the money I sent for him!  

The experience that moved me the most is one in which I did not behave well.  It was one of those Saturdays.  I was delivering a team to the airport and then picking up a new team.  The new team was coming on an early flight so I had little time to get one team settled before receiving the new one.  I was rushed and distracted.  As I left the parking lot, hurrying to meet the team vans, I passed my friend, Antony.  Antony lost both of his legs and has terrible scars from a horrible electrical accident.  As I raced by, he said, "My son needs a hat for school!"  It was National Indigeneous Week and I knew exactly what he needed and why it was important.  I raced on, not even stopping to say hi.  (Not a Honduran way to behave.)  After getting the outgoing team settled, I was hurrying downstairs to wait for the incoming team.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the perfect hat for Antony's son.  I asked the sales clerk how much it was.  "$20."  "That's too much.  Nevermind," I replied.  (Note:  What was wrong with me?  Seriously?  I was not clothed with compassion and kindness.  I was wearing selfishness and self-absorption instead.)  "It's for the guy with no legs," I added.  Immediately she replied, "You can have it for 50% off."  She looked lovely in her compassion outfit.  Sheepishly I bought the hat.  

However, when I got downstairs I couldn't see Antony.  Erick, one of my baggage friends asked me what I was looking for. I explained and he told me Antony was across the very busy intersection.  Looking at the time, and knowing how hard it is to cross streets on foot, I said, "I bought this hat for him but I don't have time to walk over there."  Not even hestitating for a moment, Erick took the hat and said, "I'll take it to him."  This occurred during prime time for baggage handlers.  All the US airlines were arriving with large teams with tons of luggage, yet he left his post to help me and Antony!  

When he returned, he found me and asked me to come to the door.  "Look!" he said, pointing to a young man with one leg on crutches.  "He has one leg!  And he has a little boy!"  Erick had seen this young man (disabled people have an extremely difficult time finding work in a country with NO safety net) and brought him back to the airport to find help!  I smiled, told him my son also has one leg, and helped him.  

I think this is a wonderful story up to this point.  The guys are helping each other, looking out for their fellow man, even at their own expense.  But that isn't the best part of the story...

Two weeks later, I was back at the airport to meet a new team.  4 of the baggage guys rushed up to me, all talking at once.  They were so excited to tell me this young man had been back and HAD A NEW LEG!  As they were telling me this, they were showing me how well he was walking with HIS NEW LEG!  Imagine, these guys struggle every day to earn enough to feed their families and yet they were celebrating this anonymous young man's victory!  A NEW LEG!  "You should have seen him walk!"

That is how we should behave.  Toss out our clothes of arrogance, selfishness, pride, judgment, and cold heartedness.  Instead, put on the clothes my airport friends wear - compassion, humility, kindness, patience, gentleness and, one more thing, joy.  

Let's all get a new wardrobe and behave ourselves from now on!

Special Note:  We all want people to work instead of depend on government or others.  So do they.  So, when you are at the airport, or at a restaurant, or at the grocery store, or anywhere else where people are trying to eke out a living, help them!  A couple bucks for a baggage handler or a bagger won't break your budget but will mean alot to them.  It doesn't matter if you can handle the suitcases/groceriers on your own, let them serve you!  A larger tip for your servers won't put a dent in your wallet but will mean a lot to them.  Support their attempts to work and be self-sufficient!


Friday, April 22, 2016

The wall

Not too long ago, I was feeling quite vexed.  Vexed and worried, angry and frustrated.  I finally figured out I need to depend on God directly rather than other people.  That helped a lot but I still had vestiges of worry and frustration. Earlier this month I attended the SAMS retreat.  SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) is my missionary agency.  It is full of missionaries from throughout the world, serving in fascinating and sometimes exotic places. (Madagascar!)

One of the break out sessions was about spiritual direction.  I had heard of it, know people who have done it or are spiritual directors, but didn't really understand the process.

The leader, Andrew Osmun, was talking about how to find a spiritual director, etc. but there was confusion about what it is and isn't.  So, he said let's practice and I volunteered.  I really wanted to understand the process.  I certainly didn't expect anything to happen, especially since I was sitting in the middle of a circle with 30+ people staring at me being spiritually directed!  Not exactly a conducive environment for spiritual reflection...

Anyway, Andrew would explain the first step of the process and then we would do the step, he would explain more about that step and the next one, we would do the next step etc.  He asked if anything was on my mind.  I briefly and vaguely explained what was on my mind.  

He told me to close my eyes, he would say a prayer and then I would just be still for a couple of minutes.  When I was ready I would pray out loud and that would be his signal.  

I closed my eyes and was immediately frantic.  I started praying that I would be able to come up with something to say!  I really just wanted to walk through the process to understand it better so I wanted to do a good job playing my role in this simulation.  

Suddenly I could see one of our concrete block walls.   I was standing inches from it and the blocks had just been laid, the mortar was dry but rough.  That was all I could see.

I said a short, meaningless prayer (still in panic mode) and explained the image.  He told me to repeat the process, but this time I was to sit by the wall with Jesus.  My internal reaction to that was, "Nuts!"  Being there with Jesus took all the wind out of my sails.  I knew I could not lay out my carefully developed defense or "argument for the prosecution!"  I had to just be there by the wall with Jesus, who already knows all that has happened and all that will happen.

After the second prayer, Andrew asked what I experienced.  I had a clear image of the water tank!  In explaining this to
him (and the group) I realized God was saying, "I will deliver...in my time...and more abundantly than you expect." God said, "I have done so many miracles here, why would I stop now?"

To my shock, the Holy Spirit actually showed up! I think we were all surprised.  Of course, I was crying by now.  

Then we prayed once more to finish the session.  I closed my eyes and he prayed.  We were done.  Except - I said, "I received another image.  It was a wall."  Andrew was visibly startled and there was a gasp in the room.  I explained, "It was Suzy's prayer wall."  This is the wall we are building to celebrate Suzy's 25th anniversary.  She has long wanted a wall like the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, where we could write prayers and petitions and put them in the cracks between the stones. I could see the section that we had just built, with the trees and mountains in the background and a beautiful brilliant blue sky!  The Lord was saying, "Come to me in prayer, rest in Me."  Then, I received the peace that passes all understanding. Selah 

Just a couple of days ago I met with clergy from a new church in a new city.  At the end of the meeting, they said they want to partner with us!  The Lord has already begun to deliver. 

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new  every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 


Monday, April 18, 2016

Being a lamb


I had the honor of preaching at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Cumming, GA yesterday.  This is the sermon I preached:

“The Lord is my shepherd.”  David wrote it, Jesus lived it.   The Lord is our shepherd too.  That makes us sheep, which are really dumb animals! They blindly obey and follow the shepherd.  But what if, instead of dumb, we say sheep are faithful.  They do exactly what the shepherd says and go exactly where he leads.  They trust him to keep them safe.  They worry about nothing.  The shepherd, in turn, is also faithful.  He is with them always, goes after the lost lamb, protects them from danger, no one will snatch them out of his hand.  Being a sheep sounds better and better if you follow the right shepherd. 

Jesus, the Lamb of God, showed us how to follow the Shepherd.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”  The Lamb of God is also our shepherd“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
What is it like to be one of God’s lambs?  I never gave it much thought until I moved to Honduras to work for the LAMB Institute.  We are all about the Lamb of God, our shepherd. Our day school and children’s home are called Los Corderitos de Dios - “God’s littlest lambs.”  Our church is El Buen Pastor, Church of the Good Shepherd. Our motto is based on Revelation 14:4, “following the Lamb wherever He goes.”

“We walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” says the psalmist.  Sometimes we stumble there, through our own choices and sometimes He leads us there for His own purposes. However, sometimes we are dragged there by someone else.  About a year ago, a mother sent her 6 year old son, whom I will call Juancito, out with his 18 month old sister...to sell her for $20.  She told, “If you come back with her, this time I will break both of your arms.  But, our shepherd would not let evil snatch the children out of His hand.  Instead, He sent Social Services to intercept His precious lambs and deliver them to us.  They are safe, loved, and happy at our Children’s Home!  If you come visit us in Honduras, brace yourself because Juancito will leap into your arms from a running start!
Other people live in the valley of the shadow of death.  In Flor del Campo, a gang-ridden barrio on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, 200 young men choose Jesus instead of gangs and drugs.  They join our Alonzo Movement, led by volunteers from Flor, many of whom were the first young members of the program. Jesus’ message of love is so compelling, leading them beside the still waters of peace and hope, they invite their friends to join them.  Every new Alonzo member is one lamb snatched from the hands of Satan and his gangs.

A little girl, whom I will call Maria, was 3 when her father was killed.   A short time later, she was kidnapped.  She saw a young man be killed and figured she was next.  Thanks be to God, she was rescued three days later.  Then, she witnessed her mother’s murder.  She went to live with her grandmother who got cancer and died.  Maria was living in the valley of death.  Then Maria entered kindergarten … at our school on a full scholarship.  Today, she is a bright 7th grader with good grades who sings, “I believe in you, Jesus, and what you will do in me.”  She believes that surely God’s goodness and mercy shall follow her all the days of her life.  She has a dream and hope for a future.

This does not happen accidently.  Pentecost is coming, when Jesus sent the disciples, and all of us, out into the world to make disciples of all nations.  He sends us out and uses us as His instruments to bring salvation to the world.  Juancito, his sister, the members of the Alonzo Movement, Maria and so many more are following the Lamb because many people before them chose to follow the Lamb.  They are the works that Jesus does, in his Father's name.  Our stories about children saved, trafficking victims rescued and restored, medical miracles, protection from real and present dangers, youth choosing life over death and so many more are examples of God’s love and presence in this world.  These are big, wonderful acts.  Just like John said, these are just a few.  I could fill hours, days and years with more.  But God doesn’t just do the big, sweeping acts.  He is in the moments of our lives too, the seemingly insignificant things, like little pink socks.

One final story.  Yarely was a beautiful, spunky 10 year girl who had spent her entire life with us at the Children’s Home.  We were preparing to say good bye to her as her adoption to Brad and Misti in South Carolina was in its final stages.  A brain tumor, growing silently, was also in its final stages.  She was diagnosed with a rare form of deadly brain cancer and died six weeks later.  Misti and I were there when the nurse asked if we had brought clothes for Yarely.  Misti, confused in her grief, looked at me for help.  “Her permanent clothes,” I explained.  Misti, Yarely’s mother in every important way, announced, “We have to go shopping.”  She wanted her baby to be dressed properly.  We searched the local mall and found a beautiful pink dress with a lacy collar, a little hat to cover her shaved head, and some adorable little shoes.  “Do you think we can find some pink, lacy socks?” Misti asked.  I thought, “No.”  I answered, “Well, they often don’t wear socks but let’s look.”  At the last store the sales clerk led us to the sock display.  We saw a variety of colorful athletic socks but not what Misti wanted for her little lady.  Suddenly, at the very back on the top row I saw a little bit of pink lace peeking out behind all the socks.  I reached up to find the perfect pair of pink socks with lace around the top.  The exact color of pink to match the dress.  Misti beamed!  The perfect outfit was ready for her only child.  Now this is such a small thing.  But, to Misti, it was important.  The Lord looked down and nodded, “I get it.  Here are your socks.”  It was such a comfort to Misti and a message from God, “I am right here with you, every step of the way.”   As we buried Yarely, we knew the Lord had been faithful in His promise of eternal life, that Yarely will hunger no more and thirst no more.  Jesus is Yarely’s shepherd and He has guided her to the springs of the water of life and has wiped every tear from her eyes. 


Each of one you is God’s precious lamb.  Follow Him and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Happy Maundy Thursday!

Happy Maundy Thursday!  Now that's something you don't hear everyday.  Many of you, from non-liturgical traditions, may not know what Maudy Thursday is.   It is the day Jesus and his disciples had the "last supper" in which He instituted what we call communion or Holy Eucharist.  It is when Judas betrayed Jesus and when Jesus was arrested.  We don't normally view this as a celebration, instead it is a somber, reflective time in Holy Week.

But for me, Maundy Thursday, 2007 was the day I was healed.   You see, over the course of many years I had gradually bought into a message that I was not worth caring for.  It happened so slowly I didn't really notice, therefore, didn't question it.  This also affected how I thought about God's love.  I believed that God counts every hair on your head, and his head and her head.  But when it came to me, I had this image of the Atlanta Braves' baseball stadium filled with people.  I imagined Jesus looking at my face in the midst of thousands of other anonymous faces saying, "Oh yeah, I love you too."  Not that Jesus didn't love me but not in the intimate way he loves you.  I was OK with that...I wasn't worthy of anything more.

In March of 2007, I went on my first mission trip ever.  Of course, it was a mission trip to Tegucigalpa to work with LAMB.  We were building one of the cottages out of adobe block.  The children were still living in the rented house in Las Tapias on the outskirts of Teguc.  We saw them several times during the week.  I was moved, touched, amazed and in love with them.  Towards the end of the week, the Holy Spirit suddenly overwhelmed me by revealing a truth I hadn't given much thought to.  In the south, you see "Jesus Saves" signs everywhere.  They are ubiquitous and become part of the scenery.  If I did notice one, to me it was an aspirational statement.  Someday, when I die, Jesus will save me.  What's not to like about that?  Well, that day on the work site that would become the Children's Home, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that Jesus saves those children right here, right now.  I was overwhelmed by the immediacy of that.  For the precious children I had come to love, Jesus was saving them, loving them in the moment!  I was filled with joy and awe at His love for them.  For them.  Not me.

Soon after I returned to the US, it was Maundy Thursday.  I was a chalice bearer for this very solemn service that ends with the stripping of the altar in preparation for Good Friday.  I and the other chalice bearers were kneeling in the back of the church as the service quietly ended.  Suddenly, I heard the Holy Spirit say, "And I save YOU, right here, right now. I love YOU!"  Just like that, I was healed.  No more feeling unworthy or uncared for.  Just like that I knew I was beloved, that Jesus died for me.  I remain secure in the knowledge that I am one of His beloved, saved now and forever.

So, Happy Maundy Thursday!  I wish you a Maundy Thursday filled with the knowledge that Jesus saves you, beloved, right here, right now!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Splat!


"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." 


How can this not be one of the most wonderful, beautiful statements ever uttered by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?   It has comforted me and encouraged me many times over.  The darkest time is no longer dark, but filled with the light of hope and love when I remember this promise.  I will never be alone, never without love and hope, no matter what this life brings.  I have repeated this to countless people suffering from tragedy, anguish, or fear.  I pray it brings them the comfort it does me.


This wasn't Kennet's first rodeo.
He knew what was coming!

Recently, it occurred to me that Jesus made this promise is not only for the diffiult times, but the happy ones too.  It was hearing "SPLAT!"  that did it.  It began with a funny game I brought back from the US to play with the medium boys called "Pie In the Face!"  It is a simple game.  You spin the dial and turn a crank the required number of times, your face positioned just right.  At a random moment, SPLAT!  You get hit in the face by whipped cream!  Hilarity ensues.  Very quickly, the game devolved into taking turns getting hit in the face.  Everyone had to participate!  
It was as funny the 50th time as it was the first time.  And who do you suppose laughed the hardest? I am sure it was Jesus, sitting there with us, holding his breath until Kennet, or any of us "lost" the game again, then bursting out laughing!


Then again, I heard a "SPLAT!"  This time it was a water balloon.  I don't remember who the perp or the victim was but it didn't matter because seconds later we had pandemonium.  Water balloons flying across the courtyard, children shouting with victory or laughing in defeat.  It was every man, woman, and child for themselves!  Then....(imagine foreboding music) the big guns came out.



There was Menguin, house dad for the big boys, standing in the middle of the courtyard swinging a hose over his head, promising all a well aimed spray!  That unleashed the more strategic warriors and the bowls and buckets appeared. Every faucet, placed for fire prevention, was going full force. Filling a constant supply of balloons, buckets, plastic cups and anything else that could hold water.  And who was in the middle of it, pointing out vulnerable victims, directing balloons to their target?  I am sure it was Jesus, whooping along with everyone else, laughing to see Menguin get his from a bucket from behind!


She is not innocently walking with a bowl!


I am sure Jesus threw that balloon at Menguin!
When Jesus promised to be with us always, he meant always and in every situation, including pie face and water wars.  I was filled with joy when I could see him there, face covered with whipped cream and hair dripping wet from a well placed balloon strike.  That is what love is...To cry with us, to struggle with us, to grieve with us, and to throw water balloons with us!  

As the child's hymn goes,  



Jesus loves me, this I know


For the whipped cream is in my nose

  "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." 
SPLAT!