Monday, July 11, 2011

July 10: Happy Birthday

Today is corporate gathering at Rose Creek Village. (Well, now it's yesterday since I took a while to finish this.)

Thank you to Ashelie Hartle for the great pictures I was able to add! (Maasai pictures are mine.)

We only do that once per month. We have broken the village up into 4 clans (not to be mistaken with Klans, which are evil, theologically false, and generally stupid). On most Sundays, we gather by clan so that our meetings are smaller and more intimate.

Once a month we have "free weekend," which has caused a couple people some consternation. ("Where in the Bible is 'free weekend'?" Answer: "Where in the Bible are meetings every Sunday commanded? We're a community that is in fellowship every day. Sometimes we like to have some free time to relax together and fellowship that way!")

Anyway, today's corporate Sunday.

I found out yesterday, at the men's meeting, that sitting through an hour and a half meeting is very painful, at least when I'm sitting in those plastic white chairs we have at town hall. So I suggested to my wife that we bring the tall-back office chair we have at the computer desk in the family room. She, on the other hand, suggested we bring the recliner.

The recliner? To "church"?

So ... I sat in the office chair, and it wasn't going to work.

Janelle, my daughter, dancing at the gathering
A little caveat here in my defense. We talk about facing my mortality within a year if God doesn't cure me, whether through doctors, divine intervention, or natural healing products. Really, though, without the wonderful intervention and care of modern medicine, I'd be dead in a month. Six weeks tops. I just don't point that because we all know they'll give me a transfusion that will save my life and drag things out, and we can have some confidence that chemo will provide at least some leeway.

Hanging out with Maasai in Kenya; June, 2008
 That's why I'm going in the hospital in one week, not two or three or more.

Anyway, there's a reason I need the recliner, and I agreed to it. However, I asked for it to be in the back. We kind of joked back and forth until I told my wife that I'm not joking, I'm serious. "I don't want to be a disruption in the gathering."

She said okay, and this morning my sons picked up the recliner, delivered it to town hall (only about 200 yards away), and set it in the front row.

That's a Maasai toothbrush, made from an acacia branch
"I see my sons don't listen to me anymore," I commented to someone as I went in this morning. "They listen to mom instead."

Ed heard me. "Hey, Shammah, I'm the one at fault. I set up town hall for the gatherings. You can ask me."

"Can you move the recliner to the back of the hall?" I asked.

"No," he laughed. Then he went and sat down.

No respect.

I sat down as my wife explained to me that God wants me to get over myself.

The recliner ... at the front
We sang great songs. We worshiped God. Jeremiah shared some really great thoughts about tilling our fallow ground. It was really pretty great despite being up front in huge recliner.

Then I found out the last half of the gathering was my birthday party.

Oh. No wonder all the obstinance. (That's a word even though Google's spell checker doesn't seem to know it is one.)

It was really pretty awesome, though I felt sorry for all the people who had to sit through other people talking about me, saying really nice, mostly exaggerated things that I was careful to interpret as, "We really love you," and not as, "Wow, what a great servant of God I am."

It was really great. My daughter danced, and everyone cried. There were some really good songs sung in my honor.

But what was most awesome was the slide show.

My lovely and awesome wife!
It was just pictures accompanied my music, and people oohed and aahed at the baby pictures. (People actually love home videos if you'll keep them under five minutes or at most 10.)

But for me, it was the later pictures:

Marriage. In Germany. Kids. In California, Texas, and Tennessee. The Tyler Early Christian Fellowship. Radio programs in California. Missions and speaking in Myanmar, India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and even England. Little children. Soccer games.

Then some of the youth spoke who have lived in my house. Kids I've loved and wondered if they loved me, but never been able to find out because you have to give and not take and occasionally be sharp and straightforward with them.

My son Noah speaking at gathering
Wow. I've lived a blessed life.

I've done a lot of things.

It's exciting to follow God, and it's ever more exciting to follow God together with others. We've taken young people to Myanmar, Kenya, India, and Mexico. We've driven around the United States together, and they've performed music and dance all over the South, including being on TV in Dallas.

I've preached the Gospel in German, Spanish, and Italian, and I don't even speak Spanish or Italian. (How that's possible is another story, and it's not a story about miracles, just a lot of effort.)

At one time in my life I traded in all my dreams, aspirations, and hope. I dropped them on a spiritual altar, and I told God I'd live whatever life he had in mind.

Boy, was that a good idea!

My oldest son, Zube, crying at the gathering
I think the Bible says that it's through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Paul even said that "of all men, we're most to be pitied," but I think there's a context to that which does not indicate that the Christian life is a miserable one. It's just a painful one if it's a real one--one where you let God deal with you and change your desires.

I suppose I've also been homeless and jobless next to a lake in Texas, living in a tent and cooking on a fire with my wife, two toddlers, and a baby, trusting God for each next meal. One of those meals even came from picking up a hitchhiker, taking him to his house, and fixing his washing machine for him! $12 for that unforeseen bit of work fed us for another day.

I suppose I've also stood under a water tower in a thunderstorm shaking my fist at God--okay, I'll admit it, cussing at him--because I didn't think he was honoring my service to him. As my anger abated, I realized the foolishness of venting my anger on God under the tallest metal object around in a rainstorm, and I fell on my knees and begged for mercy.

I wouldn't trade a day of it.

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