Tag Archives: Mission

Lady of Little Faith

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 WEB)

When my son Evan came to visit us in Austria, I asked him to bring me some books. Since he worked in a bookstore it was a great chance to get some reduced prices. I like sales! Anyway, I’d decided to read some of the major works I’d avoided over the years in lieu of reading theology and Christian ministry related books, not to mention the computer, radio, audio, and numerous other texts relating to my ministry.

He lugged the massive, even in paperback, copy of The Brothers Karamazov, to our home. I’d read excerpts from Fyodor Dostoevsky and references to his characters in other texts and decided it was time to take the plunge and see if I could work my way through the 776 pages of the tome. I found it fascinating how Dostoevsky rambled in his prose style. Way too many words for my succinct engineering mind. But, I still enjoyed his presentation of the people, culture, and theological mindset created in his literary version of Russia. So, I just stopped and made a note of a passage that caught my fancy.

I was in part I, book 2, when I met the monastery elder Zosima. Interestingly described, with great detail to the historical installation of elders, with that wizened presence which instills confidence in those around him. Several encounters were described which served to demonstrate his amazing, clear evaluation of those seeking his blessing and advice. Then I came to a lady of little faith. Without reiterating the depth of the text, he made the following statement, to the lady, concerning her desire to love those around her.

. . . active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly, performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one’s life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a while science. But I predict that even in that very moment when you see with horror that despite all your efforts, you not only have not come nearer your goal but seem to have gotten farther from it, at that very moment – I predict this to you – you will suddenly reach your goal and clearly behold over you the wonder-working power of the Lord, who all the while has been mysteriously guiding you.”

I wish I could take credit for such a clear statement, but alas, I can’t. While translated from the original Russian this seems a concise description of many Christians in today’s church. I was caught off guard when I realized the times I too have sought to be loving for the joy of the spiritual applause my fellow believers provided.

We, even Christians, even missionaries, like an audience that appreciates our efforts. The lady in the story confessed to seeking advice, on how to express love to others, for the joy of being praised by the elder. I like to think I’m selfless and giving fully of myself in serving others. This may be true at times. But, at other times I sulk and am tempted to stop when my ego isn’t bolstered with words of encouragement and praise.

Maybe you can identify with me, maybe not. I must confess, I was chastised when I read the sentence, “. . .active love is labor and perseverance, . . .” countered against the condemnation, “Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly, performed, and with everyone watching.” Ouch, that hurts!

So, I guess I need to look a little more closely, even as a missionary, at the reason I do this or that. Am I being “nice” because I should, because it is Christ-like? Or, am I looking for worldly approval? Tough questions.

So, a new week begins, my mind has been challenged. We’ll see how things go. Maybe somewhere in the days ahead I’ll draw closer to my goal of loving everyone around me, as Christ loved me, even in the midst of my mistakes and, at times, wrong attitude. We have a wonder-working Lord and it is a wonder what he does in me day to day.

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Driving

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 NET.)

I’ve always liked cars. I should say I’ve almost always enjoyed riding in cars. I say almost because some drivers qualify as design artists for the house of horrors. I’ve left my fingernails in the dashboard of more than one perspective demolition derby hopeful car. Hair raising experiences aside, I enjoy a nice road trip. It doesn’t really matter where I’m going. If I’m the driver it’s even better.

It should be noted I’m not a car fanatic. I can’t distinguish one make, model, or year from another unless I surreptitiously sneak a peak at the emblem on the fender. I don’t drool over sleek sports models or dream of a car more expensive than a thirty room mansion. I’m just as happy to drive an old “bug” as a modern Lamborghini. I once saw a Lamborghini parked on the street as I walked to the office. Nice, smooth design and I’m sure it costs more to start than I make in a month. I’ve learned to use the right phrases and even point out a cool car driving by so I don’t appear too dorky. But, my real love is driving.

It probably began with Sunday afternoon drives through the countryside. This was just when Interstate highways were starting. Most Sunday afternoons we, my brothers and I, would fight for window seats in the back of our big Chevy. Window seats are important since there’s no air-conditioning. The roar of the wind and cool hurricane force gale through our hair made for some interesting struggles as we climbed in the car. Since seat belts weren’t required or in vogue the seating sequence would change from time to time throughout the trip.

Dad would point the car out of town on some long forgotten highway and he’d drive. He enjoyed it. Where were we going? Nobody knew, not even Dad. When we arrived at our destination we’d turn around and drive home. Highway markers were only useful if we got lost coming home. No need to ask directions, just point your nose home and let it lead.

We’d enjoy the scenery scrolling by on a lazy Sunday afternoon drive. No better experience than feeling the smooth roll of the wheels and swaying of the car on corners. If we spotted a dip in the road we’d chime up for Dad to go faster and provide a short lived, by exciting, weightless moment in history. It was great!

When I left home for college and then married my sweetheart I continued to find Sunday afternoons and other opportunities to just cruise the highways and byways. Then we answered God’s call to missionary work and moved to Guam. We’d pile our children into the car and enjoy the swing and sway of the island’s roads. Thirty minutes later we found ourselves back at our door. The island wasn’t that big and didn’t have that many roads.

02bath63Later we moved to Europe. Wide open highways, and autobahns provided a chance to drive for more than thirty minutes and not end up at home. It’s like Heaven on asphalt. We’ve driven across the continent several times. One day our family was on the highway in Germany when the boys asked how fast the car would go. I decided to find out. On a straight stretch, flat, sunny, dry day I shouted, “Here we go boys!” I floored the accelerator and waited. We hit the 192 kph mark! (120 mph) The first and last time I floored it to the max. The boys were thrilled. After my nerves calmed down we resumed our 100 mph journey.

It may be obvious that speed is not what enthralls me about driving. Its the event. The control as I conquer the corners and hills to see another beautiful vista prepared by God’s meticulous hand. With rare exception I’m always ready to take the wheel when it’s offered. Apparently my driving isn’t too bad either. Most of my European travel is confined to the continent. Thus, I drive a lot. On most trips I’m asked to drive by my colleagues on a regular basis. I’d like to think it’s because they trust me and feel safe in my hands. As I get older I’m not as sure as they are but I still love to drive.

One thing I don’t appreciate is a backseat driver. I prefer to make my own mistakes without nervous prompting over my shoulder. Once on a trip, a couple people were both telling me to go this way and that. Finally, in desperation and confusion I pulled the car into a side street and stopped. Since I needed some direction in this new town I said, “One of you can talk. The other one be quiet!” Things settled down and we arrived at our destination with fewer side trips.

I think my children have caught sight of my driving infatuation. At least they’ve joined my colleagues when it comes to a designated driver. My lovely bride and I were recently in the USA visiting our children. Fortunately for us most of them live in the same small town. Our fourth is in the Army but took a couple weeks off to see their “missionary” parents while in the country. It was a great family reunion complete with food, fun, playing with our grandson, car troubles, normal family stuff and housing changes.

It’s the housing changes that tugged at my driving enthusiasm. My youngest son needed to move from out in the country to a more citified location. His assumption was Dad knew how to drive anything including a moving truck. I became the designated truck driver. I do have experience moving across the USA in the capable cab of a U-haul truck. Then again, that was thirty years ago. Not wanting to squelch my son’s trust in my abilities I agreed and we picked up the truck.

Honestly, it was great! It took a few moments, a little careful evaluation of the size and protrusions on the truck to figure things out. I backed into country driveways, navigated city streets and came out with any new scratches. Forty foot moving trucks are interesting beasts to drive on narrow country roads but it was fun! When we returned the truck I was relaxed and my driving itch had been scratched another day with a new experience.

The problem with itches is that they often come back unexpectedly and demand to be scratched. Five days later our daughter and her husband moved about four blocks to a bigger apartment. Dad was still in town so my skills were once again called to the front. Interestingly when we picked up the forty foot rental it was the same truck I used early that week for our son. In and out, up and down, back and forth we went until their worldly goods were transplanted from a college oriented apartment complex to a more family slanted venue. Ah, it’s great to scratch an itch now and again.

I’m glad my family and my co-workers trust my driving skills. Thanks to that trust I have more chances to get behind the wheel and spool off more mileage of satisfying driving. My wondrous bride and I more than once headed out on Sunday afternoons for a drive through the winding roads of the Alpine foothills near our home. We didn’t know where we were going but always enjoyed the destination when it was reached.

We no longer have a car. They’re just a bit too expensive to maintain where we live. Thankfully the area has great public transport. For the most part I have to put my trust in someone else to get me from place to place. My driving is limited to furlough or mission related trips. I still enjoy each adventure and others still trust me to drive. It’s nice to be trusted. For something so easily lost it’s also easy to maintain. Someone who breaks our trust often must work hard to regain it.

I’m glad God hasn’t lost my trust. I know it’ll never happen. He told me to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 NET.) When others trust my driving, without backseat interjections, things go well. When I trust God in everything, without my sanctified backseat prompting, things go well. I can look out the window, enjoy the scenery slipping by and know I’ll reach His destination, wherever that may be, and love it when I get there.

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