Thursday, November 25, 2010

African Style Thankfulness

Top 5 reasons to be thankful for living in South Africa...

Turkey with friends on Thanksgiving Day

#1: From 9,000 miles away Husker football penalties and poor refereeing doesn’t seem quite so vivid – especially since we can’t actually watch the games (although still very painful to recall – I’m trying to block it out as we speak).

#2: I now know what it means when they tell you to pull your “trolley” up to the “till” (my “cart” up to the “cash register”) – even though I have to go back EVERY TIME to weigh my fruit (they can’t weigh it at the till – and I look like a crazy person running with oranges swinging in all directions as I hold up a entire line of people who clearly took the time and effort to weigh their fruit first)

#3: The 30 miles per hour gusts of wind, although likely to blow away my children and the roof off my house, do a top notch job of drying my laundry (yes, you heard that right, I am now a line drying machine – although of course not really a machine at all)

#4: I'm so glad the dollar was up today - 7 to 1 (it has been at an all time low since we have returned). The fluctuation in the value of the dollar can mean up to a hundred dollar difference in the rent we pay every month. I never thought I would care so much about the international power of the dollar. Go up! Go up! Go UUUUUUUPPPPPPPPP!

#5: I can use “hectic” appropriately in a sentence. Unlike “hectic” in American – which simply means busy – hectic here means so much more…

- “So you had a hectic past” (you did drugs, became homeless, had 4 kids, and checked into rehab)
- “My hair is quite hectic today” (noticeably messy and perhaps missing a shampoo or two)

- “Her driving is a bit hectic” (she has no idea what she’s doing and drives like a mad woman)

So there you have it. Happy Thanksgiving…hope it’s not too hectic!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toast Parties and Dadisms

Ahh…little girls love their daddy. And I love mine – dearly and now almost desperately.

Growing up we had what we called “Dad-isms.” Classic things my dad always said.

Here are his top 20 Dad-isms:

1. Let’s have a toast party (this was a special treat of family time – eating jelly toast, talking, laughing - and most importantly staying up past the bedtime we rarely missed)

2. Use Normal and Customary procedures (he repeated this over and over again while teaching me to drive – I’m so grateful he thought I knew what “normal and customary” driving procedures actually were).

3. Put away your guitar and clean up your room (this one was for my brother – who taught himself to play guitar and is now an amazing worship leader – but I guess his room must have been pretty messy)

4. Now see if you can get back home from here (he loved to play a game where he would ask us to close our eyes while he drove my brother and me to some random location and then we had to figure out how to get home from there – from the back seat of the car we would give him directions till we found our way home “turn right…go straight…etc.” – he felt it was very important to be able to get “unlost”)

5. Since responsibility is your middle name… (this statement would proceed some responsible thing he was sure I was about to do)

6. Only under these 3 conditions (often he would let us talk him into doing something we really wanted to do – but there were ALWAYS 3 – not 2, not 4 – but 3 conditions)

7. Start saving (he believed you should actually save up your money if you want something - how unAmerican!)

8. Where’s the Buick? (in college he would let me borrow his car and instead of asking where I was he would say, “Where’s the Buick?”)

9. Only 90% true (he believes that several things can be true at once – meaning everything is not always as clear-cut as it may seem)

10. I’ll give you ten guesses (this is a game we still play – where we have to figure out something within 10 guesses – aka, what restaurant did he eat at last night, who did I run into at the mall, etc. - this is a game I hate to loose)

11. Pick up as you go (he believed in cleaning up messes as you made them)

12. I-C-E (my parents would spell out I-C-E for ice cream when I was young, thinking we wouldn’t catch on to that one…ha!)

13. Train! (this is a game of who can hear or see a train first –then yell “Train!” to stake your claim of firstness)

14. Keep short accounts (he firmly believes in shoring things up quickly – debts, conflicts, etc.)

15. Long pause (like most men, my father likes to pause in conversation – apparently it’s only us women that see this pause as long – as our pause is about 1/100th in length – he attributes this to a man’s smaller lung capacity)

16. I’ll give you $10 if you can solve this math problem (he loves both a good incentive and good math problem)

17. Is it in the book? (meaning have you recorded your day’s expenses in your budget book?)

18. Have a banana (his way of saying “eat healthy”)

19. Hey Champ! (that was my brother) and Hey Bug! (that was me - not sure how I ended up as the insect and my brother as the champion)

20. Today is a packet day (a freeze-tag style game my dad made up 50 years ago - involving wadded up packets of newspaper and two teams – it’s great fun and has been carried over to international notoriety in Kabul and Cape Town)

So that’s my dad.

I’m sure it’s obvious from this list, but he really is an exceptional father - toast parties, games and life lessons. If everyone had a dad like mine, this world would be an entirely different place.

That said, for his birthday this past Tuesday I had a special request. As many of you know, he finished Chemo for his cancer (chronic lymphocytic lyphoma) last summer. We thought it was great…the cancer treatment was successful!

However, he is now sicker than he has ever been. His immunity is so low from the after effects of the chemo treatment– his body can’t seem to fight off ANYTHING. He’s had painful canker sores for over a month now (that refuse to go away) and a lingering fever that has lasted over a week. It’s possible his immunity may be severely compromised for the rest of his life…with little hope of medication that can help.

So for his birthday, we asked friends to join us in a fast for the complete recovery of my dad’s immune system.

Many people sacrificed for us in prayer – sending encouraging words and scriptures. We can’t thank you enough!

After reading the kind words from friends, here is the email I got from dad today.

Julie and Karl,

This is dad.

I have read many emails that came from your request.

All are encouraging.

Thank you so much for caring for me.

I am overwhelmed that so many are praying and caring.

I have significant pain but I work daily to speak into kids.

I talk funny but the kids seem to get it.

I am weak but they are so helpful.

I run scared but Jesus runs within me.

I am discouraged but not without hope.

The race is now difficult but Christ has won this marathon.

Because the church surrounds me, I am not alone.

Many have endured, I am in good company.

This is hard, but Jesus is my life.

I have one verse, I have a thousand. They all say one thing, "Jesus in you, the hope of glory."

We are called to run the race, but sometimes it's a vertical thing, hard but upward.

Sometimes, the answers are slippery, but JESUS is not. HE is the ANSWER.

We must all run while resting in His PRESENCE.

I am tired now, talk later.

love, dad.

*The "kids" are dad's students (he teaches math at a junior high school)

I stand in awe of my daddy. What I wouldn't give for a toast party right now.

NOTE: Here is the page on our site with the scriptures friends sent for my dad and a status update on his health: Prayer for Julie's Dad

Sunday, November 14, 2010

His Instruments

Sitting in the bookstore café with Karl, I was surprised when an old man clamored over me. He quickly hopped onto a chair next to us and reached for a book sitting on top of the book shelf.

Now I was curious. You never quite know what you’re going to get in South Africa.

“Is that a good book?” I said (referring to the paperback he had just swiped from his high altitude perch)

“It better be…I wrote it!” he replied, as he slipped colored photos of an old cello into the books.

“Oh…what’s it about?” I inquired. He seemed so intent on his mission – I HAD to know.

Mr. Robson introduced himself and explained how a homeless man, rummaging through the trash on “bin day” (as in “garbage bin day” – naturally the day you set your trash out), discovered a few splintered pieces of an old baroque cello.

Although it looked more like firewood than a 300 year old treasure, he passed it on to someone who “knew something about music.”

For 30 years it sat in storage…neglected, worn to shreds, unusable.

Mr. Robson, who had a habit of restoring old instruments, took it out from time to time. He admired the old bits of worn wood, but was daunted by the task of restoration. He wasn’t inspired to repair it until his music group took up an interest in performing Bach’s church cantatas on original instruments.

And why wouldn’t you? Why perform Bach on a hideously modern violin if you can find the original instrument from Bach’s era? Little did I know, there are people who live to do this.

After months of tedious labor, he made an amazing discovery! Much to his shock and excitement, this was not just a cello from around Bach’s time - it was a 5 string cello-piccolo, created in 1707 – most likely to have been used by Bach himself. These instruments were only popular for a short time, as a precursor to the modern day cello. They are now obsolete and extremely rare - with a mere 4 or 5 in all the world – designed solely for Bach’s church cantatas (there are only 10 songs Bach composed for this instrument, “Deck yourself, my soul, with gladness” being the first).

Standing in the café with a wistful look in his eye he said, “I just knew this instrument was really special.”

In his book Midnight Mess (by William Selway Robson), he goes on to say, “I could sense its musical soul was intact, it only needed painstaking repair to bring it back to life again!”

For some reason I had to hold back tears.

Hearing him speak so tenderly about the discarded instrument, thrown in the trash, found by a beggar and restored to beauty - I couldn’t help but think of my friends in Ocean View.

They are discarded, neglected, abused, forgotten, thrown away. They are in the bin….treasures…waiting for restoration. When someone…just one person…takes the time to sit for hours, peeling back layers of hurt and abuse, carefully gluing pieces in place, repairing broken strings – a treasure takes form.

Not just an expensive, well crafted instrument – but a priceless instrument, designed by a great composer for specific type of song.

I thought the lyrics to Bach’s first song, composed for this piccolo-cello, are quite fitting…

DECK THYSELF, MY SOUL, WITH GLADNESS (lyrics to 3rd verse)

He who craves a precious treasure
Neither cost nor pain will measure;
But the priceless gifts of heaven
God to us hath freely given.
Though the wealth of earth were offered,
Naught would buy the gifts here offered:
Christ's true body, for thee riven,
And His blood, for thee once given.

He is our treasure and we are His…instruments - born to be restored – with a destiny to be played in a song composed uniquely and specifically and only for us!

If we are not played, our part of the song will never be heard.

I love 2 Timothy 2:21

(We) will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

May I stop performing my own song, but participate in the cantata He wrote just for me!