The hand

You said:
“Come to me and I will give you rest.”

But the sea trembles beneath my feet
And my midnight fear is blacker
Than churning waters or the sky above.

Lord, is it to you I stumble
Or just a ghost after all?

Inky waves climb to consume me.
Struggle fuels the water to tie its noose
Around my brittle neck.
Driving rain ignites my gasping face,
Joining the freefall of tears.

“Lord?”

A lightning stroke reveals the outstretched hand
That I never looked up to notice.

What child is this?

“What child is this?” We sing the words of that Christmas carol every year as if we don’t know what Child “this” is.

Do we?

Is Jesus the sweet baby in the manger “no crying he makes”?

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matt. 25:35-36, emphasis mine)

God’s greatest Gift to man didn’t stay in a manger. So let’s not pretend He’s still there.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40)

Living in the everyday

Dear Journal,

Passing moments startle me when I realize I never took time to embrace them. IDSC00020t’s as if my best emotions hover above reality and I plod along below, waiting for the intersection of the two paths when I will feel again.

It’s not numbness; at least, I don’t think so. Maybe simply a sensory overload that leaves me incapable of processing what is unessential to everyday life.

It’s a little like not having time to journal because life is happening. Life is not something I want to chase away. I just wish I could experience it fully before now is just another yesterday.

Every nation, tribe, and tongue

When I heard that a nearby university was hosting a Christmas carol festival, I didn’t need any other motivation to jump in a taxi and go. After all, North Africa isn’t the easiest place to celebrate Christmas. There are no Salvation Army bell ringers, no Christmas flyers or billboards announcing unbeatable sales, no Christmas lights, no store aisles filled with Christmas candy, hardly any Christmas shopping at all.

You may write off those things as obnoxious, an assault to your everyday life. But for me, those little things help remind me of God’s greatest Gift to mankind. This year I don’t have those reminders, and it’s hard to fully enjoy the season.

But now, in this university auditorium, I could overlook the giant poster of the country’s king on the wall and remember the coming of another King.

There were beautiful classic carols, contemporary carols, worship songs, gospel songs, touches of opera, and Bible readings. Children and adults took turns on stage, representing the evangelical churches of the country.

Some songs filled the auditorium with life, eliciting applause and cheers. In the wake of one particularly lively group, a Spanish monk walked up to the podium and read the Christmas story. The irony of the moment was stifled by the beauty of it.

Is this what heaven will be like?

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10)

Worship isn’t uniformity, but it is unifying. The variation of style, genre, and the mix of at least eleven languages was remarkable…but inconsequential. We were there to celebrate the birth of the Savior. 

My guests

In November, three guests traversed the Atlantic to visit me: my mom, my brother, and my friend. Some of our adventures included:

  • Finding each other at the airport… and managing to convince security that I was not a risk
  • Traipsing around the city as each phone place we had been directed to directed us to someone else
  • Arguing with taxi drivers who were even more stubborn than I was
  • Tasting the old medina, literally and figuratively
  • Posing for awkward pictures
  • Sampling camel burgers and a salad that tasted “like donkeys”
  • Wiggling cooked snails out of their shells with wooden toothpicks…and sampling them too
  • Long talks
  • Laughing until we cried
  • Visiting my friends for tea, dinner, or just to say “hi”
  • Tasting uncured olives that pickled our mouths
  • Eating most of our meals standing around in the kitchen
  • Souvenir shopping in the rain
  • Souvenir shopping in the rain again
  • A long train ride in the rain
  • Walking along the bay in the rain
  • Two nights of cold showers
  • Spending a night snuggled in the musty hotel blankets
  • Staying in a concrete hotel room which reverberated with the early morning call to prayer and reading of the Qur’an
  • Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar by ferry only to find that the rain in Spain does not stay mainly on the plain!
  • A long bus ride around many many roundabouts…in the rain
  • A bus break-down which seemed to temporarily mend itself
  • A few days in Spain with friends, church, a birthday party,  an open air market, olives, churros, pastries, cocido, and tapas
  • Goodbyes

Enjoying the journey

“When I’m finished with school-”
“After work today-”
“When we get old, we’ll retire and be able to do the things we always wanted to do.”

Sound familiar? Those words could be snatched from the mouths of most western culture citizens.

That’s when I look at North Africans and realize that they understand the brevity of life better than we do. For many of them, it’s not about the next thing; it’s about today.

img_7823I thought about it while shopping one day. It would have been much simpler to taxi to the supermarket and buy all of my groceries in one place (and sometimes I do this). Instead, I went from little shop to shop, little vendor to vendor to find what I was looking for. I was not just another face in the checkout line; I was “my sister” to some of the shopkeepers. There was conversation and relationship.

It wasn’t about being efficient; it was about having interaction. It wasn’t about finishing the task; it was about enjoying the moment that you have while you have it.

This method of thinking has its drawbacks, but it is a rich way to live life. Maybe someday I will learn how to implement it in my western mindset.