Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mariah Easter 2010 dance - The Via Doloroso

Easter at Loma de Luz was filled with our own traditional styles of celebration. Many of us were busy in one way or another with preparations.  A month before, three of us ladies began planning the Easter program. We had a choir, dramatic readings, praise and worship, music videos, special music and other things to organize for the glory of our Savior. Of course there were also wonderful Easter dishes for the potluck to prepare as well. The most challenging preparations for our family began two months before Easter Sunday when Sharon, a dear sister, asked Mariah to consider doing an interpretive dance for the Easter service. We left the decision up to her. We encouraged her to do it but told her that she needed to determine what God wanted her to do. Dave and I and Suzanne prayed for her as she determined that very thing. After a week of prayer she believed that God wanted her to dance. Thus began the biggest spiritual challenge Mariah had ever faced.

For most of her younger years ballet had been her life. Since we moved to Honduras Mariah’s passions have changed from dance to music and the guitar. There simply is not a proper ballet studio here for her to train at and the majority of the youth at Loma de Luz play an instrument. Also, none of the girls here have had dance lessons and many have never seen a live ballet. Therefore her circle of friends here aren’t in the least interested in dance. There is very little negative about the social environment among the teens here, but they do have a tendency to tease one another.  In fact, many times they have teased Mariah about her “ballet past.” This was the main reason why Mariah did not want to dance; For fear that she would (mess up and) never hear the end of it from her friends.    
She did receive many encouraging words from adults which she respects greatly. She was even able to work with our friend, Carrie, who had done interpretive dance in the states. Carrie encouraged her to dedicate one hour a day to her dance weather it was in time with God, working out, meditating on the words of the song, or practicing the dance itself. Mariah applied these words of wisdom and dedicated an hour a day whenever possible. But a sudden change in her schedule threatened her dedication.

Part of being involved with the bilingual school she attends is to help two days a week for two hours with the “English as a Foreign Language” class offered to local students. We found this information out after Mariah had already agreed to dance and while she was in the middle of writing a thesis paper. We have always taught her to honor her word and reminded her that God wanted her to dance… Into my hita’s heart waltzed doubt, stress, and more fear – fear of failure. She was sure that she would not be able to do everything well and thus disappoint everyone - including God.

The word of God tells us in Romans 5: 2-5… And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

With hind-sight I can see how indeed this scripture worked its way through Mariah’s situation. Nearly every day she came home and did her homework, worked on her paper, warmed her body up and danced. Nearly every day she said, “I don’t want to do this;” Some days she said it with tears. But she persevered.  Mariah had been advised not to show anyone her dance ahead of time for many different reasons. The evening before the Easter program, Amy – a older teenage friend of Mariah’s, asked Mariah if she would show her the dance. Amy wanted to prove to Mariah that her fears were unfounded. Indeed, Amy was a great encouragement to Mariah that evening. Mariah went to bed feeling much better about her upcoming solo.

Easter morning arrived and so did the doubts and fears again…and to add to all that the hormones of a 13 year old. There was much gnashing of teeth and wailing – she was definitely under attack by the evil one – both physically and spiritually. Dave and I prayed with her and encouraged her, gave her scriptures to proclaim over her fears, loved on her and told her that “In Christ she can do all things.” She was in her costume when we left for the service and was convinced she looked like a fairy. Upon arriving she basically began to panic. Then she found out that a local boy that had been unkind to her in the past was there. She really freaked out at that information. She knew that he would never let her live it down.  She continued to say, “I’m not going to do this,” or “I can’t do this.” Then Amy entered the office and prayed and encouraged her again. This calmed her down enough to listen to reason and truth and to start believing both.  
And so here you see some pictures of my beautiful daughter dancing before her God in obedience and trusting that He would be her strength. Mariah did a beautiful job. Her giftedness in dance shone through the storm as she let His light pierce the darkness of the devil’s schemes. Those who had known her struggles and had been praying for her were brought to tears to see her triumph over her fears. For days her friends only had wonderful words of encouragement for her. We were proud of her and her heavenly father was too.  

The character of Christ is built up in us through the difficult things in our lives. Mariah’s character matured greatly. Her hope in God did not disappoint her as God poured out His love for her through the power of His Holy Spirit. God is good – all the time. ~ Marinajo

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spanish Translation / Bible Study Prep Tools

I've been spending a lot of time doing Bible Study Prep lately in Spanish.  I am currently involved with two Spanish Bible Studies.   Until the Spanish part comes a lot more easily (when will that be??) - I am finding that one can easily double or triple their prep time as they try to figure out ahead of time what to say and how to say it.  To that end, I wanted to make you aware of a couple of Spanish Language Bible Study Tools and Translation aides that I have found most helpful in preparing in the hopes that they might also be found helpful by some of you.

Here they are:

This is such a handy site because you can easily flip between English>Spanish translations and Spanish>English translations.  It also gives you an immediate translation as you type.  Lastly many times, there is a speaker icon which you can click to hear the words spoken in either language. 

This is quickly becoming my favorite on-line Bible.  It is parallel, so it allows you to choose an English version and a Spanish version to read side by side.  The best part for me is that it displays the verses truly side by side - so that if I get lost in the Spanish version I can more quickly pick up the English side - grab the word that I need and get back to reading the Spanish version.  I find this much harder to do in my Bilingual Bible. 

Please post anything that you've found helpful in the comments!  

Hope this helps!    


Monday, April 19, 2010

US Ambassador to Honduras continues to advance hard-left Democratic agenda.

Here is the link to the original story in the Wall Street Journal

By Mary Anastasia O'Grady:

The U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, continues to use his post in Tegucigalpa to advance the political strategy of some of Washington's most hard-left Democrats. His effort deserves attention because it is part of a broader ideological agenda for the region that runs counter to U.S. security interests.

Twelve days ago Mr. Llorens hosted a dinner party at his residence for more than a half-dozen members of President Porfirio Lobo's cabinet. The guests of honor were two visiting Capitol Hill staffers. Fulton Armstrong works for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Peter Quilter works for California Congressman Howard Berman, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Both elected politicians are known for left-wing sympathies. So too are their staffers. Mr. Armstrong is more famous than his House counterpart because of his working relationship—when he was on the National Intelligence Council—with Ana Belen Montes, the highest ranking Cuban spy ever to penetrate the Pentagon.

It is strange enough that the ambassador thought it appropriate to subject cabinet ministers to an evening with Hill staffers. It is even more bizarre that the staffers would think it appropriate to use the occasion to pressure the ministers on matters of domestic politics.

Yet multiple reports from the event all told the same story: The foreigners said that they are still sore with Honduran supporters of what the Obama administration had branded "a coup d'etat" last year. Those supporters, who argued that Honduras had the constitutional right to remove President Manuel Zelaya from power, had hired lobbyists to present their arguments in Washington. They caused great trouble for the Democrats, the Kerry-Berman emissaries complained.

The staffers had other meetings with government and private-sector VIPS where this issue came up. According to some of those present, the visitors implied that if Honduras wants to get right with the U.S., it should find a way to officially accept the Obama administration's coup d'etat narrative.

Mr. Armstrong's office says that the staffers' visit was "part of their normal staff responsibilities" and that they "discussed a whole host of issues with their interlocutors."

If that included pushing to make their version of the "coup" official, it's nothing new. Last year, after the Law Library of Congress opined that Honduras had acted constitutionally when it removed Mr. Zelaya, Messrs. Kerry and Berman penned a letter to the head of the Law Library to demand that the opinion be retracted and "corrected." The head librarian stood by the Library's analysis. But as the Armstrong-Quilter visit suggests, the lawmakers have not given up their quest to rewrite history.

The Americas in the News

Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.

Equally troubling are questions about Mr. Armstrong, who last year tried to block Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's fact-finding trip to Honduras. For much of his career as a Central Intelligence Agency analyst on Latin America, Mr. Armstrong's work was shrouded in secrecy. That changed when Mr. Kerry blurted out his name during 2005 hearings on George W. Bush's nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Bolton's adversaries claimed that he was unqualified for the job because he had tried to have Mr. Armstrong fired for political reasons.

Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs, went before staffers of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to testify on Mr. Bolton's behalf. Mr. Reich says he told the staffers that he had found Mr. Armstrong's work consistently unreliable and that much of the national security bureaucracy saw it the same way. The late columnist Robert Novak wrote for at the time that Mr. Reich's views fit "complaints I have heard from Reagan administration officials about Armstrong's left-wing bias on Western Hemisphere questions in general, but particularly on Cuba."

Mr. Armstrong's name also comes up in the 2007 book "True Believer," by Defense Intelligence Agency "mole hunter" Scott Carmichael. It tells the story of how the U.S. busted Cuban spy Montes in 2001.

As the National Intelligence Officer for Latin America in 2000, Mr. Armstrong was "in frequent telephone and e-mail contact with Ana," Mr. Carmichael writes. "As NIO he was the senior subject-matter expert on Latin American affairs for the [director of central intelligence], and he welcomed Ana's participation in the fellowship program under his personal tutelage. They had discussed the nature of her research project in some detail, and preparations were already underway to launch Ana further and deeper into the U.S. intelligence community." The book does not say that he knew she was a spy. Mr. Armstrong's office did not respond to my request for comments.

All of this raises questions about Mr. Armstrong's judgment on Latin America and his qualifications to be the point person for the Senate in shaping U.S. policy in Honduras in 2010.

Write to O'

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

You were right Jerry

You’ll hold children that are dying……..he said to me and let the weight of it hang in the air for a minute before moving on.  C’mon I said to myself, don’t be so dramatic.  I’m just going there to help out with the computer systems.   My friend Jerry was trying to get through to me the gravity of what living at a missionary hospital would be like – he was trying to make sure that I understood what we (my family and I were getting ourselves into).   I’ve since told Jerry how right he was and I would have to say to him tonight, you were right again, Jerry. 

Many of you know that I was a volunteer firefighter and EMT for about 10 years in Colorado and I absolutely loved the work.  Many times I’ve prayed that God would use the gifts and skills that I developed during that time here in this time at Hospital Loma de Luz.  Several times God has answered that prayer and in the last week, I’ve had the awful privilege of assisting (in a small way) with two children who have died here at the hospital

The first was a young boy who had been a drowning victim who came in last Thursday – the day before Good Friday.  It took way too long to get him to the hospital and there seemed no hope at all for him.  I was able to help with CPR as the doctors worked beyond diligently to revive him.  I was so impressed with their dedication to exhausting every possible alternative before declaring him deceased.  He was a three year old boy.  As a father, it is so easy (for me anyway) to see your own child laying there – and realize how lucky you are that a similar disaster hasn’t befallen you.  As we cleaned the child’s body up and prepared him for his mother to see him, I was struck by the profound sadness of the whole situation. We’ve since heard rumors of dereliction of parental duty involved in the accident that, if true, compound the tragedy so much more.  As his mother came in saw him, she (as is common for this area) screamed and cried in a way that is not normal for us as North Americans.  It is hard to describe the physical and emotional exhaustion from working in a situation like this for an extended period of time (over an hour).  I walked away from there feeling like I had nothing left.  I drove up the hill and stopped at my favorite spot overlooking the Caribbean and just cried and cried from sheer emotional exhaustion and the sadness of the loss of a child.  You were right Jerry.

Today (6 days later) – it happened again.  A lady came in to the hospital after 14 hours of hard labor up in the mountains and with a pregnancy that was already three weeks overdue.  The medical staff that attended her decided that we needed to get her to the nearest full service hospital as soon as possible for a cesarean section and I was asked if I could drive her into La Ceiba (about an hour and a quarter away) along with a nurse.  This is a fairly common task for me (usually in the middle of the night) and one that I am happy to be able to help with.  Well this lady was just too far along and as I got there and as we were preparing to load her up in my truck for a rush trip to town, she started pushing in earnest and the baby began to crown.  Well, needless to say we were stuck and immediately switched to delivery mode.  I’ve been able to help out with several deliveries now and so I put some gloves on and got ready to help.  Unfortunately, this baby had been in the birth canal under stress for way too long and was born not breathing. The doctors tried so hard for so long to revive the child.  Once again, I was just struck by their dedication to exhausting every possible alternative before giving up hope.  In each case, we prayed during the resuscitation efforts many many times and implored God to help and to return life to these children.  For the second time in less than a week, I assisted a nurse in cleaning up the child’s body so that their parents could hold them and say goodbye to them.  This time I was able to hand the newborn over to her mother and tell her with complete confidence that she was “with God” and “in His hands” now.

I wanted to share these events with you and let you know how thankful I am to have the opportunity to be involved here with the ongoing work of the hospital, even when it is events as sad as these were (are).   I know it sounds crazy, but these profound moments in my life make me so much more appreciative of the life and health that we enjoy and so aware of the difficulties of others, that I really am thankful for them.  I believe they make me a better Christian and a better missionary and that they help me to more useful here in this place.  Hope that makes sense.  Jerry, you were right.  More right than probably you or I could have known at the time……

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?”(Luke24:5)

It was still dark, I imagine.  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “other women” were all there together.

The stone had been rolled away. 

Oh no! 

His body was missing!

Suddenly, two men – brilliant light – face to the ground!

And then the question that still rings down through the ages

We know Mary Magdalene as the woman from whom seven demons had gone out of (Luke 8).  Matthew, Mark, and John all document that she was there at the end – standing somewhere near the cross.  And of course, we know her as the woman to whom the angels asked the most profound question on the first Easter morning: “why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Why wouldn’t the women look for Him there?  Wasn't that where the disciples had left him?  Wasn’t that where he was supposed to be?   Why would they look anywhere else?  The problem of course is the completely different perspectives of the ladies vs. the angels.  Whereas the angels asked a perfectly legitimate question from a spiritual point of view – all that the women could see and all that the disciples could see was the physical point of view.  You can almost hear their arguments:  He died.  I saw Him die. No matter that He told them He was going to die and then be raised again after three days.    They didn’t get it then and many of us still don’t get it today.  We look for a living Savior among the dead. 


This is us: we see the spiritual offer of Easter of a new life (a resurrected life) and we say things like “I need to clean up my act” or “I need to go to church more.” Not that these are bad things in and of themselves, but they aren’t embracing Christ’s offer of new life.  Others of us seek life in all sorts of worldly pleasures.  This is seeking life among the dead things of this world.  No!  We need to see that we are being offered something on a whole different level – a new life!  Righteousness, peace, and joy from the Father based on a right standing with Him!  Redemption! Life eternal!


Wherever you are seeking life from, if it is not Jesus – it is dead!  And, as we saw from these dear lost ladies, it is even possible to seek Jesus in way that is dead.  If you are seeking Jesus as a healer, or an inspired teacher, or as a way to achieve a moral life, you are doing just as they did – you are seeking a Jesus in a grave.  Jesus is alive!  We must seek him as Lord and Savior.  We must seek to have a personal relationship with a living God!   


You who are entangled in legalism, or pornography, or witchcraft: why do you look for the living among the dead?  You who are enveloped in alcoholism, or drug addiction, or homosexuality: why do you look for the living among the dead?  You who look for your identity in the approval of others, or crave position or power: why do you look for the living among the dead?  Look to the living God to deliver you from your sins.  Repent from your sins and believe that Jesus came to bring you abundant life!  He came to set you free! Free to live a life that is pleasing to God.  Free to live as we were created, to live as a Holy Sacrifice, to the Glory of God the Father! In order to receive this freedom, we must accept Him on His terms – as a living savior.  We can not keep him safely in His coffin and just go visit Him on Sundays.  We must surrender our lives to Him more and more and more.  The end goal of Christianity is not to go to a great church and live a relatively moral life – it is to follow Jesus to the Cross and then be raised with Him (our own personal Easter) to a new life in Christ.  I pray that this might be true for you this (and every) Easter!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Reflections on Passover and the washing of feet

One would understand if Jesus were done for the evening, without taking on the added responsibility of washing everyone’s feet.

I would submit to you that the symbolism of the night was complete without adding anything to it. Here is Jesus, serving the Seder supper. He is the Passover Lamb. He has gotten Himself to Jerusalem at the proper time. He is about to be handed over to Pilate. He is here, in the upper room sharing that Seder Supper, with all of its symbolism - about Himself – with them. He has said “this is my body, which is given for you” and “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). You would think that it would be enough. It would be okay now for Jesus to recline and rest now – for the upcoming battle. But it was not to be, He was not finished. In His sovereignty, Jesus adds something to the moment that moves beyond the Old Testament symbolism of the Passover and shows us how we are now to act toward one another.

For a dispute has risen among them (not the first time) as to which one is the greatest (Luke 22:24). Don’t miss the irony of this. Amidst all of this symbolism about Jesus and the entire history of the Jewish Faith focusing in on this moment like the sun through a magnifying glass, and burning a hole in history, right here, right now, they are arguing amongst themselves as to who is the greatest. One would certainly understand if Jesus were just to flee to prayer in frustration right there and then. Instead he “rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, he tied it around his waist.” (John 13:4).

Jesus was taking on the characteristics of the lowliest servant. He was making a point in a way that only He could make it. I’m reminded of a recent episode with my son Ben, who is now 8 yrs old. I had encouraged, exhorted, corrected, on this one point for a long time with seemingly no change in his behavior. One day I said in frustration “I’m not getting through to you!” Well shortly after that we had another situation in which I applied some pretty unique discipline. Later that night, Benny said to me “Dad, you know how you’ve been saying that you’re not getting through to me?” “Yes…..” I answered slowly – he really had my attention now. “Well, tonight, you got my attention,” he said quite sincerely. I was shocked. I had no idea that this would be the time that I finally got through to him. In my exhaustion, I chose a unique way to carry out his correction and in so doing, I finally “got through to Him”. I have to believe that this is part of Jesus’ motivation here in wrapping a towel around His waist and washing the disciple’s feet. I believe the mere fact that they were arguing amongst themselves as to who was the greatest just after the Passover supper may have produced despair in Jesus. Father, how can I teach them this the most important point of all? Did Jesus ask that of the Father? We’ll never know, but I think that something like that may have transpired.

As Jesus begins to wash the disciple’s feet, He comes to Peter. In the memorable exchange, Peter first says that Jesus cannot wash his feet. Jesus then answers that if He does not wash Peter’s feet, then Peter “can have no part in Him”. Peter then pulls the fastest 180 degree turn in the Bible and asks Jesus to wash not only his feet, but his hands and his head too! Jesus explains, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean” (John 13:10). While I don’t pretend to know the full meaning of this scripture, I can tell you what it means to me. I believe that Jesus is telling us that we “are clean” from our sins because of His work of redemption. Because Peter was “clean” in this way Jesus did not need to wash his head and his hands – rather only his feet were “dirty”. Our feet are the part of us that touch the ground, which come in contact with this earth. In the days of dirt roads and sandals, you could take a bath and walk to someone’s house and be quite clean and yet still need to have your feet washed from the journey. In the journey, the part of us that comes in contact with the earth can become quite dirty, even though we are “clean” elsewhere. Do you see the spiritual metaphor here? We are clean because of the redemption of Christ and we do not need to be “re-cleaned” ever. There is however a part of each of us as Christians that comes into contact with this world that “get’s dirty”. We live in a dirty, dirty place and in our journey through it the part of us that comes in contact with the world often gets dirty. Thus, we must wash each other’s feet with acts of service and in humility in order to cleanse this part of our souls. When Jesus was finished washing the disciple’s feet, he asked “do you understand what I have done for you?” (John 13:12) That question still stands today: “do we understand what Jesus has done for us?” Jesus then went on to say “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you.” And so there it is. Jesus, our Lord and master was willing in that moment to take on the position of the lowliest servant and do the humiliating task of washing feet and then He states that we should do likewise. His theme is clear throughout John chapters 13,14,15,16, and 17 - Love. It seems to me that He is saying, you are about to need to love one another more than ever. He was leaving, they were about to face unimaginable challenges, and Jesus spends His last hours with them teaching them on service, oneness, and love. Could His message to us be more clear? We are to love one another in service and unity

One must understand the positioning of the foot washing in the timeline of the ministry (and indeed the Passion) of Christ. This was one of His very last acts of ministry. This wasn’t Jesus going through a mental checklist of things He had intended to do: “Let’s see, fast 40 days (check), temptation (check), healing (check), foot washing – ah yes, well I do have time to fit that in yet tonight.” No, this was Jesus in some of His last hours with His disciples showing them what was most important! In fact, in John 13:34, Jesus issues a new commandment. “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” “By this, all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Wow. We are to love one another just as He has loved us? Furthermore, this will be the manner in which “all people” will know that we are His disciples? This statement cannot be taken lightly. Jesus then repeats this command in John 15 verses 12 and 17. Shortly after this, Jesus prays in John 17 that the Father would protect us (vs 15) and that He would sanctify us (vs 17) and that we (all believers to follow) would be one so that the world would believe that He was sent from God (vs 21).

Jesus wants us to love one another, and He wants us to be one. I believe that this is His fondest hope for us as His followers. It was so important to Him that He added to the symbolism of the Passover supper something that had never been there before and He made it a priority to preach it to His disciples in His last hours with them. But so much more than that, it is what defined His life with us. His act in coming to earth to save us, His time with us, and all of His examples to us can be summed up in Love. His love for us is what sets us free to love one another (even as He loved us). Because He paid the price for you and for me, we don’t have to keep score any more. We’ve each been redeemed by the precious blood of the lamb. Let us now take the bread and the wine with a new understanding of our responsibility to love one another and a renewed commitment to do just that - so that the (North Coast of Honduras – and indeed the) world will know that we are His disciples. Amen.