A hard funeral this week—one of the hardest I ever attended. A Spiderman cap graced the tiny coffin. It doesn’t take a very big box to hold a three-year-old. His dad’s auto shop was closed for the day. I heard that the employees of the only floral shop in town were in tears as they made the arrangements. The funeral home gave the parents a throw with a picture of little Joseph on it in his Spidey hat. An uncle threw his arms around the throw as if he could still embrace the child it represented.
You don’t usually see stuffed animals at a funeral, at least not funerals for men in their nineties. But Keith Hunt was unique. He was famous for reading Winnie the Pooh to college students using voices. You know what I mean: Pooh’s slow voice lamenting that he hasn’t any brain, only fluff; Piglet’s high excited prattle; Eyore’s low drawn out complaints.
Back in the 1980s when my family lived in Mozambique, then a “front-line state” against apartheid South Africa, I thought the South African government was crazy not to release their long-time political prisoner, a fellow named Nelson Mandela.
“Let the ANC tear itself apart with infighting,” I thought.
I didn’t know Nelson Mandela. His eventual release from prison in 1990 led, not to infighting, but to reconciliation. After twenty-seven years in jail, this great man spoke words of forgiveness and united a nation. In 1994 he was elected president in the first fully democratic elections in South African history.
It’s Valentine’s Day as I write. The table is set. Okay, so the plates are plastic from Target. At least they’re red. I finished the runner this week. The menu is planned and everything prepped. My husband and I have been married almost forty years, but he is still my best Valentine.
There is so much that I appreciate about him. He’s much more of a people person than I am. Without him, I could easily become a recluse up here in the Northwoods surrounded by books, the Internet and lots of woods for quiet walks. He kicks me out into the world and opens doors to incredible relationships. He’s always ready to help a stranger, sometimes embarrassingly so for an introvert like me, but I wouldn’t have him any other way.
A dear friend from church has stage-four cancer. She still posts cheerful thoughts on Facebook and wears a big smile when I see her. Helen wrote me recently that she had disconnected her telephone landline because she didn’t expect to spend much time at her house anymore. (She’s mostly with her family in a city a couple hours away.) She made no big deal about it, but it started me thinking what it would mean to say good-by to your home—maybe forever.
We arrived in Campo Grande in January 1979—the same month that it became the capitol of the new Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. We lived there three and a half years before returning to the US, but in that short time we made friends that have lasted a lifetime.
Pastor Jonatan de Oliveira was the pastor of Primeira Igreja Batista in our day. He had a heart for missions. Primeira Igreja supported their own missionaries to many small towns in the interior of the state and Mato Grosso to the north where cattle ranches and soybean fields gave way to the great Amazon rainforest.
I am partial to audio books. They allow me to read while driving or doing a boring job. I can even read with my eyes closed at night. One of the books I “read” this summer was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I know, you probably read it a couple years ago, or at least saw the movie, but somehow I missed even that.
When I finally got around to it, I didn’t want the book to end. Some in the African-American community take exception to it—historical liberties, stereotypes and why is it only the blacks who speak with dialect? (Dialect didn’t bother this northerner; in the audio-book they all had accents.)
I'm not big on women's retreats. First off, I'm an introvert who finds small talk stressful. By the time I have had a half dozen getting-to-know-you conversations I can't for the life of me remember which was the woman who had been on a short term missions trip to someplace I know and which has a daughter who went to the same college as mine, much less come up with their names. Multiply this by a couple days and disperse the conversations over several churches full of people I will probably never see again, and I am ready to pull a blanket over my head and turn invisible.
Dr. Robert Livingstone Foster passed away last week. Dr. Bob, as he was always known within our mission, was born in what is now Zambia in 1924. His parents were missionaries who experienced first hand the medical challenges of Africa, losing a little girl to cerebral malaria, which also left young Robert’s brother, Edgar, mentally challenged. In an effort to protect their remaining sons, Bob and Harold, their parents left the boys in Canada when they returned to the work to which they believed God had called them.
Seek and you shall find," Jesus told the disciples who crowded around him for his mountainside sermon. In the first chapter of his classic, Basic Christianity, John Stott points out, "We do not find because we do not seek. And the truth is that we do not seek because we do not really want to find." (p.25) Finding the truth would put demands on our lives, and the last thing we in the twenty-first century want is Someone else telling us what to believe or how to live.
Basic Christianity is a clear, compelling and, well…, basic look at the essence of the gospel designed for those who have rejected the institutional church without really considering Jesus Christ himself. It is for young people who have grown up in the church, but never thought through their own faith, and for those who grew up outside the church and have never been introduced to Jesus as anything other than a myth or a swear word. It is for those who are prepared to seek, committed to living whatever they find to be the truth.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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