Resurrection Day in San Pedro Cholula.

In a culture where the name of Jesus is not unknown to anyone, the meaning of His death and life is strangely obscure. Which is why, in some ways, it is said that it is harder to bring others to the Gospel here than in a Muslim country. Why? Here, they are so close, yet so far away. So very far away. Here, Jesus stays on the cross. His suffering is still happening and the more one can share in that suffering the greater one can earn favor in heaven and heaven itself. Which is why, when working in many of the villages where the more “simple” dwell, there is little grumbling or complaining. They are conditioned to be content with their lot in life not out of gratitude, but more so out of the belief that if they suffer well and suffer much, divine favor will rest upon them.

San Pedro Cholula is known for its fireworks on almost a daily basis.  Legend says there are 365 ancient Catholic churches, one for every day of the year here.  A family in the vicinity of the parish buys the homemade fireworks. Usually that family that has to pick up a couple of extra jobs out of obligation to take their turn to buy the colorful and fantastically loud explosives and offer a meal for all.  They have no alternative; do it or risk excommunication from their community and all the benefits of baptism, first communion, a blessed marriage and hope for an eternity.  The fireworks are not only tradition but many still believe that the loud pops will call the attention of deceased saints and ancestors, maybe even the Virgin herself–all who can help get their prayers answered or their loved ones out of purgatory when their piety is heard. Easter (Pascua) weekend was not different, just louder with peals of bells ringing in greater frequency.

The week leading up to Pascua, called Santa Semana  (Holy Week) elicits the bells. On Maundy Thursday, most people stay home after attending mass. The streets are empty.  This is the night they take their last shower until Saturday.  On Friday, the tone is somber with processionals going through the streets with downcast eyes, purple and white paper-cut flags, statues of Jesus on the cross or even dramatizations of Jesus carrying His cross and being nailed for all to see.  There are no bunnies or eggs, candy or decor.

On Saturday, Sabado de Gloria throwing water to passerby’s is symbolic for holy cleansing.  Because of the water shortages, the government forbids this, but in smaller towns where a river is nearby, one sees small crowds of people making their way to the water to carry on the tradition.  This is the night people bathe again.  This is the night the air fills with the music of fiestas, and alcohol is bought in great volumes, even 10 peso bottles of tequila. It seems sacrilegious. On Resurrection Day, for those that attend their parish, they wear their nicest or newest clothes.  For many this is perhaps the only day of the year they might attend church; it is no different for nominal evangelical Christians. The streets are again, void of the usual traffic.  All is quiet, the Resurrection of Jesus less of a cause for ceremony that His suffering.

In a culture where the name of Jesus is not unknown to anyone, the meaning of His death and life is strangely obscure.  Which is why, in some ways, it difficult to speak of the Gospel of Grace. Why?  Because here they are so close, yet so far away.  So very far away.  Here, Jesus stays on the cross. His suffering is still happening and the more one can share in that suffering the greater one can earn favor in heaven and heaven itself.  Which is why, when working in many of the villages where the more “simple” dwell, there is little grumbling or complaining.  They are conditioned to be content with their lot in life not out of gratitude, but more so out of the belief that if they suffer well and suffer much, divine favor will rest upon them.

Another missionary, years here longer than mine articulated his observations on Easter this way on his own blog,

“Easter morning…the resurrection of Christ and what were these Catholic faithful doing?  They were there in their work clothes with wheelbarrows doing construction on their perpetually unfinished building. The finished work of Christ on Friday somehow only leads to their own efforts to impress God and man by showing up on Easter morning for a work project.  I assume they know that Jesus rose from the dead, but there is no understanding of the power of the resurrection and the true purpose of the cross. For these people in that community, the events of the week merely point toward how great Mary is.  She loved her son and wept for him.  The Father cursed and abandoned the son.  The loving, faithful mother stayed with him and wept for him.  The son did as he was told. It’s a cultural story that results in an elevation of the maternal god who loves us and weeps for us too.  They’d better be about her business because for them, that’s where Easter left us.”

Many would not be able to articulate all this so precisely; it is hard-wired from generations of not being the ones colonized but conquered.  They are a people who carry the stories of generations past, connected in a way that would seem backward to the mindset of the independent, pioneering American.  For those called here to proclaim the power of the full Gospel, the need to reexamine and define one’s own theology of suffering based on the full counsel of God is imperative (and a good topic for another post). For the Christian churches here whether consciously or unconsciously, they do whatever they can to separate themselves from the Catholic traditions, Easter is too silent.

It comes and goes with barely a ripple, in my novice observance.  There is the knowledge of its profound importance, but the expression is lacking.  The reasons for this goes further than what I have already mentioned, but again that could be another post (biased, from my own observations and questioning).  Still, my heart missed the jubilant celebration I experienced among the believers where I come from.  Very much.  I missed the clarity and passion that the truth of our great hope brings.

Our small bi-lingual more urban church hosted a quiet Easter breakfast potluck.  A pool filled in the jar din for the two baptisms scheduled before the service.  We all gathered around nonchalantly (Mexicans are reserved in a warm sort of way).  Two went under the water from death to life, the promised power of the Holy Spirit coming upon them like the book of Acts proclaims.  One, a precious woman I prayed with just a weeks ago, comes from a background of demonic activity many of us have never seen, emerged with new light in her eyes.  I wanted to clap and holler, but I was coming from my culture in this wish.  Or was I?

We have made it a tradition to invite the church over for Easter afternoon.  What joy, after our move this past fall into a new rented house, to finally be able to open up our home again and fill it with the joy of fellowship.  It has taken me time to learn how to host here. The informality is less than what I’ve been accustomed. The way the women take over your kitchen and they take seriously that mi casa es su casa is really a delight.

It felt good this the second year around and I could relax more in the understood expectations. We ate and ate and ate, played games and then some left and some stayed to hike up our local mountain. Of course, my dear husband had to shoot off his massive homemade potato guns too and we all laughed at the flying potatoes crashing into a distant field of new crops. In the midst of our fun, there were moments of ministry through prayer and counsel.  Our body here is a broken and hurting one in many ways.  Redemption is an idea that so many cannot believe is true.  The work of establishing a healthy body here, growing in wholeness and knowledge is one that takes years.  I have much to learn.

Most of our friends have never hiked our local mountain.  They had never seen their land from tall heights.  We took them to the place where we have often gone to pray in earnest over Puebla and Cholula, for God to pour out His Spirit upon these people.  Oh, how we long for this in greater measure!  We joined hands and some of us prayed.  Again, I am longing for faith’s expression to show itself in fervency and passion as if our prayers do change things, as if they cannot be under-estimated.  I wanted to kneel and weep over this city with my brothers and sisters, but again was that coming from where I have been?  Or not?

We quietly hiked back down, tired from the day but with a satisfaction that it had been good.  As the custom here, you say good-bye to everyone with an embrace and a sort of blessing and then they eventually leave. There is no slipping out.  After the last farewell, we locked our door.  Benjamin got our happy and weary kids into bed and I stayed downstairs to sweep floors, wipe counters and gather up garbage bags to take outside.

The air was fresh, the stars were clear and my heart was full.  After awhile Benjamin came downstairs and we sat on the couch together for a moment.  Both tired, we managed a short but sincere prayer.  Gratitude for this beautiful house to share, for the mountain, for our church family, for the Resurrection.

For the hope that Jesus will continue the work of making bringing the fullness of life to the most desperate of places and people.

To Him be all the glory forever and ever, amen. tumblr_mp496402Rj1r9x307o1_1280 IMG_20150405_104439857 4RtUVUy0KQ1qJ4ECqghrS7l_vylnAx27uHafa5FOYckS=w1394-h1296-no J7faHJkZwjdnq9bZzpmPabAKEZmgvOwHFcmkc050936g=w1914-h1140-no k6SixQSTFRMQmh46VLbvyJOBdp5HLnk2Se8u52XpqQMv=w1574-h1296-no RNZUJCa6PnKgdUfB9S5kLAtmULti8NAudtveWDnuoUMM=w1914-h1028-no IMG_20150405_185651356_HDR XvXhnylg2pD0dRSJvUjnX2gJGTnp6WWKD6q1sHGflhB4=w1762-h1296-no 5mD8tbN4PkU56Zf4qQwR5c70MDBovSpDMoPDv6djL0Yo=w1916-h1010-no

The Business of Getting Visas.

Becoming a missionary in foreign soil has a way of making your roots looser—the tentacles to this world don’t attach so tenaciously. How can they when you find yourself in a place that is utterly unlike all of your cultural programing? Your anchor is no longer hooked between the rocks of familiarity, but in Who is there when all those rocks roll away — Jesus.

The bible tells us that those who are children of God are strangers and aliens in this world. Our “true passports” are stamped with the blood of Jesus, our real citizenship in heaven.  Heaven.  It is a place we have never been, yet we know when we arrive it will feel like we have finally come to the Home of all homes and all those we’ve had here have been but a beautiful tease of what awaits us.

We all have this innate want to belong, to be home, to know that we are rooted in some place for some time, connected to something bigger than our smallness. It is all more than the instinct to nest, it is eternity set in our hearts.

Becoming a missionary in foreign soil has a way of making your roots looser—the tentacles to this world don’t attach so tenaciously. How can they when you find yourself in a place that is utterly unlike all of your cultural programing?  Your anchor is no longer hooked between the rocks of familiarity, but in Who is there when all those rocks roll away — Jesus.

At first it is jarring, this sense of rollicking over new waters. You find yourself still grasping for all that you can understand and all that can bring you comfort. But after a while, when the weaning is more complete it offers a new kind of rest.  The fact that you can abide anywhere safely, legally and with contented joy on this earth is but by His gracious hand.  This truth sinks deep.

I felt this yet again yesterday as we spent several hours at the immigration office in Puebla.  The colors of the Mexican flag decorated the long counter.  The signs, of course, all encoded in Spanish and not a blue-eyed blond in sight, albeit our family.  After our first turn at the counter, we walked across the street to a hole-in-the-wall photo shop that catered to visa needs. We slicked our hair back, removed jewelry and donned most serious expressions for the flash.  Twenty minutes later we trotted back with our packet of tiny and very expensive photos, dodging the smeared tamales dulce on the sidewalk.  After being asked the usual questions, translating our heights and weights into meters and kilos, we were all fingerprinted.

An hour later we received our visa resident cards—good for the kids and I for three years. Praise be to God! No messing around with paperwork and lawyers and so much money for a long while when then we can apply for permanent residency.  What a far cry from the boyhood days of my husband in Central America when he and his family had to drive up the US border every six months!

We are legal.  For a long stretch.  Home in a country that is all my daughter remembers as having that fond title.  Home in a land where God called us to come and abide.  Strangely home in a place that still holds more questions for us than answers.

This all has me thinking: If everything in our lives is a show in the heavenlies illustrating redemption and to declare His glory in the ages to come and to prepare us for eternity, than living here in Mexico is quite significant.  And making your home where you do now is as much this truth.

And it doesn’t hurt being legal.

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Unto Us a Child is Born!

We are proud to announce the birth, the gift of our wondrous

daughter and sister,

Kiersta Linnea

“Anointed and Beautiful Follower of Christ”

August 17, 2009  

7.9 lbs. 19 inches long

Kiersta was born after only 7 1/2 hours of labor and made her entrance in a dimly lit hospital room, with the new dawn spreading out through the sky and flowing into the room making it ever brighter. I clung to Benjamin and he cheered me on, words unspoken in our locked eyes.  The song in modern rendition “How Great Thou Art”  played in the background as she emerged to take her first breath and we looked into her eyes for the first time sensing that angels must be all around us, delighting in this precious gift. 

It was an anointed and beautiful experience…

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Still, All the Way He Leads.

We moved here over 2 1/2 years ago, forging our way through cold and snow shortly after Christmas to arrive in the land of the sun, the song “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” flowing out of our car speakers. We pulled our trailer directly into my sister Kim and her family’s driveway, greeted by the cousins whooping and waving from the yard.  Coming out of a deep sense of God’s leading, our experience has been nothing of what we expected, but I know everything that he did. 

Among God’s coy expectations and his well-laid plans has been the deep and true work of love and inner restoration between an older sister and a younger one.  A quiet and slow unspoken realization that two very different women can pursue Christ in different ways, each as true as the other, each showing the other things they might not otherwise have known about God and the way he woos, each growing in admiration and respect for the other.  And the children– their mirth together has been infectious, the times of reading and prayer with them unforgettable, the kindness and respect developed firm. 

 Love trumps all. Family never says goodbye; eternity for fellow believers is sure and sweet.

The effects of the indelible memories etched into my heart will be unraveled as time moves forward, enabling me to rise up in greater wholeness and joy, celebrating the gift this time has been. 

This was our last supper tonight. We said farewell in the same yard where they greeted us 2 1/2 years ago, their flight leaving tomorrow to move them all to a new calling in California.  Bittersweet, but full with the knowledge that when God calls, each of our families is committed to going. And so ends another chapter, the new one yet to be read as I feel the page turning…

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Still Waiting…

Benjamin and I, after a farewell dinner for my sister and family (they are moving to California tomorrow to take a new worship pastorate position) had a date night at the beach.  The glorious gulf coast beach.  If anyone ever doubts there is a God, behold these skies and waters.  They leave me speechless, the glory is so vast and evident.  As you can see, we brought our daughter along… This first photo is for those who asked to see how huge I am!

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How We Get Ready for A Baby

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First we put all our clothes in a pile in our closet and paint our dresser pink and green and get some fancy new hardware. Then we wash and fold a mound of frilly clothes while the boys turn up their noses and we note that our baby will be dressed to kill until she is about six months old and if we stay in the heat.  We get the bassinet ready and turn half our room into baby girl central. The boys leave the room yelling about all the “girl stuff” and retreat to build Lego traps for their sister.  Then Ben and a friend work on building a back study room per our lease agreement and so Grandma has a place to sleep away from all the nonsense (or so she thinks).  Then we wait and hope this baby appears soon before, as Anders says, “Big Mama pops or explodes”.

Catching Up on the Summer

It has been quite awhile since I have had time to post this summer.  Here are some highlights:

Overnighters with the Cousins

 

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Father’s Day

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Anders made granola, Daddy’s favorite, for Benjamin.  About a cup of it ended up on the floor…

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A singing Superman card handpicked by the boys.

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And a new shirt for Dad with the blueprints for a boat.  Not meant to encourage yet another project, please!

Eleven. Years of Marriage that is…

We went out to our favorite Thai resturant, watched the sunset and rented a french film to watch at home, with the boys gone for the night!  We do enough reflection, so the night was just about fun and relaxation–the joy of simply being together was more than enough.  Yes, the pregnant chipmunk cheeks were out in full bloom for the occasion!

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School is Out!

We made it through our first year of homeschool!  Larsen passed his evaluation with flying colors so Mama can settle down a wee bit I suppose. I don’t know who was prouder or more relieved to have a break, the boys or me!

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The last weeks of second grade schoolwork!

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Not to be outdone, Anders was hard at work for his last weeks of pre-pre school!

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After his evaluation and official graduation from 2nd grade, I took Lars out for desert and gave him a gift, a little brass telescope to remind him of his life verses (Proverbs 2:1-8), to always be a seeker of wisdom, knowledge and understanding.  My, how my boy has grown this year!

How We Spend the Summer Days

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Rain can’t stop them, not can the oppresive summer heat!

 

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Two of Anders favorite pastimes: playing guitar with a paperclip for a pick and painting abstract pieces of art.

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Crafting and cooking through the days.

The Fourth of July

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And now, we await for our baby girl to make her debut, due August 14 if not earlier.  Gettin’ ready!

An Oasis.

 Dad and Mom Blycker blessed us with their presence and generosity, watching the boys in Orlando while Benjamin and I were at the marriage conference.  Although it was pouring rain the whole time, we spent some good time with them.  The boys made gifts for them, especially for Dad’s 70th birthday (as you can see Lars was very proud to present his pottery).  They took us to Sea World and we had a fantastic time of amnesia from the pressures as of late.  Thanks Dad and Mom! 

 

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Six Months Pregnant: The Day of the Ultrasound!

It is our little family tradition when going in for the baby’s ultrasound, to have the technician write on a card (this one handmade by Lars) whether the baby is a boy or girl and seal it in an envelope.  We then go out for dinner and Benjamin opens it and announces the grand news.  If you cannot CELEBRATE NEW LIFE, what can you celebrate?  Celebration fosters gratitude and a wonder for the beauty of life.  This time around we invited my sister Kim, her husband Joy and the cousins Alec (11), Julien (10) and Bella (7) to join in the anticipation with us and hear the news altogether. Tonight was the night! How wonderful it was…

Another Weekend to Remember.

We just returned from a  weekend in Sebring, FL. where we were able to visit my aunt and uncle, the occasion being an invitation for me to speak at a SIM lecture  series.  It was an honor to speak on the emerging church to these older faithful saints, many of them who have served a lifetime on the mission field cross-culturally.  The boys enjoyed the “Vibrant Aunt Margaret” and the “Most Interesting Uncle Carlyle” (as Lars described them) as we all appreciated their generous hospitality and the serenity of the environment.  The Blyckers’ LOVE travels! Yes, click again on each photo to enlarge.

Tropical Beauty.

We had the opportunity a bit back to take a weekend visit to Key Largo.  It is about a 3 hour drive from where we live and a pure delight to finally see a bit of the famed Keys!  We were surprised to find really no beaches as one thinks, but awed to see the turquoise water in person!  It was beautiful and a very sweet family time.  (I have no idea why the photos are downloading so small and in a line! BUT you can click on each one and it will open larger!).