Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Piggies in Church and Barbecuing Sacred Cows

There was a gentleman who was a very active member at one of the churches Eric pastored in California. Let's call him Bob. Bob fervently believed that everyone needed to show honor and respect to the house of God by donning appropriate attire or not donning certain accouterments as the case may be. Wearing a baseball cap in the church, for instance, would cause Bob's blood pressure to soar to dangerous levels. Coffee or other liquids in the sanctuary were strictly prohibited. Heaven forbid one ever consider entering the house of worship without shoes on one's feet. Needless to say, Bob's adamant and rather emotional reaction to those breaking "Sanctuary Rules" caused quite a ruckus among the parishioners who struggled to find a balance between accepting new-comers, those with no knowledge of "sanctuary dress and behavior," and protecting the sanctity of "God's house."

In light of this, this past summer, when Eric had the privilege of speaking at a Palauan youth conference which included a Sunday morning service, it made me laugh when, to my surprise, before we entered the sanctuary, we were met with hundreds of shoes nearly barricading the doorway. What to do? Take off my shoes in the house of God?!! Well, as odd as it felt, I went with the saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans" (That is Scriptural isn't it? Ha, Ha!) and off came my shoes. As my family and I sat o
n the wood benches, piggies brushing the tile floor, I couldn't help but imagine Bob in a state of apoplectic shock at this scene. Here we were, worshiping God with one heart and mind (but different languages since they were singing in Palauan) with our toes languidly roaming outside our shoes. It was such a humorous scene that I simply had to get a picture.

Well, I told this story to the students in my marriage and family class tonight to illustrate a concept. (By the way, they were floored - get it? - that anyone would think you SHOULD wear shoes to church!) All families have rules. Often the rules are unspoken and unconscious. This can create tremendous conflict in a newly-wed coup
le as they both enter into marriage with unspoken rules that are not necessarily shared by their spouse. I asked the students to identify some unspoken rules from their families of origin. Then I challenged them to find where those rules can be found in Scripture. Inevitably, the rules are not found in the Word of God. But, the rule holder sure treats them as sacred cows (or should I say filthy piggies?). As a result, conflicts arise and feet (no pun intended) are dug into the sand over issues that are not right and wrong, but simply cultural or "the way we've always done it." I John 3:16 says, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives [and our rules] for our brothers." Perhaps it's time to barbecue a few sacred cows and throw a fiesta. I'll guarantee that would go over big here!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Decomposing on Guam

I love science. While in California my girls and I met weekly with two other women and their children for a home school cooperative science class. One year we studied biomes. If I remember correctly, I taught the unit on rainforests. What I remember most about that unit study was the fact that over 50% of the Earth's species live in tropical forests. Rainforests are home to more species of plants and animals than the rest of the world put together! Approximately 80% of all insect species live in tropical rainforests. Well, now that I LIVE in a tropical rainforest, I am here to testify to the infallible truth of this last statement. Ants serve as a case in point. When we lived in California, we would have a couple of "ant outbreaks" each summer. We would spray where the pests were entering the house and that would be that. Well, in Guam, I have concluded that in order to retain my sanity, I need to adjust my thinking around ants (and bugs in general). I have decided to share my kitchen with them. I think this attitude did not sit well with either my mother or my mother-in-law while they were visiting; however, they do not permanently reside in a rainforest, and therefore are incapable of understanding the logic behind my actions. Generally speaking, the ants in my kitchen are what I would call "carnivore ants." They are black and red (like the picture) and about the same size as California black ants. If I leave cake or cookies on the counter, they turn up their noses. But, if I am chopping chicken or frying beef, they come frenetically charging. The other day, we watched mesmerized as a team of these critters carried a dead centipede ten times their size up a wall in record time. They have eaten through the sealed bags of beef jerky sent to me in care packages and left nothing but a trace of the original contents. As long as I am vigilant about not leaving a hint of meat on my counters, they scavenge around my stove and sink in reasonable numbers and flaunt the fact that I am powerless to control them. They appear to be impervious to ant spray, bleach, vinegar, and other cleansers. They only bite me if they inadvertently get lodged in my clothing.

Now, on my computer hutch I have what I call "boonie (wild) ants." These are a royal pain. They are literally the size of a speck of dust and they bite me every chance they get. I think they may be omnivores--they eat anything (including humans). I am able to contain these, more or less, provided I keep my work area sanitized. This means cleaning and polishing the hutch, mopping the floors, and finally spraying the edges of the tile and hutch with bug spray every couple of weeks.

Then there's a kind of ant that is larger than a typical California ant and is so fast you essentially can't catch to kill with your finger. I'm assuming they don't bite because they seem to be so skittish that I can't imagine them purposefully making human contact. I'm not sure what they're after. They are generally on the floor of my bedroom and master bathroom. There is something about them that really irritates me. Maybe they seem like they are having too much fun. They almost appear to fly or ice skate on my white tile floor.

And, of course, there are the notorious, vicious fire ants. They are horrible and aggressive. Some are red and some are black. Their bites are terribly painful and inevitably, when they strike, a child will be crying. They swarm out of the earth when you least expect it, and pounce on your flip-flop clad feet. I scanned the Internet and found the following facts about tropical ants:

"And then there are the roving colonies. They are small colonies of ants with no permanent home. You never know where they will turn up. You might pick up a napkin that has been sitting on your table, and surprise! There they are! Queen, eggs, pupae, workers, soldiers and all. Everybody grabs the babies and starts running. They go in all directions and disappear while you stand there freaking out. Later, when the fuss has died down, they reassemble somewhere else. Like in your shoe."

"There are millions of different species of invertebrates living in rainforests. One scientist found 50 different species of ants on a single tree in Peru! [Are they sure it wasn't Guam?]

"Some ants squirt a stinky fluid at their enemies. The most dangerous and aggressive ants are "army ants" (they're blind), "driver ants" (from Africa), "fire ants" and the various stinging ants. Driver ants have reportedly killed a wounded elephant and stripped its bones clean."

Well, this last fact is what motivated this blog entry. On Monday evening, our cat, TJ, brought home the gift of a large dead rat (perhaps 8" long) which he left lying in the grass a few feet from our front door. On Tuesday morning, when Eric went outside to mow the lawn and deal with the dead rat, he discovered that NOTHING was left of the rat except a scant trace of bones and its outline in the grass! The ants (and other carnivore insects) of the rainforest had eaten every ounce of that rat in under 17 hours!!! Having grown up on a ranch, I've seen my share of dead rats, and I've also seen their carcasses lying in the fields slowly decaying for weeks. 17 hours and "poof," it was gone!! Now that would have been an astounding home school science experiment to show kids how quickly things decompose in the rainforest.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Spotlight on Micronesia

When my parents arrived from the states, they brought along one of those little bulletin inserts that your church may have distributed as well. This one came from Tyndale House and was called "Church Around the World." The featured area of the world that week was Micronesia! What it says about this part of the world hits the nail on the head, so I thought I would reproduce it for you at the beginning of a new year to give you another snapshot of where we're working.

Micronesia-made up of 2,000 islands in the Caroline, Marshall, and Mariana archipelagos-occupies more than 4.3 million miles of the North Pacific. Only 100 islands are inhabited. The islands were a strategic global pawn for centuries and are now administered by the United States as a U.N. Trust Territory. During Spanish rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, Christianity was forced onto most of the islanders, but the underlying pre-Christian customs and animistic religion remain influential among the 200,000 inhabitants. Christianity is often simply a veneer covering an animistic worldview. so pray for authentic faith to break through in Micronesia. Also, the lack of Scripture in the country's minor languages limits Bible reading, and many misunderstand basic Bible truths. This lack of understanding leaves many open to the influence of Western cults. Pray for the ministries working on Bible translations for the many languages spoken in Micronesia.

There you have it! In a nutshell, that's where we're at, and those are the needs that we here at PIBC are attempting to address. Thanks to so many of you for partnering with us in helping this important ministry continue. If you're interested in joining the team as we enter into this new year, just follow the instructions on the right section of our blog. We would love to welcome some new partners!