Monday, October 29, 2007

when night falls hard

My team and I just finished reading Bitter Chocolate, a book about child sexual abuse in India. Last night, when I turned the last page, I felt like vomiting. I felt like crying for a very, very long time until my tear ducts were spent.

What have we done?
What has the enemy done to our world?
Why do so many hurt with an intensity that ought to shove the spark of life right out of their ribcages?

I put the book away last night and moved to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I stood there, and I couldn't think about anything else other than the horror contained in those pages. Oh Jesus, have mercy.

What is my place in righting the wrong of this world, I ask myself. A question we all ask. I have been shown so much grace. I don't understand why I got to be the little girl who never knew physical or sexual abuse, why I got to grow up healthy and well-fed, happy, loved and valued. Why I had a Mom who prayed with me every night and braided my hair in pigtails. Why I had a Daddy who checked my closets for boogey-men and taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. On the trail of these questions, Jesus' words in Luke follow close behind. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required."

I believe in hope. I believe in love. I think I believe in them more strongly than I did two months ago. But still...some nights I am not okay. Some nights I want to sob. Some nights I want to close my eyes to the pain and pretend the world is not fallen and we are lovers of people and of God, every one of us.

Some nights these things pile up heavy on me.

In a dark room, His Word is like the ruler-strip of light underneath the door, offering the promise of a better place beyond.

"Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. I remember Your Name in the night, O Lord." -Psalm 119:54

When I put away my toothbrush and crawled into bed, I thought about when I was a child. When I was a child, the anticipation of my birthday or Christmas was almost too much to bear. A few lines of calendar squares away, there the event stood, blazing in all its glory. The long-stretching weeks until its arrival seemed to belie its actual existence. But did the day not always come?

So this day is on its way:
"It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be
established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say, "Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths." -Micah 4:1-2


Until then, Jesus, here are our hands for You to make strong.

Friday, October 26, 2007

He comes for her

"We are asked to carry light, to hold the hand of one of His beloved, to tell her she is remembered."

I went to the red-light district with Sarah and Beth for the first time Tuesday night. I don't quite know what to say. I think the first thing that struck me was how "normal" life appears in the midst of a trade that violates thousands of girls each day. Men selling fruit. Corner stores with soda. Children running from house to house. A neighborhood. Yet reality quickly returned with the sight of the girls--two rows lining each side of the street. Beautiful women. Old. Young. Some in saris, some in tight Western clothing. I am amazed by the human endurance for horrific siuations. In the first brothel we stepped into, I looked at these young girls--16 or 17 years old but who told me they were 25--and wondered, "How do you live? How are you still alive?"

Beauty hides in unexpected places. In rooms where bodies are sold for sex. In hovels where men sustain their lust with the price of young girls' dignity and wholeness.

Sonny, our resident Greek expert, says that the word compassion is the marriage of two roots: suffer and with. I struggle with this thought: is visiting these girls enough? Is it enough joining in of suffering to sit in that room, on that bed, and drink a small cup of tea? Easy for me. A brief reprieve for her. But I get to leave and she does not. It is easy to impose my reality onto her. For me, this is a chance to chat, a few minutes of building friendship, a tea break. For her, this is one spot of distraction from the ongoing flames of hell.

I have the small chance now to remember these girls on Tuesday nights, for a few hours. To love them. To honor them. To let them know with as much as a smile and my broken Bangla can offer that they are worth abundantly more than the label of "whore" that the world has slapped on them.

But, Jesus, He remembers them always. Jesus, a man of no reputation, a man who chose to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. When the earth wears out like a garment (and it will), all threadbare and stretched to its limits, He will endure. He stays with them through all the pain, and He will outlast all the pain.

"And He does. He remembers her. He comes for her, to her, into the darkest of nights, into her darkest of rooms. He stands with her there and holds her hand."
-Heather Coaster, WMF staff working in the brothels of El Alto, Bolivia

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

kolkata, we meet again

Homecoming is both hard and happy.

Last night, when we stepped off the plane and re-entered India, my heart felt really heavy. I'll be honest, coming back to Kolkata this time is hard. Kolkata brings out all my fears, and I don't quite know what to do about this. Keep bringing my fears to Jesus. Being here makes me read the Bible a lot more seriously. I need to believe I "have not been given a spirit of fear." I need to believe that I "abide in the shadow of the Almighty." At home, I'm not so often aware of my dire need. If in December, I organize these 120 days into a set of themes, I am sure one of those themes will be "weakness." My weakness keeps resurfacing here.

In little ways, it is hard to be back. Eight days of toilet paper, hot showers, American food, privacy, and independence spoiled me. I had gotten to a point where the absence of those things no longer was such a big deal. I felt like I was becoming an overseas stud. :) But now, well, now, I'm missing them again.

But this is also happy. I am happy to see Uncle standing on the door stoop, waving to us. "My daughters are coming home!" I am happy to see my kids at school. I am happy because there is much yet to experience on this trip. Today I get to go visit the girls in the red-light district for the first time. It will be prime opportunity to gather up all the bits of Bangla I know and PRACTICE! And I am also happy because I have new hope...

The time we spent with the WMF staff in Nepal was so encouraging to me. The first night of our visit, we went to dinner with one of the girls who is full time staff in Kathmandu. She works with guys on the street who sell drugs. Her stories broke me and challenged me. I needed to hear that Jesus is at work in broken places. Guys coming to Jesus and leaving heroine....little babies being given chances for life...the church praying and then seeing God's power! My prayer for this next half of Kolkata life is that the Holy Spirit will be moving...softening hearts...breaking strongholds...planting repentence. When I view life strictly through a physical lens, I get discouraged. Dirt and disease, poverty and politics, corruption and crime. But Christ's bride is not fighting just a human war! Please pray that our team would be diligent in prayer and for increased wisdom and insight. Pray that we will not grow weary. Pray that the Lord would expand our hearts and give us His visions.

Yesterday morning, before we left our Nepali guest house, the Lord gave me these verses:

"I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mortal men,
the sons of men, who are but grass,
that you forget the LORD your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction?
For where is the wrath of the oppressor?"
-Isaiah 51:12-13

Remembering the Lord my maker and leaving fear behind...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

where the sky is blue again

where I hear the rhythm of crickets
where the edges of white-tipped mountains poke through cumulus clouds
where green is the color of trees and grass and hills, not just the color of peeling paint

...this is a few days in Nepal.

I feel like I have been given a precious gift, that this world is a precious, beautiful gift. After being absent from nature the past few months, I feel like I have stumbled upon hidden treasure.
We just returned from the staff retreat. Dhulikel Lodge was our home Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. About an hour's drive from Kathmandu, it's a small cluster of buildings that overlooks a valley of terraced hills. In the distance, where the white clouds hover, we saw the tops of the tallest mountains in the world. Romans says that God can be seen in the things that are created. Sometimes in Kolkata, I feel like I am having trouble finding God. Maybe this is because nature and Kolkata don't co-exist. There are plenty of buses, cars, buildings, and a few million square meters of concrete, but not many trees, leaves, or hills. Some days, I even forget there is sky. The sky to be had is like a little gray toupee stuck onto the buildingtops.

Breathing in the Nepali countryside air was like being hooked up to an oxygen tank of pure hope. My heart, a little dry and crusty as of late, began to perk up. Only God could have made those mountains that look like they are painted right onto the sky. This God holds our lives in His hands, and He goes with us, whether down the dusty sidewalks of earth's biggest metros or along quiet trails hidden in the Himalayas.

Back in the day, I used to listen to a lot of Bebo Norman. I thought of one of his songs yesterday when I was journaling alone in a quiet spot off the path. "Walk down this mountain with your heart held high," the song says. For now, the peace of a retreat in Nepal is not my permanent dwelling place. I'm walking down the mountain. There is a month and a half ahead in Kolkata, and after that, something else. I do find God in the stillness of nature, and part of me thinks Thoreau was onto something when he moved out to Walden Pond for a two year tryst with the woods. But God is teaching me in these months that He is beyond place, that He is everywhere, even when I think I must have ended up in a city He forgot.

I'm thankful that He fills our cups.
I'm thankful that He calls us on.
And I'm excited.

How big can I dream, Lord?
"As big as I am"
My heart is small
"Mine is not"
I am afraid
"Fear not, for I am with you"
What will it cost?
"I gave the life of My Son"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

from Nepal

"I think if I had to be frozen in one position for the rest of my life, I would be holding a mug."
-Hannah

My love affair with coffee has been rekindled. Thank you, Nepal, for a wonderful cup of real coffee this morning. I like you, Nepal. I like your menus with filtered coffee. I like your rooftop terraces. I like your streets that are a little bit quieter than those of your southern cousin, Kolkata.

My team arrived in Kathmandu yesterday. We are spending today, Tuesday, and Wednesday in the city, and then we will be at a WMF staff retreat for the rest of the week. It's good to be here. As my sister said in one recent email, "Sister, you are going to Nepal and living in India. Doesn't that just blow your mind sometimes?" Yes, yes it does. I am newly 23, but most of the time, I feel more like I am 17 or 18. I think, what in the world am I doing in south-east Asia, within sight of Mt. Everest? Crazy, but cool.

Please pray for my ear. I have had a nasty infection for over a month now. I thought it was getting better, but then the pain came back, so I'm now on a 2nd round of antibiotics.

I was reading in 1 Corinthians this morning and found this:

"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

What would it look like here to know nothing but Jesus Christ and His death? It would take away my compulsion to prove myself. It would bulldoze my pride. It would remove my need to see enormously successful results. It would simplify things a whole lot.

Paul continues,

"And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."

In weakness? In fear? I read that, and it feels like I am reading a description of my time in Kolkata! I am there, in weakness, in fear, with knees that knock at the unknown, with a quivering and timid heart. But this is not about me! My renewed prayer of today is "Jesus, come and show Your power, because this is all about You."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

there's gonna be a great big party

One thin sheet of glass
separates my world from his
two brown eyes and two brown hands
small boy, looking in
Here is my cafe americano
There is his empty tin plate
I with 500 rupees
He with no spare change

"Let me in"
his silence says
his patient eyes lock mine
"Let me in"
to bright lights
muffin rows
"Let me in"
from dirty sidewalks
pushing crowds

There is a table coming
a feast to end all feasts
No more glass to keep you out
You will get one of the best seats
The King who made your frame
He will greet you there
The last have become the greatest
Come,
Enter in.

"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 18:3-4

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. -Luke 6:21

_____________________________________________

My team heads to Nepal tomorrow for a one week visit. We'll spend two days in Kathmandu, the capital, and then we'll head to the countryside for a retreat with the WMF Nepal staff. I am so excited. Not only will the weather be cooler, it will also be restful for our team. Pray that we will hear Jesus' voice in what could be more quiet than we've had since our arrival two months ago. We're at the halfway mark, by the way! Hard to believe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the places we've been

I am feeling a bit homesick lately.

This feeling comes on mostly at night, as I'm lying (laying? I can never remember this rule...) in bed, waiting, thinking, praying. Sheila and I go to bed around 9:30, so often, I'm don't fall asleep right away. Last night, with the whir of the ceiling fan overhead and my iPod in hand, I missed home. All the places I have settled over the past few years. I missed Bolivar, my grey and white home on 425th Rd. Dad sitting in the blue recliner, strumming his guitar. Mom working at the kitchen table on bills. Peter's music drifting up from the basement. I missed my dorm room at JBU. The cozy way it looked and felt with the lamps on and a cup of tea on the side table. Kristen, my roommate, always ready to drop whatever she was doing if I needed to pray, equally willing to join me in dancing around the room like a wild woman. Which we sometimes did. (We also sometimes played that fun game where you pretend like the carpet is lava and you have to move around the room without touching the floor. Yes, we were seniors in college. I loved that game.) I missed my Lake City family. The comfortable and happy home of Doug and Carol, full of friends and chances to cook, hold babies, or play an intensely competitive game of Nertz. The mountains that I saw every morning from their front step, the walk down into town past pine trees and a stretched-out sky so huge and so blue. I missed the summer weeks I spent living with my sister Rachel and her husband. Dinners of grilled chicken and corn eaten outside. Starbucks dates and grocery runs. Taking brisk walks after dinner.

But, you know what? In a few months, when I am home, and this Kolkata trip is over, I am sure I will miss India. I'll be lying (?) in bed, and I will start to think about the kids in my class, the ladies at Sari Bari, my team, Aunty and Uncle, street food, crowded bus rides, and I will miss it all. (Maybe I will not miss the crowded bus rides so much.)

This is life. This is loving and moving and living as life swings ahead. Not being able to be all places simultaneously. Leaving a part of one's heart at each place where one has loved and been loved.

Know that I miss you all.

Monday, October 8, 2007

a little help in imagining kolkata

About time for some more photos.
This is Uncle. With his "chOy choto mach." Or as we would say, "six small fish." Uncle is the proud caretaker of this fish family, and he has named them all after the American girls who have lived in his home at some point or another. So Sheila and I now have fish namesakes. I'm the "lOmbo lal mach." The long red one. To honor my height. 5'9" is quite towering for a woman in India.

Lovely leader Beth. With only two hands and a very beautiful smile, she shepherds six American kids through the streets of Kolkata.

Sonny and me hanging out at Beth's flat. We have community night every other Friday, and this past Friday Josh made some rockin' Southern food for dinner. Leave it to the Mississippi boy. It's funny, because at home, I wouldn't particularily relish fried chicken. But having fried chicken here = close to the yummiest thing ever.
My sweet and good-looking roommate. Guys, she's single. (And she'll probably kill me for advertising that on my blog.) This is our room. We're sitting on our bed. When we are at home, we spend, oh, probably 87.3% of our time on our bed. Aside from a bed, it also serves as a good desk, reading chair, talking-post, rat hide-out, etc. (The rats, by the way, have been much subdued lately. We're sleeping better. Thanks for praying!)

This is the wall outside our house. I think it's pretty. All the moss in-between the old stones. Thought you all might like to see one of the pretty walls in India.


And here is a pretty door. Also close to our house. I love looking for the small things that speak beauty. I love the doors in India. They're all sorts of fabulous colors that most Americans probably would not choose. Teal. Red. Sunny yellow. I think if I ever own a door, I will paint it a bright color.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

a big world

Indian culture is layered. As I'm sure all cultures are. I'm unearthing new layers each day, it seems, spading off the topsoil, surprised at all that comes uncovered. Some aspects of Indian culture are immediately noticable. For instance, it doesn't take very long to notice there is no toilet paper in the bathrooms, only a spigot on the wall and a small plastic bucket. Also evident within the first few days is the backbone of Indian diet--rice holds all things together. It can also hold all things inside, but that's a different story.

For all the visibles, there are many more invisible, pieces of this country and its people which are always present, but which my Western eye is halting to notice and my biased mind slow to understand. This morning, Sheila and I were finishing breakfast as Aunty sat closeby. Through the open front door, I could see a man approaching, two large jugs in hand. "Ghee!" he yelled. Then again, the second time louder and larger. "Ghhhheeeee!" A low, rumbling train of a yell, gaining momentum and speed as it barreled from his lungs to his mouth. I have seen so many odd incidents the last seven weeks that sometimes, I just shrug and keep going. This time, Aunty provided an explanation. "The ghee man," she proclaimed. Here, ghee is the word for butter or oil or both... or maybe shortening. I haven't quite figured out its degree of precision. "He comes and takes all the oil we use then not use anymore." See? This is the kind of layer I had no idea existed in India until today. A man who comes door to door to collect everyone's used grease! My mom drains it into a rinsed-out salsa jar and stores it under the sink. When it gets full, I guess she throws it away. I've never thought about it before.

To me, America and India often appear to be two wildly different landscapes. If one is forest, then the other is desert. If one is mountainous, the other is beachy. If one is tundra, the other is...well, what's the opposite of tundra? Rainforest, perhaps. In brief moments of drama, I wonder, "Am I even on the same planet anymore?"

Yet India does not reveal her differences to me without also showing me her similarities. The human shirt and pants she wears. Flesh stretched out over bones. A heart pumping blood to veins and capillaries. Underneath, a formless soul that throbs with pain and laughs with joy.

Just like me.

After the ghee man came by today, Aunty told us about her mom. In India, the unwritten and powerful code of family tradition dictates that sons, not daughters, are responsible for the care of elderly mothers. But the "very big problem" with this system, Aunty said, is that the daughter-in-law more often than not abuses and neglects the aging mother of her husband. Such is the case with Aunty's mom, who lives with Aunty's older brother. She is a widow, and the only place for her to go in a society that prefers men is the home of her son. Or rather he came and took over her home. And now she lives in poverty and oppression inside the very walls where she raised her children. Not such a good thank-you. Aunty told us all this and of how she visits her mom once or twice a week, taking food and medicine, but beyond this, what more can be done? Despair makes it hard for a heart to rest. As we lingered over breakfast, I saw with what heavy weight this problem presses on Aunty.

Watching her cry, I felt that all the differences between us were now slight, little more than wispy feathers. Tears are an equalizer, a common bond, a reminder of the pain all of us at some time know.

I think about the force of blatant injustice, how viciously it whips across weak lives, and I am angry. Angry first at India. Then, I remember Sheila's words of prayer offered after we sat with Aunty: "Anger won't do." I remember that India is not the sole harborer of injustice, that while he is bold and cocky here, he lives in America too, a different mask, a different look, but he is there. He has homes all across the globe.

Maybe, though, the greatest common denominator in all of this is not the fragility of our human state, nor the rampant and free epidemic of injustice and sin. Maybe it is the fact that we--in all of our brokenness--are occupants of the same sphere held by the same Two Great Hands. All creatures of His making, living in a world He owns. As the psalmist says, "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." Or, as the Vacation Bible School song paraphrases, "He's got the whole world in His hands."

And in my smallness, I want nothing more than His bigness to be true.

Friday, October 5, 2007

teach me...

"Teach me Your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in Your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name."
-Psalm 87:11

Teach me Your way, O Lord, in this city.
In this strange and sometimes scary land, teach me Your way.
Teach me Your way, O Lord, as I pass the faces, the faces with no names, the faces whose names You know, the faces with names and hearts and dreams, all of which You know.
Teach me Your way, O Lord
, when the pain is intense and shocking,
when the little girl watches her parents die and then comes to my classroom,
when the woman is digging through the trash on the side of the road, looking for food maybe yet edible,
when the young teenager pulls at my sleeve, asking, "Milk for the baby, seester? Please, seester?"
Teach me Your way, O Lord, in the sun-spots of joy,
in Raju who always wants a hug and always has a smile,
in community night with my team, meals of American food and stories to make us all laugh,
in laughing with Sheila one more time as we fall asleep.
Teach me Your way, O Lord, as I search for You in Your word,
clinging to promises like I've never clung before,
praying for things I cannot see,
hoping for the end when Love Wins.

One thing I ask of You, oh Lord,
to dwell with You
in Kolkata or small-town America
to know Your heart
to learn Your ways
to love Your name

Thursday, October 4, 2007

an orphan's fear

Yesterday I arrived at school to find two new faces. One boy and one girl. I think they are siblings. Sister told me that they had come just that morning. A four hour journey from their old home to Kolkata. They were tired. But more than that, they were scared. The little girl couldn't stop crying. She was wailing, really. Clinging to the grate that separates the classroom from the outside. One of the nuns tried to give her medicine, but she couldn't swallow it and ended up vomiting all over the floor. The little guy was in slightly better shape. He joined my class at the table, but every so often, the tears would well up and then roll down. Big and droppy and fast. I knelt next to him and patted his back, and I began to cry too. He was so little. So vulnerable. So afraid. What kind of life had he come from, I wondered? What happened to his parents? What must it be like to be sat down in the middle of ten happy, loud, yet also pushy kids? Wouldn't I be terrified if I were four years old and had been thrust right into a flock of faces I had never seen before?

The kids in my class have all been at the orphanage long enough to appear well-adjusted. They are happy. They're well-fed. They fight, but all kids fight. It's easy for me to forget that they are orphans, because in the short time I am with them every morning, they seem like normal kids, kids who will go home to families at the end of the school day. I forget that Sishu is their home. I forget that they never get to sit on their daddies' laps. I forget that the reason they live at Sishu now is because they were once living in hell on earth.

That is one story. The story with the setting in which my heart is soft and tender.

Then I step out onto the streets.

Street-walking has been (and still is) one of the very hardest things for me about life in Kolkata. I hate it, if I can be perfectly honest. The worst of it is when I am alone. It's safe during the day, safe as in I'm not going to get mugged or assaulted. And because of our different schedules, I have to walk alone sometimes. But it is really, really hard for me. If I could sum the experience up in one word, that word would be vulnerable. I want to keep a soft heart--I want to be able to smile at people, to stop and make new friends, to try street food and then hang around and chat with the vendor. I want to know the whole world's name, actually! "Let's be friends, okay?"

It can't work that way in India. Men (not all men, but somedays it feels like all) will assume that since I'm white and Western, I'm loose. Vendors might try to rip me off or scam me. I think about these things as I walk. The walls around my heart go up a little more with each step down the sidewalk. Walk faster. Clutch bag tightly to side. Never, ever, ever look men in the eye. Pretty soon, my heart morphs into a bag of rocks. Hard as stone. People have become inconviences. The Indian culture has become inferior to my own. I just want to get where I am going, for goodness sake, so please don't stop me! Yet underneath the clipped pace and set face, I am really a pile of Jello, quivering at all that I don't know how to respond to.

These two stories collided during devotion time this morning. I realized:

I have an orphan's heart.

I am walking the streets of Kolkata with the identity of an orphan. I forget that I have a Father. Every day I forget. I walk around believing that I am alone. I think I am going to get left behind or taken advantage of. I think I have to battle hard for my rights, for my survival, for my protection. I've taken my safety into my own hands, but I know my incompetency, and so I end up scared. I have a Father! We have a Father! Once, a beautiful friend told me that for a season of her life, she woke up every morning and repeated to herself: "I have a Father. I am not an orphan." The fear that she was alone was almost paralyzing. I, also, have met that fear in India. Without a father, without a home, the world is indeed terrifying and frightful. The lie is that we are alone. Orphaned.

The truth is that we are children of God, God who has named Himself the "Everlasting Father." He will never leave us. He's not ditching town. He will give us refuge in His shadow.

Our Father's compassion is beautiful. This morning, my heart found peace in Him. I am praying that this little girl and boy will someday know the Father of the fatherless, that whatever memories of pain or rejection they store will be flooded out of their minds with the force of His love.

I need a Father
I need a Shepherd
I need strong arms that are bigger than mine

I need a Husband
I need a Lover
I need a companion to walk with me forever

It is You
It is You
All of my needs are covered by You

It is You
It is You
All of my dreams are bound up in You

I still don't know exactly how to respond to every situation on the street, but my heart is not so frantic. His presence brings us rest.

Even here?

Yes. Especially here.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Are rats nocturnal?

Oh man. So much is happening here in K-town. Life is speeding along. October is here. October! How did you get here so fast?

A brief update on our rat situation. Let me give you the Cliff Notes version: out of control! This morning, in the wee early neighborhood of 1 am, these were my words to Sheila:
"We've got to wage a full-out war. Pull out all the stops."
My roommate of the super-sonic hearing had just heard Mr. Rat rustling about in our trash bag, which I would like to point out was hanging a good five feet off the floor and contained no food fragments. (We're trying.) She shook me awake, and the all-too-familiar huddling in the middle of the bed act resumed. Sheila has a wind-up flashlight, which happens to be incredibly handy for these nighttime crises. That way we don't even have to try to reach the lightswitch from the bed. She pointed the flashlight right on the trash bag, and then I threw the nearest small object at the bag. Out zipped the rat, away to his safe little hide-out behind the cupboard. I'm not sure what good that did, but at least we got him out of the trash.

I know this all sounds a bit silly, but I'm going to play the gender card and argue that--we're girls. Somewhere way back in our genetic code, it must be written that we ought to be irrationally afraid of anything grey with a long tail. It doesn't make sense, but take it up with our DNA.

If any strong men would like to make an emergency trip to Kolkata, you are welcome. We live behind Nepal Sweets. The white house. Next to the big apartment building. If we happen to not be at home, go on in and feel free to "pull out all the stops."

What's going on in my heart? Jesus has been showing me my pride and resistence the past few days. How I think I have something good going on inside of me without Him. I have been thinking about how radical the Incarnation was. I come to India, and I miss the comforts of Western life. But this is nothing compared to Jesus stepping down to earth and slipping on our flesh. He came to earth from heaven! Philippians says that he "made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." I say I want to follow Jesus. I'm seeing, though, that I want to follow Him without having to look like Him. All the things that I am afraid to give up in following Jesus, He Himself gave up! I resist pouring myself out for the poor. Yet Christ poured Himself out to death for the whole world. I resist the thought of remaining single, begging that cup might not be mine. But Jesus lived as a single man, and sometimes even His friends deserted Him. I don't want to live without a comfortable home. But the Son of Man had no place to lay His head, even as the foxes were running off to their dens and the birds settling down in their nests. I balk at suffering. Jesus suffered so much. Loss of friendship, loss of dignity, loss of family, loss of physical well-being.

I am amazed by what the Cross means. I am amazed at this Man Jesus. I am amazed that He has asked me to follow Him. And I am ashamed that I want the crown without the cross. Like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, I don't understand that suffering is a prerequisite for victory. I want to move into the glorious kingdom right now. Take the interstate fast lane and speed by pain, hurt, or disgrace. But how can the servant be greater than the Master?

Pray for me, that I will be willing to know Christ in His death just as I long to know Him in His life.

And also, even though I say this with a sheepish grin, please pray that Sheila and I will get some good sleep soon. We've been having restless nights, maybe partly due to the rats. To end on a positive note, I love our ceiling fan. I bet we would get even less sleep if we didn't have that ceiling fan. It runs so faithfully every night, all night long. There's a silver lining.

for now, good-bye...