What a spectacular glimpse of the glory and artistic genius of our Creator! The downpours are worth being weathered for the peace that emerges in the end. My head has gotten a little wet over the past few weeks, as I've been trying to persevere through the task of raising support to enter into a full-time career as a laborer for God's Kingdom. I'm not even two months in and I've heard the thunder more than once. At moments, I've wanted to pack my bags and leave rainy season for the beach, but Christ reigns supreme over all things...including this mess I find myself in now. It's a journey of faith and self-denial, but we've gotta just keep on keepin on... "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." -Paul, Letter to the Colossians
Aunt Cora is an incredible woman. At 93 (don't tell her I said so), she's more active than many 60 or 70 year olds I know. I had the joy of driving her to the eye doctor this week and despite the fact that her good ear is on her right side, making conversation in the car when I am driving a bit difficult, we had many laughs. She is incredibly intelligent, witty, agile and genuinely fun to be around for a woman who is 93 years young. You honestly leave her presence feeling better about life, having encountered such a venerable, God-fearing, wise woman with a heckuva lot more life experience than you or I combined.
Two prime examples.
Recently (one or two years ago?), she locked herself out of her house on accident (again, you don't have to mention that to her). But, shoot, that's no obstacle. She just found a ladder and crawled in through a window.
Today, my parents, my sis, Aunt Cora and I went out for a round of coffee at the local coffeeshop, where we enjoyed conversation and good laughs. My sister had a question for her about her taxes. Quick background: Aunt Cora has been doing taxes for folks for decades. Michelle had a specific question about the tax code in Missouri, mainly regarding whether or not she should file a return. Aunt Cora chuckles and responds, "Ah, I wouldn't worry about it." To this, Michelle says, "Well, what if I end up in jail? Will you visit me?" Aunt Cora quips, "Yes, and I'll bring you a cake with a saw in it." What a woman. At one point, when telling us of the dashing new dress that she bought to wear to my cousin's wedding in Chicago, she said, "It's se...er, silk." Was she going to say it was, dare I say, sexy? haha... Oh, if she ever came across this post, she'd have my head. Then again, she does have the internet. Quick...where's the delete key!
A couple days back, I randomly found myself at the website of Iris Ministries, an interdenominational mission in
Two days later, I found myself once again intertwined with mission work in
Now that I think about it, a couple weeks back, I enjoyed breakfast with John Baker, a former missionary of 17 years in
Perhaps I'll end up in
Fred, Ritish and I sat in Espresso Royale, on Daniel St., discussing myriad topics, but once we found ourselves hovering over the topic of poverty, we were unable to shake it. I had mentioned that I was interested in reading Jeffrey Sachs' The End of Poverty, and no more than it rolled off my tongue, did Ritish perk up and inform us that he was in the midst of finishing it himself. The three of us began talking about the life of Jesus and how he didn't miss a beat when it came to subverting the social order of his day in order to love the poor--the expendables, if you will. Check it out for yourself. Mark gives some amazing accounts of Jesus doing this. Here's just one example. Jesus' greatest commandment was to Love, yet how often do we miss that. In Christian culture, we can get so wrapped up in *insert act here* that we miss a huge lesson from Jesus' ministry on earth. He spent a great deal of time ministering to the needs and hurts of the poor, the forgotten, the expendables, the "sinners", in order to soften their hearts to the life transforming message that he would later give them: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:6) Wow. That's heavy. But you can bank on the fact that many of the "forgottens" believed his message, because his life backed it up. He was Humility, incarnate. He put others needs before his own. Ultimately, he gave much more than a cure for a bleeding disorder or leprosy or demon possession, he gave us a cure through the cross that will cure us from ourselves.
Before our conversation ended, I shared with Fred and Ritish how profoundly Paul's letter to the Galatians had impacted me just the day before. In it, he told them that Peter and the gang had reminded him that wherever he and Barnabas preached the Good News, they should remember one thing. Yes, one thing. "Remember the poor." As the three of us left the comfy couches of Espresso, no more than 2 minutes later I was facing the mirror. Long story short, Bruce, a homeless man (one of the many who frequent the busy streets of Campustown in Champaign) and I had a half hour conversation in Jimmy John's about the realities of alcholism, faith, losing your family, asking for money, needing a helping hand and church. It ended in prayer with such simple, sweet words uttered from his mouth, that I couldn't help but remember the prayer of the tax collector.
This reality, that is that the poor and hurting are all around us, has been on my mind more and more since I left South Africa two years ago. What are we to do? How do we respond to the fact that 34,000 children die daily from starvation and preventable diseases? I suppose it starts with one man or woman, boy or girl, at a time. It starts with one spring break, to give new hope and new beginnings through the shared love of Christ. See http://ilifeneworleans.blogspot.com to read more about Illini Life's week of work in New Orleans. I'm only just beginning to understand how this all fits into being a part of the Kingdom of God, but I think it's a start.
"The King (i.e. Jesus) will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40)
first and last name
current place of residence (i cheated a bit, it's where i am moving to)
place you enjoy the most
grandmother's full name (i used my paternal grandmother's name...more fun)
Yeah, yeah...I'm a proud uncle. My parents and I just spent the weekend visiting Tim & Melissa and little Isabelle. Have you ever seen a more beautiful little girl? She's the pride of the family these days. Definitely an Illini fan, too, much to her Ohio State-loving mom's dismay :) Just check out the proof below from Saturday when we were watching the NCAA tourne. She's totally enthralled. Many tears were shed in the Illini's early exit from the Big Dance...
It's amazing how significantly music influences what I decide to write. Right now, I'm listening to Ray Lamontagne. A little soul. Good beat. Easy on the ears. I have no agenda with this post, I just felt that I was due. It's a creative outlet, and I find myself looking for such outlets more and more these days as I am living at home in grand ole Sparta, Illinois. Already over the past 6 weeks as I've been back in the old stomping ground, here in the home of the 1967 academy award-winning In the Heat of the Night, I've had much to face.
Throughout this adventure of raising a support team in order to return to the U of I campus as a missionary with Great Commission Ministires, I've had to ask the question, "Who is Jonathan King?" Maybe I dont' look in the mirror repeating these words, but there are bound to be times in all of our lives when we must face ourselves. My six months in southern Africa was one such time. This is another. I grew so used to the community of friends that I had as a student at U of I. I'm normally a fairly gregarious person, so being back here in Sparta, without that close community of friends my age (i.e. peers), and friends who are in this struggle to follow Jesus Christ with me, I find myself writing a new chapter on how to depend on God. No, I suppose I'm not all alone. Me? Overdramatize? No way.
In my current situation, in which I often feel a bit of isolation, I have had the opportunity to dive into some books and other things that I'm finding out I enjoy, like Adobe Photoshop. I currently have my nose in Don't Waste Your Life, by Piper. Read it. Seriously, who wants to waste their life?
Sycamore trees have always intrigued me. Besides the ever-so-catchy children's song about that "wee little man," I've only ever seen huge sycamore trees and they have this unmistakable white bark. Most striking to me though is a sycamore tree in the winter time. Every other tree, save conifers, appears dead, but the sycamore stands out among the crowd with its white bark. I took this picture today on the farm. And there are many others. We don't have any sycamores that are bunched together; nope, everywhere I find one, they stand alone. Bright. Brilliant. Broad. Tall. and True. Unmistakable. I'm listening to Sigur Ros now, its peaceful and contemplative ambiance causing me to think very meticulously about the image of the sycamore tree and its relation to my life. Quite relevant for this whole period of self-discovery (ooh, did I just say that?) that I find myself in these days. It's time to catch some shuteye...
at first glance, this could seem to really contradict this whole "wide-eyed" business, but work with me, people... :)
there's more to this life than meets the eye, i think. i tried to write a poem that captured this idea once. i'll spare you the details, but i will say this. the physical world that greets our eyes can sometimes be deceiving. granted, i'll be the first guy to tell you that i think creation shouts that there was a brilliant artist who drempt up this masterpiece that we call the "the universe"...from a smile, to a sunset, to a majestic mountain peak, to an autumn leaf, to even the genius of the eyeball, the revelation of God in us and around us is astounding. but, what happens when we pause, close our eyes and imagine that which lies beyond what our physical eyes can grasp? there is so much that is written between the lines that sometimes what I see physically confuses me, or better even, distracts me, from truth and life. we certainly have a culture that is known for its ability to entertain and look good. when interacting with the people in our world, can we see past the facade and imagine that the someone standing in front of us may be an eternal being, created with a purpose?
i sometimes think that movies such as Lord of the Rings, Braveheart or Gladiator (three of my favorites) get right to the heart of people, because somehow, in some way, we believe in our loins that there is truth in these myths. they strike our core because we feel as if we've been in the midst of these epic adventures and battles on this quest of life. perhaps, these epic adventures just lie beneath the surface. beyond what our two eyes can see. i guess i have to question what's there and what am i going to do about it? in the Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he writes that "our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." heavy stuff. he also encouraged us to look beyond earthly things and "fix our eyes" on eternal things--things unseen. in a world so full of visual stimulation, maybe we can stop and look at the people around us wide-eyed and with our eyes closed. perhaps we can see that there is a battle going on, a battle for our hearts. or maybe we might just see what some really needs, or maybe we may be able to begin to see them as our Creator sees them.