Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pressing and Straining

‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ ~Paul

To sum it up, Paul knew God wasn’t finished working on him, and none of us are really ever done being refined.  We are a work in progress.
As I tried to teach this to the kids today, we used a new favorite family task, making Citron Juice.  

Ya-Yan taught me first how to make this scrumptious juice one night over at Adrien’s.  She said I needed a Pres and Pwase, (a press and a strainer).  So, one day in Cayes I went on a hunt into the part of the city market Where the Wild Things Are, a dark and dreamlike, netherworld type of place, filled with soot, flames, and faces in the shadows. It was strange to me to go looking for kitchen appliances in a place like this, but in the end I came out with my prizes.  One shiny, aluminum press and a plastic strainer.  
The way I explained it to the kids, we’re all just citrons.  

First, each of us needs to be washed, then our hearts are torn by the realization of what Christ endured for us.  We all are eventually crushed by God, the press.  He takes our raw form and molds us to His.   
This begins our refining, as we pass through Jesus, our strainer.  All of the crud and junk is caught in the fine mesh, and out the other end comes pure juice.   We’re still sour as can be though, and that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in, to sweeten us up so we taste good.  

I was reminded today that God is not yet finished with me either.  I’m not ready to be polished and put up on the glass shelf with the spotlights.  I have too many flaws and blemishes.  
I needed to get to Cayes and pay for the paperwork to get my papers for the scooter, so I got up early to get a head start. 
Almost to the city, I came upon a police checkpoint. Benson and Patchouko were with me.  I asked if we should turn around, since I didn’t have the proper papers yet, but Benson said he was certain we’d be allowed to pass, 
“Drive right by the policeman. He’ll allow you to pass.”

Even then it sounded too good to be true. But I’ve seen stranger things in Haiti, so I gave it a try.
Just as I was about to make a break for it, the officer jumped out in front of me with those classic hand gestures;  Halt, and Move-it-to-the-Shoulder-Slick.
I showed him my papers, but he just shrugged me off and continued to point to the shoulder of the road, where there were other unfortunate motorists with long faces....
Benson began to argue my case that we were literally on our way to the police station to file for the paperwork, and this was a new scooter, but the man didn’t care. 
To the shoulder he pointed.  
Benson was just about to give it another try, but then came a shift in the attitude of the officer, which sounded more like,
“If you want to stand here and argue with me I’ll just shoot you in the face.”  
They rolled my bike to the side and another officer took my key out of the ignition and put it in his pocket.  
Point well made, Mr. Officer.

For the rest of my day I sat at the police station in Cayes.
Eventually my friends left and I sat by myself, waiting for a magical piece of green paper with somebody’s signature on it to give me the stamp of approval to leave.  

After the first couple of  hours I realized as other Haitians were coming and going, that I was waiting just because someone decided I needed to wait.   I watched the officer who first took my keys, coming and going, coming and going, throughout the day.  I would have opted for a good stare-down, but he wouldn’t look at me.  He simply didn’t care. 

I called my wife to let her know I didn’t know when or if I would be coming home today or not, and she reminded me that God may have a purpose in me being stuck there. 
“Yes, Yes Dear.  I’ll try to keep that in mind.”  And I really did try, for the next hour, to stay positive. Even sang a couple of worship songs out loud as I waited on the bench. 
Sang one in Creole, loud enough for the officer to hear me too....Yes.  Somewhere along the way I succumbed to my self.

It was sometime around 1, after the officers had all taken a break for lunch, that I began to let my imagination drift, and that’s when I recognized exactly what I’d been teaching the kids early this morning....God’s not finished with me yet. How might I know this, you might ask?

When they gave me the little green paper, which had been sitting on the officer’s desk most of the afternoon, along with a smirk, all I wanted to do was spin a giant cookie on the blue tile entry way, at least 3 times around to really lay down some rubber.  I wanted to see jaws drop and eyes wide as saucers. I wanted to give them my best Clint Eastwood impression, “You won’t catch me...but I dare you to try.” and then peel out the front gates and disappear down the boulevard, maybe with a couple of bullets zinging past my ears...

How’s that work for a missionary?  Where’s the love, the forgiveness, the servant heart, the joy, the peace, the patience, the kindness... you know, all that good fruit?
Well, mine sat out in the sun on a hot wooden police bench all day.  Citron is a natural preservative.  Sprinkled on fruit and vegetables it makes them last longer... I had no citron. My fruit was rotten.
Yep. God’s not quite finished with me yet.

On my way home, passing through the last river on my scooter - yes, crossing The Little River --I found God's sense of humor.  There's a new, deep hole in the middle, and of course I drove right into it.  I could've used a snorkel.  All the locals had a good laugh.  
Ah yes, the crazy-driving white boy is back, and God washed another one of His citrons.

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