Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Adopted Son...

This Christmas we have been reading a little devotional book called Immanuel: Praying the Names of God through the Christmas Season. It has been wonderful to meditate on various aspects of Jesus' name, birth and life as we prepare to really celebrate Christmas as a family here in Uganda. As we've been reading and praying together as a family, one person in particular has really struck me. I mean, the kind of struck where you just sit and think about it for a long time. The person is Joseph.

I wonder what it would be like to hold the very Son of God in my arms. In fact, Joseph would have been the very first person to hold Jesus period, even before Mary herself! When my three sons were born, I was privileged to be the one to catch each of them as they came out into the world, but I had doctors there helping me. Even if I missed or the baby slipped through my hands (they come out slick!), there was an extra pair of hands there with mine. But Joseph was in it alone! Talk about pressure! How do you catch the Son of God? I had nurses there to show me where to cut the cord, and of course they took care of cleaning the babies properly. Joseph did not have any of these things either, and I don't think that men were typically "in" on births in Israel so he could have had very little idea of exactly what to do. Actually, there were midwives who normally handled these things, but cows in a barn are not very good midwives. I can just picture Mary there telling Joseph what to do, Joseph scared to death, tears and laughter. What an emotional experience that must have been, to catch, cut and clean the very Son of God Himself! The humility of God will forever stun me just as greatly as His sovereignty.

One other thought has struck me within the whole Joseph side of things. He bore the public "shame" of taking into his home what was thought to be an "ill-begotten" baby boy. But then he went further than this, Joseph in all reality adopted the Son of God into his own family, he himself becoming the boy's father. Growing up I never quite thought about this, and it never really hit home until I heard a message by my friend Justin on Joseph. But what really amazes me is this- could Joseph have known that it would be through this very Son that he was adopting that he himself would be adopted by God who would become His very own adopted Father? I don't think Joseph could have grasped this apart from faith, but how amazing are God's ways!

I hope you all have a very blessed Christmas as you celebrate the birth of the one who was born to die for the Glory and unveiling of the Father, the one who has promised, "I will not leave you as orphans (Jn. 14:18)" because He Himself has died that we might be justified from sin and adopted into the family of God. We are orphans no more.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Ugandan Thanksgiving

I LOVE Thanksgiving! In fact, there are very few holidays that get me as excited as this one. I thoroughly enjoy being with family, hanging around in the kitchen, talking, laughing, and of course expectantly looking forward to the coming feast. I enjoy reflecting with my family on the things the year has held, while also looking ahead to the coming year yet to unfold.

Here in Uganda, it is a bit tough for us to be away from family during this holiday. The weather is hot, Christmas is on the horizon, and there is nothing here to remind us of this distinct mark in the American calendar- no media pounding us with images of turkeys or the coming great shopping deals, no signs hanging in the stores, no music, nothing.

But we do our best to “get into the groove” of the holiday season. We have some fake colored leaves that we scatter on the table, along with a fake pumpkin, and even a funny looking decorative turkey. TURKEY…yum…my favorite. Actually, I can only remember one Thanksgiving when I did not have turkey on Thanksgiving and that was when I was in college and decided to stay at school for the holiday in order to study! I went out with a friend for Giordano’s Pizza hoping they’d be serving a turkey pizza, but to no avail.

So what exactly DO we do here for Thanksgiving? Well, the first thing we have to do is procure some turkeys from the village. Since we were over 30 Westerners (including children) gathering together to celebrate the holiday (yes, we invited our British staff members, after all, weren’t some of the original celebrators of Thanksgiving British?), we needed to find two good sized turkeys, which we found- though I must add that not many villagers raise turkeys so it can be a bit of a hunt. Since I am the only Westerner with a chicken house, we were the privileged ones to house and feed the turkeys, which I promptly named Miles and Standish. Our dog Mountie was so excited about the turkeys that she jumped over the mud wall and under the chicken wire in an attempt to have her own Thanksgiving feast- luckily we heard the turkeys going crazy and out of the cloud of feathers we pulled the dog out of the chicken house.

We set the execution for dawn on Thanksgiving Day- well, actually it was around 8am (after we spent time as a family giving thanks to God for His work in our family over this year- Noah was also thankful for the turkeys God gave us to kill and eat). My boys were as excited as I was (see the picture above), and with the help of our friend Kibeti (and my panga/machete), I got ready to let loose the two fell swoops. The first mighty swing was just a tad bit not mighty enough, because the head came mostly off (I apologize for the details, but this IS Uganda : ). I went executioner style with the second one and it was enough for a clean strike. I promise, both turkeys didn’t feel a thing! We then poured boiling hot water over the turkeys to make plucking them much easier. After a few hours of cleaning and gutting, the turkeys were prepared and in the oven.

What’s so funny to me is that my sisters and I have such DIFFERENT stories about Thanksgiving turkeys. My sister Angie went to the local grocer and bought her nice big turkey. I, of course, had to find and kill my own. And my sister Cara (a vegetarian) lives on a farm where she has a “pet” turkey named Phil who she would NEVER allow to be killed or to be eaten. How VASTLY different experiences!

Anyway, the rest of my story isn’t as exciting. I spent the morning painting my boys’ tree house, followed by an afternoon of “rest” and the holding of the elbow of my wife while she did what she does like no other- COOK. In the late afternoon (after the passing of the mid-day heat) we had an American football gave which was an absolute BLAST (Elisha made his football debut with one catch for a ten yard gain), and then we gathered and feasted on Miles and Standish- who were both a bit tough by the way. But I guess you could call these official “organic” turkeys. The food was wonderful, the people were wonderful, the kids running all around and playing were wonderful, and of course, back at the homestead “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and the “Mayflower Voyage” were also wonderful. I hope you all had just as wonderful of a Thanksgiving!