Unexpected Paths by Wil and Lorraine Triggs

We got in the car near dawn on the Fourth of July to head up to Door County for a long holiday weekend with family. We made it to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, before their parade, scooted past the parade barricades in Sturgeon Bay and turned on Highway 57 for the drive up the quiet side of the peninsula.

Strangely enough we hit traffic as soon as we got to Bailey's Harbor. We would drive for several feet; then stop; drive a bit; then stop. We grew bored admiring the town's festive red, white and blue decorations. It was 10 a.m. There shouldn't be any traffic at all on July 4.

Was there a traffic accident? Was anyone injured? How long of a delay was this going to be? People expect us to be at the cabin by lunch. We were a bit slow on the uptake.

We not only arrive in Bailey's Harbor at the start of its parade, but it turned out that we were also unwittingly somehow in the actual parade line-up with no idea of how we got there. So we did the only logical thing—we joined the parade. We unrolled the car windows, gave our then young son permission to unbuckle his seat belt so he could stand up, and waved and yelled, "Happy Fourth of July" to the crowds lining both sides of the street. We even had a little flag he started to wave as we sailed through town, no longer delayed. Instead, we breezed down Highway 57, no more stoplights or stop signs to obey. Instead, people cheered and waved back at us as we went.

Wouldn't it be great if all the unexpected events in life were as fun and carefree as our appearance in the Bailey's Harbor Fourth of July parade. Unfortunately, life just doesn't cooperate. The path zigs insteads of zags. The road winds dangerously close to the edge, where the drop-off is steep—not to mention that a fear of heights.

We want to control and rein in the unexpected and make the path zag, not zig and steer clear of that edge. When there is a delay in the road, we want to know why, how long it will delay and can't God just wrap it up quickly so we can move on? What's around the next bend in the path? How will we know if our son will ever return to the Lord? Why is Andrew Brunson still incarcerated in Turkey? Why does the news every day have to be so relentlessly partisan? Can we have a fall where Kids' Harbor is fully staffed with grown ups by the middle of August?

The answer is the same to all these questions: we can't know. Not on our own. Not right now. And when our path takes yet another unexpected turn, we will trust God to make the path straight or we will cling to him even when it's not.

Though life doesn't seem to cooperate, maybe it does more than we realize. Maybe the hand that guides us through whatever is unseen up ahead or going on right now really is the kind, loving and nail-scarred hand of Jesus. Do we really believe it?

If so, Lord, open our eyes to see. Open our ears to hear. Help our voices to sing words of faith for whatever God has for us today. Give us courage to speak of Jesus to people we drive pass in the resurrection celebration that turns out to be not an accident, but a parade.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us ride in the celebration parade that is set before us.

Memorizing the Mississippi by John Maust

Driving west on I-90 toward Minnesota, I looked forward to crossing the bridge over the Mississippi River. 

I always thrilled at that great expanse of water, and this time Elsa and I enjoyed the sight a bit longer when we stopped for a picnic lunch in a rest park on the west bank of the river.

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A massive barge loaded with grain or coal passed heading downriver as we munched our sandwiches and chips, and I found my thoughts turning to Mark Twain’s classic Life on the Mississippi. 

Twain recalled how every boy his age in Hannibal, Missouri, longed to become a steamboat man on the Mississippi. The time came when Twain, as a young man, got his chance. A riverboat pilot, Mr. Bixby, promised to teach him the river from New Orleans to St. Louis for $500, payable out of his first wages. 

Twain thought it would be a snap. But when he saw the pilot navigating past trees, snags and other vessels even in the pitch-black night, also docking at places not even visible, he wondered if there might be more to this than he thought.

As they traveled Bixby named aloud the different points along the river, and at one point he asked Twain to repeat some of them. Twain couldn’t. An irritated Bixby asked Twain why he thought he was naming all those places.

“Well to—to—be entertaining, I thought,” Twain stammered.

Hearing this, Bixby erupted in a continuous stream of colorful language that lasted until he was spent and “you could have drawn a sein through his system and not caught enough curses to disturb your mother with,” Twain recalled.

Then Bixby said in the gentlest way, “My boy, you must get a little memorandum-book; and every time I tell you a thing, put it down right away. There’s only one way to be a pilot, and that is to get this entire river by heart. You have to know it just like A B C.”

As Elsa and I finished our lunch, I tried to imagine, What would it be like, how could it be possible, to memorize the mighty Mississippi River? But Twain ultimately did, or at least a long section of it.

What if we took to learning the Bible like Twain did the Mississippi?  It’s a long river of a book, but it is God’s Word and our guide for navigating through life without crashing and sinking on the snags and shoals of our own sin. Why not learn it “just like A B C,” taking notes, seeking application, even putting portions to memory?

This summer let’s devote ourselves to more concerted study of Scripture—not to entertain ourselves, but to know better the One who created all things, including the Mississippi, and to more faithfully serve His Son our Savior.    

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (Psalm 46:4).

Manna Gathering by Kylie Hultgren

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5–6)

I’ve discovered I tend to be quite similar to squirrels when it comes to anticipating winter. I always seem to expect a dry season to spring on me and catch me off guard, requiring me to fight back. I am constantly storing up in anticipation and fear of loss. Just in case my car breaks down, how much insurance should I have? Just in case I forget something on my schedule, I should constantly be checking it. And as silly as it sounds, just in case my favorite piece of clothing suddenly is out of stock, maybe I should just buy a few extras.

It sounds ridiculous, but I can be so paranoid about loss, that I neglect the One from whom my next moment is given. I somehow get into this mindset that it all depends on me—I am the hero of my own story. Just in case tomorrow brings extra troubles that can’t be accounted for by the One who saved me from the destructive pit and sustains my life, I better collect enough manna.

By golly, doesn’t this sound just like the Israelites during their desert wanderings. Sometimes we claim that we must make Scripture relevant or applicable to our today, and I do this without any effort or alteration in my quest to be like the Israelites. Hypersensitivity to loss and destruction is ingrained in us, and that means the battle against “manna hogging” must take place daily.

In Exodus 16:4-5, “the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.’” (NIV)

Manna gathering is a daily process, receiving just enough of the bread God provides, and trusting that the next day will rain down blessings of its own. We get in a sticky situation of distrust and fear when we try to store up for tomorrow what is only meant to sustain us for today. Do you believe that the Bread of Life will give you himself and enough manna bread, too?  Perhaps it’s time I stop putting him to the test and let myself and my trust be tested, just like the Israelites I am so fond of imitating.

Charles Spurgeon addressed this worry in Morning by Morning: “When a man is anxious he cannot pray with faith; when he is troubled about the world, he cannot serve his Master; his thoughts are serving himself. If you would ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,’ all things would then be added unto you. You are meddling with Christ’s business, and neglecting your own, when you fret about your lot and circumstances… Be wise, and attend to obeying, and let Christ manage the providing” (354).

Our job is to follow Christ in obedience, not anxiously store up for what we fear might happen tomorrow. We have no clue what will happen tomorrow, but we can count on it to be good and from God’s good hand.

Recently, the Lord has been telling me that goodness is in store. I asked him, “What kind of goodness?” I wanted the specifics. He responded by saying, “The king of all goodness and mercy will be on the throne. You will be found worshiping at his feet.” 

Now that's what I can count on for tomorrow. So, I drop my basket of manna and open my hands in expectation of what is to come. 

To Explore Is to Discover by Pat Cirrincione

Exploration has led man to many places to discover many things--Christopher Columbus discovered lands across the Atlantic and Marco Polo to shores and adventures beyond his wildest dreams. It has led people to look for gold and diamonds in various locales around the world. It led Solomon to discover that there was nothing new under the sun. It has led to journeys to the moon, Mars and beyond. It has led to high adventures, mischief, love, heartbreak and death. And still we long for sights unseen, uncharted, uninhabited. As exciting as all of that sounds I have found nothing more exciting than to explore the Bible. If you’ve never opened one, might I ask why not?

If you open it now, or after you’ve read my short post, you’ll discover that it is not one book, but is comprised of 66 books: 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament.

I recently participated in a Bible study that was quite intensive, which is why I’m so excited for you to explore this wonderful book inspired by God for his children to read and learn about the wonderful Creator of the world.

First, the genres are many and include narratives, prophetic literature, wisdom literature, apocalyptic literature, stories and parables, logs of journeys and letters. In what other book do you get that many genres to explore?

All of these genres are filled with wonderful content and take you on journeys through history. You have your choice of narratives (stories); discourse (or speeches) or poetry. The magnitude of it all boggles the mind. And if that’s not enough to intrigue you there are big ideas to ponder and think presented by each author, who describes a basic truth for all of God’s people in every age.

If it’s the history of Israel you’d like to explore the Old Testament is full of how God created our world and universe; to the awesome task Moses had to free God’s people from bondage and Egyptian rule. You’ll read about the Promised Land and be introduced to the wisdom of the Psalms and Proverbs. You’ll get a sense of what problems Israel and Juda faced.

Are you ready to explore more?  Perhaps how Jesus revealed his exclusivity, identity and authority? What is the way to God, and how do you know how to know and live for him? Biblical exploration shows how loving, constant and secure God is. That he embraces humility of service and taught through example.

I could go on and on and on, instead I challenge you to go on the greatest exploratory trip of your life by opening this amazing God-inspired book. Become consumed with the story of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who came to serve and save. Let me know what you discovered as you explore all this book has to offer. What lands you crossed; what adventures you read about, and what makes you want to explore it more.

And remember, while you are exploring its stories, speeches, and poetry that the Bible travels through the Cross, that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the center of everything the Bible has to say to us.

Take a moment each day to discover new lands, the adventures of its people, the mischief, love, heartbreak and death that most explorers have discovered on all of their journeys, but with a much better ending in sight.

A New Taste in Town: Tawk's Story by Cheryce Berg

Cheryce first posted this on her blog, Hope and Be.Longing as well as on the World Relief DuPage/Aurora blog. And we're glad to post it as a Saturday Musing.

Tawk’s ambition is to bring a new taste to town.

Tea Leaves Salad does it. My friend Sasha and I start our meal at Pa Lian Burmese Restaurant in Wheaton sharing a plate of this popular dish made of “grounded tea leaf, fried yellow beans, fried lava beans, fried peanuts, sesame seeds, sliced tomatoes, cabbage and lime”. It is crunchy, salty, and full of flavor—a perfect complement to the tiny cups of hot green tea we are served.

I order Shan Noodle as my main dish: clear flat rice noodles topped by ground chicken curry and soy bean paste, with a bowl of chicken soup on the side. After my first spicy bite of the curry, Tawk instructs me to ladle the broth over the noodles and mix well. He also graciously hands me a fork when I hesitate at my ability to eat noodles with chopsticks. I love the contrast of the slippery noodles with the crunch of the topping.

Sasha orders Nangyi Thoke: a salad of thick rice noodles, ground chicken, sliced shallots, hard-boiled eggs, tamarind sauce, fish sauce, and fried onions, served with a small bowl of chicken soup. She describes it as “tasty and texturally interesting, with thick, hollow noodles that make a playful elastic feeling in my mouth that contrasts with the crisp fried shallots.” It is mild, tangy, and yummy—something she’d order again.

Tawk's Story
Tawk pauses in the quiet hours between the lunch and dinner crowds to sit and tell us his story while we eat. 

He grew up in the old capital city of Burma, called Rangoon (Yangon). He doesn’t call himself Burmese but rather Chin, which names the state from which his family comes. He obtained a civil engineering degree but soon learned that education didn’t matter to employers. Details such as parentage, religion, ethnicity, and birthplace topped all other qualifications.

Tawk eventually fled the persecution of a militaristic government and came here seeking political asylum, hoping for a safe place and a better life. He immediately began work at a Whole Foods deli every day of the week for twelve hours a day. He credits his deli friends as the best teachers he ever had, as they had the task of growing his textbook English to fluency. They also introduced him to American food. His favorite? Tuna salad, eaten on rice instead of bread. But he can’t stand one of our most iconic dishes: macaroni and cheese.

“I really appreciate those times. I will never forget it,” he says of his deli friends and early season of hard work at Whole Foods. He still goes back to visit them and they tell him with pride: “You made it.”

Tawk later began work as a case manager for World Relief, where he learned how to teach fellow refugees and immigrants how to survive in America. His message to them? You don’t need to adopt the American culture, but you need to learn about it. Explore and respect it and you will gain friends. 

His work with Chin youth at church has shown him the widening gap between them and their parents. He boldly tells their parents: “Keep your culture but don’t mentally imprison your kids. They are changing; you have to change, too. Even if you don’t want to eat macaroni and cheese, you have to know what it is or you will lose connection with your kids. You can’t stop them from changing.”

Yet he continues to teach his own two little children the Chin language of Hakha, as well as cooking Burmese food for them at home. 

Tawk knows the value of hard work. He says, “Don’t pray for things without doing anything. Appreciate the blessing and do something with it.” He knows that immigrants and refugees need courage—courage to get the education they need here and courage to work hard to survive.

Tawk has modeled hard work and courage. He and his wife saw family members opening small grocery stores and restaurants in Dallas and Indianapolis and decided to take the chance themselves. They spent a year renovating this space before opening their doors, which are now open six days a week from morning until night. They also provide carry-out and catering.

Burmese Food
We ask him to tell us more about the food. He launches into an explanation of Burmese history—how their food was impacted by Indian and Chinese people brought to Burma by the Japanese in World War II. Burmese food relies heavily on onion, garlic, ginger, Thai hot peppers, Burmese kimchee, rice and noodles. They incorporate all kinds of meat as well: chicken, beef, pork, and seafood. Their dishes are spicy, salty, and sometimes sour—but within the realm of what a tamer American tongue can savor and appreciate.

Tawk does an excellent job explaining the dishes on the extensive menu. He plans to add ice cream flavored with mango and coconut as well as tea leaf cheesecake as dessert options. He says his most popular items are the curries, fried rice, noodle salads, and soups. He does all of the serving because he wants to explain each food to the customers, while teaching them about his country.

Pa Lian saw many Burmese customers the first month it opened, followed by a mix of Filipinos, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, and Americans. Tawk sees at least twenty of the same customers return a few times each week for fried rice and tea leaves salad.

What is the most rewarding thing about owning the restaurant? Tawk answers this question with pride. “We bring a totally new taste. New flavors to town. People say, ‘We never had that before. Your food is so good. We are so glad you are here.’ They encourage me.” 

Yet at the same time he admits that he is tired. He also gives us a brief glimpse into the loneliness and isolation he feels in American culture, which may be part of the drive behind creating a restaurant to connect different cultures over a shared love of new food.

Sasha and I finish our meal sharing a glass of fresh lime juice mixed with water and lightly sweetened with sugar. It is a perfect end to the explosion of flavors from our dishes.

As we prepare to go, Tawk reminds us of his mission. “It’s not only about the business. Our heart is to bring new food to the town and impact the community. Learn about Burma: our culture and our food, too.”

“My place is a place for connections,” he adds. He’s right. I have discovered a new friend and new food at Pa Lian, and I’ll be back.

A Prayer for Father's Day by Ellen Ellwell

Ellen Ellwell's heartfelt prayer for Father's Day is from her book, Prayers for Every Occasion.

Father God, thank you for blessing me with a kind, patient, and generous father. I wish all children could have that experience. The older I get, the more I realize it's not true in all families. Some children—even in adult years—find it difficult to grasp your unfailing love, partly because of painful memories associated with their earthly fathers. Maybe one of the reasons I haven't struggled to appreciate your kindness, patience, and generosity is that I've observed those qualities in my earthly father.

Please bless all children everywhere who need your help and perspective to work through painful or non-existent memories of their fathers. Please provide them with men in their lives who are outstanding and caring father figures, whether they are relatives, friends, colleagues or pastors.

For those of us whose fathers are still living, may we be quick to express appreciation and thanks to them in spoken or written words for the specific ways they have influenced our lives. As our fathers age, may we be generous with our time, care, and attention, which will honor them and honor you. Amen.

Secondary Relationship by Lorraine Triggs

Shortly before I headed off to Moody Bible Institute as a freshman, the Institute mailed me the student handbook, which I was to read, sign and agree to abide by. Most of the rules made sense, but the dress code, well, that was an entirely different matter.

This was back in the early 70s, and I wore jeans every day to high school. In fact, my high school didn’t even have a dress code. It was liberal before its time. We had open lunch and could leave school whenever we wanted. Some of my Christian friends and I took over one of the restrooms, decreeing that no cigarette or pot smoke was allowed. (Believe it or not, our fellow students respected our takeover.)

If I had to wear a dress, I wore granny skirts and peasant blouses (vintage at a young age.) I wore clogs or sandals or Chugga boots, not ballet flats or high heels.

I was in big trouble even before I started classes. “I don’t want to buy different clothes,” I whined to my mother. “These are stupid rules. Why can’t I wear jeans?”

My mother flipped through the handbook, not tipping her hand one way or the other about the rules. “Well, you do want to go there, right” she asked. I nodded.

“You’ll need to sign it, right?” I nodded, not liking where this was headed. “And if you sign your name, you’ll follow the rules, right?”

I didn’t nod in agreement, instead I asked my favorite question that I had been asking since I was a toddler, “Why?”

The answer was obvious to my mother and it had nothing to do with rule-keeping. “Your name is as good as your word. If you sign it, then you need to keep your word.” 

I'm glad my mother maintained this secondary view of rule-keeping. It's a reminder that rules are good, but not the end all, nor the way to righteousness or relationship.

Though the church I grew up attending was full of rules, my mother never let me confuse those rules with personal holiness. It was the people mattered, not the clothes they wore or what they did or didn't do. I could be a Pharisee in jeans or a dress, and she would have none of that. When you give your word to a person, you had to keep it, whether you were in a formal dress or wearing jeans with holes in the knees. So now the same sort of teaching was extending out to my school of choice.

When I read the prologue to the law in Exodus 20:2, I hear relationship: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery," and Colossians 1:13 echoes in my heart: "he has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son."

On those days when my inner Pharisee makes an appearance, I remember that God has done the delivering, I remember that God wants wholehearted devotion, not my self-righteousness, and then I rest in the truth that I can depend on him to keep his word forever.