The Day the Bottom Fell Out of Everything

The Arrival
It was a Sunday to remember! Jo and I awoke early after a fitful sleep that first night in the main Canela village. Rain woke several times as it blew in through the open holes in the mud walls, still without shutters. We were exhausted after the 4-day, 75-kilometre trip, and from unloading three metal drums and dozens of cardboard boxes from the truck the day before.

Unloading Six Months Worth of Supplies

So Far So Good
I started a fire outside the back door between three large stones to boil water in a black cast iron pot, so Jo could make coffee and breakfast porridge. Our three pre-school daughters were still fast asleep in their hammocks, worn out from days of riding on top of the truckload of cargo. Porridge bowl in hand, I asked some Canela men to bring lots of thin palm canes to make shelves.

The Problem
After setting up our only furniture—six small wooden stools—and building some makeshift shelves and tables, the chaos began. I picked up a box of food and, two steps later, all the food dropped out the bottom scattering on the floor. The same thing happened to Jo with a box of medicines. Huh? What? Then it hit me.

The Explanation
Construction of our mud walled, palm thatch roofed house was still going on the Saturday we arrived, so the packed earth floor was still damp, and the moisture had soaked into the bottom of all the cardboard boxes standing everywhere on the floor. That clarified the problem. But it solved nothing.

No matter how careful we were, the boxes kept coming apart. Rolls of film, bottles of medicine, boxes of pills, stack of paper, books, and packages of soup, everything was loose and mixed up with everything else. Our girls crawled on the floor, picking things up one by one, and sorting them in little heaps on shelves. Shelves! We need more shelves! We couldn’t live there, let alone minister to anyone, until we had created some order out of the chaos.

Genesis to the Rescue
A passage from Genesis 1 popped into my mind. “The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep.” God looked at the mess and began to create some order. He sorted light from dark, night from day, sky from earth, and land from water. I felt a kinship with my Creator as I sorted my jumbled clutter into separate, orderly piles and stacks of food, medications, study supplies, equipment, and clothes, etc.

More Bible Teaching
“God is not the author of confusion, but of order,” is how Paul summarized his teaching to the church in 1 Corinthians 14:33-40. God constantly creates order. The Israelites leaving Egypt were a confused mob. God created order at Sinai, from there, they marched out in tribes, each in their allotted location. Before Jesus miraculously fed the unruly crowd, he ordered his disciples to make people sit in orderly groups of fifties and hundreds.

The Scientific Principle
Let’s face it, the second law of thermodynamics operates everywhere in the universe, even in the homes of Christians. Disorder tends to increase. Time schedules become skewed, pantry shelves get disorganized, and our good intentions fade away into failure.

On returning home from an extended family visit or ministry trip, it takes Jo and me days to get things re-organized. Critical things like glasses, keys, and power cords hide themselves the moment I turn my back on them.

God’s Will
God wants us to order our lives, so we have regular places and times to work, regular times of sleep, food, rest, and relationships. Frequent times of celebration with others, as well as silence and solitude. Jesus often went off by himself out into the hills to pray, to think, to plan. The Holy Spirit works through order. He blesses others through us when our lives are in order.

When we see an OUT OF ORDER sign on a gas pump or an ATM, we know they are useless. So, what makes us think we can be a source of blessing to anyone if our own lives are in a state of chaos, ready for an OUT OF ORDER sign?

It’s not just about having a place for everything and putting everything in its place. We need to look at every aspect of our lives and ministry for evidences of disorder, confusion and muddle, and create order. Are we punctual, or do others have to wait for us? Do we drive our vehicles in a way that confuses others? Do we have workable and effective routines?

Questions to Ask Before We Act
We need to ask ourselves,“What area of my life bothers me the most? Where has the bottom fallen out of it?”
Then, let’s do what our Creator God did as His first act of creation.
Stop everything, and first, create order out of the chaos.

How To Become a Hero to Your Kids: A Three Step Program

The Screaming
Engine roaring, our one-ton truck jarred, shook and rocked as it laboured up the steep rocky river bank. The screaming and pounding on the cab roof started half-way to the top. “Daddy! Daddy! Stop! Blackie fell off!”

My wife, clinging to her seat beside me, glanced at me but wisely said nothing. It was the afternoon on the third day of difficult travel from our home on the mission centre in Belem, to the Canela village in Brazil. Jo knew I was nearing the end of my ability to cope.

Same truck, different trip. Note blonde head above cab.

I kept going to the top of the bank, then accelerated through a 100-metre stretch of deep sand on level ground. If we slowed down there we would get bogged down and never move again. When we reached a piece of solid ground, I stopped.

The Explanation
I slid out of the cab and walked back along the heavily loaded cargo. Ten-year-old Valorie leaned down from her perch on some boxes and explained:

“Blackie fell off just after we crossed the river. Leanne let go of him when she had to use both hands to hang on.” Wide-eyed youngest daughter Cheryl nodded, saying, “It wasn’t her fault.” Leanne, at the very back was hunched over, crying.

I slogged back through the scorching sand, scrambled down the rocky slope, and saw Blackie near the bottom, lying limply on the sharp rocks. I picked up the much worn, black stuffed toy dog and clambered back up the slope. When I handed the toy up to Leanne, she smiled through her tears and said, “I didn’t think you would stop.”

The Result
That night, I kissed our daughters goodnight as they snuggled into their beds in our mud-walled, palm thatch house. Leanne, holding Blackie with one arm, hugged me tightly around the neck with the other.

“I thought I had lost Blackie forever. But then you stopped and walked all the way back to get him. You are the Best Daddy in the world!”

What I Didn’t Do
So what had I done to become “the Best Daddy in the world”? Spent money? Not a dime. Spent time? A ten-minute walk which is nothing in a three-day trip. Spent time in profound thought and planning? Naw, not a bit. Exercised my sensitivity? Well, maybe a little.

It was, after all, hard to ignore three daughters pounding their fists on the roof of a truck cab, just inches above my head, and screaming, Daddy! Daddy! And then, when I got down and saw a tearstained face and shoulders racking with sobs, even a relatively insensitive lout like me would tend to perceive there might be something going on that needed attention.

What I Did Do
I listened as Valorie explained the problem. Aha! A problem! I’m a problem solver, so this was right down my alley. And so I became, in the opinion of one 8-year-old girl, “The Best Daddy in the world.”

In summary: 1) I noticed something needed attention. 2) I listened as the problem was explained. 3) I used my gifts and abilities to solve the problem and meet the need.

If you are thinking, Hmm, I’m going to follow this simple three-step program, so that on this Father’s day I will be my kid’s hero, here is some more advice:

Advice Some Of Us Need
In this Blackie incident, I didn’t need my wife’s help to sense something needed my attention but usually I need to ask her to help focus my attention on what is needed. I sometimes need her to explain the problem. And when I am really dense, she needs to suggest what I could do about it. You may want to do the same.

Then you act, using your best abilities and gifting, and . . . Tadaa! You become a hero! It doesn’t take a lot to make a deep and lasting impression on a young daughter or son.