Happy 15th.

29 03 2014
07 June 023

Pouty Face Anna

07 June 025

Pity Face Anna

07 June 029

The Queen Holds Court and Blesses Her People




Anniversaries are upon us. Today marks the fifteenth year since Anna was born into this world. April 11 will mark the day that she and Samuel were baptized in Salatiga ten years ago. May 7, of course, marks the day six years ago that she died. Tucked in the middle of all this is the day that we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and that annual reminder that this world is not our home. Anna’s death is not final in any way since she was baptized into death with Christ and was raised with him in his resurrection. She, along with the rest of us here and the rest of the dead saints, awaits the coming of our Lord, at which time the final resurrection will occur and her body–now lifeless ash–will be raised again. What a wonderful day that will be!

These anniversaries that we have every year accompany another related anniversary this year. It was ten years ago that four missionaries were killed by terrorist gunfire in Iraq. One of the four was a young woman named Karen Watson. We had the joy of knowing Karen at our missionary orientation before leaving for Indonesia. She was training for her time in Iraq. That was in Janueary 2003. One evening at orientation, Timberley and I had an opportunity to go out together, and Karen watched Sam and Anna for us while we were out. The kids, almost four and six at the time, probably did not remember much about it. But they did remember a little more than one year later when we heard the news that Karen had been killed in Iraq. The news was a shock and a rude awakening for us that the world around us is a dangerous place. But alongside that thought was the realization that Karen would not have wanted it any other way. You don’t go to Iraq in 2003–we invaded March of that year–without saying goodbye to this world first.

It was a few years after that that we went through the long ordeal of waiting for news about another woman in similar circumstances. Cyd Mizell was a close friend of Timberley and sang in our wedding. But while we were in Indonesia we heard news that she had been kidnapped while working in Afghanistan. Months went by without news until finally the authorities announced that they had enough credible evidence to say that Cyd had been murdered. Her body was never recovered as far as I know. When Cyd died, Anna was definitely aware of the situation and prayed through it with her mother. Again, Cyd would not have wanted things differently. You didn’t go to Afghanistan in 2007 without saying goodbye to your world first.

I say these things not to drudge up bad memories, but to remind myself that Anna understood tragedy. She knew about life and death. She had matured far beyond her nine years. I believe that she could in some sense identify with Karen and Cyd and was able to say with Paul that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That was a bargain that she knew she could live or die with and be content.

I pray that as we pass through this season and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, that you come to know the same peace and contentment that Anna had with Jesus.


We Are Four

1 01 2011

A few days ago I planned to walk our dog, Zeke, to the dog park.  The snow from a week ago is still on the ground, and my walk would take me through the woods behind our house.  I thought it might be a good time to read some poetry on my walk.  I picked up a small volume from the bookshelf, “Wordsworth’s Shorter Poems.”  It turned out to be more than I bargained for.

I forwent the introduction to his life, philosophy, and poetry and dove headlong into the first poem.  I finished “The Reverie of Poor Susan” and turned the page to find “We are Seven.”  I will reproduce the entirety here.  I hope it needs no explanation.

——–A SIMPLE Child,
          That lightly draws its breath,
          And feels its life in every limb,
          What should it know of death?

          I met a little cottage Girl:
          She was eight years old, she said;
          Her hair was thick with many a curl
          That clustered round her head.

          She had a rustic, woodland air,
          And she was wildly clad:                                    10
          Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
          –Her beauty made me glad.

          “Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
          How many may you be?”
          “How many? Seven in all,” she said
          And wondering looked at me.

          “And where are they? I pray you tell.”
          She answered, “Seven are we;
          And two of us at Conway dwell,
          And two are gone to sea.                                    20

          “Two of us in the church-yard lie,
          My sister and my brother;
          And, in the church-yard cottage, I
          Dwell near them with my mother.”

          “You say that two at Conway dwell,
          And two are gone to sea,
          Yet ye are seven!–I pray you tell,
          Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

          Then did the little Maid reply,
          “Seven boys and girls are we;                               30
          Two of us in the church-yard lie,
          Beneath the church-yard tree.”

          “You run about, my little Maid,
          Your limbs they are alive;
          If two are in the church-yard laid,
          Then ye are only five.”

          “Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
          The little Maid replied,
          “Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
          And they are side by side.                                  40

          “My stockings there I often knit,
          My kerchief there I hem;
          And there upon the ground I sit,
          And sing a song to them.

          “And often after sunset, Sir,
          When it is light and fair,
          I take my little porringer,
          And eat my supper there.

          “The first that died was sister Jane;
          In bed she moaning lay,                                     50
          Till God released her of her pain;
          And then she went away.

          “So in the church-yard she was laid;
          And, when the grass was dry,
          Together round her grave we played,
          My brother John and I.

          “And when the ground was white with snow,
          And I could run and slide,
          My brother John was forced to go,
          And he lies by her side.”                                   60

          “How many are you, then,” said I,
          “If they two are in heaven?”
          Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
          “O Master! we are seven.”

          “But they are dead; those two are dead!
          Their spirits are in heaven!”
          ‘Twas throwing words away; for still
          The little Maid would have her will,
          And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

Dog Hickeys

3 08 2010

Timberley took Sam and Anna into the backyard of our house in Semarang to take some pictures of them.  We did not have school pictures or other portraits of the children, so she thought she would dress up the kids and try to take some nice pictures.  Unfortunately, the day she planned to take the pictures, the kids went out into the yard and played with our newly born puppies.  They were amazed at how the puppies would root around looking for milk to drink.  They discovered that they could fool the puppies by putting them next their chins.  You can see the result in the picture.  Timberley was not very happy with the result.

But even with tongue out, and a hickey on her chin, you could not mask Anna’s beauty and charm.

Anna’s Peck of Pickled Peppers

14 10 2009

Anna at three.  Learning her first tongue twister.

Any Ideas?

2 09 2009


I came across this photo tonight.  Anna is in the front.  Samuel is in the red swim suit in the rear.  Anyone have idea what they are doing?  (No fair if you have lived for anytime in Indonesia!)

Anna with Her Eyes Wide

24 08 2009


Our family took a break from Switchfoot for a while in our car.  I am not sure what brought that on.  But recently we have started again.  Maybe there is just something driving around in a maroon Volvo station wagon that brings out the rocker in you.

When we listen to them in the car we use an iPod plugged into a device that sends the music to the car radio.  (Disclaimer: The iPod is the only Apple device used in our family.)  We have set the iPod to play our entire collection of 68 Switchfoot songs in random order and to keep repeating them.  I remember on our trips to and from Semarang from our home in Salatiga, one of the kids, I think it was Samuel, made the observation that the Switchfoot songs that came up on our ipod all seemed to come in groups.  That is, there would be a whole section of fast and loud songs, and then a whole batch of sad songs, etc.  Samuel noticed that it was interesting that the songs that came on the radio seemed to match whatever mood he happened to be in.


I remember one particular trip to Semarang the Sunday morning that we found out that our friend, Cyd Mizell, who had been kidnapped in Afghanistan, had probably been murdered.  Every song on the radio seemed to have some bearing on Cyd’s life and death.  The song that seemed most poignant to me was Switchfoot’s song “Burn Out Bright.”  The recurring line in the chorus was, “Before I die I want to burn out bright.”  I was certain that Cyd had burned out bright.

This afternoon Timberley and I drove to Samuel’s school to watch his soccer game.  On the way, we listened again to Switchfoot.  Right in a row we listened to “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine,” “Twenty-four,” and “The Blues.”  The song “Twenty-four” was one of the first songs we listened to the day after Anna died.  It was on our drive from Salatiga to Semarang where we were headed for the second memorial service to be held at the seminary where I taught.  I chose that song first because I wanted to hear the line, “Life was not what I thought it was twenty-four hours ago.  Still I’m singing, ‘Spirit take me up in arms with you.'”  I wanted to recognize the sadness and the faith at the same time.

I don’t know what the life story is of Jon Foreman, the singer and songwriter for the group, but he understands sadness and faith.  After Anna died I found a song that I ended up using in her memorial service in California.  It was from the second Narnia movie soundtrack, Prince Caspian.  Anna had not seen the movie, which she would not have liked, and she never heard this song, which she would have loved.  The song is called “This is Home.”  Jon Foreman explained in an interview that he was trying to write a song that would capture the spirit of the Narnia Chronicles, but there is one line in the song that he felt summed up C. S. Lewis’s writings:  “Created for a place I’ve never known.”  That was the line which grabbed me the first time I heard the song.  Later, after I heard the song 20 or 30 times that first day, another line took hold of me.  It was when I imagined the song being sung about Anna as she entered the presence of the Lord, or to keep with the Lewis theme, when she entered the Land of Aslan.  The line goes, “I’ve got my heart set on what happens next.  I’ve got my eyes wide.  It’s not over yet.”  Three photographs I have of Anna came to mind when I heard the line, “I’ve got my eyes wide.”  They are the ones I have put in this post.  I imagined the playfulness and the sheer happiness of Anna as she stepped into the presence of her Lord.california-2007-071 I imagine this is what Jesus saw as she stepped forward, or rather, as she ran toward him.

Anna Loved Even the Ugly

22 08 2009


Those who knew Anna or have heard her stories know that Anna loved animals.  She loved creatures of all kinds.  We have many photos of Anna with bugs, lizards,etc. (even an infamous and rarely shown photo of Anna with a number of large snails on her face that we were preparing for the Guiness Book of World Records, but that is another story).  Indonesians were always surprised at the boldness of both Samuel and Anna when it came to handling these creatures.  They quickly learned which ones to stay away from and which ones are harmless.  The caterpillars in Indonesia have nasty spikes along the backside that immediately stick in your skin if you touch them.  The cicaks (chee-chalk), the small household lizards that run all over your walls and ceilings, especially at night, are harmless and even helpful because they eat the mosquitoes and other bugs.  In Semarang, our backyard was full of frogs at night.  We think they may have come from a string of frog eggs that Timberley and the kids took out of a large pool of water at the train museum in Ambarawa and then brought home with them to watch hatch, but that is another story.  Walking in our backyard at night was like walking into a pot of corn being popped.  With every step taken it seemed as if four or five frogs would leap into the air to evade your foot.  The kids loved going out at night to catch or corral the frogs into places.  These were the animals that probably caused the most consternation with our helpers.  They were convinced that the frogs had poisonous skins and that the kids should not be handling them.  It surprised them a bit when our kids’ hands did not fall off or turn purple.  If nothing else, our kids gave the Indonesians something to laugh and talk about.

I mention these things because all kids, I think, to a certain extent are attracted to animals that are different, weird, or exciting.  I included a picture above of Anna with one of our dogs, Spotty.  Spotty was nasty.  He was gross.  If he wasn’t so pitiful and needing of compassion, there would have been no positive emotion extended from me to him.  I did not like him.  Timberley did not like him.  We endured him.  Spotty had to be experienced.  The only way I can try to explain what it was like to live with Spotty is to say that whenever he came around, he had a penchant for licking your toes.  It was never your hand or anything else.  Just your toes.  There was something wrong with that.  There were three reasons I kept Spotty.  First, we also owned his mother, Molly.  I liked Molly.  She had her problems, too, but I don’t think I ever had a dog as faithful as Molly.  Second, I loved my kids and it would have torn them and our household apart to even mention getting rid of Spotty.  Third, I don’t think anyone would have taken him, even as food.

When we came back to Indonesia in 2007 after our stateside assignment in the fall of 2006, we had a bit of a shock.  Both of our dogs’ hair was dirty and matted.  For Molly, this was not much a problem because she had pretty short hair.  Spotty, on the other hand, had very long and thick hair.  When we came back and looked at him even I felt a little sorry for him.  His hair was matted into what felt like a thick wool blanket glued to his skin.  We tried to bathe him, but the water and soap would not penetrate this outer armor.  I decided we needed to cut it all off.  During the bath and the shearing, however, we discovered something disturbing.  Both Molly and Spotty were covered in ticks.  We saw them first on Molly because we could see through her fur more easily.  With Spotty we did not see what was happening until we started cutting away these large patches of fur.  We discovered hundreds of ticks on him.  They were nesting underneath the canopy of his fur and breeding new ticks.  We discovered that the mother ticks who are laying eggs attach themselves to the animal and then swell up several times their normal size to provide for all of the eggs.  He easily had 50 or more of these large female ticks on him.  We cut away all of the fur from him, shaved him down to the skin, and began the slow process of removing all of these ticks.  It was dirty work.  It was gross.  And in the end we had two very happy and very ugly-looking dogs.  And we had two very happy children.

Anna loved the bizarre.  Anna loved the unique things of the world.  But Anna also loved the ugly.  Although a story about a pitiful, tick-infested dog may not be the best example of this, I believe that the love of Christ moved Anna to look beyond outward appearances and to love and have compassion for all.