The Blind Man of Chimaltenango

This is a memory from my trip to Guatemala in 2004. I wrote it several years ago and have come back to it.

I’m walking through a huge field of elote (pronounced eh-low-teh, meaning “maize”), with stalks reaching far above my head. Some of them must be ten feet tall. I am in Guatemala, and I am the only one on my team who speaks both Spanish and English, so I am voted Guide of the Day.

My team follows the young man whose family owns the field through a maze of maize, asking what this plant is and what this fruit is used for. They are thinking about how cool it is to visit something so unique; I’m thinking about all of the Central American snakes and spiders I’ve encountered in the past that could crawl up my legs at any moment.

We step into the middle of the field to marvel at a sort of peace garden. It’s hot, and I’m thirsty, and I’m hungry for the roasted elote that awaits us when we return to the family’s home. I want to climb the trees, just like I used to climb the mango and rubber trees in Honduras when I wanted to read or think or escape from the world.

We continue through the maze, and when we reach the end, we are greeted by a very old man in his nineties, standing in the doorway of his tiny, one-room shack. His face is tanned and wrinkled, and he squints at the sun through his blind eyes, as if he could see the color of its heat.

The man carries a cane, and he leans on it as we converse. We learn that he is the father of the field owner, and that even though he is blind and ninety years old, he insists on living alone in his shack on the family’s land. He tells us that he gets up every morning at 3am to pray.

I’m twenty and I’m lucky if I give God five minutes…I hold my thought as we work our way back to the house. I gladly accept my ear of elote and a cup of instant coffee and dig in. That is a mistake. This elote is nothing like what I remember from when I was younger. I spend the next half hour discussing with my group how to get rid of it without offending our hosts.

The time comes to leave, so I thank our hosts on behalf of the group. When the cook isn’t looking, I stuff my ear of maize underneath a mound of other ears, already eaten clean. The cook doesn’t even notice. I wonder what they’ll do with all the rest of the elote they’re growing. I’m just glad I won’t be here to eat it; I don’t know if I could pull off the ear-hiding another time.

I leave with my team, headed back to the children’s home in Chimaltenango, hungry, not satisfied, my uneaten gift buried amongst the ears that were scoured clean with thankfulness. I’m haunted by the image of a tanned, toothless blind man who sees more of God in a day than I do in a week.

Maybe God wanted me to leave hungry. Maybe He wanted me to remember.

I wonder how long He’s been standing in His doorway, waiting for me to come out of my maze.


The Story

I wrote this over Christmas break.


That’s the problem with you. You open a book, read the first few chapters, and skip to the ending. When you don’t like how it pans out, you ditch the story altogether. Life doesn’t work like that.

A story isn’t a story without a reader. A reader isn’t a reader without a story. That story is your life, and you have to live it, regardless of the ending. It’s up to you whether that story is a triumph of life, art, love, and endurance or a tale of defeat from the start.

She heard those words in her head and, no matter how hard she tried to shut them out, she couldn’t.

That’s what happens with Truth. It keeps knocking and knocking, relentlessly pursuing you at every angle until you open the door, take off its coat, let it settle in on the couch of your heart, and you see it for what it is. Then, after making yourself a cup of tea, truth stays until you converse with it awhile, letting it speak deep into your soul and pull out the tangled mess of everything within.

With all laid bare, it caresses the rough places to make them smooth, pours salve on the wounds, and crafts them into a new blanket to cover your soul. But now, that blanket is a new creature all of its own, a re-birthed sense of self, a new creation. All of the past combines in just one thread of it all, leaving your eyes to behold the glory that is the essence of yourself—the joys, the dreams, the idiosyncrasies, the hopes you hide from everyone else—they all become knit together as one. And they become you. They become your story. And that story must be told.

She took a deep breath, listening to the sound of her own heartbeat, and began to let those words sink in. Once she had heard them all, she picked up her pen and began to write.


A Prayer

I wanted to be a tidal wave,
washing away the pain of the world,
but You made me a single drop of water
to soothe a single thirsty soul.

So it seems that those big moments –
those explosions of life,
of hope,
of light
in the darkness –
are all created by a handful of sparks
and not just one single flame.

So, make me open and ready
to quench the thirst and light the match
that brings the weary home.

–MK, 8/18/12

Sola Scriptura

God has been teaching me a few neat things in His Word lately, and I thought I’d share them with you.

  • In Mark 5:24-35, a woman with a hemorrhaging issue appears. Most of us have probably heard sermons about her reaching to touch the hem of Christ’s garment and just figured she was grabbing whatever she could, right? It dawned on me last week during a sermon about her that maybe there was something more to it than just that, so I started looking at the other Gospels’ versions of the same story and then did a little research. My suspicions were confirmed: The “hem” or “fringe” of His garment was not the hem as we would normally think it to be. The woman grabbed the prayer knots on the fringe of Christ’s tallit (טַלִּית), the traditional Hebrew prayer shawl/garment. A traditional tallit would have four knots, or tzitziot, one knot at each corner. When a man died, one of those tzitziot would be cut off before he was buried to signify the end of his life. The tallit itself was symbolic of the commandments of God and of the connection between God and man, particularly the reverence God commands from mankind. So when this woman touched the hem of His garment, she was literally reminding Him of His covenant, and He felt the power leave Him. Her faith made her well.
  • Oh, how I love the Psalms. I can’t get enough of them. Lately, two verses in particular have jumped out at me, and I’ve begun to notice a connection. Psalm 97:11 says, “Light is sown like seed for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.” Seeds sown eventually grow when cared for properly. When they grow, they produce a product. As believers, we are sowers of Light. It may take a little while, but eventually, Light will grow, bringing gladness to the upright in heart. And Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” So what is that seed that we sow? The Word. What does it produce? Light. What does that Light give? Understanding and gladness. And His Word does not return void.

“How I love Your Word, my God, my King…And sacrifice and paradise were in the plans that You made. Because I’ll never hold a picture of the whole horizon in my view; because I’ll never rip the night in two, it makes me wonder, ‘Who am I? Who am I?’ and ‘Great are You.'”

Newborn Babies and In-Flight Revelations

I had no idea that a trip to the corn capital of America would teach me so much. Last week, I boarded a plane headed for Des Moines to visit a dear friend, her husband, and their new baby. I arrived there with full suitcases and left with a full heart.

Spending time with the newborn baby caused me to reflect on the Father and His love over and over again. I watched this little boy cry over his basic needs and saw his parents meet them every time. I watched him push away the things he needed, only to clamor for them again. And I watched such a beautiful, perfect trust in his parents and in me as we held him and rocked him to sleep. I want to have faith like that. I want to be able to rest my head in the palm of the Father’s hand, let my arms dangle about at my sides, and just rest, knowing that He’s got it. Because I know He does. Watching that baby was like watching a mirror reflection of myself, and spending time away taught me something else, too.

I came to a wild revelation on the way home: I’m done wandering. Those who know anything about me know that I’ve lived in five states and three countries, have moved over thirty times, and have never stayed in one place more than three years. I’ve always had itchy feet, ready to go somewhere else. While I had a wonderful time away visiting friends last week, I actually found myself missing a place. Missing home. Something I’ve never felt like I had before. It was like God suddenly flipped a switch and rested my heart in a place He’d prepared for me. And here I am, home.

This song by Jason Mraz says it perfectly:

Thank You, Lord, for Your perfect timing and Your infinitely beautiful design. You make all things work together for my good. I love You.