kata. pa,nta euvcaristei/te\ dio,ti tou/to ei=nai
to. qe,lhma tou/ Qeou/ pro.j evsa/j evn Cristw/| VIhsou/Å

Em tudo, dai graças, porque esta é
a vontade de Deus em Cristo Jesus para convosco.

In every thing give thanks: for this is
the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5.18

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner, and I am on a see-saw of intercultural thoughts that poke my muse. In the United States, it is a national holiday that reminds of when  pilgrims celebrated a worship service of thanksgiving because, after having suffered two devastating winters that cut down many of their people, they now had an abundant harvest of what they had planted and would be stored for the coming winter months. Initially the New World colonists were Reformed Calvinists escaping religious persecution in their countries of origin. To this banquet they invited the Native Americans who had given them succor in their affliction, seeds for planting, teaching new fishing and hunting methods and harvesting the fruit of the land. These guests did not see themselves as having the liberty of stuffing themselves to death, but as honored and worthy co-laborers, they also brought their food to share with these light-skinned, dark-clothed, often clumsy colonists who prayed to one only God, spoke a complicated language and sported many weird customs.

Brazil, for ages copycat of everything American, did not easily adopt this day. Though there was no small effort by the Bradesco Bank in the Sixties to celebrate National Thanksgiving Day throughout Brazil, they did better at copying the commercial Black Friday of shopping malls. We are bombarded with “80% OFF” consumer objects we do not need, in a frenzy to buy, buy. sped, spend, I want, I need, I just couldn’t resist—and we forget to give thanks for the grat blessings and small victories in which we live and move.

True, many in North America also forget their history of faith and see this day as Turkey Day, watching football (American, not the Brazilian national sport which Americans call soccer), family that only communicates once a year get together to eat until they burst. Why turkey? Because Indians taught colonists how to hunt wild ones and send starvation far away.

I've bought my turkey and will share it wth about fifty young people of all ages from our church (IPP) who will be coming over to our farm on Saturday (because in our State of São Paulo this Thursday is no holiday) for a community feast. Hope the other forty nine also bring food and drink because one turkey, even an eighteen-pounder, is too little for so many people! Yes, the Lord Jesus will be present, but in our present era does not go around splurging the New Testament times miracle of multiplication of fish and loaves on postmodern believers--who should be learning to work hard for our daily bread and have enough to share, while simultaneously resting in the Lord of Life and Provider of All Things. Just one more of those thoughts and facts we must learn to weigh, balance, share and pass on to our neighbors and kin.

I remember a Thanksgiving a few years ago in Philadelphia, when we invited my uncle Philip Stowell to our table. I made a huge pumpkin stuffed with shrimp, Brazilian style, and he gave us the gift of the story about when he was in the Navy after the second world war and was assigned to help the chef prepare turkey stuffed with “oyster dressing”— for hundreds (or thousands?!) of gringo soldiers homesick for a real thanksgiving banquet. À propos, we also had a stuffed turkey for dinner in Philly: the bird was a gift from Nina, my boss and the pastor’s wife from the church we attended in exilio,) and the fixings of cranberry sauce, corn, creamed onions, other vegetables and cornbread. An international culinary mishmash!

I know our dinner did not quite match the banquet Uncle Phil described, but we were grateful for the mercies and providence of God during meager as well as feasting times He always gives. And we “weird foreigners with strange customs” were able to share with my “all-American New Englander” since Cotton Mather and Pocahontas’s times uncle, a little of the joy of Jesus. Like many senior citizens in North or South America, he was extremely lonely and we had  a profusely present family to liberally give away.

Presently we live in a city founded by bandeirantes of Portuguese origin that sunk their roots in Mogi das Cruzes more than  450 years ago. Lau is a descendant of, a bandeirante and the legendary Native Brazilian Bartira. I am remembering ancestors who crossed the Atlantic in tiny ships and once on dry land , built, with axe, shovels and rough tools, first a school and a church, before putting up their frugal one-room homes lacking “essential commodities”—but knew their Bibles, sharing what they knew with their children, neighbors and friends. I remember the relationship David Brainerd developed with the Indians less than a hundred years later from the budding English New World colony, and  see shadows loom tall, of people molded by faith in the God who had chosen them to be His people.

Now I fast-forward to this next-weekend’s video and try to balance my wandering thoughts about food, hospitality to friends, giving and receiving, giving thanks in everything and for everything, with tales of the first  Thanksgiving in the New World and the thanksgiving of the Hebrew people in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. In spite of the complaints characteristic of God’s people under Moses or under Obama or Dilma today, whether an abundance of quail instead of wild turkeys, manah instead of cornbread or Indian Pudding, water bursting from a rock in the desert instead of abundant streams and lakes of the “beautiful for spacious skies and amber waves of grain”, there have always been reasons to give thanks. Later, in the land of Israel conquered, inhabited, consolidated, invaded, sacked by consecutive kings and warriors, and many times re-built, Bread and Water of Life came down incarnate. After His death and resurrection, while Pedro and Company Ltd decided to go back to fishing and couldnt catch anything, Jesus waited for them on the rocky shore and prepared  a breakfast of grilled fish and pita bread, to talk with them about love and shepherding God’s flock  (John  21:3-24). Jesus had multiplied a boy’s lunch of fish  ad rolls for a hungry audience of over five thousand. Now He prepared the fish for frustrated fishermen and turned them into men who built His church, turned the world upside down and would indellibly mark history of Christianity for all times, to the ends of the earth. John the evangelist ends his narrative saying that  “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written”— This is the Good News for which disciples, apostles, rude fishemen and eminent theologians and thinkers of all shapes and colors, people of all kinds, from the birthplace of ancient civilization to the setting sun of modern civilization have reasons galore to give thanks. no longer need promote --local, national, traditional or borrowed from different cultures, neither descendants of English, Dutch, disinherited Portuguese, slaves brought over on ships from Africa, or landowning slaveholders  -- once-a-year days of thanksgiving –

a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues...  and all the angels ... the elders ... and beasts fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. Revelation 7:9-12

I am looking forward to our thanksgiving dinner, whether next Saturday, Thursday or any other day we get together to celebrate. Above all, I look forward to a Wedding banquet of the Lamb, in which the guests will be of all kinds, and the Host and Owner of the Party, the only Lord. You, and any who want to, are invited to join us!

Elizabeth Gomes



In 1998 friends who had been part of our church in Boston offered a gift to us—the dream of my life: a trip to the Holy Land. Their generosity not only gave us ten days of tourism that stretched the limits of our heartstrings, but continue to bless and perturb sixteen years since.

It was the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel, and the girl who dreamed Israel since she began to read Bible history at around eight years of age had also turned fifty. Lau and I had started our ministry in 1969 among Jews in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais,  and São Paulo, even after we left that mission, continued to study and remain fascinated with things Jewish. He taught Jewish Evangelism at the seminary from which we had graduated, and I read and befriended judaica: people, ideas and achievements. As committed Christians, we believed that there is still an important place in God’s dealing with humanity for the children of Israel. Jewish friends were part of our life; we believed Yeshua to be Hameshiach, but did not try to proselytize—only pre-evangelizing, creating bridges and bonds which would reach out and bring into the fold of the Great and Only Shepherd of Israel.

We have friends and colleagues who, while believing the Bible, interpret what it says about the future in amillennial or postmillennial ways. Though we respect them, we dare differ. Our historical premillenial view of God’s dealing with all nations of the earth allows us to make distinctions between Jews, Gentiles and the Church, and believe that God still has a purpose for each group. In one sense, the church is continuation of the children of Israel—we are sons and daughters of Abraham by faith. But Israel as a people and a nation still are unique, and there is a promise for those who pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  I identify with the apostle Paul’s longing for “the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen”(Romans 9:3-8). Of course I knew that “it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring” (v.8) and because we believe that God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable, I considered myself to be a “daughter of Sarah” by faith. "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one... they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" I applied God’s promises through Isaiah to his servant  that this people of the covenant  would be a light unto the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness—which the gospel of John (8:2) attested as being Christ himself, and Dr. Luke documented in his story of  Jesus’ first sermon in the synagogue of Nazareth, when  he read Isaiah and declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

I was enchanted with the way Edith Schaeffer followed the crimson thread of redemption in her presentation  of Christianity as being Jewish, and rejoiced in roots in history that point to identification with Israel from days of old. But going to Israel was not a magical encounter. I walked the land where Jesus walked, but saw, on one hand, misguided Christians, just as their Jewish peers, who believed that placing a written prayer in the cracks of the ruins of the walls of the Temple would assure God’s answer to prayer (a woman minister who was in our group had been given the ticket and all expenses paid to bear the prayers of her congregation in the US and stick them in the cracks). And they went down to river Jordan to be re-baptized or dipped seven times for healing in the same manner as Elisha told the pagan general to do (a lady with cancer on the bus with me said that she had made the pilgrimage and therefore “claimed her healing” after the Jordan dip. I walked the stony shore of Galilee where Jesus talked to his disciples about stony hearts as well as singling out Peter and saying: “You are a pebble, but you are a stone also, and upon the Rock I will build my church”...

Lots of superstition surrounded a journey through the Holy Land, and the most appalling was in the visit to Omar’s Mosque, which is built on the ancient site of the Temple and where, ages before, Abraham had presented his only son in sacrifice. Lau refused to enter that monument to the destruction of Judaism. I entered to observe the artistic beauty of the architecture. While under the arches and surrounded by incredible mosaics (or would I say, arabaics) of that gold-domed palace, in my ten-minute walk through that holy spot I saw a mother sock the mouth of her little child and a man hit the face of his veiled wife. Bethlehem was visited, not by shepherds or wise men, but buyers of holy oil and olive-wood trinkets, a town infested by anti-Israel haranguers preaching at every corner to men who religiously bowed five times a day toward Mecca and while living in freedom in Israel, swear to destroy the Jews that harbor them.

Antisemitism is as old as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and we Christians are ashamed at the many times it was wielded in the name Christ, the only Perfect Jew, against Jews of all kinds. Many of the first who colonized Brazil were “cristãos novos” – Jews forced by the Inquisition to become “Christian” or die. Cohens became Coelhos (rabbits), Pereses became Pereiras (pear trees)—but there was a coexistence even when much of the Jewish tradition was completely swallowed up.

My adopted country, Brazil, was the first to welcome the State of Israel into the United Nations in 1948, but today the presidenta made a speech in that disunited union condemning the United States’ intervention in the Middle East and saying “we must dialogue with Hamas and ISIS”, making clear her predilection for Islamic State’s atrocities in Iran and Syria against Christians and Jews, and despising anything we “anti-socialists” do for humanitarian causes. She was the only chief of State in the world to emit such a blatant discourse! Brazil is a melting pot and harbor for people of every tribe and nation—and presently a “preferred residence” for terrorists. I am appalled to see many evangelicals swallow the propaganda of godless men and women who in the name of freedom incongruously prefer an Allah-for-men-only dominated culture than Judeo-Christian thought.

Many of our friends had their origin in the Middle East: Lebanese and Armenians, Turks and Persians and not-so-modern Babylonians, Druses and Syrians. I love the food they taught us to appreciate, their generous, gregarious, hospitable welcoming of strangers. These “arabs” are in all segments of Brazilian society, many in high leadership positions far above their tiny storeowners and traveling salesmen grandparents. They coexist well with the Jewish descendants of those who fled persecution in Nazi Germany or Bolshevik Iron Curtain lands. As I think of God’s mercy on all nations of the earth, I cannot help but love and accept people descended from Ishmael, as well as from the twelve tribes of Jacob. Or from tribes of Gês, Tapuias and Tupinambás or the more than three hundred other people-nations which made up Brazil’s first inhabitants, and were also decimated by “christianizers” centuries ago.

As an unlikely and unknown American living and serving Christ in Brazil on a little piece of farmland, with no merit or fame to my credit, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as do many sisters and brothers like (and different from) me. But my yearning, as a citizen of heaven, is to see the day when a declaration that transcends all nationalities is made:

You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals; For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth." (Rev. 5:9) and
behold, a great multitude which no one could number,
of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
clothed with white robes,
with palm branches in their hands,
and crying out with a loud voice, saying,
"Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:9-10)

Elizabeth Gomes




Recently a young friend posted on facebook the first things he planned to buy when he got royalties from the book he was beginning to write. Another would-be writer countered that he (the unhatched writer who was counting chickens as first-class aviary empire) had better wait till his beard was long and knotty before he started counting the dividends. I chuckled, because I know exactly the feeling (though have never grown a beard, smooth or knotty). Have dreamed of writing three or four Books and Culture top of the list Christian non-fiction bestsellers, as well as a New York Times fiction blockbuster since I was thirteen or fourteen, and over fifty years of my life have gone by without any of those goals being even closely reached. This does not mean that I haven’t inscribed, penned, typed, composed or digitated on personal computer any literary and life-building gems over the years – actually all I do these days (besides caring for beloved people by cooking, cleaning, gardening, putting up with anything that has to be done around our place) is read and write. Have translated over one hundred Christian books from English to Portuguese, three from Portuguese to English, a couple from Spanish to Portuguese and one big architectural manual from French to Portuguese. Still dream of producing memorable reads, and have published six books of my own as well as numerous articles over the years, but am far from being known as an author. Better known as Lau’s wife or mother of Davi (or Deborah or Daniel, depending on the social circle in which I’m mentioned) and now, grandmother of ... (won’t mention names because all seven are important young people who plan to make a difference in this wonderful fallen world)!

Back to my theme (one of my pet peeves is the tendency to run around in circles with facts, motives, thoughts and dreams), being a writer or would-be author may be the major activity in my life, but I must admit that it won’t yield much money. Here in Brazil, translations for Christian publishers are paid by the 1200-pica page, and my own books get slim royalties that do not cover the cost for having a cleaning lady once a week for the six months or more it takes to write one book.  Certainly, there are best-selling authors who buy mansions and BMW’s and get their names dropped at every party of wannabe intellectuals even in Brazil (like Paulo Coelho or defunct Jorge Amado), but they don’t write Christian books, and I do not dig for ungodly treasures. The market my husband and I write for has no booths in vanity fair – we aim for ministry, service to the body of believers and the host of unbelievers who may seek the Word of Life by some word we might communicate. Many of these unbelievers are the best thinkers and kindest doers I know, and some believers we know are unbelievably clumsy when it comes to thinking logically and biblically, but we do try to reach, teach and transform lives, and that mission marks our words. Whether read by a hundred or ten thousand, if ten people can be impacted for eternity as well as for times like these, I will count it all joy.

Just got a message from my editor asking me to give my account number so they can deposit the payment of my “author’s rights”. Last time I was paid for my “rights” it was a couple of hundred dollars. Royalties? More like serfities! Maybe made a thousand reais over the fifteen most recent years. We do get paid for what we sell, but with illness curtailing seminars and speaking engagements, sales from our books are pretty meager. My facebook acquaintance can let his beard grow for a good many years before the eggs get golden.

A couple of years ago I took an American course in writing and publishing for the Christian USA market, with the hope of breaking into print in the evangelical arena there. A modest advance for a book there would yield the money needed as down-payment to publish and advertise two books for the Christian market in Brazil, so I pursued that goal, with no results. I could not honestly say I had an audience of  ten thousand where I could speak and be heard in America. So, no sale – yet. (Did publish an article in a Sunday School take-home paper there.) Actresses and soccer players become authorities overnight even if the inane things they say cannot fill the heart and brain of an ant, but years of wisdom and service to God’s people count as nothing in the religious publishing world. I am a writer, but have no authority as a thinker and doer who makes a difference. I do not yearn for greatness or fame – only faithfulness and steadfastness in what and how I communicate. But I must learn – anew – that writing is not about ME, that I am not the author or even transcriber of good words.

The wisest of kings of Israel, Solomon, who wanted to be known throughout posterity as a Teacher not only was wise, but also knowledgeable in communicating knowledge to people. Ecclesiastes (12:9-14) says of Koheleth:

“He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails-- given by one Shepherd.”  

 That is the deep desire of any writer who believes the word of our Shepherd. Like any who plan to write balancing realism and hope, he must add a warning:

 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Goads and firmly embedded nails are a gift from above. No writer today is divinely inspired like Moses, David, Ezra or Apostle Paul or Dr. Luke. Yet each writer who wants to communicate godly wisdom will be judged not just by what she or he writes, but how he and she think or live—every hidden thing, whether good or evil, emerges in some way!

That is contrary to what post-modern writers of today—literary theorists, best-selling authors, Pulitzer journalists or tabloid gossipers—say about good writing. My grandsons’ teacher says that what the writer writes really does not matter, because each reader “owns” what he or she interprets, emptying any meaning the original author intended to give. One boy turned to his teacher commenting, “Well then, I can give any answer on any test any way I want, because as the reader, once it has been published, I own what the writer says, and my interpretation is as good as the next one’s.” The instructor replied, “No you can not. You have to read what I said, know what I taught and do exactly what is expected in my class. What I just affirmed is literary theory—exclusively outside the classroom and grades spectrum!”  

The teenage students came home outraged at the foolishness their teacher proposed, and immediately dug into their books on Philosophy by Christian thinkers. Which goads me to thinking about the matter of authors and authorities. In my own  teenage years, I wanted to question any authority—especially if someone was “lording it over me”. Even today I cringe when someone writes as if her words were written on stone tablets. A writer who communicates well does not shove opinions down my throat or treat me like a proverbial dumb blonde. We abhor prejudiced know-it-alls who do not respect readers and consider as mute emptyheads those who read their magnanimous postulations.

Good ideas have to precede good writing, and the only Supreme Authority is the Creator of every good gift (James 1:17)—any other creator is an imitator, no matter how much she tries to be original. God creates from nothing—we create from something the Creator has already thought, declared or done through timeless eternity! Even highly-educated, knowledgeable writers don’t know it all, and any authority they have is conceded by authorities higher than they are.

I have a friend who gushes adjectives and adverbs in torrents of verbosity, but ignores any relationship that has caused pain. Consequently, she has very little to say about what really matters in life. She doesn’t understand why her articles aren’t published—her double major and master’s degrees make her an authority in Language, but don’t produce the author she wants to be. Other friends, deficiently educated, are always attuned to life-changing ideas linked to people they love—these are perpetual learners who express themselves beautifully. Sometimes I wish I had thought or said exactly what they shared. Even their often sparse everyday conversation is never trite!

Writers of the Old Testament did not simply relate history or facts of Jewish life. The book of Ezra is about books and decrees by pagan rulers—fitting subject matter for an author well-versed in the Law of Moses as well as the history and laws of Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians and the kings, advisers and powerful officials of the Middle Eastern world. But what has been documented for three thousand years about this maven writer-priest is recorded in Ezra 7:9 and 10:

 For the gracious hand of his God was on him.  For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Same goes for Daniel, another wise thinker who did not write exclusively for God’s people, but inclusively for several dynasties that ruled the world. Abducted from among young princes of Judah to Babylon, God gave  knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds” (1:17)  through Daniel’s time as advisor to Darius, king of Persia, to whom he foretold the future Greek dominion, this Hebrew prince humbly wrote about events that would shatter the known world. Though they came from all walks of life—princes and cowherds were equally prophets, there were also kings unequaled in literary genius—the shepherd warrior poet David, and Schlomo, his highly educated-genius-philosopher-teacher compiler of proverbs and collector of wives.

The Gospels narrate the encounters between Jesus and the people around him, many times expressing admiration that he spoke, taught, healed, forgave, expelled demons with authority—not as their scribes (Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32). Their writers, the educated men whose living was based on the Book, who postulated on ever jot and tittle of the Law, did not have authority when it came to living out their faith. Instead, they were like whitened tombs! After the resurrection, the disciples were invested with authority to speak boldly and impact their world for change, beginning in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Peter the Coward spoke and wrote movingly. Murderous Saul mellowed into a writer of letters that build and multiply the visible and invisible church to this day. A son of thunder became the Apostle of love. Incredible writers all, you can believe it!

I’ve read much about writing, and written a lot about what I’ve read over the years, and have to admit I still have eons to learn. Simultaneously more pointed as well as more softened in what I write, wish I were an author with authority, but have to settle to being scribe and translator, though I will continue writing and producing good reads, better in each article or book! Tips have been many, some useless, others priceless, but if I want to write with eternity’s values in view, it has to be like the anonymous writer of Hebrews (who, by the way, wrote several things about authority and authorship):

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Elizabeth Gomes



Last week an editor friend sent us two books. Wish all my friends who are editors had the generosity of our friend Felipe, who lavishes us with the printed word from his consideration and production for the Refugio library! (These gifts will reach and provoke so many more readers and possible writers). The first was Michael Reeve’s doctrinal introduction to the Triune God, which enlarges one’s understanding of grace and the glories of God’s being. The other book surprised and boggled my hunger for beauty in writing on things long known and loved, presented in unique, almost unbelievable ways—about creation and destruction, belief and unbelief, and everything imaginable in between time and eternity. I had never heard of N. D. WILSON. His Notes from the tilt-a-whirl hooked me with its dizzying, reelingly real story of life in relation to eternal life.  With every enticing word woven through, I wondered, in my sinful writers’ jealousy, why I had never imagined such art-laden metaphors. Discovered that Nathan Wilson is a very young (younger than my youngest son) Fellow of Literature and novelist who has made his mark with children’s books which I’m dying to read and pass on to my grandchildren. A sample of the amusement park disequilibrium grown-up unbalancer:

This universe is a portrait in motion, a compressed portrait in motion, a miniature, inevitably stylized, for it is trying to capture the Infinite. The galaxies are each one fraction of a syllable in a haiku of the Ultimate. On the human level, attempts at taking a sunset from the small frame of the horizon and putting it on a postcard; taking a blues riff, the rhythmic vibration of strings, and capturing a sense of loss; marble, chiseled and shaped until it shows nobility; a cartoonist’s frame, grabbing at six-year-old boyness, grabbing at laughter… What is the best of all possible things:  That which is infinite, always present and undecaying. That which is both many and one. That which is pure, ultimate, and yet humble. That which is spirit and yet personal. That which is just and yet merciful. Yahweh, God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost... What is the best of all possible Art. That which reveals, captures, and communicates as many facets of that Being as is possible in a finite frame [Notes from the tilt-a-whirl, N.D. Wilson. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013, p.108].

Both books gifted are about God and how he defines and hones the artist in his image-bearing creatures who “communicate in finite frame”. They got me to thinking how trite my own communication is, even as I try to make what I write spring from and overflow with  coram deo reality.

Despite the admonition of Dorothy Thompson, my ancient teacher at Palavra da Vida 45 years ago, to “be balanced”, despite my wealth of years in communicating Christian life, I still totter and sometimes fall flat on my face. Take the tilt-a-whirl condition Paul bemoans in Romans 7:

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin (vv.18-25).

This conflict between the good I crave and the evil I am has been with me since I became a person. The greatest thinker, church-founder and writer Paul and a lopsided attempter at thinking and writing Beth Gomes—both assert that there is no getting away from our human condition. It is exemplified in all aspects of our life.

Take the double edged sword of writing/translating. My heart’s desire is to write well, be read and recognized as someone who has something to say and says it with graceful sharpness. I do not yearn for riches or even best-seller status—just want to share life experiences in a way that touches many others. I want to know Jesus better and communicate with women and men, young and old, how he touched and transformed me. His story, my stories, the stories of people all over the world, of inner struggles and outer battles of those both extra and ordinary, with pain and exultations (the power of his resurrection and fellowship of his sufferings, Philippians 3:10), are all part of what I want to write.

How I want to write? Well, with beauty, simplicity and poignancy. Practical stuff, the stuff of love and life—without stuffiness—and learning out of the mouths of babes, utterances of unforgettable women and men.

What do I write? I have several projects, and though sometimes fear there are too many irons in the fire, have proposed five for the next few years: 1) Joint project with my husband on Life Changes in letter to Philippians; 2) Flesh out a textbook for a course on Women`s Issues in Counseling; 3) Write a storybook-cookbook on Refúgio cuisine, its preparation, presentation and provision; 4) Fiction – a novel based on missionary and native Brazilian life. This has been in my mind for twenty years and is two-thirds written—must complete, query and submit to US publisher; 5) Fiction based on the oft-told story of Esther, weaving Persia and its endangered Jewish diaspora population, with women in Iran who search for meaning in the God who sought and wooed them with an everlasting love.

Okay, so those projects should keep my arthritic fingers dancing. But besides what I will write there is the fact of what I am doing now. Last year I translated Kevin De Young’s Crazy Busy, which was a thirty-nine lashes admonition for me: don’t fill my life with busy-ness. But translation—that copycat activity which yields some cash for expenses not covered by being a wife and/or being retired, gobbles up a huge serving of the day. Work in translating Christian books has numerous advantages: 1) I learn from authors admired, acquiring knowledge, understanding and abilities of men and women with multi-perspectives; 2) I make the word available to people of cultures different from those original authors, building bridges and consolidating Christian lives in places I could never personally reach; 3) I learn to discern: spiritual, intellectual, practical keenness.

After a hundred translations to my pen, I’ve lost count, and the advantages of plodding through books good and bad, and making them into good reading in another language, are too many to enumerate, so, let me now mention a couple of disadvantages. 1) I’ve already hinted at the fact that my time is sequestered: when I’m translating someone else’s book, I am not working on my own. No matter I’m learning, making good books available, building bridges and consolidating Christian living as well as enhancing keen discernment—my own production is impaired and stymied. 2) As translator, I flit from heavy to ultra-light, from Carl Henry, Michael Horton, D. A. Carson or Nancy Pearcey to Dave Powlison or Ed Welch or Paul Tripp or John Piper (these last four are not light in content, but in pleasurable delight even with heavy themes.) My own thinking can become not only Poythress’ multi-perspectival but  Beth Gomes’own multi-mixed up! 3) Sometimes what I have translated becomes incorporated into my own work in a way that I forget to attribute something to an author I have worked on, and replay the text as my own. I am in constant need of revision, to see again what I say and make worthy reference to my predecessors.

Wish there were paid sabbaticals for freelance writers! Along with my life companion Lau and with Paul of old, I have learned to be content in every situation, be humbled or exalted, in need or well-supplied (Philippians 4:11). But sometimes I wish there were time and money to purchase more books and write my heart’s stories instead of other people’s doctrinal teaching! I know I grow with giants and great reads—at times I groan with the insufficiencies and inadequacies of my own life. Yet—this is a wonderful word I must always share—I press on, I press toward the goal, reaching forward to those things which are ahead!

In some ways, I am the same girl who wrote eighteen chapters of her first novel at age thirteen and never got it finished; in others, I know I am the mature woman who continues to see writing as unfinished business, a challenge to faith, hope and love. Pressing on is no drudgery!
Elizabeth Gomes



Recently a cousin with whom I have had little contact posted two items on Facebook. One was a picture of a snow blower he had gotten for his birthday (yeah! I clicked “like”) and the other was evidence that his dog had eaten and undigested something plastic (“yuck” – we have observed the same thing happen with the dogs at home here in Brazil). Afterwards, I thought “Why in the world would my only communication with a person I value and would like to know better be an expression of disdain over a natural function of pedigreed and mongrel pets alike?” That got me mulling over relationships which are important but not considered primordial in today’s hectic world, mainly, cousins.

I grew up far from my cousins – a half continent away, to be exact. Cousins – and aunts, uncles, grandparents and others significant to my family – lived in another world which I visited for a few months every four or five years. During those special visits, I met my kid cousins (I was the oldest daughter of my Stowell grandparents’ oldest daughter). Especially memorable, because marked for history by a family portrait, was the family reunion when my great grandmother was still alive, and my oldest Foster cousin, Scott, was a babe in arms. My cousin Jim was a good-looking boy of maybe nine or ten and his parents had not yet brought my Korean-born cousin Wendy onto the scene. Cousin Hillery, Aunt Jinny and Uncle Bill’s one and only, was a winsome little girl that already gave indication of the intelligent beauty she would become. Uncle Roge and wife still had not produced their two sons, and when I was in the States, proposed to have me live with them to get a good American education.

Visiting my dad’s side of the family was another story. He was ninth of twelve children and it looks like most of them continued the order given in Eden to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth”. My dad was an uncle when he was born, and my older cousins and their kin were mostly names mentioned and faces blurred into nirvana. There were cousins I enjoyed playing with – Uncle Allen’s Byron and Anne, Aunt Doris’s Dianne, Debby and Harry Milton, and cousin Valerie.  Harry went with us to Jamestown when Lau and I visited the first time when Davi was four and Debby less than two, and it was a joy to get to know him for a day. Still wish there were a way to re-connect with them: There were aunts and uncles we loved, who treated us to special meals and a gift or two – I remember each one of them. But contact with my Charles cousins was rarer as the years went by, and stopped after my aunts and/or uncles passed away.

There were surrogate cousins when we were children living in Brazil – fellow MK’s. Missionary kids were part of our life, and their parents were our real-life aunts and uncles. I still have contact with one or two (Yeah Nina!), and have discovered that we continue to have much in common despite fifty years gone by!

One of the unexpected blessings when I married was the deluge of relatives acquired along with Lau. Lau’s parents adopted me from the day he told them he was marrying that gringo blonde. His dad was one of eight brothers and sisters (with between none and eight offspring a piece) and Da. Eulina one of sixteen. You can imagine how many relatives that produced. For several years, when we had family reunions, there were over one hundred people gathered from several states of Brazil! It was hard to keep track of everybody, but the few aunts and uncles that remain, plus the many cousins from all over, plus their children and grandchildren, are always in our mind and hearts. We still keep in touch as “primo” and “prima”.

The name for cousin in Portuguese (primo or prima) comes from Latin “first”— and some of these cousins in Brazil are really “first” in our hearts. But I’d say that our children really got the prime opportunities in cousin relations.

Each time I was pregnant, my two sisters-in-law also had children, so my children grew up with same age cousins: Davi, Glaucia, and Márcio, Deborah, Daniela and Maurício, Daniel and (slightly younger) Alvaro Filho (Alvinho), then Leda. Add to these, those cousins who lived in neighboring towns, as well as those who lived far away but were part of the larger community of church family we visited. For example, Davi was fourteen when he travelled alone by bus from Jaú to São Luis dos Montes Belos, over 1000 miles away, to visit tio Neto and tia Ester and the cousins Eliseu, Eliezer and Gabriel. That’s another funny use of relatives’ names: Tio is uncle and Neto is Grandson, so Lau’s sibling cousin  (both fathers and mothers are brothers and sisters!) Venâncio was  “Uncle Grandson” to my kids!)  When we moved to Brasília, our cousin Regina Claudia and her husband Emílio, had our support every time one of her children was born, so that our second cousins are as much primos (or more!) than the many cousins I’ve never met.

Relationships change over time, and I guess that is one of the reasons relatives grow apart or even break up, apart or down. Our (Lilian, Alice and I) children who grew up together are no longer as close as they were when kids. Davi and Marcio used to spend every vacation together and have unforgettable underage experiences, from being held up under gunpoint at Márcio’s chacara to going together with a long list of Bible verses, to talk to the Catholic bishop and question why that church venerated idols and considered Mary holier than Jesus. Today Márcio is a successful customs official in the port of Santos who has made totally different lifestyle choices than Davi, who is happily married with two kids and chancellor of the largest private university in South America. Debby and Daniela are friends though living completely different lives on either side of the Atlantic, while our beloved Maurício lost his life in drug-related suicide when only in early twenties, leaving a fatherless child. My oldest Colombini nephew and niece also took different roads in life: Derlinho is hardworking, success-driven, centered father of equally successful sons, while my beauty-driven architect, niece Adriana faces continual losses (or screw-ups) in life, as do her son and daughter, and grandchild. Comparisons suck, but they always come up when considering the life and times of cousins!

Patty Duke starred in of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid, where “identical cousins” were look-alikes from contrasting life situations. Looking at the pictures of cousins in albums of the past, we remember good times and regret the bad moments (or days, months and years) that accumulated pain in their lives and ours. Most of the time, I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on in my cousin’s lives, or the lives of my children’s cousins. We heard and read and intuited what was 80% gossip and maybe 10% reality – leave the remaining 10% for whatever other motives one might have. We loved our family, and had hundreds of reasons to become closer to people like and unalike us, and we allowed opportunities to flutter like feathers from a torn-up pillow on a windy day.
The Bible is packed with stories about relatives and relationships of all kinds. Some cousins reach the Hall of Fame for giving bad advice – take Jeroboam’s young kin in 1 Kings 12:8-15 – causing permanent division and constant civil was between Judah and Israel. Come New Testament times, a couple of memorable cousins change the world: Yohanan ben Zacariah and Yeshuah ben David. The first was born to aged infertile Levite parents who had trouble believing they would give birth to John the Baptist. Six months later Jesus was conceived by a Judean teen virgin whom Joseph, carpenter of royal lineage, married. One spent his early years on the outskirts of Jerusalem and as he matured, assumed the wild trappings of a prophet in rough clothes and a diet of locusts and honey. The other spent his first years a fugitive in Egypt until the puppet tyrant king died and he returned with his family to grow up in Nazareth, Galilee. John’s whole purpose in life was to prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus was the Lord whose way had been prepared “from the foundation of the earth”. When the two met as adults, Jesus asked John to baptize him, and John announced “Behold the Lamb of God”. Both were destined for violent death – John beheaded on a whim, Jesus crucified – and he was ressurrected three days later! Those are cousins of true renown!

I take this moment to honor my cousins by blood ties and through heartstrings, in hopes that we may build bridges in our humanity, and connect the many existent or imaginary gulfs into one distinct, diverse, and divine family!
Elizabeth Gomes



scripturient: (adj) having a consuming passion to write
pronunciation: skrip- tUr- E- ent

Today I learned a new word I had never heard before with my old friend who is, like me, an English teacher. I have been immersed in Scriptures since childhood, and am equally passionate about writing since I first learned to read (and consequently, write), and know at least a dozen words derived from the Latin scriptura in both English and Portuguese, but was unfamiliar with the adjective that perhaps describes my past and present goal: scripturient. Thanks, Nina Woody Morway, for defining the passion that consumes me as well as significant others in my life!
Here in Brazil day before yesterday was National Readers’ Day, also a definition I had never heard about, though every day at our house has always been a day for reading and writing. Many friends posted comments about the books they had recently read; a few ventured to mention the books they futurely wish to write, and my mind was boggled with thoughts and ideas and plans and mental outlines and entering and deleting a glut of stories and concepts my fingers (or word-processor, when push comes to shove) are too slow to write. Got letters from a couple of thinking friends and discovered that it was my reading-thinking-corresponding aunt’s birthday, so I wrote to her and was immediately rewarded with her delightful communication. And began to consider how relational reading and writing really are.
Have a facebook friend who is a writer of romantic, slightly steamy (if someone can steam only slightly) novels. I don’t even remember how she got on my list, but along with my thirty-something author friends – mostly Christian thinkers and doers – who write serious popular non-fiction, this writer lightens me up with her humorous posts. Her relation to books is downright idolatrous, and her books are about relations – love and hate – between glamorous men and women, but you really can’t say her writing is relational in the sense that the Biblical God of Scriptures wrote, or people who believe Him write about the Word in flesh.
The wisest king in the world, author and compiler of the ancient wisdom of Israel, chose to call himself simply Koheleth, Teacher or Preacher. He “searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true”, describing the words of the wise as “goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails – given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:10). But in the same text he warned of the vanity of anything given in  addition to the words of the one Shepherd: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” and after all had been said, concluded that humankind’s whole duty was to “fear God and keep his commandments, for God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil”.
There is much argument as to when or even where another wise man lived and wrote (or was subject of deep drama laden with dialogue from beginning to end. But the oft-repeated declaration of faith he left for all generations of Old and New Testament believers,
I know that my Redeemer lives
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him with my own eyes-- I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
is sandwiched between a scripturient declaration writers like you and me wish for:
Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock forever! (Job 19:23-25)
Scripture speaks of writing as more than documenting a covenant, though the everlasting covenant is written in hearts and stone and from the beginning of human history “inscribed by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18; 34:27). As God’s image-bearers, His people were to “write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it...” (Deuteronomy 31:19). Not just the songs and poems,
but also the ethics of “love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man (Proverbs 3:3).
The revelation to the prophets, whether by Habakkuk, who wrote disturbing questions in Judah right before the Babylonian invasion by Nebucadnezzar, or Daniel in exile, or John on Patmos, was to be written visibly – as a royal message and a readable road sign: "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay (Habakkuk 2:2).
Jesus Christ himself commissioned John to write what he had seen, what is now, and what will take place later (Revelation 1:19) and finishes off with a promise:  "I am making everything new!" affirming: "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."  Rev. 21:5
Of course, we scripturient writers, whether passionately driven or leniently procrastinators, do not own the words of God nor write anything close to inspired Scripture. But the most prolific writer in the New Testament compares us to letters – a writing genre with which he was quite adept – as he wrote to the Corinthian believers:
You show that you are a letter from Christ,
the result of our ministry, written not with ink
but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Paul gives Christian readers and writers words of trust and competence, of unsurpassed beauty and glory and competence – goals we seek in writing the truth (even through fiction), writing well, ministering in a new spiritual covenant: “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life...” that breaks into poetry:
If the ministry that was engraved in letters on stone,
came with glory, so that the Israelites
could not look steadily at the face of Moses
because of its glory, fading though it was,
will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?
If the ministry that condemns men is glorious,
how much more glorious
is the ministry that brings righteousness!
For what was glorious has no glory now
in comparison with the surpassing glory.
And if what was fading away came with glory,
how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face
to keep the Israelites from gazing at it
while the radiance was fading away...
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord,
the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3.3-18).
We really cannot say such a text is taken out of context when applied to a modern Christian writer’s scripturient desire! May 2014 find us writing with passion, truth and love, good metaphors and profound simplicity!

Elizabeth Gomes