Thursday, March 24, 2011

Someone named Job...


One morning, a couple of weeks ago, a beautiful and difficult gift was waiting for me on the Compassion blog. It's just a bit of a story...a glimpse into the life of a boy a world away. But these little glimpses do something to me. They make me look at my life and my day a bit differently. That is where the gift lies.

Be blessed:

Mar 10 2011
The Trials of Job

By David Dahlin | Categories: Country Trips

Another long ride through the dusty outskirts of Lima, Peru. I was on my way to visit one of our oldest and biggest church partners there. They’ve done a lot of good work and the church has grown tremendously over the years. They’ve already started seven daughter churches and now are working with us to start daughter child development centers.

When I arrived, the church staff told me about a very creative project they had begun — they had just opened a rotisserie chicken restaurant. This was a new one on me!

They submitted a proposal through our Complementary Interventions Program to help the youth start up a chicken restaurant as an income-generation activity. They had professional adults guiding and teaching the adolescents, and there were five youths actively working in this capacity.

I looked out onto the church courtyard where the restaurant was located and saw a nice-looking young man wearing a bWhen some people smile, it seems their face hardly changes. Then there are others who smile and it changes the world. Job’s is a smile that changes the world.

That’s his name, Job. Who names their child Job? I think only a Christian mother who is familiar with suffering — but also believes in a gracious God.

I felt an immediate connection with Job and, partly through my broken Spanish and partly through an interpreter, I started to get to know a bit about him.

Given that Job was working the “chicken stand,” I assumed he was one of the youth likely not on a highly academic track and was instead being prepared with a valuable vocational skill.

I asked him enthusiastically if he hoped one day to run a rotisserie chicken shop of his own. He abruptly told me no.

So I asked what he hoped to do. He told me he wanted to run a juice shop. I guess Lima now has juice shops popping up, kind of like Jamba Juice in the U.S. So, I thought that was very entrepreneurial of him. And I thought I had this kid pegged as a young entrepreneur.

To broaden our conversation I asked Job what else he likes to do.

His face lit up (remember he has one of those faces that really lights up!) and he said that he loves to read. Not many 14-year-old boys say their first passion is reading!

I encouraged him that I too like to read. Then he said that what he really wants to do is to be a journalist. Wow! Not who I had pegged this kid to be.

As God would have it (and God does have it!), we were planning to do a home visit that day, and out of all the homes that I could have visited, my small group was set to visit Job’s home.

Now isn’t that an interesting little coincidence? Out of all the kids that I could have connected with, I connected with Job, and then I happened to be given the opportunity to visit his home.

Job joyfully took us to visit his house and welcomed us into his home with pride. Job loves his family and they work together to do the best they can with what they have.

Job has a deadbeat dad who is seldom around and doesn’t provide for the family. So his paternal grandmother has taken them in. Awkward, but real.

Job’s family of five (not including the dad) live in one room in Grandma’s complex. Four other related families live there as well.

Now they feel safe because there is always a family member around to provide protection. Where they lived before, the mom never felt that her kids were safe.

We met Job’s sweet mother who has three other children and no regular income. But she is a devoted follower of Jesus and has raised her children to be involved in church.

In fact, her three adolescent kids all lead cell groups for the youth group. Grandma has even set aside a special room for youth group gatherings.

Job showed us his family’s room (no, not the family room, his family’s room!) and the simple little desk (set up on blocks because it has broken legs) where he studies.

His books are all neatly organized and highly valued. In fact, their room was fastidiously organized. I asked if just he was organized and he said that they all needed to be organized in order to live together.

We walked up two flights of open stairs (no railings, no wall) to a makeshift kitchen and a place where his dad comes to sleep once in a while. The dad has basically abandoned the family, but is still a constant presence because they see his empty bed in the kitchen of his mother’s house.

I asked how we could pray for the family, Job started to cry.

Sylvia, our wonderful Program Communications Manager, nudged me and said,

“Job needs to experience a father’s love right now.”

So I slid over and hugged Job. He collapsed into my arms. He just leaned back into me and rested in my arms. He had no desire to break free. He simply rested there, just like we need to do into the Father’s arms. Let go. Cry. Lean in. Breathe deep. Feel loved.

Job let me love him and express to him how much he is loved.

In that one simple act of wrapping my arms around Job’s small frame and letting him experience a father’s love, I felt like my purpose on earth had been realized. Why I was alive that day was evident.

One of God’s precious little ones needed to feel the Father’s love. One of Compassion’s 1.2 million children needed to know tangibly and physically and emotionally and spiritually that he was known and loved and protected.

This precious, godly, responsible, smart 14-year-old has all the potential in the world. The world will be a poorer place if he is not able to use his sensitivity, his courage, his heart and his mind to bless those around him.

And we are there for Job — through the reality of the local church and his sponsor. We are all making love real, offering hope, providing a way.

We must keep on. We must keep getting better. Job is counting on us. We have the great privilege of helping to restore to Job all that God promises. He has had the trials of Job and he is being faithful.

Courtesy of Compassion International:
http://blog.compassion.com/the-trials-of-job/#ixzz1GDXb2fwB

Monday, March 14, 2011

Two tsunamis...

It's hard to get away from the knowledge of so much devastation on the other side of the world.

It's hard to know that someone else's map now looks like something manufactured by Hollywood.

I think, perhaps, that the world is a bit more in shock than usual.

This is far from the first time we've all sat in front of a screen and watched devastation unfold and wash away the days and breaths and futures of thousands. After all, Hollywood has given us this "pleasure" (for what else do we call movie-watching?) hundreds of times.

But this is different. For this is the first time we have watched such footage and known it was real. This is the first time we have watched a very real wall of water toss buildings on top of each other and chase down fleeing cars.

Somehow, it's quite different from still photos shown after-the-fact, isn't it?

I wrote a while back about how my vision was changing. This disaster makes it painfully obvious to me how much of a mockery so much of our lives really are.

I watched a movie the other night with my husband, and a preview of some-movie-or-other showed a tsunami moving in...I winced and wondered why we feed Hollywood our millions so we can be "entertained" with copies of a reality that makes my heart hurt.

I think of those risking their lives in nuclear reactors, and I wonder if those who complain about the unsightliness of wind farms are re-thinking priorities.

I read headlines about those who cannot agree on how many millions to spend on an industry that depends on how far a ball travels...and I wonder if maybe watching ships and homes and people's livelihoods travel much farther than a football field has helped at all to bring the NFL into perspective.

And then I look at my own life.

Is it worth it? Do our texted donations and inadequate prayers in the still of night even matter in the face of destruction that massive? Does anything we do even matter?

.~*^*~.~*^*~.~*^*~.

Way off in Canada, on the other side of the world, there is a woman who, most likely, has once or twice asked herself that same question. Does anything I do really matter? We all do it, don't we?

This woman reached out in love to her friend...a friend who struggled greatly with the darkness that haunts our insides...fear...panic...despair...all the result of a sister's blood, imprinted on the fragile memory of a 4-year-old's mind.

And so she dared her friend to count beautiful moments...to count gifts.

Did she know that her single, small act of love would be taken by God and grown into something that would touch millions?

I wish I could talk to this one woman. She is not the one who was approached and asked to write her blog-story into something that could be printed. She is not the one who was handed the NYT Bestseller gift that millions dream of penning. No...God gave that to the friend struggling with despair.

Who can fathom God's ways?

Surely there have been thousands who have struggled as I have, fingers hovering over a keyboard, longing to record the revelations God has gifted me with and share them with a world that needs them. I've dreamed that bestselling dream...not for the money and fame...no, not at all...but simply that the wonder of what He's given me might be shared with that many.

And instead He gives it to a woman who did not want it.

It makes me laugh in delight!

But when I read the story of how it all began...when I follow the tracings of God's voice, whispered gently to this woman, giving the seeds planted one powerful drop of fertilizer through the loving dare of another of His servants...I see a gift that I have been given as well.

It is not often that we are given the opportunity to trace His ways. To watch how one life touching another blooms and grows and spreads into what has become a tsunami of beauty and grace and thanksgiving around the world, one touch and word at a time.

Yet surely it happens all the time. Surely! For He is the One that did it, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

He says,
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
This is the journey I am tracing, and He is whispering that it is only one of millions of journeys that He has chosen to keep wrapped in secret. And I can become a part of a million more journeys, if I only choose to trust and take whatever step He asks of me.

.~*^*~.~*^*~.~*^*~.

Two tsunamis. The one makes me wonder at the futility and emptiness of so much of what we focus on. The other reminds me that everything matters. Every day, every step and choice I make, every word I speak and type...everything is an opportunity to willingly be involved in an unseen something that God is working and orchestrating in the eternal.

To trust is to obey, and to obey is to marvel and wonder and praise that His ways are wrapped in the eternal instead of the temporary, and that His wisdom and power orchestrates that which I cannot see and fathom.

He does all things well...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fire and flood...


Perhaps the timing on last week's post was God-ordained. Here I am, praying for another nation's millions, knowing that, as I pray, people are fighting for their lives. Knowing that they'll be fighting for hope and courage and finances and joy in the days ahead.

As I wrote last week, I can no longer pray only that God would protect His people, though I'm finding that my thoughts and feelings this morning...today...show that last week's thoughts were just that. Thoughts. The whole question of what to pray is much, much more real today than it was then.

Actually, I found myself somewhat surprised by the words that my spirit formed in prayer, for they were, I think, far more daring than the old "protect Your people" prayer was. Daring as in part-of-me-says-it's-crazy-to-even-pray-it. Yet, I think this new prayer reflects the heart of the Father much more. This is what He would rather me ask. This prayer reflects His reality which says that everything--every life--on this earth is temporal, and it's the eternal that counts. It's the eternal life whose value is priceless.

And so, I my daring prayer now for Japan is...

Father, these Japanese are Your people. You created them, You formed them, and You love each and every single last one of them. Father, I would love for You to protect, not only those who have already accepted Your lordship and the salvation You offer, but every Japanese person...yet I know that there is much more at stake here.

And so I ask instead, Father, that out of all of those in Japan that are still alive as of the moment I first prayed this prayer...Father, I pray that You would not allow one who does not know You to perish--to die eternally. Those that are clinging to their last moments of life, I ask that You bring to their remembrance whatever seeds of Truth You have sown and soften their hearts that they might accept You while they can, that they may be welcomed to Your arms. Those that have never known of Your offer of salvation, Father I ask that You would work miracles to keep them alive, and I ask that You would place in their path those of Your people who will speak with boldness and through the Spirit, speaking words of truth and love.

Let the fire of Your Spirit flame forth upon that land, and may the flood of Your love rush before it, to be followed by
a great harvest of souls. That when I meet You in heaven, I will also see tens of thousands of Japanese brothers and sisters who are there because of this day...that though these days ahead will be days of trials and hardship for many, yet in Heaven they will also be days of rejoicing because of the many being set free.

I ask this in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Let it be so, and Amen!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

More suffering and joy...

I re-wrote yesterday's post. Despite the fact that it was my most "liked" post ever...I think God wanted me to. The focus wasn't right. So, regardless of how you felt about yesterday's and what you did or didn't get out of it, please re-read it, for I hope that what I was trying to say is significantly more clear.

Right now I'd like to share something similar, yet different.

I don't know about you, but the Christian circles that I've been around have often prayed for other Christians around the world when disaster strikes. We hear of an earthquake or a tsunami or a war, and we pray, "Lord, protect your people." Sometimes, that prayer is among a bunch of other requests, but sometimes it's the only thing we pray. I've prayed it, too.

But lately (as in this past month), this prayer has seemed very wrong, in quite a few ways.

What if there was a bunch of people who had no choice but to walk a very risky and difficult path across a log over deep, deep water. None of the people can swim, so falling means death...but some of them have life jackets.

Tell me...who would you pray most for? Would you pray for all of them? Would you pray mostly for those who have no life jackets? Or would you pray that those who have the life jackets wouldn't fall?

I'm afraid this prayer I've prayed in the past is exactly like praying that those with life jackets would not fall.

How is that the love of God? That's what I'm asking myself.

If there is a disaster facing a million people in a third world country, and 20% of them will surely die...isn't it better that the Christians die? For to them, to die is gain. While to the others, death is eternal.

I'm afraid that the selfishness in this prayer is what the world sees all the time when they say that Christians are hypocrites who care for no one except our own. I've told myself it wasn't true...and now I'm seeing it is true.

I'll never be able to pray that way again, and I'm asking God to open my eyes to however many other selfish unloving prayers I've been praying. Now, I'll be praying that God will protect those who have not yet received Him and give the Christians boldness and the anointing to share the gospel with those whose lives they touch.

I think this pastor in Iraq that I'm about to tell you about would agree with me.

A few days ago, I discovered that an old friend of my parents has become an investigative journalist who is often in the Mideast, as well as a NYT Bestselling author. I found his blog, began reading, and was greatly struck by this post, written February 9th of this year:

We met seven years ago in Baghdad. I was there researching a book on the post-Saddam Iraqi Church. Actually, it wasn’t all that “post,” since he had crawled out of his “rat hole” only a few weeks earlier.

After introductions were made, I sat down in front of his desk and, as I took out my digital recorder, he said, “Before we begin, I would like to read something to you.” He opened a black-covered Bible and read from Isaiah 19, which my NIV calls a prophecy about Egypt:

“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria [modern-day Iraq]. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assryia my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.’ ”

You don’t have to be a theologian to know that “that day” has not come yet.

“This is our vision,” he said, “the vision of the Church in Iraq.” And he went on to tell me his story and the account of his people between the Gulf Wars.

This morning, I received a telephone call from a friend in Amman, Jordan.

“Guess who is with me,” he said, uncharacteristically playful.

It was my friend from Baghdad. We spent a few minutes catching up, and then I asked him two hard questions.

I knew that more than a million Christians had already fled Iraq, along with millions of other refugees, the Christians heading north to Irbil, Dahuk or Sulaymaniyah where they are protected by the Kurds, or to the godawful refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. I wasn’t surprised that they left. I was amazed that more than a million others have stayed.

He explained that he had lost half of his congregation since November 1, when al-Qaeda-connected gunmen took 120 hostages at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and slaughtered 41 Christians, including two priests, as well as 12 police officers and 5 bystanders, wounding 78 others. The media called it the “deadliest attack ever recorded against Iraq’s Christians.” In 2006 and 2007, my friend’s church had a thousand members. Half left between then and last November. Half again since the attack. Then he told me that the terrorists had actually targeted his church, but the killers went to the wrong address, one street away. The police broke up his service that Sunday morning, informed my friend about the “mistake,” and told him to shut down and send everybody home, which he did. But the doors were open again two weeks later.

“How do you teach your congregation that God provides for them when they have no food, that He protects them when they are being raped and tortured and murdered, that He loves them when He sends no one to their rescue?” I asked my friend.

“When the terrorists came and killed many Christians,” he said, “that week, I received calls from my congregation asking me many why’s. Why did Jesus let them kill Christians? Why didn’t Jesus stop them? Why did God let the terrorists enter the church? Why? Why? Why?

“I cried out to God. I said, ‘My Lord, give me the answers.’

“After that, in my reading that day in the Book of Acts 4:29, I saw that when the disciples were threatened, they prayed, I thought maybe for protection. I was shocked that they prayed for boldness.

“The next week, I went before the church.

“ ‘You ask me why, why why. You should go to God and ask him why he left his Son torn on the cross. Why Peter died on a cross upside down. After that, ask me why. It’s in the plan. Because you are a Christian, it costs blood. And maybe it will cost our blood. God didn’t promise us that we would live in a comfortable life. Why are we surprised? This is our life. This is what is promised for us. Open the Book of Acts and see how the Christians suffered.’

“They were very encouraged and were clapping and they prayed and cried and said, ‘Oh, we are sorry, our Lord.’ “

Boldness, not protection. We are here to advance the Kingdom of God, to share the good news that God has paid the price for the sins of mankind. Is there a greater cause for which to suffer and die?

My old friend went on to ask his second difficult question, and in return, heard the testimony of how an Iraqi woman had come to him when all of her children had been killed. Read it, if you like. That is why families are risking their lives to stay in Baghdad.

But that part, above, is what confirmed to me that God was indeed opening my eyes to the selfishness of my prayers. I didn't want to suffer, therefore I thought it was loving to pray that my Christian brothers and sisters did not suffer. And all of that is well and good and fine in and of itself... but it does not have the importance I give it by focusing my prayers on it. Far from it! The souls of the lost around them are far more important than their suffering, and the souls of the lost around me are far more important than my own suffering. It is the difference between temporary difficulty and pain and death for those who are assured eternal blessings and comfort, and eternal torment for those whose difficulty and pain and death are anything but temporary.

What do you think? If God had decided to place your birth in Iraq, would you still be there or not? And if not, would you go back? For Him?

What if you, in whatever nation you live in, are granted the same choice someday?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Suffering and joy...

I'm re-writing this post, because I think God is telling me to. I think the focus was wrong.

I wrote it because I think we need to stop judging God's actions. Last week's post explained why it's a good thing that God does things we don't understand. This post was meant to take it a little farther...to show how sometimes we're unwilling to admit that God did what He did, or allowed what He allowed, because to our understanding, it seems contrary to love.

This blog is titled "Hope Is Calling," and where is the hope in this, though?

The hope is found, I believe, when we humble ourselves, stop clinging to our own ideas of right and wrong, good and evil, and start clinging to Him instead, for we should cling to nothing more than we cling to Him. We must ask Him to show us the world through His eyes.

The original version of this post quoted what Katie-in-Uganda (I wrote about her here) shared yesterday morning. Much of it is what she's working through, but the most significant part of it, to me, was when she said that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was never meant for us. Yet we label things as good and evil according to our own natural thinking and base our prayers on that, without ever asking God if such-and-such a thing was allowed by Him for a specific and very good purpose.

I believe we need to start seeking God more about this. I'm not saying our ideas of good and evil are completely wrong. The Bible makes quite a few good and evil things perfectly clear. And many, many things are the result of sowing and reaping.

But Paul said, "We know in part and we prophesy in part." (1 Cor. 13:9) I believe that we all need to seek God more often to discover when knowledge that we think is complete is really only "in part."

Isaiah 19 is the prophecy for and against Egypt. I have had this chapter in my heart for a year or so now, and I'm not sure why. But when God led me to read it, two things stood out to me. One was how very precious Egypt is in the eyes of God. Also, verses 21 and 22 stood out to me:
21 Thus the LORD will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the LORD and perform it.
22 The LORD will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD, and He will respond to them and will heal them.
That striking but healing seemed a paradox. How can God strike and heal?

The answer...I don't know. God firmly said that judgment would not be poured out again until the end of time, so this strike is not one of judgment. Indeed...doesn't it say what this strike is of? It says it is one of healing!

But how many Christian Egyptians, in that day, will look at the strike against them and say that it is evil, and therefore Satan did it? How many will look at that strike and give glory and praise to the Surgeon whose hand struck them to heal them?

What about us in the USA? Many of us are praying that God will heal our land...but what, exactly do we mean? And do we have expectations of what that healing will look like?

Do we want the economy healed, or do we want families healed? Do we want laws to change so that they line up with God's word, or do we want hearts to change so that millions know God truly and walk with Him? Do we want America to receive another Great Awakening? I think we all agree on that one...but what if God wants to do something new and different?

What if the one negates the other? What if God knows that the best way to bring millions of Americans back to Him is to allow our circumstances get so dark that we have nothing else to cling to but Him?

The prophecies of the end times speak both of great darkness and of great light. What if He wants to allow things to get that dark, that the great light that He wants to pour out may shine all the greater?

What if there comes a day when circumstances are awful in the natural, yet God shows His people how to walk in the kind of peace and joy that others marvel at and cannot understand... peace and joy so profound that none of those circumstances matter... people who have become a channel for God's healing power... still others who have become a channel for love. What if those who cannot see this spiritual flow look at these people and think that they'd never want to endure what that person has to because it seems so bad in the natural? Is that person walking in blessing or not? The things that God allowed that made them what they are...are they gifts from a good God, or did God have nothing to do with allowing it?

How about Christians around the world and throughout history who have never known even a fraction of the natural blessings that we in America have today? Are we blessed? Even in our darkest moments...are we blessed? If we are, then are they? Did God do a good thing when He placed Jja Ja Marie in Uganda and her life of hardship, and did He do a better thing when He placed me in a sheltered life of comfort in Ohio? If you look at our natural lives, He did a better thing in placing me here and allowing little (compared to Jja Ja) to touch me. But if you look at the spiritual, He did a better thing for her, for she has learned to receive His joy much greater than I have.

Christians throughout the Roman empire probably celebrated when Emperor Constantine I professed Christ, signaling the end of the persecution they'd experienced under Diocletian and earlier. But was Christianity becoming the official religion of the empire a good thing? It led to a watering-down of Christianity, and the loss of the power that the church had walked in before that.

So did the devil ask God for permission to persecute the church, and He gave permission? Or did the devil ask permission to make the persecution stop that he would more easily be able to twist and subvert the power of the gospel, and God gave permission? Or did both happen, and God gave permission for both? (I believe it's the later.)

Throughout history, persecution has had the effect of purifying and strengthening the church...so when the devil has asked permission to persecute the church in any area of the world, and God allows it, is He doing a good thing? Is He, perhaps, answering the prayers of His people?

Do you see what I'm trying to point out? That our knowledge is imperfect, and will always be imperfect. That I think we all-too-often forget that nothing evil can come against us unless God has given permission... so while the thing may be evil, the decision that God made has to be good, because He only does good. That's a difficult thing to admit because it requires a deeper humility and willingness to trust God and suffer if He so asks it of us, for His sake.

.~*`*~.,.~*`*~.,.~*`*~.

Am I making claims as to what God is going to do?

No, I am not. I do not know the future, and I don't know how God will do what He has planned.

I simply think that, when we think of what the future might hold, and we pray for revival, and we pray for God to heal our land...I think we should be willing to realize that the answer to our prayers might look nothing like how we would do it. The spiritual blessing we are praying for just might involve suffering in the natural. And if it does, are we willing?

Are we willing to learn what Paul did?

Phil. 3:8:
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Phil. 4:12:
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.


More in a day or two, 'cause I have the perspective of a pastor in Iraq whose church is being persecuted to share...


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