In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stranger than Fiction

Life often brings us those moments that are way more interesting than anything we could ever make up.

Such was the situation when my husband and I were working on our taxes this year. My husband, in his desire to ensure we keep all the money we can legally, combs through all the tax publications and forms with a fine tooth comb. You can imagine my amazement and laughter when he pointed out the following paragraph from Publication 525, page 36:

"Stolen Property. If you steal property, you
must report it's fair market value in your income
in the year you steal it unless in the same year,
you return it to it's rightful owner."

So my husband says, "Hey, if I steal a car, and use it all year long, but return it to the rightful owner at the end of the year - I don't have to report it as income!"

Are you looking at the clouds or the Son?

Sometimes God has blessed me, but I'm so focused on negative circumstances, or how things didn't go my way, that I fail to notice. I miss enjoying the good that is in my life.

This truth hit me again today when I was doing a Bible study for my small group. Myself and 4 other women are working through the book and study guide for Captivating by Stasi Eldridge. One of the questions was about what it means to be romanced. As I wrote about what it means to me to be romanced - to be important to someone, adored, delighted in, so important that that someone will go out of his way to do special things for me, it hit me that my husband John does all these things. I was overcome with gratitude for God's gift to me in John.

But you know what? Just three years ago, after one year of being married, I was feeling unloved and not special because this same man goes off without me for several days a few times a year to hike, back pack and commune with God in the outback of Yosemite. I was feeling like he didn't love me because he didn't want to spend time with me. So I began praying about it and soon God changed my heart. I began to see that this is something John does to keep himself healthy; that he recharges his batteries by that time alone in nature with God. I also began to see that loving another means accepting him exactly how he is and allowing him to be himself. Not every man needs to get away by himself for a few days out in nature a few times each year - but John does - and it's John that I love.

Now John has most likely always periodically bought me flowers because he knows I adore their beauty, found books he thinks I'd like in second hand stores, complimented me frequently about many things, and proclaimed that for him I'm part of the proof of Ephesians 3:20 - that God will give us blessing beyond what we can think and imagine. But three years ago I was so busy focusing on the fact that he wants to spend several days a few times each year away from me - that I didn't notice. I was so busy focusing on what was not going the way I thought it should, that I wasn't enjoying the blessings in my life.

I'm sure grateful that God got my attention and that today I can see and enjoy His goodness to me in John.

Do you ever miss out on enjoying God's blessings to you because you're focusing on the stuff in your life that isn't exactly as you want it? What helps you keep your focus on the blessing God gives you in each day?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Terrific Tuesday with JD from Trees for Lunch

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is JD who writes at Trees for Lunch. I can always count on JD's posts to be thoughtful; he's the kind of person who reads a LOT, is straightforward about what he believes, is not constrained by political correctness, and has a passion about the world around him.

Here's what JD has to say today:

First, a hearty "Thank You" to Tracy for letting me guest-blog at her site.

Over at my blog I've been doing a series of entries based upon the book What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? by Dr D. James Kennedy and Dr Jerry Newcombe. The book seeks to examine the impact of Jesus Christ upon Western Civilization in a variety of ways. One of those areas which I wanted to discuss today was the role of women in society before Christ's coming and after.

For female infants born in ancient times, the outlook was pretty bleak. On page 15 we read a quote by author Robin Lane Fox from his book Pagans and Christians which states the following concerning life in ancient Rome.

"In antiquity, this pattern [the postponement of marraige] is not so evident, because of the widespread habit of exposing female babies at birth. Adult girls were in shorter supply and thus their age at marraige tended to be low...Habitual exposure of babies was a further brake on the size of a family and the balance of the sexes".

Greek culture was no better as R.J.Rummel relates..

"In many cultures, government permitted, if not encouraged, the killing of handicapped or female infants or otherwise unwanted children. In the Greece of 200 B.C., for example, the murder of female infants was so common that among 6,000 families living in Delphi no more than 1 percent had two daughters. Among 79 families, nearly as many had one child as two. Among all there were only 28 daughters to 118 sons. ... But classical Greece was not unusual. In eighty-four societies spanning the Renaissance to our time, "defective" children have been killed in one-third of them."

India was another area in which the plight of women was improved by Christianity. On page 16 we read, "..infanticide-particularly for girls-was common in India, prior to the great missionary William Cary. Cary and other Christians detested seeing little ones tossed into the sea. These centuries-old practices, suttee (the practice of widows throwing themselves atop the burning funeral pyres of their dead husbands) and infanticide, were finally stopped only in the early nineteenth century and only through missionary agitation to the British authorities."

RJ Rummel provides some statistics as to how widespread this practice was in India...

"In India, for example, because of Hindu beliefs and the rigid caste system, young girls were murdered as a matter of course. When demographic statistics were first collected in the nineteenth century, it was discovered that in "some villages, no girl babies were found at all; in a total of thirty others, there were 343 boys to 54 girls. ... [I]n Bombay, the number of girls alive in 1834 was 603."

Kennedy-Newcombe go on to give account of two Norwegian women missionaries to China in the late 19th century, Sofie Rueter and Anna Jakobsen who wrote the following...

"It is an exception that a couple would have more than one or two girls. If there would be more born, they would be disposed of immediately. It was done in different ways. She could simpy be put out as food for wild dogs and wolves. The father would sometimes take her to a "baby tower" where she would soon die of exposure and starvation and be discovered by birds of prey. Others again would bury the little ones under the dirt floor in the room where they were born. If there is a river flowing by, the children would be thrown in."

Kennedy and Newcombe also mention..."

"A second century "Letter to Diognetus"... in which the writer states that Christians "marry..they begat children; but do not destroy their offspring. "the implication in this statement is that child killing was common at the time, except among Christians"

Kennedy-Newcombe go on to explain.."Jesus gathered the little children unto Himself saying "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them" (Matthew 19:14). His words gave new importance that bestowed dignified treatment upon them. Ater Jesus said that God was our Father, not only did this radically alter the attitudes of fathers toward children, but fatherhood in this life assumed a completely new form as well....Foundling homes, orphanages and nursery homes were started to to house the children. These new practices, based on a higher view of human life that persists to this day... And It all goes back to Jesus Christ. If he had never been born, we would never have seen this change in the value of human life."

And what about the status of adult women in ancient times? Julia Duin of The Washington Times wrote an article in which Illinois College professor of sociology (retired) Alvin J. Schmidt related the following.

"In what countries have women lacked freedom?" he says. "Where Christianity is not present, especially in the Middle East. Were it not for Christianity, Gloria Steinem would still be walking about in a veil." He continued, "Christ was never quoted as saying anything demeaning or derogatory to women. Women in Greek days could hardly leave their homes. When her husband had guests over, she was not even allowed to sit in the same room. Their status was extremely low among the Romans, where the father of the family had the power of life and death, even over his wife. "In [the Gospel of] John, Chapter Four, Jesus was asked what he was doing talking to a woman in public, as you only talked with prostitutes in public. When he taught Mary and Martha in Luke 10, that was a behavior you did not do with women. "Christianity also nullified polygamy, as Jesus made it clear a man has one wife. If a Greek man was walking about outside with a woman, that was his mistress, not his wife. Christianity also made it clear widows were to be taken care of."

John McArthur of Grace to You writes, "Pagan religion tended to fuel and encourage the devaluation of women even more. Of course, Greek and Roman mythology had its goddesses (such as Diana and Aphrodite). But don't imagine for a moment that goddess-worship in any way raised the status of women in society. The opposite was true. Most temples devoted to goddesses were served by sacred prostitutes--priestesses who sold themselves for money, supposing they were performing a religious sacrament. Both the mythology and the practice of pagan religion have usually been overtly demeaning to women".

Another radical departure from the thinking of the time was that the Bible stated that women were to be taught. 1 Timothy 2nd chapter makes this clear. Professor John Carlisle Kilgo of Duke University wrote that "The earliest Christian communities met in people's houses; they didn't have churches yet for quite some time, and throughout the New Testament, particularly Paul's letters in the Book of Acts, we find out that women owned the houses in which the early Christians met. This I think is significant because I don't think the women who owned the houses were simply providing coffee and cookies, in effect, for the Christian community. I think that this probably gave them some avenue to power... in the church."

Thank you for reading my blog entry here on Tracy's wonderful site. One last thing re: women and Christianity before I go. Were you aware that "A wealthy Christian woman, Fabiola, a disciple of St Jerome, is credited with having built the first hospital in the Western world, in Rome, circa AD 400"? I think that will make a neat segue into my next entry on my site. The impact of Christianity on the development of hospitals as we know them.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Today I'm a guest over at Dementia for 2

I'm not posting here today, since you can read me over at Dementia for 2.

Inge, who posts at Dementia for 2, is someone who I've come to both like and admire through our encounters via the blogoshere; she's got a keen interest in a varied assortment of topics, she has an all out love for God, and I'm constantly delighted when she shares about her encounters with her grandmother. I think you'll enjoy reading her blog not only today, but on a regular basis.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who does the existence of Evil cause a problem for?

Through the years I've had various agnostic and atheist friends and acquaintances ask me the same question: How can an all loving God allow evil to exist?

I believe that on a deep level we all question why there is evil.

Every single person who is reading this can think of tons of examples of horrific human suffering that has happened in history, that is currently happening, and that has even touched their own, or the life of someone they know & care about. In the face of this there is something within each of us that cries out in anguish - it's not right, it's not fair - I don't want it to be this way.

The explanation I find in the Christian Bible, and the answer I always give, is that we live in a fallen world. When the first humans chose to disobey/sin, the garden of Eden was lost forever to us all. Each person born from that point on had a sinful nature.

Someone I know just pointed out today that she remembered when this truth hit home for her - it was when her son was very young. She'd asked her son if he'd taken the cookies which he was not supposed to have from the jar, to which he'd replied no - even though his face bore all the traces of the cookies he'd consumed. She pointed out that he was so young that she knew his every move and that they didn't lie in her home; yet here was her son, all on his own, lying. She explained that was when it really hit her that we do not have to teach our children to do wrong, it comes naturally, it's human nature.

The entire Bible explains how sin separates us from God, and what God's done through sending Himself, His son, Jesus, to provide a way back to Himself.

Whenever I share this with my atheist or agnostic friends and acquaintances, invariably someone will bring up the point that if God is all knowing, then He must have known that Adam and Eve would choose to disobey and bring sin into the world and then evil would exist and people would suffer - so why'd He make it this way instead of some other, seemingly better, way.

I can not really say why God let us have free will instead of making us robots. But I do know that having a relationship with someone who had no choice but to love me, would be different than having a relationship with someone who chose to love me.

About a month ago I read a really interesting post from Matt over at the Church of No People where he gave his thoughts on The Problem of Evil.

Today I heard a fascinating lecture where the speaker turned the question around in a way I'd never considered previously. He asked that if someone believes that this world is all there is, and that humans are just a more highly evolved species, then, given this world view where does evil come from?

Or, if one really believes in survival of the fittest making a stronger species to carry on, why is it evil for the strong to prey on the weak? Isn't that just natural selection? Where does the judgment, or moral imperative, that some things are evil come from?

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant thought the fact that we as humans even have moral notions, to be proof that there is more going on than only the physical world we see. That there must be some kind of higher power.

What about you, why do you think evil exists? Do you think the fact that we have moral notions is evidence of a moral god?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I adore people who admit they are wrong

There's been so much talk about Tiger Woods lately that I hesitate to add to it. But I was so impressed by his public apology that I can't resist commenting. I've been thinking about it since I watched this video.

What struck me most about this was that here was a public figure admitting that what he'd done was wrong. FINALLY. I couldn't help but think of many other public figures that have acted as if the rules did not apply to them, who cheated on their spouses, and never really owned up and said it was wrong.

I'm reminded of a favorite verse of mine from Proverbs 28:13:

"He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion."

In my mind, when someone confesses and chooses to forsake their wrong doing, then they are forgiven. I hear a lot of people debating over if he Woods was sincere; we can never know what goes on in another person's heart - I'm so grateful that it's not my responsibility to be the judge.

Being forgiven does not mean that there are not logical consequences, but simply that those actions are not going to be held against a person. Who knows what will happen with Tiger Woods' marriage or career or sponsors or public image. But at least he can take a breath of HONEST, clean, air.

What about you, have you ever done something for which you were really ashamed? Did you have to "go public"? What were your experiences when you confessed your wrong doing?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Isn't it strange...

Today I read about another one of those odd, intolerance-toward-Christians, kinds of things.

Nadia Eweida was dismissed from employment with British Airways without pay in October 2006 when she refused to cover up her cross necklace behind her neck scarf. Ms Eweida worked for British Airways as a check in worker. She argued before the Employment Tribunal in 2008 that she should be allowed to wear her necklace because Muslim and Hindu employees were permitted to wear headscarves and turbans. The Tribunal ruled in favor of British Airways.

Ms Eweida made an appeal regarding this decision and on February 15, Lord Justice Sedley upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s November 2008 ruling determining that the airline’s ban did not constitute religious discrimination.

Corinna Ferguson, Liberty’s legal officer who represents Ms Ewedia, said: “This is a disappointing judgment that will do little to build public confidence in equality laws protecting everyone.”

All the pictures I've seen of this woman's cross show a small, close to the neck piece of jewelry. I'm stunned that it would cause so much commotion. But this isn't the first time during the last decade when I've read about odd things happening where it seemed that religious tolerance was afforded to everyone except Christians.

What about you, have you read about or experienced situations recently where it seems like everyone except Christians are afforded tolerance?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where's my Confidence?

Do you ever feel out of sorts?

I'd love to be able to say that my joy is always complete because God and I are so tight - but I can't. The fault, of course, lies with me (not God).

Sure there's some really challenging situations going on in my life right now, but sometimes that's life. I've just got attitude. Little things are bugging me that I'd normally overlook; and might I add that this is an especially precarious mental space to be in when you're a mom to two teen sons! So I've been biting my tongue to refrain from speaking, and praying that God would help me have an attitude adjustment.

I've been reading in James lately and this morning I was in the 5th chapter. Verses 7-12 speak directly about how to respond to tough situations - be patient and wait on God.

So I'm here thinking about what it means to wait on God.

I've heard Believers and their response to troubles, compared to pots on a stove. When you have a pot on the stove and bring it to a boil, what's in that pot comes to the surface. When God allows the heat to be turned up in my life via tough circumstances, what's really in my heart becomes apparent. Tough times produce a revelation of who I am.

Waiting on Him is an opportunity to recognize my abject need for Him. To come to grips with how totally hopeless it is to trust in my own abilities and resources. Waiting on God is a choice to put my confidence in His timing and help during the difficult times. The focus being on God and his character. Instead of my confidence being in my ability to handle all the difficult stuff going on right now, my confidence needs to be in God. God who I know has perfect timing and will work all things to my good.

On a practical note, perhaps Julie Andrews had a point in The Sound of Music when she sang about choosing to think on her favorite things when she was feeling low. I'm reminded today of two of my favorite things. One of my favorite things is a segment in The Silver Chair by CS Lewis, it's when the lights have been extinguished and they are in the darkness:

"Courage, friends," came Prince Rilian's voice. "Whether we live or die Aslan will be our good lord."

"That's right, sir," said Puddleglum's voice. "And you must always remember there's one good thing about being trapped down here: It'll save funeral expenses."

Another one of my favorite things is the song Blessed be Your Name. I'm especially fond of the way the Newsboys sing this particular song; it never ceases to encourage my spirit.

What about you, how do you deal with tough situations in life? What have you found helps you to wait on God?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Terrific Tuesday with Helen from Mother Always (Being Me)

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Helen who writes at Mothers Always (Being Me). Helen is a working mother of three. One of the things I've come to appreciate about Helen is that she doesn't have an authoritative voice that presumes to have all the answers; instead she's a fellow journeyer who shares about her challenges, and what she's learning, along the way.

Here's one of my favorite posts from Mothers Always (Being Me):

A Day in the life ..child vs me vs petulance

I always have to give in!

On Sunday, my youngest was acting up because of his father's advise.
A couple hours later, he was sitting quietly doing a maze puzzle, so I thought I'd broach the topic. I didn't ask him a question, I wanted to talk to him and suggest something but he just refused to hear or let me proceed.

My son took out his grouchiness on me because he could. I thought to myself, I don't deserve this. 'Fine' I said to him, 'you don’t want to talk to me, I won’t talk to you.'

I decided I wanted to be petty.

A couple of hours later I came back from the supermarket, I bought him lozenges for his throat and passed them to him, he asked what flavour and for about 40sec he talked to me about flavours before I remembered ‘hey I’m not supposed to talk to you and you don’t want to talk to me remember?’ He said ‘But I want to talk to you’.
I said ‘No, it can't work that way’ but he insisted laughingly, so ok ... thought I, let’s try the same topic.

So, it appears that at the time, he was still choking on the advise his father gave him and just did not want to hear me. So the lesson.. don’t get to the touchy subject immediately, work around it, assess child’s mood then get to it.

So I always have to give in, sigh.. some days are tougher than others.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tomorrow is Valentine's day

So what does the fact that tomorrow is Valentine's day mean to you?

Possibly the fact that I absolutely could not resist this cupid caught with his own arrow picture says something about me.

As far as love goes, I'm so much more fortunate in my life than I by any means deserve. Above all else I have been given the love of God that reaches beyond all situations, events, and any actions on my part. Then I have a husband who really knows me and still chooses to love me. I've got three sons who I love so much I would gladly die for them; although sometimes the younger two who are teens do drive me crazy. I've got friends who love me though good times and bad times and for whom I am grateful. So, if Valentine's day is about love, then I'm in.

It's just that I'm not much for mush. Whenever I go to the store to buy a Valentine's day card, I can feel my anxiety mount as I read them. My husband is great and I tell him so daily in real specific ways. But the stuff they say on these just doesn't fit me.

Then there's all the expectations. I've never been too great on expectations.

But enough about me.

What about you, are you a Valentine's Day fan? What's a favorite Valentine's Day memory of yours?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another Glimpse

I think it's helpful to catch a glimpse into another way of life.

I like reading books, blogs, or watching movies that do that for me. Catching that glimpse, brings understanding for me. Understanding leads to changing how I respond to people in that situation.

That's the reason why I periodically post about mentally ill people. I know that lots of people have limited experience with them and just don't understand. In California, where I live, about 1/3 of the homeless population is mentally ill.

I have a sister who is a paranoid schizophrenic and I've run secured psychiatric facilities for 9 years.

Sometimes life is painful and there is not an apparent solution for a mentally ill person. I want to share about two recent experiences with my paranoid sister that underscore this truth.

My sister has a son who is in his 20s, just graduated from college, got married not too long ago, and he and his wife just had their first child. Since he graduated at a time when jobs are scare, he was blessed that the company he'd been working for, Target, offered him a promotion to be the head of security where he's been working for the past several years. This young man is a good guy and I really respect him because he's not had it the way he should growing up.

Not too long ago my paranoid sister, his mother, showed up at his work to see him. It was near the end of his work day so he asked her to come back in a little while and he'd take her to dinner. So she left and came back and he took her, his wife and the baby to dinner. She got to meet her grandson and they had an enjoyable evening. She came again to visit him at work soon after that and he talked to her very briefly but explained that she can not keep visiting him at work, that no one is allowed to be visiting at work because they are paid to be working. Well, she came back again the next day only he was in the middle of something and not even available to speak with her. She started arguing with the employees and ended up making some stupid statement about she'd bring a gun in and shoot them (the employees she was arguing with). Unfortunately, the employees did not call the police on her.

This is unfortunate because I had hoped that if they had, she would be deemed a danger to herself and others and therefor get taken to the hospital for mandatory 72 hour observation. I was hoping that observation would lead to the need for her to receive secured treatment where she could stabilize on medication. But they didn't call the police and she finally left. My nephew's boss heard about the whole thing and told him that she is not to come in there again and if she does, he must call the police or he will lose his job. My heart goes out to my nephew and I pray for him. He's under 25 yrs old; can you imagine how embarrassed he was to have this all go on at his work? Can you imagine how much it hurts to see his mom that way? Can you imagine the stress he must be experiencing regarding his job and the need to keep it so he can support his family?

This young man's sister, my paranoid sister's daughter, had a big birthday party for her son at their paternal grandmother's this weekend. My sister showed up before the party and was in a good frame of mind so she helped with the decorations. During the party she was delightful. She stayed on with them and was fine the next day. Then the following day she really lost it to the point where she went over to the next door neighbor's house and used their phone to put in an emergency call to the police to report that my niece, her husband and the other family there were beating her. My sister came back to their home and was yelling at them, carrying on and hitting herself and even slapped my niece. The police came, were really nice to my niece and her husband and said they recognized my sister because they'd recently had to remove her from a store where she'd caused a disturbance. My sister just left their house at that piont. My niece was understandably upset and just kept saying how she's never seen my sister that bad.

It's a frustrating situation. I'm glad we live in a country where the freedom of individual people is respected, and I don't necessarily want that changed. However, that same freedom causes so many problems when it comes to mentally ill people. No one can do anything about the fact that someone like my paranoid sister, who has thoughts that are not true that she acts upon, makes unwise decisions that put her at risk and hurt the ones she loves, continues to live in this sad manner - it's her right to live this way. Like many, many schizophrenics my sister refuses to take medication.

I've seen medication help so many schizophrenic people. But so many schizophrenics will not continue to take their medication. Today anti-psychotic medications have a much smaller side effect panel than in times past, but there are still problems. I've talked with many schizophrenics who have shared that they do not feel like themselves when they are taking medication, they always feel just a bit more dull and less sharp. Then there's the physical side effects such as dry mouth, restlessness, lethargy, and weight gain that come with some of the most effective anti psychotic medications. Not to mention that someone like my sister, who is paranoid, feels like it's everyone else who has the problems, why should she be taking some kind of medication?

I know God is in charge of the universe and there are many things that I do not understand. I am one of those people who just wants to make things right; I'm a "fixer". But this is not something I can fix.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time

This line caught my attention as I was reading the second chapter in James out of the Message paraphrase. Here's James 2:8-13 (I've linked to several versions) so you can catch the context:

You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: "Love others as you love yourself." But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can't pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God's law and ignoring others. The same God who said, "Don't commit adultery," also said, "Don't murder." If you don't commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you're a murderer, period.
Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.
As I look at this passage in a few versions, I'm impressed that God will treat me as I'm treating others. So for the last couple of days I've been thinking about what kind mercy looks like contrasted with harsh judgment in my daily life.
Sometimes I can get results oriented to the point where I just want to point out the problem and have someone fix it. Be it my sons, spouse, employees or whoever. Sometimes I don't want to take the time to see where the person I want to "fix it" is coming from, or to just open up a dialogue and see what's going on with them. I can be harsh; there's a problem where these people are not meeting up to what I feel is expected/needed and they need to adjust, work harder - in short, "fix it". Repeatedly in life I've seen that when I become more concerned about the person than getting the results I want, that the relationship is enhanced and we're able to more effectively work together to get to those results. It's just that I don't even think this way at all unless I'm plugged into God and His mercy.
I think these words from scripture are great for community life, especially in the church. If we are more merciful with each other and outsiders, it is more effective than harsh judgment. It breaks my heart to hear people pass judgment on someone in church when they are messing up, rather than reaching out a hand to help them out of their problems. I'm uncomfortable when I hear someone criticizing the church if I don't see that person being a loving part of the church, working to make things better (and whenever I'm part of any group, the church included, I need to live in mercy because people are always going to disappointment me because people are not perfect). I struggle with the balance between pointing out the truth when something is wrong, and being merciful. If something is harmful I need to be honest about it so that can be fixed; but how I go about being honest makes a real difference.
Do you ever struggle with being honest but not harsh? Is giving kind mercy easy for you? What helps you extend kind mercy?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Did the New Life Children's Refuge do anything wrong?

I've been hearing a lot about the 10 missionaries from an Idaho-based ministry "New Life Children's Refuge" (NLCR) who have been in jail in Haiti since their arrest.

The suspects were detained at Malpasse, Haiti’s main border crossing with the Dominican Republic, after Haitian police conducted a routine search of their vehicle. Authorities report that the Americans had no documents to prove they had cleared the adoption of the 33 children - aged 2 months to 12 years - though any embassy and no papers showing these children to be orphans.

The group has a Haitian lawyer,
Edwin Coq, who says that the judge found sufficient evidence to file charges against the Americans. Coq said that under Haiti's legal system, there won't be an open trial, but a judge will consider the evidence. It could take the judge three months to render a verdict. Each of the kidnapping counts carries a possible sentence of five to 15 years in prison.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the case "unfortunate." "The Haitian nation acted to protect children who were being removed from their country without appropriate documentation," she said. "It was unfortunate that, whatever the motivation, this group of Americans took matters into their own hands."

Yves Cristalin, Haiti's social affairs minister, explains that "No children can leave Haiti without proper authorization and these people did not have that authorization."

NLCR was founded by Laura Silsby, 40, and Charisa Coulter, 23, who are both members of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho. This Baptist church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, but these women did not go through the denomination to form their charity and instead independently formed the group. Laura Silsby incorporated NLCR in Idaho this past November, and says that it is "dedicated to rescuing, loving and caring for orphaned, abandoned and impoverished Haitian and Dominican children, demonstrating God's love and helping each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ". NLCR had planned to buy land and build an orphanage, school and church in Magante on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic.

After the earthquakes, the NLCR's aim became to "rescue Haitian orphans abandoned on the streets, makeshift hospitals or from collapsed orphanages in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, and bring them to New Life Children's Refuge in Cabarete, Dominican Republic". The written plan involves an interim plan of leasing a 45 room hotel and converting it into an orphanage until the building of the NLCR is complete. I've read that Silsby says NLCR was working with Haitian pastor Jean Sanbil of the Sharing Jesus Ministries, who already had an orphanage in Haiti that was severely damaged during the earthquakes. I have not been able to verify any information about Jean Sanbil or Sharing Jesus Ministries.

One of the issues here is that the Haitian government has suspended adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable
than ever to human trafficking. Without proper documents and concerted efforts to track down their parents, they could be forever separated from family members able and willing to care for them. Prime Minister Max Bellerive's personal authorization is now required for the departure of any child from Haiti without his parents. Max Bellerive told The Associated Press Sunday he was outraged by the group's "illegal trafficking of children" in a country long afflicted by the scourge and by foreign meddling.

The harsh reality is that in this desperately poor country — especially after the catastrophic Jan. 12 quake — some parents openly attest to their willingness to part with their children if it will mean a better life. Several AP news interviews have shown many Haitians to have this sentiment. I read the following in one such interview:

"Some parents I know have already given their children to foreigners," Adonis Helman, 44. "I've been thinking how I will choose which one I may give — probably my youngest."

Another issue is that Christian missionaries are not necessarily seen as good in Haiti.
Two-thirds of Haiti's 9 million are said to practice Voodoo, a melange of beliefs from parts of west Africa and Catholicism; voodoo is widely practiced and deeply ingrained in the culture. Max Beauvior, a leader of Haiti's vodoo priests, had this to say about Christian missionaries:

"They are very arrogant, I have seen those missionaries coming here, supposedly sent by Jesus to save us. From what? I don't know. That is what they say, and I believe that is wrong. We don't need that kind of savior."

I watched this interesting video showing what these missionaries are saying from jail:

When I read all the information, I see so many ways it could be looked at and interpreted. Personally I lean toward thinking these missionaries were naive and would have better served the people they wanted to help by working with, and through, their denomination or some other larger group that is knowledgeable of the laws and inner working of Haiti. I don't see them as out to make money off these children or participating in human trafficking. I hate to think that they would end up spending years in prison in Haiti.

What do you think? Are these people with the NLCR well meaning people trying to help children in a devastated country? Do you think they are they human traffickers? Do you think they were well intentioned but ignorant? Do you think they should have to serve jail sentences in a Haitian prison?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can we be set apart for God and in the world at the same time?

Right now I'm trying to hear God about a job for which I've been interviewing. My specific situation has got me to thinking about the age old Christian issue about how much should we be in the world.

I have not been offered the job, but I'm trying to decide for sure if I even want it so that I'll know what to do if I am offered the position. My problem is that, this business does some things that are legal, socially accepted, common practices, but with which I have issues because of how I look at things since I'm a Christian.

My husband John has an interesting take on it. He's worked in the public school arena for 35 years and really thinks Christians need to be out in the world making a difference. He talks passionately about how if we pull out of everything that is secular (which frequently most secular institutions will do some things that as Christians we do not agree with) - how are people to see the gospel? He quoted the following scripture from 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (I'm printing it in the Message paraphrase but linked it to several translations side by side):

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.

This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No— but at least we don't take God's Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ's presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.

As I read this scripture, I find myself asking if the world needs Christians so that they can experience God's presence through them, does this mean that sometimes it is God's will for Christians to be places where everything being done is not godly? I also find myself wondering if I always need to actually speak the truth out loud against things that I believe are wrong?

John's point about this scripture is that he thinks just being a Christian and having the Holy Spirit within you makes a difference to that location. I know this is true; I had one experience with this that is still vivid for me. Once when I was running a facility in west LA, we were in the midst of an annual survey with the department of public health; I had one of the surveyors pull me aside and tell me that she sensed the presence of Christ in me and to never take that for granted, that He could bring light into that dark place through His presence in me. I remember feeling like God spoke to me through that woman and I would get to work early every morning and just walk about the place, silently praying for the staff, patients and issues of the day.

Recently I was re-reading the story of when the nation of Israel came back into the promised land and Rehab's role in this. I can't help but think that those Jewish spies who came back to check out the land and met Rehab were surprised that God was using a harlot to help them, harlots were unclean people who were choosing to live in a lifestyle of undeniable sin. Normally they would not even let themselves be around such a sinner. But God used Rehab and she is even in the lineage of Jesus - my point being that God doesn't always work in ways that agree with our religious cultural morality.

Christians talk a lot about being set apart, holy, so God can use them and not wanting to be corrupted by the world. But does that mean we are not be around the world? And if we're around the world, how much around it is OK? I want to live a life that is every day, in every way, pleasing to God. I lean toward thinking that these issues are very individual and that I must be open because God may not work in the Christian acceptable box that I may tend toward building.

The last part of this scripture clearly speaks to not watering down and compromising God's message, it's speaking about hearing from God what to say and being faithful to speak just that. But does this mean we always need to speak out? Or does it imply that when God directs us to speak, we make sure to say what He wants?

These are questions I'm pondering today and would be very interested in hearing your thoughts. I've put in bold the questions I'm asking myself and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on these issues, or anything you care to say in general on this topic.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Terrific Tuesday with Debby from Heavenly Humor

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Debby who writes at Heavenly Humor. Debby is a wife, mother, and a young grandmother. She has a real flair for decorating and an all out love for Christ. I've enjoyed reading her blog because she has a down to reality, amusing voice.

Here's one of my favorite posts from Heavenly Humor:



After fasting forty days and forty nights, He (Jesus) was hungry.” (Matt 4:2)

Just thinking about going on a fast makes me hungry. It’s like my brain starts sending signals to my stomach…”All hands and forks on deck – the captain is walking the plank!” So my stomach responds by setting anchor at the next port, and stocking up on potato chips and snickers bars.

The longest fast God ever put me on was a liquid-only fast for seven days. Right around day five I caved. Every food group and by-product was calling my name, so I ate. The next morning upon awakening, I decided I was in need of French toast sticks. I figured since I already broke my fast the night before, I might as well eat.
Apparently God had different plans. As I lie there dreaming of breakfast, I suddenly had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I rolled over towards Mark, and I groaned “Oh, no!” “What’s wrong now?” Mark asked. (Note to self: don’t start whining before Mark has his coffee.) “I don’t think God will let me eat breakfast!” “Just go ahead and eat,” he said “problem solved. Now go back to sleep.”

I immediately headed downstairs, confident that I could eat, since Mark said it was okay. (And in case God should question me, I would answer “it was the man you gave me, he told me to eat!”) I put some French toast sticks on a pan, and put them in the oven. As I was waiting for the timer to go off, God started tapping me on the shoulder. “What do you think you’re doing?” He asked. I tried reasoning with Him, and explained that I already broke my fast with last night’s pizza. He didn’t budge. I then reminded Him that wasting food is a sin. Still nothing. Finally I gave in. “Fine” I said “but don’t come along later with a big guilt trip about all the hungry kids in China when I throw my French toast sticks in the garbage!”

I made it the rest of the week without too much complaining. On the seventh night, our son Jordan was healed at a prayer service. I finally understood why God wanted me to fast the entire week, it was for a miracle. I was so impressed by the logistics of it, that I started fasting one day a week from then on. I didn’t fast for anything in particular, mostly for other people’s prayer requests. I really thought I had struck gold with this new discovery, and I was determined to stick with this fasting regiment for the rest of my life. But then I read what the Bible had to say about fasting.

Esther instructed Mordecai to gather the Jews to fast when Haman was bent on killing all of them (Esther 3, 4). The Israelites fasted and wore sackcloth as an act of repentance to the Lord (Nehemiah 9). David fasted in sackcloth and ashes to plead with the Lord to turn from his anger towards Jerusalem (Daniel 9).

And this was interesting: Jezebel called for a day of fasting to honor Naboth, but it was all a ploy to murder Naboth in order to obtain his vineyard (1 Kings 21). That particular fast was obviously not Spirit led, which taught me that we should be careful who we listen to when it comes to fasting.

Isaiah 58 paints a different picture of what God thinks of fasting. He said “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your good with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

And in Matthew 9:14 when John’s disciples asked Jesus why His disciples didn’t fast, he said “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” So I concluded that feeding the hungry was more important to God than just sitting at home with my stomach growling. And if Jesus said we should fast out of longing for the bridegroom, then I decided I would fast out of my longing for His presence, and not just because I want some physical answer to prayer. But then another question arose– how often and how long should I fast?

And then one day God answered my questions. Oh, this is good, are you ready? He said “There is no formula.” Aha! God didn’t want me to make a ceremony or ritual out of fasting; instead, it should be a matter of the heart, not of men’s rules and regulations. In a matter of seconds, I was in the kitchen pigging out on peanut butter.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin