Where Do We Belong?

There was a song on Sesame Street for children to learn about different things that fit together to teach them about animals etc. A line in the song was, “One of these things just doesn’t belong here, one of these things just doesn’t fit in.”

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Many times it feels like that song humorously describes me. The Life Groups in my church are geared around matching people for groups that fit together such as young singles, newly married no kids, young married with small kids, adults with teen kids etc. There is a singles group, which I don’t join in on even though I am single. There are groups for older people etc etc.

Sunday I visited a Life Group at church. They were all kind and devoted in their faith. I enjoyed the discussion, but I noticed something. I was the only one using an iPad and biblegateway app to read bible passages. I didn’t see a smart phone or tablet in the group. I think they were all in their late sixties or seventies. I will probably go again, but I realize my life is vastly different than theirs. I didn’t want to ask if anyone has Facebook to do a friend request. I certainly didn’t mention they can follow me on Instagram.

My body is approaching senior citizen age, but my mind and heart are not. Because I spend so much time with refugees and immigrants, many of them in their twenties and thirties, I try to stay current on forms of communication.

My life is all about spending time with people from many different cultures. The only time I usually have conversations longer than five minutes with other Americans is on Sundays. I love the life the Lord has led me to. I love my refugee and immigrant friends. They make my life so interesting and fun.

When I have down time and want to just relax at home, I often binge watch shows on Netflix and Hulu on my laptop or iPad, I rarely turn on my TV anymore. I enjoy youtube videos too.

As a young friend of mine joked with me, “You are a millennial.”

Even though there is no real fit for me within groups, there is a fit for me with Jesus. I will continue to spend time with diverse people when it comes to culture, age, etc. I belong to Jesus and he has placed me among many cultures and experiences.

For me the key is to relate with people where they are at and not expect them to relate with me seeking to understand without expecting them to understand me because Jesus understands me.

Anyone who chooses to follow Jesus is choosing a life that does not fit completely with life in this world. Our focus is to be n the eternal not this life. After all, all followers of Jesus are just foreigners traveling through this life as Hebrews 11 says:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

A closing thought. In my post Liebster Award I shared that I can greet people in thirty languages. It is my hobby to learn new words. I made a video several years ago. I have learned more greetings since I made this video, but thought I would share it. Thank you for reading. God Bless.

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Music Mondays- Amazing Grace Sung by The Soweto Gospel Choir

With today being Martin Luther King Day in America, the old hymn Amazing Grace seemed to be an appropriate song today. The reason is the back story to the song.

John Newton wrote Amazing Grace in the 1700s. Newton was involved in the slave trade for many years, but after becoming a Christian, his life changed dramatically due to experiencing the grace of God. He became an Anglican Priest and worked to abolish slavery. It was from his profound conversation experience and experiencing God’s grace and mercy that he wrote Amazing Grace. Newton lived long enough to see slavery abolished in England.

The song is a testimony of not only God’s grace, but how God can transform a life. God transforms our hearts. He took John Newton a rough sailor and slave trader and transformed his heart and soul to the point that Newton became an Anglican Priest and fought to end what he once was involved in, the slave trade.

It also seemed fitting to share this recording of Amazing Grace by the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa. They sing gospel and spiritual songs. I love how beautiful this recording is of Amazing Grace.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Reflections on Martin Luther King Day

Tomorrow will be Martin Luther King Jr. Day in America. I still remember when I was a child growing up seeing him on TV. As a child it always seemed so wrong to me that people were discriminated against because of the skin color. In my city at that time, the overwhelming majority of people were Caucasian, so my first interaction with someone different was in 7th grade with my best friend at school Lorenzo,

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My first time to be aware of racism was sadly one day when I was in 7th grade riding with my grandfather in his car. We were riding around doing errands and he started pointing out people of other races to me. When we drove by an African American, he would us the N word. I told him, “Grandpa my best friend at school is ….” He got mad at me and he never gave me a birthday present again.

He was always hailed as a family hero because when he would visit, he would spend a lot of money on groceries to help the family and give my mother a check to help out. But I lost any respect for him that day in the car and each birthday that he ignored me I just thought, “who needs him.”

As a boy, I learned how ugly racism is and how divisive it is. I knew it was something I wanted no part of.

When I was an adult and became a Christian, I appreciated what the bible teaches about diverse people. There was something very revolutionary written by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians. At that time the dividing line for some Jews was between Jew and Greek, non Jew, so it was monumental that Paul wrote in Galatians 3:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Paul taught that in the church we are all equal in Christ. Our only identity is children of God.

Martin Luther King is someone I have always admired for what he stood for, his leadership and work for equal rights. My appreciation for him has grown over the years. When I show his I Have A Dream speech to my students, it is a poignant moment for us since my students come from different countries.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

Blessing Children

In the mornings at the school where I teach moms, I am often mindful of the well known passage about Jesus blessing the children in Matthew 19:

 “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

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The school I teach in has the highest number of ELL, English Language Learners, of any elementary school in my city. My classroom is between two of the ELL classrooms. Many of the children have moms who are in my class, so as they walk by they try to peek in to see mom, Sometimes I let them come in to say hi to mom and get a hug from mom.

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Children are aware of more than we realize and sadly that also means they are aware of the public rhetoric about refugees and immigrants.

The children who come with their parents as refugees experienced the same dangers as their parents and many of them lost loved ones in their home countries.

I will never forget when a new Yazidi student started my class in December 2017. She had been in the country for two weeks. Her first day of class I took her to her son’s classroom for PACT Time- Parent and Child Together which is an hour the parents sit in their child’s classroom to observe. Her little 1st grade son saw mom and smiled. When I see him I greet him in his language and we high five.

There are many Hispanic children in the ELL classrooms. We briefly interact in the hallway each morning. I greet them in Spanish- “Cómo estás?” how are you. I ask them if they are ready for a good day in school- ¿Estás listo para un buen día en la escuela? and wish them a good day in school- Que tengas un buen dia en la escuela.

I want them to feel good about who they are so I often tell them I think it is great they can speak Spanish because it is a beautiful language- Pienso que es maravilloso que puedas hablar español porque es un idioma hermosa.

Two of the ELL teachers speak Spanish, so sometimes I joke about homework telling the teacher the children said they want a lot of homework- Me dijeron que quieren mucha tarea. They plead to their teacher “no no” as their teacher and I smile. The children know I am joking. 🙂

I know how to greet people in 30 languages. I feel it is important to show respect to my refugee and immigrant friends and part of that for me is greeting them in their language. That includes the children at the school. I want them to know I respect them and their culture. Just because they are little does not mean we shouldn’t protect their dignity. Quite the opposite!! Because they are little and vulnerable, we should protect their dignity as people.

If Jesus felt it was important to bless children, then we who profess to follow him should also bless them.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

 

 

God Remembers for Us

It happened again yesterday as I was in my classroom. Each Thursday we have speakers come to share information helpful for families and have translators. A group came yesterday to share with us. One of the women seemed familiar to me. I looked at her but she looked away. I sat down at my desk trying to place her.

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No this isn’t one of those romantic stories. It is a story those who have been through a health ordeal might relate to. It has been 25 years, but some of my experience still lingers. I was sick and part of that was partial amnesia. I could remember family and family history. I could remember high school and such. But for the years immediately before I got sick my memory has holes in it especially involving the church I went to and the people I knew there.

So I talked with her and asked if we had gone to the same church years ago. She told me we had, so I explained to her about my partial amnesia and asked her what her name is and if she knew me. I asked her what her maiden name was and it still didn’t register. We had a nice chat.  I had to ask her one more question- “Was I nice to you and was I helpful?” She smiled and said yes.

The memories of my time with that church are vague such as coming out of the prayer room before the worship service and praying with people. I have not worried about remembering those times because of a promise in the bible in Hebrews 6:

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

God remembers everything we do serving him. I have simply accepted that he will take care of that for me regarding those years and it has freed me up to pursue serving him on the path he has me on now.

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But every once in a while, I run into someone from those days and I want to make sure everything is okay between us. It isn’t unsettling to me anymore like it was twenty years ago. I just have a few questions to make sure we are okay.

My experience highlights a wonderful truth we can all hold on to. None of us remembers all of the things we did serving God, loving his people, and showing his love to those who don’t know him. However, God remembers all of it.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

My Mornings with 20 Moms- Babies Being Born and Amusing Interactions

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Each month the moms in my class make a new calendar wall like the one in the picture. They are creative and enjoy making the room theirs. They also take the lead on special activities such as baby showers. Whenever one of the moms is about 7 or 8 months pregnant, it is baby shower time.

2 of the moms in my class had babies recently. One of them just had her baby Tuesday of this week, One of the translators for our Thursday session also had a baby. My class is populating the Kindergarten class of 2024 🙂

One of the mothers thought she was going to have a boy, so at the baby shower the other moms gave her boy items. She had a surprise when her baby was born. It’s a girl. 🙂 She is happy to have her healthy baby girl.

The mom who just had her baby Tuesday sent me pictures to show the class. I forgot the ask the baby’s name, so when the moms asked the name, I just said she didn’t tell me. Truth- I forgot to ask. 🙂

I told the moms I didn’t ask about the size of the baby because all newborn babies are small. They smiled and rolled their eyes.

Our wonderful volunteer Kathleen was with us again yesterday for Kathleen Day in class. She plays Mahjong with friends on Wednesdays after she volunteers. I joke with her about it being a high stakes gambling ring. Today I asked if it is at the Casino. The moms laugh because they know I am joking. In actuality it is a group of grandmothers meeting at a coffee shop.

Each day I write conversation questions on the board and then ask and answer them with my assistant and on Wednesdays with Kathleen too to model them for the students. The students seem to enjoy my answers such as:

Who do you like to visit? Me- I like to visit my friends at dinner time.

Where do you like to go shopping? Me- I don’t like shopping anywhere.

Who is your favorite cook? Me- anyone who cooks for me.

The moms come from Burma, Guatemala, Iraq, Mexico, and Syria. They have been through some harsh realities in life and studying a second language, or third or fourth for some, is stressful, so I use humor. My thinking is if they laugh a little, it can reduce their stress level in class.

They come because they share something in common. They want to learn English and understand school here, so they can help their children. The all want their children to have bright futures.

They are the reason getting up is worthwhile in the mornings to pray for them. They have needs and issues and I know someone who can help them. Jesus has all power, so I pray.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

 

 

Comforted by God to Comfort Others-The Voice of Peace

There are bloggers I enjoy following for personal enjoyment and then there are bloggers I follow because they inspire me. One blogger that inspires me is The Voice of Peace. She inspires me because she is willing to share about how God has helped her and continues to help her overcome trauma. Her vision is to help others who have been assaulted by sharing her story and encouraging others about how Jesus can help them heal.

In my blog I try to share different ways Jesus has helped me with various issues such as health problems, past abuse, personal failures etc.

I love 2 Corinthians 1:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

God comforts us so we can in turn comfort others with the comfort God has given us. It is a beautiful process. God brings healing and restoration to our lives and in so doing prepares us to be vehicles of comfort for others, so they may experience God’s healing and restoration.

So many blogs I follow are because of how they are willing to share how God has comforted them. I plan to continue sharing their blogs in coming weeks and months and shining a spotlight on them. I have done so and will continue to do so.

For today, I want to shine the spotlight on my little sister in Jesus and her blog The Voice of Peace. I want to share one of her videos with you. She has recently begun a youtube channel too, so I want to share her video- Just Like You. She shares about how just like other victims of trauma, she knows what it is like to be assaulted, but also knows the healing Jesus can bring. I am so proud of her. Please check out her video.

 

 

Late Night Blogging Fun :)

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A little late night blogging fun for a few of my followers living in warmer climates in different time zones. This is a picture outside of my apartment from Saturday morning. I have seen pictures of beautiful warm places in South Africa and The Philippines recently from my fellow bloggers sunshinysasite,wordpress.com in South Africa and timecrawlerblog.wordpress.com in The Philippines. So I wanted to share a few snowy photos from my home in Lincoln Nebraska. 🙂

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Wouldn’t it be fun to visit here in the snowy winter?

India is the country that I have the most followers from besides the U.S.. Maybe they would like to visit the snowy winter here too.

If I had the money, I would pay for a blogger retreat in the winter here in my home city and pay for you to visit and enjoy activities like sledding, making a snowman, making snow angels, and walking on a frozen lake.

I just wanted to have a little late night fun with my friends in warmer climates and different time zones. But please check our Sunshiny SA and Timecrawler by clicking on the links at the top.

God Bless 🙂

 

A Surprise Gift- A Huge Blessing

Sometimes we are blessed and it comes from seemingly out of nowhere in a way we would never expect. That happened for me last night.

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Last week I saw the mother of a young woman from Vietnam that was once part of a group of young people I mentored and helped with English to prepare them for university. Her daughter is now a successful architect. I met the mother when they were new to America and she was in a class I taught.

In April 2009 after my father died, I prayed about what to do with my extra free time since I would no longer be spending time with my father. As I prayed, the mother came to my mind. I stopped by their apartment one night and met the family. Even though I do not see them much anymore, they are special to me as are the memories.

So last week when I saw the mother, she told me she had a Christmas gift for me and would bring it to me last night. I was expecting something like a picture or gift card. She gave me an envelope and we hugged out of friendship. I did not open the envelope until I got to my car. When I opened it, I found $200.

As a tentmaking missionary, I can’t tell you what that means to me emotionally let alone financially. I get the term tentmaking from Paul in the bible. He made tents in places he went to start churches to support himself. I teach part-time and am supported part-time. It is not a get rich quick thing at all. But the intrinsic rewards are off the charts.

So in a week that I knew I need to get 2 new tires because of slow leaks, I was given the money to pay for them. Slow leaks are a bigger deal in the cold of winter. I have been putting air in them each night. Now I can go get the tires and not worry about going out to see a flat tire. With my autoimmune problems changing a tire is more challenging than it was ten years ago.

To know I have not been forgotten is a huge blessing. To be blessed with the money is also a huge blessing because I can get new tires. To absorb and process this spiritually, emotionally, and mentally is a bit overwhelming in a very good way.

I never expected for my friends from Vietnam to bless. They blessed me last summer and it happened again last night. When I first met them, they needed my help and one would never have imagined they would turn around and bless me.

I am thankful and feeling blessed. Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

 

Music Mondays-Healer of My Soul by John Michael Talbot

This month is Mental Wellness Month. Honestly, I never paid attention to such things in the past. I would just push on in life and ‘man up’ so to say. But twice in my life my body has caused problems for my mind as well. I lost some of my memory and struggled with depression when I first had thyroid problems in the early/mid 1990s. More recently foggy brain from Celiacs Disease caused problems for me. Last year it came to a point of enough is enough and I got help for depression/generalized anxiety caused by physiological problems.

How does that fit in with my faith in Jesus? Jesus is our healer. He also created us to learn about his creation which includes science and medicine. I spent hours listening to worship music to be in his presence, but still needed help. There is nothing wrong with seeking help from a doctor.

Yahweh is the name of God meaning, I AM. God is the eternal I AM. He is always present. He is not bound by time. It was common to refer to God as Yahweh and include a title such as Yahweh Rophi meaning God our healer. We are more familiar perhaps with Jehovah Rophi, Jehovah being a translation of Yahweh.

One day Jesus said to the people that before Abraham was, I AM. We read in John 8:

 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

The religious leaders understood what Jesus was claiming because they picked up stones to try to stone him, but he slipped away.

Jesus is Jehovah Rophi. He came to bring restoration to lives, and heal our souls. In Matthew 12 when Jesus was questioned about spending time with “sinners” he replied:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In Psalm 147 we read:

“He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.”

In Isaiah 61 we read of the promised Messiah, Jesus:

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners”

Jesus came to heal our souls and our spirits. In his presence there is healing and restoration. He said of himself that he is gentle and humble of heart.

If we struggle with sorrow, grief, depression, anxiety or anything else, Jesus’s desire to to heal our souls.

I would like to share this song with you- Healer of My Soul by John Michael Talbot. My hope is that anyone who reads this post can find healing for their souls. This song has blessed me a lot, so I wanted to share it.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.