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Archive for the ‘Divine Appointments’ Category

Tuesday evening I had the privilege of visiting a Yazidi family and having dinner with them in their home. I mostly talked with a brother and sister over dinner for about an hour. I have found the best way to get to know my refugee friends is to visit them in their homes and spend time with them listening, sharing, and letting them teach me about their cultures. Our conversation Tuesday evening meant a lot to me as we talked about them building their new lives here in America.

Building new lives can be a daunting task. My refugee friends leave behind their homes, their careers, their friends, and family. Basically they lose everything in their lives when they flee to a refugee camp and then they lose what little they have in the camp to come here. The emotions they experience is a mixed bag of excitement when they first come, happy to be safe, sad to leave behind those they love, grieving who and what they have lost, fear of their unknown future here and feeling lost here. They come to their new country and are faced with learning a new language, a new culture, and building new lives and careers.

As we talked Tuesday evening, the brother expressed his sadness over losing his dream of becoming a lawyer. He had to leave school behind when they fled the murderous thugs who came into their area. I shared with him that feeling sad is normal and that I would be concerned if he was not sad over what he had lost. Depression and sadness over losing so much is a normal response to an absolutely abnormal situation. He told me, “I lost my dream.”

When he said that, it caused me to think about when I left the university in Minneapolis in 1994, not even finishing the semester, to come back to Lincoln. At that time my dream of becoming a pastor seemed to end. It seemed that I would die soon due to my health being so bad. I went through over a year more of getting worse and then a year of recovering and relearning things as I recovered. I felt my dream had ended. It did not end however, it took a different path. Now I teach English and am in part-time ministry. It was from my life experience that I shared with him a thought in hopes it would help him.

Your Dream Did Not End. It Is On A Different Path.

It is at moments like these that I am reminded of how Jesus was made complete by his suffering. How could Jesus who has always been perfect be made complete? Because when he suffered in this life things such as the death of his earthly step-father Joseph, being hungry, being rejected, being falsely accused, and physical pain and death, he became our sympathetic high priest who is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses, so we can come to him with confidence.

It may sound strange to you, but I am grateful I went through my own suffering because I can draw from that experience as I share and spend time with my refugee friends.

For my new friend, I shared with him about how I had to rebuild my life and that my dream went through a new and different path. We talked about some steps he can take for his dream  to take a different path here. We talked about many other aspects of his new life here in America. I hope to visit them again and join him and his sister on their new path to their dreams here in America.

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So my recent birthday had me getting a bit reflective about my life. I think it is because I have more birthdays behind me than I do in front of me. It was kind of a taking stock of my life moment.

As I reflected on my life, I kept having thoughts of- IF ONLY I HADN’T or IF ONLY I HAD. You know- MISTAKES. If only I hadn’t made that mistake. If only I hadn’t sinned in that way. If only I had made a different decision. If only I had gone a different way in life.

Those were accompanied by the I wishes. I wish I had kept that job and not gone to bible college in the 1990s. I wish I had had different parents. The I wishes kept flooding in.

Then as I prayed, I was reminded of Romans 8:28- For God causes all things to work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to his purposes. God can work everything together. That includes my mistakes, my sins, my struggles, and the disappointments in life. It does not only include my successes and abilities. Each step of the journey is included in the all things.

As I reflected on Romans 8:28, I had one answer to all of the if onlys and all of the I wishes. The answer was BUT THEN. It all came down to BUT THEN, I would not have met all of these wonderful refugees and immigrants. I would not have been able to share God’s love with people from literally all over the world. Example- If only I had kept my position as a sales rep selling office furniture, I would be much better off, BUT THEN I would not have met my friends from all over the world.

Basically, I realize that my life’s journey led me to the point of being able to help and be friends with people from Brazil, Burma, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Iraq and many other countries. I have had so many opportunities to share the love of Jesus with people from all over the world. I hope to have many more years of being able to share God’s love with refugees and immigrants.

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My home city Lincoln Nebraska has the largest population of Yazidi people who have come as refugees in the United States. I have enjoyed teaching them and getting to know them the past several years. The numbers have grown since the genocide a few years ago. I can still remember seeing the video footage of Sinjar Mountain being full of people who fled from the dangers in various cities and towns in Iraq to escape the genocide.

I have felt a burden in my soul to try to spend more time with my Yazidi friends in Lincoln. They have been through terrible atrocities and are trying to make a new life here in America. I keep thinking of a John Michael Talbot song that has the lyrics of- “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands no feet on earth but yours”. My desire is to show my Yazidi friends the love of God by helping when I can and through friendship.

Sharing a meal together and talking is a wonderful way to share friendship. I love to eat food from other countries and experience other cultures by sharing a meal. On Saturday I shared a meal of Biryani with my friend Khudaidah and Waheda. They were my students several years ago. We have kept in touch via Facebook off and on, but I wanted to catch up with them. The Biryani was delicious and the company was great.

I have to admit that our conversation was intense at times as we talked about the genocide, but I am grateful I could be there to listen and show I support them. There is no quick fix for what they are going through, but an understanding and empathetic ear can be a small piece in the puzzle of lives being pieced back together.

I hope to visit them again soon and also to check in with more of my Yazidi friends here in Lincoln as well as people from other countries and cultures and hope that in doing so I can be Christ’s hands here in my community.

 

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As Gandalf talked with Frodo in the mountain, he shared this advice with the young hobbit who was despairing the situation they were in, and even though it is from a book/movie, such advice is so valuable for us.

 

 

 

 

 

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This picture is from a flower clock that I saw when I visited Geneva Switzerland in June 2004. Clocks are reminders that time continues to tick away. When I was young, I felt like I had all kinds of time. Now that I have more yesterdays than I will have tomorrows in this world, I realize how short the time we are given actually is.

I have been given time to live in this life at this specific time in human history. I do not want to waste my time wondering why I am living now as opposed to some other time in history. My time in this life has been appointed to me now. I have been given time to live out what was written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which Go prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Each day I try to remind myself not to waste a day. I have today and that is all that is certain. My desire is to make each day count. As a teacher, it means looking for opportunities to encourage my students and instill a sense of hope for the future as they try to learn English. As a servant of Jesus, it means taking time to pray, sending that message of encouragement, sharing God’s love with others. More and more for me it means valuing the little things as well as the big things. Opportunities are not found only on a ministry trip to another country, they are waiting for us each day as we go about our daily lives. We never know where, when, or how the small things for us can lead to something much bigger. But even if it is only a small thing that does not seem to lead much, I try to remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat……….. I tell you whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for Me.” As I try to show His love, Jesus considers it as being done to Him. That alone should be sufficient motivation to make each day count by showing the love of God to others whether in little ways or big ways.

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He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” A quote from Lord of The Rings that illustrates the thoughts I normally have as a new year approaches.

I often wonder if the Lord had shown me all that was about to transpire in my life when I stepped out to follow Him, if I might have backed off out of concern or from feeling overwhelmed. At times it may feel frustrating to not know the whole answer and be told to trust, but when I think about how in Psalm 119 it says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path”, I realize it is for the best to not know all before we step out. His light for us on the path guides us step by step. A lesson I have learned, and yet still need to learn, is that it is WHO is guiding us that is more than the path itself. If I can remember that it is Jesus who loves us and died for us who is our guide, it makes the experience of the journey more worthwhile.

One example is my involvement with my Brasilian friends. My interest in Brasil was peaked by my friends Isis and Eduardo from Brasil who lived in my city while in graduate school. Through my friendship with them and others from Brasil, I had the recurring thought that someday I wanted to go to Brasil. My church sends a group there each June and after hearing there would be interest in having a teacher go, the wheels were set in motion for my first trip in June 2013. As a result of that trip, I studied Português for one year at the University of Nebraska. This led to me meeting more Brasilians at UNL, continuing to practice my Português, and best of all enjoying friendship with many Brasilians at UNL. Following the path that God has before us is a process of letting it unfold as we follow His voice. My current involvement with my Brasilian friends portrays that so well. I met some friends from there, stepped out to go on a trip there to serve, ended up studying the language, and now many friendships and opportunities are part of my life.

As I write this, I wonder, where will the path lead this year as I step out my door. Where will Jesus guide me to this year. As Bilbo said at the end of the Return of the King movie, “I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”

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The picture above is from Ouro Preto in Brasil. It is a road with many curves. It reminds me of what a professor said once. God does not always lead in a straight line. He shared this in my Pentatuch class as he showed paths of Abraham’s journeys laid over a map of the bible lands. Abraham followed God all over the place in his journey to where he was called to go. Fitting that God first said to Abraham to go to the land that I will show you in Genesis 12. In other words, get going but you won’t know where to yet, just follow my call.

Each year when New Year’s is getting close, I wonder where God will lead me, more specifically, who will God bring into the path of my life. My Christmas Eve celebration portrays what I am trying to say very well. I enjoyed Christmas Eve at the home of friends from Brasil along with other friends from Brasil. Interesting for me is the fact that I did not know any of them last year at this time.

Last year at this time, I was preparing for guests to come from Brasil, had just finished my first semester of Português, and enjoyed spending time with some students from Brasil. Early last year, one student told me of Juliano a professor from her university that was coming here as a visiting professor and asked if I would be willing to help him. We skyped together a few times and messaged on facebook. Juliano arrived in Lincoln in August. I have enjoyed spending time with Juliano and his family.

I also had the opportunity to meet Rodrigo and his family in August. Rodrigo is also a visiting professor from Brasil. It has been a pleasure to spend time with Rodrigo and his family too. Rodrigo and I began meeting for lunch at the East Campus Student Union and through those lunches I met some undergraduate students from Brasil. That culminated in hosting a Thanksgiving lunch at my church with Brasilian food thanks to Juliano’s wife Wal and brigadeiro thanks to Rodrigo’s wife Flavia. It has been my privilege to get to know the students and to have lunch with them. The week of Thanksgiving, I was able to help one of the students with her mother’s visit. That made my Thanksgiving week a memorable one.

As I sat with my friends on Christmas Eve, I reflected on the the fact that I knew none of them one year ago, and yet, I consider them my good friends. Friends that I hope to visit in Brasil in the future. I also thought about all of the students I met through them. Then I wondered something. Who will God bring across the path of my life next year? What adventures lie ahead for me in 2015?

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Psalm 90:12 says- “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” But what does that mean? Are we to just live in morbid fear that we will one day die? The rest of the Psalm following verse 12 gives insight as it discusses living for God.

We are only given a short time here in this life. Our days are numbered. What is important is how we live those days. My desire this year is to be better at making each day count for the Lord by showing His love to others. The older I get, the more reflective I become. I realize there have been far too many days that I have wasted. There have been opportunities to show the love of God to others that I have not followed through on or have squandered due to my own selfishness.

The theme for me as I ponder the New Year is and my desire is to day by day be better at making each day count in my relationship with Jesus and showing His love to others. The number of days that I have left in this life grows shorter as I get older. Making each day count can be about small things, not only big dreams. Often it is in those moments we think of as small that can lead to significant things. A chance meeting with someone can lead to a friendship and opportunities to share Christ with them. I had such an opportunity last summer when I met a new friend from Brasil by “chance”. Actually God had arranged my chance to meet my friend from Brasil. It began with meeting for coffee after being connected by someone else. Our friendship grew and his wife came to visit for the holidays. Over the holidays both of them made the decision that they wanted Jesus in their lives.

However, there have been other opportunities I have missed out on over the years. That is why the theme for me this year is to day by day make each day count. Each day is a gift from God to be able to participate in His wonderful plan.

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