When God Connects the Dots

I love it when God connects the dots to make something work. When he does so, it is time to step back and appreciate how sovereign God is to connect the minutest of details. In those moments I feel something of what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 8:

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”

God is all powerful and yet he cares about the little details that affect our lives. He connect the dots for us.

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Last week a colleague of mine asked me if people from my church might be willing to donate used clothes for three girls for winter. The girls are from a refugee family. I told her I would check.

Sunday morning I asked a friend at church who happens to help lead one of our women’s ministries, MOPS-Mother of Preschoolers. She told me that she had been praying for an opportunity to meet a refugee woman and would pray about it.

I went into worship service and the pastor taught from James 1 including James 1:2:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

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My friend contacted me today to follow through and I connected her with my colleague. Three refugee girls will have winter clothing that fits them for the coming winter.

It is one of those times that I can sit back and be thankful that our God cares about people and their needs. He chooses to work through us and others giving the opportunity to partner with him.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

 

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How Jesus Sees People

Imagine the scenario of someone confiding in you that they struggle with depression, anxiety, OCD, an eating disorder, or some other mental health issue. What is your reaction? How do we who follow Jesus respond to someone when they confide in us. Do we give a short glib answer of just trust the Lord or throw out a quick bible verse and then ignore them? Do we show empathy in the moment only to let what the person has confided cloud our thoughts about them? Do we think less of the person? People who struggle with mental health issues worry about the fact that in this day and age of better understanding, there is still stigma, shame,  involved.

There are words and practices that have no place in the church and stigma is one of those. When we stop and realize that becoming a Christian is the ultimate act of equality, then thinking of anyone with a label other than brother or sister should not be in our minds. Becoming a Christian means coming to Jesus and realizing that he died on the cross for all of us. We all equally needed his sacrifice on our behalf, and we all need to humbly come to him for forgiveness.

When we meet someone who struggles with mental health whether it be someone struggling with depression, anxiety, OCD, an eating disorder, bipolar or any other mental health issue, there should be no stigma involved.

Think of the example of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. We know from the fact that Jesus healed her of seven demons that Mary Magdalene would have been an outcast in society. There would have been stigma concerning her in the eyes of others. But we see something different with Jesus. We see that Mary Magdalene hung out with Mary the mother of Jesus. She was part of the group that followed Jesus closely during his earthly ministry. Jesus chose to appear to her first after his resurrection.

If Jesus does not attach stigma to people who struggle with issues, then we shouldn’t either. Jesus gives grace for a person to rise above their struggle and invites them to partner with him in his work. So should we. We should desire for people to rise above their struggle, we should encourage them, pray for them, and see them as Jesus sees them.

I watched a video that shares a powerful message about how we see and treat people with mental health issues. I would like to encourage you to watch this short video.

Thank you for reading. God Bless

 

Best Tip Ever Playing Pizza Delivery Guy

Many years ago I delivered pizza while I was just trying to survive while I was struggling with my second autoimmune problem that took a while to diagnose. Delivering pizzas was easy work, and many nights I made good tips especially in bad weather. Many times the tips added up to more than my hourly wage.

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Yesterday I received the best tip for delivering pizza that I ever received. My church has a respite night 4 times a year for families with children with special needs. We have volunteers who are nurses, teachers, and church members. They always have pizzas to serve. Friday evening we had respite night and there were some pizzas left over in the refrigerator.

I took three pizzas to give to friends of mine from Iran. They are Mandean and a lot of fun to spend time with. The father, mother and one daughter live in one duplex and the oldest daughter, her husband and children live in another duplex close by. I dropped off two pizzas at the oldest daughter’s house and then took one to the father and mother.

We sat down and drank coffee together and had a wonderful time. We talked about many things as we practiced conversational English together. I call the mother my little sister and the youngest daughter my niece in their language. The oldest daughter is also my little sister. I love visiting them and spending time with them. It was the kind of spontaneous afternoon that makes me grateful God has led  me to be friends with refugees.

The best tip ever for me? Seeing my friends smile when I surprised them with the pizza and seeing my little sister laugh as I told stories.

Sharing God’s love does not have to be big things. Often it is time spent with people and sharing the little things in life.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

Voice

One of my favorite TV shows began last week. I like how on The Voice the four coaches do not see the person auditioning until they decide they want the person on their team and push the I Want You button and their chair turns around. The coaches make their decision by listening to the person’s voice.

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Jesus talked about his voice and us in John 10:

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

and

 “They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

There are many competing voices in life. Some try to tell us it won’t work, that we aren’t good enough, there is no hope, and remind us of our past.

Jesus came to give us life not to cast us down. His voice is gentle to those who follow him. His voice says with him all things are possible. His voice tells us we are loved. He voice tells us there is always hope with him. His voice tells us our past is forgiven.

My hope is to reflect the voice of Jesus to those who don’t know him. That is why I try to learn greetings in the languages of my refugee and immigrant friends. They have been through things we can’t imagine.

My Yazidi friends have endured unimaginable things. They lived under oppression for centuries. The genocide in 2014 was the most recent, but there have been other times. They were discriminated against for centuries. They never felt welcome anywhere they went except among themselves.

That is why I walk around the small lobby area outside the classrooms and greet them with ‘Choney Havalemah’, (attempt at phonetic spelling), which means Hi how are you my friend. I do that because I want them to feel welcome.

By listening to them share their experiences, I give them the respect of being heard. I try to give them a voice, a right, to share.

We can use our voices to build up or to tear down. By choosing to build up others, we can reflect the love of Jesus and his voice to those around us.

Do you know of someone being bullied? Reach out to build them up.

Do you know of someone who has been abused? Reach out to build them up.

Do you know of someone struggling with an illness? Reach out to encourage them and let them know you are there.

Do you know of someone struggling with memories of the past? Remind them Jesus forgives and gives new starts in life.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Desires Change

Saturdays in the fall used to always mean spending my day watching college football especially the team I have always been a fan of. I used to plan my Saturdays around ‘The Game”.

This morning as I was praying over my day, a realization hit me. There is a game today, but I won’t be glued to my TV like I used to be. I have been invited to the home of some Yazidi friends for lunch. They came here as refugees a few years ago. I still want my team to win, but I am more excited about visiting my refugee friends than I am about the game.

That may not sound like a big deal, but believe it is like a monumental shift and change in my life. My priorities have changed in a huge way.

Psalm 37:4 says:

“Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart”

Some may read that and think, “If I enjoy being a Christian, I can get things.”

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The truth of that verse is actually that if I delight in the Lord, his desires will become my desires. I will no longer only think about things I want. Because my desires change to be his desires for me, my desires will be given to me.

It is not like the movies where one opens a bottle and a genie pops out and grants three wishes anything you wish for.

Being a follower of Jesus is about being changed to be more like Jesus. When we take delight in him, what we wish for changes, and we find our true joy and contentment in the desires that align with his.

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It was a slow change for me over many years, but this morning it dawned on me that the thing the old me would obsess over all day on a Saturday has changed to the point that while yes I hope my team wins, I would rather spend time with refugees in hopes of sharing the love of Jesus with them.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Our Eternal Big Brother

Monday evening I visited a family from Syria to have dinner with them. I helped one of the sons with his homework while we waited to eat. The father showed my pictures of Syria before the war. I enjoyed getting to know them better. While I was talking with the father, the daughter wanted to move a coffee table closer to us, so she could serve us coffee. The youngest child, a three year old boy, wanted to help his sister move the table. Being only three, he couldn’t lift it. He tried, but he could do it. Then the oldest brother came up behind him and with one hand lifted the table. The little brother continued “helping” and the table got moved. When they finished, the little brother excitedly yelled, “I did it.” His sister and brother smiled and his father laughed.

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So many times in my life, our eternal big brother Jesus has stepped in for me. There  are so many moments in my memory of Jesus stepping in. A few of them are:

On my first trip to Romania, I stayed with a host family in their apartment. There were three possible bus stops close to their building, so it was quite confusing to find my way considering all of the building looked the same. During the first week, every time I took the bus to get back to my host home, there was a different person either from the church or from the English classes that was on the bus, so each time I had help getting back to my host home until I knew the way.

The night I thought I was going to die in July 1995 I felt his presence come into my small apartment and felt a hand touch my shoulder. The pain stopped and the next day the doctor finally found out what my problem was.

We can count on Jesus our eternal big brother because his character never changes. We see in Hebrews 13:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

We can count on Jesus our eternal big brother because he has all authority and power. We see in Matthew 28:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

We can count on Jesus our eternal big brother because he loves us so much that he left heaven to come to earth to die for us. We see in John 15″

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Dear reader whatever you are facing in your life, you can count on Jesus our eternal big brother.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Music Mondays-Help Us to Love by Tori Kelly with the Hamil Tones

Perhaps I am sensitized to the suffering of others because of the work and ministry the Lord has called me to. Knowing the burdens of those I teach and minister to causes me to realize how much I need Jesus to guide me, empower me, and how much I need to pray for those he has brought into my life.

A constant prayer of mine is for the Lord to help me to show his love to those I help, teach, and reach out to. There is so much need for God’s love in this world.

Lyrics from a song by Tori Kelly express so well what is going on around us:

“This world is weeping, hurting, broken and begging for change
Oh yeah
But still we marching, praying, dying, and things stay the same
When will we see?”

There is so much need and suffering in this broken world. The people God has called me to reach out to are refugees, but it is not only refugees who are suffering and broken. There are so many failed marriages in the U.S. and so many children affected by them. There are people struggling with depression, addiction, and other pressures in life.

My desire and hope is for those I meet to come to know the love of Jesus, but how can they if I do not show it? To show it I need to experience it first, so I can turn around and show it to others. As John wrote in 1 John 4:

“We love because he first loved us.”

Because Jesus has blessed me with experiencing his love, I want to show to others. That is why it is my prayer each morning. I love the way Tori Kelly expresses it in her song which is why I am sharing her song Help us to Love. I love the lyrics:

“Fill us with your love, Lord (unconditional love)
We need your love (rain down on us, your love)
Oh, we need your love (fill us please with your love)
God help me to love the way that you love me”

Thank you for reading, God Bless.

God’s Love is Deeper

Corrie Ten Boom was a woman who knew suffering in this life. When the Nazis came into her homeland The Netherlands, Corrie along with her father and sister hid Jews from the Nazis and helped theme escape. They were caught and arrested. They were sent to prison camps. Her father died in his prison camp. Corrie and her sister suffered greatly in their prison camp and Corrie’s sister died in the prison camp. Corrie was released due to a clerical error.

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It was out of her experience of feeling God with her in the prison camp that Corrie said:

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

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Corrie experienced living in horrid conditions in the prison camp. She endured being abused by the Nazi guards. She lost her father and sister. Yet she was still able to experience God’s love.

There is no pit so deep. Depression, anxiety, sickness, family problems, financial problems, are not so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.

Dear reader are you experiencing life in a pit at the moment? God’s love is deeper.

Nothing can separate us from God’s love. God has assured us of that. In Romans 8 we see:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

My hope is to share God’s love with those who have experienced horrendous pits in this life. My refugee friends have gone through things us in the western world can’t imagine. The difference between most of my refugee friends and Corrie Ten Boom is that Corrie knew Jesus when she was in her pit and most of my refugee friends did not know Jesus when they were going through their terrible ordeal.

Dear reader Jesus loves you and longs to be with you. May you experience his love today.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

You Matter to God

(This post deals with the issue of suicide. If that is a trigger for you, please do not read it. If you are struggling, please call 1-800-273-8255)

A friend of mine on facebook posted a picture of an adult lion looking back at his lion cub with a caption of, “I thought about quitting but then I noticed who was watching.”

I loved it because it reminded me of myself. Living with autoimmune problems and persevering through other trials in ministry, there are times I have felt tempted to quit, but then I thought about those the Lord has connected me with.

This past June I experienced a flare up and prayed about it. In my prayer, I shared with the Lord that I wanted him to take me home to heaven. I was tired of pain, tired of many things, but then he reminded me of those he has brought into my life to share his love with and the truth of what Paul wrote in Philippians 1 hit me:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

I share this because I can understand the feeling of wanting to give up. I wasn’t suicidal myself, but understand the feeling of wanting to quit. I share this because September is suicide prevention month. People who contemplate suicide often feel there is no solution for them, no hope for them, and that they are a burden to others. Their emotional/psychological pain is so bad that they feel ending their lives is the only choice.

I will never forget September 2011. There was a group of about 25 young people from Vietnam that I helped between 2007 and 20014. All of them went on to higher education except one. One of them, a 19 year old girl, completed suicide in September 2011. I will never forget the pain her loved ones experienced. Her funeral was one of the saddest experiences I have ever had.  She is always on my mind. It is like what Jesus talked about regarding the lost sheep in Luke 15:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”

The lost one is always on our mind. I would do anything if I could go back 7 years and go to her house to stop her.

Dear reader you are precious to God. God loves you so much that he sent Jesus to die for you because God wants to forgive you and come into your life as your heavenly father. There is always hope with Jesus.

You matter to God!!!

If you are struggling please talk with someone. Talk with a pastor, a priest, a teacher, a friend you can trust, a family member you can trust.

You can call the hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you want to talk with someone anonymously.

I would like to share a video with you by a young woman who had thought about suicide and why we shouldn’t do it. Her name is Lizzie. She is a Catholic young woman, but for my fellow evangelical readers, please do not let that prevent you from watching. She has a beautiful story to share about why we should keep going.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

When We Realize God Has Answered

I didn’t think I would post anything today because yesterday was so busy that I didn’t follow my usual routine of writing the evening before and publishing the next day. I spent the evening with Yazidi friends at a wedding celebration. This morning I woke up feeling a bit lazy, but went to church thinking today would be a no post day for my blog.

BUT

God has a way of getting our attention. My pastor finished a series on Jonah by contrasting Jonah’s attitude of not wanting to share with the people of Ninevah with the attitude Jesus has for all people. My pastor asked the congregation, “What if you meet someone from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, do you share with them or want them to not hear and not be saved?”

When my pastor asked that question, it hit me- God has blessed with with opportunities to befriend, help, and share Jesus with people from those places and many others. God has answered a prayer of mine many years ago. I prayed one day and asked:

“God please give me the heart of Jesus for others.”

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God has brought people into my life from all over the world. Numerous times God has blessed me with being friends with refugees and hearing their stories of suffering. When we encounter someone who has suffered, we can either have our hearts softened toward them and respond, or we can be indifferent. I am grateful God has softened my heart over the years.

As my pastor was speaking this morning, memories kept coming to mind of people from many countries God has blessed me to know. I began to pray for them.

This morning was a moment that God let me know that he has been answering that pray of mine long ago. He has taken me on a wonderful journey.

So dear reader, I would like to challenge you to pray that prayer of asking God to give you the heart of Jesus for others. If you really mean the prayer, things will happen. God knows how we are wired and will lead us to the people he has created us to reach.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.