Engagement Party for Others Blessed Me

Last night I had the privilege of going to an engagement party for a young couple from Iran. They are Mandean which is a minority religion in Iran, so they face oppression which is why they come here as refugees. It was such a blessing to see my friends joyfully celebrate the engagement of the young couple.

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One of the many blessings last night was the opportunity to see people I had not seen for years. When the first Mandean people came to my city 10 to 11 years ago, many of them were in an English Second Language class I taught. It was great to see them again especially to hear about their lives. One of them has become a Certified Nurse Assistant. Two have completed beauty school. There were smiles and hugs as we reconnected.

What really caught my attention was the dancing. When the engaged couple entered, they first came to the dance floor and were surrounded by the bride to be’s mother, sisters, nieces dancing in a circle around them. Then there was a father daughter dance for the bride to be and her father. There were other special dances such as two women dancing toward the couple, who were seated at the time, to bring rings on trays to them. Another dance one of the sisters of the bride to be danced holding a knife to cut the cake. She danced in front of the groom to be while he danced in front of her asking for the knife to cut the cake. She would gesture for money and the groom to be would keep taking more money out to hold up while they danced. Then the sisters gave the knife to the bride to be and the couple danced for a while and then danced to the cake to cut the cake.

The dancing was so much fun. The dances were mostly friends and family celebrating together. Sisters danced together. Mothers and daughters danced together. Men danced with men and women danced with women and groups danced together. The party was one big joy filled event. I even got out on the dance floor a few times.

Would Jesus have gone to the celebration last night? All we need to answer that is to reflect on where he performed his first miracle. Whenever I go to an engagement party or wedding for my international friends, I think about the first miracle Jesus performed when he was on earth. He was at a wedding feast in Cana and they ran out of wine. He turned water into wine and it was better than the best wine at the feast. The result was people coming to faith in Jesus. Jesus joined in the celebration of the newly married couple.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice in life’s special moments is part of my life’s work and ministry that I enjoy the most. Experiencing those moments with friends from other cultures has enriched my life and given me a completely new perspective on life. God has given me the opportunity to show his love to people from all the world in many different moments whether moments of rejoicing, moments of mourning, moments of learning, or moments of helping.

Last night was a joyful fun filled evening with people who were oppressed in their home country. Seeing them celebrate and being able to join them was an evening I won’t forget. Seeing former students and hearing about their lives was something that blessed me. It was as if God was giving me many reminders that with him my life has had a purpose and the purpose isn’t over yet. The realization that God was getting my attention last night hit me when one of my Mandean friends smiled and hugged me thanking me for helping her and her children by arranging for my church to help them with deposit on an apartment. So though I went to the party hoping to bless others, I was the one who left blessed and encouraged.

The night was so wonderful that even though I originally planned to go home at 10, I stayed until midnight. I left at midnight only because I needed to be up for church and to teach a class here at church. I am a little tired, but it is an oh so good kind of tired of having had a great night.

 

 

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Friends Make a Difference

Going through difficult times a person realizes the blessing of friends. This past few weeks I have truly been blessed by my friends. I shared the other day about my young Vietnamese friends blessing me and how much it meant to me. There have been other blessings too.

I haven’t been driving lately, but getting home after my evening class hasn’t been a problem because two friends, Kolade and Roxanne,  have been giving me a ride home. They were both my assistants in my morning class in previous years. I am so proud of both of them for moving up to Lead Instructor. They have been so kind to give me rides home.

One of my Yazidi friends has given me many rides to be able to teach my Saturday morning class that he comes to. He even drove me one evening to pick up my prescriptions. My friend from church Kevan has given me rides on Sunday mornings, so I can go to church.

Another former assistant, Kelly who is doing great things in her own classes and in the commuity, knows I have Celiacs. She has a family member with Celiacs, so she understands about my need for living gluten free. She was so kind to make some gluten free food for me that I would never be able to. It is no secret that I am perhaps the world’s worst cook. 🙂

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gluten free taco bake
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gluten free chicken parmesean

I may have been passing through a tunnel, but not alone. Jesus has been with me every step of the way and he has blessed me with some wonderful friends and thanks to my friends, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Going through the tunnel has taught me so much, but I don’t want to go through it again. If I do, I will remember the old Beatles song I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.

 

Having An Eternal Big Brother-Jesus

I will never forget the day as a 12 year old boy when a dog attacked me while I was distributing flyers for my dad’s company with my older brother Mark. The dog was BIG and I wasn’t the biggest 12 year old- my growth spurt hit age 15- and the dog had clawed me on my side and I was bleeding. I was freaked out and started running with the dog chasing me, so I did the one thing I knew to do- SCREAM for my big brother. Mark came and chased the dog away and got me calmed down. He also taught me what to do if that ever happened again. He drove me home. I was taken to the ER but didn’t need stitches.

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Photo by SplitShire on Pexels.com

Growing up in my dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother there was one person I could always count on. He was the one who taught me how to play sports, helped me with stuff for cub scouts/boy scouts, and the person I always felt safe around. My older brother Mark was a wonderful big brother growing up. I don’t remember us ever having a fight even when I would have deserved his wrath at times in my teen years.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Having had a good big brother growing up made it so easy for me to appreciate having Jesus as my eternal big brother.  Yes, the bible refers to Jesus as our brother for those who believe in him in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Did you notice it says among brothers and sisters? Yes, Jesus wants little sisters not only little brothers. For my women readers, remember Jesus values you as his little sisters he wants to protect.

As I think about what Jesus did and does for us; he died for us to save us from hell and to restore us to God and he defeated the ‘big dog’ chasing us-Satan, it is so easy for me to grasp the concept of Christ my eternal big brother. For that I am so thankful for my big brother I grew up with. Other concepts were a bit difficult such as viewing God as my heavenly father because, well, my father was a withdrawn alcoholic who drank his vodka and orange juice as we watched TV.

But the concept of Jesus as my eternal big brother anchored me in my faith early on and gave me the grace and time I needed to embrace other aspects of God mostly God being my heavenly father.

When I meet people, I try to meet them where they are at in life and not force an issue. If I meet someone who has had an abusive father, it seems best to me to wait a bit and be patient with them and not dive in and say something like, “Don’t worry, God is your father.” From my own experience it seems best to get to know the person before shoving something on them they may not be ready to process. But when the time is right, how joyous it is to share with them that God is their father. For some the concept of Christ as our eternal big brother might be difficult due to issues with a brother.

The church is the family of God and he is patient with us to heal us step by step. For some of us those steps come quicker than others. I try to allow people the grace they need to take things as slow or fast that is appropriate for them. The Holy Spirit is much more capable than I am to discern such things, so for me it is more of an issue of listening to the person while letting the Lord guide.

So I hope this writing helps you in your little sister or little brother relationship with our eternal big brother Jesus. As you grow in your relationship with God, please remember that he understands you, he knows if you have past things that hurt you, and he is infinitely patient to bring healing at the pace that is best for you.

 

 

 

 

Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends :)

On one of my favorite TV shows Monday evening, The Voice, Kyla sang the old Beatles song I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends. I enjoyed her performance. That song aptly describes my life this week and yesterday was a great example.

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I need to get the brakes fixed on my car, so I haven’t been driving this week. Not a big deal elsewhere, but here in my city Lincoln in the middle of nowhere, the bus system is not so great. The buses are nice, but the schedule is not so great. I will get my car fixed on Saturday, so in the mean time, I am getting some help from my friends.

Another issue was my laptop was getting old and in fact missing a few letters. Also the speaker is cutting out. To give you an idea, it is from before cameras were in all laptops. I needed a better one especially to write and for ministry. I got in touch with my friend Scott who takes donated computers from people from different churches and then he gets them ready to give to people in ministry. I sent him an email last Friday asking if he had a laptop and he replied that he didn’t but would let me know when he had one. Only 2 hours later he sent me another email telling me someone had just dropped one off to donate and I could have it.

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So that was wonderful but one problem was how to pick it up before my friend Scott left for vacation Wednesday afternoon. I called my friend Bernie and he offered to give me a ride. Wednesday morning Bernie picked me up and we went to get my laptop.

Bernie is in ministry reaching out to people from the Middle East living in Lincoln. Lincoln has the largest number of Yazidis in all of North America and also thousands of Muslims and also other Middle Eastern groups living here. We went to my favorite coffee shop, The Harbor, after getting the laptop because I wanted to buy him a coffee as thanks for helping me. It was encouraging to sit and chat for an hour or so with a brother in Christ that can relate to my ministry and me to his.

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In the evenings friends/colleagues from the college where I teach are giving me rides home after our evenings classes. On Saturday a friend will help me fix my car for the cost of parts only.

There is a term, tent maker missionary, that comes from Paul in the bible. He made tents to support himself in cities where he stayed to start churches. I am no Paul and my ministry is tiny compared to his, but the term tent maker applies to me. I teach part-time for the college and am supported part-time by my church, definitely not a get rich scheme. There are times like this week that I need the help of my friends to get by.

Oh and one change this week, I did it. I shaved off my beard for the summer. It is still spring on the calendar, but in true Nebraska fashion we seem to have gone from winter to summer with no spring. It is hot already, so the beard came off. It might come back in the fall. 🙂 I think I look better with the beard, so strong chance it will come back, but for now it is TOO hot.

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Hope your day is blessed and that you have friends around you like I have this week. God Bless 🙂

Another Typically Unique Saturday- Sudanese Friends

It was another unique Saturday for me. It was unique because of the diverse people I was blessed to spend time with. Each Saturday I am blessed to experience the richness of the diverse population of my home city Lincoln.

As is the case with each Saturday my morning began with my Saturday morning ESL reading group with my friends from Haiti, Iraq and Japan. We discussed time and the different views of time in various cultures and then read about how concepts and measurements of time have changed over the years.

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me in my Saturday morning classroom

After my morning group, I had the privilege of meeting with a friend from Mexico to help her prepare for a test to become a translator. It was great to catch up on things with her and exciting to be a part of her journey to becoming a translator.

A highlight of my day was interacting with and catching up with some Sudanese friends.

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Sudanese friends beginning to gather at my church

Several years ago the Lord gave me an opportunity to introduce a Sudanese fellowship to my church. I will never forget that day when we went to the church office to meet pastors and staff. About 25 Sudanese came that day with many of them wearing traditional clothing. That was the day that launched my home church into a ministry for Sudanese living in Lincoln. Today was a special gathering, so some came from other cities and states.

I had a meaningful conversation with a girl named Pharma. Over the years when I would see her at church, we would chat a little and it would end with me telling her, “Remember Jesus loves you.” She would always smile. She will graduate high school in a few weeks and then in August she will be going to a university in Omaha and live in the dorms.

My home city Lincoln is very diverse. Our elementary, middle, and high schools have children from over 100 different languages. My church, however, is on the east side of the city, so it is far from the areas where refugees and immigrants normally live. My church did not have much experience with refugees, if any at all, when the Lord first led me to ministry among the refugees living here. To see how my church has embraced the Nuerr speaking Sudanese community encourages me a great deal.

I am writing this on Saturday night because, well mornings are not a good time for writing for me, but on Sunday mornings I look forward to seeing my friends from Nigeria, Haiti, Mexico, Korea, and other countries at church. My church may still be 95% white, but on Sunday mornings as I look over the people in the worship center and see my international friends, I am reminded of what is written in Revelation 7 about the great multitude before the throne from every tribe and nation.

I am grateful to have a very small part in people from every nation being ready for that day. Today Nuerr speaking Sudanese were a highlight, Next Saturday will probably be a different group. Each Saturday in my life is typically unique. No matter which group, I am thankful to reach out to them and experience their culture.

 

God Reached Me Through Brazilian Friends and Candy This Week

This past week was just one of those weeks for me mostly because the third week of April brings back memories of one of the most difficult weeks in my life several years ago. Not that I would let it show to my students or ministry contacts. It is mostly a prayer time thing for me.

God has his way of breaking through when we are down. He knows Brazil is special to me. I have traveled there twice and have met many friends from Brazil over the years who come to Lincoln to study. I love to be with my amigos brasilieros, Brazilian friends, My best summer ever was in 2015 when I spent five weeks teaching in Brazil. So this week God broke through to me with Brazil.

Monday afternoon I had an unexpected reunion with two people who are special to me, my friends Isis and Eduardo. I had not seen them since June 2013. They lived here in my city of Lincoln for five years when they were students. Two Christmas Eves I ate dinner with them when they lived here. They came to Lincoln for a short visit and wanted to meet me for coffee. I met their daughter Julia who is almost four. It was a blessing to see them again.

So that visit lifted my spirits but I was still in a bit of a funk and then a small thing happened Wednesday morning, kind of God’s way to say- “Hi, I am here.” At the school where I teach in the mornings, one of the teachers came up to me and told me her father had some candy left from his trip to Brazil, so she took it to give to me. I spontaneously and excitedly smiled and said in Portuguese, “Muito Obrigado minha amiginha,” and then I realized she didn’t understand me, so I said, Thank you very much my friend,” and we laughed.

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So mood lifted thanks to Brazil and then I went into my classroom. My assistant shared with me about an in service she went to Tuesday evening at a place she volunteers for to help people with English. My assistant told me, “I have learned so much from you this year. I realized last night that I have learned everything they talked about from you.” So I thought to myself, “okay so maybe you have accomplished something lately.”

Then today it happened. I have been writing fictional short stories. I want to use some of them to weave together in a book but was stuck on how to do it. I went to one of my favorite places, Madonna Proactive, the gym where I do my water exercise.

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As I was walking around the aqua track, I begin to quietly sing to myself a song I shared for a Music Monday post- I Arise Today.

Fortunately no one else was there or they might have thought I was crazy. 🙂

I prayed and told God I was stuck with my writing and then the light went on and I could see how it would fit together.

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So as I write this on Friday evening to post on Saturday, I am relaxing at home and looking forward to the weekend and hopefully will get started writing. I want to say Muito Obrigado Deus, Thank you very much God, for breaking through to me with Brazil this week. I also hope God helps me go back to Brazil this year. 🙂

If you would like to see the first short story I wrote, the link is Jessica’s Encounter at the Harbor Coffee Shop 

Praying those who read this post have a God breakthrough coming their way. I would enjoy hearing about it or one from before.

Hope you have a blessed weekend.

Grateful for a Flat Tire?

This morning I went out to my car only to see a flat tire. This may sound silly or crazy, but I stopped and thanked God for his grace in the flat tire.

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I should probably explain that before you think I really am crazy. The past few years have been challenging for me finding out what was up with my health, going to TOO many doctors, trying to pay off the bills from the doctors, recovering from the effects of Celiacs etc etc. So I had gotten to the point of the mindset- “What’s next?” expecting the worst possible outcomes. This can lead to anxiety.

SO- I have learned to stop myself when I start down that path of despair to look for positives and to be grateful. When I went outside and saw my flat tire, at first I started down that road of ‘What’s Next’, but then I stopped myself. I thought through the positives.

One big positive is that it didn’t blow out while I was driving. The tire had a slow leak, so it wasn’t a big surprise. I thanked God that I did not have a blow out while I was driving. Autoimmune has had its impact on my body, arthritis, so I am not the vibrant young man I used to be. If I had had to deal with a flat tire on the road, it would have been extremely difficult. So I thanked God it went flat at home in my parking lot.

That helped me to not go dark in my spirit and then I began to thank God for other things. Gratitude has helped me to not go to dark depressed places as I have strove to live for Jesus and share his love with the many different people groups living here in Lincoln Nebraska.

I have the day off today, so I can take my time with the tire. I need to because as I said, I am not the young guy I used to be. I am grateful for the day off. Hopefully I will get the tire changed myself and not have to pay for someone to do it.

Sharing Life with Others/Trying to Follow the Example of Jesus

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So what does a picture of an old guy with a beard holding a cookbook for kids have to do with trying the follow the example of Jesus by sharing life with others?

This picture of me was taken last week after my evening ESL class finished for the term. I try to follow Jesus example by sharing life with my students. They are not just students to me. I know their stories of what they have had to overcome in the lives. Because I know their stories, such as Yazidi refugees who fled the genocide or Hispanics who experience discrimination, I know they have stress. I try to use humor when I teach, so many times I regale them with stories of my failed cooking attempts like the time I thought peanut butter and jelly would be good with rice, (NOT A GOOD IDEA PLEASE DON’T TRY IT), my classroom is often filled with laughter as we learn together.

I feel it is important to show respect and to help them feel welcome, so I learn phrases from their languages. Last year I learned how to say hello my friend in Kurdish, so I could help Yazidi students feel welcome. We have many Yazidi refugees in my home city of Lincoln. In fact, Lincoln has the largest population of Yazidi people in all of North America. I walk around  in the lobby and greet students in their languages before classes start. I want them to feel welcome knowing many of them never felt welcome in their home cultures.

My role model I strive to follow is Jesus. I honestly don’t think anyone can read the gospels and not see Jesus as being friendly to the oppressed, willing to spend time with the outcasts, and sharing life with the lowly. He ate with outcasts in their homes. I am sure there was laughter, life, and heart warming moments shared as well as teaching going on. God is highly relational and Jesus is God the Son.

So when my students felt comfortable enough to give me a gag gift of a cookbook for kids, I laughed with them. I smiled widely and thanked them as we laughed together. It represented to me that they feel a connection with me beyond being their language teacher. Many times in the past 17 years students have sought me out for help with various issues. I care about them, their families, and their lives.

Once my pastor remarked to me that I have more opportunities to share than anyone he knows. I am not sure about that, but I am grateful for the opportunities to share Christ’s love in practical ways because they can lead to sharing about Jesus the person. My only strategy is to pray for them, share life with them, and love them.

 

 

Jesus Stays The Same Even When The World Seems Crazy

There is a line in one of my favorite songs, a song by Kristene DiMarco- Jesus Your Love, that says:

“So Let My Heart Tell You Again, When Seasons Change and Stories End, Your Steady Love, It Will Sustain Me Through It All, Jesus Your Love”

Life is full of twists and turns. The unexpected can happen at any moment. The ups and downs of life can and will happen.

Last year, I went through one of those seasons and at times wondered if my story here would come to an end. I went through the maze of testing to find out what was wrong. Fortunately, it was not one of the real serious issues I was tested for. It is a manageable condition. However, last year reminded me of the fragility of this life.

This life can be uncertain in many ways whether it be financial issues, health issues, the alarming news we read about, or any of the myriad of troubles around us.

We can take heart in the person Jesus. In the bible it says- ‘He is the same yesterday, today, and forever more.’ His character never changes unlike the character of people. He loves us and that will never change. He will always be there for us and love us. He is the one for sure constant we can look to when the world seems crazy. That was very concrete for me last year as I went to doctor after doctor.

I would like to share the video of the song Jesus Your Love with you. It is on Vevo. I hope it is a blessing for you as it has been for me. God Bless

Fog is lifted back to writing- New Blog

Now that the Celiacs Foggy Brain thing is lifted, my creative side is emerging more and more. I am thankful the Lord has helped me to recover my health and my energy both physically and mentally. It has been long journey for me.

I began a new blog today that I hope will encourage others who have Celiacs Disease and other Autoimmune Problems. My first autoimmune problem as asthma, then hypothyroid, and now Celiacs. Finding out i have Celiacs has been transforming for my life.

My new blog is Celiacs My Personal Trainer? at https://celiacsmypersonaltrainer.wordpress.com