Music Mondays- Scars to Your Beautiful By Alessia Cara and I Am No Victim by Kristene DiMarco

Last September I went to a Harvest Moon Festival at Antelope Park here in my home city Lincoln. It was put on by the Asian Community Center. In the past it would have been only groups from East Asia, but much to the Center’s credit they have included people from other parts of Asia such as the Yazidis from Iraq and Syria. There was a performance by some Yazidi girls that grabbed my attention and made me think.

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The girls, high school age, danced a routine to the song Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara. I had not heard the song before that but as I watched the girls dance and listened to the lyrics, I thought about Yazidi girls and women. When ISIS came into their area, they kidnapped girls and young women and forced them into horrors I won’t go into in this posting. The thought that these Yazidi girls were free to perform in public with no fear of being targeted hit me, so I searched for the song on youtube. So yes, I am sharing a secular song in this post because there is an important message in it.

With so much focus on outer appearance in our culture, sadly the people who struggle most are girls and women. Yet God sees beauty in all girls and women and desires for them to be his daughters.

Physical scars can also leave emotional scars. But there are also scars we cannot see that are spiritual and emotional scars from being victims of abuse, rejection, struggles with addiction etc.

There are women whose blogs I follow that I respect for how they have been willing to share about how God has brought emotional and spiritual healing into their lives.

I think of the young woman who bravely shares about how Jesus helped her overcome anorexia in her blog Beauty Beyond Bones at beautybeyondbones.com.

I think of the young woman who shares about ho God helped her overcome violence against women and speaks up for women in her blog The Voice of Peace at thevoiceofpeace18.wordpress.com.

I think of the woman who shares how God helped her overcome depression in her blog Called to Be A Writer at calledtobeawriter.wordpress.com.

I think of the woman who shares how God has helped her overcome addiction in the family in her blog A New Life at anewlife256599767.wordpress.com.

These are excellent blogs to read. I hope you check them out. I think this is on my mind because of my courageous student who will share this evening about escaping with her family before ISIS came.

Being a victim can leave scars. Jesus still has the scars in his wrists, feet and side from when he was crucified on the cross. His scars are there for our healing. He does not want to leave us as victims though. He wants to give us freedom over the abuse, addiction, or anything else that would keep us down as victims.

I wrote about scars and how his scars can heal ours in a previous post- scars.

That brings me to the second song I would like to share, I Am No Victim by Kristene DiMarco. She sings about how we are what God says we are, so we are not victims. It is a powerful song that can bless and minister to our souls.

Hope your Monday is blessed.

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Having The Faith of a Mustard Seed She Achieved Her Goal-My Friend Ko from Burma

Jesus compared a mustard seed to having faith in that the mustard seed is small but grows to be a tree. If we have faith, even a small amount, we can do great things.

God has blessed me with opportunities to meet and help refugees from literally all over the world. It is especially meaningful for me to see how they progress with their new lives in America. I love going to their celebrations such as weddings and birthdays and also experience their holidays. There is special significance for me in going to graduation celebrations. High School graduations are life markers for anyone, but a high school graduation for a young person who came to America as a refugee as a child with his or her parents is HUGE.

Saturday afternoon I visited the home of my friend Ko. She graduated from high school on Sunday, so she had a party with her family/extended family on Saturday.

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me with Ko

Ko came here as a child with her parents from the refugee camp in Thailand. Her parents are from Burma. Her father was in a class I taught the first several months after they came here. With everything her family has overcome through the years, Ko’s graduation is a major highlight. I have spoken with many refugee parents, who like Ko’s mother, work in places like a meat packing plant focusing on the future of their children. For Ko’s parents, her graduation makes their sacrifices worth it.

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Ko with her proud parents

Ko will go on to become a nurse. I joked with her that if she is ever my nurse to remember to bring me ice cream. Her graduation is a major achievement because it means that she learned English to be able to then study regular high school courses in her second language English to achieve her goal. She is a quiet hero in my mind. It takes courage to go to a high school where she was the only student from her language and country. Step by step she trusted in Jesus to achieve her goal. I am so proud of her.

I have had the privilege of knowing many young people from other countries who have come as refugees, gone on to graduate high school and then on to college. I know young adults who came here as refugee children who are now in medical school, nursing school, pharmacy school, and one who got her MBA and CPA and another one who graduated with her Masters Degree in Architecture.

So if you happen to meet an adult from another country with limited English, not dressed the best, living a low income life, don’t be quick to judge. Their kids might be your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, accountant etc someday. I know because I see it all the time. If you take the time to get to know a refugee family, it could be a wonderful blessing for you.

Ko has accomplished a lot in her young 18 years and will continue to accomplish a lot trusting in Jesus all the way. That is the faith of a mustard seed put into action 🙂

Music Mondays- I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

Jesus said in John 16 that we will have problems in this life but encourages us that he has overcome the world.  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We have no guarantees in this life. As I spend time with refugees, I am constantly reminded of how life can be turned upside down in seemingly an instant. A man from Bosnia shared with me his pain over the fact that a neighbor he had often played cards and drank coffee with turned against him during the genocide there in the 1990s.

I will never forget my friend from Korea, an international student, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer only months before he would have finished his Phd and died a few months later.

Following Jesus does not make us immune to problems in life. My first serious battle with autoimmune began when I was studying for the ministry in the 1990s. In this life we will have struggles, disappointments, illnesses, along with the joys, accomplishments, and celebratory moments. This life is a mixed bag.

Jesus gave another promise that is encouraging to me. He promised he would always be with us in Matthew 28-  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So he who has overcome the world has promised to always be with us. Even if others abandon us, he will be with us.

So today I would like to share a song by Kari Jobe with you, I Am Not Alone in hopes that it helps us remember that whatever circumstance we are in that Jesus is with us. I hope your Monday is blessed. 🙂

Books that have impacted me- Left to Tell by Immaculee Iligabiza

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I love reading books, all kinds of books. Some books I have read for entertainment or escape into a different world such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Some books I read to grow in my faith. But biographies or autobiographies about people who have been through difficult ordeals and made it through with God’s help are special for me to read. One such autobiography that impacted me is Left to Tell by Immaculee Iligabiza.

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I found Left to Tell, or perhaps I should say Left to Tell found me, at a time when I was wrestling with staying in Lincoln to help refugees and immigrants. I was pulled in two directions, go teach English in another country or stay in Lincoln. I love being in other countries and have had several trips of a month or longer in other countries, so the thought of living in another country teaching English has always been appealing to me. But at the time I read the book in 2008, there were already thousands of refugees living in my home city of Lincoln.

In her book Left to Tell, Immaculee shares about her experience of hiding in a bathroom for months during the genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990s. She shares about how she grew close to God through prayer while hiding in the bathroom. She also shares about the horrors of the genocide, and what happened after the genocide as she sought to start life over again.

The book impacted me because it helped me think more vividly about the experiences that many of my refugee friends have been through. Many of them have escaped genocides in places like Burma, Iraq, and Sudan or have been subjected to oppression in places like Vietnam, Ukraine, and Iran. It was because of reading Left to Tell that I had peace in the decision to stay in Lincoln and help refugees here.

I had the chance to meet Immaculee in November 2011 when she came to do a retreat at a Catholic High School here, Pius X High School. I went to the Friday evening segment where she shared her story. I was able to thank her for her book and share with her what it meant to me.

What books have impacted you?

Moms Are Heroes of the Common Everyday That Make Up Life

Growing up in a family with a mentally ill mother, Mother’s Day was always a day that I dreaded each year as I would see happy families celebrating their mothers. They always seemed so lucky and I would wonder why I had the one I had. Her moods were unpredictable and she was highly manipulative.

After coming to Christ, I began observing people in church and in life. I have always taken note of moms with their kids not because I was looking for a mom, but because I wanted to understand. What have I taken away from observations? Moms are heroes of the common everyday stuff where life happens.

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Every weekday morning during the school year, I watch the moms in my class have the courage to study a difficult language to learn, English,  because they want to help their children. I am an eye witness of their daily effort to help their kids. They are low income, but they do the best they can to have a safe and nurturing home for their children.

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I have a friend at church whose husband died of cancer and watched from afar her courage as she kept her kids going through extremely hard times. One of her sons just sang with his high school choir at Carnegie Hall. She has one son in college, one about to begin college, and one in high school the one who is in the school choir. My friend faced the day to day struggles of being a single mom and trusting Jesus in the struggles. She had to be the only ‘taxi’ driver in the family, the only one to take them to doctors’ appointments, the only one to discipline when needed and encourage when needed.

The list could go on to become several books if I listed each mother that has impressed me with the way she has faced the common everyday things in life, hardships, sickness, school problems etc that her children have had. Moms are heroes of the common everyday stuff where life happens and also heroes of the big things.

Moms know pain, not just the physical pain of childbirth, but also the spiritual, emotional, and mental pain of raising children in the down times. This makes me think of Mary the Mother of Jesus when Jesus was only 8 days old in his earthly life and a man told her, “a sword will pierce your soul too” to indicate that she would suffer grief and sorrow because of Jesus. She was there watching him die on the cross. She experienced great pain.

Moms know the joy of seeing their children grow and develop and the joy of seeing their kids succeed at something for the first time. Moms know the joy of adult kids coming to visit them after being gone for a long time. Can you imagine the joy Mary had when she first saw Jesus after his resurrection?

So if you are a mom and reading this, Happy Mother’s Day to you.

 

Going With The Flow- Conversations While in the Water

Love Saturdays for several reasons; 1-I can sleep late 🙂 , 2-I see my friends at my Saturday morning ESL reading group, and 3-I never know what God will do on a Saturday 🙂 🙂 🙂

Yesterday I got up about 8:30, not the terrible 6:30 during the week 😦 lol, and spent some time praying over my day. I asked Jesus to lead me to who he wanted to connect me with that day and to help me show his love to those I would encounter.

After my morning group, I went to Madonna Proactive to do my water exercise. When I first got there, no one was there, so I thought- “oh another day alone, maybe I will get more writing ideas.” But God had an appointment for me. I LOVE it when God surprises me with a divine appointment.

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As I was walking, I saw a young woman who works there part-time. I hadn’t had a chance to chat with her for a few months, so we waved and I stopped to chat with her. Megan will graduate in May with her Masters degree from Doane College. She played volleyball in college and has been involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, FCA.

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Megan is a delightful young lady who loves Jesus. It was exciting for me to hear that she will join FCA as full-time staff reaching out to high school/middle school coaches and athletes. We chatted off and on as I did my water workout. We talked about keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus in ministry, so we do not lose heart in the tough times. I am confident Megan will do great working with coaches and youth. A few links for Megan and her ministry.

Nebraska FCA

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I left feeling so encouraged to know a quality young person is devoting her life to serving Jesus and reaching out to youth and coaches.

As we were talking, I noted two women walking around the aqua track. I told Megan, “I bet I can greet them in their language.” The women came around by us and I asked them where they are from. They told me they are from Tajikistan, so I greeted them in Russian with Previet Caudula, trying to spell it phonetically 🙂 , and they smiled and then told me they speak Russian but Persian is the first language so then I said, Chootoree- again phonetic spelling attempt 🙂 , and they were surprised.

I love divine appointments whether they are for encouraging a fellow Christian or for sharing Jesus with someone. Divine appointments have a special way for me to see God is working in the moment. At those times, I feel close with God as he guides me to who he wants me to connect with.

So it was another typically unique Saturday for me. Each Saturday is unique in my life, which makes them typical but all unique.

Hope you have a blessed Sunday and please check out Megan’s link and pray for her.

Saturday- Another Typically Unique Day in My Life

Typically unique? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

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What I mean by that is having unique days in my life is a typical event for me. God has blessed me with the opportunity to meet, befriend, and spend time with diverse cultures on a daily basis, but there are some days that stand out more for me.

Today was one of those days that stands out for me. I went to meet some friends at The Egg and I for breakfast and while I was sitting in my van, I checked my facebook and saw I had a message from one of my friends in Brazil. She wanted to know if I could meet them Monday afternoon for coffee. She is coming to Lincoln with her husband and little girl.  So even though it was a cold rainy morning, the day after a warm shorts wearing day, my day started on a very positive note.

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Then came breakfast with my friends Tram and Tai from Vietnam. During breakfast, Tram, the bride to be, gave me my invitation to their wedding in June. We reminisced about the days that she came to my weekend groups at my church when she was in high school hoping to go to college. She has since graduated from college and also gotten her MBA and CPA. She has a nice position with a business here. Tai also graduated from college and is working in IT. So my day got even better with the conversation and to be honored that she gave me the invitation in person.

Next I drove to pick up Marc a young man from Haiti to bring him to my Saturday morning reading group at my church. We had fun joking on the way. At church my friends from Iraq and Japan joined us for the reading group. Five cultures interacted with already and one more to go.

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After I dropped Marc off at his home, I went to visit some Yazidi friends, a family, to have lunch with them. The picture has only me in it to safeguard their privacy due to them being refugees. The wife cooked a delicious wonderful lunch of briyani, fish, soup and salad. The husband and I had a great conversation over lunch.

After lunch, we sat down in the living room to talk. It was fun to play with their three small children, the oldest being six, and to hear their laughter. It was especially meaningful knowing what they had been through to hear laughter in their home.

So six different cultures in the span of seven hours, on a Saturday of friendship, laughter, learning, and GOOD FOOD, makes today another typically unique day for me. I do not know many people who have days like this, but God has blessed me with many such days.

When I think about all these diverse cultures, it gives me new appreciation for when Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

What kind of typically unique days do you have?

Jesus Appearing to Mary Magdalene Gives Me Hope

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When I think about the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection, the one that gives me the most hope is when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. That might sound strange coming from a man, but for me it is not a man/woman thing. It is an outcast being honored thing.

The first person to do something is the one we remember. Who was the first person to walk on the moon? Most people would be able to say Neil Armstrong. Who was the second? think, scratch our heads- Buzz Aldrin was but his name does not come so readily if at all. Who was the first President of the U.S.? That should be easy- George Washington. Who was the second? Wait not a history buff!!!  answer John Adams.

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I know Paul wrote that Jesus appeared first to Peter, but that is easily explained. In those days only men could testify in court. Sad but true. When we read one of the time Jesus fed thousands it says- The number was about 5,000 men besides women and children. They only counted the men UGH. Furthermore, Paul was focusing on the apostles in 1st Corinthians and concludes with himself.

However, the first PERSON Jesus appeared to was Mary Magdalene. We know Jesus delivered her from seven evil spirits but we don’t really know anything else about her before Jesus came into her life. However, it is safe to conclude that she would have been an outcast of some kind. After Jesus delivered her, she was welcomed into the group even hanging out with Mary the mother of Jesus.

Jesus did NOTHING by ACCIDENT. Every act was intentional on his part. He could have chosen to appear first to anyone he chose, but he chose to appear to Mary Magdalene. This gives me hope because I identify with her more than the apostles. The reason is because my life before Jesus I was an outcast. I was the alcoholic’s son. I was the teen who got into trouble acting out in reaction to an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother. I was the cold-hearted salesman in my twenties. When I first started going to church and trying to pray to Jesus, my prayers would start with something like- “Lord I am a jerk”

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Jesus appeared first to his follower who was the lowliest before Jesus and when he said her name after his resurrection, she recognized him. It would like if today he appeared to someone, it would be the person who is an alcoholic, a person who struggles with depression/anxiety, a person who struggles with an eating disorder, a person who- you can fill in the blank. He gave her the job of going to tell the men. There is a message in that. I hope to meet Mary Magdalene in heaven and learn more about her. For now, I just feel blessed and filled with hope that Jesus cares for the lowliest people like me and can turn our lives around.

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Visits by Jesus After His Resurrection- What About Mary His Mother?

This is something I shared five yeas ago before the Celiacs foggy brain thing. I wanted to share it again because it is about someone I admire- Mary the Mother of Jesus.

One of the mysteries in the bible for me is what happened when Jesus came to visit His mother Mary. She is not listed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as being present during his visits after His resurrection. Surely He must have appeared to Mary His mother. She was there when He was crucified. She was there when He was buried. She had been with Him throughout His life as we see various times after His birth that she was with Him such as at the wedding in Cana. I wonder what happened when He came to her.

Think about her life for a moment. She was a young virgin when an angel appeared to her and said, “Hail Highly Favored One…..” and told her she had been chosen by God to give birth to the Savior of the world. She said yes to God’s plan. She gave birth to Him in a stable of animals and then had to flee to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus. She raised Him and cared for Him like no one else ever will. She saw His miracles and was even there for His first public miracle of turning water into wine. In fact she kind of instigated it. Then she is there during His passion and watches Him die on the cross before her eyes. She helped to prepare His body for burial. So why is there no mention of Mary the mother of Jesus during His visits after the resurrection.

While I would not make a claim to know for sure or teach this as a doctrine, it is my thought that Jesus’ first visit with His mother Mary was so highly personal and emotional for Mary that the Holy Spirit did not have it recorded. I have often heard it expressed that God is a gentleman meaning He is polite and considerate. While God does record the failings of Peter and the other disciples, there are certain things left unwritten such as the exact nature of Mary Magdaline’s life before Jesus healed her of demon possession. I believe that the moment Jesus first came to see His mother after His resurrection was so personal and emotional for her and out of respect for that moment it was kept private.

There is something in the bible that convinces me that Jesus must have visited Mary after His resurrection. Mary was with the disciples in the upper room when the promise of the Father came upon them. When the Holy Spirit was sent to those who were waiting, Mary was there with them.  In the bible she may fade from the scene as the focus of the story shifts to what the apostles did as they started the church, but she was there when the Holy Spirit came signaling that she still has a role. She is one person I look forward to meeting one day when Jesus calls me home. I would love to hear the story from her 🙂

 

Jesus Came to Seek and Save the Lost, What About Us?

Jesus contrasted himself with the evil one when he said of himself, “I have come that they may have life” and of the satan, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”

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SO what about us? How can we participate in seeking to bring life to others?

There are many ways to be part of showing the love of Jesus to others in hopes of bringing them life.

1- Share the comfort God has given you that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 1.

I admire a young woman recovering from Eating Disorders who writes a blog          Beauty Beyond Bones. She shares about how Jesus helped her recover from an Eating Disorder through her blog.

We can get involved in helping others through direct contact also. I work with refugees and immigrants in my home city. Through spending time with them and helping them, I have had the opportunity to share Jesus with them.

2- Support others in prayer and/or financially that truly work to share Christ’s love.

I am NOT talking about the TV people!!!

One ministry that I support is Love Justice International. It is a ministry that intercepts victims of human sex trafficking and also has group homes for the children and young women they rescue. This is an terrible problem in the world. I wrote a fictional story about Mary Magdalene meeting a young woman who was a victim of sex trafficking in my blog of short stories- Jessica’s Encounter at The Harbor Coffee Shop. If even one young woman reads that story and it gives her the hope and courage to look to Jesus for help to escape, all of my blogging would be SO worth it.

3- Get involved with our church. Find a ministry in your church that you feel passionate about and get involved.

4- PRAYER. Since I found out I have Celiacs Disease, which is just another autoimmune problem added to my list, I have really simplified my prayer life. I start each day asking Jesus to help me show his love to those I will see that day and to give me opportunities to share his love. That is how I start my prayer time.

These are just a few ideas that come to my mind.

There is so much suffering in the world around us, in the lives of people we may know or we may not know. There is a simple yet most profound message we can share with those who are suffering- Jesus Loves You, but that message comes packaged in the love we show in practical ways, in small things, in big things, through personal contact, through being vulnerable to share.

They are among us, they live close to us, they live far from us, they might be silent, they might be vocal, BUT, they all need JESUS.