You Are Not Alone

As I was praying this morning, I felt I needed to write this post. Perhaps it is for one person or many, I don’t know, but I felt I needed to write this post today.

We are social beings. God created us to be relational people. Whether we are extroverts who love to be around many people or introverts who prefer smaller numbers or a few close friends, we are created for relationship. God created us to have friendships with other people, to have family relationships, and God created us to have a relationship with him as his children.

But sadly, we live in a world that is full of problems and suffering. There are so many issues that can leave us feeling alone in our circumstances, God has something to say to those who feel alone in this life and at times feeling desperation.

adult alone black and white dark
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

To those suffering with depression and anxiety, God has something to say.

To those suffering the loss of a loved one, God has something to say.

To those suffering with an illness, God has something to say.

To those suffering alienation from family, God has something to say.

To those struggling with addiction, God has something to say.

To those struggling with family issues, God has something to say.

To those who have been victims, God has something to say.

Whatever our circumstance, God has something to say to us. His message has been written. Jesus promised us something when he said, “ I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” in John 14. He also promised in Matthew 28- ” And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus promised to not leave us and to always be with us. He never changes. At times we let life’s circumstances cause us to feel he is distant from us. It can feel like something is blocking us from being with him, but he hasn’t moved, he is still with us. At times we move away from him choosing sin, resentment, bitterness, but he hasn’t moved. He is still standing beside us waiting for us to confess to him what he already knows.

So if you are reading this today, God has something to say to you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Call home to our father in heaven. Call home by praying and pouring it all out to our father in heaven. He has asked us to in 1st Peter- “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 

I would like to share a video with you I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe. I pray it blesses you as you listen.

 

Advertisements

Thankful My Students Kept Me Going Last Summer

Yesterday evening was a blessing for me. I was able to talk with a young woman who was my student in a Newcomer Refugee class last summer. She is one of my Yazidi friends. Her English level has improved a lot since she was a new refugee learning words for money, shopping, and other survival English she needed to know.

abc books chalk chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The reason last night was a blessing was because I could let her know how much she and the other students helped me last summer due to her English level having improved. It wasn’t only me helping her and the other students, her sister, her cousin, two women from Ukraine, and a young woman from Burma. Last summer was one of my more difficult ones because it was a long process of seeing doctors to find out what was wrong.

It was also a summer of being in pain, having foggy brain, and not wanting to get out of bed most days. What kept me going and getting out of bed in the morning was knowing my newcomer refugee friends needed me in class, so each morning I would go through the slow process of getting ready to go teach. Each morning I would also pray for my refugee friends and listen to worship music to prepare for my day. After class it was off to physical therapy or appointments.

person using black blood pressure monitor
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Fortunately after all of the testing and appointments what they found out was I have Celiacs Disease which is just another autoimmune issue added to my life. My students could tell something was wrong, but I never let on how serious it might have been or how may tests I was having done etc.

So last night was a blessing because as I talked with my friend, my former student, she understood what I was saying when I told her, “You, your sister and cousin, and the other students helped me keep going last summer. Last summer was difficult for me, but you and the others were the reason I got out of bed in the mornings. Thank you.”

When we go through hard times, keeping our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith is a daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes minute by minute deal. My mornings last summer consisted of me thanking Jesus for my students, praying for them, and praying for strength for the day.

belief bible book business
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

God answered my prayers by putting people in my life that he knew I would fight for by praying for them because there have been times in my life I might have given up on me, but not on people in need like my refugee friends. Refugees are so vulnerable when they first arrive and need people in their lives who will look out for them. God knows I won’t give up on them.

 

 

Music Mondays- Redeemer by Nicole Mullen

As I interact with other cultures and people from various religions, I realize there are teachings for living a good life in each religion. What is distinctive about Christianity?

What makes Christianity stand out is the person we worship and follow our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response of, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” prompted Jesus to say to him the flesh and blood had not revealed it to him. In other words, God had revealed to Peter that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the promised one.

What makes Christianity unique is the person Jesus. In Jesus we have the only person who has been resurrected from the dead. He defeated death for us.

When Job said I know my redeemer lives, he spoke those words in the midst of severe trials in this life. He suffered great loss and yet he spoke the words, I know my redeemer lives. His hope was not in this life. His hope was in the fact that he knew his redeemer lives.

Jesus said that in this life we will have many troubles but to cheer up because he has overcome the world. Whether it is a sickness-autoimmune for me, financial struggles, loss of loved ones, bullying, violence around us, whatever the problem is, our hope is not in this life. It would be terribly sad if we could only look for hope in this life that is so short and full of problems.

Our hope is in Jesus and his resurrection. Our hope is that there is a eternal home waiting for us, and that Jesus is with us in this life. He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. Our Redeemer lives. 🙂

So on this Music Monday I would like to share Nicole Mullen’s song Redeemer. I hope you experience Christ’s presence as you listen and that your Monday is blessed. 🙂

Also if you want to check out more of Nicole Mullen’s music her website is nicolecmullen.com

The Only Time I Had My Fingernails Painted-Helping A 5 Year Old Girl

I have had many students who have been women from Vietnam that work in nail salons. They like to joke with me about coming in to see them and getting my nails done. I actually learned some of the words used in nail salons because a friend opened a new one and asked me to come help the women working there with conversational English.

red and white manicure with love print
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Of course I have never had my finger nails painted in a nail salon. It is a fun joke with my students who enjoy teasing their teacher. It is obvious if you look at the picture I took today of my hand.

IMG_1301

But there was one time in 2006 that I had my nails done and in various colors too. The person who did my nails was a 5 year old girl who had her own special equipment.

colored pen set at daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

She was sitting outside her home with her color markers. The reason I stopped by was because it was the week her father had died and I was helping the family with various things. I sat down to chat with her. With small children sitting and just talking doesn’t work so well and I knew she needed to share how she was feeling. For small children it is easier to talk if they are doing something. She asked me to color her nails and I did. While I was coloring her nails, she was able to talk with me about her dad. When I finished with hers, she then said, “I want to paint your nails too.” The conversation went like this:

Girl- “I want to paint your nails too.”

Me- “Thank you, but I don’t have my nails painted.”

Girl- “Why?”

Me- “Because I am a boy.”

Girl- “That’s silly. Please let me paint you nails.”

She won especially due to the hurt I could see in her eyes over her father’s death. So she colored my nails and we talked some more. We talked about Jesus and heaven. We talked about her dad. It was a moment I will never forget. I am sure she has forgotten it. She was barely 5 years old at the time.

I was grateful the coloring could wash off easily when I got home. 🙂

Whenever I remember that moment, I think about what is prophesied about Jesus in Isaiah 42 and Matthew 12:

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory”

Jesus has all power yet he is gentle with a bruised reed. We are all bruised reeds at one time or another. In gentleness Jesus comes to us with a desire to bring healing, comfort and restoration.

I remember the ‘bruised reed’ little 5 year old girl. As we were talking and she was ‘painting my nails’, I felt some of what Jesus felt for her-the love, gentleness and concern.

If we are feeling like a bruised reed in need of comfort or healing, or we are feeling like a smoldering wick about to go out because we have let ourselves become spiritually dry or run down, Jesus invites us to come to him. He is here with us right now waiting for us to come to him.

 

 

 

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

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, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

scan0016

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 God 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. By doing so I can show them the love of Christ.

IMG_1244

 

As a servant of Jesus, it means taking time to pray, sending that message of encouragement, sharing God’s love with others, and being ready to share about the eternal hope we can have in Jesus. 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.

Last December I had a new Yazidi student start my class. She had only arrived in America a few weeks before she came to my class. I had learned how to greet my Yazidi students in their language. I greeted her with choyneh havalemah, phonetic spelling, which means hello my friend. It was a small thing to me but a huge thing for her to have a teacher say hello my friend in her language after what the Yazidis have been through. It opened the door to a wonderful friendship with her and her husband and yes I have had opportunities to share Jesus with them.

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.

A Birthday Surprise-Sort of

1930893_42475854427_2789_n

Well it happened. Time marches forward. I hit my milestone birthday today. Most years I haven’t celebrated it and in fact had not for over 30 years until my birthday 10 years ago when my friends from my weekend groups at my church gave me an almost surprise party.

I love the picture from that day because it represents what my life has been about the past twenty years-sharing life with friends from many different countries. In the picture with me are friends from Belgium, Brazil, Congo, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Ukraine and Vietnam. At that time my church had a map of the world on a wall and the room my groups were in was next to that wall.

My friends decided to throw me a surprise party in the room during our class time. They really went all out in decorating the room with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings theme, cake, balloons, and had the lights turned out. Only one problem, my friend Olivier from Congo. 🙂

I had a meeting at church that morning, so I had to be there early. I asked my friend Yoshio from Japan to pick up our friends Neil and Olivier from Congo because I needed to be at church early. When I got to church, Olivier came out to meet me in the parking lot, shook my hand, and carried my laptop bag in for me. That was at 8:20 and my class started at 9, so my first thought was, “Why is Olivier here are 8:20? He came with Yoshio and Yoshio would never be this early.” So the surprise was given away. I still acted surprised when I opened the door and they shouted, “Happy Birthday.”

I guess it is customary to share some sort of wisdom when one reaches a milestone birthday. I don’t really have anything to enlighten people with that has not been said before, but one thought I have from spending so much wonderful time with people literally from all over the world.

When Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” he meant exactly that. God loves all people from every culture, race, ethnic group, language group etc. God LOVES US. My greatest blessing, after knowing Jesus of course, has been to experience a little of God’s great love for us as I interact with my immigrant and refugee friends. My role and what God created me for and called me to, is to show his love to those I teach, befriend, help, interact with etc.

When I was a child, I used to dream of seeing far away places that I read about in school. God has blessed me to have had the opportunity to travel to Romania seven times, Brazil twice, France and Mexico once each, and because of my trips to Romania to also visit Austria, England, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland. The reason for my trips was to share the love of Jesus.

Here in Lincoln I have met people from so many countries, I can’t list them all. They have enriched my life. They have changed me and my life. It has been through spending time with my refugee friends that I have come to understand and appreciate what Mother Teresa said when speaking of the people she helped, “each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”

We never know how many years God will give us in this life. I am actually amazed I lived this long after what I went through because of that I never made any real plans, but God led me to the life I have now, so I could show his love to diverse people. My desire is to continue to show and share his love until he takes me home to heaven.

 

 

 

 

June Adventures- BRAZIL :)

DSC00033
in Rio do Sul

As I write this, I wonder if there will be a fun adventure for me this year. June has been a month of fun adventures for me. When I think of fun adventure, Brazil definitely comes to mind. I have had many amigos brasilieros, Brazilian friends, over the years and have had a lot of fun with the ones who came to the university in my city as students. So when Pastor Johny shared at my church in June 2012 that they had done many things for students, but want to do something for teachers, I knew it was something I wanted to do.

stadium flag holding cheering
Photo by Caio Resende on Pexels.com

My home church in Lincoln, First Free Church, partners with a church in Rio do Sul Brazil a small city in Santa Catarina. The name of the church is Celivris. Groups have gone there from my church in June for many years, but the focus has been on high school students going, so I did not try to go. When Pastor Johny said they wanted to do something for teachers, I was hooked. After all, I am a teacher. 🙂

942030_10152006905759428_715542541_n
me with Pastor Johny

In June 2013, I went to Brazil for the first time. I LOVED being in Brazil. It was a great experience to meet teachers at their schools, show the computer teachers some free websites for English, and meet the wonderful people of igreja Celivris, Celivris church. We even watched a futbol match, soccer, at the church one evening.

1003290_10151987967189428_239481077_n

At the end of our time in Rio do Sul, we put on an English Camp. It was a weekend of fun and games in English and also some classes. I provided a seminar for teachers in the morning. One school I had visited was in Pouso Redando a small city about a 45 minute drive from Rio do Sul. The teachers there had been having a difficult year because of complications in remodeling the school. So I went to their school on a Wednesday evening to do a shortened version of the seminar for the teachers there.

1015713_10152027158949428_1104738312_o

There were so many new adventures for me that came about in my life because of that trip, but more about that in future posts.

I will never forget my first evening there. I was tired after a LONG flight and wanted to go to my host home, but Johny told me he needed to do something at the church first. When I got there, they surprised me with cake for my birthday. It was also the first time I drank Guarana, a soda I LOVE.

979875_10151971869489428_1268778874_o

Landing in Brazil on my birthday that year was like the perfect birthday gift from God, through my church,  to me. The cake and Guarana woke me up for a little while, but then it was time to go to my host home.

The next morning after sleeping eleven hours, I made brigadeiro, a chocolate treat made from sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter, for the first time, or I should say I helped stir it.

965729_10151973061949428_1672576999_o
still tired after 11 hours of sleep 🙂

977236_10151973061404428_38155478_o

In all of my travels and among all of my friends from other countries, Brazilians have given me some of my best memories. I hope to go back again. My dream would be to travel around the country for several weeks to see friends in their home cities.

 

Better Than My Best?

I can’t count the number of times I have been given the advice- You tried your best, that is all anyone can ask of you. As I write this, I sadly realize I have spoken those same words to others. Is doing our best all we can really ask for?

The first miracle of Jesus that was written about was changing water into wine in John chapter 2. There are some important aspects to ponder that get a lot of attention such as the interaction between Jesus and his mother Mary and that his disciples believed in him after witnessing the miracle.

group of people holding wine glasses
Photo by Andres Chaparro on Pexels.com

There is something else that really catches my attention in this account. That is what the master of the banquet said, who did not know Jesus had changed water into wine, when called the bridegroom over aside to chat.

The custom was to serve the best wine first and then bring out the cheap stuff after people drank the good stuff thus they wouldn’t notice the cheap stuff. Kind of like if at a wedding today they served imported wine from France first and then served the cheap box wine after everyone had a few glasses of the good stuff.

So the master of the banquet said of the wine Jesus made from water- “you have saved the best till now” after the people had consumed all of the wine they had before Jesus turned water into wine. In other words- What Jesus did was better than their best.

close up of hand
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This causes me to think about my life of trying to follow Jesus. Reading this account and intellectually understanding that what Jesus does is better than my best is one thing, but do I really count on that. Do I trust him to come through for me? Am I willing to wait on Jesus or do I try to rush things along?

I have to admit there have been too many times in my life that the answer to those questions have been no. The results have been okay at times, disastrous a few times, and who knows what could have happened at other times. The comforting thing is that in Romans 8 it says that God cause all things to work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes. Even my times of impatiently trying to rush things God can cause to work for the good.

So perhaps the encouragement I should give is a question-have you asked Jesus? Yes, we need to put forth the effort such as study for that exam, or prepare for that presentation, or spend quality time with our loved ones. We should strive to do our best. But let’s remember to ask Jesus and invite him into the process. 🙂

 

The WWE Opened The Door to Knowing A New People Group???

Disclaimer- I don’t watch the WWE. 🙂

In my life of teaching and helping refugees and immigrants, I have gotten to the point that I expect to be surprised, so surprises don’t get to me much. They are a common everyday occurrence in my life. But sometimes there are ones that I get a kick out of and ones that lead to blessings.

In 2007, we had a new people group come to Lincoln, The Karen People from Burma. The Karen People were forced to flee their homes to refugee camps in Thailand because the military dictatorship was trying to kill them off. Coming to Lincoln started with a trickle of a few families in 2007 and then it was like the gates were opened as many more came in 2008 and kept coming.

I had three Karen women in a morning class I taught. None of them were over 5 feet tall and one was maybe 4′ 10″ at best. They were sweet women, moms, and trying to figure out life in their new country America. They smiled and at times giggled as we studied. Each Friday I would ask about the weekend to help the students practice using will for the future. When I would ask, “What will you do this evening,” they would answer, “teacher- Big Show, Undertaker, Batista.” I had no idea what they were talking about, so after a few Fridays my curiosity was aroused and I googled Big Show, Undertaker, and Batista. What came up were images of WWE wrestlers. I laughed to myself over the thought of my three small, petite, and sweet-natured students being fans of the WWE.

 

people men fight challenge
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

They also talked about Karen meetings for Sundays and said the word Bible. They invited me to one of their meetings. I wanted to learn more about this new group of people in my city, so I visited their meeting in an apartment. The first year and a half they were here, they had meetings in their apartments because they did not have a church home yet. My first time with them I heard their beautiful harmonizing as they sang, in a language I still don’t know, and they faith was obvious.

After that I spent time with them every Sunday and taught bible lessons through a translator for them. I had a small Hyundai at the time and would make 3 or 4 trips, taking three or four at a time,  on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to take them to a Asian market to buy food.

This may sound funny but when I would visit them I felt like Gandalf visiting hobbits in the Shire, not so much because of the fact that most were small in comparison with Americans, but more because of their warm hearts, their love of simple things in life, and how vulnerable they were because of not knowing what potential problems could happen in their new city. They were so much fun to be around too.

I was even given a traditional Karen robe to wear at their meetings.

DSCN0281
me with an elderly widow from Burma

I love my Karen friends and also their fellow refugees from Burma, The Zomi People and the Karenni People. Their music is beautiful, their clothing is colorful, their hearts are warm. I have enjoyed worshiping in the Karen church and also the Zomi church here in Lincoln.

Oh by the way, the sweet little elderly woman in the picture above is standing up 🙂

You Are Safe Here Part 2- My Yazidi Student Did Great :)

There is someone that will read this who needs to know something. The person I am writing about will see it and I want her to know how PROUD I am of her. This is a message for her to know I respect and appreciate her and maybe my followers and readers will appreciate it and be inspired by her

Last week I wrote about my student who wrote about her experience as a young Yazidi woman when ISIS invaded her area of Iraq. The Yazidi people were victims of genocide and terrible atrocities at the hands of criminals.

person holding grey corded microphone in selective focus photography photo taken
Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

For me it is important to give my refugee friends a voice. I want them to know that I respect them. I want them to feel they are valued and important to me. It is SO SAD for me to think that ISIS labeled my Yazidi friends as less then human to try to “excuse” the terrible crimes committed that there is NO EXCUSE for.

I try to let my Yazidi friends know I am their friend by helping them, teaching them, and joining in on their celebrations like I did in April when I danced with them at their holiday celebration.

IMG_1113 (1)

Last night My student gave her presentation about what her family and people endured when ISIS came. She is such a gentle soul. She is all of, maybe, 5 feet tall. She still has a beautiful smile even though she went through an ordeal we cannot imagine. Her family lost their home. People she knew were killed.

Having experienced the love of Jesus, my desire is to show his love to people from all over the world. Jesus has blessed me with the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and the experience has left me with a strong appreciation for the value of each person, regardless of where they came from, their culture, their religion, their ethnic group etc. Each person I meet is FULLY a human being that God loves. Each person I meet is someone that Jesus loved so much that he died for them.

I was SO PROUD of my student last night. She shared the reality of what her people suffered and how it affected her. She kept her poise while presenting about something that affected her so personally. She is a remarkable young woman. I am confident she will have a good future here in America. 🙂

Respecting the dignity of each person is something that seems imperative for us. It is as simple as this- Jesus loves all people, so we should too.