Monday, November 23, 2020

Nehemiah 6: Are you a firefighter?

One might say that we live in a time of fear:  Fear of the pandemic and its health (physical and mental), social, or economic effects.  Fear of civil war (depending on your country). Fear of Fascism/Marxism (depending on which political side you stand in the US). Fear for our children and their education, and for poor choices that they may make in light of some of the lock-downs (increased drug usage and teenage pregnancy).

[I recently learned that the Bible says "Fear not" about 365 times - one for every day of the year!]

As we hear these sobering and overwhelming prayer requests from our DML partners, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  It is easy to even ask, "How do we pray in light of all of this?"

This past week, I felt like God was whispering to me to focus on the solution, and not on the problem.  For example, this week we focused our prayer time on Ethiopia and the challenges that are currently there from being on the verge of civil war as well as the pandemic.  I could spend all my time consumed with praying against civil war there OR I could continue to "build my wall" like Nehemiah.  

After all, I'm not a firefighter. [To be explained shortly.]

In Nehemiah chapter 6, Nehemiah is undergoing some serious intimidation by a few bullies.  Several times they called him to come for a "peace" meeting, but he refuses.  He has a wall to build.  Then they turn up the heat and make it seem like a fire is burning.  "Come quick!" they call.

Nehemiah shows a hint of fear and prays for strength.

But then he proceeds to do what he has been called to do.  He is not called to put out fires but is called to trust in the Lord and carry on with his calling of rebuilding the wall.  

Sometimes I try to be a firefighter when that is not my calling.  I get the whiff of smoke and I think I must respond.  Someone calls for me to come, and I weigh the effect of not coming, versus the cost of responding.

But being a firefighter takes special skill and training.  It is a unique gifting, not for the faint of heart.

I think the message for me this past week was to keep building the wall.  Sort through the rubble.  Find the usable stuff and put it in.  Don't worry about the rumors of fire.  Stay focused.

When I remind myself that I'm not a firefighter, it helps me remember my calling.

Then, I got a chance to spend some time with church leaders from Sri Lanka, India, Brazil, and Mexico talking about discipling "the other 95%" of the adult members of our church to be the church every day of the week. And as I get to spend time with them, and I hear their joyful and positive response to this forgotten truth of Genesis 1 and 2, I am reminded that this is my calling.  And this work is part of the solution of positive change in the world, as God designed.

Fear not.

I'm not a fire fighter.

Keep your eye on being part of the solution, not stewing over the problems.

If you have a chance, read Nehemiah 6 and be encouraged.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Paper Clips and Ice Cream

Sometimes I run across things that are better written than what I can do and deserve some attention, so I beg your indulgence.  Too often, I am like a toddler who drops a paper clip, and as embarrassing as that is, it bears mentioning.  

This was written by Mary Katherine Backstrom:

Hey, God.

Sorry, it’s been a minute. But something happened today, and for the first time in a long time, I felt like I understood Your heart a little better.
You probably already know why I’m talking, because well…You are God. But I guess the whole point of prayer is to talk, so I’m gonna tell You what happened.
Today, I was at a traffic light staring at Hannah, who was screaming in her car seat because a friend gave her a paper clip during preschool and she snuck it home in her clothes, and then accidentally dropped it into the abyss that is my car’s floorboard.
Then, despite her desperate pleas, I wouldn’t pull over so she could unbuckle and climb around the car looking for said paper clip.
That made her BIG mad.
We are talking wailing and crying and gnashing of teeth mad.
Moving on.
Now, if she had known that I couldn’t pull over because I was hurrying to take her somewhere special before soccer practice, maybe she wouldn’t have minded.
But she was screaming too loudly about her paper clip for me to explain.
“You are an EVIL mommy! A wicked stepmother! I wish I had a better mommy!”
Un-freaking-believable, right? I gave birth to that little turdlet and she had the audacity to disown me over a paper clip.
So, I let her mourn and scream. There was no reasoning with her, anyways. She wanted what she wanted.
To Hannah, that paper clip was the most valuable thing she’d ever owned.
But I couldn’t stop thinking: If only she knew what was coming. If only she knew why I wouldn’t pull over. If only she knew that I wanted to take her out for ice cream—just the two of us—maybe she would have gotten excited.
Maybe she would have forgotten about that stupid paper clip.
I had something in store for her that was so much better than a milligram of bent wire.
But that bent wire was her heart’s desire. She could see nothing else.
I was contemplating this to myself and I realized, holy cow, God.
I’m no better than my toddler.
I am essentially riding around in life’s car seat, clutching tight to my precious paper clips, and raging at you when one falls out of my hands.
My writing job changes, but I liked my job.
A speaking gig falls between my fingers, but it’s the one I was most excited about.
My husband changes as a human, but I was comfortable with who he was.
“My paper clips, God! Pull over and let me collect them! PULL OVER GOD WAAAAAAAH!”
All the while you are watching my tears from the front seat, waiting for the wailing to stop so you can tell me,
"MY DAUGHTER. Let go of that trinket. Stop your crying. I have something better just up ahead."

So, God. I just want you to know that, in this one small way, my Mama heart understood a little more about your Daddy heart today.
To be honest, I don’t want to lose any of the things I hold onto so tightly. My youth, my writing career, my children being little, my marriage being comfortable. But, if change must happen, I pray you comfort my heart and remind me that Your plans are for my good.
And remind me that for goodness sake, if I can just stop wailing over lost paper clips for one stinking minute, You’ve been trying to take me out for ice cream.
I think this was a prayer. Perhaps a revelation. Maybe more of a brain dump.
Either way, I feel a little closer to you tonight, God.
And I think that deserves an “amen”.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Shalom: Vigorous Well-Being and Abundant Flourishing

Oscar Romero, in The Violence of Love, says this, "How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand their work, their job, is a priestly work...[that] each metal worker, each professional, each doctor with the scalpel, the market woman at her stand, is performing a priestly office!"

Last week we had a great time as a DML team on Zoom, from the US to West Africa to Central Africa to East Africa.   All teams were able to "get away" to a place where they could rest and have a place of retreat, while spending four hours a day on Zoom for discussions.  We laughed, we shared, we prayed, we debated, and we learned.

Our goal is to promote shalom, which we define as the vigorous well-being and abundant flourishing of God's creation in the beauty of God's presence, in a world that is in complete harmony, the way God intends it to be.

I love this:  vigorous well-being and abundant flourishing for all in God's creation.

Psalm 85 sums this up so well in verse 10:  Unfailing love and truth have met together.  Righteousness and peace have kissed!

One commentary says that this verse can be described in this way: the "spiritual union of God bowing down from heaven to meet earth, and earth rejoicing up to Him, foretelling the glory of salvation for the people" (ISBE).

God is bringing a kingdom in which righteousness and peace will fill the earth and in the meantime it is our calling to work toward this and not just wait in hope!

Here are some of the DML teams that are seeing to be part of the process of bringing about vigorous well-being and abundant flourishing through the reclaiming by the church of the marketplace for Christ!  What an honor it is to work alongside these amazing people of God!

Cameroon:  Leaders from HUTSEED

Burkina Faso:  Leaders from Christian Missionary Alliance

Ethiopia:  Leaders from the Kale Heywet Church

Kenya:  Leaders from DML Kenya and the Anglican Church of Kenya

Nigeria:  Leaders from DML Nigeria

Uganda:  Leaders from ICM Uganda
Ghana:  DML Ghana Movement, led by Hopeline Institute

Ghana:  In the north, close to the Burkina Faso border, led by SIM Ghana

Burundi:  Our newest partner, with ICM Burundi

Tanzania:  ICM Tanzania and the Full Victory Gospel Ministry

Monday, November 2, 2020

Work as Worship

This week DML will be holding it's annual team conference.  We were all supposed to be together in Ethiopia (and the team was so excited!) but alas, we now have to do our retreat virtually.  

Each of our teams is going to a retreat place with their team, and we will be together on Zoom for 4.5 hours per day.  The rest of their time is to do team building, strategic planning, as well as resting and relaxing.  We expect there will be around 50 of us in total.  These retreats can happen thanks to the generous support of many of you!

This has been a tough year for many of our partners, beyond the pandemic.  We covet your prayers for both ability to connect with good connectivity as well as a Sabbath rest for the teams as they are away from their typical routine.

And speaking of our teams, our team in Ghana was very busy last week with a Work as Worship retreat as well as prayer walks.  Work as Worship retreats are an important times where business people get to share how they are doing their work as an act of worship.  We need to hear from each other about how this gets practical, wherever we work!  And prayer walks are a chance for us to reclaim our streets for Christ, and for Him to show us our cities from a different perspective.  We hear great testimonies from those who walk their city streets every day but something different happens when they walk it in a prayer walk.  Very powerful!

These Work as Worship retreats and Prayer Walks are not just taking place in Ghana but in many of the cities where DML is working.

Here are some pictures for you to enjoy:

Front of the shirts say "Avoda," the Hebrew word for WORK AND WORSHIP!

Back of the shirts say "Lives of Purpose and Impact."  Amen!

The DML Movement Work as Worship Team!

A Ghanaian engineer sharing how he does his work as worship!

Praying for the Ghanaian justice system.

Praying for Muslims in Ghana

Prayer team bonding!

One of many prayer teams walking the streets of their city across Africa!

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Theology of Sleep

I'm reading a book called Redeeming the Routines by Robert Banks (another book given to me by my book-generous husband) and he talks about a Theology of Sleep.  

I love this!  We have been talking about this in DML - that the role of the church is to equip the saints for the work outside the church building.  Most of our time is in the workplace, and the second highest lump of time is spent sleeping.  One-third of our lives!  I have often joked that we need to have more sermons about sleeping!

But sleep is no joke.  Many of us brag about how little sleep we get or need.  Some of us talk about how we get up to pray every morning at 4 am.  And those of us who actually do need seven or eight hours of sleep per night (myself included) feel a little guilty.

We think that maybe we are sleeping too much.  Maybe we will be perceived as lazy?  Maybe we are not holy enough?  Can we really be honest and tell people that we get 7.5 hours of sleep per night?

But we also know that we were created to sleep.  Sleep is a critical biological function of every human being for so many different reasons.  Our bodies need the rest but our brain also needs the rest.  I often say that sleep is where the brain's housekeeping gets done.  The trash is taken out, the cobwebs are swept out, and so on.  If you aren't getting enough sleep, you probably feel a little cloudy, a little murky.  And it's because the housecleaning did not get done in the brain.  Below is a video by the author of Why We Sleep, Dr. Matthew Walker.  He tells us that sleep helps memories form; sleep helps to stabilize and support our mental and emotional health.  Without quality sleep, our reactions become hyperactive and irrational.    He says, "We cannot find a single psychiatric disorder where sleep is normal." Plus there is a strong correlation between sleep disruption and cancer due to the lack of "killer cells" developed.

The Bible does have something to say about what we do with one-third of our life in this regard, but we don't hear messages about this.  I've actually heard of pastors who have told their members to not sleep more than four hours a night - to spend the rest in prayer, otherwise it's a "waste of time."  

Psalm 127:1-2 from the Message version says this: 

 If God doesn’t build the house,
    the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
    the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
    giving rest to those he loves?

Rest is a gift.  It is given by a God who never sleeps.  It is a daily reminder that we are not God.  God handles the world very well on His own while we sleep.  He doesn't NEED us but He desires us to join Him in what He is doing.  

But we do it best when we are rested.

So sleep.  Make sure you get good sleep.  Receive it as a blessing from God, so that you can be a blessing to others.

Blessed to be a blessing.

Here is the video on "Why We Sleep" if you are interested:

Monday, October 19, 2020

When Elephants Fight, the Grass Suffers the Most

Last week, we were reminded of this great African proverb by our partner in Cameroon, which has been suffering with conflict for more than four years now:  When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.  Another way to put it is that the powerless suffer the most when the powerful struggle.

Of late, in Discipling Marketplace Leaders, some of our partners and the communities they live in have been the grass, suffering under the fight of the elephants.  Countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso, in particular, continue to witness the fighting of elephants.  

Sometimes the elephants are the politicians and political parties.  Sometimes they are ethnic groups or tribes.  Sometimes they are the police and those with power and authority.  Sometimes it is "rebel" groups, seeking for equality in jobs and education.  Sometimes it is greedy people, kidnapping at random for ransom money.  Sometimes it is a virus and the people who care more about their rights of freedom than loving their neighbor by practicing safety health measures.

Sometimes the grass is killed.  Sometimes the grass is damaged.  Sometimes the grass is injured but the injuries are internal and unseen.

Always, the fight produces stress.  The fight imprints on hearts, souls, and minds.  If the fight is short, the impact is not long-lived.  If the fight is long, the impact goes deep.

The powerless suffer the most when the powerful struggle.  

The only way through some of these things is prayer.  We continue to pray three times a week for one hour with our partners.  God is knitting us together in a way that is teaching us to pray in one accord.  Additionally, many of our partners have been holding prayer walks and "Work as Worship" retreats in the last few weeks.  

Here is the "Work as Worship" retreat and prayer walk schedule for Hopeline Institute, in Northern Ghana, which is about 90% Muslim.  Their theme is "Prayer moves mountains."  Please pray along with us for both the powerless and the powerful...for both the grass and the elephants.  And more than anything, please pray for the peace that comes through the flourishing of all God's people and His creation.