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.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Peril and the Promise

The Economist Magazine put out a recent report about the "peril and the promise" relating to how COVID-19 will impact the global economy.  While the COVID-19 pandemic has some similarities to the Spanish Flu of 1918, the death toll is much lower in comparison but the economic hit has been much higher.  The "great recession" of 2009 shrank the world economy by just 0.1%.  COVID-19 will have caused an 8% decline in the world economy by the end of 2020.  That is huge.

The World Bank is estimating that 89 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty, an increase of 15% globally.  It is estimated that low and middle income economies will shrink this year for the first time in 60 years.  In the high income economies, there have been unprecedented interventions in labor and capital markets, but that is not the case in low and middle income economies.  

These changes will bring long-lasting effects.  These economic changes will likely spill into challenges in developing countries that lead to greater unrest, emotional challenges, familial challenges, and so on.  We have heard of this already, with an increase in teenage pregnancies and domestic violence.  

In the past week, Discipling Marketplace Leaders, with the help of our donors, was able to release another $60,000 to our partners in ten countries to do more business development.  This brings the total that we have sent to our partners in ten different countries in Africa to $160,000 USD.  We are so thankful to God for this!

What are our partners doing with these funds?  They are working on sustainability projects!  As employment has closed down, many people are returning to agriculture, so our partners are working with various ministries of agriculture to get people going on pig farms, fish farms, goat and dairy farms, mushroom and other crop farms.  They are working "Joseph" projects, helping farmers to store their grains so that they don't sell when the market is flooded, and "Daniel" projects, helping people get better training to do their business better (for example, our partner in Nigeria is doing regular zoom calls called "Hour Farms" where they spend an hour together on Zoom to improve farming techniques).  Others are using these funds to give low interest loans to business people who are struggling to restock their businesses.

We thank God for our partners who are using their spheres of influence to work creatively during this difficult time.  We are hearing so many testimonies of new people and areas reached and we hope to share more of that with in the near future.  

Please continue to pray for those facing extreme poverty, with no access to governmental financial aid, medical insurance, or access to affordable credit.  And pray for our teams as they continue to work for sustainable economic growth!