Monday, November 30, 2020

Thanking God for peculiar things...

"I thank God for the ability to toilet," one of our leaders from Nigeria said on a recent prayer call.  Immediately most of us smiled, but he was very serious as he went on to explain how he was with someone who took three hours to pass urine, and another who took two hours to pass the "other," as he delicately put it.  Those in the medical profession would get it immediately.  Those of us who "toilet" without thinking about it would not.

It made me think about how many things I take for granted that many, many other people do not.  I'm thankful for the obvious things: peace and security, health in general, food on our table.  But the things my partners are thankful for - the ability to travel from town to town without being kidnapped (Nigeria), the ability to find food in the stores to be able to put on the table (many places), the ability to open your business any day you want without fear of retribution (Cameroon), and so on - those elude me without being in community with brothers and sisters in Christ in Africa.

On Thursday, I had one of my best Thanksgivings ever when the DML team got on Zoom together and everyone was given a chance to give thanks.  I wiped my eyes a number of times as I listened.  This is a team that understands that following God does not make things easy, but that He promises to be with us and that promise is not broken.

For many, they started with, "I'm thankful for what God has done in and through this pandemic."  And they proceeded to reflect on the many good things that have happened in this past year that would not have happened if we had continued on the planned course of action.  The ability to pivot and switch came as a direct result of our prayer time, intentionally listening to the Holy Spirit together.

And so, even though I have not been on African soil in eight months (longest stretch in fifteen years), I continue to be so blessed and thankful for the DML team and the work that they are doing in places that we did not imagine would be the case prior to 2020.

I also received another gift on Thanksgiving Day.  I received word from the Canadian government that I had been granted permission to enter Canada to be able to visit my mother and father.  I have not seen them since January and while I have to quarantine for 14 days, my mother will be able to be with me in the place where I quarantine, as my aunt has opened up her home for us (there has to be enough space for us to have our own bedrooms and bathrooms).  I am so thankful but covet your prayers that I may be allowed to cross the border - the border guards are still able to deny my entrance even with this permission.  Since my work is mostly on my computer and Zoom, I can work from anywhere, so I'm very thankful for this opportunity and blessings!

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!