Are you growing concerned?

Are you becoming more aware of the news?  From financial issues, and suffering of those around us, to the world events – horrific news, startling, and possibly very overwhelming.

My husband and i have been a part of the prayer team of our church, and so we find ourselves filtering things through soft and purposeful conversation with God.  Painful bodies, fearful moms, unemployment, disobedient children, struggling marriages, and on and on.   Our needs as people are very great, and our dependence is growing greater and greater on God himself to provide and meet the needs.

But i must tell you that while i know our needs are important they seem to pale in comparison to our brothers and sisters around the world who are giving their lives for their faith in Jesus.

As I stand to sing worship choruses these past Sundays I realize how privileged we are to gather publicly, to give voice to our hearts cry of worshiping our great God without fear of imprisonment, beatings, death.  So as i close my eyes, and lift my heart and my voice to God I find myself lifting those believers around the world to Jesus, and ask for his presence in their lives.

Remembering Al and Eileen – We have friends who are Pakistani nationals, and have lived around the world. They are believers in Jesus.  And these last 10 years their government has not permitted them to leave their nation.  They are surrounded by 99.5% of their fellow citizens who believe in radical Islam, or tribal factions.  They have a life that is constantly one word or one action from death.  Al told us the last time he was visiting in the states that we need to pray for the believers in Pakistan like this:

  • Lord grant them wisdom to know your word, your heart, your spirit
  • Lord grant them favor with their neighbors that those who do not know Jesus might see his love extended through your people in that place.
  • Lord give opportunities to love, help and share your word with those who do not know
  • Strength, courage, boldness, fearlessness, God’s favor.

As the news continues to churn out photos and video of Christians being executed for believing in Jesus I can;t just stand in church and sing a worship chorus.  I am compelled to cry out for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted.  And i am compelled to cry out against the acts of injustice, shocking violence, of global bullying on a massive scale.

The rising tide of hatred and hostility of Christians is joined by the growing antisemitism that is playing out in the world.  Many are saying these are times much like that of pre-WWII, where people were being fed propaganda, believing ideology that was filled with venemous hatred, doctrines of demons.

America is not the same nation it was 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ago.  The news media is whipping up a hostility toward Christianity, our government is embracing poor judgement, and the leadership of our nation is growing sketchy.  Being a Christian is becoming a dangerous decision, with frequent news of charges pressed, court cases, etc for simplly living out our faith.

The winds of change are blowing.  Are we there in prayer, standing firmly asking our Great God and King to meet us, change our hearts, accept our repentance, and heal our land?

I am growing concerned – not of God, because i know he holds everything in his great care, but i am growing concerned that fellow believers seem to have little sensitivity to the great need to pray, to seek God with everything in our souls, and to ask for the needs of our fellow believers that are hurting.

“Father, forgive us for our self focus.  Forgive us for not praying for our rulers, our government, or leaders.  And forgive us for letting your word slide from our lives.  We repent today, and ask you to fill our  hearts and minds with your spirit, your word, your strength.  And we bring our brothers and sisters who are being fiercely persecuted to you.  Please be their strength, glorify yourself in your people, strengthen and embolden your church to stand in the presence of evil, and know your plan is to bring many to salvation.  

We pray for those who are the persecutors… may they come to know they are persecuting your people, and that you know every thought and act.  May you show yourself to them in dreams, visions, and manifest fear in their very souls.  We ask for their salvation, we cry to you to turn your enemies to repentent believers.  In everything may we sense your spirit, your provision, your protection and your love.  And may the world sense this too.  Amen”

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Remembering an injustice

Having been raised as the daughter of 1st generation Americans of Russian decent I have always been fascinated by Russian History.  And especially I was and remain interested in the history of the ruling monarchs of Russia.  And of the tragic end of the last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II along with his wife, daughters and son.

Today, July 17th, marks the 96th anniversary of the horrible execution of the last monarch and his family.Nicholas and Alexandra raised 4 beautiful daughters – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and 1 son, the heir of the throne, Alexi.  Alexandra, was the daughter of the House of Hesse, and grand daughter of Queen Victoria of England.  Nicholas was first cousin to the house of Windsor.  And the Romanov family ruled Russia with power and an opulence few would ever see that mirrored the barons of industry.  Sadly, they lived in a turbulent age, with growing unrest, the growing rebellion of citizens who had given heed to the voice of communism, or had grown weak because of lack of jobs, or food.  For such an age, the Romanovs became pawns of civil war, and on this day in 1918 they were executed in an old home in Ekaterina, Siberia where they were exiled as prisoners.

So today I want to remember their legacy, and the great loss that the world suffered at the hands of the communist experiment that was the overthrow of the monarchy.  How tragic, and what potential was lost.

Seasons Change and so do I

Recently we attended the wake of the mother of an old friend.  The inevitable place we all end up, burying our parents, and accepting that time passes, we age and this life is so short and fragile.  As we gathered at the funeral home we wondered how the evening would go.  In the early 1990s our friend lived with us for two years after returning from a 4 year mission trip to New Zealand.  During the time he lived with us we transitioned from a large church to a smaller inner city work that was reviving ministry in an old neighborhood.  So the friends that came last night were a blending of a few churches, over a span of years.  It was a bit surreal to see them all together.  And to see how the years have been, how life has changed us, molded us, directed us, aged us.

At some point last night the realization settled in again that people come and go from our lives.  Some are meant to be there for a long time, others for a short while.  Some are meant to be cheerleaders of our life, encouragers, bringing words of strength, or wisdom.  Others are meant to drive us to our knees, keeping us in prayer, and introspectively looking at our lives to fine tune. Old friends, able to pick up conversation where it last left off – yes that was nice.  But some of those memories of why our lives took different paths began to come into view.  The strong willed personalities that refuse to believe anyone else has any place in speaking about life.  Oddly that same emotion of perceiving that nothing I say would be heard came flooding back again from those many years ago.  Differences in how we respect and uphold each other was clear.  .  And the person who was so negative that even saying hello took us to dark places… aha, moving on could be a good thing.  But what could leave some people stuck in a patch of negative 24/7 thoughts?  Is life so harsh that you cant stop for a moment to say something lifegiving?

Last night I found myself sitting before the lord and asking him to clarify and bring to my memory any ways I was not a life giving believer last night.  Funeral homes are difficult for so many people, or at least awkward at best.  We prayed we would bring hope and comfort to those grieving, and words that speak life into their souls.  And I think we did that.  And we prayed that we would offer hope and encouragement to old friends who have taken different paths, gone to different churches, or remained while we moved on.

I dont want to rose color paint life’s memories but likewise i think it is human nature to either focus on the positive always, ignoring blatant stressful things, or the very opposite… getting stuck where everything is negative, and just being around such people exhausts us.  In that short time of visiting people from the past I realized again how critically the world needs people who are encouragers, life givers, who choose to speak peaceful things, supportive things, encouraging each other.

A long time ago my mom told me that you never know what people are carrying with them or going through, and often the person who is the most kind and encouraging has learned to be this way through deep sorry and struggle with life.  As a child that was lost to me, but as i age i see the virtue of the statement.

So this is my prayer for today, and beyond:

Lord, take my mind, my heart, my lips, my tongue, my fingers- may each effort to communicate with others be filled with kindness, grace, and love.  May others see in me the very presence of Christ in me, which is the hope of glory, and as each encounter ends may there be life, hope, refreshment and joy.  May me that instrument of peace, and use my lips, my tongue, my fingers to express your grace, your love, your passionate pursuit of us.

Lord forgive me for judgemental thoughts about old friends.  Help them to grow strong, live strong in you, and grant them large measures of love and grace.  Thank you that you are teaching me daily about grace, and your wonderous mercy.  Amen

The slow slide

I think it first came to my attention as I watched my parents aging… walking a bit slower, loosing a little hearing, slowing down, slowing down a little bit each day.  Attention to those around us that are aging, graying, experiencing health, financial, and emotional reversals… What you could easily do several times over now becomes a difficult task, done at a fraction of the speed.

Aging is hard to watch in others, and inevitable for us each to experience.  Isn;t it?  Why yes it is.  One of those silly comedian lines that has hung with me since i heard it is “Well there is one thing for sure about life- we are all going to come to the end of it some day!  Yes, Death is one travel adventure we can not opt out of”

Today we learned of the mother of a friend passing on after several years of  significant decline in her physical and mental capacity.  We remember her as a bright eyed woman with the zest for life.  But recent facebook photos and videos remind us that the sin scars of this earth were grabbing and stealing more and more of her each day.

I know i have written about grief before… but for those of us who have walked alongside a loved one who is slowly departing this earth the memories come back.  The good days and bad days, the times when you look at your loved one and think “oh my, they are a shadow of what they once were.”  And a quiet sense of helplessness to change the situation takes us to our knees and prayer.  We may not have any power to change the situation, but God Almighty does.

I think often of the last year or two of my mom’s life, of how she went from a woman of deep strength – strong spiritual belief in God, and a strong determination to embrace whatever life threw at her.  Hands and feet severely crippled by Rheumatoid Arthritus but that never slowed her down… baking , cleaning, cooking… the house was spotless, life was in order.  Even her african violets knew they were loved and cared for.  Funny thing is after she died they were never the same….

So as i think about the transition of yet another special person from earth to heaven I return afresh to the emotions and memories of my own life experience… and I return to the only one who can make sense of this – God.

I wanted to leave this post not on a downer, but with words of encouragement, of comfort.  Here is a list that i put together for myself when my mom was aging quickly, getting more sick, and life was getting hard:

  • Take time with them – spend some quality time just enjoying their company, listening to their stories, sharing life.
  • Encourage them – Bring them flowers, or rent that favorite movie, buy them a fluffy bathrobe, or a new warm sweater.  Or just bring yourself, your family, your kids…. make them the center of your focus.  I would add – turn off the electronics – no pagers, no cell phones, no ipads, no electronics… just you and your loved one.
  • Take some time for yourself – do activities that will encourage you, nurture you, recharge your battery.  for me it is always reading my bible and art…. i can get lost in the depth of wisdom i find in the bible.
  • Remember the past, embrace the changing present, prepare for the future – I had a hard time letting go of the image of my mother as the strong nurturing caregiver, but realized the roles reversed.  Acceptance is hard, but it makes that time  so much easier for everyone.
  • Find a friend to talk to – have an outlet – a trusted friend that will be there to listen to you, and offer their support, encouragement, insight.  Often having another person helps you see the situation differently, and it is so nice to share the weight of this season of life with someone else.
  • Take pictures, stroll down memory lane, ask those hard questions you want to know about life, family history, and your loved one.  Journal, video, take photos, blog… but capture the memories.  One day they will be more precious.  I regret not having video taped my dad’s stories of WW2, and his life experiences… they were amazing and a wealth of information that never was recorded.
  • Read, and learn about health issues – find out details, ask questions  so you are educated on what is happening to your loved one.

We cant change the slow slide, but we can perhaps do it a little better.  End of life deserves dignity, respect, love  and admiration.

Good Friday Indeed

Thoughts flood my mind today of the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate payment of randsom for my very soul…..
… The torches and guards in a garden, the betrayal by a kiss.
… Unfair trial
… The crowd screaming for blood
… The public spectacle
… The fear and denial by Peter
… Gambling by the Roman guard
… Loyal to the end were the women
… Gut wrenching anguish
… “Father forgive them!”
… Seperation
… Darkness
… “Tetelastai!”.  It is finished.
… Death
… Earthquake
… Dark sky
… Temple curtain is torn top to bottom
… Body in the grave
…. Stone, guards, the watch
… Disciples hide

Ah, Friday, that Friday would change everything.  Forever more sin is paid for.  Thanks be to God that the story did not end on a Friday.