Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pray for the Bible school in Myanmar

The tea was made, and the plate of sweet bread was laid out. Everything was ready, and now I just had to wait. I waited for a very special guest, Dr. Khup Lian Pau, to arrive at my Hobbit Hole. Meng Pu was visiting me earlier in the day last Friday and told me that Dr. Pau was visiting Fort Wayne for a few days. He had come in January to visit many different cities across the United States, and would be leaving in May to return to his church and Bible school in Rangoon, Myanmar. Dr. Pau was the man who led Meng Pu and his family to the Lord, in the 1970s. And getting to meet him was definitely an honor I did not want to pass up.

Meng Pu and his brother, John Tom, and Dr. Pau came and had tea with me. He is very intelligent and interesting to talk to, and he has very kind eyes and a warm smile. Dr. Pau told me how he came to know Jesus, and about his ministry in Rangoon. He teaches young Christian men and women at the Bible school, and trains and equips them to go back to their home villages with the gospel. He said that four of their students lost their families and homes last year in the tsunami, and are suffering from post-traumatic stress. He asks for prayer for them, and for all of the students to grow in their faith, and for them to have great courage and love, to share Jesus with the people in their home villages. Pray also for financial support for the school and for monthly sponsors to help pay for the students who attend.

I got to share my testimony and a little bit of my ministry with Dr. Pau as well, and then I got to pray with him before he left. He invited me to visit him and his school in Rangoon, and I think I would really like to do that some day. Until then, join me in praying for this incredible pastor and the students in his school.

Friday, April 12, 2013

So... Ezekiel?

"So... Ezekiel?" I asked, trying to sound casual, but actually feeling so excited I was about to burst.

After trudging through about 20 chapters in two months, I'd finally landed on some exciting verses that put all the rest into perspective that felt relevant. So much of what I had read was about God destroying, completely annihilating whole nations, wiping their name off the face of the earth permanently. And then... in chapter 29-30, God speaks to Egypt. He tells them that they will be scattered, crushed, and broken... but not completely destroyed.

“‘Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered. I will bring them back from captivity and return them to Upper Egypt, the land of their ancestry."

They would never again be a great nation, but they would be redeemed and would come home. He had plans for Egypt, and he wasn't done with them yet. I thought about Egypt as it is now. I have a Christian friend from Egypt, and I've heard how the Church is strong there. And God knew that his people would live there, grow there, worship there, and die there... He saw that there was hope for Egypt, and even though Egypt had done terrible things in the past, and would again, he showed mercy and grace, in the midst of utter annihilation around them. This is comforting and beautiful to me... the mercy of God. 

My friend, Todd, is also reading through Ezekiel, and when I shared this excitement with him, he said he got to read a little further, and wanted to share what he had learned, too. 

"So... Ezekiel?" I said. 

"Yes! Ezekiel! I stayed up reading for a long time last night," Todd said quickly, and his face lit up. Oh good, I thought, he's excited too. "I got to chapter 36, and that's where the theme of the whole book of Ezekiel is found."

 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name..." 

"Everything God does is for the sake of his name, his glory... so people will know him. Connie, the things that happen to us - they aren't about us. Everything is about him," he said, and I could tell that he'd been thinking about this a lot. It is a hard truth to submit to, but it is worth wrestling with, because it has so much freedom and power. 

I remembered the many times throughout those difficult chapters, where God said, "Then you will know that I am the Lord." Over and over and over again, he reveals that his drive and motivation in all things is for people to know him as Lord. 

We talked more about the different analogies used throughout the book, and the ways God received glory then, and how he is receiving the glory now in our lives, through the painful, dark times and through the beautiful things we experience. It changes the way we look at life, the way we approach life. And there's more... so much more! Keep reading and you'll find heart transplants, bones coming to life, rivers flowing from a new temple... so challenging, so powerful, so beautiful. 


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chaotic cooking

"There is nothing to eeeeeat!" Brie wailed dramatically the other night as we both leaned in to the refrigerator. I saw lettuce, cheese, eggs, and an assortment of salad dressings. Then she opened the freezer and it was packed full of kosher meats and ice cream.

Braving the wrath of my exceptionally-emotional Brie, I said, "Well, it looks like there is a lot to eat-"

"Noooo there's noooot!" she cried and slammed the door. She spun around a couple times and sighed deeply, and I decided it was best to be quiet and still. Clearly her soul was in tumult, but I also know that cooking is very good therapy for her.

She gathered some of her wits and said, "I do have an eggplant roasting in the oven."

? ? ? Really? Who does that?

"Ok, well that's... something," I tried to be positive. "What do you put with eggpl-"

"I don't knoooooow!"

"...How about you just make me an egg?"

"NO! You can eat eggs and eggplant together because that's like planting an egg and that would just be wrong!"

I'm not following her logic... Ok, ok, quiet and calm. I noticed a cutting board on the counter. "Did you chop up a sweet potato?"

"Yes, it's also roasting."

"Well then! Eggplant and sweet potatoes are roasting! Sounds like a good start." I do not feel like I am being helpful at all, but trying to stay encouraging.

We started to talk about our day, and as Brie processed her crazy life and got things off her chest, she began to flit around the kitchen in magical fairy fashion, chopping vegetables, boiling couscous, and adding this and that to the concoction. I love watching Brie in this mode. Pretty soon, what started as "nothing to eat" became a brilliant gourmet meal, artistically combined colors and flavors. It was like Brie was able to take all the chaos in her heart and translate it into something beautiful and delicious to bless others and bring healing to herself.

And I think that is something that Jesus loves to do too... When we are too crazy to be able to look at our lives and see anything of worth or value, he takes the chaos and creates something beautiful out of it that can make a difference in the world and bring us closer to Him.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Love is magic

"Love is magic - it's a beautiful, wonderful, marvelous, mysterious thing.
Love is magic - makes you wanna dance, wanna laugh, jump around and makes you sing."

Kelsey and Gabe got married a couple weeks ago, on March 30. They are one of my favorite couples to spend time with, and I will try to explain why. They are each great people individually - they both love the Lord, they are both super-creative and talented, they are very authentic in their relationship with each other and other people, and they are both passionate about the things God has given them to do. But together... together their potential sky-rockets. Together, they are so much more powerful. Their ministry, compassion, and light just explodes. And that is exciting to see. It's exciting to watch, to experience, to be a part of. It was exciting to stand (sit) with them on their wedding day, to hear them exchange vows and promises, to see them kiss and dance and laugh and hug and start their life together. It is good - very good - to see true love in action, in the beautiful way God means it to be. It gives me hope.

Last night, Hannah and I went on a long walk and talked about love and marriage. "What would you say," she asked, "to people who think marriage is obsolete, overrated, or unnecessary... people who think just living together is enough and divorce is completely normal? I know it is fundamentally wrong, but emotionally how would you handle it?" I thought about it for a few minutes, as we passed Jared and Shannon's little apartment, and then up a block to the future home of our Joe and Lisa. I thought about Gabe and Kelsey, who I think are still on their honeymoon, and I thought of my parents who just went away for their 36th anniversary, and I thought of my grandparents who are still in love and faithfully care for each other. I thought about Westley and Buttercup in the Fire Swamp, and how true love really is never meant to die.

And it breaks my heart to think of people believing that it isn't possible. What would the world be like if promises meant nothing? if commitment wasn't valued? if love was just a watered down hormonal response that could bloom and fade away? There is fear, apathy, and weakness in that sort of life. But there is power in love that lasts forever. There is inspiration and truth and hope in swearing "til death do you part" and meaning it. I've seen it, so I know it's real and it's possible. And I hope one day it will be my story too.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Delightful stories

One of my favorite sounds in the world these days is the sound of Meng Pu's laugh. It is so full of love and joy and life, it comes from the Lord, and it is contagious.

Our study on faith continues. He reads it in Zo language, and I follow along in English. Sometimes as he reads, he will pause and close his eyes and say, "Yes, hallelujah... it is good..." These are the moments I know he is reading something very familiar and dear to him, something that has comforted or strengthened him in the past.

Sometimes as he reads, he will stop mid-sentence and gasp and put his hand over his heart, and read it again and say, "Oh! God is... I need... dis is very good." These are the moments I know that God is teaching him a new thing, challenging him in his heart.

But then there are sometimes, more often in the recent weeks, when he is reading and does a double-take. He reads in a calm voice, then says, "eh?" and looks at me, then looks back at the verse, points to it, and translates it into English, to see if my Bible says the same thing his does. When I nod and confirm it, his face breaks into a huge smile and he chuckles, then laughs out loud, so hard that he has to take his reading glasses off and wipe his eyes. I can't help but laugh along with him. And these are the moments I know he just discovered something new about the character of God, and he takes such delight in it.

Some things that have brought him laughter lately: Rahab was a prostitute from Jericho, and God chose to rescue her and put her in the family of King David. Gideon had too many men, and God kept sending them home. Barak wouldn't go to war without Deborah, so God gave the honor of killing Sisera to a woman. Samson's parents wanted him to marry a nice Israelite girl from a good family, but God wanted him to marry a Philistine and stir up all sorts of trouble. In Meng Pu's words: "Bad woman, bad city, bad thing. But God say it is good, God say I will love, God say I want. We want no same God want. I need obey God say."

What stories in the Bible delight you? Which ones show you crazy and beautiful things about who God is? Which ones make you laugh until you cry with the joy of the Lord?

Monday, April 8, 2013

A general message

I haven't written in a while. Sometimes that means there is nothing to say, nothing worth writing down. But lately there has just been too much. Every day for the past month has been packed - truth, beauty, love, power, joy, hope, pain, comfort, peace, faith... little moments in God's Word, with a friend in the car, with my roommates late at night, with my neighbors in the kitchen, listening to music, watching movies, reading books aloud, writing poetry, eating food, singing loudly, speaking softly, laughing until we cry... There's been no fluff, no wasted space - even rest has been intentional. It hasn't been busy-ness, it's just been fullness, and it's overwhelming. There was a wedding I got to be a part of, and a tiny new baby I got to hold, a visiting pastor from Burma I got to pray with, and a college group I got to train; and so many conversations, so rich and powerful.

I realized this week that it has been a year since I was in the hospital. And I realized today that it has been a year since that beautiful Easter morning of hope that I wrote about. I opened an old journal that I haven't used in a while, and the first page was my thoughts in the hospital about the day I thought I would die - I wanted to die. They are dark thoughts, thoughts of fear and anger and hopelessness. It alarmed me to re-read such things in my own handwriting, but I am so thankful for it, because it reminds me of where I was and how much God has healed me since then. I am so grateful that he has given me a whole year in his mercy, and he has swept me away in his grace. 

I'm making a list of all the posts I need to catch up on, so you can enjoy some of the details too. But this broader, more general message is to let you know that by God's grace I am still here - still breathing, still living, still smiling, still hanging on to hope - and He is still doing marvelous things in this little "bowl of cherries."