We Can’t Change the World.

When I was a girl, I often read biographies.  Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa stand out the most and I can still remember the shape and smell of those library pages and where I was when the ideas shook my little spirit from side to side, waking me up to the greater world.

biographies

I wanted to live an influential life; one that made an imprint on history, one that affected life after life with help and hope. I wanted to start movements!  It was bright and innocent, those aspirations from this idealist.  It was all-American too.  I was the product of a colonized country, a girl growing up in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when the idea that people could “change the world” was just beginning to be written about, books on the subject breeding like rabbits into the 21st century until it spewed out all over the world-wide web.  No one has been immune to the seduction.

But the problem with little-girl aspirations and grown-up seductions is that they can turn into driven and delusional ambitions that are really all about me, and my heart that is deceptive above all things.  Trust me, I know, for bit by bit through the years God’s been hammering mine off, the freedom without them feeling so much better than the weight they brought.

You see, we live in an age that I believe particularly feeds an ego,  all these ideas about changing the world– so beautifully disguised in altruistic motives–with food that fuels every sinner’s inherent desire to be worshipped by being noticed.  Don’t we see it all around us?  So much self-promotion in the name of “helping others”, so much daily “show and tell” that easily becomes comparison and competition, so much of all our “promoting and marketing” as if we are back in Jr. High and needing to impress and prove while we compulsively “follow” the lives of others and report about ours, rather than simply live them.  Really, we are the ones in a ll of history whom invented “selfies”!  Need I elaborate on how much we have lost our sense of dignity and the beauty of our daily lives lived under the gaze of God and not the spotlight we project?  What is this really, all this clamoring to be heard, to be noticed, to be desired, to sell, to have an opinion and voice it?  And our compassion, even it can be a good costume for pride, for the burden we take on can make us believe we could be the Savior.

Do we have to give in?  What if we did not?  Is it possible?

When I think on the saints I have known, the saints I have read, it was those who were intentional about living a quiet, faithful and almost hidden life.  I noticed. They had the power, quite oblivious them, to “change my world”. They were, they are, not involved in noisy efforts to draw attention to themselves.  They keep their eyes on Jesus and when they act and how they act is only because the Spirit within them beckons and they obey. They abide.  They have no desire to sit and count their fruit or fertilize themselves.  It is not their prerogative. And they are at peace, for they have not distorted the Gospel and made it about their striving, but rather their grateful and loving obedience.

If you want to get intelligent about all this, then you could look at writer Andy Crouch and his study on culture-making where he states: “My ability to make small changes in my local world is dwarfed by my dependence on the changes other people make at larger scales of culture.”  Yes.  A whole lot of factors we have no control over.  Though we like to think we can and do, it is the Holy Spirit who first must work in the hearts of man.

But are we a generation of Christians who is more attuned to “postings” and “pins” than the voice of God?  It seems we are because we are the ones posting as much as we can on every social network in every form imaginable, it is us marketing to death, it is us “doing our part so He can do His”(where is that in the Bible?), it is us networking — I forgot, networking is dead now, right? It is us reading the life of Jesus with the paradigm of a 21st century CEO and thinking the Mt. of Olives was esentially His “platform”.  It is us offering commentary on everything from cleaning our toilets to our moonlight walks with our spouses so we can all feel we are human and validate our existence.

And it is all too much, more than we were even made to handle.

Is this making any sense?  Am I getting too snarky and cynical?  Of course, I do not dis-credit the good in our world becoming flat, I just feel we have been too much deceived and lulled, no different and in many ways, no better.

You see, I don’t live in the USA anymore and in me it is doing strange wonders.  I am pondering all this through different lenses.  One begins to see in new ways, one begins to breath in new ways.  I live in a country that was not colonized, but conquered.  Therefore, the thinking is different.  I walk among it all…the slowness, the lingering, even the fatalism. But, I see how life is savored.  It still sucks the marrow out of it, but it does not crush the bones.  You start to see that crawling into heaven worn-out is not particularly that admirable, it just says I was shooting at every good target I saw hoping I would hit something, ensuring my own fruitfulness and thinking that a reflective life was a wasted life and rest was in competition with activity.  What kind of “legacy” does that leave?

It strips you down, this moving to another country where you are really a nobody and how much you can talk and give, in the beginning stages of assimilation, is limited.  It speaks to you in the quietness of the night and tells you that the call to be a missionary, the call to be one who wants to serve and love, the programmed desire to “change this world” is rather a call to ultimate and grueling humility.  It’s a call to brokeness, to anaminity, to simplicity,  to emptying myself, to plodding, to feeling like a Moses, to dying to self so Jesus might be more alive in you and help Himself to your life whenever and however He pleases.  It was never a call to pose as a demigod; it’s a death blow to any remnant of pride or arrogance.  It is brutal and it is wonderful.  It is an invitation to experience just how little I am and how little I can do, but how much He can.  And how much in spite of me and yes, without me, He has this country, this world in His hands.

Imagine.

So, in light of all this, we can stop raising our hands and begging for Him to pick us! please?  Can stop pleading for the teams of this world to pick us, too as if we are in a non-stop popularity contest?  We can rest and we can know we have already been picked and we have already won.  That the world and all that is within it, belongs to Him.  That He wants us just to be still, to lean in and stick close, to be quiet and mind our own business, to do with joy the work that He has established for us. For He is watching and His records are true.

So, I wonder,  I have this dream that we could all shut-up and shut-down for just a day, the same day.  We could all find a tree firmly rooted for so many years without our help, and sit under it.  We could all bow our heads and our knees and worship Him and acknowledge He is the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  And all the change we want to see, all the goodness we want our lives to be, we could pray it out to Him.  We could pace and cry, hurl and yell and give it all to Him until the bowls in heaven full of the saint’s intercessions are so full they tip.  They come back down on us with answers and hope and change we never could bring, were God not God and we not His quieted and confident children, our energy directed in the one place that ushers forth any good change and that clarifies all our ambitions.

The biographies? I am still a sucker for them. They are still good.  So good, I read them to my children.  But I tell them God is writing their biography and no worry, they do and will serve to do more than inspire, they will declare His praises for the ages to come.

And the older I get, that is becoming my only ambition.

Top 10 Things Learned in the Last 23 Years: From Ben in Mexico.

In March after ten years, we returned to Mexico to serve as a family for two weeks.  Ben spoke to the students and staff at Puebla Christian school where he attended for six years, 23 years ago.   Here I wanted to give you a peek into the heart of my amazing husband through his words.  There are few people I have meant in my life with greater humility, honesty, perseverance, integrity,  genuine care for people (always believing the best about them), steadfast faith and daily focus on Jesus and eternity.  He’s a no-frills, self-proclaimed hands-on man and deems himself an ineffective communicator (I beg to differ as might you after you read his words) who would rather set up 12 campsites alone than speak publicly–but he also believes in doing hard things, willing to model this for his boys.  Enjoy!

Top 10 Things I’ve learned in the Last 23 Years:  

10.  We all feel God’s pleasure and hear His voice in different ways.   You would think this is obvious, but it has taken me years to come to peace with this truth, comfortable in my walk with God.  I love to work with my hands and it may sound crazy but when I fix someone’s toilet, hang a door or build a cabinet I feel God’s pleasure!  When hike in the mountains or kayak at daybreak out to the ocean I sense His majesty and talk with Him.  When I play bass in worship my fingers are much quicker in being able to communicate than my mouth. When I read about the intricacies of science and design, the wisdom of God overwhelms me.  I’m not one that has seen angels, speaks a prophetic word or can pull from Scripture some profound message to share.   God has made you with the ability to know Him.  But we each will know Him in different ways.  This is okay!

9.  God cannot be put into the boxes we construct for Him.  We’ve all got these God-boxes.  And many of them we have constructed out of fear, the need to control or because that is what we have always been taught.  They feel safe and comfortable.  I know this too well.  But my prayer for years has been, “God, give me all you’ve got–show me your fullness in any measure you want to!”  Why would we put on the brakes when it comes to the full revelation of who He is?  I urge you, look for a bigger God!  Walk in the vibrancy of the Holy Spirit!  He wants to do more in and through our lives than we can begin to imagine.  My wife and I have experienced this over and over these last 13 years.  There are more stories than I would have time to tell.  So don’t commit the crime of living cautiously with your God-boxes.

8.  Love people.  My favorite scripture is Hebrews 10:23-24, “Let is hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  It is the Word of God–this hope we have and people who matter.  Love them all around you and love them well.  Always believe the best about them but put your hope and trust in God not in people.  They will let you down.  They (and I) will disappoint you.  But He will not.  So love, see everyone around you as special and worth your time.   I’ve been in the working world rat-race for twelve years and I’ve met plenty un-lovable people both inside and outside the church. So I know it is not easy, but it is the heart of Jesus that we love one another and forgive as He has forgiven us.

7.  Being a godly man doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a pastor, evangelist, or leader of a huge ministry. How many of you here, many of you missionary kids like me, have felt that people expect a lot of you as if you must be super-spiritual and turn into some sort of charismatic leader?  Yes, I felt that pressure too.  But the truth is I would stink at being a leader of some big (even a small) company or a pastor or anyone like that.  Trust me.  But I’ll serve behind the scenes and I’ll be the best right hand man you could ask for–I’ll enable the larger vision! For years I struggled with “How can I be a godly man if I am not a leader”?  The church even puts that pressure on guys!   A godly man and one who is a leader is a man who serves, who protects, who others count on, who enables other people to grow, who takes the hits and the risks (especially for his wife), who prays about all things all the time making this as normal as breathing.  Again, be who God made you to be!  Rich Mullins, you know the guy who wrote “Awesome God” said this, “If you’re a plumber and become a Christian, you don’t quit being a plumber to become a preacher.  You become a great plumber because your work is infused by your faith.”  Work is a gift from God and it all matters to Him.  A godly man works hard!

6.  I fail…and that’s OK.  There is a difference between failing and being a failure.  Times of failure are actually times of growth.  Take it from me,  I’ve lost about 13 jobs!  Granted only two of those were “my fault” (most were company lay-offs) but still, I didn’t expect when I was in your shoes to walk through 13 job losses as a man who needed to provide for my family.  I got a college degree and have sought the Lord about every decision I have made–I don’t look back and see where I would have changed anything.  But still, failure is going to come.  You can either allow it to take you down or you can keep getting back up and getting in the game, being faithful and trusting it is all making you into someone more than you were a year ago.  So you will fail. Own it. Learn from it.

5.  Brokenness makes you “ready” to serve, not perfection.  If you think the person you are “ministering” to needs the Gospel more than you do every day of your life, than you have no business doing “ministry”.  If you can lean on yourself in any way than you are not leaning on Jesus.  My times of failure drove me to utter dependence on Christ–not my own abilities, background, education, clean records.  We’ve walked through many years of loss and questions and neediness.  This has been our best preparation and we feel we know the heart of Jesus more than ever before.

4.  Mean people need extra love.  Wounded animals snarl when they are hurting–it is no different with people, so have compassion on them.  There was a boy in my high school in Texas, Joaquin.  He was odd and always mean and angry.  Many people picked on him and stayed away from him.  I remember thinking there was something underneath all that facade and trying to treat him with simple dignity.  One day he did not come back to school, ever.  You see he hurt himself really bad (you older ones here understand what I mean).  I’ve never forgotten that, not that I feel I alone could have prevented it, but this sad story reminds me that we walk among hurting people who all have a story and we must have compassion and mercy and not take the snarls personally.

3.  Don’t play the game to impress others–it’s useless and it’s all self.  Personally I hate when people get introduced with all of their titles and accomplishments.  I hate it when we try to impress each other with slick marketing or the latest trends and fashions.  Kids, just be yourself, be a person that “what you see is what you get.” Don’t let insecurity drive you–we are all naked before God and we are here to glorify Him.  All else is a waste of your time and energy and don’t waste your life.  Remember if you do, you are making it all about you and not about Jesus.

2.  Be above reproach–in everything.  Let me give you an example:  I’ve replaced many windows.  When you take the old one out and you see there is rot in that trim and down through the wall, you could just cover it all up with the new window and trim and make it look really good.  I’ve seen many guys do this.  Or you could replace the rot with new stuff so it not only looks good on the outside but it will last for years and cause the customer no long-term problems.  To be above reproach has often made me slower than my co-workers and it’s a bother to employers and yes I’ve lost a job because I refused to do cover-up jobs.  But when you do the right thing than before God you have no regrets; you have a clear conscience (even if you’ve driven people nuts), a good name and live with God’s peace.  You can’t buy this!  Noble things are always harder, but in the long run worth it.

1.  God calls each one of His children to play a role in the Body of Christ.  I love this truth! What peace and joy it brings me!  Look, I have here a hammer and a screwdriver.  Here is a screw that needs to go into this hole in this piece of wood.  What is the better tool for this particular job?  The screwdriver!  Know what tool God has created you to be and be that tool for the job to the best of your ability (which is different than the next person’s ability), serving God and others well.   You will discover this more and more! You don’t know yet what you are capable off and there are still things I don’t know I am capable of! I find this exciting! Our response to how God has made us is simple obedience and trust–not gauging your life, comparing yourself with others and striving.  My “job” is to be the best Ben Blycker to the glory of God!

What Is That To You?

Nothing undermines and deflates our growth as women, our relationship with God, our marital joy and our vision in mothering as much as falling into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. Consider this a personal confession.  

Several weeks ago a young woman asked me how to stay focused each day with energy, passion and purpose. I replied, ” Know your race well and know where you are going.”  When I was a girl, I was a runner. Competing in races offered a tangible way to know my areas of athletic strength and weakness, identify my opponents, the particular terrain and to visualize the finish line. It presented the opportunity of intentionality, the thrill of challenge and the hope of victory.  My legs were brilliant white strings; that’s what I was given to work with. It was a temptation to envy the girls with short, muscular and bronzed legs.  As much as I fought the reality, I am built for a certain type of race.

We each are.

In my book I wrote, “The ageless and universal metaphor of the race and the inevitable prerequisite of training are made tangible.  We can see it lived out before our eyes, and it evokes the fresh resurrection of the truth we all know deep within; every one of us was created for a race. We were made to follow, to train, to become fit to go forward and make history, clearing the way for the generations. When we lose this focus, we swim around in nonsensical ways and something within us slowly dies. We live as though we have no vision, as though our unique race is too small and too short to mean anything.”  (p. 82-83)

Nothing distracts us more in our race than playing the comparison game. We become immobilized and unable to forge ahead, fearful to act, second-guessing ourselves and constantly seeking validation. Our idols are exposed. We feel “behind” or cheated or clueless.  I could give a lengthly list that would detail what my race entails. Add to all this the particular culture of our family, the melding of our personalities, giftings, struggles, passions, experiences, assets and desires.   I know well my race.  And I know we are a wonderous creation in all our brokeness and glory. God sees our race full of exquisite and eternal meaning, a testimony to His ability to create each one unlike the other.

How often do we compare ourselves to others who aren’t even in the race that we are in? Frequently those around us are living with completely different sets of values and goals, obstacles and challenges from our own, but yet when we look over and see them “getting ahead”  or “lagging behind” in some way we get frustrated or envious.  When we compare ourselves with others we easily make judgements. We assess with such a limited perspective of the bigger picture that our comparisons are fundamentally flawed. How I long for the day that all our races will be made clear! For now, I am convinced they matter and I am determined that I will run it with all that is within me, for in heaven the chance will be gone. It is now that I have the oppourtunity to live and love in imperfection. As the German poet Rilke penned, “I want to love the things as no one has ever thought to love them, until they are ripe and worthy of You.”

There is a reason the apostle Paul admonished us to “fix our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith” and the prophet Isiah promised us “He will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee”. In John 21 the disciples are having breakfast with Jesus by the sea. He describes the way by which Peter will die. Peter, not recognizing this, turns around and points to another disciple and says, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”  My friend Wendy has accurately written, “Am I wrong to understand in this an implication that Jesus is saying, “Whatever I require of someone else, what is that to you? This is what I ask of you. So you follow Me.”

Jesus has asked you to run after him and immerse yourselves in His depths.  He requires that you pay no heed to the race He has set out before others, except to cheer them on in the variety of ways that demands. No doubt that often requires rebuke or compassion, but don’t stop your run. Races only work if everybody is running. The great cloud of witnesses needs a moving race to keep cheering!  What is your race and where are you going?   What are your strengths and weaknesses, who are your opponents, what are your challenges and obstacles and what is your destination?

Know your race well and know where you are going. Run! Your race is beautiful.

 

 

 

Our One True King.

If God is the Creator, the Saviour and the Judge what does that mean to you as an intentional and missional woman, wife and mother? As I have been diving into the attributes of who God is, this question comes to me from every angle. Who God is matters.  Every other post  over the course of the next 22, I will be looking at a certain aspect of who God and how knowing Him impacts our daily lives. The following serves as an introduction: 

“Tell me about our One True King Mama,” my freshly bathed and pajama-clad boy asked me last week while I covered him with a blanket the color of grass. I flipped off his light and scooted in next to him to lay awhile and talk of all the things that run through the minds of little boys when they are finally still and quiet enough to let them out. Any mother, any father loves the moments when little souls open up and they’re invited to enter, for a bit,  such sacred space.  I would be foolish to walk away in moments like these.

“Anders, I would need to write you a book about our One True King, for he is too extraordinary for some small sentences.  Even still, all the books in the world would not be enough to hold all He is and all He has done across all time.”

 “Yes, that must be true if he is our God Mama. But try to tell me just a little bit about our One True King and I’ll close my eyes and imagine it all like it is true.  Because it is. ”

 We have been talking often with our boys lately about the Kingdom of God, this movement of the reign and rule of God across the earth. We have told them how we live in an unseen and expanding Kingdom.  “In a Kingdom there is a King, there are citizens and there are governing principles.  All of this is because who the King is, what He is like and how he grows in us more of Him, dispelling the evil darkness that threatens to undo the Kingdom busting out of us.”  

So I began to tell him and indeed before I could even really get going, he was snoring like a little bear cub. I slipped out of his room and into mine, still enthralled by his question.

It is in the evening after we get our children into bed, that I often find myself uncovering greater depths about this One True King.  I discover—as many have before me, the distinctiveness of the God of the Bible—a God who is wholly unlike any other. Hindus, bearing the heavy weight of karma, believe in thirty thousand gods, Buddhist, whose basic doctrine is salvation by personal efforts, believe there is no deity. New age followers believe God is present within everyone’s most authentic self. Muslims believe in a powerful but detached god. Many, espousing religious tolerance, believe that essentially people of all faith—Christians, Muslims, animists, everyone—know the same God.

 But Our One True King is set apart. And he is always after our other gods.

 He is a God who is personally reaching out to my heart, to your heart, to the hearts of our children. Tell me, what more could we long for? How could we?  What other god is any other religion blatantly desires an intimate relationship with you and equally so with your children? 

 The more we focus on trying to change ourselves, our families, our churches, our organizations, our communities or our governments the more frustrated and defeated we become.  But the more we focus on who God really is, the more we are changed. 

Our One True King longs for relationship, not simply mere belief.   Relationships usually stop growing when we conclude we have figured the other person out. Have we assumed we have God pegged or do we have no idea where to begin? Intimacy is a growth process.  We are invited to daily increase our intimacy with our One True King. Astounding! 

Dr. Christopher Baders of Baylor University said this after conducting a nation-wide study on the religious beliefs in America: “You’ll learn more about people’s moral and political behavior if you know their image of God than almost any other measure.”  And famous Russian author Fydor Dostoavsky said, “If there in no God, than everything is permitted.” 

J.R. Stott in his timeless classic “Knowing God” talks about three types of knowledge: factual, experimental and personal. To intimately know someone, we must cover all three in a consistent fashion. He suggests we periodically do a “vision” test of how we are doing at seeing God as He really is.  Those who know God have four qualities that swell over time:  Those who are in the process of knowing God have great energy for Him, great thoughts of Him, show great boldness for Him and have great contentment in Him.

Our One True King. 

All-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing, loving, merciful, faithful, unchanging, holy, truthful, righteous and just.

Close your eyes and imagine all of this about our One True King is really true. Because it is.

 

Image Credit: Campus Crusade 

Therefore, We Will Not Fear.

Fear is something common to every man. Still, we shame ourselves for our fears as exposure of them reveals some of our deepest inadequacies and leaves us feeling naked, grasping for our fig leaves yet again.  We are certain that we should know better than to be afraid.  After all, we  grew up to know the monsters in our closets were never there. Or perhaps they are, just having now changed  faces and shapes.  There are strands in each of our souls that are still afraid, yet we stuff that fear down so deeply and so consistently that often we have lost the ability to name it.

I want to give you a chance here in these moments as you read to voice your fears.  But, I don’t want to leave it at that; there is no value in calling something by name and then walking away.  Adam was called to name things in order that he could exercise God-empowered dominion over them, thus being a good steward.  We need to name because we need to recognize who has authority over our flesh, gradually living in the reality that we are not to be held in captivity to our fears.

Before we name our fears, I want to undo any heart or head knowledge we have that believes they are necessary.  Watch television for any amount of time or pick up a newspaper and we are coaxed into the thought-pattern that living in fear (and crisis)  whether it be large or small is “true reality” and “much-needed”. The talk never lets up nor the beliefs that drive them. I am referring to the dread, the what ifs,  the what next, the anxieties in extreme—those nagging senses that cause us to loose sleep or live a life motivation by trying to avoid undesirable circumstances.

In Job 3: 25-26 we see Job has slipped into this when he says “What I have feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness, no rest, but only turmoil.” Job lost what is always lost when fear wins: peace.  And peace is not something we can create in our own souls.  It is not packaged with great intellect, talent or sensitivity—it is simply provided by Christ.

This peace comes only as a result of being gripped by the true reality of our source of hope.  Daily we’re assaulted to abandon this,yet God remains.  Psalm 46: 1-3 outlines this.   Look at the “therefore” in vs. 2.

If everything you know is removed (the earth, the mountains etc.) it does not matter because God, our source is consistent.  He is for us!  In verses 1, 7 and 11  the literal rendering in Hebrew is “for us”.  For us!  What is he “for us”?

  1. A refuge: He is a defensive place of protection.  We can run into him and shut the door, sit back and say “ahhh”  and be safe at home.
  2. A strength: This means provision from within, power to endure.  Grace is in the today and it will be there tomorrow.  Moment by moment he’ll be our strength. The now is critical.
  3. A very present help: Once again, present. He is readily available.  He reveals himself where we are at, as we are, with his supernatural presence.

Remember, David is writing here to a Jewish audience.  The Psalms were the songs they sang.  Imagine them singing this! Vs. 4 and 5 would have been very meaningful to them because all ancient cultures gathered around large bodies of water.  Without water, existence was very difficult.  Yet here, David is saying that Jerusalem, which was not located by a large body of water, could indeed thrive if they remembered and allowed themselves to be dependent on God.  He is that river to them and to us.  And in his city—indeed, his kingdom here on earth that is alive and well within each one of us who profess Christ! All of his resources and his presence supplies unlimited protection, provision, security and deliverance even in the midst of the most severe trouble.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Martin Luther.  At the Diet of Worms, Luther was given the choice as to whether he would stand on scripture alone or scripture and tradition. Before he voiced his choice, he meditated on Psalm 46, and then he chose solo scriptura.  Thus, he was sentenced to die.  While on the way to the place where his death sentence would be carried out, he was rescued by some friends. They took him to a remote castle where he hid out here for quiet some time.  While in this fortress he mediated again on Psalm 46 and out of this he wrote the great hymn “A Mighty Fortress in our God.” “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.  Our strength is He amid the flood…” He went on to translate the New Testament into the language of the common man, and the Word went out with power.

He dared to believe that God was for him, therefore he did not fear. He is for us, therefore we will not fear, though…what is your “though”?  “Though what” in your life gives away, though what falls apart, though what roars and quakes?

Let me close with Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Jesus, we chose again to receive your peace as we allow You to name our fears and exercise your dominion over them, proving again that You are our protection and our provision, your supernatural presence in our lives giving us hope.  Enable us to confess our sins to one another in fullness—our anxieties and worries that point to areas where we have difficulty trusting You—that we might healed.  Liberate us again from all that entangles us so we may run unhindered, believing You are who You say You are.

AMEN.

*These are notes from a message I recently gave here at the the Center for Global Outreach.  They came out of time meditation on Psalm 46 and naming my own fears.

Is Unity Essential?

u·ni·ty 
Something whole or complete formed by combining or joining separate things or entities.   “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” –1 Corinthians 1:10.
 
Why does unity matter?  What does it bring about?  Why was Jesus so passionate about it? How does understanding unity shift my thinking about the ambiance I want to create in my home, my extended community, my work? Do I need to be intentional about being committed to this great a harmony when it seems to take such deliberate time and energy?  Is unity an essential component of what it means to be a woman immersed in the pursuit of God? Yes! 
  
Unity reflects the very nature of God (John 10:30). There never was and never will be any division within the Godhead. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit always walk in unity. When sin came unity was lost between God and man.  Follow the bread crumbs of division and most likely sin of some sort will be at the end.  Division is not the same as a different preference neither is tolerance true unity. Division is not to be ignored.  When it is, the trench will become larger and deeper.  Harmony is God’s original intention lived out! I dare say it cannot be reached without clear communication or it is artificial.  This begs us to look closely at our marriages and at our relationships with our children.

 

Unity is Jesus’ answered prayer ( John 17:11, 20-21). I want to be a part of this and if we catch Jesus’ heart here then there is not much, if anything, that we’ll let get in the way.  But I do and you do almost daily.  This realization is enough to bring me to confession and repentance.  It also reminds me of how much Jesus knew we would need each other (Ecc 4:9-12), for without unity there are no established relationships.  Whole relationships defeat the work of the enemy.

Unity is God’s will ( Eph 4:3, 1 Cor 1:10). There is nothing to wonder about here.  According to God it’s a black and white issue.  God already established it through his spirit and now we get to tend to it.  I am not very good at maintaining things; in fact I despise those routines.  My husband adores them and as I watch him daily in this mode I cannot help but be reminded that daily I must check that I am staying the course and walking in humility and not with a sense of individualistic carelessness. 

Unity is all about reconciliation, which is the gospel (2 Cor 5:15-21).  We have entered into the process of setting all things right, unleashing and displaying the power of the gospel.  Whoa to us if we reign this in through keeping quiet when we ought to speak or standing back when we ought to stand up! We’ve been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, entrusted not to bury it but to use it.  How beautiful it is when we come back to each other! How our Father’s heart must swell up with joy! True reconciliation means we are not gathering around giftedness or personality,  style or sameness, ease or comfort,  but Christ and Christ alone.

 Only with unity can we function as the true body of Christ ( 1 Cor 12:12-26).  Diversity causes any body to be effective.  Our differences within our unity make us more valuable to the rest of the body, not less valuable.  The moment we start contemplating whether an ear or finger or valve or liver are truly valuable is the moment unity starts to slip away (1 Cor 12:14; 1 Cor. 12:20).   I watch my boys do this all the time and I have to remind them that we are all needed and we all have need for each other. How much our children need to know they do not grow into their part in our families, but their part is needed and wanted now!

Jesus is worthy of our unity ( Eph 5:25-27, Rev 19:7).  Jesus died to have the dividing wall be removed (Eph 2:14-17).  Shouldn’t we live like it is true? Blast us if we profess it but don’t live it!  Revelation 19:7 says that the bride (us, his beloved people) has made herself ready. Isn’t part of the readying process  to be taking place now? Jesus is worthy for us to spend our efforts on submitting to this process.

Blessing is promised for those dedicated to unity (Ps 133).  I repeat this scripture to my boys all the time and plan on painting it on a long piece of wood to hang in their room: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”  Unity produces anointing, the very presence and activity of the Spirit of God!   Unity produces provision and unity is to flow from the top down.  When I read this verse I see the responsibility that leaders (we as women) catch the flow and to not hinder the  downward flow of this unity.

Unity is essential for our maturity (1 Cor 3:1-4, Col 2:1-3). Our level of maturity is matched with our level of unity. There is “solid food” that will help us grow up in Christ, that is available to those who walk in unity.  We are to be “united in love” so that “they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.”  If we are going to know more of Jesus then we will need to know more of one another. Our own maturity and chance to know more of Christ  is tied to our choice to walk in unity (thanks to Dennis Fuqua for insights on this in his writings) I think that is why I like to listen to others so often–they hold something about God I do not and I want to catch their revelation and make it my own, therefore becoming truly wealthy.

Unity has everything to do with others knowing Christ (John 17:22-24)! When we walk in unity, Jesus says that the world will know that he was sent by the Father and that he has great love for them.  It lets others know that the love of God just might be possible if we can actually show it in our homes and communities. 

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  May we live truly united!

 

God Asks Us to be Risk-Takers.

Are you willing to risk it all for the purposes God is summoning you to? Will you allow his perfect love to so fill you that there simply is not an inch for fear to creep in, poisoning your confidence in who he is and what he has said he will do?  Would you gather up courage to move forward in faith even though there are no guarantees?  The life and teachings of Jesus never herald a cautious way of living.  He does not purpose us to live in safe restriction, rather he longs that we walk in abundant liberation.  He wants us to live and love with flamboyance pouring ourselves out, not clutching our thin souls in self-protection.  This is one of the things I love most dearly about him; he beckons us to run to him with utter abandonment.  What we find in the immersion is that the water is fine, utterly freeing.

There is a woman I know, I mother I wrote about in my book who lives like this.  I know she goes through the questions and frailty as much as any of us, but those do not have the longest victory in her life; truth reigns.  I’m moved again by her latest long obedience.  Cheering for her and her precious family, I see again more of who God is.  He loves me like he loves this precious new baby of theirs.  Her family is screaming all of our stories yet again. We are all abandoned orphans but our father came back for us.  Let him reclaim and release you, as you read her family’s story. You belong, you are wanted, you have a home.

“When we left the US mid-March our hearts were full of sadness and confusion over the failed Frozen Embryo Transfer.  For the past few months we have been praying that God would clearly show us what he wanted next for our family.  When we returned to Uganda our hearts were again touched by the amount of orphans and the suffering that they endure.  Our hearts grieved and we knew that God was giving us the desire and courage to adopt from Uganda again. 

We spoke to the director of the local children’ shelter where we got our little son from and told her that we were interested in adopting another child.  After that conversation we began praying that God would clearly direct her to the child He wanted for us.  We asked that He would give her wisdom and guide her to the child that was to be ours.  We waited.  We watched many children come in and out of this place and wondered if any of them would be ours. 

Almost 4 weeks ago, out of the blue, the director called and said that she they just received a 3 month old baby girl and she wanted to talk to us.  Tim was in Kampala, so I quickly called him and then went to the children’s shelter.  She told me the sad story of 2 attempted abortions, an attempted murder, a Muslim family, a missing mother, and an abandoned baby.  She told me that at first they weren’t going to take Zulea into Amecet but as she held her, Zulea looked up at her and smiled and she immediately thought of us.  Zulea has survived much in her precious little life and we all agree that God must have a very special plan for this little girl.

I was then brought me to meet Zulea.  Tears quietly fell and I longed for my husband to be there with me.  Tim came back from Kampala the next day and we immediately went to see Zulea.  She was perfect and truly everything that our hearts have been silently praying for.  It was all perfect, except that the birthmother was missing and therefore could not sign over her rights to us.  We need to foster Zulea for 3 years before we can adopt her (as we are doing with Moses) and there is a chance that IF the birthmother comes back and wants Zulea she can take her from us.  God was asking us to risk again

We then took 2 weeks to “investigate” the situation.  The grandfather, aunts, sisters, and local councilmen all told the same story and reassured us that the mother was not able to care for Zulea.  Zulea is her mother’s 6th child and the mother is not caring for any of them.  The grandfather simply cannot take care of another child and asked that someone adopt her.  During those 2 weeks God spoke to Tim and I separately that Zulea was ours and that God would take care of the rest.  He was giving us our hearts desire and would walk with us through whatever is to come. 

We spoke with with the director on Monday, June 14 and told her that we wanted Zulea.  We then quickly filled out the foster care application and on June 15 at 4:30pm we took home our daughter, Zulea Marie Sliedrecht.  Zulea was born on March 7, 2010 and currently weighs 8.6 lbs.  Avalien and Moses love Zulea and are so good to her. Zulea smiles whenever she sees them.  She is full of smiles, giggles and coos.  So, now our house is filled with bottles, spit-up and sleepless nights and we are loving every minute of it!

We wish that all of you could meet her!  She is a true gift from God.”

What We Believe About Anger (is usually false).

This is article long, but worth your time.  I’ve chewed on this all week. I don’t know anyone who does not deal with anger on a certain level.   A true understanding of anger can change everything in your world; the impact on our relationships is astronomical.  Andrew Olsen, the author, works here at New Missions Systems International where my family and I are  in training.  Andrew is an Australian psychologist currently doing counseling, training and coaching for missionaries. It has invigorated me to sit under some of his teaching.

THE DEADLIEST DELUSIONS: WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT ANGER

 I’m a little rattled. In both my counseling and consulting work I have recently found myself confronted by the possibility that I’ve been pretty wrong about anger. Worse, I’ve even found various realms of research which show that some key aspects of what I have been taught in Psychology and in churches about the place of anger in human relationships do not hold water. I’ve found some of my new perspective difficult to swallow, and anticipate that some readers may find the same as they read below. However, l also hope that many readers will enjoy the liberty that I have discovered – almost by accident – flowing for and from people who begin to see through this peculiar, counter-intuitive lens. A steady stream of people have been telling me that they want to hate this perspective but that it has improved their marriages no end, and have badgered me to write it down, so here it is.

 The mainstream modern Christian perspective and the routine secular slant are quite similar, though the latter tends to de-moralise the issue of anger much further. Typically, these approaches proceed along these lines:

 “Anger is a natural human emotion that is triggered by violation, threat, distress, or frustration. It is potentially destructive to relationships, and can at times even be associated with physical and/or sexual violence. People must acknowledge and come to terms with the reality of this legitimate, normal human emotion. They must engage in ‘anger management’, finding less destructive ways to express their emotion (eg., go for a run, do some exercise, engage in sports, thump a punching bag, whatever), and so use the emotion for constructive purposes. It should be expressed to the other people involved in an assertive (not aggressive) way, and people should recognise the legitimacy of the feeling and the other feelings associated with it.”

 This sounds sensible and it is hard to find a point where it can be refuted outright. However, there is significant evidence in research, reasoning, and Scripture suggesting that we just might have it all disturbingly wrong.

 Research on Anger:

 Research on the effects of domestic violence treatment programs based on this understanding of Anger, shows that these programs have been proven to actually directly increase the frequency of violent attacks against the wives involved in these DV relationships. These results are similar to those emerging from education programs designed to reduce teen drinking, drug use and unsafe sex. The common ground is that they all actually produce the opposite of the intended effects, and the common thread seems to be that they are all based on profoundly naïve views of human relationships. In relation to anger, we professionals might have failed to recognise just how biochemically and psychologically gratifying, self-accelerating and addictive anger really is – not just for the body, but for the self.

Next, research into the causes of divorce have revealed a pattern so profoundly consistent that mathematicians can predict divorce from only a few minutes of video interview data of engaged couples with 94% accuracy. (This is not a typing error! For example, see www.gottman.com). In fact, the level of ‘Conflict’ and ‘Complaint’ in a marriage has no relationship to divorce or happiness, but the four dimensions of Anger/ Hostility have an absolute, direct, mathematically-predictive relationship to divorce. (These are Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness (Tit-for-Tat) and Stonewalling/ Withdrawal). Expressions of Contempt even predict the likelihood of future illnesses of the spouse who receives this contempt! So if Anger is supposed to be a ‘natural and legitimate emotion’, it so happens that it is only so for couples who will end up divorcing…

 Third, research into the effects upon children of (a) marital conflict and (b) divorce have identified that it is not the separation per se but the level of anger/ hostility between the partners that predicts the damage to children. This seems to indicate that anger is a ‘natural legitimate emotion’ most specifically in those relationships that most damage children. Is something wrong here?

 Finally, the health research. For heart attacks and strokes, anger/hostility is the strongest predictor of all – stronger than any combination of physiological measures like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc. 40% of stroke victims had a tantrum within 24 hours preceding their stroke. (Our blood boils!). In a study where scores of people were given identical blisters, people who measure high on anger took 4 times longer to heal. It appears that anger is a ‘natural legitimate emotion’ in those individuals most likely to have a heart attack or a stroke, or be unable to heal because they are full of their own cortisol. ‘Natural’?

 Perhaps something is very wrong with our conventional, politically correct, common-sense doctrine of anger.

 Anger is always a Chosen Strategy.

 I have come to believe that it is profoundly counter-productive to think of anger as a natural normal human emotion. It is far more productive to think of it as an unnatural, natural-since-the-Fall, emotionally-charged, pre-emptive-strike strategy to cope with interpersonal risk when we feel one of the three deep post-Fall emotions. These universal, core feelings are sadness, fear and guilt – the emotions felt by Adam and Eve as they walk slowly away from the Garden. These three therefore lie latent in our newborn hearts, ripe for the imprinting of experience. Each of these three renders us infinitely vulnerable and leaves us utterly in the hands of others. If I feel sad, I can’t hug me. Only your comfort can warm me. If I feel afraid, I can lecture the mirror with affirmations until the proverbial cows come home, but only your presence and reassurance of a larger story can secure me. If I feel guilty, ‘all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand’. Only your atoning sin-bearing forgiveness can release me.

 Sure, these three post-Fall emotions of sadness, fear and guilt are universal, normal and legitimate. But who on earth wants to feel that helpless and vulnerable? No son of Adam or daughter of Eve, that’s for sure!

 So we hate these emotions; we deny them, bury them, tell ourselves to ‘get over’ them, tell ourselves not to indulge in self pity, and pretend that we shouldn’t need others to have self-esteem (which is 1800 wrong because our self-esteem is actually our memory of being esteemed!). We transmute and degrade sadness into depression or eating disorders, or ‘drown our sorrows’ in addiction; we blur fear into ‘stress’ or ‘anxiety’ and then narrow our worlds to half-cope. We project our guilt onto others and then taunt, lecture, torture or gossip about the ‘cretins’ that so surround us (especially how they govern and how they drive!). And then, in an ultimate act of denial, we manufacture a mask pseudo-emotion to disguise and resolve them all: Anger.

 What does anger do? Anger gives us instantaneous power, righteousness, invincibility, confidence – in short, it gives us all we need. Anger is so potently addictive because it completely reverses (temporarily, at least) the pain, thorns, sweat, suffering and death of the Fall itself. Anger obliterates sadness, fear and guilt, transmitting them all onto the victim with incredible speed and efficiency. Why I am angry? Because of you! Anger places not me but you in the vulnerable position of feeling sad, afraid or guilty. Anger affects the perfect transfer of all vulnerability away from me onto you. Thus our ‘natural legitimate emotion’ of anger is actually an interpersonal anti-emotion strategy that obliterates the more natural, legitimate emotions of sadness, fear and guilt. (Perhaps even the neurochemistry of anger might be the opposite of the neurochemistry of real emotions – i.e., of sadness, fear, guilt, joy, affection, creativity, compassion? There’s a test of my theory!).

Let me say all this in reverse. It is impossible to feel anger unless you have already just felt sad, afraid or guilty. Let’s say I slap you in the face and you react instantly with anger. Anger always feels instant and therefore involuntary – a ‘natural emotion’. However, I would argue that this cannot be a ‘natural normal reaction’ because there is no direct connection between face slapping and anger. You are not angry because I slapped your face, but because of the meaning of that act in an interpersonal story. If we were doing a face-slapping scene in a movie you wouldn’t react angrily unless the script required it, so there is no direct line between my face-slapping behaviour and your anger. What actually happened is that your face stung, and your brain registered pain, and you perhaps simultaneously felt two of the three post-Eden emotions: fear (that the pain might be re-administered) and sadness (that your safe trust in my physical proximity had been betrayed). You then calculated (all in a microsecond, thanks to the hard-wirings of habit and practice) that you could afford to express anger toward me. Your calculations will have included a reading of whether I was bigger than you, who was watching, and which of various theatrical options would offer the most likely profitable pay-offs. Pain was your sensation; sadness and fear were your emotions; and anger was your calculated emotional strategy to manage the next phase of this particular interpersonal drama. If the identical drama had occurred with a 7-foot tall version of me as an angry Mafia boss, you would have sensed pain, felt sad and afraid, and… would not have reached for anger but for some other interpersonal strategy (eg., begging for mercy, squealing on a mate, bargaining, etc.) to cope. You will choose anger if it suits. Thus, anger is not merely about ‘natural emotion’; it is a fallen coping strategy.

 Anger, then, is not our simple, involuntary emotion (which of course, we feel we have a ‘right’ to) but is a piece of emotional-interpersonal-physical strategic theatre in a relationship context and story. In other words, you don’t just ‘feel’ anger, you ‘do’ anger. Anger doesn’t happen to me; I make it happen. It is a survival strategy that I sometimes use to get what I want and avoid what I don’t want.

 But wait on – why does it feel like an emotion, and why doesn’t it feel like a choice? For two reasons. One: I’m never going to want to even think of it as a choice because then I’ll be culpable. I know that chosen anger is not OK, because it is always in my name and at your expense. It is taking the role of judge, jury and executioner off God, who says “vengeance is mine”. Two: anger happens to provide – faster than cocaine sniffing – a biochemically instantaneous fix that is highly physically addictive. One of my clients told me, unbidden, “I can’t allow it – it feeds itself!”. We deny it, but we are wired to physically enjoy the hormone-stimulating feelings that come with it – only guilt and civics makes us think that we don’t. The choice is so fast and self-accelerating that it feels like something I can’t help, something happening quite ‘naturally’, something that is ‘caused’ by you or by something outside of me. Yet my first experiences of toy thefts by my toddler peers resulted in me howling rather than hitting. Sadness is the natural reaction, not anger. I tried anger at a slightly older age, and if I got away with it I felt goooood! Instant pain relief and power endorphins! Original Sin fuel! I’ll be even quicker to anger next time! If as children we learn (from our parent’s reactions or by watching their anger) that we don’t have to renounce anger, it becomes fully automatic, instantaneous, unconscious. Toddlers who experience some success with temper tantrums keep on having them – no – ‘doing them’ – in their 20s and 60s. They call it ‘a natural emotion’, and try to apply ‘anger management’ – all to little effect.

 Anger is always corrosive to relationships

 There is no such thing as a workable interpersonal response to anger. When you are angry, what on earth am I supposed to do with that? Here I am, believing as I’ve been taught that ‘anger is a legitimate human emotion’, and reminding myself that ‘you have a right to be angry…’, but I’m watching your neck and face get red, your adrenaline system is pumping, your muscles are throbbing with blood, your voice is raised, your fist is clenching, your eyes are full of hate… What am I to do?

I could say ‘sorry’ and calm you down (maybe, though not reliably), but that would not be part of our development of open and intimate relationship. I might not even feel or mean ‘sorry’, but there is no space here for me to reflect upon the subtleties of whether I’ve really sinned. I’m afraid for my previously-broken nose! Saying ‘sorry’ is merely a retreat and self-preservation strategy. Or, I could try to understand where you are coming from and how you might have perceived things in such a way as to interpret my latest words or actions as a threat. But that is not much use if you are still winding yourself up, screaming at me and waving a clenched fist. Hey, wait on, you are behaving like drunks do! Your frontal lobe is totally shut down! You are not really asking for empathy or understanding or mutual exploration at all! You are busy ‘enjoying’ your ‘legitimate human emotion’ with all its power and impenetrable self-righteousness, while I am busy scanning the distances between you, me and the door!

This is not convincing me that there is a place for anger in relationships. There is nothing I can do except appease, distract, or threaten you, and none of these is a sane ingredient in a meaningful adult intimacy relationship. Besides all this, you have already triggered my own hard-wired, instinctive, genetically-programmed fight-flight routines with your raised voice, narrowed iris, ruddy neck, clenching fist, mocking eyes, scornful tone, and menacing movements. The fact is that all raised voices are always part of a continuum to physical violence. Ask any other mammal! Especially ask any other primate! (Yes, it is a ‘natural emotion’ all right – but remember, various ape species rape, beat, murder and eat each other!)

Perhaps you might try to ‘control’ your anger and tell me how angry you are as part of your commitment to being open and honest in our relationship. Still, what am I supposed to do with that? Thank you for not killing me? If you’re angry, then I’m supposed to react in some certain way, and suddenly I am responsible for your level of anger! How did I end up having to be the adult for you?

So while both my Psychology professor and my pastor are telling me that anger is a legitimate natural non-volitional human emotion that should be acknowledged and recognised in the natural course of developing meaningful relationships, your words and face are telling me much more clearly and honestly that everything about our relationship is now at risk. Anger is actually a direct threat against our relationship. It spells the exact opposite of relationship. Anger is not a legitimate part of a relationship but is a gun at the head of our relationship. You have reached for anger as your vessel or your weapon, and we are not in the natural flow of relationship but at the battle lines of war. This is not ‘open communication, this is strategic intimidation. Woe to me if I don’t get your ‘defuse bomb PIN number’ right!

I’ve come to believe that anger actually functions as the Hydrogen Sulphide of human relationships. H2S is smelled and known as ‘rotten egg gas’, and it is so deadly that the human nose can detect it at less than 1 part per million. Once it is there, you can continue to read your newspaper or finish your conversation but you can not pretend that things are fundamentally OK. And yet, when there is enough of it in the air, the human nose can no longer detect it. When this concentration in our system gets high enough we no longer can smell it… and we suddenly die of poisoning. I think it is exactly like this with anger. That’s exactly what the divorce research says, and over 50% of us are divorcing. For humans can learn, and when we are taught that anger is legitimate we adjust to its presence, leading us slowly to accept it as ‘background’ noise, and so take it for granted. Like H2S in our systems, it will do its deadly work.

 Scripture:

 Human anger does not get good press in the Old Testament. Cain’s anger murders Abel. Pharaoh’s anger destroys his entire nation. Moses’ loses his right to enter the Promised Land over a single extra striking of the rock in anger. David’s anger leads him to prepare a mass murder that is only averted by a woman’s wisdom and wiles. Evil Kings and Queens are famously angry at God’s prophets.

When we get to the New Testament, Jesus has a view of Anger that is radical to the point of incredulity. We can hardly take in what he said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5): 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart…

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to this divine judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother,

‘Raca,’ is answerable to Heaven’s court. Anyone who says, ‘Fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Hell.”

 How about that: ‘Lust is Adultery’, and ‘Anger is Murder’! In fact every New Testament (NT) reference to the place of anger in the Christian life condemns it. Every single one! Even the ‘escape clause’ verse that we all use, “Be angry but sin not” in Ephesians 4:26 is really a poetic introduction to a profound condemnation of anger – not an instruction that we can be angry so long as we don’t sin! It is merely one of the famous ancient quotes that Paul uses to introduce some ‘don’ts’ in the chapter. The quote itself is actually from Psalm 4:4 which is a warning against anger. Paul then immediately says that anger is deadly if held even over a single night! Not satisfied with that, he tells us that it is in fact the very ‘mighty foothold’ of the Devil himself! Then, just in case we’re not getting it, in verse 31, he repeats his concern with a range of words for emphasis: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, and every form of malice.”

Later he tells Timothy, “I want men everywhere to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from sin and anger and resentment.” Similarly, the Apostle James, with his characteristic frankness, directly condemns us for “fights and quarrels among you” coming from “your desires that battle within you, causing us to “kill and covet,… quarrel and fight” because we are “adulterous people” in “friendship with the world” and “in hatred towards God.” No lenience here. Instead he explains that “your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” Jesus, Paul, and James are all calling anger sin. No pop psychology or palatable preaching here.

Besides this fact that every single NT verse on human anger condemns it, there is also the fact that every single instance of fallen man’s anger in any NT story (excluding the exception of Paul that will prove the point in a moment) is a scene of Hell on earth. The disciples are angry with the woman anointing Jesus with perfume, or angry with children coming to him. The Pharisees are angry about just about everything that Jesus does. Herod is angry and murders scores of children. Judas is angry in several scenes. The High Priests are angry, planning murder, condemning, accusing. The mobs are angry. Teeth are gnashed as Steven is murdered. Every single scene of anger is a relationship bloodbath. Anger is murder.  Only God himself can handle the ‘plutonium’ of Anger in a holy way. As Peter assures us, God did exactly this at the Great Flood and against Sodom and Gomorrah, and he promises to do it again once and for all (2 Peter 2 & 3).

(An embarrassing aside: My church history friend tells me that “right up until the modern era, anger has not been accepted as anything other than a sin in Christian circles. As far as I have researched, the acceptance of anger as OK by the global Church has only become widespread since the late 1800s. See the Massachusetts Puritan theologians for some great rejections of anger!” As usual, all my greatest ideas have been stolen by the Ancients!)

The exception that proves the rule: The Unusual Anger of the Father and the Son.

Aside from Jesus, the single explicit exception in the whole of the NT is the verse in 2 Corinthians 11 where Paul writes, “I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”

The word ‘burn’ is clear: Paul is angry. Jesus, too, was furious on many occasions, and the text is very explicit about this. He was like his Father in this matter: “God is angry with the wicked every day” says Psalm 7:11. Yet Jesus’ anger is 1800 different from ours. Usually we find something glorious follows Jesus’ anger – another miraculous healing, or even the resurrection of Lazarus. The anger of God is itself a beautiful, prisoner-liberating, oppression-ending, Satan-crushing part of his character – even part of his tender, holy love for us. So how can I say ‘anger is a sin’ when Jesus was so angry?

In every case, we see Jesus’ anger it is directed at a person who was harming another person. Jesus was never once the immediate player. He was always angry about how a third party was treating another third party. He was angry with the disciples because they were blocking the path of children who were coming to him for blessing. He was angry with the Pharisees for putting heavy loads upon the backs of the people in the name of God. He was angry with those who would lead “one of these little ones into sin” and promised worse than a millstone necklace to such a person. He was furious over people treating God his Father with capitalist contempt, and Gentiles with exclusion from the Kingdom, by their misuse of the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple. This holy wrath is what Paul felt when he wrote, “Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” His anger is not for himself. (In fact he sometimes sang for joy when unjustly persecuted!) His ‘righteous anger’ – a commodity far rarer than hen’s teeth – is exclusively reserved for the liberation of others from sin. It only shows up (usually beneath the surface of the text) in scenes where people are being deceived away from the gospel of liberty (e.g., in Galatians) or otherwise defaming the good name of God (eg., in 1 Corinthians). Similarly, the writer Jude sounds furious at the religious deceivers who drag other souls into hell with them.

In contrast to these scenes of righteous liberating anger, we discover that Jesus himself showed not the slightest sign of anger when unjustly struck, misquoted, mocked, betrayed, misjudged, slandered, condemned and crucified! He even forgave them and prayed for those who were unjustly bashing him onto a cross! Why wasn’t he angry? Surely he would have been justified? The Apostle Peter explains:

“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

What is going on here? He is angry for others, but never for himself. He burns for others to be treated well, but himself he simply entrusts to God for protection and justice. He did not consider himself. He emptied himself. His self-preservation, like justice, was God’s responsibility. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Jesus trusted that the Father would pay out all judgment justly in the end. We can too. Anger is his business, not ours.

So what are we supposed to do with Anger?

When Cain was angry, God asked him a question: “Why are you angry?” When Jonah was angry, God asked a question: “Is it right for you to be angry?” It seems that God asks us to question our anger, using it as a mirror to show what our souls are really like in comparison to the crucified one. Interestingly, God did not ask Cain to understand or manage his anger. With raw, Jesus-like language he called it ‘SIN’ and commanded him to ‘MASTER’ it. This is not anger management but total conquest. If we are busy trying to control it, channel it, suppress it, manage it, harness it, suck it in – it is probably because we still haven’t named it for the savoury sin that it is and spewed it out. I have refused to believe Jesus when he promised that my anger deserves judgement by the heavenly court and the fires of Hell (Matt 5:21-23).

We simply must drop all our excuses and blame-shifting – even our cleverer manoeuvres like, “I know I shouldn’t be angry because it is a sin but I’m only angry because you…” The only cure for anger is to thoroughly renounce it, confess it, reject it, and repent. We have to spot it ourselves, cut off our hand, spit out every form of it. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, and every form of malice” (Eph 4:31). That includes every expression of the Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness (Tit-for-Tat) and Stonewalling/ Withdrawal/ Silence strategies that we use as clever covers for our anger. (Divorce research shows that counts of these four behaviours in engaged couples mathematically predicts their odds of divorce with 94% accuracy! See www.gottman.com).

“But what do I do with all that feeling – when I’m in it?” Well, for a start, when we find ourselves enthroned on our high horse, why not rant: ”I’m NOT having a tantrum! MY anger is MY self-serving and self-deifying response to the fact that MY Kingdom is not working! My Anger is MY strategy to control MY agenda in MY world, and it is MY claiming of MY divine right to be judge, jury and executioner of you, MY victim! I’ve used MY victimhood as an excuse to make you MY fresh victim, to perpetuate the devil’s vortex of violence! It is for radical, arrogant sin like this that Christ had to die for me! In fact, anger like mine was both literally and figuratively the very ‘natural legitimate emotion’ that nailed him there on that black day!”

Or, you could dare to acknowledge and express the real emotions that are powering it from just below the surface: sadness, fear and guilt. They are very easy to tap when we’re angry – just dare to try out the phrase “I feel sad/ frightened/ guilty,” and, as quick as a flash, you will know with incredible clarity which it is. (An interesting thing to say to an angry person is, “You’re angry because you’re just too proud to admit that you are feeling very afraid and very sad right now!” What can they say?!)

When these vulnerable emotions are shared there is opportunity for either (a) the other person to take advantage of our weakness and trash us, or (b) the other person to identify with us and engage in wonderfully deeper and more meaningful intimacy. If the first happens, we actually participate directly in filling up the sufferings of Christ. (2 Cor 1v5; Phil 1v29, 3v10; Col 1v24; 1 Peter 2v19). If the latter happens, we actually participate directly in the very life of divinity (1 John 4:12). In other words, having trusted God on the anger issue, we get to know Him more deeply either way it turns – from the inside.

If we are in a setting that makes it unwise to share these three under-feelings out loud, we can turn them into psalms of prayer to God. The Psalms themselves are full of all the hot and cold emotions – righteous anger, sadness, fear and guilt. That’s largely what they are for!

When our anger is felt on behalf of others (which accounts for approximately .01% of human anger!), we might at times be called to act on it as an agent of God. When we watch cruelty being inflicted upon a victim we should sometimes rise and strike, but only for liberty, never for revenge. Anger should only ever be used to stop sin. God’s purposes will almost always be better served if we put our very rare thoughts of ‘righteous anger’ back into the hands of the God of Righteous Vengeance. When our anger is in fact righteous, it is highly likely that our enemy is supernatural, and that we are not the main players: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our Ephesians 6 weapons are to be truth, righteousness, gospel, salvation, faith and Word. And prayer: “even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” The battle is the Lord’s. Very occasionally we might be called upon to express it, but we will likely be full of tears and empty of ourselves as we do it.

But Can’t Parents Be Angry?

Yes! We should express God’s anger when our children are either cruel or rebellious. Left unchecked, such behaviours grow up into adult violence and harmful stupidity. Unpunished anger will spread destruction to others, poison their own souls, and earn them the eternal fires of Hell. God is deadly serious about sin, and they need to learn the dread Fear of God from convincing human models. But they should never see us angry over their mistakes, misunderstandings or underperformance. This would be our sin. This fits the model of Jesus: our anger is for them against their sin rather than against them for ourselves. We are called to represent God to them, and to even hurt them (eg., physically) in God’s name (see Hebrews 12), but never to harm them (i.e., their hearts) in the slightest, and never with personal gratification or violence. (Note – there is a world of difference between hurt and harm. God scourges his children (Heb 12) but never lets a hair on their head be harmed.) They should become very afraid of the price of their sin, not of the price of our anger. They should describe our anger as something closely associated with our tears for them, as Jesus showed in relation to his declaration of the final judgment of Jerusalem (see Luke 13:34 & 19:41). They should see it as warfare against the cancerous toxicity of sin in their hearts. (Incidentally, the research on the effects of smacking/ spanking children is completely and overwhelmingly positive, despite popular media reports to the contrary that were based on studies that did not distinguish between spanking and bashing.)

Conclusion

Anger is the ‘plutonium’ of human relationships, but Psychology (and not just pop psychology) has perpetuated a delusional perspective on human anger, casting it as somehow legitimate. The church has swallowed the same. Our conventional view of anger not only does not have the power to restrain violence, it actually perpetuates violence. The conventional view allows anger a legitimate place in human relations. Once this is granted – once intimacy is required to tolerate soul violence – all hope is lost. The inevitable results are that (i) a certain level of violence is tolerated and sanctioned, (ii) victims of anger often have no defence against violence (but are in fact blamed for ‘causing’ it and required to do something brilliant to stop it), and (iii) the natural conflict in relationships is coped with by avoidant circling behaviours rather than by the negotiation and resolution of difference. Nobody can negotiate with anger – ‘negotiation’ actually occurs only with the rational, non-angry, frontal lobe part of the player involved. Appeasement is what happens with anger, but this invariably reinforces anger as a legitimate and effective strategy, further perpetuating the spread of the radiation. In total contrast to the other-centred anger of Jesus and of the Apostles after Pentecost, every verse about human anger in the NT condemns anger and every example of anger in the NT is a scene of Hell. If I am angry for my own sake, anger is always murder. ‘Anger Management’ is an oxymoron and a lie. God and Jesus are always only angry for the sake of love and truth. The only place for anger is to stop sin. Only God can handle the plutonium of anger in a holy way.

-Andrew Olsen.  May 2005.  aolsen@nmsi.org

For All the Mothers: An Excerpt.

This is an excerpt from the epilogue of my book, shared in honor of the women whose lives have been transformed through the practice of motherhood.  May this gift of words enlarge the  beautiful vision of your most holy endeavor. 

Happy Mother’s Day.  ~Angela 

Several years ago, Ben and I attended a wedding reception. In a gorgeous glass atrium flooded with light and flowers, the black-tuxedoed groom rose from his seat, waiting for his mother.  She walked down the candlelit isle in the midst of the sound of clanking glasses and soft murmurs.  The room grew silent as the son waited and the mother walked to meet him. 

I wondered if she was thinking of that moment when she first felt the movement of his life within her, first saw his face, or of the wee mornings when he pattered into her room to snuggle with her.  Perhaps she remembered all those rocks she had to take out of his pockets before doing the laundry, the first time he read aloud to her, or her delight when he discovered his interests and abilities.  Maybe it was the years their relationship was tested through the fires of adolescence or when she noticed that he now had eyes for another woman.  Was she remembering herself on her long prayer walks for him and times of listening to the Spirit about how to best partner with God in his growth?  When did she know that because of his life her was so much richer?

God’s gift to her of a son was not just of having a child, but also of having more of Christ.  Now, he stood as not only her son, but also her brother.  She was probably not the same mother that she was all those years ago for she was a woman who had grown while he grew; and they both had been going from glory to glory.  Those moments together on the dance floor as woman and mother, man and son, were more than mere sentiment.  And the dance was to stand for more than a sweet photograph.  They were a symbol of the movement of all the beliefs, all the practices, all the intentions that God has created for all of our spiritual and eternal transformations.  The son led her out to the wooden dance floor, and they moved under the flickering silver ball to the crooning of “What a Wonderful World.”

I thought of my own two sons and all the times we have spun around together through the kitchen and into the living room.  Their hands in mind, their legs wrapped around my hips, twirling, laughing and singing together.  I thought of you, you women of the nations whom God is so passionate toward in his obsessive love. 

You who have chosen to run into Water, all the truth about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit will be your three-pronged crown.  The enduring exquisite church, the esteeming love of Jesus, the reality of the unseen battle, the source of your significance–it will all be a part of your countenance.  You will know what you believe, for you have devoted yourself to possessing revelation and understanding.  Your immersion into Jesus resulted in your contemplative wonder, intercessory prayer, and the very rest of God.  It will be evident that your body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, your life being flamboyantly poured out to others because of how much you have been truly loved.  You will be a woman who has kept short accounts and is acquainted well with not only lament and waiting but also forgiveness and mercy.  Your days have been your worship, your wisdom surer than a fleeting horse, and your gratitude for all that is will be your defining feature.  You will have lived out your beliefs with great courage and intellect.  Your guilt is washed away, your imperfections irrelevant, your vision unwavering, and your hope of heaven sure.  You will have been an intentional, intelligent, and heartfelt woman and mother, rejecting stagnancy.  The generations to come, the very nations, will never be the same.

Yes, someday we might dance with our sons, our brothers, and stand beside our daughters, our sisters, who rise to meet the world before them.  It will not at all be the end, but a new beginning as we all will still be running, running into Water.  And one day, we will attend together the wedding we each have been preparing for for our whole lives…

 

My mom and I.  Yes, I am really tall.  Especially in heels.

Aquainted with Waiting.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25

It is safe to say that many of you are acquainted with waiting.  Waiting and I have gone beyond the level of mere acquaintances; we are quite intimate.  I waited fifteen years for a certain healing; it came.  I waited ten years to hold a degree; it is mine.  I waited five years for a second child; we have him and another one.  From the time I knew I was to write, I waited about 25 years to hold in my hand a book I wrote; many of you hold it too.  Ben and I have waited together fifteen years to be a part vocationally of God’s global movement; the time has come. Finally.  Easy is not something I am aquainted well with.  If you only knew the stories behind those sentences that are so easy to set on paper, but much harder to live.   These are just a few threads of waiting in my own life that God has demanded and enabled me to have tenacious pit-bullish faith for (faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see- Heb. 1:1).  

It is my personal experience that waiting is not passive.  Great effort is being done in us and in those around us in measure of how we respond to waiting.  Folding our hands in acquiesce is not waiting.  A courageous surrender rarely comes without some measure of needed fighting.  Often much warfare.  The living will not start when the waiting is done; it will only begin in a new way.  A way that we’ll not be ready for if we do not embrace the hard process of waiting.

When the bible speaks of waiting, it always entails an eager expectancy, a longing, a trust, a looking for, utter confidence, patience, hope, rest, tarrying for a time.  It is a waiting prepared for action–an ability to run as soon as the starting blocks are removed.  The training has been accomplished and the race is sure! There is nothing about giving up that which God has given us a zeal to wait for. No, there is not a setting down of what you are waiting for if God has given it to you to hold in the depths of your soul.    

I am also learning the pattern that after this type of deep faith waiting is done and it seems that we have been in tangled captivity for so long, we are weary.  It is a good weariness but our souls are faint from the intensity that was demanded of us for so long.  We need a restoration to receive fully the gift of our longing fulfilled.  We need to learn how to walk without that particular waiting.  We need to learn to receive the benefits of God’s restoration power. 

This is where I am right now.  Maybe this is where you are too.

There is delight in the benefits of restoration.  When the moments are quiet here and the children are sleeping, I like to look out at the scrappy pines and listen to the palm branches clanking in the wind, opening my hands to receive the sweet joys of renewal.  He is “leading me beside streams of water on a level path where I will not stumble”, I am “rejoicing in the bounty of the Lord”, I will be like a “well-watered garden who will sorrow no more”, I will “dance in gladness and be satisfied with his abundance”.  What a foreign land this is to me and what strange new courage it demands to walk through it!

Quietly before the Lord in in the ways He sees fit, my work will be rewarded. 

Yours too. 

See, there is hope for my future. 

Yours too.

 (Jeremiah 31) 

 

Eve’s Forgotten Legacy.

I read through this and found it riveting…

” The word theologian doesn’t appear in the Bible. Old Testament writers used a warmer, user-friendly expression, describing people who “walked with God.” A theologian takes a long walk through life with God — living in his presence, going his way, learning to see the world through his eyes, and getting to know his character so that trusting him in the dark stretches won’t be quite so hard. The theologian sees God at the center of everything. She lives with a profound confidence that he holds the whole world (including her) in his hands. Eugene Peterson described it like this: “If we live by mere happenstance — looking at what is biggest, listening to what is loudest, doing what is easiest — we will live as if God were confined to the margins of our lives. But God is not marginal; God is foundational and central. The person who lives as if God sits on a bench at the edges of life, waiting to be called on in emergencies, is out of touch with reality and so lives badly.”  Eve was created to know and walk with God and to make him known to others by reflecting his character in her life. This is a woman’s true path to fulfillment and meaning — the only way we will ever discover who we are and find our purpose. And it is accessible to all of us.

Eve’s forgotten legacy resides in explicit statements God made when he created her. First, God created Eve to be his image bearer — “in his image and likeness” — and second, to be the ezer, or the strong helper. Furthermore, she shared with Adam what theologians call the “Cultural Mandate” — God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, to rule and subdue the earth. This global mandate included the call to reproduce physically and to engage in scientific, technological, and artistic pursuits.

More importantly, the mandate was also profoundly spiritual and theological — the call to reproduce spiritually by multiplying worshipers of the living God and to extend God’s gracious rule over every inch of this planet. This staggering enterprise encompasses all dimensions of life and has occupied the human race ever since. God’s creation design for Eve applies to every woman all the time, from the cradle to the grave.”

from Lost Women of the Bible (Zondervan 2005) by Carolyn Custis James  http://synergytoday.org/FAQ.html

A Letter to You.

George Frederic Handel is said to have told a nobleman friend the reason he wrote Messiah: “I should be sorry,” Handel remarked, “if I only entertained them.  I wish to make them better.”  He dared to speak with the confidence one has when they are certain that their work will help clear the way to help others enter more deeply into God, providing a feast.  After all, the work was a gift to him as much as it was to the greater world.  This is the hope and confidence I have for my new and first book, Running into Water: Women Immersed in the Pursuit of God

 Research proves that women are the spiritual backbones (think in terms of a backbone being a strong supporting structure) of families, thus of entire nations.  If they falter in their depth and dedication to Christ and their children, the global generations are at stake.  Research, as well as my personal experience, also proves that women are thirsty for more than the common feminine fare offered in the buffet of Christian/Inspirational bookstores; they want their intelligence challenged and their dignity renewed.  They desire that their identity not be defined in their roles, but in the depths of God.  They need words to put to what is often the theoretical fact that in their unique standing as women and in their mothering they are a part of something bigger than themselves; they want to live with vision and a sense of freedom and hope, their following after God clarified in new ways. 

Because of these felt needs, I believe this book can stretch across cultures and denominations.  Useful personally as well as in small groups, this book can be explored in book clubs, handed out at pregnancy resource centers and adoption agencies, sold at conferences directed towards thoughtful women who are mothers, used as part of missionary training for women and given as gifts to daughters, friends, missionaries, wives, grandmothers and all those who work with women and children.

The metaphor of the book is water. Therefore, it is fitting that a portion of all royalties should be directed towards the water crisis facing women and children globally through the work of Living Water International.    

 May you find the work itself to be beyond entertainment…may you find in the reading Christ more deeply, just as I did in the writing.

~Angela Blycker

31 Days.

31 days of specific prayers for your children:

1 salvation “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (Isaiah 45:8, 2 Timothy 2:10).

2 growth in grace “I pray that they may ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'” (2 Peter 3:18).

3 love “Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to ‘live a life of love,’ through the Spirit who dwells in them” (Ephesians 5:2, Galatians 5:22).

4 honesty and integrity ” May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection” (Psalm 25:21, NLT).

5 self-control ” Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be ‘alert and self-controlled’ in all they do” (1 Thessalonians 5:6)

6 a love for God’s Word ” May my children grow to find your Word ‘more precious than gold, than much pure gold; [and] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb'” (Psalm 19:10).

7 justice ” God, help my children to love justice as you do and to ‘act justly’ in all they do” (Psalm 11:7, Micah 6:8).

8 mercy ” May my children always ‘be merciful, as [their] Father is merciful'” (Luke 6:36).

9 respect (for self, others, authority) ” Father, grant that my children may ‘show proper respect to everyone,’ as your Word commands” (1 Peter 2:17a).

10 strong, Biblical self-esteem ” Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are ‘God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus'” (Ephesians 2:10).

11 faithfulness “‘ Let love and faithfulness never leave [my children],’ but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts” (Proverbs 3:3).

12 courage “May my children always ‘Be strong and courageous’ in their character and in their actions” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

13 purity “‘Create in [them] a pure heart, O God,’ and let their purity of heart be shown in their actions” (Psalm 51:10).

14 kindness “Lord, may my children ‘always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else'” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

15 generosity “Grant that my children may ‘be generous and willing to share [and so] lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age'” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

16 peace, peaceability “Father, let my children ‘make every effort to do what leads to peace'” (Romans 14:19).

17 joy ” May my children be filled ‘with the joy given by the Holy Spirit'” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

18 perseverance ” Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for [them]'” (Hebrews 12:1).

19 humility ” God, please cultivate in my children the ability to ‘show true humility toward all'” (Titus 3:2).

20 compassion ” Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion” (Colossians 3:12).

21 responsibility ” Grant that my children may learn responsibility, ‘for each one should carry his own load'” (Galatians 6:5).

22 contentment ” Father, teach my children ‘the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . . through him who gives [them] strength'” (Philippians 4:12-13).

23 faith ” I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them” (Luke 17:5-6, Hebrews 11:1-40).

24 a servant heart ” God, please help my children develop servant hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, ‘as to the Lord, and not to men'” (Ephesians 6:7, KJV).

25 hope ” May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

26 the willingness and ability to work hard ” Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work hard at everything they do, ‘as working for the Lord, not for men'” (Colossians 3:23).

27 a passion for God ” Lord, please instill in my children a soul that “followeth hard after thee,” a heart that clings passionately to you (Psalm 63:8, KJV).

28 self-discipline ” Father, I pray that my children may develop self-discipline, that they may acquire ‘a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair'” (Proverbs 1:3).

29 prayerfulness ” Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to ‘pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18).

30 gratitude ” Help my children to live lives that are always ‘overflowing with thankfulness,’ ‘always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ'” (Colossians 2:7, Ephesians 5:20).

31 a heart for missions ” Lord, please help my children to develop a heart for missions, a desire to see your glory declared among the nations, your marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalm 96:3).

Copyright © 2005, Bob Hostetler

 

 

My children I love praying for!

Anders (4), Kiersta (7 months) & Lars (9)

 

Just the Facts.

One is napping, one is rolling around on the floor and one is off running track. So, let me give  a few moments to share some stark facts about the writing life:

1. When you buy the book directly from me, you give clean water (and an opportunity at health, education and work as well as hearing the gospel) for one person for 7.5 months through Living Water International! Multiply the number of books you buy and you can provide clean water for a whole family for a year! WOW!  This gets me excited!

2.  There is an understanding that “authors make about a dollar.”  They get a small advance at the signing of a contract and a small advance when the manuscript is delivered.  By small I mean what you probably pay on your mortgage and some utilities for one month. Then they get 14% of royalties on all sales–a check once a year. Recording artists get a lot less. After spending years writing, research, editing, praying and spilling their guts they generally make well below the poverty-level.  That’s why no author wants to see their work posted up for free on the net (ahem, google!)–as a culture we need to value our artists!  

3. 95% of books only sell about 2,000 copies and never make it to a second printing.  Good sales for a first run is 4,000 copies.  If an author wants to keep writing, their sales need to be good.  Sad, but true, it all comes down to whether or not your work will sell.  Art now is market driven and not driven by excellence.

4.  There are book salesmen all over the country.  And most book stores will buy 1-4 copies of a book at a time, especially if it comes from a smaller house and is not a household name. It’s a good day t0 sell 10 books.  Most authors sell 3 books (through the bookstores) at a 2-hour book signing. 

5.  You have direct bearing on if a book sells–it’s all about networking.  READ it. What a way to show honor to an artist and open up your heart to be re-orientated!  This means if it has meant something to you (my book or others) then you must TELL people and become an advocate for the work!  Buy copies, ask your local bookstore to stock it (yes, you have the power to do this), send a note to 100 people on your Facebook/email, post a review on Amazon.com,  ask your local paper to run a review, share quotes, get involved on the authors FB page or blog with your comments, tell the author if their work named things for you, but please don’t be silent

6.  Personally, I want Running into Water to sell because I believe in the overall vision, believe in raising funds for Living Water, believe God has called me to much more listening, researching and writing, believe I want to minister to women globally through this and believe I would love to able to help support my family in small ways.  I believe that God can multiply what we give Him. 

 7.  Okay, join me?

He Is.

I believe that women have enough micro-vision and what they need is the macro-vision.  In my book I never talk to women in domestic terms, nor do I address the role of a mother. This never occurred to me as this is not the place to start or even to end up at; roles do not give identity.  When the domestic details of life wrap their tentacles around our days and when there is no alternative to being human, we must remind ourselves that one day time will be no more. Our mothering will be no more.  Our marriages will be no more.  Our careers will be no more. Our friendships will be no more. Our causes will be no more. Our influence will be no more.  We can only find hope and our very identity  in what has always been and what will always be: Christ.  

I cannot get enough of this truth.  I was made for this truth. 

“I  am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

  (I shared this truth again with my children through the words of this video, a song I have loved from the days of my youth.  And then I caught my son responding.)