Neighbors

Yesterday after church I was approached by two women. One asked for prayer for her friend, who was just new to our church. I asked them where they were from, just out of curiosity.  Or maybe it was just to make small talk before I asked what they needed prayer for.

“Cuba,” she replied.  She then went on to explain about her friend’s need for her employer to renew her work visa. They want to send her back to Cuba, but she wants to keep working here. She was telling me in English because her friend wasn’t able to. It then dawned on me that Spanish was their native language. That accent didn’t come from Kerala or Karnataka, from Malawi or Martinique, from Bangladesh or Botswana. It came from someone who spoke Spanish.

As I prayed, I wept. I was standing hand-in-hand with someone from the other side of the world, my side of the world. She felt not only like a sister in Christ, but also a geographical neighbor. Cuba is just a stone’s throw from Florida (actually 90 miles). Perhaps I also wept because, even though I grew up in Los Angeles county, I never learned Spanish enough to converse with her. I felt sad I couldn’t pray for her in Spanish.

Another thing. I believe in all my years, I had never before met a person who was still from Cuba. I’ve only met Cuban Americans, people born in America or those who left communist Cuba and made a new life in the US. In my lifetime, those Cuban Americans have not been welcome in their native country. (Now, thank God, after the recent changes perhaps they can now go between the US and Cuba, if they so desire.)

After this experience, I was struck again with the awesomeness of this place. I’m humbled that I can be here, praying and worshiping freely with my sisters.

This place where Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and more live together, worshiping legally and without persecution. This place where dozens and dozens of nationalities come together and live in peace.

God bless Bahrain.

Be at peace with your neighbors.

Posted in ELC

A Tribute to My Fathers

“More meat, please,” my three-year-old self said, holding out the plate to my father.

He grabbed a serving spoon full of thick mashed potatoes, and proceeded to plop them onto my waiting plate.

First, more starch. He didn’t want any child of his to look skinny. He didn’t want anyone to think he wasn’t able to provide for his bursting-at-the-seams family. Seven children in this small house. “Why do they have so many kids?” the neighbors might wonder. “They can’t even feed them.”

But this time, I was faster. I grabbed my plate out from under the falling, unwanted potato blob. The spoonful landed, splatting on the table. “More meat I said!”

My siblings sat quietly. No one dared laugh. They looked at me. They looked at him. What will he do? they wondered. A slight upturn of his mouth revealed there would be no explosion this time. Relief around the table.

That story is part of the family lore around our father. Of course, I don’t really remember the incident. In fact, I don’t remember much about him at all. My older siblings remember him. They have stories, many of them painful, of life with Dad.

One thing I can say about my dad is he was a good provider. He provided not only unwanted potatoes, but the money to be able to afford meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, and a roof over our heads–even if it was a tight fit. In the midst of chronic alcoholism, he managed to continue to work and earn money for his large family.

Alcohol and tobacco abuse killed him at age 43, but thanks to Social Security and generous death benefits from my dad’s work at the power company in Los Angeles, my mom was able to carry on. We were able to survive and maybe even thrive after he was gone. Today, I’m thankful that he was able to continue working, in spite of his illness.

God in his holy dwelling is a father to the fatherless and a champion of the widows. Psalm 68:5

This verse holds a lot of meaning for me. I was seven when my earthly dad died. I am comforted with this promise that God was and continues to be a father to me.

Many people don’t have fathers for a variety of reasons, and some people who do have fathers have bad ones. However, God is a good father.

Today in church, the Church School children gave a tribute to dads with a skit, a video of wishes about their fathers, and a prayer.

I was invited to pray for fathers at this service, so I chose this prayer by Charles R. Swindoll, with a few minor revisions. It gave me peace when I prayed it, and I hope it does for you too.

Lord, you are good to give us fathers. Far too often it’s a difficult role and thankless job, so we pray that today you will encourage all the men in that place. Guard their hearts. Strengthen their resolve. Help them embrace the joy that comes with the rearing of their children.

We thank you for our own fathers. For those of us who had supportive, loving and faithful fathers, we give you great thanks. There is nothing like a good father–one who leads his family with love and grace–presenting a life of self-sacrificial love consistently to his children.

Father, we also pray today for those who haven’t a father nearby or don’t have one like they would have wanted. We pray for those who have a father who taints their image of You. We pray you will make them trusting people and see that you are the Father of the fatherless. You’re able to take their deepest hurts and heal them. We pray you would use your word and your people to relieve some of their pain. For those who have not yet bowed their knee to the Savior, bring them to that place right now. May we give honor to you, God, for being our father and for giving us fathers. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

This Father’s Day I’m thankful for the physical provision that my dad was able to provide.

I’m even more thankful, that in the midst of brokenness, my father in heaven provides love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Mom and Dad circa 1964

Mom and Dad circa 1964

Manna – Gather Yours Today

 

The MOMs group at the ELC is studying Beth Moore‘s book called A Woman’s Heart. We had a great session this evening complete with food for our stomachs and food for our souls.

The manna that the people of God had in the wilderness was called the “bread of heaven.” Each day the people gathered food for that day. They didn’t store it up, but enjoyed their daily bread.

Later, Jesus tells us the “true bread of heaven” comes from the Father and gives life to the world. He calls himself the bread of life (John 6:31-35). He is also the Word of God (John 1:1-2).

We have a chance to enjoy this true bread of heaven, this very Word of God, every single day.

It’s all about a relationship with Jesus, every single day.

Beth Moore's DVD series "A  Woman's Heart"

Hope in God

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This week I’ve had to preach to myself, like the Psalmist did in Psalm 42. He complained about being down-in-the-dumps, and then he answered himself, all in the same verse, with hope-in-God talk.
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I’ve been discouraged because I’ve been busy with so many things, none of which seemed to matter. I went to the Bible and searched for HOPE.

First a reminder, hope in God is not just wishful thinking, making a wish on birthday candles or the first star you see at night. It’s not the kind of hope someone might have when he crosses his fingers.

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It’s so much more than that. It is the kind of hope that William Carey had. “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God,” he said.

It doesn’t matter that I am not doing great things right now. Perhaps, I have lacked hope that God is doing great things around me, perhaps even through me and in spite of me.

William Carey noticed God’s great achievements. He dared to attempt great things. God is still doing great things through William Carey who, among other things, translated the Bible into several different languages, Bibles which are being read all over the world two centuries later.

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I found so many other encouraging verses about hope in the Bible. Here are a couple favorites:

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Am I expecting great things from God in my ministries?

(Yes, but, Lord, help my unbelief!)

How about you?

Posted in ELC

A Full Weekend

A glimpse into last weekend…

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Most importantly, our youngest daughter, Katie, graduated from Northwestern College. We didn’t get to be there, but Maria flew in from Seattle to be with her sister and keep us updated with photos and video clips during the ceremony. Our sweet, beautiful daughters.

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Yes, we missed sharing the joy and the laughter with our wonderful graduate. What a peach!

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We stayed in Bahrain and stayed busy.  In Mother’s Day worship, on Friday and Sunday, Keith and I were in a skit with our “three teenage children” who forgot it was Mother’s Day and didn’t appreciate at the beginning of the skit all their “mom” did for them.

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Great worship services with a beautiful praise dance!

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Everyone was asked to wear pink to church.

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On Friday evening, we went to a 25th anniversary celebration and renewal of wedding vows. It was a beautiful occasion. I wore my first sari.

Be Not Afraid

On Saturday morning, I led devotions at AMH. Keith does it several times a week, but it was only my second time so I was a little nervous. Appropriately, my topic was FEAR, or more accurately, FEAR NOT.

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On Saturday night, the MOMs group came over and we baked cookies and cupcakes. It was lots of fun and much activity. Katie’s graduation was happening toward the end of our time together. We tried to watch it online, but I guess I was on the wrong Internet connection so the live feed didn’t work.

Later, Keith and I watched the graduation ceremony in quiet. It was lovely and we took it all in. The busyness of the weekend probably helped us keep our minds off the fact that we couldn’t be in Orange City for Katie’s graduation.

When I led devotions Saturday morning, I shared “Be Not Afraid,” by Jesuit priest Bob Dufford. I was reminded of this beautiful song that we had sung during school mass last spring. It was just at the time we were first hearing God’s call to move to Bahrain. It was a powerful song for me then, and it is now.

You shall cross the barren desert
But you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety
Though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands
And all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I WILL give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters
In the sea, you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames
You shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow’r of hell
And death is at your side
Know that I am with you, through it all.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I will give you rest.

Blessed are your poor
For the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blest are you that weep and mourn
for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked men insult and hate you
All because of Me
Blessed, blessed are you!

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
and I WILL GIVE you rest…

You can listen to John Michael Talbot sing it here. Absolutely beautiful!

Thanks to Liz for the pictures of graduation and to Vinolia for the picture of our skit in church.