Sunday, May 31, 2009

Holy Spirit, Come.

I'm one who battles with how to pray for those who have physical ailments, maybe even a terminal diagnosis. A friend from church, Barb, is likely to be in the last day or two of her earthly life (I wrote about her back on a March 5 post...she has lived longer than doctors expected her to live.) Our children ask me if she will for sure die or if it is possible that God will heal her and make her well. My answer rings lame in my ears. I say things like, "God is able and powerful enough to heal her, but from all appearances, she will likely die soon." I often don't pray in confidence and boldness for God to provide that power, for there is a nagging whisper saying, "Can you even dare pray for the miracle of physical healing since it most likely won't happen?" Nice faith, huh?

I heard a really good tape last week at a Bible Study that was explaining the history and roots of the Vineyard movement. John Wimber, one of the founders, was used by God in many physical healings, and it was fascinating to hear his story, but what was even more valuable to me was his teaching about prayer when healing is needed.

Wimber talked about the Kingdom breaking through. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom, and from that time til now, the Kingdom....God's reign, God's will, Heaven on breaking through wherever the Spirit so moves in His supernatural power. We, as God's people, should be praying for the Holy Spirit to move in power...for the Kingdom to break through....and we should be both prayerful and expectant for the Kingdom to show itself in our lives and in the lives and circumstances around us. There are no 3-sure-steps to make the Spirit move at our request, but Wimber's teaching was helpful for me to consider my words and my focus as I pray for healing and restoration in lives around me and in our world.

"Holy Spirit, Come." What a great breath prayer. What a great prayer of expectancy and dependency on God. "Holy Spirit, come. In your power, break through. Show yourself. Move. Your Kingdom come in this situation. Your will right here, God, right here. Make your glory known right here, God."


I just finished the book The Hole in our Gospel. If you want to look into the book, you can learn more at

I'm thinking through ways to bring some of the book's content home with our family. They tend to turn off their ears to me, as I'm often reading books and saying, "You have to read this book!" or I can go on about stories of great need and of our great responsibility. Creative ways of connecting are needed. Most often that looks like experiences and engagement. In the book, Stearn's wife, Renee, had to talk about the need for clean water in the world. To identify even in the smallest way, she went a day without water at their home, and she walked to a lake two miles away to get a bucket of water to carry home. We live near two ponds out here in the country, so I thought this would be a really good idea to teach about the challenges and to pray for those without clean water.

What ideas have been helpful for your families to connect with what so much of the world goes through in their days?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

back to the cats...

A few days ago I wrote a post that included a story of our indoor/outdoor cats. We currently have 5 outdoor farm cats (none of which will let us get close to them and two that look pregnant). I mentioned how we have seen farm cats kind of come and go at our place and how it's easier to detach from any kind of compassionate response to them.....well, that is, until the suffering gets in your face. Yesterday evening, we noticed one of the farmies was meowing under our deck, and when she came out from under, it looks like she'd had some kind of trauma. The end of her tail looks flattened, and she had a scabby mouth area with drool? continuing to drip down from her chin. We had set some food out, but she doesn't seem interested in that, and she's continuing to meow in distress. We had an early morning appointment this morning, but as soon as we get home, Sara and I are going to bait a trap and try to get her into the cage so that we can take her to a shelter.

It's hard to ignore suffering when it's in your face....when it becomes personal. Stearns talks about that in his book The Hole in our Gospel. So often, we try to stay at a safe distance from pain, poverty, suffering. We do this for lots of reasons....because who actually wants to look for and join in suffering? We don't want suffering to disrupt our comfort or mess with our agenda... and we often don't know what to do or say in the midst of suffering.

And so we go....until we have a personal encounter. Until we meet someone, and we realize they have a name, a family, a story. Our heart then engages, and we can better see who God is, who this person is, and who we are. And we are changed. Our hearts break. Our hearts grow. In Philippians, Paul writes.."I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings..." We are called into the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. It is in this fellowship where we are challenged, changed, where God grows our compassion. Most who suffer will not come to us where we are and lay under our decks. Therefore, I know that I must intentionally take some steps to go find the face of suffering and join in that fellowship where I will most likely find a personal encounter not only with a person, but with Christ.

Friday, May 29, 2009

quote of the day

How different our standard is from Christ's. We ask how much a man gives. He asks how much he keeps.

- Andrew Murray

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The value of a person

As I've mentioned, I'm reading The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns. In one chapter, he writes about how we in the 21st century have the awareness of human suffering (due to media and technology), the access to places of hardship (unlike even 50 years ago), and the ability (knowledge, wealth..) to do something about it. Why then, don't we? Stearns goes on to quote Bono who had these words..."Fifteen thousand Africans are dying each day of preventable, treatable diseases...if we're honest, there's no way we could conclude that such mass death day after day would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else. Certainly not North America or Europe, or Japan. An entire continent bursting into flames? Deep down, if we really accept that their lives- African lives- are equal to ours, we would all be doing more to put the fire out. It's an uncomfortable truth."

This uncomfortable truth of a "value hierarchy" reached my consciousness in 3 memorable experiences. The first was pre-kiddos, so it was more than 10 years ago when I remember reading the newspaper at our kitchen table. The article I was reading was describing the collapse of a deck at a restaurant/bar somewhere in the U.S. that crushed people below it and killed many people. The initial description of the restaurant was that it was on some waterfront, and in my mind, I had imagined some upper class, swanky kind of restaurant. I was reading in horror about this event when further in the article it described that the restaurant/bar was in a lower class area of the community. Before it could get away, I caught the thought that suddenly considered this less of a tragedy than I had just 30 seconds before as I read. This is unacceptable. Due to the nature of the flesh to compare and compete, due to media's influence in my life, due to a whole host of things, I was counting the people who had died as less valuable than others.

The second experience came about seven years ago, when we were moving out to our acreage. At the same time as our move, I was leading a 30 Hour Famine event for students at our church. This about wrecked me. Our move was an upsizing move for us. Early on in the moving process, I went into a furniture store and found a leather sectional couch and coffee table that I thought would look great in the corner of our new living room. Every piece of furniture in our previous house, save 3, were hand-me-down gifts from family members. I began to really desire that sectional couch and table. At the same time, I was reading so much material about desperate poverty in our world, and we had decided to depict 29,000 children who die each day by forming paper chains of 29,000 links around our church. I sat down to cut those construction paper strips. I did the math with stacks of 11x17 sheets of construction paper, and armed with a paper cutter, I began to cut. And cut. And cut. And cut. The number of strips grew staggering to me. I began to cry, and at one point, I remember grabbing a whole handful of strips and praying, "God, secure these kids in your hand, and forgive me for everything within me that allows this to be a reality." I remember questioning why my desire for a couch could cause my heart to beat so much faster than my desire for justice and mercy for these kids. Again, I recognized that my value system was messed up. (we didn't buy the couch, and we survived great without it.)

Third, we live out in the country, and we have cats. We have 2 domesticated cats inside, and several farm cats and kitties that have roamed our acreage in the past 6 years. This whole idea of how we value people differently has so clearly been a lesson God has been teaching me through these cats. I know our indoor cats well. They have names...Chloe and Sammi. We know their personalities to a tee. They get plenty of food and water, lots of strokes and snuggles, and we grow concerned at any illness or injury they might develop. The outdoor cats, however, are a different story. They have to fend for themselves and their babies. We sometimes put food out for them, sometimes not. We sometimes hear raucous cat fights in the middle of the night, and this doesn't keep us awake for long. We've even lost some kittens and cats out here, and we don't experience the sadness that I know we will when Sammi and Chloe die. Why? Well, somehow my mind tells me that these cats are more primitive, less valuable than our indoor cats (even though Sammi was an outdoor kitten found on the side of a country road). I must not believe that they feel the same way as our indoor cats; I convince myself that they are accustomed to their circumstances and that is just the way it is. Sadly, my mind can so quickly do this same thing with people.

It is my prayer to see people as God sees them. My prayer is to see each person and immediately think, "Beloved....made in the image of God and created for His glory and purpose." What if we saw God in each person and all that the person was created to be? That would be transforming in the way we relate to one another and how we live.

I was with a friend named Brion today, and we were prayer walking together. Brion shares the Gospel in word with just about everyone he meets. This would normally make me very uncomfortable, and I was trying to figure out today why I don't feel that way when I am with Brion and we approach people. I figured it out today in the park. I watched Brion engage with two men in the park who knew a lot of Scripture, but were in pretty rough condition. I watched Brion as he carefully listened to these men, and as he shared with them. And then I knew what the difference was with Brion. He can evangelize the way he does because he genuinely values each person he comes into contact with. He sees them as valuable and made in the image of God...He genuinely loves and cares for the people he meets on the fact, he'd take them into his home, and has done so! He befriends loads of people and finds joy in them just as they are. This is a gift from God, and I pray that God would grant us all such a gift on a daily basis.

The power in a prayer walk

Today was the kick off for SHOUT's weekly prayer walking. Seventeen of us divided into foursomes, and armed with grocery sacks for litter pick-up, we headed off in opposite directions to pray through the neighbhorhood of Harvest Vineyard for an hour. Our group prayed for Faith Baptist Temple, Boys n' Girls Club, and when we found some of the moms and kids outside of House of Hope, we stopped to talk with them. I was with Brion, who already knew two people on the street before we even got two blocks into our prayer walk. Brion was given the gift of evangelism by the Holy Spirit, and he very naturally picks up conversation and asks people if they want prayer. We ended up praying in a circle around the House of Hope with some of the moms and kids, and then we were off down the street praying over Family Video, homes and families, triangle park, PayDay Loans, and the firestation. We ended up at Lincoln Park praying for the upcoming Picnics in the Park. We encountered seven people on the park benches, and again, Brion announced that we were praying and asked if they'd like prayer. One of the men on the benches announced that he was a pastor, and he wanted to lead the prayer. So, there we were in a circle being led in prayer by a man who sounded very much like he knew the Word of God, but who appeared as if he was not at this time in his life walking in the Word of God. We stayed in the park for some time...ministering, praying, listening, and talking with people about God's care and God's Word. One man even came back with us to our re-grouping time at Harvest.

What an amazing experience it was to have these encounters with people today. We also heard from other group encountered a woman outside of her home who needed help getting in her house and getting to a phone. Another group walked by Quakerdale where one of the pray-ers ran into a student he had met at East High, and he had a chance to hear a little of this student's troubles, another group went into the neighborhood liquor store to share that they were praying and to engage in conversation with people. Most of the groups encountered people on the streets for whom they prayed or gave some encouragement in Christ today.

This was just a vivid reminder today of the power of being out among the people. Listening to them, praying for them, and boldly sharing Christ throughout the neighborhood was a powerful experience today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Hole in our Gospel

I'm about 60 pages into the book called The Hole in our Gospel written by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision. Highly recommended. I'm sitting around praying that God would make a way to get the book into lots of hands around OHC. It would be really great if our marathon team, which now number 83 people, would be able to read it as they train to run the Chicago Marathon on Team World Vision. Stearns starts his chapters with quotes/Scriptures. Here's one-

Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

- Saint Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Latest update from Molly

Molly is a friend who serves with YWAM (Youth with a Mission). She has recently completed some health care schooling in Australia and is out on the field putting her knowledge into practice. Below, she prays for a chance to see a baby born at the birthing clinic...I just received an email from her saying that she did indeed watch the birth of a baby while she was at the clinic. :)

Hello from Manila!
After 6 weeks up in Olongapo working in jails, slums, clinics and schools I've just arrived in Manila for my last 3 days in the Philippines. For my wonderful Iowa friends that go to Orchard I'm spending this time with the Cleope family. But let's rewind to the last few weeks in Olongapo...

Jail time:80 women smashed in to an area the size of a small house and small yard and right over the barbed wire fence is 800 men in an area made for 400 men. The Olongapo City Jail has been my favorite place to go. Each week I had the privileged to go in to the women's prison to teach basic health care, 6 women attended our sessions each week. It was so fun to teach them and help them understand hygiene, colds/coughs, dehydration, etc. We also got to bring encouragement to these women. God has come in to the Prison, all 6 of the women we taught have made comittments to be a disciple of Jesus. They are on fire for Jesus, they always told me about somethingn new and exciting they had read in the Bible or what God had told them just the other day, how God had used them. These women are in prison, but I've never seen such freedom in Christ. Through this time I have seen a new level of hope, a new understanding of what it means to be free in Christ. We also did 3 clinics, treating over 300 of the prison inmates, men and women alike. God is moving with in that jail!

Ieta People Group:One morning we jumped on trucks and drove out of the city in to the rice fields, it looked like we just morphed in to Cambodia (made me miss it) We set up a clinic at a missionaries school for this small people group, who do not speak Tagalog (the language of the Philippines) They are part of the Native Filippinos, this people group is so beautiful, they are very dark with wild curly afros, so beautiful! Many of them live in poverty, with no medical help. We got to be an answer to prayer by this missionary couple. It was blast to go and help people who had various sickness. I seemed to get all the LOL (Little Old Ladies) with aches and pains. It was joy to sit with them, listen to them and pray over their achy bodies. We all left with huge smiles. I also encountered screaming babies for the first time at clinic. It seemed like all the children were afraid of thermometers, we had to do some distraction games with them as we took their temps. Screaming babies are always fun to check. haha.

Manila:So I'm here with Mary and Malcolm, I'm actually at their kid's amazing school. When I arrived it was Mother's day, so i got to partake of Mother's Day pizza and ice cream, always a blessing. Played soccer with some high school students from their school and took a trip to the super market with Mary. I have an opportunity to shawdow a woman that works at a birthing center, I'm pray for a lady in labor! I would love to see up close what really happens. We will see what happens! Off to Vanuatu:Wednesday I head off for 4 weeks to the lovely country of Vanuatu! Please pray for our team as we head to a new nation, new people, new things to do, new medical problems and new solutions! I love the Nation of Vanuatu and so glad that I get to return to it!

Peace for Manila.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Quilting for Others

There's a Thursday morning quilt group at our church that has made 79 quilts this school year with all sorts of donated fabrics. After this picture was taken, they were headed off to deliver the quilts to the Hospice Center in the Cedar Valley. Thank you, Ladies, for making this hobby time a missional time and for reaching out to area families who are struggling with cancer.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Neighborhood Ministries

One website I really like to visit is NM is located in urban Phoenix, AZ, and its mission is "to be the presence of Jesus Christ, sharing his life-transforming hope, love, and power among distressed families of urban Phoenix to ignite their passion for God and his Kingdom." I believe in their statements of calling...called to long-term relationships, called to holistic ministry, called to mentor indigenous leaders, called to affirm the vital role of the local church, called to community-based ministry, and called to develop church partnerships. I love the relationships and programs they have for their urban neighborhood kids...youth nights, art center, camps, job skills, and more. They're walking with these kids from early on and helping them discover their identities in Christ and the unique ways that God has made them and has called them for His Kingdom.

We recently had a gang-related killing in E. Waterloo, and I had a conversation recently with someone who said in effect that there was nothing that could be done with teenagers. "They're rebellious and they're going to act this way regardless of anything we try." The futility and flip attitude he carried was enough to take my agitation to the height of my "holy discontent" barometer.

What if we began to invest long-term in a group of these "hopeless youth"...being present, loving them, ministering holistically, sharing life and Jesus shoulder to shoulder, calling out gifts, teaching the ways of the Kingdom, mentoring them to be who they were made to be, building community and expecting mutual development for all involved? What if the answers are not solely in a bunch of independent programs and resources offered all around a city but in the formation of community and walking with people through years in the context of life? What if the best way to be repairers of broken walls and restorers of streets (Isaiah 58:2) is neither to offer more and more disconnected programs nor to give up altogether, but to develop actual relationships and genuine friendships with real people?

NM in Phoenix is one of my hero ministries. Take a tour through their website and see if you leave thinking that there's nothing we can do with our urban youth.