Saturday, April 18, 2015

They Shall Be Satisfied...

Following a day of routine work that left me tired and somewhat bored, I had been asked to fill in for a couple who host an English Speaking class for Internationals from all over the world. I had put together a few questions to help us get to know each other, since everyone except me is new to America.  I had titled the list of questions "Getting to Know You" and break into the first few lines of that famous song from "The King and I," one of my favorite movies.  The class begins to laugh and tells me that, no, not a single one of them has ever seen that movie!  Having seen that movie many times over, it surprises me that none of them have seen it. This is my first real clue that we come from vastly different worlds...

Surely, my God has a great sense of humor!  Here am I, not knowing a word of any language except English, never having traveled further away from America than Canada, yet, I have often found myself fascinated and mesmerized by visitors to America from foreign shores.  I have mentored many students from China and India, worked in International Student offices at the local university, and now, find myself sitting in the teacher's chair of an English Speaking class for Internationals. And loving it!  Only God could place me here and only God could accomplish His purpose well beyond what I can do with my english-only tongue!  

I watch and listen with amazement and awe as one of the ladies answers my question, "What do you like most about America?" Without pause, no sooner are the words out of my mouth, than she responds "The freedom to think what you want to think!" I have never heard it put that way, but, there it is.  She expounds for quite a while, explaining that in her native country, the government took away all of the freedoms the people enjoyed "after the revolution." She refers repeatedly to the revolution, something I remember reading about, but, here, right in front of me, sits a woman whose family fled their native land to come to America to have freedom. As she speaks, others in the class nod their heads up and down in agreement, repeating out loud the word "freedom."  Yes, they say, it is freedom that they did not have in their homeland and freedom they most treasure about America.  

Moving to a gentleman in the class, I throw out what I think is a fairly innocent question: "What brought you to America?" Expecting him to say family or a job opportunity, he responds in broken English, with a story of loss and heartache that leaves me speechless with an awareness of what courage it took for this man to leave his native land and travel thousands of miles to America.  

He explained that, while working as a lawyer in his homeland, he also served on a commission to investigate human rights abuses.  In the course of his work on that commission, government corruption was uncovered involving the murder of some innocent citizens who never had the opportunity for "due process under the law."  As a lawyer, of course, he was trained in the law and understood the full range of implications in uncovering this abuse.  His investigation led to a report of the corruption and murders and resulted in his life being threatened to the point that he had to leave his country, just to survive.  Leaving a young family behind, he fled for his life. 

As I sat listening to his story, I struggled to comprehend what he must be going through in a completely foreign country, living without his family, without his career credentials to get a job, not even recognizing his language being spoken by anyone around him from day to day.  This is a man who has suffered for righteousness and continues to suffer today.  How many are there who could not get away and lost their lives paying the price for speaking out against a corrupt government that murders its citizens at will?  How many have fled to America to taste the sweet, sweet fruit of freedom that they cannot have at home?  How many of us, who have lived under that freedom since birth, never give it a thought until we encounter a visitor, new to America, who finds it priceless?

This man, broken and humble in such a beautiful way, has a long journey ahead of him, and he isn't yet sure of where it will take him or his family.  Sharing that he is a Christian, I spoke to him of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and assured him of my prayers for him as a brother in Christ.  What does God have planned for him?  Why did God bring him here?  What will He do for this man who has a heart for God, for truth, for justice and for freedom?  What will God do? I do not know.  I only know it was a privilege to sit in that class and hear his story.  It is a privilege to witness courage under fire.  It is a privilege to watch God work in this man's life. It is a privilege to pray for him and his family.

For me, it is a constant wake-up call to come out of my slumber and be a part of what God is doing in His church right under my nose.  I thank Him for the privilege of being a small part of anything He is doing.  May I have the strength and the courage to walk the walk when it is a path of fire.  

Thank you, Lord, God, that You are able to use me in spite of my weaknesses and that, in Your hands, they melt away.  Thank You, Father, God, that you are the God who hears us, the God Who Sees Us and the God who has promised to fill those who suffer for righteousness, for Your name's sake.  Thank You, Father, God of All Mercy, God of All Grace.  We need You so...

Please remember to pray for the persecuted all around the world.

Friday, April 3, 2015

In the Depths of His Love...

"He hideth my soul
in the depths of His love
covers me there with His hand..."
Hymn "He Hideth My Soul"
by Fanny Crosby

It is Easter weekend in the United States this week.  This picture poignantly portrays to me the loneliness of so many who have lost a loved one. When facing a holiday alone, it can feel like someone ripped open our wounds all over again and poured a bucket of vinegar all over them. There is a stinging, throbbing pain that surfaces when we least expect it.  It can feel like the world stopped spinning on its axis and nobody but us has noticed.  Grief can be very, very lonely.  People may avoid us, not knowing what to say.  If the loss is very new, we may still be in shock.  If the loss involved a spouse, we haven't even begun to figure out how we can make it without him or her. We may have been married for many years and now, suddenly, we find ourselves single again. How do I do that single thing after all these years?  I don't want it.  I didn't sign up for this...

Even after many years of living without a loved one, holidays spent with them, either good or bad, bring a rush of emotions that come with remembering the past.  We can feel lost, overwhelmed, unbearably lonely, and just want to run away.  I have been there.  I know it is extremely painful and not something we can talk to everybody about.  In fact, it can seem like people avoid us just wanting us to "get over it, already..." People are poor substitutes for God...

People may push us away, ignore us, pretend they don't see us.  They may reject us, avoid us, pressure us, be irritated with us, even sometimes laugh at us, partly because they can't handle the depth of our grief, or because they simply don't understand.  At times like this, it is so important to know what God has to say to us about who we are in His eyes, how much He cares for us, that He deeply, deeply understands our suffering and our loneliness.  He is a "man of sorrow, acquainted with our grief." Isaiah 53:3

This Easter, the world may seem to be dancing all around us, but, take stock of what is really going on in the world.  It is swinging wildly out of control all around us.  Do not be deceived by what appears to be a perpetual party.  We weren't made for that.  Especially at Easter, as we remember the unimaginable suffering and death of Jesus, we must chose to remember, in our own grief, that He is with us - He suffered and died an excruciating death to walk with us through it all.  The Resurrection of Jesus tells all of us who are wounded, grief struck and lonely that there is Hope. That He loves us more than we can possibly imagine.  He is holding on to you and me when we are overcome with grief and loneliness.  He is hiding you "in the depths of His love..." And the same hands that were pierced for us are covering us, protecting us, loving us, holding onto us.  He hasn't let go just because we're angry or depressed or cursing the world for our loss.  He is holding on to us and I don't believe He will ever let go.  You are more precious than diamonds, more beautiful than velvet, more treasured than gold. 
You are loved...