The Face of Jihad

Children in Khorixas, Namibia

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About ten years ago at a Christian rock concert, I was introduced to the humanitarian group called “World Vision” and felt compelled to be a part of their mission.  World Vision is dedicated to working with children, families and communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.  Basically, my involvement would be in the sponsorship of a child in need through monthly giving.  My children were very small at the time, but I envisioned picking a child that they could connect with and learn about giving and social awareness.  The little boy I chose had the same name as our family and “Adam” became a subtle reminder to us, all over the years, that in the smallest of ways we were all a part of the same global community of faith.  We received pictures from him and letters updating us on his growth and education.  We laughed when he sent us a picture of his new goat and my little ones drew him pictures of our family.  Ultimately, Adam became a goat herder and grew up and out of the program. But Adam had touched our lives in more ways than he would ever know. 

When I suddenly became a single mother, and struggled financially to provide for my children, I was challenged to believe that God would provide for not only us but Adam as well.  Sometimes I would look at my stack of bills and then at his picture and laugh.  He never knew how many times I almost gave up on him in my own desperation. I learned much about sacrificial giving through a little boy from Ethiopia and my children learned about staying the course and having a double fisted faith in God’s promise to take care our basic needs. 

Recently, World Vision sent us a picture and bio of a new child to replace Adam.  Ironically, once again we are being challenged by our World Vision child. My son, now twelve, and my daughter, now nine, were excited to open up the package and see who God had chosen for us.  My husband was now also part of our little group and as we tore into the envelope and read his name we were shocked to learn that he was called “Jihad.” 

Our first reaction was one of confusion.  World Vision is supposed to be a Christian organization and clearly this was a Muslim child as indicated by his papers.  This raised many questions in our home about what it meant to be the hands and feet of Christ, even in the face of our enemies.  This child may never know he has been named after one “striving in the way of Allah,” but his needs for food and clothing are probably all too real.  Tim and I considered asking for a different child, but finally decided to continue supporting him despite our conflicting feelings. 

While I don’t know if I am supporting a child that may someday fight against my own children or all that I believe in, I do want to be open to what God is doing in my life.  Jihad’s picture is penned up on my desk at work beside my children and husband.  He is slowly growing on me, though I do feel more of a sense of obedience than any natural affection. Once a month as I write out his check, I look at him and laugh and can only wonder what the Lord is doing in my heart through this boy.

The Onion

Central part of the scene The Adoration of God...

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There is a song that came out a few years that still makes me weep (It’s been played so many times on the FISH it might make you cry too).  It asks me to imagine what I will do when I am confronted with Jesus face to face.  Will I even be able to stand in his presence or will I fall to my knees overwhelmed by his grace?  It is a provocative question I don’t ask myself enough because I would rather envision Jesus pursuing me.  I am comfortable with an image of him walking alongside of me and holding my hand.  I am a little girl and he is a loving father.  But, the thought of coming boldly to the throne of God makes my knees wobble and my heart quake with fear.  Like Isaiah, I imagine calling out “woe to me, I am unworthy and inadequate.”[1]  I struggle to put together the image of God the Father with God the Son.  Jesus is accessible and near to me while the Father is Holy and immense. Somehow, I have associated God the Father with performance and Jesus with unmerited grace, forgetting all too often that they are one.  If spirituality is the means by which we develop an awareness of the Spirit of God in us and the processes, by which we keep that awareness alive and vital, then these questions and contemplations must not be avoided.[2]  My interior life demands examination if I am to minister effectively.  As the Father and the Son are not separate, my spirituality and service in ministry are also inexplicably tied together.

This last year has provided many opportunities for spiritual growth and transformation as my husband and I left our church after sixteen years to start a satellite church, under the umbrella of the mother church.  Because I have been immersed in almost every facet of the church plant, either directly or indirectly through my husband, a new obstacle has reared its ugly head…finding rest in the midst of exhaustive church planting.  Where is the line drawn from the demands of ministry and my own need to develop authentic spirituality?  How do you leave your work at the job if your church is the job?  Where do pastors and leaders go to replenish their spirits if they can’t do it at church?  Is this where the desert experience calls out to us?  Church used to be a safe and comforting setting where I could hide from the world and now, at times, it feels like a minefield of power struggles, mostly within my own heart.  It is a massive paradigm shift for me to move the church out of the place where I experience God to a place where I am simply doing God’s work.  The two don’t go together anymore.  I must encounter God on my own without the guidance or aid of an institution.  I think God allowed me to see the physical boundaries of Church as a safe stronghold while he built a firm foundation of his Word and Spirit within me.  Now, almost two decades into this journey, he has removed my attachment from the buildings I thought I needed to grow closer to him. My ability to minister effectively is dependent only on the depth of relationship I experience with him…a reflection of His transforming work in a willing spirit and my tiny mustard seed of faith.

If the extent one is willing to incorporate the spiritual disciplines or means of grace into one’s life will determine the effectiveness of their ministry,[3]  then I am forced to find rest amidst the chaos. This has meant intentional times of solitude, painful reflection and major adjustments as I look differently at the way I give back to God.  Once again, God is calling me to move out of my comfort zone and into a place of greater dependence.  Any ministry that is beyond our effort requires that we abandon ourselves to the mysterious action that God is able to work in us, and then through us.  But this involves a stripping away of the last vestige of hope that we can somehow accomplish the task on our own.[4] 

I believe the essence of spiritual growth is this-our journey is like an onion peeling.  Every time you pull off a good chunk there are more layers waiting to be uncovered.  At the core of the onion, is a tender childlike faith that has been covered over the years with wounds, pain and fear.   As we peel, tears sting our eyes, and we become raw, discarding the very things we have clung to for security apart from God.  But our reward is this…to see our Father clearly, without the veil of darkness hindering our vision, moving from blindness into His glorious light.


[1]Isaiah 6:5 NIV

[2]Norman Shawchuck and Roger Heuser, Leading the Congregation: Caring For Yourself While Serving the People(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993) 39.

[3]Ibid., p. 42.

[4]Ibid., p. 43.

Why Christian kids rebel…

 

Tim Kimmel, in his book, “Why Christian Kids Rebel,” explains the number one reason that children walk away from the faith is that they never see it make a real difference in the lives of their parents.

This inspires me to use my life as a curriculum…  tracing the hand of God in my past stories, but also constantly looking for ways to exemplify Jesus today in both my triumphs and failures. I point out answers to things we’ve prayed about. I show them the many ways God provides and make sure they know where credit is due. I live my faith out loud and up front so they cannot miss that Christ is at the center of our home. He has to become too real to deny.

Where I am challenged is in making sure my attitude doesn’t discredit the reality of Christ. Not that I feel the pressure to be perfect, but I do have to be on guard when I’m tired, drained, hormonal, or frustrated by something or dare I say someone? I must press into God, ask for His strength, and allow Him to fill my emotional gaps.  Oh yeah…and get enough rest (not so easy with three kids). Otherwise, it’s easy to respond in the flesh, leaving a wake of tears behind me. But even when I fail, the reality of Jesus can be seen in how I handle my failure. Oh here it comes…my favorite catch phrase, “It’s all about the rebound!” If I am quick to humble myself, ask for forgiveness and model redemption, it speaks volumes to my kids.

I hope that someday, the things my children remember – their stories – will resemble a parable reflecting God’s hand in their lives; the reality of Christ’s presence that can be shared with their own children in the years to come.

  • Speak (anointedplace.wordpress.com)

Resurrection

"Crux simplex", a simple wooden tort...

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I passed on to you what was most important…Christ died for our sins, just as the scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the scriptures said. 1 Cor 15:3-5

And on the third day…

the illusion shattered.
torment, horror, defeat;
a man crucified.

I stagger under the weight of your sacrifice, my sin for your blood.

Red drops of shame pour out of my eyes.

I hear a whisper,
sshh…
it is finished.

O death, where is your sting?

Can you hear the dawn weeping in joy?
The light is dancing
creation speaks…

He is risen…

Resurrection

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