Thursday, March 30, 2006

The More Things Change….

I travel in my work and, although I will sometimes share a meal with colleagues, clients, and friends, I find my most steady companion to be a book. Frankly, sitting to savor a meal and the musings of a Bonhoeffer, Tozer, or Packer is enjoyable. Tonight finds me sitting with Carl Wilson. He is author of “With Christ in the School of Disciple Building”. The book is quite good- a lot of substance and biblical yet practical, too.

There is a restaurant (de Herbergh) in Badhoevedorp that I particularly like when I’m booked in near Schiphol airport. It is cozy. The food is good and the people friendly. As much as I may wish not to overhear the conversations around me, we all are seated too nearby and the voices are simply too loud to block out all but the quietest of dialogues. So, in the midst of my reading I continually hear large pieces of conversations openly shared amongst the patrons.

The table to rear of me seats three people- a man, his spouse, and a friend that likes to tell of his travels to Thailand, homes in Spain, and his closest friend, an affluent attorney, who has six homes abroad and is returning from Asia as he speaks.

To my right is a group of businessmen who joke and laugh and seem to be enjoying each other’s company. Likewise, they glance at each other out of the corners of their eyes as one or two of the men flirt with the young server, a quite attractive young woman, whilst she waits their table and pours their wine.

To my left, two older men, one younger, and one middle aged woman seem joined in a common interest related to engineering and business. The oldest of the lot recounts war stories of projects past and business deals closed to the advantage of the firm. Occasionally, he drifts back to his childhood in Holland and speaks fondly of times past and people that he knew when he was not so long in the tooth.

The French have a saying that roughly translates, “The more things change the more things stay the same”. But what does table talk in the Netherlands have to do with our proverb Francais? For me, it is reminder that people from different parts of the globe, in various stages of life, and assorted contexts of relationships seem to want many of the same things.

They, like the man boasting of travel and homes, want to feel important. The men with the waitress and their jesting want approval and acceptance- to belong and be “in the game”. The grey haired man telling tales from his youth and recounting exploits won wants to feel significant and a part of something larger than just the present and its endeavors. Who knows, maybe there a sense that he is mentoring his younger colleagues and connecting them to those who have come before? I can only speculate but I do know there is emotion at the root of ramblings.

So, here I sit with meal, vino blanco, and a good book surrounded by others who I do not know but with whom I share the longings of significance, acceptance, and an aspiration to transcend the space in time that I occupy today. Has God really placed, “eternity in the hearts of men”? I think so and conversations garnered whilst dinning in a Dutch restaurant – now in business more than 100 years- is a telling reminder that mankind changes, as well we should; however, the French may be right after all. For, in as much as we change much certainly “remains the same”.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Kabul, Christos and a Brother in Chains

“Our brother remains steadfast, despite the ostracism and beatings,” one of his friends told Compass.

I don’t usually post from personal email; however, here’s a note that I think stands on it’s own. A good friend who is a part of our little fellowship here in The Village, made us aware of this happening early in the week. The resulting email is here:

Dearest church,

I know it's a bit late in the afternoon for a coffee break; nonetheless, it allows a minute to send out an email that's been brewing most of the week. I apologize for the delay; however, I like to research news articles before passing them on and I don't always get this done in the timing I'd like. Funny - things like work, completing taxes, prepping for bible study, laughing with the kids, grabbing coffee with a friend, etc. protract the time line on what might otherwise be a simple task. (He says smiling, happy and joyfully.) Anyway, I know we're all in the same boat of living out an integrated faith in our most awesome Savior; so, I suspect you understand the delay.

N. H. sent a note earlier this week suggesting that we pray for Abdul Rahman. I think she's right. How about you? Here are a few excerpts from articles to provide some context. Let us pray. - Thom

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan man who allegedly converted from Islam to Christianity is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death, a judge said Sunday. (Associated Press, Sun Mar 19, 10:50 AM)

AFGHANISTAN: Apostasy Case Reminds Christians to Pray for Nation March 23, 2006 The Voice of the Martyrs

The ongoing trial in Kabul of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old Afghan Christian, reminds Americans that though Afghanistan has been freed from Taliban control, true freedom of worship does not exist there. He faces a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity.

Rahman reportedly became a Christian 16 years ago while working with a Christian aid group in Pakistan. His conversion became public because of a custody dispute involving his two daughters.

Recent media reports suggest that charges against Rahman may be dropped due to questions about his mental fitness for trial. VOM sources say that he has suffered from depression in the past. The mental issues may give the Afghan legal system a face-saving way out in a case that has drawn international attention and criticism.

To Read More Click Here

Related articles:

'JUDGES TO RULE’ on Kabul convert, BBC News

Further On:
If you wish to chase the thread of Christ-like love in the face of persecution, you can also read: "Satan Wants to Kill Our Love for Muslims But He Can’t", Open Doors

Here are a few quotes from the article:

“Satan wants to kill our love for the Muslims but he can’t,” Palestinian Bible Society Director Labib Madanat said. “This loves comes from Christ. We see Christ in them by faith. We see God’s image in them, as it is in all humanity, and they deserve to be loved.”

“We are serving the people of Gaza,” Madanat said. “The hostility we are experiencing is because of our service work to the community. We are close to the people. We love them by serving them, hugging them, and being there for them. That is what Satan doesn’t like.

“People have come to the Lord and we couldn’t understand why there wasn’t much opposition to date, because although we don’t invite martyrdom or persecution, Jesus tells us we need to expect it.” (Full Story Click Here)

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Little Pencils and a Writing God

These days I remain challenged by practical needs that remain unmet in the lives of others whilst a participant in a world of people that could sort things out if we would reorient our values to include the well being of others and not only our own comfort.

Talking with a few friends recently, one friend – we’ve been brothers in Christ for more than twenty years which amazes me- told me he was challenged as he contemplated the account of Zacchaeus the tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus. “Who would you climb a tree to see?", he asked. "I mean, I wouldn’t climb a tree and risk looking stupid to see many people”, he said. “Maybe Led Zeppelin or Mother Teresa when she was alive but that’s about it.”, he continued.

Now that’s a contrast – I thought to myself. Led Zeppelin and Mother Teresa... hmm? I would like to have met her too as I remembered a few quotes of hers that I have identified with over the years.

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.

I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness.

Jesus said love one another. He didn't say love the whole world.

I really think she got life right and, if we can ever say that she had a tribe, I would pray that her tribe would increase and that I might find myself amongst their number. But my friend knew more thoughts by this faithful sister - quotes about loneliness, love, and the “poverty of the West”.

…I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society - that poverty is so hurtful and so much, and I find that very difficult.

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.

We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.

She once said that she was "a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world”. May I too be happy to be a little nub of graphite willing to move on the page in a way that is fruitful in the lives of my friends, enemies, and others and of use in the kingdom of God. To quote a country song I heard a while back, it’s time for “ a little less talk and a lot more action”. Mother Teresa would have agreed – you think?

So, in our collective effort to “feed the hungry” – be it bread or friendship and dignity, here are some parting words from a departed sister in Christ. “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Good counsel, don’t you agree? So, let’s get started.

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