Monday, July 30, 2007
Wednesday I leave to join a short-term team living as researchers among a large Muslim minority in a somewhat-backwater country in Southern Europe. I'll help edit their report of findings and a 30-day-type prayer guide they are writing, then travel with them to Greece and conduct the ten 90-minute debriefing sessions we usually try to take our teams through. I may blog while I'm there, but it's hard to say. I will be busy. If possible I'll post some pictures!
Getting some time in the team's focus city is a nice reward after training this team and coaching them from afar. Now I'll get to see their town, meet their friends, eat what they eat, hang out in their house, and be part of their community life for a while. This will help me contribute to stuff like the editing that will no doubt stretch out for weeks to come, and give me a place in things like team reunions and reminiscing - half the fun.
I've never been to Greece... So, pray for some downtime to enjoy it, as well as strength, peace, and joy in the work-times too.
S., my good friend who is serving as the team's research coordinator, is eager for me to come. (See her blog if you are interested). All in all I'm a bit afraid the team will expect me to take over and give them all the answers, which of course I cannot do. But I do have a lot of relevant skills and experience which I am glad to offer.
I've had to fight not feeling like a momma bird about S., this summer. I knew I had to let her learn to fly, and trust her wings and the winds to bear her, but I didn't want anybody to hurt or frustrate her... and was especially concerned about the things she was going to have to do that she really reluctant to take on.
So I was very pleased to hear her say that in spite of the challenges, this summer she has felt more like =herself= than maybe ever before. She had confessed earlier that she was kind of enjoying being the leader - but perhaps I shouldn't say that as she mightn't want the word to get out! Well, go S! You're great.
The other thing S. said when we 'Skyped' today was that it was a really fun, funny team, and that they have great times together. "Hope I don't spoil it!" I said. "Oh no, you will fit right in!" she insisted.
Given the state of the MLC (mid-life crisis) I'm in, though, do you think I'm up for this? I guess I don't really question that. But the extent to which this is a spiritual battle, and that judging from the sickness and whatnot this team has faced, they have been on the front-lines as well - yeah, I could be walking into trouble. So I'd appreciate your prayers.
Speaking of Prayer...
I =did= get together with my friend who offered to spend a couple hours praying with me for inner healing. We identified some of the key struggles I've got - I couldn't quite take on the love-life questions, but there's one that's just as deep if not deeper and probably related. It's the feeling that God can't quite be trusted to do what's best for me, that he might ask of me more than I can bear, and that I have to rely on myself to figure things out. Or maybe that he has abandoned me. Certainly in recent months my own life and the ministry I'm part of both show signs of the Holy Spirit having left the building...
What really makes this a struggle for me is the knowledge that just about all the evidence (especially looking back a ways) points the other direction. So my heart is all whiny and childish and untrusting, and my head says, hey, get with the program, why don't you just believe what we know to be true? Hence: conflict.
In trying to find some inner healing for this thing, A. and I asked God to show us where it might be rooted. Like, when do I remember first feeling that way, that no one was going to take care of me adequately so I'd have to do it myself? A. said that those kind of thoughts function like vows and often start before you are 5 or 6 years old. You make a statement that becomes a promise, like, "Nobody can take care of me but me." Well, there are worse beliefs, but better ones too. So, is that what's really plaguing me, and if so, where is it rooted? What happened that caused me to first respond that way? If I can identify when I made that vow it would help me break it, replace lies with truth, and receive healing.
I cried a lot. And for me, thoughts and words spoken through tears tend to be less true, rather than more so. But maybe we got closer to the source of these things. We prayed for a long time. And I think I understand a bit more about how this inner healing thing works. I'll pursue this further.
So, what did God reveal? One thing, for sure, was that even if in these various situations I can remember where people close to me showed their blindness or failed me in some way, if I said OK now I have to take care of myself, God's mercy is there. I didn't know any better, I may have made a poor decision but I could see no other options, and God's mercy and compassion sweep back to those times. I don't need to feel like I did something terrible and irredeemable. What does God says? He says: grace. mercy. presence.
Later that day I was able to spend some time with another friend who went through some similar things two years ago and was actually staying with Deb and me for part of the time. I didn't understand what she was going through then. She came home and told me the counselor was going to be working with her on her 'ontological insecurity.' We laughed a bit over the term... but I'd forgotten it. Not quite the same thing as my MLC issues but similar. She didn't know who she was, didn't have confidence in her own perceptions (cross cultural living can stretch your boundaries to the breaking point) and didn't feel like she was even 'real.' As a kid and young teen I struggled with that, would lay on my bed just wondering if I was a character in someone else's dream or something like that... Is that where some of this began?
I hesitate to go deeper into this kind of thing lest I be accused of navel-gazing. One or two treasured friends - and my own logical mind - continue to suspect that too much introspection is a dangerous pursuit and I shouldn't let myself get sucked in, as if this will make me weak and ineffective, unable to be used by God. Yet the opposite seems more true: this seems necessary (if, oh man, tiresome!) So... I'll try not to give up before I find the peace, strength, and healing I seem to need!
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
One family, now on the field with the sending agency that also took us in, was part of an
People often ask us how our research is used. To be honest we don't have many opportunities to find out, long-term. So I seized the opportunity to ask this couple how they see things now after several years on the field with the people group among whom they had done their research.
They said that after what they learned during three months of focused work with a research team, what they have learned about the culture since then is dwarfed in comparison. Language learning, family, work, and daily life seem to take up so much time. Pressing in to the culture seems like an extra-credit activity.
In certain areas they have gone much deeper; some of what the research project uncovered was just on the surface. But the research team's findings have been foundational, and have shaped much of what their long-term team has done in the years since then. For example, just knowing that their friends believe 'the stars are higher than the gods' (as our research team's cultural helpers put it) is a key to understanding how Hinduism really works there.
Our research has really made a difference, and has not been 'disproved' by further probing - the findings seem to be spot-on. It was good to hear that from someone who knows what they are talking about. God really used us as mobilizers in that project as well, positioning us to help get quite a few people focused on seeing ministry efforts get started in that community.
Identifying with the People
My friends work with a group of high-caste Hindus who are in the third generation or so of a huge transition from life as landowners and princes (see picture) to just everyday people in a democratic society. They are still feeling the loss, ambiguity, and tension of this change. It's been a big comedown. Listening to stories about these guys trying to make ends meet and figure out how to support their families, trying to carry on their heritage and traditions, and just finding new ways to live their lives and figure out what to live for, I felt a strange affinity.
The Scriptures talk a lot about being comforted so our comfort can overflow to others, being blessed to be a blessing. As I've listened to stories, worked on research projects and the like, I continue to find perspective for my own life in identifying with folks whose lives are very different - not only my missionary friends, but also believers and unbelievers from around the world. I may or may not be a blessing to the nations, but I'm definitely blessed by the nations. I know how to pray for the people whose stories I hear and I find strength for my own journey. It puts my struggles in perspective, I guess.
At the gathering focused on a people group in
Every society has its dark side. Many women in
Village girls come to the big city to look for work and meet a nice man at the bus station who says he can give them a good job. He takes them away with him and rapes and beats them, leaving them broken and ashamed and bringing them into a life of prostitution. What do you say to women in such a situation? Yet God is raising up women in the churches who know what to say. These women are others like them are seeing their lives changed forever by winds of revival; they are finding hope and freedom in Christ. Women who lived in despair are transformed and becoming agent of transformation.
Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." Mark 1:38
Hide and Seek
So, I've been blessed to hear from old friends about what's going on in their lives and ministries and the communities where they serve. When it comes time to talk about things that are more personal for me, though, it's been pretty tough. Wrenching, actually - more conversations about what happened with Caleb Project, and with Tom, and the still-huge conflicts and questions in my heart about both.
I've been so lonely in recent months I know I ought to be grateful for those who would reach out and say: Come on now, girl, talk to me! Sometimes, though, I just want to hide. Many of these conversations are taking place publicly and in groups, or on the phone when I'm in my cube at work, and I'm embarrassed to let people see my pain. I can't pretend I'm OK, but I don't want to open up my wounds and bleed every single day! Some - most - of these conversations have been really good though, and I'm grateful to people who are seeking me out. It's wrong for me to run away! And yet to face things - and people - can be incredibly emotional.
My in-box is also full of messages from friends-of-the-heart, many responding to my last newsletter. I am having a hard time finding energy to write back to any of them, so I flag them all and there they stay. I think for the most part it's good to hear from them, and that they are OK with it if I don't write back, but I do feel a little bad for not being more responsive. The thought of picking up the phone and calling any of the pastoral types who leave messages for me seems a lot harder. I am pretty sure a couple of them are going to be mad at me for not returning their calls.
Knowing what a toll these kind of interactions were taking on me this week, as I get ready for a couple of weeks of intense, others-focused ministry for which I will need my strength, my manager suggested I do whatever I need to do to get refreshed and renewed. Take some time off? My feelings about that are still ambiguous. I am rather busy (finally) now. And solitude, while needed, goes sour pretty fast. Chocolate, coffee, and other comfort foods bring only temporary pleasure and reduce my overall strength and well-being - likewise glutting myself mindlessly on books and puzzles and the like.
Reading - decent, wholesome sorts - and housework, and exercise, and writing, and music, are all the kind of escapes that instead help my overall well-being, so I'm trying to prioritize those. Eating right, getting enough sleep.
Tomorrow I may end up spending time with a friend who has offered to help me pray through some of the stuff that's tying me in knots. I want to be free but am dreading it, partly hoping her schedule doesn't work out.
And so the MLC (as one friend referred to his own midlife crisis) continues. It will take as long as it takes. I suspect God is sending these people to me, that I am not to be left alone to brood or go crazy in all this.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Still purging unused office equipment. This mass of poor, huddled computer monitors in the hallway caught my eye. They stand clustered under a 'Free!' sign. Seems we've all gone to flat screens or laptops. Want to adopt one? Come 'n' get it...
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I'm not the 'fan' type, really; I don't have favorite bands, or go see certain movies over and over. I don't 'collect' anything. But I do have a tendency to be somewhat compulsive.
And, since I was a kid, that's included a frequent inability or general unwillingness to put down a good book (and sometimes a not-so-good book!) You know that "just one more chapter... " feeling? I remember staying up all night to finish Gone with the Wind when I was 14 or 15. I've read it three or four times since.
Sometimes it's a great story or the author's skill in maintaining thrills or tension that makes a book 'unputdownable.'
Sometimes it's just the characters and the world they live in - you just don't want to leave.
Other books are appealing because of their associations. The characters remind you of someone you love, or of some part of your life that was particularly wonderful. Or even some other book, or character, or genre.
Many children's books have a whimsical touch that is much more appealing than reality. It wasn't until I was a grownup that I discovered Danny the Champion of the World, but it reminds me of Homer Price. Also as an adult I read Ella Enchanted, Holes, and Sarah Plain and Tall. Practically perfect stories! Right up there with Swallows and Amazons, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Emily of New Moon!
When you pick it up may matter. The actual situation in which you are reading may have some significant emotional stamp. I read Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven when I was avoiding an important writing deadline. (Reading someone else's book was irresistible when I was avoiding writing my own!) I read David Foster's Emergence on my first visit to Central Asia; it was such a perfect escape I actually read it twice on that trip - it's long, action-packed, well-written - and this is part of its appeal: told in first person by a character who is satisfying to identify with.
I'm not sure why I like the Harry Potter books. Or why they've been so popular, worldwide. But I do, and they are.
I may not be the best measure of these things, though. A book doesn't have to work that hard to hold me. I finish most of those I start. More of a gourmand than a gourmet. So sometimes I'll go to the library on a weekend afternoon and read /skim something on the lighter side in about two hours. Christian fiction, usually written at a seventh-grade reading level or so, can be consumed like that and may be best that way.
However, real life interferes with reading - and well it should. I won't get Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows until Sunday afternoon and will have just over a week in town before I fly off to Eastern Europe for two weeks - probably unaccompanied by Harry... Do you think I'll finish it before then?
These days when I go to the rec. center I'm riding the exercise bikes for half hour or so at a go, and bringing Orson Scott Card's Sarah which is about the biblical character of the same name. I love Card's science fiction; Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead are definitely unputdownable! He is a Mormon, though, and this book is published by an imprint of Deseret books. I wonder how much that affects its content? I know Genesis pretty well but I don't know how Mormons view or teach the patriarchs... I know what parts come out of the Bible but am not so sure what parts are from Card's imagination and what ones from Joseph Smith's. Anybody know? I may poke around and see what I can find about that.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
The sending agency I'm now part of needed a representative; they want to begin work in this much-overlooked little country... one that it just so happens has a special place in my heart and history. I spent three months there doing research in 1994. Have tracked with developments in the years since, though not as closely as I would like.
Recent changes in the region may provide new opportunities to get in and serve these people.
Next weekend I hope to find out.
Managed to get a last-minute ticket from Denver to LA for just over $300. Our organization's leaders for the region are going to pick up the expense.
It is rather nice to have the freedom to do this sort of thing, to just jump on a plane and go. With Deb out of town I'll need to find someone to look after the dog and water the plants, but that's about it.
Another interesting ministry development:
I've had several conversations with a young woman who is quite interested in joining our staff and being part of the same kind of work I've been doing, helping out with ethnographic research projects.
This weekend she's catching a ride out to Colorado from the Midwest and will spend all day Tuesday in our office checking out what it would be like to be part of our team.
I'm a little reluctant, embarrassed, hesitant - after all we've been through, our community spirit has been pretty shattered! If she really sees how messed up we are, what is she going to think? I've tried to be honest with her about that but don't want to scare her away entirely!
Personality-wise, I think she's the type that could do really well in our kind of environment.
Pray for Emily's visit, that it might be encouraging and illuminating.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
People do respond to children, don't they? Shane wrote about that in the article that went out in today's Missions Catalyst.
It may take a thousand words or more to have the same effect as this photo, but writers can change how people see the world too. Here's some more Mary Pipher:
Language is weaponized when it is used to objectify, depersonalize, dehumanize, to create an “other.” Once a person is labeled as “not like us,” the rules for civilized behavior no longer apply. The phrase “illegal alien” is an obvious example. Both the word “illegal” and the word “alien” separate us from the person being described. Indeed, America treats illegal aliens quite badly. The truth is that no person is illegal and no person is an alien.
A writer’s job is to tell stories that connect readers to all the people of the earth, to show these people as the complicated human beings they really are, with histories, families, emotions, and legitimate needs. We can replace one-dimensional stereotypes with multi-dimensional individuals with whom our readers can identify, creating a world of I–thou relationships.
Mary Pipher, Writing to Change the World
Monday, July 09, 2007
I'd love to have this hanging in my room or over my desk. It's just... refreshing. I miss the water. Deb leaves tomorrow for
How do you suppose God sees the creative arts? The scriptures don't give us a whole lot to go on. Or do they? God did commission a lot of intricate handiwork for his tabernacle. Sounds like heaven is a pretty arty place too. The Bible is quite big on singing and making music to God, and chock full of poetry and stories. There's a lot in the scriptures about beauty. Clearly it's something God appreciates! Like everything else, arts and artists bear the fingerprints of God.
Yet the signs of the fall seem so apparent in some of what I saw this weekend. I thought, "that looks kind of evil..." and wanted to turn away. Bad art, I thought. Maybe not technically bad, but morally bad. Or so it seemed. To me.
Is art always, never - or just sometimes - morally neutral? Does it depend on the intent of the artist? The heart and mind - and eye - of the beholder? Or some combination of those? Is there some kind of objective measure, or perhaps some guiding principles, that would mark art as immoral?
Maybe that has to do with its effect on us. For example, the human body is beautiful, but pornography stirs up lust and encourages us to go against what we know to be good and true; in some situations the boundaries may be unclear. (One of my friends, home-schooling her young sons in art appreciation, used markers to clothe some of the nudes. Probably better than not teaching the class.)
Art isn't always about beauty, nor need it be. It's not all Thomas Kinkade (no offense; we have this one in our living room!) Art that is violent or disturbing may stir us up against injustice, or tyranny: Surely that is good.
Much art defies analysis - or even if it doesn't, it still tends to go to the emotions first. One of the early Greek philosophers argued for the suppression of certain kinds of music for this reason. It does seem presumptuous, doesn't it, not to ask permission from the mind before stirring the guts? But others might say that's the best thing about art, or music. Might we harness that power?
Followers of the Creator God have sometimes rejoiced in being creators too, fostering and enjoying the arts. Yet just as often they have picked up the scent of evil in art, or music, or literature, and tried to squelch it, and especially to keep it from their children.
If Jesus were walking through the arts festival with me, I wonder when he would sigh with pleasure, or cheer for truth and insight, and when he would turn away? Or would he turn away? I suppose he would never turn away from the artist even if he did not think much of the art!
What do you think?
(I Googled "What does the Bible say about art?" and found this article.)
Thursday, July 05, 2007
However, I know this is a common-enough experience, and that pain (while you are in it) seems eternal.
We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. (Psalm 74:9)And, (once again!) the words of a someone I had the privilege of interviewing and writing about years ago comes to mind. I'm so glad for the ways God has wired these stories into me. Writing or teaching is so good for that.
"Donna" was living in Central Asia when she lost her dearly loved father. She not know how to grieve over it. For a long time there was nobody who could really come alongside her and help her see she wasn't crazy...
“I didn’t know how to do this grief thing. I was really hurting. No one here had ever met my dad except for my husband, who only knew him a little bit, and nobody was at the funeral with me. So it was only a loss for me. But I was here, and my twins had just turned a year old. When I came back after the funeral it seemed like the whole world was invited to my house as guests. ‘Don’t be upset,’ they all told me. ‘Don’t tell me not to be upset!’ I wanted to shout, ‘I am upset!’ It was a really, really hard thing. It helped that I knew the Lord and knew my father was with him. But it still hurt like all get-out!”Finally, someone came along who had been through a similar experience, and that really helped. Donna also told me she had to adjust her perspective on God and what he promises:
Feeling unable to express her grief made things worse. “I couldn’t cry in front of the kids, because it would upset them. With three kids, relatives, and guests staying with us, what could I do? I couldn’t have quiet times, because I knew I would cry! I had ‘ritual’ times, but I knew if I really engaged with God I would cry. You just get distant from God if you live that way.
“I thought I was obsessed or going insane. I loved my dad so much but I didn’t know why it hurt so bad for so long. It was all very confusing for our marriage. I talked to my husband about how I felt, but he didn’t know what was normal either. I would ask him, ‘Am I insane?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he said.
"I thought I was a basket case."
“God has promised to walk through this stuff with us,” says Donna. “Well, I didn’t want to walk through this, or be walked through it; I wanted to go a different direction! God promises he will be with us in this world. He didn’t promise things wouldn’t hurt.One of the pastors at my church often shares stories about things he's learned from his wife. A few weeks ago he share something she said way back when they were in college. Dan sat up and took notice when Kerri, coming upon him when he was struggling, said: "When I'm going through a hard time, I like to read the book of 1 Peter."
"When all the people left Jesus, the disciples still said, ‘Where else would we go?’ I knew no matter whatever else happened in the world, I had no other place to go but God.
“My heart didn’t feel it. I couldn’t sing those songs like, ‘Lord you are good.’ It took about a year before I could feel anything in my heart but pain. It was hard. He had kept his promises to me, and they were good. They just were not the promises I thought he had made.”
What an excellent suggestion. I think I'll dive in and look at it. Today, this verse, 1 Peter 5:7, stands out:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.Actually, the whole passage is rich; here's 1 Peter 5:6-11...
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Should we celebrate? What a disaster it turned out to be! And what a year this has been. About a week ago I got a check from one of my college friends with a note: “Sounds like this has been a very hard year for you – maybe your hardest ever.” True? Of course the merger was not the only big event, but July 1, 2006 is a pretty significant bookend.
New web site...
Well, quite a few bits of our organization remain and as the writer / strategist / keeper of tribal lore, I spent a good bit of energy this week writing, rewriting, formatting, and tweaking content for the new web site that will represent our current ministry. We’re not quite ready to launch it and set up all the “redirects” that will help people find us. But it is already accessible if you know where to look. Take a sneak peak at www.takeitglobal.net.
Trying to describe who we are, what we do, and where we come from in ways that would answer readers' questions but not raise too many others was a fairly tricky process. And when others on our staff review the contents I’m not sure everything I wrote will make it.
I hope people who end up there looking for Caleb Project or ACMC or Initiative360 will know they are in the “right place.” You and I know that in many respects these ministries are no more, but in other ways they continue: through resources, experience, and continuing services. So much so that for some of those who find us, depending on what they are looking for, it will be as if nothing has changed!
But for those who choose to read them, I ended up with four linked pages that fill in the background and answer the “what happened and why?” questions as well as we can: “about us,” “about ACMC,” “about Caleb Project,” and, yes, even “about Initiative360.”
The “about Initiative360” page was the trickiest. It may end up being eliminated or cut way back; we’ll see. What was the vision behind the new direction and the merger? How and why did it fail? How, when, and why did PIONEERS step in? Once I found ways to put some of this into words, weaving together text from various communications along the way, I felt a weight come off my shoulders. I could go back and write the rest.
I found a ‘brief history of ACMC’ page in my files. It did a good job at describing the ACMC vision and legacy, and setting up the remaining ACMC staff to carry on that legacy. It wasn’t well-written, but that I could fix; it covered the right ground. I wanted something that would do the same for us. But how to describe 25+ years of Caleb Project history?
I already had well-crafted text on how and why Caleb Project began, and a nice summary of the first ten years. After that all the documents I found seemed to skip ahead to ‘current ministries include…’ The ‘current ministries’ lists changed pretty regularly, which gave me clues for what to include. I didn’t want to miss anything really pivotal, though what is important may be a matter of opinion.
The network of Calebites, the traveling teams, student mobilization, and the research program were all early ministries. I added references to church mobilization and Perspectives; people-specific advocacy and prayer journeys; the births of the media department and Caleb Project Europe. I didn’t make specific mention of children’s mobilization, Crossing Cultures, or Encountering the World of Islam: those things come across well enough on other parts of the web site.
Well, take a look if you are interested.
Old-timers, this is your story, too, and I’m sorry you were not here to write it. Let me know if I got a date or detail wrong, explained something in a way that seems strange, or left out something that seems too significant to omit... Wait, I think I left out the move from
Working on this project was good for me. It was kind of bittersweet, but trying to put things into words for others helped me celebrate the good things God has done.