Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two Moving Posts

I want to excerpt and link to two moving posts. The first is from an Adventures staff member about her work in Swazi; the second is from my lovely wife about our trip into the city last night.

I Will Not Be Silent:
I dropped to my knees by her head, waved the flies away, and began to stroke her hand and her face. She struggled to move, and finally found enough strength so that she could reach and hold my hand. "She just wants to be touched," I thought. "She just wants to know the world hasn't forgotten about her... that God hasn't forgotten about her..."
Molli knelt at her feet, Faith crouched beside me, and Rusty knelt and put his hand on her back and began to pray. He prayed for God to comfort her, and for God to take her home to be with Him - away from her pain and suffering. I couldn't hold back the tears as he prayed for her... the injustice of it all was just too much.
WHY does she have to die like this? Just because she's in Africa? Doesn't she deserve better?! In America we would NEVER stand for this! GOD IT'S NOT FAIR!!!
I composed myself enough to pray over her, and then, in my heartbroken state, did a poor job of singing the only SiSwati song I knew over her. Moments later, still wiping away tears, we walked away...
-Ericka Bennett
On The Way To The Bridge:
There was a restaurant right there and we walked in. I told her what we were doing in town, and told her she was welcome. The Bridge offers dinner to everyone after the service is over, so I let her know she could get something else to eat later. I told her that The Bridge was for inmates, and people off the street. I let her know that she would not be judged by anyone...she would be welcomed. She said she couldn't come...she looked like a whore. I tried to convince her that that did not matter, but once she had her food she gave me a decisive no. She asked for my card. I made her promise to call me. Kevin wrote my number down for her, and she said she would. She said no one had ever done anything like that for her before. She told me that she knew I didn't have to help her so it meant a lot to her. I told her God let me know she needed something to eat. That was awkward. I hugged her really tight for a while...I didn't want to let her go. She pulled away and started walking in the opposite direction. Once we got turned around and back on the right street going in the right direction Kevin saw her talking to another man. I was so mad at that man for treating her like that...for looking at her in that way, for using her and continuing to make her feel as though she is worthless. She is worth so much more. She is worth EVERYTHING. The God of the Universe LOVES her. He hurts for her. I know He loves her. I know he hurts for her. I know because I love her and I hurt for her. I made it to the church, and then I ran into the bathroom and had a good cry. I cried for her. I cried for God.
-Christi Bowman
The Kingdom of God is breaking forth in the places desperate for hope. The Love of God is in the broken places. Have you been there to see it?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Renewing PostScript: Understanding A Dream

Last night I had a dream that greatly disturbed me. In my dream I had luggage that could not be locked safely in a locker, so it had to be left exposed, hidden yet unsecured in the wide open. I had an invitation to a party, but found myself seated outside the celebration watching the event surrounded by a crowd of unpleasant people.

I have spent most the day with the dream rolling around me, distracting from my work, my conversations, and my other thoughts. Unable to dismiss the dream as trivial, the need to find meaning is consuming. I have asked others for their insight, prayed for revelation, and stopped just to meditate and listen for an answer.

About an hour ago the answer began to download into my head. The dream is actually two dreams which both having the same meaning. Both dreams deal with my own search for significance. Both dreams challenge me to accept the humility that Jesus teaches when he prays, "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever" (Matt 6:13b NKJV)

People want to be accepted and valued. I am no exception. I want to appear to have it all together. I package up my quirks, stuff them tightly in a locker, and lock the doors so that we can all go out to the party. Yet for everything that I hide and mask, there is a bigger pile keeping me from belonging. I look for places to hide my mess... while God wants the real me, messes and all out to be exposed, even if I end up taken, abused, and exploited. I wasn't created to be nicely packaged - venerated, obeyed, and admired. I was made to bring his Kingdom glory.

Again the second dream taught that my place was not a table of significance, those people were strangers to me. My place was not in the banquet hall with it's pretense and illusion. I was not made like that crowd. I was at home among the outsiders, the people who did not fit the reception hall. I was uncomfortable because I am still uncomfortable in skin that is committed to building another's kingdom, I am still squirmy at the idea of not seeking a seat in the power base, I am still scared of my own insignificance. I was uncomfortable, and yet I stayed. For the first time in my life, I sat there in my seat and breathed through the panic attack of being surrounded by this crowd.

Seeking the 'least of these' will never bring you glory. Hiding ourselves only leads to more baggage.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is The King To Blame?

Fear and Blame have been a part of the human experience from the first moments after the fall. Adam and Eve upon hearing the steps of God in the garden hide, then when asked the reason for their fear, Adam levies blame against his wife Eve. The first two recorded sentences in a fallen world are filled with fear and blame. Little has changed in the many millenia since that example. The disaster of chaos caused by a fallen world leaves people crippled by fear, and the willful blindness to personal responsibility leaves people looking for an external party to blame.

I am not surprised as I research the situation in Swaziland, that there are plenty of people faced with the terror of poverty and disease that is rampant in Swaziland who look to the king as the person to blame for the nation's situation.

In this video the king travels the world with a 17 year old girl who once pregnant will become his tenth wife. One begs the question looking at this girl who has transformed from destitute poverty to lavish couture in a mere five months, is his abundant polygamy to blame for the serial sexuality that has resulted in the world's highest AIDS rate? Today the King has 16 wives.

The King spent 45 million dollars on a private jet, while 66% of his citizen's are dying of malnutrition and preventable disease. Could these dollars have been put to programs capable of alleviating this suffering?

These are difficult questions which I am in no way qualified to answer. Yet there are people looking to find the answer to the question. Is the poverty and disease of Swaziland the result of an irresponsible king, or the personal decisions of his subjects? One media source looking to find the truth that would answer this question is Swazi Media. Edited by an Englishman, Richard Rooney, it reports the stories censored by a state controlled press which shed light to these answers.

No matter who is to blame, the situation in Swaziland is drastic. The volume of AIDS orphans is crippling to an already hopeless situation. The spiritual poverty and despair that results from the looming danger of starvation and AIDS in most Swazi lives leaves the kingdom helpless. It is hardly profitable to seek answers to question of responsibility. Instead, it is most urgent that those here in America use the great wealth we are blessed by God with to join him in his promises to the fatherless orphan. Only the manifest presence of the Kingdom of God can bring hope, healing, and rescue into the poverty, disease, and chaos that is the daily reality for Swazi's orphans.

The people of Swazi may ask is the king to blame? I am compelled to ask, are we?

If you would like to join with our family in our plans to work among the Swazi orphans please consider contributing to our support fund at

Thursday, July 03, 2008

RENEWING 3: Learning To Hurt

I am currently studying the book of Isaiah. It is a VERY slow moving study because God has had so much to show me. I will read passages 5 to 8 times. I will pray over them. I will meditate on them. I write the truth I receive about them. Most times that process results in a sentence in the margins, but sometimes I am led to journal a text.

I journal using the SOAP method. So this means I copy the scripture, I write and observation about the text from it's context and dealing with the language lying underneath the translation. Next I stop and pray that God will reveal to me his intentions for the Application step.

As I was reading Isaiah 28:22 "Now therefore do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong;" I knew that this was a text I needed to journal. After looking at the text, it's context and it's language I was sure about the message God had for me. Still, I stopped and prayed for God to write a message to me through my hands.

God invaded my world! I wrote about hiding from hurt. I wrote about boundaries I had built between myself and others. I wrote about being safe. I wrote about Jesus' desire for me to hurt. I wrote about Christ's desire to take me THROUGH the hurt, without anger and without my protections. I wrote about truly being enabled to love and trust people. I wrote about healing from the core what I have covered with works based cosmetics. I wrote about renewing.

It is true that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. It is true that I am called in Christ to be the servant. Christ did not take on the role of servant to protect himself from hurt. Christ embraced the pain that led him to be the servant of our renewing. The renewing makes everything right in the world, and we get to live abundantly ever after.

Still we are promised, God isn't done!!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

RENEWING 2: A Flawed Formula

My freedom from hostility has a simple formula that I have learned to work.

Step 1 - ANGER = HURT - Since hurt causes anger, the answer to not being hostile is not hurting.
Step 2 - HURT = SELFISHNESS - Hurt is caused when I focus on my own needs rather than the needs of the other person.
Step 3 - SELFISHNESS <> SERVING - It is unselfish to be a servant. So if I serve the person rather than focus on them, I am free from allowing them to hurt me, and therefore free from responding in anger.

Mark 10:45 has become a life verse for me, "For the son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." I have great victory over my anger by taking the role of the servant, so as to not allow myself to experience hurt. If I don't behave selfishly I don't get hurt: if I don't hurt I don't get angry. By becoming like Christ I am free and victorious to not be destructive and hostile.

The formula has a problem. Alienation, is the only logical end of the formula. Hurt is a natural part of relationship because vulnerability is present where relationship is present. For 12 years I have been in a completely emotionally safe place where I was unable to be hurt, since I had no vulnerability to anyone. No matter who the person, when they behaved in a way that was hurtful against me I assumed it was the natural course of their fallen state, and I became the servant. Only thing is, this allows for no trust. It creates a basic assumption that everyone WILL behave according to their carnal nature, and so to be responsible I must keep a distance.

This creates an amazing ability to invest myself into people's pain, yet keeps me at an emotional distance from the people. I think many people would speak of me as empathetic, and I have many wonderful conversations with people about their needs and their healing. In some ways my wife and a few old friends would be the exception to this, yet in other ways they too are kept behind a levy for my own protection. I faithfully fulfill my role as servant and healer, and no one presses in any further. This works and everything is right in the world and we all get to live happily ever after.

But God isn't done!!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

RENEWING 1: The Test

I used to be a very destructive person. I hurt a lot of people in my teen and college years. I was also self destructive, and have baggage in my life from those choices. Thanks to the exposure of a great friend I spent the next 2 years of my life pursuing freedom from my self destructive hostility. It has been 11 years since then and almost anyone who knows me would be very surprised to see me behave in a hostile manner.

A week ago we got back the results of a test through Adventures called the Taylor Johnson Temperament Analysis. The test had a lot of insight into my personality that I really agreed with. However, I disagreed strongly with the test's conclusions about my hostility. This is an area I have had great freedom in. Although, this is my carnal nature, I am free in Christ, and that freedom allows me to be free of my destructive anger. It was very surprising as I read between the lines the counselor was accusing me of being abusive and controlling. Again reading between the lines it was clear that I was no longer welcome as a part of AIM.

This left me in a very bizarre place. I could write off AIM as an organization and dismiss their stupid test as flawed and humanistic with no ability to see the Spirit's freedom in my life, which trust me I wanted to do. Yet, something kept coming back to the fact that if the test was flawed, and the organization was a crock for believing it, why was I so consumed with the results. Since I am not abusive, I knew what no one externally could really know, the test hurt because it saw through me. I came to the conclusion that the test showed who I was separate of Christ. The test revealed my potential for toxic destructiveness and I needed constant dependence and freedom from Christ to not be that person. It was both a correct and freeing reminder.

I was pleased with AIM for the test's reminder. I was pleased that they trusted Christi that I was not abusive. I was excited that we were good to go with the organization. Everything was right in the world, and we were all ready to live happily ever after.

But, God isn't done!