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Friday, September 27, 2013

Captive in Iran—Book Commentary

captive in Iran coverWhen I first heard about Captive in Iran, by Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, I knew it would be interesting—a story of two women in an Iranian prison, jailed for their faith—but it was so much more than that. It was more than an opportunity to learn about another’s culture and how it oppresses the faith I take for granted in my own country. It was a reminder of God’s unending love, unceasing providence and extraordinary wisdom. Though the story is told through two women, I think they’d be the first to agree, it’s not their story—it’s God’s.

What did I gain from reading this account of how two women were unfairly imprisoned with no knowledge of the actual charges and no idea if they’d be executed for them? Hmmm. Let’s see …

I was inspired to maintain faith through storms, long periods of “drought” and to remember that God is always working behind the scenes.

I learned God uses all things for His glory, even in persecution.

I learned He is mightiest when all seems lost.

I learned the power of forgiveness, the power of friendship, the power of love, the power of prayer and even the power of blogging :o)!

I learned miracles happen today.

I learned not to judge others whose lives are very different from mine.

I learned what is really important in life.

I learned to appreciate freedom of religion.

I learned a lot about Iran I hadn’t known before, like the confusing laws about faith, the horrible treatment of women (sanctioned by the prevailing religious forces) and the propaganda against Christianity (like the selling of a false Christian gospel in the stores). I also learned about the “underground believers” who know the real Jesus Christ, but cannot acknowledge Him in public for fear of their safety.

Pray for these people!!!

Lastly, I learned how to evangelize. These women did not push their faith in prison, they just built friendships based on respect and trustworthiness and spoke truth when asked questions.

Read this book and pray for the people of Iran!

Other posts you might like:

A No-Matter-What Kind of Joy

When It Rains, He’s There

Let Me See Redemption Win

Friday, September 20, 2013

When You Don’t Fit the Mold—By Rachel Phifer

I was born with a thin skin. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the floor, rocking, trying to comfort myself because the noise of the television and people talking in the kitchen was overwhelming. My mother says I was eight before I stopped crying about gettingbaby crying dressed, “because the clothes touched me.” At school, the sound of pencils scratching against paper made me shiver and a sharp look from a teacher would reduce me to tears.

A few years ago, I read about something called sensory integration disorder. It was me all over. The experts describe it as having the knobs on your senses turned up at a constantly high volume.

Here’s the thing though. What I remember most about those early years of childhood is not tears, not trauma. I remember how lush the grass felt between my toes. I remember an orange harvest moon hanging so low in the sky I couldn’t believe it was out of reach. I remember crisp pages leafing between my eight-year old fingers, and 42-16482591the delight I felt as the voices at church flowed over me in song.

Is that a disorder?

And the words. Oh my goodness, the words. When I wrote, I could practically taste the words. I could feel their shape and rhythm. It’s as if I could take a word off my tongue and weigh it in my hand. I’m a writer because I have a sensory processing “disorder.”

We say someone has a “disability” or “disorder” – sensory issues or ADHD, Aspergers or dyslexia. but what we mean is “they don’t fit the mold.” You can’t have the light without the dark, or creativity without bursting the seams of what’s expected.

Successful people from Charles Schwab to Michael Phelps have been diagnosed with ADHD. Were they successful in spite of their condition or because of it? Einstein and Thomas Edison were irritations to their teacher because they were unable to do rote work, and Bill Gates dropped out of college. The fact is they were meant for something greater than the classroom. I’ve read that dyslexics tend to have strong spatial abilities. I know it was true of my dad. Writing a letter was painful for him, even as a grown man, but he was a skilled painter, photographer, athlete and gardener.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know disorders have a wide range of severity. And I know it can be frustrating to feel like your brain is on fire because there’s too much stimuli. It’s probably most frustrating of all to be the parent of a kid who struggles with school or the ability to carry on a normal conversation. But you can be sure that the God who brought giraffes and tigers and dolphins into being has more in store for us than simply living identical lives.

What we have to realize is that no gift is one dimensional. The same qualities that bring us joy will bring challenges.

So the one who is exploding with brilliant ideas will probably find a classroom stifling. The one who can memorize reams of data may find social skills a challenge. And the one who can paint masterpieces might be overwhelmed by a crowded party full of visual images.

In our less than perfect world, every gift comes with its share of frustrations and difficulties. But make no mistake. Every gift comes from God and is good by definition. The-Language-of-Sparrows-front-cover final

Note: In my book, The Language of Sparrows, one of my characters finds it difficult to handle crowds or make eye contact. But it is the same quality that gives her an uncanny ability to pick up new languages and sends foreign phrases murmuring through her dreams at night.

The Language of Sparrows …

Brilliant and fluent in too many languages to count, 15-year-old Sierra Wright can't seem to communicate what is important to her in any language. Though April Wright stubbornly keeps an upbeat attitude about her daughter's future, she has let her own dreams slip away. Just across the bridge lives old Luca, scarred from his time in a Romanian gulag years before. Though he has seemingly given up on people, Sierra is drawn to him despite his prickly edges.
No one else is comfortable with the unpredictable old man spending time alone with Sierra, not even Luca's son. Yet it is this unconventional relationship that will bring two families together to form friendships and unearth their family stories, stories that just might give them all the courage to soar on wings toward a new future.


rachel walletAs the daughter of missionaries, Rachel Phifer grew up in Malawi, South Africa and Kenya, and managed to attend eleven schools by the time she graduated from high school. Books, empty notebooks and cool pens were her most reliable friends as she moved from one place to another. She holds a B.A. in English and psychology from Houston Baptist University, and lives in Houston with her family.

Website: www.rachelphifer.com

Book link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Language-Sparrows-Rachel-Phifer/dp/0781410487

Other posts you might like:

D is for Dyslexia

I’m Dyslexic—By Jane Perrine

How to Treat A Child with Autism

Friday, September 13, 2013

BE a Minion!

If you read this blog often, you’ll have noticed I changed the look a bit. I also changed the tagline. Where it once read, “Get out of your seat and LIVE your part,” it now says, “Motivating minions for the MIGHTY.”

There are three questions that come from this change:
1) Why in the world would I call God’s people minions? (see “What’s A Minion?”)
2) Why in the world do I feel the need to motivate them? And …
3) Why did the Needtobreathe song, Difference Maker, keep coming to mind after I did?

I think it has something to do with addictions ;o).

You see, sometimes, when we sinful human creatures first become born again, or we come from a particularly powerful sermon, or we read a blog about all we CAN do FOR Christ, it’s like a drug. There were times in my own life where I called on the Lord for guidance and help, and I received it in such force it was intoxicating.

God is just that amazing.

So what does the human do when they come down from that high? They rush out and seek more of the very thing that made them drunk. But God is not a drug, and He will not heel at your beck and call.

When I first became a Christian Counselor I found it very effective to pray on my knees before every counseling session. I humbled myself before the Lord and invited Him into the session to do the work. But, just as the Israelites so often did with the things God gave them, that prayer became a tool for my counseling rather than an opportunity to honor Him. The power of it waned because I saw it as mine and not His. I was trying to be A difference maker rather than allowing myself to be His empty vessel.

I so often hear young people or new Christians say “I want to make a difference,” as they ride the zeal of their burgeoning faith. I’ve also seen many become burned out as their “big” plans to save the lost meet with great disappointment. They ask, “Why wasn’t God faithful to me when I was faithful to Him?” The question I have is, “Were your big plans God’s or yours?”

I hear others talk about how they believe God is calling them to do something great like so-and-so did. But if they looked at so-and-so, they might notice he or she did not set out to do something great, only something for the Lord.

That’s what I am hoping for you, my reader.

How does one truly become an empty vessel of the Lord? Or, as I now like to call it “a minion for the mighty?”

Hmmm, for me it’s really not about being one, but about noticing when I drift into my own self-importance and then turning the rudder so I can right my course. I’m sorry to say, my self always gets in the way.

How do I move the rudder back? By keeping my eye on who “I Am” is. For me, that comes with Bible study and prayer. Not a study that memorizes empty facts, but coming to know The Story of the One who loves me deeply and I want to love back. Not a prayer that asks, “God, can you do this for me,” but time spent in the presence of my Father, telling Him about my day, asking if He has any thoughts on it, and maybe even praising Him a little.

Stuff like that.

My final thought is to suggest you put away the idea that you must do something big. Remember, the bigness doesn’t come from what you’ve done, but from what HE makes of what you’ve done. In fact, I sometimes think our goal of bigness stalls us from getting started in the first place. Think of the boy with the loaves of bread and two fish. He didn’t bring them to feed thousands, but when given to Jesus, they did.

You can be that boy.

You can be a minion. Smile

This is the place where I often list other posts from this blog that you might like. Today, I would love for you to read another story from another site, about a real Minion for the Mighty and know your empty vessel can be used for great things and you might not even know it’s happening. Take a look! You won’t be sorry. Worldwide Impact of a Humble Street Preacher Lives on Today

Friday, September 6, 2013

When God Is Not Like A Parent

Having worked as a counselor with victims of abuse and neglect I always cringe when preachers say something like, “Your earthly father would never …” <insert something awful here>, in an effort to demonstrate God’s paternal yearnings for His children. The message is, if your earthly father would do anything to take care of you, how much more would your heavenly Father?

Why do I cringe? Because I’ve known of too many earthly fathers, pillarsmothers, aunts and uncles and even supposed pillars of the church, who’ve done some pretty disgusting things to the little ones in their charge. That’s just a hazard of the mental health counseling field.

Yes, most of us have an innate desire to care for our young, but each of us are flawed sinners, and some of those sins have left some pretty horrific scars.

That’s why today, I want to talk about how God is NOT like an earthly parent.

But before I do, let me throw in a few disclaimers.

First, let me stress, God tells us to honor our father and mother, to treat them with respect. Though they are human and flawed, God has given this role to them for a reason. If we honor God’s call for us to honor them, He will see us through the sometimes difficult road of dealing with their sins.

Second, I am not only the child of a parent, but a parent myself. I’ve seen both sides of this coin now, and have learned to better respect the edicts I’d once spurned in my naiveté. Parents, though flawed, still tend to know more than the child so much younger than themselves—reason to listen to their advice.

However, God is our ultimate authority.

So how is God different from our parents?

First, He is ALL-knowing.

Where our parent’s wisdom comes from greater time inhabiting this earth and living life, God’s comes from creating every minute detail of what we inhabit. He doesn’t just know one life, but all. He doesn’t just know your actions, but your thoughts, your emotions, your motivations. He knows what is truly good and what is truly bad.

He knows everything!father reaching for child

Second, He is ALL-loving.

Yes, most parents really love their children. I don’t think anyone can understand the depths of this kind of love (not to mention our human frailties surrounding it) until they’ve become a parent themselves. I know I didn’t.

But God’s love is greater, more complete. He’s not putting on a show so the world can give Him kudos. He’s not hoping His kids will return the favor and care for him in His old age. He needs none of that. He’s not loving us because He’s supposed to. He created us to love us. In fact, He came from His lofty, protected, regal perch, became one of us, and suffered a horrible, violent death so we could live in eternity in His Glory—with Him.

That’s love!

Third, He is ALL-powerful.

I don’t mean He can withhold our allowance or put us in time out if we misbehave. He can strike us with lightning if He wants, reducing us to dust. But instead He gives us free will and when we choose not to listen to Him, and fall on our faces from the ramifications of our own choices, He picks us up, brushes us off, reminds us of His love, then sends us back to try again.

Why did I feel it necessary to draw this ALL-consuming picture of God? Because too often we treat God like we treat an earthly parent—like He doesn’t know what He’s talking about, or He has no idea how we feel, or He doesn’t understand who we truly are. An earthly parent may be missing some of these things (though maybe not as much as we believe) ...

But God is not.

He formed you for a purpose. He’s numbered the hairs on your head. He knows how you were made, and what you were made for. And He knows that in following His will—no matter how crazy it may seem—you will find Joy like you’ve never had before.

Trust Him. Believe in Him. Follow Him.

Other posts you might like:

Thankful in Hard Times

A No-Matter-What Kind of Joy

You Are Holy