Snow and Warmth

Last night I received a text message asking prayer for a woman stranded in her commute by the snow in the Atlanta area. How that situation ended for her is a wonderful story of warmth displayed in surprising ways. Here is the account as her mother shared it:

Thanks to the prayers of many people, [our daughter] made it home safely at 3:30 am (14.5 hours after leaving work). Thanks also to the kindness of the CVS store manager, the pastor and some church members of a small church near the CVS store and a man with a 4-wheel drive. The CVS store manager brought out some lawn chairs and chaise lounges for the some 25 people to sit on and kept his store open all night. Around 9:30 p.m. she moved to the church who had opened up their fellowship hall for food and drink and their sanctuary for people to stretch out on the pews to sleep. And around 2:30 am, the man with the 4-wheel drive, who came to pick up another stranded person, followed her home to make sure she made it safely. At 2:30 am there weren’t many cars driving on the road but many abandoned cars on the side and in the middle of the road.

She will remember Tuesday, January 28, 2014 for a long time because of the snow and ice but mostly how God does answer the prayers of His people

Messianism and Realistic Thinking

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post which referenced the scandal regarding Greg Mortenson, I found wisdom in this, again from Megan McArdle. We look for Messiahs who can do anything and fix everything. But mere men are mortal and the problems of the world resist instant, overnight, single-handed solutions. And yet we look for such.

If we refuse to fund anything but the most ambitious products, we are vulnerable to con men, or starry-eyed optimists who don’t understand what they’re up against. We can’t transform the lives of the global poor overnight. We can make them better. But only if we are clear-eyed about the projects that we undertake.

There is great work being done in the world. But it will tend to be small scale, limited in scope, and incapable of grand claims of success. But there the kingdom of God is being built.

For sober thinking on development, I encourage people to go here.

Ordinary Disasters

At Covenant Presbyterian Church we recently were encouraged by two of our congregation who flew to Japan as soon as they could after the tsunami in order to serve in whatever way they could to bring calm and relief and restoration and hope to that land they love. They were sent with tremendous enthusiasm and overwhelming support and they have returned with great stories of God’s mercy and kindness.

I wonder how often we are blind to the ordinary disasters which sometimes silently befall the community around us.

A young woman in our neighborhood recently found out that another family in the subdivision was facing a relapse in their teenaged son’s cancer. Treatment involved daily five-hour round trips to a facility administering radiation. She on her own decided to respond to this more ordinary disaster in a wonderful way, recruiting many other neighbors to provide frozen meals for this family so that they did not need to worry about dinner for the duration.

I was really impressed, and we were delighted to be a part. I’m not likely to fly to Japan or to the location of the next geopolitical locus of need. But I pray that God would give me, my family, and our church, clarity in the ways we can reflect the compassion of God to our neighbors in the midst of their ordinary disasters.

Prayer, Social Action, and the Daily Paper (the What?)

That many aspects of Richard F. Lovelace’s warm and wise Dynamics of Spiritual Life show the book’s age (it was first published in 1979) is illustrated in his assumption that Christians or anyone still reads newspapers. No doubt, he had never heard of the internet. Dated caveats aside, I wish I had read this book in 1979, so full of sense and Biblical wisdom it is. Representative is this, an encouragement I need to take more seriously:

Most American Christians would probably assume that prayer…has little to do with social action. This is because most of those who are praying are not praying about social issues, and most of those who are active in social issues are not praying very much…. Local congregations pray about their members, programs, budgets and evangelistic outreach. How often do they pray about the social needs of their community or the nation?…The best advice for both ministers and laity is to read the daily paper [!] while thinking biblically in dependence on the Spirit, turning the information gained into prayer. (392-393)

See? Warm, wise, life-changing spiritual common sense.

He Knows What Lies behind Our Veils

…and he marries us anyway

This article from The Telegraph in London bears a strange resemblance to a certain Jacob and Leah. I’m posting the article here, not knowing how long it will remain on-line at the source.

An Arab ambassador has called off his wedding after discovering his wife-to-be who wears a face-covering veil is bearded and cross-eyed.

The envoy had only met the woman a few times, during which she had hidden her face behind a niqab, the Gulf News reported.

After the marriage contract was signed, the ambassador attempted to kiss his bride-to-be. It was only then that he discovered her facial hair and eyes.

The ambassador told an Islamic Sharia court in the United Arab Emirates he was tricked into the marriage as the woman’s mother had shown his own mother pictures of her sister instead of his bride-to-be.

He sued for the contract to be annulled and also demanded the woman pay him 500,000 dirhams (£85,000) for clothes, jewelry and other gifts he had bought for her.

The court annulled the contract but rejected the ambassador’s demand for compensation.

The report did not identify the ambassador.

A pastor friend I know shared with me that the ‘real him’ is a monster. He is one of the most wonderful men I know, but I see him veiled.

John Murray, the Westminster Seminary theologian reportedly noted that if we could only see into his heart, we would see an awful blackness. People knew him as a godly man. But they viewed him veiled.

I know my heart. I know my sin. I know my weakness. I know what no one else sees. I know what I struggle with and what I am ashamed of. And few others see it, and none see it wholly. I am veiled. And I fear the veil being lifted.

Can you imagine the shame and rejection that this veiled bride must have felt? To be rejected when the veil came off?

We need never experience that. God knows what lies behind the veil. And he loves us anyway.

That is the comfort of the gospel.

Helping without Hurting

There is no question that Haiti has been devastated. Most of us don’t know what we can do other than send money.

So, we send money, and then forget about it.

Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, who both teach at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia are offering an opportunity to learn from this crisis in Haiti and from their deep understanding of the realities of poverty and need.

They are offering a FREE three hour web-accessed seminar which will be airing starting Wednesday, February 17. If you have even the least amount of interest in the matters of mercy, need, and poverty, I encourage you to sign up for this and learn what these men can teach.

Click here for more information and to learn how to register.