Silence

“Silence is the weapon of mass destruction.” –Marina Nemat, survivor of Evin Prison

Take a few minutes to listen to her story.

Help save Saeed at http://savesaeed.org/

Marina Nemat’s books, Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed, and more about her life can be found at this link.

Audio interview from the article Ex-inmate Speaks Of Torture Saeed Faces by the ACLJ.  Find more about the ACLJ here.

If you falter in times of trouble,

how small is your strength!

Rescue those being led away to death;

hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”

does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?

Does not he who guards your life know it?

Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

(Proverbs 24:10-12, NIV)

Advertisements
Published in: on March 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Saeed

If we who are Christians can watch this and not be moved . . something is horrifically wrong with us.  Horrifically isn’t a strong enough word.

I am convicted that I must pray for this man, I must fast for this man, and I must speak out against his torment until the day he is rescued.  This is not an option for Christians.  We must care about this man.  He is our brother.  I say it again, he is our brother.  And he is suffering.

http://savesaeed.org/

Sign the petition.  But don’t stop there.

Start praying.

Be a “Secret Santa” for Jesus all year long!

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 25:34-40, NIV)

Why not give the gift of surprise love this year, maybe to someone you don’t know?  That’s what Jesus did when He came from Heaven to help us.  Of course, He knew us, but we didn’t know Him!  He surprised us with love–a love that paid for our sins and gave us the chance to live in His joyful Kingdom for eternity.  Now that is the best Secret Santa gift ever!

Show the love of Christ this year to someone who might have never understood His love or who might be discouraged and about to give up.  Ask Jesus to lay on your heart the people He wants you to reach.

Loving people for Jesus is a holiday event –it’s a holiday that lasts forever!  Jesus’ birth is a gift that never ends for those who love Him.  No matter what time of year, you can give Christmas out to everyone.  You can even be a “Secret Santa” (following in the footsteps of the Giving Christ) all year long.  Here are just a few ideas for starters.  (In each category, the easiest ideas are at the top of the list, and the most challenging at the bottom.)

In the Footsteps of the Giving Christ: Secret Santa Gift Ideas

Foster and Children’s Homes

–Stuff a stocking with small toys and hygiene supplies for children in your local foster care system or children’s home.  You can call ahead and ask what they really need.

–Offer to host a small appreciation for the staff at a children’s home.  You can bring something simple, like bagels, cookies, donuts, or muffins.  (It’s a good idea to not bring home-baked goods without checking first.)  You can bring orange juice and milk.

Hot Wheels Toys R Us

Hot Wheels 20 car pack, available at Toys R Us

–Ask to sponsor a particular foster child, or child in a children’s home, for Christmas.  You can ask for a wishlist or surprise them!  If you are ever in doubt of what to buy a child, there is usually a representative in a toy store who can help point you in the direction of popular toys for a boy or girl.  You can also go online and check out gift suggestions at the Toys R Us online store.

–Ask to sponsor a foster family for Christmas.  Honor the foster parents’ commitment to sponsoring children with a surprise gift!  Your gift to them could be as simple a a couple gift cards to nearby restaurants, or maybe a trip to a massage parlor for the foster mom and a sports store for the foster dad!

–Each year, there is such a great need for quality foster homes.  If you feel called to be a foster parent, why not act on that calling?  Choosing to be a foster parent is taking a step to protect children from nearly unimaginable living circumstances.  The system is broken, and fostering is difficult, but if God is leading you in this direction . . why not act?  🙂

Soldiers and Veterans

Handwarmers Walmart

Grabber Handwarmers 40-pack available through Walmart

–Sponsor a soldier this year.  Items like hard candy, beef jerky, batteries, socks, and hygiene items that are so easy to come by here can be a big privilege to an overseas soldier.  Other ideas are instant hand warmers, notepads, pens & pencils, Fig Newtons, instant drink mixes, coffee, granola bars, mints, cough drops, Nerf footballs, dominoes, board games, and more.  For a list of great ideas, click here.  Add a letter or card with your favorite verse and a few words of encouragement.  If you don’t know anyone who has a relative oversees, you can check with a local church or military office.

–Visit a Veteran’s club or hospital.  Bring a simple gift item, like candy cane sticks and chocolate bars, tied together with a ribbon.  Be sure to check beforehand for good gift items and a good time to come.

–Call a Veteran’s hospital and ask to sponsor a Veteran for Christmas.  Ask for a wishlist, or surprise him/her with special gifts.  Be sure to wrap them to make it feel like “Christmas”!

–You can sponsor a soldier for 6 months or a year and give a gift of time, encouragement, and compassion.  Contact your local church or a military base for more information.

Nursing and Retirement Homes, Senior Centers

–Spend a few hours in a nursing home handing out small gifts and, best of all, giving the gift of time and love.  Call ahead of time to make arrangements with the nursing home.  Bring a small handmade gift or inexpensive Christmas ornaments.

–Some seniors at senior centers sell items to raise money.  While the handmade item they are selling may look outdated, it would more than likely mean a great deal to them for you to buy what they make, more than just donating to the center.  (One year, my mother bought rather meager-looking homemade teddy bears from a senior center for my classroom at school.  I wasn’t too enthusiastic about giving them to the kids, but they were delighted.  Children often don’t receive handmade gifts, and can be thrilled to receive something made with love!)

–Go with a church group and sing or host a party for residents at a nursing or retirement home.

Chenille gloves, Walmart

Chenille women’s gloves (inexpensive and very cozy!) at your local Walmart

–Ask to sponsor a resident at a nursing home who doesn’t have many visitors.  Bring a care basket of items like a flannel blanket, hygiene supplies, fuzzy socks, chenille gloves for women or leather gloves for men, a book of beautiful photographs, a Christmas decoration or small Christmas tree with ornaments, store-bought cookies (if this is acceptable), a comfortable pillow (like a TempurPedic), etc.  Put a bow on the basket or gift package to share Christmas cheer with an elderly person who may not have had cheer in a long time.  Some residents are so poor that they may desperately need underwear, socks, or a new outfit.  These items are not necessarily adequately provided for by the government as many people think.

Sponsor a Child or Children

–Pack a “shoebox” (usually a plastic box) for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.  Stuff your box with goodies like:

  • hygiene items (hair brush, nice comb, toothbrushes, toothpaste, full-size bar soap)
  • art supplies (Crayola crayons and colored pencils, Ticonderoga pencils, a metal pencil sharpener from an art shop–I recommend quality over stuff-that-breaks-down-quickly)
  • fun toys like a modestly dressed Barbie (this can be difficult to find, you can get a Disney Cinderella doll instead), stuffed animal or small baby doll with an extra outfit, Slinky, My Little Pony, Squinkies, Etch-a-Sketch, play recorder, or Nerf football/ball.

Fill in gaps with packs of unopened gum packages, bracelets or necklaces, hair ties or clippies (on trimmed-down cardboard packaging), lip balm, a crayon box, stickers, or a boxes of floss (you can cut around the packaging to leave it “encased” in plastic but without the extra unnecessary wrapping).

–Give a one-time gift to a reputable organization that shares the love of Christ and basic needs with a child.  At Compassion International, you can give money to help unsponsored children, highly vulnerable children, education needs, medical needs, disaster relief, etc.

–Find a child to sponsor.  This is usually a long-term commitment, depending on the age of the child you sponsor and the age of graduation from the program.  You can sponsor a child through Compassion International for $38 a month.  You will be able to write letters, send money for a birthday gift, and might even be able to visit your child on a mission trip!

Help an Expectant Mom and Her Baby

BPA free EvenFlo bottles, BabiesRUs

BPA free Evenflo bottles from Babies R Us (boy colors)

–Stock up on diapers–for your local pregnancy care center!  Pregnancy care centers help expecting mothers in poverty and at-risk circumstances.  Buy baby clothes, bottles, and toys to bless an expecting or new mother.  Contact your local care center to find out more.  You can locate your local pregnancy care center by typing your zip in here.

–If you have been pregnant recently, you may have a lot of maternity clothes and/or baby toys & items left over.  If you are not planning on having more children, why not donate these items to your local pregnancy care center?  Even if you have a “surprise” child later on, the gifts you gave away will be blessing a mother in need!

–Why not make a goal that every month when you go to the grocery store or Wal-Mart, you will buy 1 pack of diapers for your local pregnancy care center?  You’ll be helping out year-round, but not have to spend a large amount of money at once!

You can support the Baan Huey Nam Kao Church Child Survival Program in Thailand or other survival programs through Compassion International

–Give money to help infants and expectant moms through trustworthy organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International.  For example, you can feed a hungry baby or nursing mother for a week through Samaritan’s purse.  Or, you can help an expectant mother receive prenatal care through Compassion International.

–At your next birthday party, host a “baby bash”.  Instead of having friends and family buy gifts for you, have them buy gifts for a baby!  Then, donate these wonderful items to your local pregnancy center.  (This idea comes from a young girl in my area who decided she would ask for baby shower items for her birthday to help out our pregnancy care center!)

–Get your small church group involved in sponsoring a baby shower for a woman in crisis.  Contact your local pregnancy care center for more information on how to sponsor a shower.  Your small group can become involved providing a special memory through a cake, balloons, and baby gifts for a mommy-to-be.

–Volunteer your time a few hours a week at your local pregnancy care center.  The range of jobs may include answering phones, helping to plan fundraising events, or even mentoring women to help them see the positive, wonderful futures they can have in Christ!

–Get your small group involved in a cleaning/repair day at your local pregnancy care center.  This will greatly help your center and save them money!

Women’s Shelters

&

Crabtree & Evelyn Citron, Honey, and Coriander Soap

–Bring ornaments or hygiene items to a local women’s shelter.  You can bring special pampering items like lip balm, hand lotion, and floral soap.  Since children are often brought to homeless shelters with their mothers, you can bring inexpensive toys for all the children from a bulk-toy company such as Oriental Trading Company.  This store often runs free shipping promotions if you buy a certain dollar amount.

–Host a birthday party or Christmas party for the children at a local women’s shelter.  Call your shelter to see how they would most like you to help.

–Volunteer your time at a local women’s shelter.  Just imagine what even a few hours a week could do!

–Get your small group involved in a cleaning/repair day at your local women’s shelter.  Fresh paint and a deep-cleaning can make an older building look much more inviting!

Schools

–Ask a local high-poverty school if there is a child or family you can sponsor for Christmas.  (If you sponsor a child, make sure to ask if there are brothers/sisters to surprise with gifts, too!)

Crayola Crayons 96 pack

Crayola Crayons 96 pack, Toys R Us

–Volunteer for a “party in a box” for a classroom at a high-poverty school.  You can provide party favors (like Christmas pencils), snacks, books for the students, and maybe even a simple craft for the children to do at their winter party.  (The concept for “Party in a Box” was started a year or two ago, I believe in my city.)

–Volunteer a few hours a week at a local Good News Club.  Contact your church for more information.  You can give snacks, a safe environment, and, best of all, the Good News of Christ to children in a school in your area.

–Volunteer to tutor a child at a local school once or twice a week (or less often).  Bring a child small treats during tutoring or a Happy Meal for lunch, and you could be their hero!  Contact your local school for more information.  (Remember to check for the school’s policy on bringing outside food.)  If you do commit to tutoring a child, try to follow-through the whole school year so the child won’t be greatly disappointed.  Your visits may matter far more than you realize.

Help a Sick Child

Emergency Medicine, Samaritan's Purse

Help provide emergency medicine for 50 critically ill people, Samaritan’s Purse

–Donate to Samaritan’s Purse to help pay for a child’s heart surgery, transform the life of a disabled child, or support a whole community by helping pay for a missionary doctor.

–Sponsor a child at a local hospital for a Christmas present or surprise present.  Be sure to check with the hospital beforehand as to what you can bring (you may not be able to wrap gifts) and if you can sponsor a particular child for Christmas.

–Bring gifts for an entire children’s wing at the hospital.  Check for permission beforehand and ideas of what to bring.

A gift of small teddy bears, a Hot Wheels, an Etch-a-Sketch, a Barbie, or bouncy balls could make a child’s day.

Plush animal finger puppets, Oriental Trading Company

Animal finger puppets, available through Oriental Trading Company

But how is it feasible to get gifts for so many children?  Check at garage sales for new (with tags) Beanie Babies.  Sometimes you can get clearance toys or discount toys at local stores.  Be ready to buy in bulk when you shop!  Dollar stores may have coloring books for very cheap (I’d recommend sticking with Crayola crayons, though).  Art supplies (like Crayola crayons) are often on sale right before school starts.

Another resource is Oriental Trading Company.  You can buy small gifts like plush animals, jewelry, beach balls, stickers, etc. for much less cost than buying each item individually.

Inmates at Prisons and Juvenile Detention Centers

A note: How interesting that in Jesus’ prophesy of the praise that believers would receive for their work in this life, one of the four groups (the poor, strangers, the sick, and prisoners) is the prisoners (see Matthew 25:34-36).  Are we “too good” to help prisoners?  If we think we are, then we must think we are too good to help Jesus, because Jesus says we are helping Him when we help prisoners know His Truth (see Matthew 25:40).

–Sponsor the children of prisoners through Angel Tree (a branch of Chuck Colson’s prison ministry).  Angel Tree gives presents to children on behalf of their incarcerated parent.  What a beautiful picture of what Christ does for us!  Just as He gives us gifts to give others than really come from Him, we can help imprisoned parents give gifts to their children that they might have no means of giving without our help.

–Bring a gift for inmates at a local prison.  Check to see what items are acceptable to bring/what items are most needed/wanted.

–If you are interested in volunteering time at a prison in your community, contact your local church and check into Chuck Colson’s prison ministry.

Neighbors

–Write Christmas cards for the neighbors in your subdivision this year.  If this is too overwhelming, then pick just the neighbors who live on your cul-de-sac or close by.

–If you are the Etsy/Pinterest type, you can make something small for your neighbors.  If you are like me and others would be more likely to feel pity for you than happiness over what you made, you can give chocolate bars, small bags of candy from a gourmet candy store, small Christmas ornaments, or items that other people made on Etsy.  🙂

Beaded Message Bracelets

Beaded message bracelets from Rahab’s Rope help women escape or avoid sex trafficking.

–Give a few neighbors a special gift that also helps people in developing countries, such as many gifts from Go Fish Clothing & Jewelry (shop by country) or Rahab’s Rope (support women as they escape or avoid sex trafficking).

Friends and Family

–Choose a friend or family member to buy or make a surprise, “over the top” gift for this year–something they can remember for years to come.  The gift could be a special keepsake that you’re ready to give away, too.

–Most of us know relatives and/or friends who are going through a really tough time this Christmas.  The need can be overwhelming.  Choose one person each day to pray for, and maybe send them a quick card in the mail or a simple email to let them know you’re thinking of them.  The gift of caring can mean more to them than gifts under their tree.

Compassion Card

Dayspring Compassion card

[You can buy small gift items for those in other countries–for example, milk for a child for a week for $4 and receive a card through Samaritan’s Purse–just think, if you buy Christmas cards for $2 each you are paying only twice as much to have a card and help a child!  Or,  you can buy Dayspring cards that help sponsor Compassion International (6% of net wholesale).]

Mathew 28-20

Matthew 28:20

–Give a Scripture necklace or key chain to someone you love.  You can choose whatever Scripture verse you wish at This Word Is For You on Etsy.

Why we can’t expect people in the church to be ready for church.

No one should ever, under any circumstance, feel too unworthy to go through church doors.  The church is a place for anyone to go who decides they want to know a bit about God.  They could be drunk, high, hung-over, texting, wearing too few clothes, or donning a plumed hat complete with a Styrofoam bird.  They could have just left from a board meeting, parole hearing, divorce court, local casino, the nearest fast food restaurant, off the last bus for the day, or been kicked out of the nearest bar.  They could be coming from a shift at the local diner, a season of selling popcorn at a stadium, ten years of factory work, a six-week stay at a resort, a year of wondering what they are going to do with their life, or a fifty-year career as the CEO of one of the best run companies in the world.

They could have come from a house or an apartment or a hotel or a homeless shelter or the nearest tattoo parlor.  They could have a Bible or a copy of the newspaper or an iPhone or a comic book or a screaming child or a golf bag with broken clubs or a wallet full of fifties or a chihuahua in their purse.

They might be swearing, or they might be correcting everyone’s grammar.  They might have holes in their jeans, or they might be wearing way-too-expensive shoes.  Their phone might ring in the middle of church; they might chew tobacco in the parking lot; they might cough without covering their mouth; they might have no sense of personal space; they might slouch over in their seat.

They might criticize everything & everyone.  They might be prime examples of hypocrites.  They might be uneducated, or they might have too many doctorates.  They might be prejudiced, or they might be way too tolerant.  They might be better-than-thou, or they might be quite sure they are a nobody.

We can expect them, because God is open to taking them all.

When we try to get people to follow God’s rules before they are saved, it’s like expecting a homeless child to follow the rules of somebody else’s parent.

It’s not happening.

And if we try to make it happen, people will get mad, startled, disappointed, hurt, furious, confused, outraged, depressed, indignant, and frightened.

Division of Family Services doesn’t tell Robert the teenager, who is waiting in juvenile hall for a home, that he has to start following all of George and Teresa’s rules.

Can’t you just hear the response?  “Who is George and Teresa?  Why should I follow their rules?!?”

It’s obvious to us that Robert needs to live with George and Teresa before he is going to want to–or even understand why he should–follow their rules.

We can’t expect people to come into church and want to follow God’s rules.  You have to be adopted by God before you want to follow what He says.

When Robert moves in with George and Teresa, and they show him his new room and buy him clothes and enroll him in the local high school and drive him to football practice every Monday and Thursday night, it will be very natural for them to tell him he can’t smoke cigarettes or download pirated DVD’s or leave the house in the middle of the night with a spray paint can.

Whether Robert agrees or disagrees with the rules, there is a relationship they are built on.  Does Robert live in the house? Yep.  Do George and Teresa now drive him to football practice every Monday and Thursday night?  Yep.

Now–here is something very important to notice.  Before Robert ever knew George and Teresa, it was still wrong to smoke cigarettes, download pirated DVD’s, or go gallivanting around at midnight.  But now he is motivated to do what they say.  He lives with them.  They take care of him.  He relies on them.

We all have a relationship with God as our Creator, but only believers have a relationship with Him as our Father and Savior.  So, while everyone will be held to the same standards under God’s perfect Law, only those who know Him will want to obey Him.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (Jesus, quoted in John 14:15-18, NIV)

We can’t expect people in church to be ready for church.  But we can expect believers to be.  If we have been saved by Christ, then we are going in His house much like a child running into the arms of a parent.  Church for us needs to be all about out-and-out worship, total outreach, and an imitation of the same patience for others in the church that God had for us when He chose to stay around for us . . even when we broke all the rules.

After all, we are the ones living in the Father’s house.  When visitors come in, our goal isn’t to critique them, or make them less embarrassing looking to God–oh my!  I would hate to think how embarrassing I have been to God over the years!  It also isn’t our job to make them feel good about their sins–just like we aren’t to feel good about our sins.

Our goal is to bring visitors in our home to our brother Jesus, not to keep them waiting at the door until they make themselves ‘more presentable’.  Jesus is the only way any of us will ever be presentable to God.  He is the only one who can bring us for adoption to the Father.

When Jesus pays for someone’s sins, they are adopted into the family of God  . . just the way we were.  So we should look at every person who walks through our church doors as a potential new member of our family.

Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (Jude 1:23, NLT)

Healed by spit

It’s my favorite miracle Jesus did in His three year ministry.  I have gravitated to it for years.  It is one of the most descriptive miracles narrated to us, if not the most descriptive, in the amount of text spent on it.  And it is only found in one Gospel: John’s.

It is an extremely curious miracle, if I stop and think about it.

Imagine if I came up to you and said, “Did you just hear?  Henry was healed by spit!”

What on earth would you think?

Now what would you think if it actually happened?  What if you had known Henry for the better part of five years, seen him in your office with his seeing eye dog, watched him take the taxi to and from work every day you’d ever known him?  And what if, very suddenly, Henry came running up to you, no black glasses on his face, no dog at his side, and said,

“I can’t believe this!  Can you believe this?  It’s me, Henry!”

I think all of us would be startled enough at this point, but what on earth would you do if Henry told you he was healed by spit?

Of course, the man in Jesus’ story wasn’t named Henry, didn’t work in an office cubicle, or have a seeing-eye dog.  He lived about 2,000 years ago, when the blind were seen as, basically, “wretches” by society.  They had little to nothing they could do to work if someone wasn’t patient enough to teach them, or didn’t believe they were capable of work.  And apparently, this was often the case, as Jesus encountered more than one blind beggar in His time walking the village streets.

Whoever this man was in Jesus’ story (we never learn his name), we are given three jaw-dropping facts about his life:

  • He was blind.
  • He was healed by Jesus’ saliva.  (Note: Jesus did not spit in his eyes, as we will soon see.)
  • He saw.

It’s a “double-take” or a “Say what?” miracle.  There is a startling introduction of saliva in this story when you simply wouldn’t even think of expecting it, and yet there is such a strong music of love for the blind man in this story, there can really be no question as to Jesus’ motive for the spit.

To me, this story gives the most insight into the perspective of someone healed by Jesus.  The story is mostly told from the blind man’s perspective (without being a personal narrative).  In fact, a critical part of the story happens without Jesus present—giving a perspective John almost surely got from who?  The (ex-)blind man.

It is something in and of itself to imagine John, the author, in his home or the home of another, slightly stooped from age, pen in hand, scroll ready, interviewing the ex-blind-man.  I think the ex-blind-man’s eyes were wide as he told for probably at least the thousandth time the story of what happened on the day Jesus healed him.

There are many brilliant threads weaved into this incredible healing, threads only God Himself could have arranged so masterfully.  To name a few:

  • The controversy of whether or not disease and injury are always the responsibility of the person suffering from them
  • The surety of feeling worthless
  • A shocking “chance” encounter
  • A terrific mystery
  • The grief of abandonment
  • A “crazy” stand
  • A love like no other

I love, love, love what Jesus did here.  And, even if you’ve had reservations in the past about Jesus spitting . . . if you come with an open heart, I think you will totally change your mind, regardless of whether you agree with me on why I think He might have chosen spit.   I think it could have been that spit that is the pinnacle of the miracle.

But we have to back up to when, from the blind man’s perspective, it all started.  The Scripture we will look at will be the entire account of the blind man, found in John 9, from the Message Paraphrase.

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. 

Have you ever heard a story begin, “It all started like any other day . . .”

For the blind man, this was most probably just exactly the case.  A day being blind in Jerusalem around 30 A.D. was just like any other.  Begging, for certain.  Danger, a possibility.  The disabled have never in history been seen by the mass population as a blessing, and, quite often, are consciously or unconsciously blamed for their handicaps, as we will soon see.

His [Jesus’] disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

It is very possible that the disciples were asking this right in front of the blind man.  And it is very probable that, if they were, it was no surprise to him.

We don’t know his life, but maybe he had a very hard one.  From childhood, he might have been unwanted, mocked by bullies, and, most likely, received no education.  He might have been seen as stupid, cursed, and not good for any kind of work.  Since he was begging, he was most likely not fed by his family, or at least not if he could find food by humiliated begging (although he had a family, as we will see).

This man might have been used to hearing debate on whether he was as fault or his parents.  He might have been a quiet man, beaten down by all the scorn he’d taken in his life.  Maybe he saw himself as an inconvenience and maybe even trash.

We have no idea how old he was, but his parents were still living.  In those days, life expectancy wasn’t what it is now, and for his father to still be alive, it’s reasonable to think he might have been twenty, thirty, or forty.  He wasn’t described as a “young” man, so twenty might be too young.  However old he was, he had most likely spent those years believing he was, at best, a drain on his parents and community.

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.”

If the blind man was overhearing Jesus, this, no doubt, startled him.  Nobody ever ended the debate this fast.  Usually people enjoy talking about other people’s problems.  It seems fun to talk about who is at fault, so long as it isn’t you.  But Jesus wasn’t having any of this kind of talk.  He cut it right off.

If the blind man was listening, he was in tune to this conversation now.  But he wasn’t talking, maybe because he never expected to be invited to be a part of conversation.  Maybe he was running an errand quietly for his family—something simple they thought he could manage—or maybe he was sitting in a corner somewhere, halfway begging.

We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

What a clever—oh, I just can’t say enough about how clever this was!—answer Jesus gave.

If the blind man was overhearing all this, then I think Jesus was speaking secret “blind language” here.

What’s that?  Well, to His disciples, He was talking about Himself as a worker.  But to the blind man, He was talking about Himself as the “Light”.  I want to look again at what He says:

“For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

There’s no talk here about what causes a man to be blind, or how blindness effects the eyes.  The talk here is about how Jesus is THE Light and physical blindness simply does not matter in eternity.

In other words, the blind man wasn’t missing out on any light if he knew Jesus.

What did this blind man know about Jesus?

He later calls Jesus by name, even though he seems to not have known much about him.  Did the blind man know that Jesus was known as a healer?  With the way Jesus’ miracles spread, he very likely did.  What did he think of Jesus at this point?  That, we don’t know.

He [Jesus] said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”).

WHOA!  Suddenly everything is flying down the timeline!  Jesus is done talking, and He spits.  But this isn’t the kind of spitting men do when they’re trying to show off.  No way.  To the disciples, it looks like a crazy spitting—Jesus is rubbing His fingers in dust He just spit in, spitting in it some more, making something none of the disciples wanted to touch!  I mean, what is going on here?

Before anybody can wonder for long, suddenly the blind man has, quite literally, the shock of his life.  Wet dust is rubbed in his eyes.

What on earth is the blind man thinking?

Now this is key to why I think Jesus spit.

The second Jesus put spit on his eyes, I think the blind man might have been flooded with fear.  (He also might have been trusting, we do not know.)

Remembering that he couldn’t see anything that was going on, he might have heard Jesus spitting, but he probably had no idea what had happened after that. If Jesus told the man what He was doing, it isn’t recorded.  If the man knew Jesus was planning on healing him, it isn’t recorded.

This was possibly a moment of utter humiliation for the blind man.  Very helpless (remember how society treated the blind in his day), and maybe frightened, a man he didn’t know had just put something—he may have had no idea what it was—on his eyes.

I think the man was crushed.  (He also could have been excited.  Remember, I am giving simply a possible perspective.)

He might have wondered if he had been tricked into thinking Jesus was nice, and even taking up his cause—and now, Jesus had put something in his eyes—and when his defenses were down.

The nearest pool might have been Siloam, and that might have been part of why the blind man obeyed.  He might have wanted to get the stuff off his face as quickly as he could.  He might have had hoped Jesus was healing him—we just don’t know for sure.  But this wasn’t the usual way Jesus healed blind people.  If the blind man knew about Jesus’ other healings, he might have been afraid he was being made fun of, since this healing was very different.

As he made that walk to the pool, it might have been a long, humiliating walk.  He probably thought about the spitting sound he’d heard—but what was in his eyes?  It didn’t have the smell of dung—it had to be dirt.

He might have thought this Man thought he was dirt, too.  Maybe all the blind man’s memories flooded back—the bullying as a child, the subservience he’d gone through his whole life, the inferiority in his family, the disappointment he’d been to his parents, the way children kicked him when no one was looking . . . every time he’d been mistreated, jeered, overlooked, left out.

It might not have been the first time he had encountered spit.

Maybe he had been spit on.  Maybe a lot.  Maybe once.  Or maybe it was simply a metaphor for how he felt about his life: spit on.  Or maybe the point of the saliva was to show the depth his eyes, which had never seen, had to be healed, deeper than a touch, coming from the mouth of Jesus.  (Remember that Jesus will destroy Satan by the very breath from His mouth one day!  Jesus won’t even have to say a word!)

Maybe he was bitter, shaking with rage, panicked, and mortified by the time he got to the pool of Siloam.  (Another perspective is that he realized Jesus was using spit to heal him—a very thing used to make someone feel worthless was about to make him whole.)

The man went and washed—and saw.

And now, everything changes—from the perspective of the blind man.

EVERYTHING CHANGES.

Maybe it suddenly became clear to him–as joy is volting through his body–that the Man who healed him didn’t spit on him (but on the ground), and turned the spit into the very thing that healed him.

Whereas being spit upon is a terrible disgrace in all cultures, being healed by spit would change forever how the now ex-blind-man thought about spit.

Soon the town was buzzing. His relatives and those who year after year had seen him as a blind man begging were saying, “Why, isn’t this the man we knew, who sat here and begged?”

Others said, “It’s him all right!”

I notice here that, perhaps for the first time, the ex-blind man didn’t mind being talked over.  Maybe he was even thinking—a bit proudly, that they were going to have to ASK him (talk to him) to find out.

But others objected, “It’s not the same man at all. It just looks like him.”

The ex-blind-man couldn’t keep the secret any longer. 

He said, “It’s me, the very one.”

They said, “How did your eyes get opened?”

“A man named Jesus made a paste and rubbed it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ I did what he said. When I washed, I saw.”

I think there’s something very important here—the ex-blind man tells the story in such a way that he is a “participant”—not a victim or a bystander.  He gets to do the walking to Siloam.  He gets to wash his face.

“So where is he [Jesus]?”

“I don’t know.”

Now here is where the story takes a crazy twist. 

They marched the man to the Pharisees. This day when Jesus made the paste and healed his blindness was the Sabbath. The Pharisees grilled him again on how he had come to see. He said, “He put a clay paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Suddenly, in the middle of the shock of being able to see, the ex-blind man is carted away to go talk to the corrupt religious people of his day.  This was, no doubt, not what he had in mind for his first day of sight.

Some of the Pharisees said, “Obviously, this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”

Others countered, “How can a bad man do miraculous, God-revealing things like this?” There was a split in their ranks.

They came back at the blind man, “You’re the expert. He opened your eyes. What do you say about him?”

Maybe for the first time in his life, the ex-blind man got to be the “expert”.  Oh, and what an expert he got to be!  He got tell what he thought about the Man who had, very personally, healed him. 

He said, “He is a prophet.”

The ex-blind man knew at least a little bit of Bible history.  He knew there were prophets.  He knew they were special and important.  And he knew the Man who had healed him was special and important.

The Jews didn’t believe it, didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with. So they called the parents of the man now bright-eyed with sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?”

His parents said, “We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he came to see—haven’t a clue about who opened his eyes. Why don’t you ask him? He’s a grown man and can speak for himself.” (His parents were talking like this because they were intimidated by the Jewish leaders, who had already decided that anyone who took a stand that this was the Messiah would be kicked out of the meeting place. That’s why his parents said, “Ask him. He’s a grown man.”)

I find this to be dark, darker than the man being born blind or that the corrupt religious leaders are so hateful to him.

His own parents abandon him.

I don’t think this kind of abandonment happens over night.  I think this shows the character of this man’s parents.  I believe he had been neglected.  He was, after all, begging.  They could have been poor enough to not be able to provide for him—but I think they neglected him.  I think they were disappointed in him, had never wanted him, and didn’t care so much what happened to him as what happened to themselves.

They [the pharisees] called the man back a second time—the man who had been blind— and told him, “Give credit to God. We know this man is an impostor.”

Now this is a hallmark in the story.  The ex-blind man is in real trouble.  The religious leaders could disgrace him, cast him out of the temple for the rest of his life, even have him beaten.  This meeting was no joke.  And he might have by this point known his parents had thrown him to the wolves.

Now where is Jesus as a time like this?  Why doesn’t Jesus appear right here, right now, and rescue him?

Because Jesus knows this is the perfect moment for the ex-blind man to find out he is helpless no longer, and he will never again allow others to trample his soul in the DUST or SPIT on it.

He [the blind man] replied, “I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see.”

Did he know his words would become inspiration for probably the most famous hymn of all time?

No, but he did know this: the darkness in his life was over.

 They said, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

And this is where I just want to jump up to my feet and start applauding like crazy.  Because the ex-blind-man is through with being other people’s trash, inconvenience, or embarrassment.

“I’ve told you over and over and you haven’t listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?”

With that they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.”

And now I want to cheer as I keep applauding. 

The man replied, “This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. If this man didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

Do you see what Jesus has done by not showing back up yet?  He has arranged this entire miracle to give this man the opportunity to receive the attention of his friends and family for once in his life, and then to stand up for himself in front of everyone by the power of Jesus!  The music of Jesus’ love is playing strong as Jesus waits for what will happen next.

They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street.

Being called dirt—I don’t think that was anything new.  Hurtful, yes . . perplexing how he could have had something so marvelous happen and people be so cruel, yes . . angry and wounded that his parents had forked him over to the Pharisees, yes . . but guess who was LOOKING and SEEING as he stood on that street, wondering where to go next?

The ex-blind-man. 

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

How beautiful!!!!!!!! How perfect!!!!!!!!

The first person the blind man sees who hasn’t antagonized him,  betrayed him, handed him over to bad people, or abandoned him is Jesus Christ. 

The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.”

Jesus may have come without His disciples.

Maybe there was hardly a soul around, maybe a few lingering Pharisees (they were certainly there in a few minutes).  After all, the man had just been publicly embarrassed—thrown out of the temple.  If there were onlookers, they probably weren’t kind ones.

Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?”

This has to be one of the most compassionate questions ever asked in the history of the world.

Jesus uses the one way the man could recognize Him to reveal who He is.  He didn’t simply reveal Himself.  He wanted to connect to the man on a wavelength of his heartbeat, which, for a blind man, is sound.

 “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.

Very few people worshiped Jesus before He was raised from the dead.

The ex-blind man was one of them. 

Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”

Oh, don’t think for a second it escaped the ex-blind-man that Jesus was again using the secret language of the blind—but this time to a man who saw both sides.

Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?”

Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”

I love how Jesus has the last word.  Whatever else the Pharisees might have said . . it didn’t matter to the ex-blind man.  Wasn’t important.  Not when Jesus had given him at least three miracles on the same day:

  • He sees.
  • He sees that God sees Him.
  • He sees God.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12b, NIV)

The 33 letters of Kekeli

Children sponsored through Compassion International write their sponsors at least 2 times each year.  In the almost 14 months I have sponsored Kekeli, she has written me 33 letters.

Before I go on, I want to say this is far, far from typical, and no one should ever unsponsor a child because they don’t write often.  That would be something like refusing to feed a child because they’re so malnourished they are not gaining weight.

And now, the 33 letters of Kekeli.  🙂

Below are 33 excerpts from 33 blessings God has given me.  They are not in order.  (I am not a person who keeps things in order.)

  1. “I would like to be a director when I grow up.”
  2. “I’ve never seen a giraffe.”
  3. “When will you visit me?”
  4. “Now, I know your holidays.”   I had written about holidays in America.
  5. “I got shoes for the church and a nice dress.  Do you like this color?”  There was a photograph with the letter!  Her dress was pink.  It is possible to love someone else’s dress and not be the least bit jealous.  I found that out.  (And I wrote her how much I loved her dress.)
  6. “Tell me about your meal “Taco”.”  I was surprised!  I hadn’t told Kekeli anything about tacos.  Apparently, there is information going around Togo that Americans eat tacos!  It’s true, too!  I told Kekeli tacos are originally from Mexico and sent her an picture from the internet with my letter.
  7. “Congratulations!  You have spoken French in your letter.” I have used Google Translate to say things in French to her.  French is the language commonly spoken in Togo.
  8. “You have such a good memory!  Pray for me to have a good memory too.  I will ask mom tell me too the story of my childhood.”  I had shared childhood memories with her.
  9. “My mother showed me his photo.”  Kekeli and I have both lost our fathers, but she lost her father when she was almost too young to remember.  I had shared with her my thoughts about losing my father.  
  10. “I am very glad to be your goddaughter.”
  11. “Here we’re great by the grace of God.”  Kekeli’s mother has struggled with malaria, and in her community, of the adults who find work (half of the adults are unemployed), the average income is $40.  If Kekeli can be great by the grace of God, I know I can.
  12. “Please pray for us, that you and I may see each other face to face one day.  What a joy it will be.”
  13. “Now I read my books often too that I may get ready for the next academic year.”  Kekeli wrote this letter on holiday.
  14. “Greetings to you in Jesus my Savior.”
  15. “Receive God’s peace!”  Kekeli wrote me this as a greeting.  What a greeting!
  16. “Do you have a fiance?”
  17. “It is cold here because of the monsoon.”
  18. “I have never played on a seesaw.”  I had asked her.
  19. “I love you.”
  20. “Basin is a hand tinted cloth in cotton.”
  21. “Jesus is the healer.”
  22. “I will read the verse at home.”  I had sent her a Scripture verse.
  23. “Can you describe to me your Christmas day?”
  24. “At the project center, we sang, danced, and ate very well.”  Kekeli’s Christmas celebration at the Compassion-sponsored center.
  25. “Do you eat rice?”
  26. “I like rabbits so much, as you know.”  I had sent pictures of rabbits.  We love rabbits.
  27. “I love you so much.”
  28. “I will never forget you in my prayers.”
  29. “I will put the stickers in the right place.”  I had sent Kekeli an activity sheet with stickers that were supposed to go in certain spots.  I had written directions in case she was confused.  The seriousness with which she took such a little gift was humbling.
  30. “Every day I am interested in reading the Bible to know God better.” As we began to correspond, Kekeli wrote that her mother rarely went to church.  When I asked if she had a Bible to read, she wrote that she had lost the Bible the Center had given her.  As our correspondence has progressed, I am overjoyed and adore God for the work He is doing in Kekeli’s walk with Him.
  31. “I see in the picture it’s like punched holes.”  She had asked me what a stencil was, when I had written her about stencils in a letter.  I sent her a picture.
  32. “Why is there not fufu there?”  I didn’t have a good answer for this question!  In information about each country where Compassion works there is a recipe.  The Togo recipe included “fufu”.  I had commented on this when I wrote to Kekeli.  She is apparently surprised we do not have fufu here!  Fufu is yams “boiled until they have the consistency of dough”.  I wish we did have fufu!  You can read more here under “Typical Foods”.
  33. “I love Jesus.”

The number one challenge

“That’s the number one challenge: getting over the idea that there’s nothing we can do.”

–Gary Haugen, CEO and President of International Justice Mission (IJM), from DVD Not For Sale on sex trafficking

I don’t ever again want to hear myself think, on any topic of injustice or poverty or ignorance, that there is nothing I can do.

God did not make porcelain dolls.  He made His believers new creations to go out into the world and reach the lost for Christ. There is no darkness that can stand in His way.  We carry His light not only for our own sight, but for the illumination of all around us.

Who will go up against sex trafficking, slavery, abortion, starvation, persecution, domestic abuse, epidemics, homelessness, illiteracy, gangs, corruption?

Jesus!

The question is, Who is going with Him?

I raise my hand and cry out, Me!  Me, Lord!  I will go with You!

“You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. People don’t light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, ISV)

Near or Far

“You know, it was Alexandr Solzhenitsyn who said there are really two standards by which we judge events in the world: Whether they are near or whether they are far.  Even the most catastrophic human suffering can be what he called a tolerable disaster of bearable proportions if it’s far enough away.”

–Gary Haugen, CEO and President of International Justice Mission (IJM), from DVD Not For Sale

Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Slavery–right now.

“What people need to know today is there’s actually more people in slavery in the world today than were extracted from Africa during 400 years of the transAtlantic slave trade.  Most of us just don’t know that.  And so that’s where the fight against slavery actually begins.  Just with ordinary people willing to actually understand it and talk about it.  Change only happens when we’re willing to talk about sometimes the unpleasant things.  A million children taken into forced prostitution new every year around the world.  That’s difficult to think about; hard to talk about.  But that’s where it begins for the ordinary person.”

–Gary Haugen, CEO and President of International Justice Mission (IJM), from DVD Not For Sale

Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Priority

Puppies are cute.  But children last forever.

I see.

No longer do I pour my money into doggy daycare, pompom cuts, high-end dog food, or buying hundreds-of-dollars dogs.  In fact, no longer do I have a dog, not because it’s wrong to have a dog, but because my money was in the exaltation of the puppy above the care of the child.

Ever since I committed my life to Christ, I have seen that my priorities . . were not God’s.  God cares more about the malnourished child in India, the sick child in Thailand, the uneducated child in Nicaragua, the child who wants after-school tutoring in Brazil, the child who wants to stay away from gangs in Kenya, the child who needs water in Tanzania, the child who has never had a celebrated birthday in Bangladesh, the child who needs a medical check-up in Peru, the child who wants to play sports in Guatemala, the orphaned child in Rwanda, the lonely child in America . . than He cares about puppies.

Children have souls.

He [Jesus] sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37, NLT)

__________________________________________________

Photograph by Bordecia, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/habesha/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.