Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So, you want to stir the pot?

I've been a part of a great, local bible study. It has a national office in the mid-west and the bible study serves the US and a few other countries. This study has been so enjoyable because women from all different kinds of denominations participate and there are different levels of biblical knowledge--of course I always LOVE the new believers, they are so refreshing.

It seems that the local leadership team ran into some lying from another bible study leader in our area. This leader was 'cold busted' through an email and from anothers word. It is too long of a story, but the woman who supervises this area was called in from the nat'l office and decided against the process of Matt 18. Our local leadership team, was aghast and dismayed. The final and last word came in September that the team would need to "submit to the authority" of the national office without question. There would be no further discussion period. No mention of Matthew 18.

Of course, being the godly women that they are, they said that if they cannot live by the Word of God and use it to resolve conflicts, there would be no agreement to these conditions.

That was the end of the local chapter of this bible study.

The deeper issues seem to be petty jealousy, gossip and arrogance. My husband and I have been through this ourselves before and it was extremely painful. To see these bible study leaders so hurt-I mean, being a part of the bible study for 10, 20,even 30 years-is so sad. (Some women did write letters to the national leadership to no avail.)

Well, we all figured that 'these things happen, lets see what God has next for each of us'. As sad as it has been, 300+ women moved on.

Fast forward to yesterday. I get a letter from the national office. It is written by the bible study's Board of Trustee's chairman. (they were asked to get involved at one point and refused). The letter was FULL of misinformation and purposeful deception. Ugh.

One of the bible study leaders here sent out a letter to our area. It was addressed to this Board of Trustee chairman and explained that Matthew 18 was NOT followed and that he has only heard one side of the story and has NEVER even ask the leadership team here to find out their side.

I had to write the guy myself. (the names are changed to protect the guilty) Here 'tis:

Dear Mr Smith,

I see that your letter was meant to stir the pot again. That is okay because now I have to write!

Under your weak leadership and lack of living out-and gaining guidance from- the Word of God, this Bible Study chapter has closed. You have allowed Susy to become the untouchable 'sacred cow'. God is not a respecter of persons. This means that when we do wrong, we ALL must make things right again. She and women she supervises have become lying bullies. This, brother, ought not to be. The neat thing about this though is that she can humble herself and follow through with Matthew 18.

I am not sure why following Matthew 18 has become such a sticking point, but I will enlist your help and ask you to make sure that Susy and the women she oversees take care of business. Until this is done I will let my friends know that Bible Study has lost its way.

Also, it would be great if you and your staff wouldn't treat people that go to Bible Study with such condescension. Some of the things that have been done and said, well, it seems that you must think we are novices. It certainly hasn't endeared you to many folks.

It is a shame the way our quality, servant team members have been treated. The sisters here are wonderful and godly women. They are truly out to serve in excellence and are above reproach in their character. It has been heartbreaking to see the pain your staff members have caused. I truly hope you and your ungodly leaders repent. You have all sinned against the whole Sacramento Bible Study chapter.

Until you follow through with the Matthew 18 process, I ask you to remove my name from your mailing list. I would find it too unbearable to read any other mail from you, especially when it ignores such a glaring problem and has swept this kind of ugliness under the rug.



PS I am not so naive as to believe that this letter would elicit any kind of change, yet I had to be one more reminder that you have gone wrong...

Well, as you can see I was fired up while writing this.

Proverb of the day-Don't make the sistahs mad!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Know About Faith in Jesus-Still Learning About the Faith of Jesus

Victor and I spent a great weekend with friends in Las Vegas. Our friends Avi and Kam wanted Victor to come and speak at their synagogue and sell some of his books. Avi used to be the cantor at Mosaic Law here in Sacramento. Now he is serving in Las Vegas. He is mentioned in Victor's book.

I can't tell you how priveledged it is to have these great friends. They welcome us with open arms into their world. Being a Christian my whole adult life, I never knew much about Judiasm. After visiting a few synagogues in different cities, I think I'm getting a better understanding of it-and I have a deep appreciation of it.

I always get a bit anxious before we visit a Jewish community. I know that most folks in each congregation will not be open to hearing from a Christian pastor. I'm almost certain that there have been meetings and debates behind the scenes. Our Christian history has so hurt our 'elder brothers' in the faith that we have to walk very tenderly. Thankfully by the end of Victor sharing CUFI's message, many will be accepting and relieved.

When I go to a Shabbat service, I almost feel like I'm time-traveling. As the Psalms and prayers are sung by everyone, and harmonies are strikng a wonderful chord, I am almost transported into ancient history. I love it! It usually gives me a 'Whoa!' moment.

This weekend it at Beth Sholom, a young man was being Bar Mitzvah'd. He was up on the Beema and you could see the pride in his parents eyes. When he went to the ark and took out the scrolls to walk the aisles, you could feel the love coming at this young man. I always like how, as the scrolls are carried in the aisle, everyone turns to follow it. No one is supposed to have their back to the Word of God.

After he recited what he learned and had given his speech, everyone threw candy at him and then the little children ran up to gather it. Rabbi Felipe gave an encouraging message and charge to the young man. It was a message about helping to make the world a better place. We certainly could use more of that.

Victor sold some books and we made some new friends. Building bridges is a good thing :D

Thanks to Avi, Kam, your children too. We will see you next week at the Night to Honor Israel. Your hospitality is so appreciated and we love you guys!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How to describe...?

Woke up early-5:15am-to get ready for church. It was 3rd Sunday and that means that the whole choir is on to sing. We arrive at Center of Praise to warm-up and go through our set. It is 7am. Warm up time goes great and I am at the mike with Cynthia and Bette'. I confess I was a little bit distracted because I HATED what I was wearing (I am throwing away that dumb skirt!)

After we are warmed up we head downstairs to 'circle-up' and pray. We start first service at 8am. Then we have a 9:30 and 11:15am service. The choir starts with a hymn. Today's was 'Higher Ground'. Then we sang "When You Praise", "To Worship You I Live" and during the offering "Souled Out". I have to clarify something. We are part of the choir, but it isn't a choir that people just sit and listen to. It is more like the choir leads the congregation in song and worship.

Last Sunday, early morning, one of the youth workers was killed in a single car accident-he had fallen asleep at the wheel. The young man was 19 and the only child of his mother. Bishop called the family up to pray for them today. This mother is devastated and there was such tenderness for her. As you can imagine it was a 'moment' and all seemed to be holding their breath. It just felt reverent.

After the prayer the family went back to their seats. Bishop then talked about another young man who was shot 6 years ago while he lived in the Bay area. It seems this young man was walking to the store and some stranger drove by and shot him in the head. He made it clear that this man wasn't into gangs or drugs, he was just running an errand. The doctors thought he wouldn't live 24 hours. His mother asked the COP congregation, where she attended, to pray. Well, this man survived with the bullet lodged in his brain. He was a bit paralyzed on one side, yet he made amazing progress.

Two months ago, he went into surgery again because the bullet was giving him pain. The doctors were able to remove it and the man is becoming whole again! He brought the bullet today (it was in a safe container) and was walking, clapping and dancing! Praise God! He couldn't stop smiling and the whole congregation was caught up in the joy.

All were dancing in their seats, clapping and shouting. The band kept playing and the music took on a life of it's own. It was a great time of praise.

After the services are over, Victor gets a call to come check out the new offices of the Jewish Federation. They are 2 blocks away so we go for a visit. We see some friends that we haven't seen for a while, Michal, Noam, Neal, Fred, Rick and Michelle. That was fun too and, thankfully, they had lunch :D

This, friends, is why I took a 2 hour nap! I was very tired and I still am...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy 21st Anniversary to Us!

Today is our 21st wedding anniversary. Victor and I have been married for what I would call, a long time. We have been through many 'dangers toils and snares' and lots of fun and adventure too. It is a good thing to be married for a long time.

I don't like to think where I'd be if I hadn't married Victor. He isn't like anyone else I know. He says he was raised to be a father and that is absolutely true. I say that he was also raised to be a husband--a good one. Both of his parents poured so much into their kids and they kept a happy home for them.

I hope we have done the same for our children.

Since I like lists, I had to make this one ;D

Reasons I married Victor:

1)He has a great sense of humour.
Sisters, please marry a man that makes you laugh. You will have days where that is SO important.

2)He loves people and always wants to help them.
We have given time, money, counsel, a place to stay, tears and sleepless nights to lots of folks. It has always been worth it no matter what the outcome of our efforts.

3)Victor loves the Lord and strives to live out this love at all times.
When Jesus said "If you love me, then keep my commandments." He takes that seriously.

4)He is always reaching out beyond our world to make friends.
This is a skill that not many people have. Victor has a gift to connect people who need to get to know each other. If someone is sick, he probably knows a doctor who is a specialist for that ailment. If someone has written an important article, he knows who should read it so it gets a wider audience.

5)He is an encourager.
I can't count how many people have crossed our path who have needed a word of encouragement (me especially). There are lots of people who are going through some of the things that we have and it is uncanny how he 'finds' them.

Thanks honey for everything. Thanks honey for being you!

Whoa, that sounded corny.
...oh well...<3

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Oh, How He Moves the Furniture!

So, after I wrote about 'why can't I just love people?' God pleasantly reminded me of so many reasons why I have GREAT neighbors.

Yes, there some good things that have happened in my 'hood.

A few years ago, our neighborhood was thrown into panic when one of the little boys fell out of the 2nd story window onto concrete steps below. Another neighbor came running and told me that he thought the boys neck was broken and how he told the mother to keep him still. By the time I got there, the boy was in his mothers arms crying and they were waiting for the ambulance. We told the family that we were praying to Jesus to heal him.

We went to the hospital later in the day and brought a couple of the older boys, Matloub and Garhib. We talked to the father and gave him a balloon for the boy. The boy was going to be fine. He broke his arm and it would be in a cast.

On the way home, the two older boys asked Victor "Is Mohammad going to live?" "Is it because because you prayed?" Victor told him "Yes, it is because I prayed and asked Jesus to let Mohammad live."

We don't preach to the kids, but we are always honest with our answers to their questions.

I'm thankful that because of my neighbors presence, we don't have many strangers that walk down our street. I think that they see so many Muslim men, it kind of stops a lot of nonsense that could potentially happen.

The young boys in our neighborhood are such hard workers. Their parents have given them such a great work ethic. (Immigrants are inspiring-living the American Dream) Whenever people are doing yard work or painting or, even, delivery guys that are bringing someone a new refrigerator--they want to help. A few weeks ago two of the very young ones, 3 years old or so, came to our door and knocked. Victor answered the door and the two boys giggled and asked if he had any work for them. Victor chuckled and told them "No, I don't have any work for you kids." They kept giggling and ran off back home.

Katie is a young mom who has 3 kids and one on the way. She said that before she and her husband moved in, they didn't have interactions with so many different kinds of people. She mentioned that when her kids say something about the 'Pakistani kids' she has made it a rule that her kids mention them by name. It certainly made me stop in my tracks. I have to say that there are so many 'Pakistanis' that I don't know every ones name and I've been too lazy to learn them! Shame on me!

I've been overwhelmed with the neat things God has done on our street. He has been reminding me of so much. Too much to put down tonight. I feel so petty and small-minded with what I wrote in my previous post. Yet I'm glad I put it down so I could see my own foolishness. Wow, I wasted precious 'thinking time' on such dumb stuff!

Well, I can learn and I'm grateful that God hasn't given up on me. I want to get better and better. Those rough edges can get smooth if I surrender. Sometimes I am a crusty one...

Thank You God for 'moving the furniture' of my heart.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Can't I Just Love People?

Our family moved to this house in August of 1996. We had just gotten back from a tour of Israel. While there we'd see different sites and many times our guide would say something like "This place is sacred to the Jews, but they can't go there now because the Muslims have put a mosque on it." or "This site is holy to Christians, but the Muslims have put a graveyard on it so you can't go there." It left me wondering 'who are these Muslim people?'

The first day we move in we see, you guessed it, Muslim people in our neighborhood! Right next door too. One of the men says "Aren't you Victor?" He had met Victor at Lou Anne's house. They are her neighbors and she has been phenomenal at reaching out to this family over the years.

I've had sort of a rocky relationship with our neighbors. I tell you it has been tough sometimes. The first thing was they brought over some food and we thanked them. I reciprocated with an apple crisp. When I dropped it off the husband kept asking me what was in it. I told him everything and wondered what was going on. Later I learned that they can't have anything with vanilla extract because it has alcohol in it and they aren't allowed alcohol.

It didn't take a genius to figure out that they probably threw it away. I was bummed.

There have been a lot of misunderstandings over the years:
*The staring. Yes, there is lots of staring that I find so uncomfortable-even when I'm in my own backyard.
*Kids playing in the street. Even the tiniest are right out in the street without parents in sight.
*Putting their leaf pile in front of our house. I truly find that odd. (and rude)
*When I would take some of the women to appts. they wouldn't knock on my door. They would always call and go out to my car. Never at my doorstep. It definitely made me feel like they thought we were 'unclean'.
*Sometimes the boys won't talk to me. I find out later it is because I am a woman. Yet they sure will come over and play movies in our teen center.

You get the picture. God has tested my heart many times and I fail most of the time with these neighbors. It seems like it is a little better though. The mood is shifting.

I was thinking of Paul the Apostle and how he was designated to preach to the Gentiles. Man! He must have run into all kinds of cats with every kind of belief. Yet he loved those people. It wasn't any kind of big deal to him. He moved throughout the ancient world and served God wholeheartedly in the midst of all kinds of gods, ethnicities, living conditions, violence, imprisonment, brutality--I get convicted just thinking about it.

Well, I will ask, like Paul, and say "Remember me when you pray."