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Saturday, August 23, 2014

An Experiement of Grace: Confessions of a Woman in Waiting

My family and I recently laughed at how the synapses in my brain are so weirdly configured. Manifestation: I characteristically over-react to miniscule things and under-react to mighty ones.

Proof Set #1) A- Family fails to call me to dinner. I waltz downstairs to the horror of them seated and enjoying their meal without me: “Of course they would exclude me. They don’t like me, after all. I am unloved, unwanted, undesirable.” Ego wounded, I seek refuge at the gym, and nurse the grief of being unwanted for hours later… B- I am 12, and reading in the passenger seat of our Aerostar as we drive over the Potomac. On the bridge I am temporarily jolted when Mamma rear-ends an elderly woman. Over ambulance sirens, which arrive to quickly transport the old lady to the ER, I give testimony to the events to Daddy on the phone: “Mamma just bumped into the car in front of us. Mamma is overreacting, and everyone’s making a big deal about it.” Our van is towed, the front third caved into itself. My parents spend thousands of dollars not on cosmetics, but to make the thing drivable again.

Proof Set #2) A- Small challenges (at least that’s how the majority of the populace quantifies them, so to the majority I defer), like how to execute a day’s To Do List, paralyze me. Frequently. (Full confession: it’s often a paralysis which might easily germinate into a panic attack.) B- Big challenges (again, so called by most human beings, I adopt the label), on the other hand, like caring for 26 orphaned kids after a natural disaster in a third world country, propel and motivate me.

My family’s laughter exposed that I am a disproportionate over-and-under-reactor. It’s like my brain in its developmental stages missed the memo that “hard” means Hard and “small” means Brush-it-Off, No Big Deal. Reacting “normally” to small things, to big things, to easy, and to hard things, is ab-normal for me.

So last week happens, the aftermath of 1.2 million displaced persons (LINK) outrunning a maniacal and bloodthirsty foe, landing upon the pieces of earth whereon I was to spend this next year living and laboring and loving. The past two years of my life have been invested into preparations to Go but my departure date passed I am here, not there, and my reaction has been--- ??

I am slowly realizing that I have, characteristically, under-reacted to my present set of circumstances. The proof is that I see myself walking back into old dead-end patterns of living. Driving in circles through ruts of criticism and ingratitude, flinging mud from these worn tires onto the people I most love. Running away from intimacy to my fortress of Isolation, the safest place wherein I can feed my own selfishness. (And on the topic of food, Yes, that specter from my past also haunts dangerous (, with a magnetism that stimulates my amnesia to resist resistance.) I see myself aggrandizing small things, floundering on where my value lies, questioning if God really loves me, and considering if trusting Him is really rational.

I am realizing that now having no plan but to wait and pray is a very hard plan to successfully execute. I am realizing that it’s hard to be 30 and back living in my parent’s home, indefinitely. That it’s hard to have no defined work, and no income, and no car, and no end in sight. That it’s hard to live within a loosely defined community when the one I left and the one I anticipated were proximate, immediate, and intimate. I am realizing that it’s hard.

Why admit I’m struggling? Why pull off the veil of my under-and-over-reactions? Hopefully, it’s not to elicit your pity (although I wouldn’t put it past me). The reason I write is because I believe there’s a more redemptive utility for my personal failures and irrational reactions.

I know that many friends are praying for me. Thank you. Let my confessions remind you that I need it!

From my thoughtful cousin, Erin Ducan: “I love this quote from Oswald Chambers and hope it encourages you: "When God puts the dark of "nothing" into our experience, it is the most positive something He can give us. If you do anything now it is sure to be wrong, you have to remain in the centre of nothing, and say 'thank you' for nothing. It is a very great lesson, which few of us learn, that when God gives us nothing it is because we are inside Him, and by determining to do something we put ourselves outside Him." - from Not Knowing Wither. OC is discussing darkness that comes after God gives us a vision of His purpose!”

In this Nothing, what could God possibly be doing? I'm considering this an Experiment of Grace...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kurdistan Departure Update: Hurry up and Wait

President Barak Obama “said there's ‘no doubt’ the Islamic State's advance on Irbil ‘has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates’" reports the AP (Los Angeles Times, 9 August, 2014). The advancement of ISIS/the IS north, east, and west from Mosel has been a blitzkrieg of a kind. A month before, when Mosel had freshly fallen to the IS, a noted military analyst had half a dozen reasons why this extreme terrorist group once associated with al Qaida, but now their own entity (al Qaida kicked them out of their terrorist organization for being too mean) would not move on Kurdistan. Though war would be a neighborhood away, the analysis seemed sound and I bought my tickets, feeling confident that yesterday I would wave goodbye to Mamma and Daddy en route to my new job in a new, Middle Eastern home.

But then Sunday happened and all the days in between: the IS’s movement outpaced military intelligence, analysis, and estimates. It made a tactically shocking turn, pushing towards Kurdistan through invading smaller minority villages on its march for the Kurdish capitol of Erbil. First hesitant, Monday a phone call with my sending organization confirmed my original confidence. Tuesday I wrestled fears through preparation busyness and by rehearsing the Journey up to this point. Then Wednesday the email prompted the text message which directed the call that delivered the message: The IS is on Erbil’s border. You’re on standby. We’re keeping you stateside. Numb Thursday, and glued to Al Jazeera reports and Facebook updates. Friday my tickets were cancelled. As Kurds fight for sovereignty, Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis seek asylum, and American/coalition fighter jets drop death and hope, respectively, I’m grounded in Indiana indefinitely.

Within my personal narrative God has done a few things over the past three weeks that make this turn of events very confusing. They are here enumerated: 1) He provided for my financial support to teach in Kurdistan this year 100%. 2) He surprised me with a church family who has not only loved me throughout this long Indiana summer but has also taken specific interest in the work I am to do at CSM. Last Sunday afternoon they sent me off with prayers, encouragement, and gifts. 3) He recently invited me into a hard conversation that finally severed my last tie to Sacramento, the tie that has mostly distracted my focus, scattered my thoughts, and maddened my soul. After this conversation, I was a free woman, smiling at the future, no looking back: On Sunday I was flying to Kurdistan, ALL IN!!!

In the mountains of Sinjar tonight the Islamic State surrounds anywhere between 50,000 to 150,000 Iraqi civilians. The IS wants one thing: death to these ‘un-submitted ones,’ the Yazidis, a peaceful religious minority. Death to the old women, bent with wisdom and the labor of years; death to the teenagers, knowing more than their parents; death to the babies unborn in wombs of their young mothers; death to professionals and shepherds, mechanics, bakers, priests and teachers, death. That is what this advancing horde promises to all non-conformists. The Yazidis have taken refuge in these mountains since fleeing their homes last Sunday. Temperatures during the day reach as high as 120 degrees and, until Saturday’s first humanitarian airdrops, they had no water.

Erbil swells with Mosel’s refugees. Christians who would not wait to see if the IS could truly be pacified by a tax from the unconverted have flooded the city. Mosques, churches and even open-air public parks are better shelters for these persecuted ones than the false promise of protection through paying the jizya; it is being reported that Christians who stayed in Mosel are being hung; their children “systematically beheaded;” the young women forced into slavery. ( Servant Group is partnered with the Classical School of the Medes, where I was to teach. Through this partnership, we are able to get much-needed funding to the churches in Erbil. These churches, coordinating with the city of Erbil, are the hands and feet meeting the needs of these refugees: food, water, bedding, and spiritual support. You can give directly to this relief effort:

Christians, thank you for praying for Iraq. Let’s keep praying.

Terrorists advancing on a civilized people, kids starving in the mountains, old women collapsing with thirst, cities swelling with refugees. God seeing all, getting His hands dirty, in favor of the imprisoned, not forgetting. Please don’t forget them. And I am not too small. You are not over-taxed, spent, exhausted to ignore me, or think me unimportant while engaged in the life-destiny of thousands. So I ask, Meet with me? Give me the same guidance I needed yesterday? Refresh me and satisfy my agitated spirit, limited body?

I needed to remind myself that, in the shadow of prayers for the horrors happening in real-time a world away, the petitions I have to God for His help today are no less significant; He still welcomes my needy cry for His guidance and favor and I still need to ask. I and fellow SGI teachers must re-evaluate God’s invitation for the Now. We’re in a holding period, waiting for further marching orders on a Call we all answered months ago in our hearts. What to do in the interim? Christians, thank you for praying with us.

In these early hours of this conflict God’s little and large providences are yet to be uncovered. Let’s hunt for them together. It’s likely we can’t transcribe them all, but here are the few that, from within my own little narrative, I’ve discovered thus far:

…The internal intelligence of our partners on the ground worked. Because of their connectedness and decisive action my leaders were able to make the call sooner than later.

…The timing of these events and my and other teachers’ travel plans: very thankful none of us got there only to turn back around. Or, got stuck somewhere in between here and there. What a kind protection by God of our limited resource$.

…Our travel agent’s assistance to cancel the tickets; a decision made quickly, again, which saved both time and money.

…My church immediately forwarding my email about the change of plans last week: many people began praying for Kurdistan before it made the headlines.

…A hang up Tuesday of last week in the processing of my international medical insurance application after weeks of tangoing unsuccessfully with my agent prevented the policy from being accepted; yet another provision and HUGE conservation of funds.

…My sister was able to finish her final college paper yesterday instead of, sacrificially, seeing me off to the airport.

…Because of my connection to Kurdistan I see amongst my personal contacts, family, and friends a greater interest in the work God is doing there and a more defined fervor to pray for this region and the decision makers who rule it.

I thank God for President Obama’s decision to take action on behalf of Iraq’s persecuted minorities. And with our president I also agree: “U.S. troops can't bring peace to Iraq. ‘We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there's not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There's going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support,' he said” (Los Angeles Times, 9 August, 2014). Well, mostly, I agree with you, Mr. President. I believe the solution that the Middle East waits for, that the whole world unknowingly craves, is a divine one. A Jesus Solution.

My friend and former CSM teacher writes:

“I do not know what God will do to redeem this or how he is using it to work in the hearts of the people. Some have had visions of a hope that Kurdistan is becoming a pool or reservoir of the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit will rain down on the Kurds until it overflows into the nations surrounding. This is my prayer; that the persecution of Christians in Iraq will spread the gospel just like the persecution of believers in the early church. So pray.”

To pray informed, three excellent Facebook groups I recommend that you follow are:

-Humans of New York: poignant photojournalism and the best use of social media I've encountered

-Unicef Iraq: up-to-date reports of on-the-ground relief efforts

-Servant Group International: veteran servants to Middle Eastern minorities

There are many reports reverberating throughout cyberspace on the situation unfolding in northern Iraq. Be sensible, not sensational, and keep praying!

Indiana corn grows lush. We pray that in the Middle East, God is preparing for another kind of harvest.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Departure Plans on Hold

My plans to leave for Iraq are currently on hold. Continue to pray for Iraq and for the decision-makers whose choices affect the situation there. More to come soon.