Friday, August 10, 2007

Beauty for ashes, hope for despair

As I look out my window at a beautiful lawn mowed last night by my husband, enjoying the shade tree in the front yard and the peaceful, quiet street we live on, as I sit and write freely on a computer with a high-speed connection in a country where I don't have to edit my words... my mind is thousands of miles away. I am thinking of you ... and you ... and you ... and the struggles you are facing. I'm thinking of what you see when you look around. I'm thinking of those of you who can't go out of town because of the threat of violence. I'm thinking of you whose computers are broken or who wait for the electricity to come up in order to access the internet at a very slow rate. I'm thinking of everything I take for granted every day, and everything I complain about, and how it pales in comparison to your lives and ministries.

And I love you for it.

I love you because you don't have to be there, not a single one of you. I love you because I know how easy it is to rationalize: I'll go when the kids are grown, when I retire, when I marry, when I'm a widow. I'll go where it's safe, where it's more like home, where the language is normal, where they actually like people from my country. I love you because I know that what I call sacrifice is nothing compared to what you have given up to be there, and because I know that you wouldn't trade places with me for anything (well, not permanently anyway - though you might for a weekend especially when it's 120 degrees in the shade).

I've told you before that I know you have feet of clay, that you struggle and are learning the same lessons I'm learning. I know you don't idealize your country any more than I idealize mine. But as I come face to face with some of the harder truths in the New Testament, the truths about mission and compromise and suffering and persecution, I realize afresh how important it is that you are out there doing the thing. You are still my heroes.

As you look around and wonder if you are making a difference, please know that you are ... you are making a difference in the Body of Christ as I learn from every email and every newsletter you send, as that gets filtered into my life and my church. You are making a difference where you are as well, bringing light to the darkness. I leave you with the words from Isaiah 61 that became Jesus' own description of His ministry when He taught in the temple (Luke 4) - and my own reflection on the passage.

May God bless you today. I love you!

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,and the day of vengeance of our God;to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,the oil of gladness instead of mourning,the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;that they may be called oaks of righteousness,the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins;they shall raise up the former devastations;they shall repair the ruined cities,the devastations of many generations.
Isa. 61:1-4

Beauty for ashes, hope for despair
What do you see, Lord, when you look over there?
The world calls it hopeless, or claims it's okay
That the darkness seems to hold such a sway.

Oil of gladness, garment of praise
When, oh, when, will their voices raise
In praise to You, Lord, to call you by name?
What will it sound like on that great day

When my voice and theirs, heart languages
Lifting up to Your throne in unity singing?
Let me see it Lord, Your eyes not mine
Oaks for Your glory, in Your perfect time.

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