“God, if you are good, why don’t you rid the world of illness and death?”

So He did.

No one grew ill, no one died. Like “Tuck Everlasting.”

And the world was a better place. But not fully.

Millions were jobless – doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, researchers, professors, funeral home directors . . .

Those in prison for life suffered behind bars forever. Those who were abused had no respite. Crime increased.

“God, if you are good, why don’t you rid the world of crime?”

So He did.

He removed the drug dealers and traffickers and pimps, the murderers and perjurers and all other criminals.

And the world was a better place. But not fully.

There was still physical and sexual abuse in the home and between hurting friends.

“God, if you are good, why don’t you rid the world of physical and sexual abuse?”

So He did.

He removed every man, woman and child who hurt others physically or took advantage of them sexually.

And the world was a better place. But not fully.

Anger still fumed from people’s hearts. Abusive speech still ruined lives and relationships.

“God, if you are good, why don’t you rid the world of anger?”

So He did.

He removed every person who pierced hearts with bitter words, who turned away with calculated coldness, who entertained an angry thought.

No one remained. The world was empty.

“No, no, God, this can’t be the solution! Please restore the world.”

So He did.

“But what is the answer, God?”

“Choose love,” He said. “Choose love instead of anger. Choose love instead of abuse. Choose to love those who have committed crimes, for love is powerful to break the chains of injustice. Choose to love the sick and the dying. Choose to love, and you will be healthier and live longer.

“Choose my love,” He said. “Through the power of my Son.”

So I did.

And the world is a better place.

——————————

Note: This is sixth in a series based on the Fruit of the Spirit. Goodness, too, is an outworking of Love–the Father’s love for us, and our love for others.

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Not cozy complacency or comfortable cowardice,
         But complete consecration and costly courage.
Not sleepy safety or simpering self-indulgence,
         But radical risk-taking and releasing rights.

It does not throw in the towel,
         But carries it humbly and serves with it sacrificially.
It does not force others to suffer the weight of its cross,
         But bears its own cross with integrity.
It does not exercise power or strangle freedom,
         But knows that true love empowers and releases.

It controls itself,
         Not others.
                  It serves others,
                           Not itself.

It hears the call of duty
         And works with willingness.
It listens to the cry of others’ need
         And helps with diligence.
It turns its ear toward the whisper of others’ desire
         And fulfills it with delight.

Kindness has learned that in Christ,
         Brokenness is wholeness,
         To lose our life is to find it, and
         In weakness is true strength.

Note: This is fifth in a series based on the Fruit of the Spirit. Kindness, too, is an outworking of Love–the Father’s love for us, and our love for others.

“Maya* is moving to Turkey to marry a man she met only a few weeks ago,” said my daughter. “She was there for 12 days, and this 31-year-old guy she had never met before proposed to her. She said yes!”

The story reeked of human trafficking. A 19-year-old girl from a Central Asian country longs to escape to a better life. Her sister takes her to Turkey for a short vacation. At her sister’s friend’s friend’s house, she meets a man who speaks kindly to her. They meet a few more times, and he promises her a good life as his wife. She grabs the chance to go abroad, to have a brighter future.

If it is indeed human trafficking, when she arrives there he’ll take her passport and money and hand her over to his cohorts. They’ll rape and humiliate her, then send her to a brothel in Turkey or another country. She’ll be a slave.

We invited Maya to our home for lunch and a movie before she left.

“We’re showing you this movie, Human Trafficking, because we’re concerned that you might be getting into a similar situation,” I said.

Human Trafficking is about a teenage girl from the Ukraine, a single mom from the Czech Republic, a child from the Philippines, and a 12-year-old girl from America, all trafficked into sex slavery. The Czech woman’s story is disturbingly similar to Maya’s.

We paused the movie because Maya was texting. “My boyfriend insists I always let him know where I am. Wherever I go in the day, I text him soon after I arrive,” she said.

My daughter and I exchanged glances. Maya was already under his control!

After the movie, Maya said, “I’ll be very careful in Turkey to stay away from Russian men, or anyone else who seems suspicious.” Her voice was shaking.

“I’m afraid you could be trafficked like the Czech woman in the movie,” I said. “If you are trafficked, please never give up hope. But even if you aren’t trafficked, you could end up in a really bad marriage.”

“Men in Turkey are different than here. He’ll be good to me,” she replied. I said I wasn’t so sure.

“Why don’t you wait for a year – get to know him better?” I suggested. “If he really loves you he’ll wait for you.”

“I know he loves me,” she said, smiling shyly.

We prayed and hugged and then she was gone.

Gone. She couldn’t wait.

————————————

*not her real name

Note: This is fourth in a series based on the Fruit of the Spirit. Patience, too, is an outworking of Love–the Father’s love for us, and our love for others.

"Here, God, please take this burden"

Can there be peace in uncertainty? What about when God’s plans seem overwhelming?

In 1997 we were considering ministry in a western Hungarian city of 86,000 people. We had heard that the city housed several cult groups and was known as the witchcraft capitol of Hungary.

I felt like we were walking into a thick fog of unknowns. Would it be hard to start a church there? What struggles and opposition would we face? How would our children be affected?

When I received the final word that we would be moving to that city, I felt like a heavy weight fell on my shoulders.

“What are we getting into?” I asked myself. “How can my husband and I, just two little people, hope to reach a whole city for Christ?”

The burden weighed so heavily on me that I did then what I have done before with burdens that I can’t carry alone. I figuratively took the burden in my hands, and I offered it up to God.

“Here God, please take this burden,” I said. “It’s too heavy for me to carry. Will you take it, please?”

I felt like He took it from me, and I was relieved.

But then He gave it back!

“God, what are you doing?” I cried out. “I gave you this burden because it was too heavy for me. Why are you giving it back? I can’t bear it!”

I noticed then that His hands were under mine, bearing the weight of the burden. And I felt His peace.

Note: This is third in a series based on the Fruit of the Spirit. Peace, too, is an outworking of Love–the Father’s love for us, and our love for others.

Alexander had a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. Some days are like that. Even in Canada.

It started at breakfast when I was cutting a cinnamon-raisin bagel and I cut my finger instead. I bandaged my wound and headed to the grocery store. As I wheeled my cart through the fresh produce section, my watchband broke and my watch fell to the floor. I picked up the pieces, stuffed them into my purse, and then bought what I thought were seedless grapes. They weren’t. They were full of slippery seeds that I had to remove, one by one, before I could give them to my preschool children.

Because we were new in town, it was time for my first trip to the hairdresser. I sank into the chair and closed my eyes. Finally I could relax. As the assistant lathered and rinsed my hair, I felt the tension of the morning wash away.

The hairdresser then pinned up some of my thick brown hair and started to cut the undermost layer. She froze. Gingerly, meticulously, she separated the strands. She called over another hairdresser and they spoke in hushed, urgent tones. She turned to me with the verdict: “There are nits in your hair, ma-am.”

I walked out of the hair salon feeling like I had one of Moses’ plagues. I imagined the lice jeering at me as they pranced on my increasingly itchy head.

After finding nits in my husband’s hair, I checked my two-year-old’s and found none. I called the school to have my four-year-old’s hair checked, and she was clear. Then I washed all our linens and asked my husband to buy lice shampoo. He bought the shampoo and on the way home picked up our computer from the repair shop. $516.33 for the  repairs!

I called my mother-in-law and told her about the lice. Meanwhile, my two-year-old pulled off his filthy diaper and placed it carefully in the garbage can. Then he happily played in his room, leaving stinky brown stains all over his carpet and bed.

As I poured water into my glass at lunch, the lid fell off the pitcher. Water gushed all over the table, my soup, the floor and me. I cleaned up everything and then ate cold, tasteless soup.

After lunch I lathered my hair with lice shampoo and got in the shower to wash it off. No hot water. I quickly rinsed my hair in icy water.

That evening was a long-awaited date night with my husband. As I tried to enjoy my steak and baked potatoes, all I could think about was the lice in our hair feasting on us.

Where is joy on days like this? I can’t escape my problems, but I can choose to be thankful instead of complaining. I can be thankful for bagels and grapes and grocery stores, for hairdressers and lice shampoo and nit-free kids, for a computer to use, for a mother-in-law who listens, for soup to eat, for running water, and for a loving husband who takes me on special dates. Thankfulness turns even the most terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days into opportunities for joy.

Note: This is second in a series based on the Fruit of the Spirit. Joy is an outworking of Love–the Father’s love for us, and our love for others.

On sunny, clear days, I ride high on Father’s shoulders. I clap my hands and sing for joy as He carries me through unfamiliar, exciting territory. He guides my willing hands, skillfully works through them, and delights in my delight at His creativity. Feeling the gentle breeze caress my face, I close my eyes, stretch my hands up in the warm rays of the sun, and shout with joy, “All is well! Praise the Lord! He is good!”

When heavy rain beats down on me, when I am cold and wet, and darkness oppresses me, I put my arms around Father’s neck and cling to Him for warmth and protection. I hide my face in His chest so the pelting rain won’t sting me. The dark clouds close in around me and the wind whips the clothes on my back, but I am not afraid. Father is much stronger than I am and will carry me through the storm. I snuggle close to Him and learn from His heartbeat and His gentle whispers in my ear. Though my voice is feeble, it cuts like lightning through the storm: “All is well! Praise the Lord! He is good!”

Note: I’m starting a series based on the Fruit of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control), with each fruit as an outworking of Love–the Father’s love for us, and our love for others.

"I am Loved"

When Mommy found out I was in her tummy, she was SO excited! She told Daddy and Grandpa and Grandma and many, many others. They were so happy, too!

My mommy was excited, but just because it meant she would be given a little more food, and wouldn’t be treated as harshly. My daddy didn’t find out for a long time, and when he did, he didn’t care. I don’t have a grandpa or grandma, and my mommy has no friends.

When I was born, Mommy dressed me in a frilly pink dress, wrapped me in Grandma’s crocheted blanket, and laid me in a pink bassinet. My bedroom is so pretty, with pictures of bunnies and teddy bears on the wall, and lots of receiving blankets, diapers, wet wipes, stuffed animals, rattles, and other fun toys all around.

My mommy wrapped my skinny newborn body in a rough brown blanket, then a lady took me away to the prison’s baby house. I only see Mommy twice a day – in the morning for two hours and in the evening for two hours. They used to let babies stay with their mommies in the prison cells until one mommy killed her baby. Now we have to live in the baby house. I don’t have anything pretty or soft except for Mommy, when she visits me. She is beautiful, but she always looks so sad.

Daddy really loves Mommy. When he hugs her they both smile. And he hugs me gently and smiles at me, too.

My daddy visits Mommy three times a year. He stays for a few days and hugs Mommy a lot, especially at night. But neither of them smile.

Sometimes Mommy’s friends come for tea. They chat and laugh and hold me and talk to me in funny baby talk. I love Mommy’s friends.

Lots of times other ladies come to my mommy and hug her and touch her in ways that make me sad. I cry and cry. My mommy cries, too.

Mommy dresses me up pretty and takes me for walks in the stroller. I love seeing tall trees and colorful flowers, and hearing birds sing.

What is a stroller? A flower? I see the bare prison yard, the sky, and one tree. I hear angry voices, screams, yells. Sometimes they hurt me, and I scream, too. I miss my Mommy. Nobody cares. Nobody.

+++++++++++++++
“How Can I Help?”

Babies born in Central Asian women’s prisons live there until they are three years old. Then they are sent to relatives or to an orphanage. Of the children who grow up in orphanages, 40% become criminals, 40% become drug abusers, and 10% commit suicide.

You can support a ministry to the moms and 40 babies presently in one Central Asian women’s prison in the following way:

Give online through the C&MA Canada website

  • At the bottom of the “Funding” page, click on the “Donate Now” icon
  • Fund/Designation: Choose “Other”
  • Message/Instructions: Write “Transformation House in Central Asia”

OR Send checks to:

  • The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, 30 Carrier Dr. Suite 100, Toronto, ON M9W 5T7.
  • Designate gifts to “Transformation House in Central Asia.”