Living Behind the Veil

I'm often asked what I wear in Afghanistan and what it's like to wear a veil. It's freedom. Freedom to have a bad hair day, freedom to arrange my chadar to conceal the curve of my breasts and backside, freedom to not be an expatriate for a little while. It means freedom to hide even on the street from the Afghan men's eyes which seem to strip me naked.
When I relax my shoulders and walk less purposefully, less confidently, my eyes downcast and covered by sunglasses, I pass for an Afghan woman. I hear the men whisper in Dari, "Is she a foreigner or local woman?" I chuckle but am silent. On the street, I'm also a free target....freely exposed to groping, sexual innuendos whispered to me as a man bicycles by, free to have stones thrown at me, freely seen as no one's wife, daughter, sister, mother, friend, or boss. I step inside my gate, and remove my chapan and chadar. Now I'm someone's boss, motherhood returns to me as little steps run to greet me, and I receive a kiss from my adoring husband. Now I'm free to his loving and gentle eyes which know and enjoy my curves, free to once again be under the protective umbrella of being a wife, mother, friend, colleague, boss, niece, sister, daughter, woman.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Broken on the Wheels of Living

Sometimes, God does not answer the cry of our heart. We think the pain we experience means we are either in sin or need psychotherapy.

Could it be instead we are experiencing the very same pain Jesus experienced at some point in his short life on earth? 

Could it be our pain mirrors the pain in His heart, and thereby the pain of our Father's heart?

Anger, grief, sadness, weariness, loneliness, disappointment - these are all emotions He felt.

Wilder's play (1) demonstrates the spiritual reality of John 5 - the healing at the Pool of Bethesda.

The doctor wants to get in to the pool to relieve his melancholy and depression, but the Angel will not allow him.

The Angel says,
Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very remorse that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.
Those who are aware of their woundedness and willingness to work through the pain are people the Miracle Maker can work with. Those who are unwilling or unaware of their need to sit in the dirt on the side of the road and beg the passing Nazarene, "Jesus, Son of David, Have mercy on me," diminish their usefulness to the Master.

  • He uses us despite our pain and wounds.
  • He heals us through our pain and woundedness.
  • He is glorified in our pain and wounds.

This is a spiritual principle as old as time and writing itself. Job 36:15 teaches,

"He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity."

Martin Smith also wrote about this in his song, "Miracle Maker."

I'm waiting here for my life to change,
When the waters stir you can rearrange me.
Just one touch is all I need,
I've nothing much but the wounds I feel,
I'm looking for the hand of the miracle man.

Holy, you are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Holy, you are holy, Saviour, Healer,
I'm standing at the feet of the miracle maker.

I'm holding on, with your life in mine,
Living water's come,
And you've rearranged me.

Holy you are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Holy, you are holy,
Saviour, healer,
I'm staring in the face of the miracle maker.

Holy, you are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Jesus, precious Jesus,
Thank you, Saviour,
I'm walking in the shoes of my miracle maker.
I'm standing with the faith of a miracle maker.

Written by Delirious? ©2005 Curious? Music UK

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, 
which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 
In these lay a great multitude of invalid folk – blind, halt, withered 
– waiting for the moving of the water. 
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water.  
Whosoever then first stepped in, after the troubling of the water, 
was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."
(John 5: 12-14 NASB)

(1) The Angel That Troubled the Waters (A short play by Thornton Wilder)

The Meaning of How We Meet Death

When one is called to risk for Christ's sake, how we meet death is a sign of how we have met life.

There are those who seem to think it is enough to simply exist and persevere in a high risk situation, that in persevering we have become spiritually noble or spiritual heroes.

The non-suffering Church naively heralds such people. 

There are those who seem to think that risking anything for Christ means we have become someone we are not.

There are those who "market" for the sake of money or influence the death of people who have died in risk, who indeed were foolish and did not live day-to-day in their relationships in a way that glorifies God.

It takes real discernment to understand the meaning of our life--and potential death--when in a high-risk situation.

"There is meaning beyond absurdity [or chaos]. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power...Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art."(1)

So what is the meaning?

We cannot choose the biggest death, the one that most glorifies God, if we are not choosing on a day-to-day basis in our most ignoble or non-seen moments that which glorifies God and demonstrates His kindness to those around us.

From the team members who cannot get along, the one who "never forgave and never respected" the leader, from the husband who abuses his wife, to those who criticize, slander and withhold approval - these are not qualities that lead to a Christ-exalting life nor a Christ-exalting death.

  • We meet death well when we live sacrificially, when we don't live in a place of mourning or silence but of praise and indebtedness to a God who bled for us and who died to break the power of death over us. 
  • We meet death well when we continue serving Him, loving Him, even when we want to walk away, when the pain or the potential pain in risk (or in life) seems too great. 
  • We meet death well when we give all of our heart to love others well, even when misunderstood, slandered, and judged, just as He was. 
 When we meet death with a sense of wonder, praise, indebtedness on our lips, our death--and our life--has the highest meaning possible. When we meet death knowing that our life is part of God's life on this earth, that we have brought His presence to others, when we live in a constant state of awareness of the holy dimension of living, then our our death glorifies God the greatest. 

(1) Abraham Heschel, "I Asked For Wonder" and in interview with NBC.

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Philosophy of Risk

In situations of cross-cultural risking one's life for the sake of Christ, words becoming supremely
significant. Words bring unity or condemn. Words breathe courage or judge. Words reveal pride and self-righteousness or humility and servanthood.

"Words are themselves sacred, God's tool for creating the universe and our tools for bringing holiness--or evil--into the world.

Evils like the Holocaust do not begin with crematorias, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with languages and propaganda.

Words create worlds.

They must be used very carefully. Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity, and can never be withdrawn." (1)  

 "Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.
 Proverbs 18:21 The Message

Words are in grave danger of becoming meaningless.
"One of the results of the rapid de-personalization of our age is a crisis of speech, profanation of language. Language has been reduced to labels, talk has become double-talk. We are in the process of losing faith in the reality of words.."(2)
...the strength of words reveals inner power. Inner power is strengthened through patient, discerned, waiting. Waiting does not come easy, but comes by day in, day out persevering faith, by cultivated faith attitudes of the heart.
"Uttered faith must come out as a surplus of silence, as the fruit of lived faith, of enduring intimacy." (2)

For example, some think that Genesis 1:1-2 are words of information to tell us how the earth began. But "the Biblical words about the genesis of heaven and earth are not words of information but words of appreciation. The story of creation is not a description of how the world came into being but a song about the glory of the world's having come into being." (3) 

The first 20 Hebrew words of the Torah are a million prisms shining light on so many aspects of existence, both of God and ourselves. These words are more than information, they transcend their literal meaning and define our reason for being. These words still exist because the universe still exists, because we exist. God is not dead, despite what some would have us believe.

This means that the moments of risk are to be discerned.  And when we discern we have the honor to be in such a moment, there is a greater meaning than simple outward actions of bravery or foolishness. These are moments whose roots go back to Gen 1:1-2, where chaos exists but God's Spirit is present.

The words we choose reveal spiritual nobility or spiritual foolishness. 

Noble, Nobility: Having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles; The quality of being noble in character; of excellent or superior quality.  (Oxford Dictionary) 

Spiritual nobility does not come to us in moments of glory or success, but in moments of dire need of courage, when our hearts are fainting in fear.

In this moment, we will ourselves to choose words which breath life into our own souls.
In this moment, we speak words of life and comfort to those facing risk and suffering with us.
In this moment, we use gracious words which bring His Unity of Spirit to our teammates, instead of more chaos. 
In this moment, we will speak words which shine the light of life on those in the darkness of their own making...even when they want to kill us.

(1) Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, Abraham J. Heschel
(2) "No Religion is an Island", Abraham J. Heschel, p.264
(3) The Wisdom of Heschel, Abraham J. Heschel, p. 150  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Stages of Differentiation

Two significant and major life experiences have led me on the path of personal differentiation. One of these is experiencing high risk over years. The day in and day out pressure of holding to certain convictions under severe pressure led me to see the lack of differentiation in myself and begin wondering what I was missing.

I longed to understand a different way, both in my internal world and in my response to my external relationships.  My family systems class in grad school gave me some background on this, but it wasn't until Scazzero explained it in a different way in his book, "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality" that I understood the journey I needed to be on and what my end goal actually looked like. (1)

I find it fascinating to discover in researching for this article that Scazzero re-released his book in 2017 and changed his subtitle.  He originally published it as:

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash the Power of Authentic Life in Christ

but changed it to

Because I'm seen as a cross-cultural risk expert, leaders often ask me, "How can I tell who to send into high risk?"  I still am not sure there are clear-cut answers, but in addition to discerning spiritual maturity (chapter 6, p.80 ff in Facing Danger), the scale of differentiation may also give Candidate Committees and Member Care folks ideas of questions to ask pre-field staff.

A significant part of the process of becoming our true selves is the process of Differentiation.(2)


Def 1 - a person's capacity to define his or her own life's goals and values apart from the pressures of those around them.

Def 2 - differentiation involves the ability to hold on to who you are and who you are not. The degree to which you are able to affirm your distinct values and goals apart from the pressures around you (separateness) while remaining close to people important to you (togetherness) helps determine your level of differentiation.

A highly differentiated individual says,
I may not agree with you or you with me. Yet I can remain in relationship with you. I don't have to detach from you, reject you, avoid you, or criticize you to validate myself. I can be myself apart from you.

For individuals who are not used to this, whose established patterns of behavior require conformity to a status quo that is not differentiated, this is a startling but supremely helpful picture. The idea that Jesus Christ was 100 percent self-differentiated gives us a new way to consider how He acted and thought in relationship to the Father.

Scazzero reveals that he re-worked Bowen's differentiation scale, and asks his readers to consider where they are in differentiation. Few operate at the 4th level.

Level 1: 0-25 (p.82)
  • Can't distinguish between fact and feeling
  • Emotionally needy and highly reactive to others
  • Much of life energy spent in winning the approval of others
  • Little energy for goal-directed activities
  • Can't say, "I think...I believe..."
  • Little emotional separation from their families
  • Dependent marital relationships
  • Do very poorly in transitions, crises, and life adjustments
  • Unable to see where they end and others begin

Level 2: 25-50 (p.82-83)
  • Some ability to distinguish between fact and feeling
  • Most of self is a "false self" and reflected from others
  • When anxiety is low, they function relatively well
  • Quick to imitate others and change themselves to gain acceptance from others
  • Often talk one set of principles/beliefs yet do another
  • Self-esteem soars with compliments or is crushed by criticism
  • Become anxious (i.e. highly reactive and "freaking out") when a relationship system falls apart or becomes unbalanced
  • Often makes poor decisions due to their inability to think clearly under stress
  • Seek power, honor, knowledge, and love from others to clothe their false selves.

Level 3: 50-75 (p. 83-84)
  • Aware of thinking and feeling functions that work as a team
  • Reasonable level of "true self"
  • Can follow life goals that are determined from within
  • Can state beliefs calmly without putting others down
  • Marriage is a functioning partnership where intimacy can be enjoyed without losing the self
  • Can allow children to progress through developmental phases into adult autonomy
  • Function well - alone or with others
  • Able to cope with crises without falling apart
  • Stay in relational connection with others without insisting they see the world the same

Level 4: 75-100 (p. 83-84)
  • Is principle oriented and goal directed - secure in who they are unaffected by criticism or praise
  • Is able to leave family or origin and become and inner-directed separate adult
  • Sure of their beliefs but not dogmatic or closed in their thinking
  • Can hear and evaluate beliefs of others, discarding old beliefs in favor of new ones
  • Can listen without reacting and communicate without antagonizing others
  • Can respect others without having to change them
  • Aware of dependence on others and responsibility for others
  • Free to enjoy life and play
  • Able to maintain a non-anxious presence in the midst of stress and pressure
  • Able to take responsibility for their own destiny and life. 

Understanding our true self and what is happening internally is an important factor in resiliency in living in high risk. We need to understand how external stressors are impacting our internal emotional life in able to sort through how we are processing reality.

(1) Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to be Spiritually Mature While Remaining Emotionally Immature, Peter Scazzero.
The majority of this blog post is directly quoting from his book, chapter 4, "Know Yourself that You May Know God."

(2) Developed by Murray Bowen, the founder of modern family systems theory.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What's a Girl to Do?

I've moved 20 times in our 19 years of marriage, and set up house in 5 countries.  This means I've left behind a lot of clothes and shoes in many places, and started my seasonal wardrobes over as many times.

Being a girl who likes lots of shoes for every occasion, I've kinda been forced into minimalism due to kilo and space restrictions. 

People in the faith-based work are not known as style or fashion icons. However, it's important to become "all things to all people" in such a manner that my clothing is not a distraction or impedes connecting with people for the sake of the Gospel. 

So I pay careful attention to my clothing in all the cultures I find myself in. 

I was a bit kerflummoxed recently when beginning to prepare to go to Africa to give the RAM Training in a few weeks.

In Central Asia, modest women are required to wear pants, and either a long blouse or a skirt over the pants. I've chosen to just wear pants and a long blouse. Since it gets cold, it requires clothes for 4 seasons. It's not modest to show arms or much of an ankle. None of those clothes will work in Africa.

In America, I try to wear clothes that are modern and contemporary and work for the audiences I speak to here, often middle class and upper-middle class.  Long skirts and modest blouses?  When were those last in style in America?

However, in Africa, modest women will wear long skirts and not pants, and apparently sleeveless shirts and blouses are okay. And it's hot, so the clothes have to be summer weight.

I also need my outfits in all these cultural situations to be able to work as "presentation" clothes, ones which work to the multi-generational multi-cultural audiences I speak to, as well as carefully be modest but stylish as Neal and I are often speaking to men and women. 

How can I live the minimalist lifestyle on a restricted budget when I need clothes for every occasion in three very different cultures, with the shoes that match? 

Wish I could live in jeans, a t-shirt, and slip-on loafers. 

Okay, not really. 

Sure is nice to have an excuse to thrift shop again, hunting for "new" sandals. They were $3 on Sunday's 50% off day.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Cross-Cultural Risk and the First 23 Hebrew Words

Risk by its very nature is akin to the chaos and confusion of the 10th word of the Hebrew bible. Chaos and confusion are looming when we are living in risk. We receive premonitions, for warnings, desolation, threats upon threats, ambiguity.

But at the exact same time, we may experience overwhelming peace, gracious strength, the ability to laugh at the absurdities, creativity, and astonishing joy.

Following Christ into risk is a paradox of feelings, thoughts, and experiences. 

The word for chaos and confusion, Tav, Hey, Vav in ancient Hebrew (Paleo) script gives us the Biblical word picture that Christ is surrounding us as we move through the chaos.

Genesis 1:1-3 gives us a Spiritual template for understanding risk from the very beginning:

1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2. The earth was aformless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

3. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

1 1   בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃
2     וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם׃
3     וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר׃

In Genesis 1:2, it is noteworthy that when the situation is chaotic, confusing, empty, and dark, the next phrase is "over the surface of the deep."  The word used for "deep" is a word signifying deluge, water-out-of-control, flood. 

Risk is seemingly an out-of-control situation where evil will happen, where our worst fears such as  kidnapping, mobs, violence, physical assault or rape, government interrogation, robbery, physical persecution may very well be realized.

There are only three main verbs in Genesis 1: 1-2. God's creating, the becoming of his creation into confusion and chaos, and then God's Spirit hovering. This time, however, the phrase that follows the verb "hovering" is "over the surface of the water", demonstrating that the situation of chaos is not as it seems.  The word "water" has replaced the word "deep."

This word changes is significant. It indicates there is a different, parallel, alternate reality that is stronger than the seeming chaos.

Life is not out of control. God's Spirit is there, and it is the waters contained by His sustaining hand.

His Spirit is the opposite of confusion, chaos, emptiness, and darkness. His Spirit is what gives us Fullness of Joy, Life, Light, and Clarity as to what our next step should be.

The very next Hebrew verb after God's Spirit is hovering is "God spoke." 

God spoke words that were full of power because they led to light.

Risk, when entered into with an attitude of worship, joy and obedience, will also be filled with His Spirit and His light on what we should do.

This spiritual principle is still working today.

We can trust our lives to Him in risk, because if evil does befall us, it won't be out of His boundary for us, and He is with us. Whatever happens to us, happens to Him.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

1st World Problems

In order to help ourselves and our kids maintain a global perspective and remember what true wealth and true poverty really are, we point out "1st World problems" when we come across them.

"First World problem is a slang term used to refer to issues in wealthy (First World) nations that are complained about only because of the absence of more pressing concerns." First World Problems are frustrations and complaints that are experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences.
(Note: when you research this topic, too many (N. American) people are still using the term "3rd world," which sounds condescending. Instead use the phrase"Developing world."  China and Europe (per capita) are way ahead of N. Americans when it comes to technology, internet, and cell phone useage.)

Here's an example of 1st versus Developing world problems: 

Here are some examples that make us laugh, roll our eyes, and shake our head in embarrassment about a nation that has no idea how much disposable money they have.

1. Toaster

2. "Throw-a-way" Cashmere Robe - Too much stuff!
I was at the 2nd Hand store and I found a brand new $400 cashmere bathrobe for $8.  Who would pay $400!!!!  Yep, I bought it (for $8) and enjoy it every day.

3. Almond Milk

4.Wifi on Cruise
5. Book Batteries

6. GPS

7. Coffee

"My 7 dollar starbucks latte came with ONE espresso shot instead of the TWO I asked for!"

More at this link.

In the meantime, 
  • Of the annual top 50 countries where Christians are limited, oppressed, persecuted, and face martyrdom, almost all of the countries in the Central Asia, Cauceses, Middle East, and North Africa are listed. 
  • Each year for the past few years there have been upwards of 10,000 terrorist attacks and millions upon tens of millions of displaced peoples. 
  • Yet the Central Asia and Middle East region has almost 1 billion Muslims who have not heard the Gospel
  • There are approximately 600 unreached people groups in this region
  • Of the world’s 440,000 missionaries, only about 5000 go to this region.
  • Of the $11.5 Billion spent globally on Missions, only $40M (less than ½%) goes to the CA/ME/NA region (99% of our mission spending goes to people who have access to the gospel).
  • Finally, for every 1M Muslims, there is 1 person sharing the gospel. 

We go about our lives every day, not remembering that tens of THOUSANDS of people go to their deaths, eternally separated from God.  

How often I forget this and think my problems are big. 

Cross-Cultural Risk Axiom #8

ax·i·om ˈaksēəm/

  • a statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true.
  • Example: "the axiom that supply equals demand"
  • synonyms: accepted truth, general truth, dictum, truism, principle;

#8 Risk can be an offering of worship.

How can cross-cultural risk be worship?  It sure doesn't smell, sound, look, or feel anything like a Sunday morning church service!

Biblically speaking, worship is living in the awareness of the presence of God in all areas of our life, with a heart and will choosing to hear and obey His Word out of our love for God.

When the sacrificial and offering system was created, these were an element of worship, and were defined as sacrifices and offerings made with a contrite and obedient heart.  The sacrifices and offerings that were brought by the people were to be the physical expression of their inward devotion. (1)

Leviticus 19:2 commands us “Be holy for I am Holy.”  The central tenet of Leviticus 19 is to worship God only, not any idols or replacements of God or a false god of our making.

But there were also offerings to be given, offerings representing a heart overflowing with love for the Lord. Worship, sacrifices, and offerings, including the libation (drink) offering are to made with a whole heart that loves God and obeys Him.

Whenever the Scripture talks about "opening one's ears" it is a Hebraic idiom meaning obedience. 

Psalm 51:17  
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Ps 40.6,8
6 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; You have opened up my ears to listen. Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
8. I delight to do your will, O my God;  your law is within my heart.”

But nothing really changed in the New Testament.  God still sees worship that is acceptable as a humble, contrite heart, obedient to His Word and Spirit.

Romans 12.1
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Worship involves the whole being—attitudes and action.  Therefore, unacceptable worship would be any effort that fails in one of these areas—attitude and action.

Paul describes his future suffering in these terms: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” (2 Tim 4:6).

He describes in verse 7 that he has done everything needful, everything he was commanded to do in his race, and he has kept the faith, another idiom for obedience to Christ out of a heart of love.

“It is noteworthy that the apostle does not refer to his impending martyr-death as a burnt offering or any other main sacrifice, but as a drink offering of a little wine and oil, which was added as a small supplement to the main sacrifice (see Num. 15:1–10).  It is in this way that Paul links the shedding of his blood for the sake of Christ with the supreme sacrifice of his Lord. He had spoken of the possibility of this some years before (Phil. 2:17), while the words of Isaiah 53:12 present the illustration of our Lord pouring Himself out unto death.” (2)

So if we are cavalier about risk, if we are not impacted by the danger or even aware in any way of its impact on others, then it is not worship. If we are not reflective of God’s presence with us, of our pouring out of our lives in a meaningful and significant way, but “it’s just a job” then it can’t be worship, because there is no sacrifice in that heart attitude.

If there is no thought that  "I'm stepping into risk because God is worth my discomfort,” then there's no sacrifice and it isn't worship. There may be obedience, but not worship, because worship is both a heart attitude and obedience.

Furthermore, risk cannot be worship when we are in conflict with those around us involved in the risk, including in our attitude towards our leadership and teammates.

“When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.”  Isaiah 1:15

Ray Ortlund writes,
“The worship God rejects here in Isaiah 1:10-17 is not idolatrous worship.  It is biblical worship, Levitical worship, offered by the people with elaborate, even sacrificial, abundance.  But God says he hates it, right down to the core of his being: “Your appointed feasts my soul hates” (verse 14).  Why does God detest their biblically correct, personally sincere worship?  “Your hands are full of blood” – human blood.

They were lifting their hands to God in prayer and praise.  They could not see what God saw – that those very hands were dripping with the blood of people they had mistreated.  They compartmentalized.  They disconnected what God connected.  They honestly did not see what God clearly saw.

What does God see?  What does God want us to see?  That the acceptability of our vertical worship is inseparable from the beauty of our horizontal relationships.

Loving one another makes a difference in our worship of God.  Maybe all the difference." (3)

This is why in the RAM Action Guide, it includes questions related to how we are doing in our heart towards our external horizontal relationships and our relationship with God and our relationship with ourselves. Risk as worship means that we are doing our best to walk in unity and in forgiveness with others, and that our inner heart dialogue is a posture of grace and forgiveness to God, others, and ourselves.

Risking our lives for Christ can be a beautiful worshipful experience.  We see our shortcomings so well in risk, but we also see God’s grace poured out on us and others through the experience. As we sacrifice and offer every aspect of His grace and sanctification and use in risk, He is glorified and that is worship!

1. Holman Bible Dictionary
2. Emmaus Journal 8, no. 1 (1999): 104. 
3. Gospel Coalition

Go To
Risk Axiom #1: Risk asks different questions than suffering asks. 
Risk Axiom #2: Safety is not a feeling.
Risk Axiom #3: Severity is as severity is felt
Risk Axiom #4: Risk is situational. 
Risk Axiom #5: Risk requires situational and conceptual thinking. 
Risk Axiom #6: Emotion can be reasonable just as Reason can be emotional
Risk Axiom #7: Risk is opportunity
Risk Axiom #9: Reduce Uncertainty by Subjective Probability

Monday, February 5, 2018

Standing Stronger

There are brilliant minds, people with like 60 billion years in member care and global work on the front lines, as well as PhD's right now working on developing materials on how to help global workers be more resilient in cross-cultural work.

I look forward to hearing what they have to say.

But I suspect the primary answer is being faithful to receive from the Lord with joy whatever He gives each and every day and be obedient to Him.

Having said that, this song is encouraging.  Thanks Moriah!

Standing Stronger  (Youtube video link)
Moriah Peters

With a soul as bold as lions
And a strength to face the giants
Come and join us in the silence
For the King who saved the world
Hear the voices in the night
We sing till sunrise
Stand, stand strong
Keep holding on
We sing blessed are the persecuted
Blessed are the weak and wounded
This is your song
Stand, stand strong
Stand, stand strong
If the gravity pulls you down, down, down
Or you're lost and want to get found
Lift your eyes and turn around now
Can you see you're not alone
Raise our voices in the night and sing
Stand, stand strong
Keep holding on
We sing blessed are the persecuted
Blessed are the weak and wounded
This is your song
Stand, stand strong
Stand, stand strong
So do not be afraid
He'll keep you safe
Through fire
Stand, stand strong
Keep holding on
Stand, stand strong
Keep holding on
We sing blessed are the persecuted
Blessed are the weak and wounded
This is your song
Stand, stand strong
Stand, stand strong
Keep holding on
Stand, stand strong

Songwriters: Joel Smallbone

Sunday, February 4, 2018

BRAVE by Moriah Peters

See the Youtube Video:  - Brave

Moriah Peters - Brave Lyrics

From the album Brave

No one ever told me this would be easy
But I never knew that it could be this hard
Oh, the worry, the worry, the worry is weighing on me
Could you help me break down all these question marks
And make me

I'll fight like a soldier
Rise like a warrior
Won't stop till the final day
I want to be stronger
Going to be bolder
Look up and I see the way
You make me brave

I know, I know I'm no superwoman
But impossible is possible with You
So no, no, no more running, no more hiding
Strike the fire so I'll be fearless too
And make me

None go with me
Still I'll follow
Through the joy and
Through the sorrow
Cross before me
World behind me
There's no turning back


How to Write a Theology of Risk Statement.

Writing a Theology of Risk statement of conviction is not commonly done at mission agencies and Christian NGO's.  It is rarely taught and required of pre-field staff.  Many agencies have incorporated a Theology of Suffering teaching and statement, however, and this is very helpful.

We went to the field the first time well-prepared for suffering and the possibilities of suffering.  You don't move your family to a war zone without being well aware that there is a high possibility of suffering.

But we were entirely unprepared in how to deal with risk. Keep in mind, that Neal and I had extensive overseas experience before we moved to Afghanistan.

Seen poverty?  check. (slums of India, orphanages in China).
Seen unrest? check (coup and evacuation in Albania).
Seen conflict? check (2nd Intifada in Israel).

So we went to Taliban-controlled Kabul, Afghanistan, confident we were prepared.

We weren't.

We had no grounding in how to make decisions in risk. How do we deal with lack of "fruit" in risk when there were constant fatwa's being issued by Mullah Omar against us and our engagement with the people. Of course we abided by our agency's guidelines, but we knew that we ourselves had no clear grid for understanding how to make decisions in risk.

The Holy Spirit is so helpful in times like these, because His voice helps us know what the next step is.  He truly is the Helper.  But we've been so grateful that we've been able to continue to map out a general guide for how decisions can be made in risk, how we can know that we have been thorough in our reflections, analysis, and listening to His voice through it all, too. 

This is why the "how" of how to write a Theology of Risk statement is reserved for a later section of the RAM Action Guide. We actually don't even address it during the 2-day RAM Training or in Facing Danger.  The reason is two-fold:

1. We want to explain all the aspects of risk that go into developing a theology of risk before folks write theirs.

Some in the global Church assume that a theology of risk is somewhat unrelated to how we do physical danger risk assessment. Bifurcating the physical realm and the spiritual realm is un-Biblical.  Both are connected and part of risk assessment.

Others in the global Church tend to view physical danger risk assessment as un-spiritual, not relying on God. That is also un-Biblical. God asks us to use our minds and His people to help us - we were meant to live in community (Gen 1-2), not alone.

So having an understanding of the totality of Risk and what is incorporated into a comprehensive Theology of Risk is crucial.

2. Writing a TOR statement requires reflection on His Word and who He has created each person to be and what His purposes is for each person in risk.  It's a uniquely, personalized, individual statement. It most likely cannot be done in a training session, but in time alone and reflection, later on.

Our Theology of Risk statement is visible on the side column of every blog page on this blog. It has been a stabilizing force for us whether overseas facing risk, analyzing security reports, as well as back home when we face challenges here.

  • Why do we do what we do?
  • Why do we choose this lifestyle?
  • Why do we choose to place ourselves in a life situation where we live financially on faith that people will give?
  • Why do we choose a public lifestyle where people feel free to ask us hard questions they would never ask others?
  • Why do we choose to place ourselves in situations where we may face criticism and slander?

The Theology of Risk statement is a statement of calling, of purpose, and of clarity of what we are about. 

Some days, yes, I want to walk away and leave it all and live a life of quiet solitude and peace where we are longer subject to the challenges we face.
Some days, yes, I want to live blissfully ignorant of security concerns around the world.

But then I remember what He has called us to and what we are about. And I am strengthened by His Spirit and Word to press on another day. There are so many dying every single day who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our challenges here pale in comparison to what they face.

Here from page 68 of the RAM Action Guide is a suggested guide I wrote for how to put together your own TOR statement (I used a more general name for writing a Theology of Risk statement by titling it the following):

Step Seven: Write a Person Statement of Conviction on Cross-Cultural Risk

Finally, write a personal statement of conviction on cross-cultural risk. This is a short explanation of what you will grasp tightly to in risk. Break this down into the following steps:

1. Identify a verse or section in the Bible that ministers to your heart and causes that “didn’t our hearts burn within us?” feeling. Summarize that verse or section in your own words, using verbs and adjectives that resonate with your passion and heart for your calling.

2. Make sure that part of your personal statement includes a conviction about how you will act when hardships come. We see this principle clearly demonstrated in Psalm 46, where the psalmist declares how he will respond before anything bad actually happens. This is an essential aspect of a theology-of-risk statement.

3. Put it all together, refine it, and then request feedback from a few trusted people who understand what you are trying to do.

4. Teach it to your children as young as possible. Print and frame it, and then put it in a place where you will be reminded of it every day. Review it regularly so it becomes part of you.

Here is one sample: Our purpose is to live by simple trust and confidence in God, unflinching, unawed, and undismayed by the troubles we may face, holding staunchly to our calling and enduring steadfastly with our gaze fixed on Christ (Hebrews 11:24–27).

For more background information on Theology of Risk, go to the TOR Page.