When God Calls You By Name (PART 2): An excerpt from my book

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Approximately a year later I was at church one evening when two prophetic ministers were visiting: a married couple. The service was coming to its end as I was standing near the back of the room. And there was my name again. “Would Dawn please come up here?” one of them said. Yikes! I had never met these people. God certainly has a way with words – especially when that word is your name. In a state of arrested attention, I walked up. They placed their hands on me. They waited; and the power of God began to loosen the bolts of madness inside me. Then one of them said, “The oppression and depression is over. It has been a long night, but the oppression and depression is over. It has been a long night, but a new dawn has come.

I collapsed to the floor. The Holy Spirit stepped up to the plate and hit me out of the park. Home Run. I was out for around thirty minutes and by the time I arose, nearly everyone had exited the building.

When I got up I was

Free.

The Holy Spirit’s

home run ball

slung into the window

of my sad house

splintering depression

into trillions of pieces.

His winds

Blew those pieces

East from west

Away from me.

Forever.

 

Truly, a “new dawn” had come. And I was her.

 

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Baghdad: “It’s just what I always wanted!”

“It’s just what I always wanted!”

There is a famous Richardson family video in which I am eight years old and enthusiastically opening Christmas gifts in the sprawl of wrapping paper, sisters, and new toys on our living room floor. Upon the opening of many of the gifts I look at my dad with wild joy and exclaim, “It’s just what I always wanted!”  There is a measure of surprise in my voice, as if I am in awe that my parents knew what I wanted and got it for me.

Lately, I often think of that video as I delight in God. I finally got to unwrap one of the biggest gifts last week upon my landing in Baghdad, Iraq. Even though I’ve seen it sitting under the tree wrapped for 16 years, I’m still caught in wonder as I see that not only did God know I wanted it, but He got it for me! He really is a good father who gives good gifts to His kids.

This summer my youngest sister freshly observed that I am one of the people she finds it most easy to imagine as a kid, because my delight and childlikeness remains.  This is wonderful. After all these years, through struggle, through disappointment, and through success, I’ve remained Daddy’s girl. And I know it.

So, here I am in Baghdad, more than any other dream in my life, the dream to live in a war zone in the Middle East and see deserts turn into gardens is the one I’ve most thought about, dreamed about, and prayed about. God has shown Himself faithful and loving: not only to me, but to this nation. He loves this nation wholeheartedly, as He loves me wholeheartedly.  He is eager to give Iraq the Christmas gifts she’s always wanted.

And He will.

And her laugh will untie the ribbon, her eyes will pull back the wrapping, and her hands will grab hold of the gift. She’ll look at Her Father in joy. She’ll know she is the delight of His heart. And she will know she is worth the price paid.

I love this place so much. Yesterday we were driving in Baghdad and I had a moment when I realized why many friends said prior to my leaving, “I want to make sure I say ‘goodbye’ in case you never come back.” They were only partially joking. I shrugged off their words then, but now I realize they were on to something substantial. I want to see this place flourish and I’m ready to commit and invest my life in her Christmas day.

Being part of the Father’s desire to give gifts to the nations is absolutely worth it, whatever the cost, whatever the journey. The ecstasy of seeing nations open up their Christmas gifts is one of the best rewards I could ever imagine.

Merry Christmas Iraq! Father God is going to dazzle you with gifts in 2012!

Inviting Life to a Death Scene: the day four terrorists were killed and heaven reserved a place for me at the scene

Palestinians gather around a car where four Palestinian militants were killed by Israeli troops on March 12, 2008

On March 12, 2008 I had an appointment with death. What I mean is, I had a divine appointment scheduled, unbeknownst to me, at a murder scene.

It began with an appointment with a man who makes wooden crosses: a run-of-the-mill visit to Deheisheh, the largest refugee camp in Bethlehem.  At the time I was living in Bethlehem, Israel/Palestinian Territories. I went to meet my friend David and a local man to pick-up a handmade cross to be a prototype for a large order of other such crosses, made of olive wood by the man’s father to be sold overseas to help pay for medical expenses for his twenty-something son, a paraplegic after being shot by soldiers several years prior.

When I arrived I saw my friend, Shaadi, a Palestinian who often gives tours of the area to visitors. He was with two Iranian-Americans and preparing to go to Mar Saba (a monastery in the Judean wilderness outside of Bhem). He asked if I wanted to go. I did. So David and I went – postponing our meeting with the woodworker until that night.

After several hours at the monastery we returned to Bethlehem. It was shortly after 6pm. Shaadi got a phone call. Hot with distress he turned to us, “The IDF just killed four men in Bethlehem, in their car, they were wanted men.” David and I asked questions. The visitors waited. Shaadi said it just happened, just then, they were killed by a rocket his friend thought, one of the dead was a major Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank — and Shaadi was going to the scene. “Do you want to go?”
Yeah. We do.

So, we did. Two American believers, two Iranian-American tourists, and two Palestinians (Shaadi and our taxi driver, Abed).

You want me to describe the scene; and I will BUT, see that:

1. God in His kindness and His omniscience brought me there – He placed some of His light in a very dark place.

2. It was an honor to be able to be there.

3. It was an honor to be with Bethlehem in an evening of highest turmoil and grief.

4. It was a turning point for me as well.

It was a small car – a red one, four door, maybe 20 years old. Hundreds of people rimmed it. Abed told me to stay close, and I did. He took me right up to the car, through the crowds of frozen electricity, like the stain a lightning bolt leaves in a stormy sky. The windows were crumpled, shattered under the onslaught of machine-gun fire. It wasn’t a rocket, as Shaadi’s friend supposed, it was a spray of bullets from a special unit of Israel Defense Forces, clothed as Palestinians, riding inconspicuously in a Bethlehem taxi. Reports said they attempted to arrest the four men (3 Islamic Jihad, 1 Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade). The most significant man, Shehadah, they wanted for 8 years. The four men, laden with weapons, fired on the IDF special forces when they attempted to arrest them, and the IDF immediately killed them all. The car itself made new clarity of “riddled with bullets.” Dozens of holes every where: each seat inside with its own red-red-red-red bullseye: four concentrated blood stains at each passenger’s chest-level, with the trails of helter-skelter bullets splayed around.

Weapons found on the men in the red car

(for video taken about 15 minutes before we arrived on the scene
(take note: blood and bodies)
http://israelmatzav.blogspot.com/2008/03/video-raw-car-swarm-in-bethlehem.html )

(for a news article on the event: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125552)

“Faddal” (“please go ahead”) I said, moving back at one point to allow a boy, maybe ten, to slide past me – his hands gingerly touching the car as he squeezed by. His eyes surprised me. Not fear, not demand, but frankness. He wanted to see up-close.

I was suddenly tired, rigidly sad. I wanted all those kids to be protected from this. I wanted someone to take them home, to keep them from an impression of reality more likely to breed hatred than love. I wanted them to have Father God’s kingdom within them, to remove them from the competition of the kings and rulers of this world.

A wall of people my standing couch of false relaxation, I drifted toward those I came with. Shaadi was leading them back to the taxi. He jolted around, “Where’s Daaaaaw….?!” – the “n” swallowed by our eye contact. I smiled sincerely, “Thanks.” I knew he was looking out for me. In an ocean of mayhem, I appreciated it a lot.

Next stop: the hospital where the bodies were being taken.

I should add it worked out impeccably we happened to be in a cab with Palestinians when the news broke. It put us in-the-know and also gave us language and understanding of the event, plus the mobility to be dropped off right outside the hospital before Abed went to park the van. Also, it was amazing we “happened” to be tugged out of Bethlehem that day, particularly because the scene was 1/4 mile from my apartment and the circle of chaos and closed streets was encompassing.

Thousands of people swarmed the hospital’s front and back entrances.

Three corpses on stretchers were passed overhead, rafts on waves of sobriety and hysterics. The grand entrance of one body was buoyed by one incessant phrase and one volume: desperately loud.

“Allahu Akbar!”

(which means “Allah (God) is great!”)

Women wept. Weak-kneed boys and girls sobbed, held up by a friend in the same way a man with a broken ankle would be.
Family and friends of the dead.

My tears were already shed. Floodgates released at age 16. That evening I walked into the news coverage I watched for 12 years, the scenes which had once broken my own ability to stand. I was well-trained for the moment which drank me up that fated March Wednesday.

Glug glug glug drank up I was. I prayed. I watched. I slid through the tense multitude to get a better look at this and that. I prayed for kids I saw. I prayed and engaged with the crumbling women, the youth staggering into the ER screaming, “I’m not going to let this go! I’m going to do something to get back at them for this!”, the friends of mine I bumbled into that night (it seemed a large portion of Bethlehem was there), the ones who collapsed under the agony of sadness and were toted into the ER swollen with families, the speechless bystanders. I prayed and engaged with this little city of David, Bethlehem:
birthplace of
the Only One
who could ever turn
this tide of grief, revenge, and consummate oppression.

There is an oft-quoted verse in the book of Esther which says more about why I was at the hospital that dark night:
“And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14

After leaving the hospital, David and I filled a previous commitment to visit a family in the camp: the father in the family “happened”  to be the Minister of Labor in Bethlehem. Then we went to get the wooden cross and visit the woodworker’s family. Everyone was in a hubbub over the night’s events; and there we were, the hospital’s clamor still affecting our heartbeats; and our heartbeats still affecting the hospital’s clamor: our peace a holy residue of promise and hope.

for such a time as this.

for murder scenes and war zones, troubled neighborhoods and troubled neighbors,

for places in deep need, for people longing for hope,

for nations, for cities, for individuals,

for such a time as this.

We must not be afraid, but confident. We must not be afraid of “darkness”, but confident in who we are:

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. The answer to the problem. The peace to the chaos. The hope to the hopeless.

We should rejoice when we get the privilege of being all these things,

whether at a crime scene in Bethlehem or a parking lot at the mall. Light belongs in darkness.

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you,

that God is Light,

and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

John 1:5

You are the light of the world.

A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.

Instead they put it on its stand,

and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Matthew 5:14-15

the gift of the “impossible”

“It may be that we have lost our ability to hold a blazing coal, to move unfettered through time, to walk on water, because we have been taught that such things have to be earned; we should deserve them; we must be qualified. We are suspicious of grace. We are afraid of the lavishness of the gift.
But a child rejoices in presents!”

(page 77)

“Am I suggesting that we really ought to be able to walk upon water? That there are (and not just in fantasies) easier and faster ways to travel than by jet or car? Yes, I am. There are too many stories of mystics being able to move hundreds of miles through the power of contemplation for us to be able to toss them aside. Over and over again throughout the centuries we have made choices which were meant to free us, but which ultimately have limited and restricted us. But the artist has retained some of the freedom we have lost in the industrial dailiness of our living.”

(page 94)

Walking on Water: Reflections of Faith and Art

by Madeleine L’ Engle