Middle East Monday: Freedom for Palestine & Coldplay

There is much rumbling in the Middle East these days: the conflict in Israel and Palestine; and the rising of ISIS in Iraq are both horrible events that I soon hope and pray will end.

In the midst of such clamor, some are using their public roles to raise awareness. One such example is the band Coldplay. Check it out. 

Coldplay

Middle East Monday: How powerful is YOUR passport?

I lived in Israel and the Palestinian Territories for three years: 2006-2009. I knew there was a global inequity regarding the utility of certain passports. I knew mine was more of a door-opener than many. This reality was made painfully obvious by the restrictions placed upon the Palestinians I lived amongst. Most of them were unable to LEAVE the Palestinian Territories at all. They couldn’t go into Israel proper, they couldn’t get visas to other nations, and this greatly influenced their worldview, their concept of identity, and their sense of injustice.

Likewise, when I was in Baghdad in 2011, I talked with a number of people with a similar problem. However, for many of them, it was a matter of emigration. They wanted to leave Baghdad and they could not get a visa etc to do so. Thus, they were stuck in a war zone. That is absolutely awful. Can you imagine the sense of powerlessness, desperation, and hopelessness one might feel? Daily, friends and family are dying from acts of war and terrorism. You worry about your family, your kids’ safety, and your family’s income in the state of national instability. Not only that, you are exhausted from the daily journey of normal activities which could find you unwittingly at a bomb site, harmed or even dead. That is a very rough life.

Ironically, the following infographic doesn’t represent the Palestinian Territories! That is a further indicator of the lack of awareness about the issues therein.

So, wherever you are from, be thankful for the mobility you have – even if it is limited. Moreover, open your mind to have more compassion and understanding for those who are without some of the simple options you take for granted.

ALSO, what are you going to do with YOUR passport? It’s a key, you know. A key to new places, new spaces, new faces. It’s a courier train, taking your ideas from your norm to someone else’s norm. It’s a library that flies. It’s a thing of wonder, possibility, and beauty.

It’s a pass to other ports. Enjoy it. 🙂

 

Middle East Monday: Eric Metaxas interviews the “Vicar of Baghdad,” Canon Andrew White. – YouTube

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Me, Andrew, and Lina in Baghdad in 2011

 

Andrew White is a dear friend of mine. He is the person who invited me to go to Baghdad with him in 2011, and we went! We share a deep love for Iraq, the Middle East, hope for the nations, peacemaking, absurdity, and revolutionary risk-taking (otherwise known as “faith”).

If you would like to see him speak in person, you can sign up for the newsletter here.

 

Eric Metaxas interviews the “Vicar of Baghdad,” Canon Andrew White. – YouTube.

Middle East Mondays: Iraq’s Soul and “What We Left Behind”

roosevelt quote

 

Iraq had national elections last week. Prevailing through the pain of disillusionment, death, and destruction, people arose and shared their voices – putting votes of possibility into the collective POT-ential. This is crucial. In times of uncertainty, sharing one’s voice is key. Yet, it is not easy to do so in a nation belabored by official and unofficial war. Much is shifting since the end of the official war in Iraq in 2011 (the war ended the same month I returned to America from a visit to precious Baghdad).

If you’d like more perspective on Iraq these days, here’s a great article from The New Yorker.

What We Left Behind” by Dexter Filkins

As you consider the staid countenance of Prime Minister Maliki, send him some loving thoughts. Point your mind toward “What would it look like for Iraq to move past its conflict and flourish?” Imagine that world. Dream with Iraq and for Iraq.

If you want, pray that Maliki receives an infusion of courage today straight from the heart of God. Pray that he feels safe, peaceful, and appreciated. Pray that he comes to a full revelation of how loved he is by God. Pray that he arises as a model of courageous vulnerability in Iraq. In a schema of self-protection, mistrust, violence, threats, assassinations, and power-play after power-play, CREATIVITY and VULNERABILITY can bring healing. When people are scared, they hole up. They lash out. They use might to establish power, instead of leading through humility and love. Iraq is stuck in this cycle of fear. Yet, the nation can be un-stuck! We can collectively use our hope and resources to invest love in Iraq. Consider today how you can help Iraq, or your next door neighbor, experience more freedom from fear-cycles. Get on the hope-cycle.

 

vulnerability quote

 

Middle East Monday: Iraqi Elections

This Wednesday (April 30), Iraq will have national elections. These are the first elections post-war. Yet, Iraq is experiencing sectarian violence, lawlessness, and bombings at the highest levels in years. This week is a key opportunity for Iraq to move past fear, history, statistics, power-plays, and bad habits into HOPE.

It is an important time to pray for Iraq.

HERE is a great infographic to help you better understand the elections.

Fight Death in Iraq with HOPE for IRAQ

Youth in the emo-subculture in Iraq are being stoned to death for their creative self-expression which runs counter to the religious spirit of the so-called Moral Police and extreme Shia groups. This is horrifying and really grieves me. I feel like running to Baghdad and gathering all those youth and protecting them, then going to the murderers and having a real heart-to-heart until love breaks through. They must know the true LOVE of the Father.

This kind of killing is anti-joy, anti-innovation, and anti-art. It must be stopped.

For me, I am not in Baghdad now, but I am able to grow a HOPE movement for Iraq from here.

If you’d like to give an encouraging word or prayer for Iraq. Come to the HOPE IRAQ facebook page

If you’d like to be part of a real counter-terrorism movement and proclaim it, buy an “I ♥ Baghdad” shirt and wear it in confident expectation that IRAQ WILL SHINE. Love is the best counter-terrorism movement there is.

Read an article about these killings here.

In the midst of many voices talking about the Middle East. Choose to be a voice of hope.

I (heart) Baghdad - shirt

God, Timing, and Saudi Arabia

Today I went to a park to talk with God. I felt I should go to a certain park I’d never been to before. I was there over an hour, hashing out some things with the One Who knows me best. It was getting cold. I wanted to go. There was a pause in my spirit, “Don’t leave until 4pm.” It was 3:40. Again, I was cold. I wanted to go, but I felt the Holy Spirit was doing something so, I lingered. Right after 4pm I left. While driving home I saw a friend walking. I passed her and then felt I needed to turn around and offer her a ride. I did. She got in the car and said, “This is interesting because I was thinking about you a couple days ago and wondering where you were and if you were back in Iraq yet.” She asked about my trip. I began to tell her a story. She interjected with, “Yeah, that’s like when I was in Saudi Arabia.” “What?! When were you in Saudi?” I asked. She went on to explain how she lived there three years before 9/11.

It was not merely shocking that she lived in Saudi. It was shocking because one of the last things I talked to God about at the park was an opportunity I have to take a team to Saudi in May. I REALLY want to go and see the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia fall in love with the true King.

From there she thanked me for going to Iraq and being faithful to fulfill what God was calling me to. Tears came to her eyes, and to mine. She said she would be praying for me. I thanked her and dropped her off at her destination.

I don’t know how God choreographs things like that, but I appreciate it. In fact, I really don’t understand a lot of things in my life right now: massive miracles splashed against massive challenges. My pastor, Bill Johnson, says, “If you want peace that passes understanding you have to give up your right to understand.” That is one of my favorite sentences. I think a lot of times we aren’t willing to step out in faith because we are afraid of failing, looking stupid, getting rejected, being misunderstood, and sometimes we’re mainly afraid of disappointment and loneliness. Personally, I am really thankful for all the years of painful stretching, radical belief, and sacrificial living. I have had the opportunity to ascend into higher levels of truth and deeper levels of love.

Moreover, I’ve had so many moments like today when God has blown my boxes to smithereens yet again. He is 100% faithful. It does NOT matter what your circumstances look like. In fact, the more we learn to focus on the unseen and what God is doing behind the scenes, the more we will see it manifest in the physical. What you focus on grows. Your thoughts and words are powerful.

Closing thoughts: for me, I dream that today’s road takes me to Saudi Arabia soon. I dream that it takes you to your destiny full of joy and power.

 

Humorously, this is the graffiti on the wall next to my niche at the park today. Eerily wonderful.

The Waiter, a Word of Knowledge, and Iraq

Today I was editing my forthcoming book and I came across something I’d forgotten: the waiter that Andrea and I met in July 2008 in Lakeland, Florida was committed to going to IRAQ with the military before we met him! IRAQ! That’s certainly ironic.

Basically, what happened that fateful day was: Andrea and I had lunch at Chili’s and I got a word of knowledge for the waiter. I asked him if he experienced a certain thing in his life, shocked, he said, “Yes. How did you know?” Soon we were chatting about his destiny and God’s pursuit of him. We invited him to the revival gathering that night. He couldn’t come because he was working a double shift, but agreed to come with us to Starbucks across the street between shifts. We went to Starbucks together and ran into some women we’d met the day before. One woman prophesied over our new friend. He was stunned and gladdened. We prayed God would make a way for him to come with us that night. Then we dropped him back off at Chili’s. A few minutes after dropping him off he called us. “‘Hey! Can you guys come back and get me? Right when I walked in to clock in, one of the girls I work with walked up to me and said, “Hey, can I have your shift tonight?” So, I gave it to her and I want to come to the meeting with you.'”

We turned around and he came to the service with us. That night he re-dedicated his life to God. The next night he brought his kids. In the weeks that followed his whole life got straightened out and he was confidently walking toward his dreams for the first time in many years.

All that from a word of knowledge at Chili’s! AND in his re-directing he cancelled his plans to go to Iraq. I’m glad he didn’t go into the midst of war. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that Iraq was actually the next Middle Eastern nation I would focus on.

There is so much power regarding timing and divine appointments as we truly follow Jesus. Wow.

In July 2008 I didn’t know how Iraq related to my life. Now, I do. I long to be back in Iraq; and I wait for that sort of “suddenly” the waiter experienced in which his whole life changed in a day. I wait for that in many areas of my life.

The right thing is great, but the right thing at the RIGHT time is GLORIOUS.

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One of the things I am waiting on is finances. I’m working part-time, but it is not covering my expenses. I’ve applied for over thirty jobs, but nothing else has come together. Technically, I am working a lot, but it is not paid: writing my book, writing articles for websites, speaking to various groups, and other Middle East related projects. If you’d like to help me cover my expenses my urgent need is for $555 this week.

Checks mailed to me are great and tax deductible giving is here:

http://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/how-to-give-toward-my-life/

Thanks for being part of the journey.

 

See the church I was at in Baghdad!

This new video narrated by my friend Nick, the director of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East displays the compound in Baghdad I stayed in. It also demonstrates the powerful and varied work of FRRME. Hope is rising in Iraq and Saint George’s Church is a central part of that. Iraq will shine.

It would be doubly helpful if you “liked” the video and commented. Let’s encourage hopeful dialogue about precious Baghdad. Thanks.