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:

https://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.

A “Dare” of a Song: “I’ll Stand” by Hillsong

Last night I went to the Prophetic Team Dinner at my church, Bethel Church. There I saw lots of people I had not seen since returning from Iraq December 22. They merrily asked about my trip. They checkered their wonder with sweet encouragement, “Did you feel like you were walking in your destiny?” “Did it confirm that is where your heart is?” “I’m so excited for you!” and I shared snippets of stories and smiles and breakthrough. It was hard. It was hard because I don’t know when I will be back in Iraq. There are a number of things in a state of “wait and see.” Moreover, as one might imagine, a semi-move to a war zone is not straightforward. So, I wait. I look for purpose in this time. And there is purpose. There is always purpose.

Yet, it’s been a really rough month since returning. The wait to return to Iraq has not been the worst of it actually, the worst of it has been the financial drought. I have felt disillusioned, frustrated, discouraged, and sad.  With these responses I have the opportunity to step back and realize emotions like this are not truth and they usually come from lies I am believing. (For example, “God doesn’t care about me enough to put this in order” or “I’ve spent 16 years praying and dreaming and ‘for what?'” or “God is not being faithful to me right now.”) I have to keep coming back to the truth of Who I know God to be, despite the way things “look.” I have to worship Him when I don’t feel like it. I have to dare to find purpose and vision in this season of my life despite the flickers of bitterness in my soul.

Mind you, there is a lot happening: I published two ebooks, I wrote an article for restorationliving.com, I’m writing three more articles for websites, I’m nearly done with writing my first print book, and I’m chatting with a publisher about that. I’ve also had opportunities to speak to people about my trip and to ignite hope for their own dreams to be fulfilled. On top of that, there are some other things brewing right now which are absolutely on my list of “Life Dreams” and I will do internal cartwheels when those things happen. My flatmates and friends are great at helping me see the GOOD things being accomplished. They remind me. Over and over again friends remind me. I’m so thankful. I’ve historically been fiercely independent, but what I have learned about healthy interdependence and the power of unity in the Body of Christ over the past few months has transformed my core.

All to say, when my friend James led worship last night and sang, “I’ll  Stand” it felt like a rebellion against apathy and self-pity, and it made me resolve, yet again, to stay close to my Beloved Jesus no matter what – including when I don’t understand His ways and I am fighting resentment. As I sang, the tears in my eyes were from the pain of choosing intimacy despite my want to “protect” myself from getting “hurt.” I know God doesn’t mean to hurt me, but it’s easier to accuse Him than to really transform my mind (at least it appears easier). So, there’s the truth: I am the one responsible for transforming my mind – thinking renewed thoughts. (Romans 12:2) God wants to help me with this, but I need to want it to happen. I need to get over my deadly blend of fear and control; and let love rule.

As my pastor Bill Johnson says, “If you want peace that passes understanding, you have to give up your right to understand.”

On that note,

“I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the One who gave it all”

“I’ll stand my soul, Lord, to you surrendered. All I am is Yours!”

Will you?

 

 

Inside the American Embassy in Iraq

When I was in Baghdad in November I spent many hours inside the American Embassy, including Thanksgiving dinner in the Dining Facilities. Here’s a slideshow of the embassy for a better perspective:

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/02/07/world/middleeast/20120208-BAGHDAD.html

The US Embassy in Baghdad from above