Appetizers from the book I am writing

The new year has dawned. My return to Iraq is in a holding pattern: unknown and waiting. The gift of this time, the glory of this time, the guts of this time – this month, this season, this blink – includes finishing the book I am writing. I have written 150 pages thus far. I estimate over 100 to go. It’s quite an undertaking, but I am confident it will transform lives, and inspire people to do the “impossible”, live with outrageous hope, and love their neighborhoods to life. In honor of my first day of book writing in 2012, here are some excerpts. Enjoy, share with others, and let me know what you think.

The background on why I am writing a book:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/i-am-writing-a-book/

Excerpts.

Go ahead, make a cup of tea, light a candle, open a window for some fresh air, take a deep breath, and relax. All our lives are roads of joy and discovery, success and wonder. Come journey with me. 

About my grandma and seeing the unseen:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/gus-an-excerpt-from-my-book/

About being delivered of ten years of chronic depression and suicidal thoughts:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/when-god-calls-you-by-name-an-excerpt-from-my-book/

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/when-god-calls-you-by-name-part-2-an-excerpt-from-my-book/

About travel, wonder, and nations falling in love with Jesus:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/travel-trailer-a-short-clip-from-my-book/

About my first experience speaking in tongues:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/my-first-speaking-in-tongues/

About God speaking to my mom through the actress Cybill Shepherd:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/cybill-shepherd-and-god-tag-teaming-an-excerpt-from-my-book/

About making a new friend in Bulgaria and running into him in Massachusetts months later:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/excerpt-from-my-book-bulgaria/

About a Muslim friend in Turkey and courageous questions over the Bosphorus Strait:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/book-excerpt-days-in-a-conservative-neighborhood-in-istanbul/

About a community house and a mentally unstable refugee at Easter lunch:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/easter-the-eritrean-refugee-an-excerpt-from-my-book/

About one particular impossibility-defying day living in Palestine:

https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/the-holy-spirit-grew-up-in-ramallah-an-excerpt-from-my-book/

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Also, my book is available for pre-purchasing. In fact, I need to raise money to pre-purchase my own books from the publisher. Every $20 contribution you make reserves you a copy!

 

Check it out and spread the word!

http://www.youcaring.com/fundraiser_details?fundraiser_id=934&url=dawnsbookpublishingprepurchasingbooks

Also, please “like” my author page:

https://www.facebook.com/DawnRichardsonAuthor

A Look Back at the War in Iraq

The video linked below is an informative overview of the war in Iraq. It would be great to have a more positive overview to pair with this one: stories of hope, testimonies of healing, demonstrations of God’s Presence, and so on. I know those stories exist, but the media has yet to re-train itself to report good things and to stir hope rather than fear. That as it is, you are cordially invited to ask the Holy Spirit what IS going on behind the scenes in Iraq and how to pray and believe for Iraq’s flourishing. God loves Iraq. She’s beautiful and important. The dreams of Iraqis matter to God. They should matter to us too.

A Look Back at the War in Iraq

 

Endurance: Recreation for the Lovesick

Today I went to a friend’s house and listened to “Endurance” by Derek Prince. It’s a teaching about, well, endurance. Derek Prince was a brilliant thinker, profound speaker, and passionate man of God. He died in 2003 after years of travelling the world: speaking, healing, and bringing deliverance. His teachings are incredible.

(More on his life here)

I drove home after the endurance-infusion and when I put my hand on my doorknob I thought, “It’s very important that I am Redding right now.” The stature of this statement is measured against my desire to be in Iraq presently. When I left Iraq weeks ago it looked like I would be back there at the end of January. Then the US troops left; and the nation wiggled-and-waggled into more instability. Now it is not clear when I will return, but between my blazing hope and quicksand love for Iraq, there is a holy confidence in God’s timing. There are things for me in Redding; and this preparation period matters. Moreover, Romans 5 promises the end quotient of the endurance equation is HOPE. Well, I’m all about hope. Moreover, I have discovered that hope and endurance are key assets when in a war zone, and certainly life in general.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

In Derek’s talk “Endurance” he broached several strategic insights. Here are a few of them:

Patience and perseverance are not signs of weakness, but of strength.

When the book of James talks about trials, he is indicating that allowing yourself to fully journey to the rightful end and resolution of a trial will cause flaws and shortcomings to be worked out of you so you are ready for what is next. (AMEN!)

It is one thing to faithfully claim a promise at its giving; it is a true demonstration of character to continue to hold onto a promise until its fulfillment. Many people let go of the promise during the process and they later wonder why they didn’t see the promise fulfilled.

There are two tests of character:

1. When life is “too hard”

2. When life is “too easy”

Many people can make it through tribulation, but they can not make it through success. Conversely, many people can make it through success, but they can not make it through tribulation. Those with true character will flourish through both.

Lastly, Derek presented four instructions for enduring:

1. Make a firm, wholehearted commitment to Jesus with no reservations.

2. Keep your focus on the invisible. (The unseen world must be more real to us than the seen. THOSE things are eternal.)

3. If you fail, don’t give up. (Psalm 37:23-4 and 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

4. Keep the faith, fight the fight

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Now, a lot of people know I’m a bit fixated on Antarctica. It’s been one of my life dreams to go there since I was a kid. I love the idea of frontiers; confronting the “impossible”; expanses of ice and wonder; and I love adventure. Thus, it makes sense that a favorite demonstration of endurance is that of Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton was an arctic explorer. He also named his ship “The Endurance.” Though the ship did not make it through the icebergs that surrounded it, the expedition was far from futile. On the contrary, Shackleton proved to many that Antarctica was accessible. Well done, faithful explorer! Like another hero of mine, Amelia Earhart, Shackleton provided a foundation for the generations following to do more and have greater success than he ever did. This is the nature of leaving a legacy and an inheritance. Endurance is also an investment in future generations, so your ceiling can be their floor.

Mighty men and women of God, keep on keeping on! You are strong; and He is stronger! Drive through the icebergs! Commit to do the impossible. A.W. Tozer said, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible.
What a pity when we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.”

Endurance is a pathway to the impossible. And if you are madly in love with Jesus, it’s fun. You get to discover what both you and He would do and can do and will do for love. Endurance is recreation for the lovesick.

See video of the voyage here

Fearless jumping and the grasshopper basket

About two weeks ago I had a dream while sleeping. I dreamed I was in a house in the Middle East; and as I was moving toward the door to leave the woman of the house came out of the kitchen. In her hands was a basket shaped like a grasshopper. She explained to me that it was a gift, meant for use in folk religion, but she had redefined it and redeemed it for her own Jesus-centered purposes. She said it was a reminder of a prayer strategy. She then took the lid off, which was the grasshopper’s head, and showed me a circle of colors inside the lid. Each color represented a prayer focus. It was really insightful and the hidden nature of the colors was important. The colors were inside the grasshopper and they required revelation in order to understand what they represented.

It was a powerful moment. As I thanked the woman and left the house I knew the wisdom she gave me would be a key to my approach to life in the Middle East for years to come.

Interestingly, later that week a top US military person told me the prayer strategy God gave him for Iraq over the course of two years.

I knew the grasshopper was important in its symbolism so I google-d it. The first and only link I clicked on said the following:

Grasshopper Symbology — The grasshopper is associated with astral travel. They have the ability to leap through time and into space where the true mysteries of life exist. People with this medicine have the wisdom necessary to overcome obstacles efficiently and are able to jump into successful ventures without preparation or planning. When the grasshopper appears to us we are being asked to take a leap of faith and jump forward into a specific area of life without fear. Usually that specific area is one that we have avoided and is often connected to change on a larger scale. This can represent a change in location, relationships, career or just in the way we perceive ourselves.

Grasshoppers can only jump forward….not backward, or sideways. So, when grasshopper shows up he could be reaffirming to you that you are taking the right steps to move forward in your current situation. Or it could be that he is telling you to go ahead and move forward, getting past what is hindering you. This is why grasshopper is the symbol of good luck all over the world. Grasshopper’s ability to connect and understand sound vibrations is why he is also a symbol of your inner voice. he could be telling you to trust yours. *

I read the explanation out loud to a friend nearby. We both opened our eyes wide and laughed substantially: the laugh of discovery, awe, and whoa-God-is-omniscient-eeriness. It felt like the words were exactly for me. There I was sitting in Iraq, the place I’d dreamed and prayed about for 16 years, dreams were materializing; yet, I was on the brink of another sequence of large decisions to LEAP forward WITHOUT FEAR.

That move forward is happening. I am building relationships with people in Iraq that will facilitate my path back here one day.  Moreover, inside me is a prayer strategy, simple, but expanding. There is a rainbow ring of promise around my neck, around my voice, and it will be unveiled. The purposes of heaven will be made manifest in my life and in Iraq’s life.

We are bound for glory to glory, so forward we shall go.

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!

I’m in Baghdad!

descending into beautiful Baghdad

I’m here!!!!! I’ve dreamed of being in Baghdad for 16 years;

and I’ve prayed for this place and its people just as long.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 13:12

I think a forest of life sprouted and sprang to full height the second my feet hit the ground.
And I shall run wildly and walk peacefully through this forest forever.          
 
 
 
Photo album here:

                                                                                                                                          

 
 
 

Robin: the homeless guy who lived in Baghdad

We really need to redefine “normal.” To God, many things are normal which should be normal to all Christians: after all, we are seated in heavenly places with Christ. Too often we frame God shenanigans with “It was so weird” when really we should perceive it as commonplace. Even if it isn’t yet our ongoing physical  reality, we should train ourselves to see it IS our spiritual reality. What I mean is, what’s normal in heaven should seem normal on earth, particularly to people with heaven inside them. In that vein, I’m more intentionally re-thinking my language when I refer to such experiences. One of those areas is divine coincidences.

Like an alcohol-fragrant homeless man in Redding, California sitting down at your table and proceeding to tell you about how he killed seven people while in the military, oh and, by the way, HE WAS IN BAGHDAD.

That’s what happened today. I was walking in downtown Redding and I had the sudden unction to sit down at a concrete table and read Psalm 1. Then I read a number of other psalms. About fifteen minutes after sitting down a man sat down opposite me with the words, “You don’t look like someone who smokes.” “No, I don’t,” I replied, understanding his indirect request for a cigarette. Then, he started talking about life: the homeless shelter, the lost dreams, and how he can’t seem to move past killing people in The Gulf War in 1991.

I listen. I ask questions. I counsel him. He says He doesn’t think anyone can ever forgive him. I tell him God is willing to forgive our wrong doing, even when we feel it’s impossible or we are wracked by guilt. He’s intrigued by this. We talk back-and-forth about God’s goodness and his generosity evidenced in Jesus. I ask if he wants a new beginning. He does. He dreams of being married with kids, but wonders, “Who would ever marry someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who killed seven people? I mean, would you want that person to be YOUR Father?” he asks. I smile. “God has a knack for redeeming things and rinsing off our pasts. He loves to do that. He wants you to flourish. You have a bright future.”

So on and so forth. Then, I ask, “Where were you stationed?” Very curious to know what part of the beloved Middle East he got to know. “Baghdad,” he replies. My spirit hops, tripping over an unexpected exactness. My only response to him is, “How was it?” He asks if I really want to know. “Yes,” I say, internally asking the Holy Spirit to physically manifest healing in this man’s soul. He slides into 120 degree heat, sand fleas biting his legs, loud bombings which took 75% of his hearing, scary days, stress-filled nights, jitters and fear, and awful everything and “It was war, you know?” he finishes. The way he says, “war” hurts my heart.

Eventually I lead him in an inner healing prayer and explain what it means to follow Jesus. He succinctly says, “I can’t do that yet. I don’t trust anyone.” “You mean you don’t trust Jesus?” I ask. “Yes, I don’t trust Him yet,” his eyes stab mine with a blend of want and fear. We chat more.

I have him say out loud, “My mind works properly. I bless my body with life.” I tell him he’s important and I want him to be whole so he can live the amazing destiny that is distinctly his.

After all this, as he apologizes for telling me so much, I assure him with, “It’s an honor to meet you. And it’s pretty amazing to meet you right now because I’m going to Baghdad in a few weeks.”

He freezes. My future seemed to poke a pressure release straight into his past. He asks who I will work with. I say, “a non-government organization.” I’m not sure where his mind went, or what visage of war crept into his sight, but it looked like he’d been brought into a here-and-now reality suddenly. His old ideas of Baghdad were now being remodeled. His memories were being overtaken by my hope.

I slipped him a “hopeiraq.com” postcard, bearing the lovely image a friend of mine painted for a particular leader in Iraq. He touches it. He thanks me. The postcard now between us like an equator, with the water draining clockwise on one side and counter clockwise on the other. His Iraq felt hopeless. Mine is hopeful.

Something shifted. He stared at the image.

I got up and we said good bye.

And it made sense that I met a homeless man who used to live in Baghdad while I was reading the Psalms at a concrete table in Redding. Of all of the possibilities for that hour, somehow, given God’s track record, that was not at all surprising. God is so much like Himself. And, wonderfully, I am so much like Himself too. As is Robin.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the one 
   who does not walk in step with the wicked 
or stand in the way that sinners take 
   or sit in the company of mockers, 
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, 
   and who meditates on his law day and night. 
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, 
   which yields its fruit in season 
and whose leaf does not wither— 
   whatever they do prospers.

 4 Not so the wicked! 
   They are like chaff 
   that the wind blows away. 
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, 
   nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, 
   but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

“Find My Own Flame”

I’m writing the part of my book in which I began teaching at a community college at 25 years old. I’m thinking about God. I’m thinking about passion. I’m thinking about the ecstasy of love.

I remember being 16 years old and praying for Iraq in puddles of my own tears on my bedroom floor.

In three weeks I get to board a plane and concretely begin my journey to Iraq.

I’m overcome with love for God. My spirit is in a permanent shout of “Eeeeeeeeeeee!”

Blessings as you seek your own “Eeeeeeeeeeee!” hahahaha!

Taking Saddam’s heads and telling a new story

Posted Image

THE STATUE

This statue currently stands outside an Iraqi palace, now home to the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq . It will eventually be shipped home and put in the memorial museum in Fort Hood , Texas .

The statue was created by an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad and many other Iraq cities.

Kalat was so grateful for American’s liberation of his country; he melted 3 of the heads of the fallen Saddam and made the statue as a memorial to the American soldiers and their fallen comrade warriors.

Kalat worked on this memorial night and day for several months.

To the left of the kneeling soldier is a small Iraqi girl giving the soldier comfort as he mourns the loss of his comrade in arms.

After they saw the statue, many soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division donated money to pay Kalat for his labor. Kalat refused to take any money, instead he asked for the collected money to go to the widows of fallen 4th Infantry Division soldiers.

“I ♥ Baghdad” tattoos?

Incense, rutabagas, astronauts, and quinceaneras. How does this list relate to the Middle East?

The first letters combine to spell IRAQ.          obviously.

Speaking of Iraq, I am now selling “I ♥ Baghdad” shirts with a blank back.

Please spread the word by sharing the link below via facebook, twitter, blogs, websites, email, word of mouth, blimps, skywriting, re-painting your car, getting a tattoo, writing a song about the shirt and putting it on youtube, naming your dog “Baghdad” (or really even “Baghdog”), or committing to buy a shirt and wear it everyday this year.

ALSO, we have begun a SHIRT CHAIN. 

This is twofold.

1. Take a picture of yourself wearing your “I ♥ Baghdad” while doing something unusual or at a famous location (ie. hanging on a rope swing or in front of the Taj Mahal). Alternatively, hold an “I ♥ Baghdad” sign. Post the photo(s) on the Hopeiraq Facebook page.

2. Take part in the SHIRT CHAIN. Pass a shirt along to your friends. It must be handed off at least weekly. Each person must take a picture wearing the shirt while doing something creative or in a creative location. If you live in the Redding area and you are interested, I will GIVE you a shirt if you will agree to get ten friends to take pictures wearing it and then post them in the Facebook group.

Here is the Hopeiraq Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hopeiraq/197099243685654

Thanks.

Here is where to order shirts: http://www.etsy.com/listing/79715167/i-heart-baghdad-shirt-blank-back?ref=pr_shop