Master’s degree done!

Something

incredibly wonderfully great

happened today.

I completed my last exam for my Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Cultures and Religions!

Yep. 

I did almost all the coursework at Jerusalem University College during the three years I lived in Israel. Then I left it untouched for two years as I attended Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California. Now, I’ve done the last requirements. Five years after beginning the degree, I am done. hahahahahaha. When the diploma finally arrives in the mail I’m going to massively celebrate. 

This makes Master’s degree number three: one in Religion, one in Counseling, now this one. 

Sometimes I think, “How did this happen? How did I get three Master’s degrees?” Then I remember the prophetic word I got when I was eighteen: “You will get countless degrees.” And I laugh. God saw it all coming. It’s all part of His magnificently gorgeous plan to bring me into my destiny and to transform the Middle East into a garden of His love. 

He’s really smart. And He really is LOVE. 

I adore Him: this Creator King, Father God, Leading Lover. 

Be encouraged. If you have a vision that seems far off and it’s a promise of God, it WILL come to pass. All His promises will chase you as you chase Him. And often the promises chase you even when you don’t chase Him.

He’s faithful. I’m grateful.

As you ponder your own journey, as you meditate on His promises, as you dare to dream, I recommend the following song:  

“Trust” by Kristene Mueller: http://www.box.net/shared/0eq76f8suu3gyi098lvj

Father God loves YOU more than you could ever understand. He is 100% good and 100% trustworthy. Let Him love you to life. Arise and SHINE. Dream bigger. Faith is often spelled “R I S K.” Step out, be courageous; the love that awaits you is worth more than anything. God wants to explode your life with joy, freedom, and hope. He wants you to flourish, thrive, and transform the world. He wants you to fulfill the destiny you are uniquely designed to fill. 

“You have made known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

(Psalm 16:11)

<Thanks for lavishing me with Your pleasure, Father! Thanks for establishing me in You. Thanks for this degree. Thanks for making me a mountain that cannot be shaken. You are my great reward.>

(Here’s a lil’ photo album of some of our field trips while in Israel. Andrea and I spiced up our learning by acting out scenes connected to certain locations, or recruiting our friends to act them out. Enjoy: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.6708360079.15486.862340079&l=121efd75f6&type=1 )

my friends’ DELICIOUS ministry

My friends Jessica and Barrett recently got married. Soon they are headed back to Bethlehem, Israel/Palestinian Territories to begin a new ministry venture: a pizza shop and  open heart surgery for Palestinian kids who need it. : )

I am really proud of Jess and Barrett for relentlessly going after the vision and passion God has knit in them. They are a true inspiration and a solid weight of glory for the Middle East! HOORAY!

Check it out and if you are infinitely inspired, consider supporting their ministry with prayer or money. Three cheers for marriage, the Middle East, and new hearts for Palestinian children!

http://www.wix.com/askidenia/askidenia-ministries#!

marking two years back in America

On September 6, 2009 an airplane handed me back to my home country. From August 26, 2006 to September 5, 2009 I lived in Israel, mainly in the precious city of Bethlehem -or “o little town” as I often call it. Looking back and looking forward, I am rapturously thankful and awed by the gift of those years in Israel. That season was certainly a bootcamp for my future life in the Middle East. And that was precisely what I needed. It was also overflowing with miracles, healings, surprises, birthdays, friendships, and glory. It was better than I expected, and sometimes worse. Yet overall, most certainly BETTER.

Moreover, these past two years in America have been precisely what the Master Physician ordered: refreshing, regrouping, re-establishing, re-envisioning, and relaxing. Two years of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry has been really restorative as well as catalytic. I am now positioned to return to the Middle East with new strength, perspective, techniques, and SUPPORT. I am reminded of a family Christmas video of me around seven years old in which I say upon opening many of my gifts, “It’s just what I ALWAYS WANTED!” These two years have been that. 

THANK YOU to my friends and family who have supported me and encouraged me when they didn’t understand what I was doing, but miraculously did understand WHY I was doing it. I know your investment in my life and your willingness to stand by me will reap a harvest, throughout the Middle East and throughout your own life. I bless you today with checks in the mail, gifts and surprises, and debts paid off. haha! The delight of the Lord is gushing through the threshold of your home and into every heart therein. It is an honor to journey together. You are priceless; and you are royalty.

<Thank you, Father God for your wisdom made manifest in my life. There’s no one else I would rather have write my story. I’m happy with where we are and I’m expectant for the chapters ahead. Your sweetness is beyond what my skin can hold, my mind can grasp, and my words can tell. I LOVE YOU.>

Here’s to endless adventure and matchless love!

A year ago I wrote this blog post: https://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/a-dress-that-made-me-cry-and-other-reflections-on-a-year-back-in-america/  

Here are some of my favorites images from my three years in the Middle East. They are a visual necklace of gratitude framing my voice of praise:

Dawn on rooftop overlooking the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock

Flat Stanley's First Iftaar

Entrance to Saudi Arabia

The Mosque of Jesus, Son of Mary (in Jordan)

Dawn atop Mt Sinai in Egypt

wedding in Hussan village

listening to a woman's story in the mental hospital

healing at the birthday party

drama group happiness

merrily down the stairs with Jihad

went to Cyprus to renew our visas, met Andrea's future husband

scuba diving in the Red Sea

Exiting Bethlehem through the checkpoint

blindfolded on my birthday

striking a pose in Jerusalem

rooftop worship in Bethlehem

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall bow down and worship before You, For the kingship and the kingdom are the Lord’s, and He is the ruler over the nations.”

Psalm 22:27-18 (AMP)

the gift of a peace treaty

Eight years ago I was joyfully gliding down a hill in Massachusetts. I’d wrapped up another long day at my carrel in the basement of my seminary’s library and I was talking to God about what I would do after finishing seminary the following May. Then I heard Him say, “another Master’s degree.” I politely suggested God think of other options. He seemed determined. I asked, “In what?” He said, “Counseling.” I laughed. There beneath a lampost’s rays on light snow, I laughed out loud. I listed a couple other subjects. God gave His list, which wasn’t a list at all, only “Counseling.” “Okay,” I responded, “I’m not going to tell anyone about that, confirm it while I am in Turkey this summer.” True to Who He is, He did. I spent seven weeks in Turkey that summer, with about a dozen people, only two of whom I knew previously.

Day after day, different people would come up to me and ask me questions about psychology or an interpersonal dilemma. When there were disagreements on the team, I found myself tugged into them with the simple solicitation, “Could you help us?” In these interactions I also heard, “Oh, ask Dawn about that, she’s studying counseling” or “Talk to Dawn, she does mediation.”  I found myself squinting back, “I’m not studying counseling. Why did you think that?” The response was classically, “Oh, I don’t know why I thought that. I guess because your obviously good at it.” I was a bit annoyed at God for this persistent understanding, cloaked as misunderstanding. By the end of the trip I’d succumbed: I told God I’d do a Master’s degree in Counseling, even though I didn’t know why I was doing it. In May of 2005 I graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Religion and a Master’s in Counseling.

These days I know my innate design, topped with acquired skills, is, in part, to counsel leaders. Now it makes sense why, even in university, I found myself walking into heated arguments and then quickly recruited to mediate conversations. I was learning how to be a peacemaker. I was learning the power of reconciliation, the “repairing of the breach” Isaiah writes about in chapter 58:12. As I look forward in time to my journey back to the Middle East, and specifically to Iraq, I am really thankful God told me to get that degree. He’s so smart.

Well, fittingly, I was given a postcard this week of one of the world’s first peace treaties. A friend of mine recently returned from Iraq, Turkey, and Israel. While in Turkey she visited the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Ironically, I also visited the museum during my summer in Turkey in 2003. She brought back a postcard for me. The image is of the Kadesh Treaty from BC 1269. She said, “This is for you because you are a peacemaker.”

I think my eyes must have widened. Sometimes the thought of being a peacemaker in the Middle East is so immense, it’s like someone asking you to walk their dogs and then showing up at your house with 17 rottweilers. It’s a bit more than one might think feasible. It sometimes feels daunting, but the truth is, in all of this, I know quite clearly the vision God has put inside me; and in the words of Joan of Arc, “I am not afraid… I was born to do this.”

My favorite peacemaker, Jesus, once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5)

Yes. I believe there’s a new unit of God’s dream team: radical peacemakers who will confidently go into any place, knowing the answers to the unrest, war, hatred, and fear are inside them. As Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar with some of the results being peace, these people will serve nations in such a HOPEFUL manner, peace will be the natural end. These leaders will be called sons and daughters of God because they illuminate the same restorative heart He has.

It will be beautiful, as nations light up with love – knowing who they are and who He designed them to be.

They will come into contact with the One who is Peace, the universe’s ultimate peace treaty.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”

(Ephesians 2:14)

I’m not only sharing this story to speak of peace, though I love it. I’m sharing this story to draw attention to the profound reality that God is preparing YOU for a specific purpose – maybe you are already in it, but it is growing; maybe you have no idea what it is, but your heart is magnetized to certain topics; and maybe you know what it is, but it seems far away. Take heart. You have a niche in the universe no one else can fill. God has a plan and a purpose for your life; and it’s infinitely more wonderful than anything you’ve imagined. It’s fun. It’s life-giving. It’s powerful.

Repeat after me, and the book “Dream Culture”:

God is good ALL the time. I have a purpose. Nothing is impossible. I am responsible for me. Greatness comes through serving.

(Dream Culture, p72)

Thanks for being YOU.

watching the moonrise

” from Issachar, men who understood the times

and knew what Israel should do

 

(1 Chronicles 12:32)

On July 1, 2011 I signed a lease for my new apartment. Clause 21 on the lease was,

“Timing. Timing is of the essence in this agreement.”

I laughed at the sudden entrance of a Zen poet into the otherwise very business-like form. I asked the landlord what it meant. She chuckled and admitted she didn’t know. I suggested they were emphasizing all of the previous references to time they had given (ie. 30 days notice before moving, the pool is open 8am-10pm etc). Still, the phrase stuck with me. I felt God elbow me when I thought about it. I pondered how much TIMING is also of the essence in my relationship with Him. I thought about the many things I am waiting on: promises to be fulfilled, dreams to materialize. I laughed as I reminded myself, with a wince, God has my best in mind and often timing is, not everything, but certainly A LOT. I am glad God sticks to His guns when I get impatient and stomp my feet. I am also thankful He is trustworthy and the best person to be dealing with in all matters. I am glad He’s the Lord of my land, the one who gave me the laundry key and also the keys to my front door. HE GAVE ME KEYS. He gives me access! His sense of timing tills the garden of my life. Tick-tock. <God, (tick) I trust (tock) your (tick) timing. (tock).>   

Baghdad, THERE I come!!! (hee hee hee!)

Sometimes I feel I’ve been pregnant for 15 years. Other times I am sure of it.

The child is a vision, a passion, a calling. The vision is for the Middle East: to thrive, to be at peace, to be madly in love with the Savior.

Much of that vision centers on Iraq.

In 2001 I had a dream I was in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in Iraq. I was leading a secret church meeting. I knew Saddam’s regime had fallen and he was dead. I knew it was a prophetic picture of a scene which would be fulfilled.

In 2003 Saddam’s regime fell. In 2006 he was killed. In 2008 I was told about a man named Canon Andrew White who was leading church meetings in one of Saddam’s former palaces, a mutual friend told him about me. We began emailing. On March 23, 2011 Andrew was in Redding and we had dinner. He invited me to work with him in Baghdad.

In 2012 I plan to semi-move to Baghdad to be part of rebuilding and transforming the nation.

For preparation and vision-casting, I’m going to visit Baghdad this November. I’ll spend 2 weeks in England and visit FRRME’s home office; then 2 weeks in Baghdad where I will get to know the land, the people at St George’s Church, the folks at FRRME’s medical clinic, the Tigris River. I will also deliver paintings to high-profile leaders in Iraq. 

To say I am excited would be to say the sun is handy or shoes are helpful for hiking; it is decidedly an understatement. Setting my feet upon Iraq is a moment I’ve burned for, lived for, prayed for with a zeal and a compassion that still electrifies my heart and beckons my soul. Iraq and I are a match made in heaven.

For my trip this fall I need $4,000.

If you’d like to contribute toward transforming this nation, do so here:

http://dawnrichardson.chipin.com/dawns-trip-to-baghdad                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

THANK YOU! / ! شكر