Cultivate anxiety-free living by dwelling in God’s Presence intentionally. Simply BE with Him.
If you’d like insight on the life and environment of security contractors in Baghdad, Iraq watch this 45 minute film. You’ll also get to see that precious city’s streets. Take note, this film came out in 2007 when the situation in Baghdad still involved the US military.
I love Iraq. I really do. She will move past all this mayhem and shine again.
These were our usual two trucks of security detail in Baghdad. These are NOT foreign security contractors. They are Iraqi. And they are actually quite kind and jovial when not on hyper-alert.
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”
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.
I came across this poem today in the book, “Palestine: History of a Lost Nation” by Karl Sabbagh. It’s a good reminder of the people who need advocacy: people in areas of conflict longing for peace. It’s the desire in a child stuck in an angry home, the desire of an alcoholic afraid of being left alone with himself, and the desire of families around the world who are nearly trapped in their homes on account of war. The flower that pokes through the weeds is the promise that peace is possible. It is precisely what Jesus has paid for, and it is precisely what God has given His children the authority to do: to be repairers of the breach.
Isaiah 58:12 sings of our restorative calling, “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” It’s beautiful. What an honor, to love nations to life. So we can hear the plea and know we are not powerless. On the contrary, we are powerful and we are the answer.
help me to breathe,
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.
(for video taken about 15 minutes before we arrived on the scene
(take note: blood and bodies)
(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.
(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:
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?”
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.”
A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.
The world is being transformed.
Peace is possible. Isaiah chapter nine verses 6-7 beat with the metronome of peace.
In the words of former US President Ulysses S. Grant,
“There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.”
Peace is possible. And the world is yearning for people to believe in this possibility, this PEACE-ability.
In the midst of the hubbub about Israel and Palestine, there is a melody – a melody of hope, peace, and purpose. Bethlehem was called by name as a city of promise in Micah 5. Bethlehem is now in the Palestinian Territories, a place I love wholeheartedly – a people beautiful and important. In Isaiah 9 it says the Lord’s government will be ever-increasing. I believe there is a plan for peace in the Middle East. In heaven in a file cabinet, there is a plan. And it is so full of love it would dumbfound even the most compassionate human being. Two years ago I was thinking about all this me-lee, this confusion and unrest. I was living in Bethlehem, surrounded by a thirty-foot concrete wall and checkpoints. And I was declaring Bethlehem’s true identity to be re-established. From those thoughts came the following song, sung on a balcony in the Bethlehem area. He WILL be their peace.
– Graham Cooke