A Vessel Of Honor

A noise was made in heaven as the way parted and the Accuser entered the throne room. He came with a list…”See that little pot in the corner? It was made from defective materials. It is too small and weak for any good use. It’s broken now. Surely you have no remaining purpose for that one….It will never amount to anything…Can I have it? I’ll dispose of it for you…take care of the problem…It should be discarded. Surely there is no use for it…” (He inches slowly toward the pot and bends over to grasp it when the Lord’s strong voice booms out saying, “Silence! This one was made for My use. I designed it. I am not done with it yet. I have a purpose your eyes will never understand. It was bought and paid for with My blood: I ransomed this one! It has been redeemed! You will speak no more against it! It is mine!”

Satan slithered away and the Lord went and tenderly picked up each broken piece of the fractured vessel, missing nothing. He carried them to a workbench. The Holy Spirit came and together they labored with love over their broken vessel. The blood of the Lamb and the oil of joy covered each ragged edge as God reconstructed what the enemy thought he had destroyed. Slowly, from a pile of broken pieces, God fashioned a beautiful vessel of honor. At the banquet celebration He held, this vessel was on the table of the King of Kings — a beautiful goblet full of new wine. Its delicate, intricately shaped stem and ornamented sides were beautifully decorated with scenes declaring the victory of the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.
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From Psalms 30:8-12 NLT
I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Teresa Norman April 6, 1991

Not for sale (poem)

Money doesn’t make you a better person-it just gives you better choices.  In some cultures, having no money and no rights makes you a target for traffickers. I first heard of the organization “Not For Sale” shortly after I had met some of my young refugee friends. It made their presentation pretty non-theoretical. I could picture some of the young people I care about and the choices they may have faced if their parents had not chosen to become refugees and take the risk of resettlement to America.

Not for sale…..
Humans as commodities, stocks to exchange,
inconveniences, expendables to be thrown away.
Their lives for sale…choices determined by $.
No! Their lives are a gift. Their lives have value!
Children of God, created with purpose-
whether they know it or not!

They have captured us, adopted us, let us love them.
Priceless treasures beyond measure…
These sharers of laughter, of humbling moments…
Yahtzee played, meals shared, loving acceptance offered and received.
We talk of woman things and what it means
Of relationships and guys who are good
And those who are not.

Transitions negotiated like minefields….
New experiences played out each day….
We talk of Christmas trees and manger scenes–
Of Jesus, a refugee whose parents fled to safety to keep him safe.

They watched our daughter with her baby
And reflected on a mother who loves instead of leaves…
They have little “stuff”- but their father loves them.
With courage he brought them here in spite of the challenges.
They live in a “big” house (smaller than most living rooms),
grateful their father cooks for them….
Grateful for food. For friends…. for choices.
If different choices had been made,
They could be some of those who are for sale in another land…..

How do you determine the value of a human?
Of their love?
It is priceless.
It should not be for sale.

The View from the Front

This article yesterday in the Seattle times tells about the struggle refugees are having making ends meet in the recession economy and how the budget cuts are impacting them here in Washington State.  I took some time to read the comments that followed the article, and was made aware of how great some of the hostility is that people hold towards not just illegal immigrants, but also towards those our government has invited to be here.  While I understand their financial frustration, and fear that their piece of an ever-shrinking pie will somehow disappear, I am also aware that my friends who are refugees have faced things beyond my comprehension.  The link here is to an article from the Bangkok Post, written by a friend of a friend, highlighting the situation these folks needed a refuge from.

Within Range of Mortars

Five kilometers (about 3 miles) is just within range of an 81 mm mortar.  You may not care, since there’s none pointed at you, but families in Ler Per Her IDP camp (within range of the mortar mentioned above) are increasingly concerned by them and some are heading to Thailand in case their camp (housing about 1200 people) is attacked again.  (It has been burned down several times in the past by the Burma Army.  (See today’s report from the Karen Human Rights Group ) for details. School at Ler Per Hur

The US Campaign for Burma lists ways we can all help speak for their freedom.   In other countries, murderers go to jail. Here they are in charge, while the UN and others make statements showing their concern….   Ler Per Hur kids
Partners Relief & Development is helping ethnic leaders provide basic necessities for those impacted by the continuing oppression of the Burma Army, including the new arrivals at Ler Per Hur.  They can use our help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How You Can Help

The following  from the US Campaign for Burma tells one way you can help!


For years, Burma’s military regime has carried out brutal human rights abuses against its own civilians.  Their abuses include the conscription of tens of thousands of child soldiers, the destruction and forced displacement of over 3,300 ethnic minority villages, widespread rape of Burmese women, the killing of civilians, and forcing hundreds of thousands of Burmese people into forced labor, what some call modern-day slavery.
These are not simply human rights abuses — they are mass atrocities called “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes,” meaning that they are illegal under international law such as the Geneva Conventions and Rome Statute. 
In the past, the United Nations Security Council has voted to create a “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate abuses of a major magnitude

— such as in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and the Darfur region of Sudan.  The Commission of Inquiry then makes recommendations to the U.N. Security Council for action. However, no such Commission of Inquiry been created for Burma.
Now, two leading members of the U.S. Congress, Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Don Manzullo (R-IL) have organized a letter to President Obama asking him to press the U.N. Security Council to create a Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Burma’s military regime.  They are circulating a letter in  Congress and asking other Congressmembers to sign-on.  They want as many members as possible to sign the letter, which will then be sent to President Obama.
We need your help to get more members of Congress to sign. When members of Congress organize letters like this they are called “Dear Colleague” letters.  We want you to call your member of Congress and ask them to sign this “Dear Colleague” letter.
Every American is represented in the U.S. Congress by one member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  We would like you to call your Congressional office to urge your member of the U.S. House of Representatives (NOT the U.S. Senate) to sign the “Dear Colleague” letter along with Congressman Crowley and Manzullo.  You do not have to be a citizen; just live or work in your Congressperson’s district. Below are specific instructions on how you can do this. 

 

Click here for the rest of the instructions…….

If We Are His Body…..

It surprised me to see all the theological chatter when I tried to look up this poem.  In my simple way, I hadn’t seen this famous poem as being all that complicated.  Rather, I saw it as somewhat awe-inspiring and humbling that God would trust us with being “laborers together with Him” in the world….

 Christ Has No Body

“Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world….”

 Some of the theological chatter said it was blasphemy-that it implied that Christ didn’t ascend to heaven in a transformed body…..bla bla bla.  In my humble opinion, I don’t think the author was trying to yank someone’s chain.  I think she/he/they (there’s some debate on authorship) was trying to make a significant, complex, mind-boggling mystery real, tangible and practical to those of us without MDvs. 

A friend’s blog posed the question recently, “What are you praying for?”  I guess I am praying to recognize Christ in the many ways He shows up- not just in the Bible, or in church, but at work, in the grocery store, on the street, on the docks, at friend’s houses, in the people I meet each day.  I am praying to reflect to those He connects me with that their lives have value because He made them with a purpose and has plans for their good!  I am praying to learn to live out my faith in ways that reflect the miracle that God uses broken human beings to help make grace real.  I am praying that I will learn to be part of the solution and not the problem in the lives of those I am called to love….As I seek to be present in the moment with some friends facing difficult transitions, I pray above anything, “God, teach me to love.”

Nobel Prize Winner On Trial

The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi  continues.  She is accused of harboring a man who broke into her home and refused to leave.  For this “crime” she could receive up to five years in prison.  Coincidentally, this would get her out of the illegal governement’s way while the sham election takes place in 2010.  Coincidence, or part of the government’s plan?

The illegal government (which makes having an uninvited, unreported overnight house guest a crime and commits crimes against humanity, not fearing any reaction stronger than more words from Asean or the UN), has allowed some diplomats and some journalists (without cameras) to be present for the moment.

Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 2100 other political prisoners remain inprisoned for crimes such as trying to help those who suffered from the devastation of Cyclone Nargis, or participating in protests against the regime that has used raped, murder, forced relocation, and forced labor against them for decades.

Nobel Prize Winner Taken to Prison

Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested and taken to prison because an uninvited American swam across a lake and stayed at her house, refusing to leave.  Coincidence?  Or set up by the Burmese government– an excuse to extend her illegal detention, which was set to expire?  The Nobel Prize winner, who has spent more than 11 of the last 19 years under house arrest, has been taken to Insein prison to await trial.  (see details).

Burma Campaign UK has a letter writing link set up…please speak out.  She is the victim, not the criminal.  She could spend the rest of her life in prison because of this incident.  Please ask the UN to send high level envoys to request her release and that of other political prisoners.  She has already spent 13 years and 202 days in detention and committed no crime.  Her detention has been declared illegal under international law.  As she has said before, “Please use your freedom to speak for ours.”

Global Day of Prayer for Burma

Sunday, March 8th is the Global Day of Prayer for Burma.  

Pray:

  • For political prisoners.
  • For a political solution to the armed conflict.
  • For the pastors, who are often singled out and attacked by Burma army soldiers when they first enter a village.
  • For strength, wisdom, and hope among people of all faiths who live under direct control of the military dictatorship in Burma.  Pray that they will be unified and encouraged by their efforts to serve one another through love and perseverance.
  • For all of the parents who have lost their children due to the Burma army attacks.
  • For the children who suffer the most in the conflict.
  • For a change in the hearts of the Burma army soldiers and leaders.
  • For a political solution to the armed conflict.
  • For those in the areas still devastated by Cyclone Nargis.

Some of our friends from the Karen choir at the Karen church in Kent will be participating in the service at Quest on Sunday.  Below is a translation of the song they will be singing.  Please join them, and us, in praying for Burma.

My prayer

 Alone, I cannot walk the path without you Lord.

All is barren without your presence.

All life comes from you.

Strength comes from you.

Rest my heart

May I rest in you.

Let me know just one thing.

For all in heaven and earth

And my heart is yours.

Let me believe in just one thing

That you will never leave me

And where ever you place me, there you be.

Who am I?

I don’t remember  the purpose of the meeting, but several hundred of us were gathered in the meeting hall at  Langley United Methodist Church, during the days when Tom & Claudia Walker were pastoring there.  Different now forgotten things went on during the meeting, but then Tom and Claudia got up to sing one of their songs, “Child of God.”  This was probably 15 years ago, but my life has never been the same. 

“I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.

My name is Marie, now I can see

What this relationship’s doing to me

Last night he hit me, I fell on the floor–

Just like he’s hit me so often before.

He says he’s sorry.  He brings me flowers…

Things will go fine for a couple of hours…

He says I’m nothing.  He says I’m scum.

Then he hits me because that’s what he does.

I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.

My name is Manuel.  My hands can tell

The story of how you’re living so well.

I work every day but my family is poor

So you can have coffee bananas and more.

The landowners say if I don’t mind my ways

They can find substitute workers to pay.

They say my soul will only be free

In heaven some day, that’s what they say.

 I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.”

There were at least three of us who wept and wept, even after the song  and the beautiful, worshipful, expressive  dance Carol did during it were over.  Something had happened….in this song, by the grace of God, we saw a new reality for how God sees us, even in our brokenness.  He loves us all, even in our failures, poverty, isolation, differentness, or in other groups excluded in their society.  He sees us not as life’s incidences and conflicts had taught us to view ourselves, but with through the lens of the dignity He created us for. 

(Sorry I have lost the third verse (the story of a man being disowned by his family for admitting he was gay-very powerful! ), or the music to share with you (it was beautiful).

Thank you Tom & Claudia for sharing your gifts.  Wherever you are, hope you are well and blessed with the kind of grace you have shared with others.

“U.S. Good, Burma Not Good…”

It’s amazing what can be communicated with limited English.  I sat with a Burmese friend tonight practicing English and looking at a map of Burma and trying to ask what part he was from.  He pointed to Rangoon and said, “Good.”  Then he pointed to the Chin, Karen and other ethnic areas and said, “Not good,” then pantomined people shooting at each other, and trying to eat while looking over your shoulder ready to flee. “U.S. good.  Burma not good.” 

I know the political issues are “complicated” and there is debate over the best ways accomplish the goal of democracy, freedom, and functioning legal government in Burma and life without fear for the people who live there.   There is debate among some here over whether refugee resettlement is a good idea, or should even be happening with the economic challenges our country currently faces.  That’s someone else’s post.  For me, I hope I don’t forget my friend’s statement, or what he so effectively acted out.  It frames the debate completely out of the theoretical, philosophical, political arena.  This is a human thing.

What can be done for Burma?

 Benedict Rogers of CSW visited Seattle recently and spoke about what can be done  about the problems of Burma.  He listed ways for people to campaign for meaningful change in Burma:

  1. Advocate for a universal arms embargo to go through the United Nations (US Campaign for Burma)
  2. Advocate  referral of the SPDC (illegal government of Burma) by the United Nations to the International Criminal Court to bring the generals to justice for crimes against humanity
  3. Support the democracy movement’s current campaign for a credential’s challenge in the United Nations to challenge the idea that this illegal regime has the right to represent the people of Burma (UN Credentials)
  4. Campaign for increased humanitarian aid to Burma, particularly to the areas where hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people are struggling with very little humanitarian assistance (Free Burma Rangers)
  5. Increased awareness and international response to the famine in Chin state caused by a plague of rats which have destroyed the food supply of 200 villages leaving at least 100,000 people close to starvation (Chin Relief)

The Change for Burma Campaign is run by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Partners Relief & Development UK.

Jesus is a refugee (poem)

See the mother in the jungle, tiny baby in her arms,
Running from the soldiers who’ve come to rape and kill
She’s tired from the running, desperate, hungry, full of fear—
How can she know God loves her, and that He walks beside her there?

He is there beside her in the dark and in the cold.
He knows what she is feeling, in the Bible it is told
That He was once a refugee. His parents ran to save His life
From the soldiers sent to kill him in Herod’s infanticide.

The way that God has chosen to loose the bands of wickedness
To give bread to the hungry and to help free the oppressed
Calls us to walk beside her in our prayers and in our hearts:
As the body of Christ, the servant king, it makes her burden ours.

But words and prayers are not enough, no matter how well spoken
God’s love requires our presence so He can walk beside His children.
Even though we’re broken, we are His feet and hands.
We stand in need of grace to obey His commands.

Though she sits in darkness, He came to be the light.
Though she now is hungry, He is the bread of life.
Though we turn aside sometimes or don’t know what to do,
We are all called in some way to help her make it through.

He chose to entrust us with His reputation
And to make us His body throughout every nation
As a king become baby, He risked everything
Calling us to embody the love that He brings….

“I was hungry and you gave me bread
Thirsty and you gave me drink
A stranger and you took me in
In prison and you came to me….”
Lord, when did this happen?
His answer is quite clear
“When you did it for the least of these
It was for me, for I am there….”

Arrests in Burma Continue

The US Campaign for Burma blog (see link below) lists the growing number of people in Burma being arrested for simple things like blogging, using a computer, doing a comedy routine, speaking for justice-and facing prison sentences of up to 65 years for it.   http://doiyeh.wordpress.com/  

More hidden from view, is the ongoing military oppression and human rights abuses going on in the ethnic areas of Burma.  (For current documentation and pictures, see the Free Burma Rangers site, and the Karen Human Rights Group site).  

Each Sunday afternoon when we go down to Kent to church with our refugee friends from Burma, I am reminded that this is people’s stories being shown on these sites above.  This is not a news item.  These people I try to converse with in spite of language barriers are people who fled those kind of injustices and are trying to make a new life for their children in a country where they hope for all the same things for their kids we do for ours.   Everyone comes with a story and a history and a dream.  

One of the most powerful moments for me, in visiting a refugee camp the 1st time, was when we were leaving, and an older gentleman shook my hand and said, “Please do not forget us.”  Several years later, we were in another camp, and through an interpreter, we asked the headman what he would like the people to in America to know.  He said that they pray for us, that we will not forget them, and that we will use our freedom to speak for theirs.

God help us never to forget those around the world longing for the same thing.

Crisis in Congo-link to a letter to Senators

A google search of “crisis in Congo” returned 2,120,000 hits.  It’s not like the world doesn’t know there’s a problem, a big problem.  Harper McConnell, of Heal Africa, explained that while many international organizations have pulled out of Congo, they are still working in the midst of the conflict.  Their web site tells of the ongoing life changing and life saving work they do.  

Several  ACTION STEPS that we can take are listed on their web site, along with the following explanation: “Through much of the media, the unrest is presented as a tribal conflict, but it is a conflict rooted in control for resources. Resources such as coltan (in latops and cell phones), diamonds, gold, tantalum, minerals which drive the global economy. It is the people of DR Congo who are suffering for the extraction of these minerals which are sold to multinational companies. Write your senator using this letter to tell them to support Senate Bill 3058 and enforce multinationals to follow strict extraction and purchasing guidelines. ”  (There’s also a link to a letter to write to companies using coltan to check their sources, a link to a petition to print out and gather signatures on, and a donation link).  

The video linked here shows another report done by the Pulitzer Center on Coltan and the Congo:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OWj1ZGn4uM