LIKE A CHILD: Process, not Product

Diane n FatherI have just enjoyed 2 marvelous weeks with my 97-year-old Father. Though showing some typical signs of aging, he is still in good health and has a clear mind. He loves to discuss Mennonite history, family history, politics and current issues especially in the church.

About five years ago, he attended a seminar on aging where he heard that doing puzzles helps keep one’s mind alert. Since then, puzzles have been his main “occupation.” So of course when I visit, he wants help putting a puzzle together.

Father is always anxious to finish the current puzzle he is working on. When it takes too long, he gets frustrated. But when completed, he waits one or maybe two days, then takes it apart and starts another one. father puzzle 2“So what is the point?” one could wonder. Certainly the point is not to achieve a complete picture that will be saved for its own sake. And as much as there is a drive to finish, the purpose cannot be to finish — or one would not want to start again! So we can only conclude that the goal of putting together a puzzle is to enjoy the process of doing it.

The activity of children is the same. Children play for the sake of playing, not for the sake of producing an end product. An adult (might) paint a picture in order to have a product that they can sell; a child will paint a picture in order to enjoy creating with paint.

Our walk with the Lord is also much the same. So often we think that God will be impressed with what we accomplish for Him. We want to achieve and have results to show for our efforts. But God just wants us to walk with Him. He can get done whatever he wants to get done with or without me. Wow! Really? Yes, really. But He chooses to use me, because he wants to take me on a journey of walking beside, learning from, communing with, and listening to, HIM.

If we focus too much on what we are doing for God, we will miss the point. As my friend, LaVerne Kreider always reminds me, “It is all about the journey.” It is the process of living with God that counts.

~ Diane

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The Sting of Death

Kenya is in mourning this Easter Monday. The church in particular is asking a lot of questions. Why did the attackers start with the praying Christians? Why during Easter? Why innocent students? Are we losing freedom of worship in Kenya? Are we heading toward religious wars?

The two women who went to the tomb early Sunday morning were also in turmoil. Hopes and dreams for the future had come crashing down. Their hearts were laden with grief and pain. Everything looked dark. But Josh Meyer at Franconia Mennonite Church reminded us this morning that some of God’s best work is done in the darkness. During the darkness of that Sabbath night over 2000 years ago, God redeemed a seemingly hopeless situation.

Darkness and pain do not generally get very ‘good press’. They are not things we look for. But death and darkness do not have the last word. With the infusion of God’s power, they can actually be a seedbed for victory. That is the message of Easter: light over darkness – victory over death – hope conquering despair. That is the hope we can grasp and hold on to, even in the midst of the darkest night.

The blood of martyrs, throughout history, has often been a seed of revival. And we have been crying to God for revival! We have been crying for a new wind of the Spirit to shake the status quo of the church and visit us with power.

Desperate times help us realize that we truly need God. When we desperately seek for Him, we surely shall find Him. In the grief and mourning, may we seek help from Him who has alone defeated death.

~ Ibrahim and Diane

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The Seed of the Gospel?

Television screens are awash with yet another tragedy in Kenya: the massacre of non-Islamic young men and women. Some of these young people were having their “morning glory” prayer time when the attackers struck. They had no idea that terrorist bullets would usher them into God’s glory on that fateful Thursday morning.

The DOVE team in Garisa had the opportunity to share with the university Christian Union last year; some of those who died were known to them.

Martyrdom is not what Christians look for. Yet it happens in the most painful and inappropriate ways.

Garisa and indeed the northeastern part of Kenya have been quite resistant to the Gospel. But we did not expect that the resistance would lead to people being killed for their faith. The Westgate mall attack, the bus and quarry attacks in Mandera and now the Garisa University attack have a common theme besides just senseless killing. They are going for Christians. To avoid the bullet, you need an Islamic name and you might be asked to recite a verse in the Quran.

The Somali terrorists have been quite consistent. They have a clear message to pass on: “Kenyan Christians must die” in retaliation for the efforts of the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) to help restore law and order in Somalia. They would have preferred to maintain the status quo of lawlessness there.

The KDF troops in Somalia include lots of Muslims. But that is beside the point. We are witnessing a modern-day martyrdom of Christians in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, some of whom also desire to be martyrs for their faith!

I believe that this region that has been so resistant to the Gospel is going to see a greater witness of our Lord. I would not be surprised at all if Somali Muslims begin to see visions of Christ and accept him as their Savior. After all, we have a man called Saul who went all-out to kill Christians. Then… he met Christ and became His fervent witness. May the lives of those who have now gone to glory be a seed that will bear Kingdom fruit as we celebrate Christ’s victory over death this Easter.

~ Ibrahim

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Like a Child: Learn by Doing

We just had an amazing hour with the elementary students at Morningstar Ministries’ School for Creative Leadership (CSCL) in Fort Mill, South Carolina. (Yes, we are in the States for most of this and next month).

After I gave a brief introduction to Kenya: where it is in the world, the different tribes, the languages and the foods — the students became lively participants, asking many insightful questions. “Do people have pets?” “What is the currency in Kenya?” “Are you in danger from wild animals?” “Are there any wealthy people in Kenya?”

Before closing, the children were asked to pray for us and give any words of prophecy or encouragement that they were hearing from the Lord. After a few moments of silence, about 30 hands were waving in the air. Yes, these were elementary school students —  children from 5 to 12 years of age.

We were “blown away” by the words that came through. Some shared a vision: “I saw a boat on a river with a blue and white sail. Blue means royalty and white means righteousness. You are royal children of God who are pure in heart.” Others shared a word: “God is saying that he is very happy with the work you are doing in Africa.” Several had words about protection, based on the vision of an angel or of a man with a large sword standing around or beside us. By the end of those brief 10 minutes, we were in tears, and encouraged down to the very core.

The point? Well apart from the obvious inspiration, the other point is that children are active learners. As we grow, we gain the ability to learn through verbal and written instruction. But children primarily learn by doing. Imagine trying to explain to a three-year-old how to tie his shoelace? Or ride a tricycle? Or how to ‘hear God?’ The mode of learning is through actually doing it.

Jesus said that our faith should be like that of a child.1 So in the same way, we must DO the will of God. “Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.”2

The children reminded me of this today. They were ready, without fear or shame, to do the work of ministry. Thank you, CSCL students!

~ Diane

1 Matthew 18:3

2 James 2:17

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Like a Child: Want to ‘be with’

As human beings we are naturally created to cry out for God. And the more we look for him, the more we seek him, the more of him we will experience. The people God will use are those who are hungry and thirsty for more of him.

Besides being totally dependent on parents and looking like them, children also have a natural desire to be in the presence of their mother or father. We all know that children cry. Babies cry a lot! The crying instinct is really a God-given tool that a child uses to draw care and attention to herself.

Sometimes we suppress this craving for Father’s attention and presence – at other times we allow it. But seeking God’s face is a key to receiving his favor. If we would know the Bless-er more, we would not worry so much about the bless-ings.

I feel very good when one of our adult children wants to spend time with me, asks for my advice, or does things that show love and respect. Those are all very rewarding experiences. I believe that every father feels good when a child seeks them out. It is an honor. Having a meaningful relationship with a son or daughter is very rewarding for a parent.

Every parent enjoys his children – and God enjoys his children too! He enjoys it when we want to be with him. When we seek God diligently, we are promised that we will find him.

To be honest, I have not had nearly enough of God’s presence. I want more. If God actually fills the whole universe, then certainly there is much more of his presence available for us!

~ Ibrahim

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Like a Child: Like Parents

When a newborn comes to a family, most people are quick to pronounce, “He has his father’s nose,” or “I see the Diener family all over him.” We notice the resemblance almost immediately.

God is our Father. The Word says that we are created in the “likeness and image of God.”1 We have the divine nature within us. We are supposed to reflect God, and should have the attitude of Christ Jesus.2

Until the life after this one, most people will not actually see God ‘in person.’ But we, as his children, are equipped through the Holy Spirit to help people see God. We are his hands and feet. Our love reveals God’s love.

I remember one particular parent-teacher meeting we had when our boys were in school. One of the teachers was very bold with me. She actually asked, “Do you have anything to do with these boys?” I did not feel very good about that comment — even though I realized she was joking. I guess they just had a lot more resemblance to their father (maybe the African genes are stronger?!)

In every way, we should resemble our Father. When people look at us, they should “see” Jesus. When people hear us speak, they should hear the words of God. When people see how we live, they should experience a touch from the Lord. In actions, in speech and in character, our lives should show the world what God in his fullness is like. Even our marriages are intended to demonstrate to others what the love of Jesus, the Bridegroom, is for His bride.

Do people ‘see’ Christ in me? Do they see God, my father, ‘all over’ me? Do they touch his love and experience his grace? I hope that the resemblance is growing, and that my life points people to my Father.

~ Diane
1Genesis 1:26
2Philippians 2:5

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Like a Child: Total Dependence

None of us likes the feeling of being helpless. We like to be in control – of ourselves and of our situations. We tend to be highly self-sufficient and trust in our own capacity to get things done. We make our own decisions, set our own schedules, and spend our own money. We don’t need to consult anyone, especially not God. After all, isn’t being independent what it means to be a responsible adult?

In previous blogs, we have looked at features of child-like faith, the kind of faith that Jesus said is required for entering the Kingdom of God. One of the important truths of life in the Kingdom that we need to understand from children is dependence on God.

A newborn baby can do nothing for herself, except maybe breathe, sleep and cry. She depends on her caregivers completely and totally. A baby cannot feed herself, change her own diapers, dress herself, or even move from one place to another. An infant, or even a young child, cannot thrive on her own.

John Bowlby is well known for his theory of attachment in children. He says that developing a close relationship with Mommy (or caregiver) is so necessary in the early years. Attachment provides a child with security, comfort and safety. Because of this, and the infant’s uncompromising need for protection, Bowlby insists that attachment is the single most important need of a child in the first year of life.

Similarly, being close to God is our number one need! When faced with the stark reality of my own inability, I feel helplessly overwhelmed. And certainly it is not comfortable to be so needy and unable. It does not feel nice. But that is the exact position where God wants me to stay — in a position of total dependence on Him.

“I cannot do this, Lord,” seems to be a common, desperate prayer of mine, often laden with doubts and fears. God has been telling me over and over, “Don’t worry; I have it covered.” My response? “That is really good, Lord, because I definitely do NOT!”

Dependence on God is a lesson that all of us have to learn, and one that we can learn from the faith of a child. Jesus would also be our example. Jesus, the very son of God, said that he speaks only what his Father speaks and does only what his Father is doing. He acknowledged, “I can do nothing” (John 5:19), and reminds us that apart from Him, “WE can do nothing!”

~ Diane

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