Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturation Theology

I just finished reading the book of Deuteronomy.  This particular reading I am coming away with a 'saturation theology'.  The book is instructing the Hebrews on how God wants them to live.  It's not just the ten commandments.  God tells them what it means to worship God.  Establishes places of refuge, tells them how to conquer idolatrous nations, how to handle debts, remembering God through obedience, what to do with false prophets, a list of forbidden practices, how to take care of the Levites and so on.  It seems like every area of their lives is touched as God gives them guidelines and instructions.  Over and over God says it will go well with the Israelites if they will follow all His commands, and it will not go well for them if they don't. Several times God tells them to talk of these commands often day in and day out so they will not forget.

The saturation is not only in every situation of life, but in their conversation.  The Israelites were to remember, remember, remember.  Through feasts, discussion, sacrifices, how they handled crimes.....  The Israelites were to be saturated with God and His ways.

What do you say about our culture today?  Are we as Christians saturated with God?  Does God not only touch every area of our life, but does He infiltrate every area?  Yes, we can pray before we do certain events, but does God saturate it?
  Of course, my world involves family so I think in those realms.  Can we really raise godly children by just tokens of faith?  Maybe church on Sunday and regular prayer before meals?  I believe God still calls for saturation and remembering, remembering, remembering.   As Don and I sought the Lord to raise a godly seed, He led us into more and more saturation.  It infiltrated our schooling option.  Through home schooling we could teach and teach about God's ways and the benefits of those.  It affected our talk around the house.  Discussions of what we had read in the Bible happened.  Discussions about how to handle social situations in a Christ honoring way.  Discussions on how to better live out what the Holy Spirit was teaching us.  Entertainment that encouraged romance, frivolousness, violence and materialism became appalling to our spirits.
 Saturation affected our entertainments.  We began to spend time preparing to enhance our corporate worship times with music; we did visitation; we started an outreach to children in a needy area; we worked to raise money for mission trips.  Saturation affected our relationships as far as if people did not want to talk about God....then the friendships were strained.  Those that had hunger for more truth thrived.  It no longer worked so well to have shallow relationships.  Saturation affected our dress.  It became more gender distinctive and careful in the area of modesty and discretion.  Our goals in life were reformed.  Not what career will make the most money....but what does God want me to do and how can I best invest my time for Him?

Saturation of God.  Not possible to do when most of your talk around the table focuses on Hollywood, sports, secular pursuits, etc.  Not possible when the main goal in life is to have 'fun' while being a 'good' person, or if the main goal is worldly success.   Too often we see a mixture of worldliness and godliness...not a saturation.  Perhaps our culture is missing out on the saturation aspect in the midst of our prosperity.  The Israelites struggled with the same thing.  When life went smoothly and well, how easy it is to not emphasize God.  Because....God demands to be emphasized.  He knows our frame and in order to thrive spiritually, we need a saturation theology.  He must be everything.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

God Given Parent Power

How clearly I remember the turmoil we were in a few years ago at a family camp in Missouri.  The family camp was not the problem....but issues with our foster daughter were.  We had driven 15 hours straight through to get there and we were all tired and wanted to rest a few minutes on our bunks after unloading the vehicles.  Hannah had different ideas and when we insisted, she rebelled.  I remember the screaming, the refusing to stay on her bunk or even in our room, the hitting.  The high point being a cold stare given to Don with a "What are you going to do about it?" look after a hard shoe was thrown with energy into Mikah who was sitting at the side trying to stay out of it.  Obviously, there was no rest that afternoon before heading to the evening service.  This wasn't the end.  It seemed much of the weekend was spent putting out 'fires' - one of the worst having a runaway ward of the state when you're not in that state.  Not looked upon as good by the social worker.  Well, we got through that weekend barely, and many other times like it.
 Now, I cannot imagine our daughter acting in such a riotous manner!  I am fairly certain we will never have a weekend like that again!  What has brought about the changes?  Adoption and security some would say.  A work of salvation others would say.  Proper discipline would be another guess.
As you can imagine, all three of these have played a role in the changes we are seeing.  But, as I reflect on our limited experience with foster children and child evangelism, I have thought hard about what it means for a child to be saved and what we should expect from that powerful experience.  Ariana had had a salvation experience at the time of this family camp episode.  A few years before, we had 3 foster boys who had received the Lord in their hearts as well.  Of these 4 foster children, the biggest change we saw through their 'salvations' was a greater sensitivity to right and wrong and a better sensitivity to spiritual things...but the actual changes in behavior seemed to be minimal.  So the questions ran through our minds.....did they really get saved?  How could they be saved and still continue in this ungodly behavior?  They are more repentant now and more frustrated with themselves but why not more change?
Now, I'm going to admit I'm going into surmising with my non-theological mind, and I'm not establishing truths....I am just thinking and encouraging others to think.  My surmising is that God did not ideally intend for salvation to work and stand alone and to be the end all without compliance to God's plans.  Yes, salvation has everything we need in it....but does that mean that love and security are optional in a child's life?  Does that mean that teaching a child to deny himself is optional?  As long as he's SAVED does that really mean we don't need all these other things?  Maybe you're getting my drift a little.
I believe any of these foster children could keep chipping away at endeavoring to do God's will and in a three steps forward and two or three steps backward method eventually learn how to walk with God, deny themselves and accept God's unconditional love.  Yes, it could happen.  The Holy Spirit CAN lead them and enable them.  But, in most cases, its' a hard road and the chances are great that they could be sidelined.  The chances are great that even though they have good intentions they will be still wounded enough and recovering by the time they are married and have children that the next generation will still suffer.
This is where I see parent power coming in.  God has an ideal plan and things work best when we adhere to it.  It involves using God's tools to enable this child to do and be all God wants HIm to be....leading him to salvation and then to a heart and will that can utilize consistent obedience thereafter.
Our daughter's greatest spiritual growth came not in the first year after she was saved and was still a foster child, but in the few years after being adopted, secure, disciplined, home schooled.  It's not that the Holy Spirit was not enough...I don't really know how to say it....but perhaps there are certain spiritual laws which had been broken in her life and really needed to be fixed....and a PARENT needed to do it in hand with the Spirit.
That said, we are still struggling, though gaining, because the wounds of the first 8 years of our daughters life are not fixed overnight.
Sometimes when wounded adults get saved, the church needs to be that parent to offer the love, guidance and discipline a new convert needs.  I am beginning to believe it can be unfair to walk away from new converts who are failing at this walk and just say, "They weren't really saved."  Perhaps they have no concept of self denial, of accepting God's unconditional love in order to get up and try again.  Can we be that support for them if they are willing to let us be that parent in the Spirit?  It takes a lot of time and effort....but isn't it worth it?  I realize there are way too many people in our country who claim to be saved, but resist godliness.  I'm not talking about them.
I'm wondering if it's unfair when these wounded traumatized, poorly trained children accept Christ's forgiveness and love to expect them to "get over it" so suddenly.  Yes, Jesus is able to help them overcome everything right away....but as we know....it takes LETTING Him take over, and perhaps that is where they need help.  Learning to yield to a parent may need to come first.  Learning how trusting and yielding to authority brings good fruit.
God's grace is great, and can overcome any obstacle, but let's not overlook the joint power of God's grace along with obedience to the paths of the Lord.
So these are my thoughts are parent power.  Incomplete, I'm sure....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Litchfield Food Group

Perhaps people are like food groups.....some are starchy, some are fruity :-), some are high in protein (edifying), some are calcifying :-), and some are....well....at best....nutritive....

And that may be us.  Nutritive at best.  I said 'may'.  I'm not making any solid claims - I'm just surmising.

I'll say it.  The Litchfields may be vegetables. I say that because fellowshipping with the Litchfields can be like eating your vegetables.  You have a feeling it's good for you....that eggplant is such a beautiful purple, and the squash such a vibrant orange,  and you're all pumped up to get the benefit and then you take a bite and ..... well, they are just vegetables!   I mean a few of us may be the more palatable ones like green beans, tomatoes, carrots, but then it moves into the the middle range of cauliflower, broccoli, onions, and there may be some that are unavoidably.....a brussel sprout.  I cringe to say it. Full of antioxidants and Vitamin A.  It just takes a certain palate to appreciate it.  But God made it nonetheless.  Just the way it is...and pronounces it good.
Yes, we can put sugar in my carrot souffle, cream of mushroom soup in the green beans, cheese on the broccoli....or even the brussel sprouts, but still no one can change our vegetable family into a Hostess cupcake or Grandma Elder's sugar cookies.   Sooner or later, it will be discovered.
Vegetables mean business and they don't put on too many airs to make sure people like them.  They are practical and they have the best of intentions.  They are rather taken back when others don't quite understand when we squeeze onto their plate.  Don't they know that the FDA now recommends that at least HALF of your plate is now to be vegetables???
So, that is my surmising for today.  I am aware that there are those in my family may claim that I am not judging their food group correctly and I will get a good dose of antioxidants to try to 'fix' me, but, hey, it's worth considering.  I hope they at least can find it entertaining.  I would think vegetables are in heaven.  And, one last word - Papa Schultze, don't laugh too hard - at least half of this came from YOU.  :-)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Visit with Americans

On Saturday, we had an American Thanksgiving with some American friends.  These colleagues live about 15 minutes away from the Streets.  There are two families and a single lady.  They don't live in the same apartment - but they live within walking distance of each other and work for the same 'company'.  We traveled by auto rickshaw this time.  I felt much more comfortable and safer in this vehicle than the standard bicycle rickshaws!
Beth, below, and her husband have a teaching English business.

Most of the seating in this home was Indian style....on mats on a marble floor.  There were a few straight back dining room chairs....and I took advantage of them!  We had a time of singing together!
These two reach out to Indians through music workshops

Lori reaches out through women and children's ministries.  She is known in the area as the 'tall, white woman'.  :-)
Morgan is very thankful for these contacts who understand what it is like to live in a different culture.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Nawabgani Village

There are many impressive points to the seminary which is hosting Morgan and Andrew, but nothing is more impressive to me than the fact they join in outreach to surrounding Hindu villages and plant churches there.  They assign student teams to go out and minister regularly.  The village we went to is Nawabgani, a newer village as they started going there 2-3 years ago when there were no Christians. It is about an hour and a half from Allahabad.  The team leader said the Hindi there would offer animal sacrifices to try to 'make things better' which isn't very common with Hindus, but does happen.  Now there are several Christian families in this village of 800, and they are still doing outreach as they did last night.  The church normally meets in a courtyard for a family compound for Sunday services, but this meeting was a children's program and it was on the edge of the village between a building and a field.  Many villagers who were not Christian came by to watch.
We rode on a half size school bus with the ministry team.
I told Andrew there is a picture every 10-20 feet in India!  This is just a sight along the way and also below.  We drove from paved roads in Allahabad to dirt roads in Allahabad.

We stopped at one point to look at a church that the denomination had built for a particular area.  Notice the mats on the floor for seating and they can seat a couple hundred in this small room if needed.
This is a scene a few doors down from the church.
 This is the little goat that Amos begged his dad to be able to take home!!  We traveled then out of Allahabad, and into the country.  There were many workers out in the fields harvesting hay and other things.  We saw a few tractors, but most of the work was being done by hand.  The workers often had a small herd of goats out in the field with them, and it was clear the goats were enjoying the feast!  We saw them collecting dung as well and stacking it in neat, decorative piles for fuel.  I so wanted to get pictures of the farmers' families working, but the bus was too bumpy and going to quickly.  Interesting to me is that most of the road was lined with tall pampas grass.
Not a very good picure....but I had to grab this shot between bumps!
Here is more a typical shot of what the rural village homes looked like.
 This is a home and boy at Nawabgani.  I wasn't allowed to take many pictures at the village as when white people take alot then the natives start asking when the funds are going to start rolling in from the potential donors!  There is a student who took pictures and he is going to send me all of them so there should be more at some point.
This is the stage the seminary had set up, and the children are starting to  collect.
A couple irresistible faces...
In the beginning formalities, they called several of us on stage and gave us lais of flowers.  I was horrified to be called up there, but when I turned around to sit up there...this is what I saw....and I was delighted to see their faces.  Andrew snuck this shot with his phone.  After the brief presention of lais, we were permitted to sit down again and watch the program.  There were 10-12 childen in this group who regularly attend church in the village....the rest are visiting to watch the program and are therefore being reached with the gospel.  Many of the adults are just visiting as well. Both the village church and the seminary students contributed to the program.

After the program, we (the busload) were escorted into the little courtyard where the church normally meets.  They had a huge pot of Indian tea made which was very delicious.  We were given two little bowls each for a snack.  One bowl had chickpeas soaked and then fried in oil and Indian spices.  The other had an Indian trail mix with some sweet, deep-fried strips of breading on top...kind of like pieces of elephant ear ....but sweeter.  We sat and visited with the team.  I don't believe the villagers knew English.  There was a convenient restroom in the courtyard....a cubicle walled on  3 sides.  You go on the floor and there is a bucket of water to wash the waste out through a small hole onto the street.  No toilet paper provided!   The housing was very basic.  The community is agricultural....and I would love to know more about their way of life!  We left as it was getting dark.  It was an amazing experience of a grassroots work, and I'm so blessed to be able to go.  It was a challenge to me to reach out more where we live.  I'm praying about what we should do...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is it Safe?

I admit.....I was scared.  Riding a rickshaw at night in the dark was not the same as riding one during the day.  It didn't help that a rickshaw in India has no lights even at night.  They don't even have an orange warning triangle.....even the Amish buggies at home are required to have that....and most of us know it took some fatal accidents to get that to happen.   As the motorcycles/cars careened abruptly around us or as we swerved around pedestrians on foot, I found myself giving exclamations of warning or disapproval!  This driver either had stronger legs or a better bike than my first one.....and I wasn't sure if I was happy about that or not as our quicker speed added to my anxiety.  We had been to the mall and had arranged for a car driver to take us back, but that had fallen through (as it often can) and so we grabbed two rickshaws.  Andrew, Amos and Justice on one piled with our groceries and stroller....and Morgan, Josiah and I on the other.
As I looked at Morgan next to me holding her two week old baby on this adventurous ride, I reflected on how the older car seats we had tried to get rid of before we moved from Ft. Wayne were rejected by Goodwill and most customers as no longer being 'safe'.  I thought about how many families in America feel they need the $30,000-$40,000 vehicles which have the very best crash test ratings when they start having children.  Seriously wrapping their families in safety, safety, safety.  Okay, I understand why....it's not that I totally don't get that.  I'm just drawing a contrast and bringing some balance perhaps.  I was certainly concerned about safety for myself and grandchildren on this ride through the night.  But, as frantic comments flew from my lips and gasps came sharply from deep in my chest, I would glance at Morgan squeezed in next to me....a new mother....and hear her give her delightful chortle at my reactions.   I felt wonder arise in me at how God has shaped her and prepared her for these events. My sweet, quiet one who has a streak for adventure.  No, she had already said she didn't prefer a rickshaw at night if it could be avoided, but here we were, and she was chuckling.  Was she safe?  How vulnerable was her newborn at that moment?  What would keep him from flying off underfoot/vehicle if we were hit from behind? The thought came to mind of guardian angels watching carefully over God's children.  Who is safer?  In reality, injuries can occur in either place - a Honda Odyssey or a rickshaw....we must trust in God's protection....perhaps it is more about whether we FEEL safe.
I just read of the martyrdom of Stan Dale in Irian Jaya.  There were miraculous deliverances from death that occurred before God removed his hand of protection....and that was the key.  He was in danger for years, but until his time had come....
We returned home safely, unloaded our groceries, got the boys settled in bed.  I went to my room to try to relax my ball of nerves before getting some winks.  Soon I heard Andrew put on a CD of a piano player playing hymns.  It wasn't long until he could resist no longer and he was singing along with energy, commenting on how great various ones were.  Then Morgan joined in with her lovely soprano voice and they sang duet on several more hymns.  I rejoiced in my blessings, and thought, YES, they are safe.....I am uncomfortable though without man's trappings of safety.

Enough of my musings.  What you really want are pictures, right?  Here are some from our evening.  Sorry...none from the rickshaw ride.
 This is the mall.
The restaurant....very nice.
 This is their 'buffet'.  Each little cup has a different curry in it.  You are then served bread and rice to eat with the curries.  There are several waiters who literally stand and watch you eat and refill whatever cup is getting low.  The cost for everyones meal....altogether....was a whopping $11.
 They let you wash your hands with warm water before and after.
Amos wanted to ride in Justice's stroller so he suggested that Justice would ride on his lap...and that is what they did for some time.

An end note here that not everything is inexpensive in India.  Some items like peanut butter can be expensive.  Then household appliance like microwaves, refrigerators, etc.  can be even more than we pay in America.  

Making Bread

The area bishop is here to visit.  The seminary is making a special meal for him.  Check out a couple kinds of bread they made:

You see the little balls of dough on the table which he then pats out into a thin, flat piece.
He puts the flat dough on a THICK hot pad.....
With the hot pad, he sticks the bread on the wall of a hot, homemade brick oven.
With these tongs, he takes the bread out and drops it in a basket.

Here's another kind they were making in the outdoor kitchen:
They have dough balls with fennel and masala kneaded in.
Roll out balls with a rolling pin and drop them in hot oil
All finished....very tasty!