Wednesday, February 22, 2006

PL: Jerusalem Spring

It is definitely springtime in Jerusalem. Just 10 days ago it was cold and rainy and we may yet have some more winter. But spring is on the way. The brown hills have turned green. Almond trees are blooming. Poppies and cyclaman dot the hillsides. These lambs were outside my backdoor this afternoon. They belong to a neighbor, Abu Ala'. There were 7 lambs and about 10 adult sheep. The lambs range in age from a week to month. The smaller ones in the picture are a week old and are part of a set of triplets. All doing well. As I approached to take this picture, they shyed away and started to climb the hill. Abu Ala' stated making a clicking sound and they stopped, turned around and, in spite of the danger (me), they came back down the hill. Even at just a week old. They knew his click.

Wow. I've heard all my life the verse, "My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me" (John 10:27) Now, I've seen it in action.

May we all be as obedient to our Shepherd.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

GM: The rest of the story

Last Monday, our team met before the game to discuss our strategy. I gave our player the opportunity to apologize to the coaches and to the team. After his apology, I took a moment to comment on why we permitted him to return to the team. "God has forgiven me for the many mistakes I make in my life. He has given me a second chance. We want to extend the same kind of grace and forgiveness to this player as well." We ask you to pray that this act of grace will cause our players to consider the forgiveness given by God. Pray also that we will continue to set a positive example to our players.

Friday, February 17, 2006

PL: A Threat

There is a very serious situation developing in Gaza. We felt like our friends and others concerned for Palestinians would like to be alerted.

Late on Friday night, Feb 3rd, a bomb was placed at the door of a Christian bookshop on the main square in Gaza. It blew down the doors, but did not do much additional damage. The shop was closed and no one was injured. Although it was very alarming to those who work for the sponsoring organization, at the time they felt that it was most likely a personal grudge.

On Sunday, the 12th, unknown masked gunmen, distributed leaflets in the area stating that the first bomb was just a sample of what was to come if the shop did not close and all activity of the organization stop. The threats were very specific and serious.

Many friends have written expressing concern because of the elections and the recent demonstrations against the Danish cartoons. This incident does not seem to be related to either. It does show the state of anarchy that Palestinians now face in Gaza.

Following are exerts of a letter written by the director of the sponsoring organization:
He said the society’s workers in Gaza and elsewhere in the region are “calling upon the Lord and claiming the blood of Jesus” for protection of the society and its neighbors in Gaza.

“(We call) upon the Church through all of you to lift us up before the Lord. We want to hold in balance trust in the Lord and His protection, not giving in to the threats of the enemy (and, at the same time,) an attitude of responsibility towards the safety of the team and our Muslim neighbors, who are terrified by this threat ….

“Please pray for us,” he asked. “It is test time for our ministry in Gaza."

After the first bombing, "Neighbors came around and expressed their dismay at what happened. Romans Chapter 8 came to mind ('All things work together for good to those who love God'), and I encouraged the team to take hold of it. Satan's tool is to terrorize, but Christ's Spirit is a spirit of peace, love and sound mindedness. This love is our security, and we're committed to let it flow freely and unconditionally so others can taste and see how good the Lord is.

"The situation in the Palestinian areas is turning into chaos. We are not deterred, but rather much more committed to be what Christ wants us to be. It is at such dark times when the light is most needed. It is our responsibility to present the way of Christ: Love your neighbor and love your enemy."

He asked for prayer "not only for the Palestinian church as a threatened minority, but as God's tool to bring His light to the Palestinian people. We want to focus on active and responsible presence, not just survival."

We echo his requests for prayer. The Christian community in Gaza is small. This threat affects them all. Pray especially for the leaders and workers of this organization. As our friend says, may the church "be God's tool to bring His light to the Palestinian people."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

GM: A lesson in forgiveness

Last Friday, my basketball team was playing a game. One of the players on my team got really mad and stormed off the court saying he was quitting the team. (He struggles with his attitude) He and I talked about it after the game and he still decided to quit the team. I said the decision was his to make. Yesterday, I received a call from our team mom who said our player wants to come back. She said he would call me to see if I would let him come back. I called the commissioner of the league and asked her what my responsibilities were. She said, "it is your decision, and I will support whatever you decide." I told her about my relationship with God and how I receive grace and forgiveness for my past and ongoing mistakes. Because of what I have been given, I will also extend this to my player. When my player called and asked about coming back, I told him the same story. Next Monday, my player will come to the game, prepared to apologize to me and to the team. I will also share this story with them. Please remember me as I have this opportunity to share.