Monday, March 03, 2008
Feb 12 marked 39 years in this world.
Fender bender lessons:
Pro 15:1 A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. (The Message)
I was taught this in a wonderful way the other day. So often the foreigners living here are negative about this beautiful place. We have only been here eight months, but we find that we have to fight this temptation fiercely. The following story was a good help in this battle and not only in this one, but as well in my personal battle to be like Jesus. I was "shown up" in a very convicting manner.
Driving in Turkey is always an adventure. Shortly after arriving a friend told us that the one rule of the road is that empty spaces should be filled. We have found this to be true in experience as the lines separating the lanes might as well not be drawn. If there is a space between two cars then another car will surely fill it. I have grown accustomed to this and try to fill any spaces I can in order to fit in (pun intended).
Near our house there is a notorius section in which the road forks and cars stay on the left side for as long as they can and then try to sneak in right at the fork; the cars end up entering in a back and forth scheme. We were coming home last week and were coming to that point (actually we had made a wrong turn or we would have come a different way). The car in front of us from the left went ahead of us and then we were going, however the car behind us got to close and our back bumper scraped their front bumper and pulled it off a little. I was frustrated and was expecting a fight. We stopped our cars and I got out and a lady got out of the other car. Our car is old and can't look worse than it does so I did not even look at the bumper but went straight to the other car. I was thinking about who was at fault, how would I explain anything with my pitiful Turkish skills, would insurance cover it, we did not have the money for this,... and was expecting an angry Turk fighting tooth and nail...
As I approached the car the lady says something to me in Turkish. I responded that I did not understand in Turkish. She then said in perfect English, "Do you speak English?"
"Yes", I replied.
"Do you think you could bend that back and fix the bumper where it came off?"
"I'll try." I bent it back but saw that the I needed an allen wrench, which I did not have, to fully fix it.
At that point a traffic policeman came up and had us move our cars so that the traffic could move freely again. I got back in my car quite surprised and moved up to where he said. We both got out of our cars again as well a witness. They looked at her car and talked a bit, and then said that her car was not scratched, the bumper would be easy to fix, and that we could go with no worries. She smiled and said not to worry about it. I was in shock and did not know what to say. I felt like giving her my information and telling her to call if it turned out to be worse. I got back in our car, told Laurie and the kids what they had said, and we all headed home.
Her unexpected response floored me and proved the verse above true. May I not forget the lesson soon!
Friday, January 25, 2008
The Turks Today by Andrew Mango
Mango follows up his biography of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, with this excellent review of the history of Turkey since Ataturk's death on October 10, 1938. He covers the political developments, the origins of the Cypress, Armenian, Greek, and especially Kurdish conflicts, as well as a good description of each region of the country (its history and current situation) with a chapter dedicated to Istanbul and another to Ankara. I found myself in a very different place in terms of understanding Turkey after having read the book. I also enjoyed taking many of his quotes and asking my classmates if they were accurate. I found that for the most part my classmates acnowledged that he described things accurately.
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for literature (the first Turk to do so, I think). I thought I should read one of his books given that I am trying to learn about Turkish culture. My Name is Red is set during Ottoman times in the 16th century, if I remember correctly. The book is set among the Sultan's artists who are composing a special and controversial book for the sultan. Europeans have started painting portraits which is the height of blasphemy to the Muslim Ottomans who think that man should never be the center and that all paintings should be from Allah's perspective. However, the Sultan wants a portrait of himself in the book. With anger and jealousy flaring a murder has taken place. The reader has knows that one of the central characters has done it but does not know who until the very end of the book. We follow the main character, Black, as he tries to solve the murder and marry the woman he loves. The story is a bit depressing and rather crude/lude, but overall I did like it and feel that I understand more about this place in which we are now living.
Overcoming Hurts & Anger by Dr. Dwight Carlson
I have known Dr. Carlson since 1993 when we were together (in a group) on a trip to Kazakstan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. He and his wife are precious people and they have encouraged Laurie and I tremendously in our walks with Jesus. Dr. Carlson's life is as much a testimony as any book he could write, but, nevertheless, his books are excellent. This book is aptly titled as he discusses different ways we are hurt and how, when it is not dealt with/healed, it often expresses itself in anger. He covers the many faces of anger (not just the stereotypical angry outburst) and discusses how to "overcome" it as the title indicates. I have copied below the blurb from Amazon.com
Overcoming Hurts & Anger (300,000 in print) has been helping people deal with the hurt feelings and angry responses that wreak havoc in many relationships. In this thoroughly revised and expanded edition of his bestselling book, Dwight Carlson presents balanced, biblical insight for openly and honestly dealing with powerful emotions that everyone experiences at one time or another.
I try to read this one time each year. Living among Muslims it seemed an important thing to do when I orginally decided to do it. I found that reading through the whole book was helpful in coming to a better understanding of the many things said on all sides in the current craziness involving Islam and the West from conservative Christians, to radical Muslims, from liberal, "tolerant" people to liberal western Muslims, as well as from our neighbors in the three Muslim-majority countries in which we have lived. I prefer not to write anything regarding my thoughts on what the Koran says as they could be so easily misconstrued, although I am happy to talk about it in person with anyone who would like.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Prayer by Richard Foster
This is another book I would like to own, mark full of notes, and look back on regularly, but listening was better than nothing. Foster covers many different types of prayer in 21 chapters including simple prayer, prayer of tears, prayer of examen, prayer of adoration, unceasing prayer, meditative prayer, petitionary prayer, healing prayer, radical prayer, and many other. The book is practical as opposed to theoretical, and it includes a good bit of biographical data as he shares many of his experiences. I found the book to be full of grace and encouraging rather than condemning. I found myself wanting to pray more and wanting more of God. Foster is able to bring together a wide variety of Christian branches. This may be uncomfortable for some people.
Battling Unbelief by Dr. John Piper
Dr. Piper takes the 8 application chapters from Future Grace and reprints them in this shorter book. These chapters are: Battling Anxiety, Pride, Misplaced Shame, Impatience, Covetousness, Bitterness, Despondency, and Lust. I found each chapter enlightening, challenging, convicting, and encouraging. It would have been better to read this from a book then listen to the mp3 files, but since I was unable to read it, this was better than nothing. Dr. Piper goes from the perspective that we sin because we think it will bring us happiness. No one sins out of duty. But this is a lie. It never will bring us true happiness, only following Jesus will do that. He then shows the lie and how to battle it in each of the eight categories.
How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer
I listened to this twice and am also reading the book and trying to design a curriculum out of it for our kids. I wish I had been introduced to Dr. Schaeffer earlier. This is a truly great book. He is able to look through history and see where we have come and predict where we are heading with amazing accuracy. 30+ years later Dr. Schaeffer's thoughts are still very applicable. He begins with Rome and follows western thought through the Rennaisance and Reformation and to the present. He shows clearly how the different movements were shaped by their belief or unbelief in the God of the Bible. His contrast of France and England during their revolutions is excellent as well as his explanation of different movements in art and how art and philosophy both reflect and guide the worldview and lives of their times. This is a must-read (or listen to) for everyone, I think.
It's Not My Fault by Cloud & Townsend
Cloud & Townsend cover the idea that we must take responsibility for our actions if we want to be happy and have healthy relationships, but that most people do not do this. They walk through the many ways people avoid taking responsibility and try to show how we can change. I think they are right for the most part, but as is so often the case with books like this, reading it will not bring about much change in most people. They do not say much that is new, and if we could just do it, then they would not need to write the book. I doubt that many people read the book and say, "Oh, that is the problem. Now that I know it, I'll just be different." However, in spite of this, I did find the book helpful and am glad I listened to it. I have not fully changed in the applicable areas but am further down the rode than I was before reading it.
E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
E-Myth stands for entrepreneurial myth- I felt the need to mention this as my guess is that most people will assume it refers to something involving the internet.
This is a quick read and an excellent book for anyone involved in a small business or business start up. It is rudimentary but covers most of the essentials in a very readable way. The author records conversations between himself and a woman who has made all the common mistakes in her own business and is at the end of her rope. He discusses the mistakes and walks her through the steps she needs to take to make her business a success. I appreciated most of what he had to say. An example would be the process he goes through in helping her understand what her "product" is. She sells fresh baked pies. Initially she thinks that pies are her product, but he shows her that if she is to be successful, she needs to understand that her product can't be pies. Lots of people sell pies, what sets her apart? That is her product. Her product is that feeling people get when they come to her store and eat her pies, that feeling that they are in their grandmother's kitchen... This is what she needs to sell. His basic idea is that new business owners should treat their business like it is going to be a big franchise (begin with the end in mind)- like McDonalds. In doing this, in thinking this way (and he spells it out pretty clearly) they will not make the common mistakes, and even, if they never become a big business with lots of franchises, their business will be much more successful, and they will enjoy it much more.
Culture Shock: Turkey Culture Smart: Turkey
I found these two books very helpful (and mostly correct) as introductions to Turkish customs and ways. They gave me something from which to start and saved me some embarrassing and offensive mistakes. I was also able to take what I read and ask questions of friends here in Turkey. In this I was able to both clarify/confirm things in the book as well as have an avenue for building relationships. Lastly, I was able to know what to expect in certain situations and when I was being mistreated. Often foreigners make mistakes by either assuming a situation will be like they are used to at "home" (when it is not) or assuming it must be different here (when in fact it is the same). These books helped in at least a few situations like the above mentioned.
I think these are part of a series that covers many countries. I would recommend them.
Glittering Images by Susan Howatch
In this first book in Howatch's church of England series set in the 1930's, 37-year-old widower Dr. Charles Ashworth, a doctor of divinity, is sent on a mission by Dr. Lang, the archbishop, to check on Dr. Alex Jardine, the bishop of Starbridge, who has recently lambasted the archbishop in the House of Lords regarding a controversial bill that will widen the grounds for divorce. Ashworth falls for Mrs Jardine's helper, Lyle Christie, and gets caught up in a web of lies and deceit that will rock him to his core and force him to face his own demons. The glittering images are the masks/personalities that the characters wear to hide their true selves. Ashworth must learn how to discard his glittering image in order to truly be able to serve God live a life of freedom. I found part 2 in which he goes through this process to be very helpful and thought provoking as I think of my own "glittering image" and how I tried to conceal certain parts of my "self" and how that keeps me from truly loving the people God has put in my life. [Note: there is one explicit sex scene. I wonder if the author included it to make the book more "secular" as it does not seem necessary, in my opinion, to include the details she includes. The event is important to the story, just not the details.]
Saturday, September 01, 2007
The other evening a big storm passed by west of us, and although we did not get any rain we saw some spectacular lightning. I tried to get some pictures but failed. However, this shot of the skyline, including the Atakule, a well-known landmark in Ankara, turned out pretty good.
The place of rules/boundaries in my devotional life
As I sit once again and think of the most significant way in which I have seen Jesus recently, I find that it is in the lack of pursuing that I see Him most. He is everywhere and always wooing me and so kindly and gently showing Himself to me and even when necessary being blunt, but I have grown complacent and fallen out of certain habits that are so important to our relationship. I still read the Bible everyday and am not lacking in the conversational idea of prayer, which is mostly self-centered. But the devotional life, the sitting quietly and alone and spending time with the lover of my soul, that is what I have let slide. I can make the excuse of having six kids and being busy, but that does not fly. I make time for plenty of other things. I have come to the conclusion that I need to set up some boundaries or rules to force the issue. Normally I don't like to do this as I want it to flow from my heart and not from rules, but I compare this more to the need for a babysitter to date nights or for the need to schedule something like dates or working out so that other things don't fill the time. I have already forced myself to only look at the internet news and sports updates once per week. Now I realize that I have to say that I can't do e-mail and even turn on the computer until I have had time with the Lord. I already do this in regards to taking care of the kids in the morning and now realize I have to add this as well. Normally what I do is tell myself I am just going to check e-mail for a few minutes and end up spending a few hours having found so many things to occupy my morning. Something within me has been crying out at this for quite a while now, but I have ignored it and tried to slip by on the minimum. I now realize that "slipping by" is no way to live life. Lord Jesus, give me the discipline to persevere through the times that are not so "fun and uplifting".
Friday, August 03, 2007
The top two floors of the white building (with all the windows on the very top) are ours.
Since we arrived here two weeks ago I have been on an emotional roller coaster. Within the same day I have felt excited, discouraged, hopeless, despairing, encouraged, angry, frustrated, and content. I have found that in times of transition, especially when I am tired that negative emotions are exponentially more intense. I have been thinking lately about discouragement. It hits me like a wave; I lose perspective on everything and just want to curl up in a ball or go back to America or whatever will put me on the road to escape. I do not actually do any of those things but the feeling can be overwhelming.
Then a little later after the moment has passed, and I am seeing straight again, I wonder what was going on earlier. Why was it so intense? Why could I not see a way out of it? What was really going on inside of me? Why was I holding onto it so tightly and could not let go?
At those times I feel a pain that I do not understand, cannot describe, and do not recognize until later. Everything in me tells me to make the pain stop and that usually means to stop/shut down/shut up whoever is causing the pain.
I so want to get to the place where instead of reacting like that I instead recognize what is really going on and deal with it through clear communication. I want to feel it, but I also want to recognize it, recognize what is really going on, see whatever lies I am believing, find the truth, and bless whoever is causing the pain. I long for this like I long for a breeze on a hot day.
At those times I want to see Jesus. I want to see Him when I fail and respond harshly; but moreso I want to see Him in that split-second that it takes me to react before I know what is going on. In that nanosecond between the pain-causing act and the reactionary torrent of either angry words or total system shutdown I want Him to speak peace and let His grace and Spirit flow in me to respond as He would if He were me.
I do not see this happen yet. I see Him in the "failure", and that is okay because it reminds me that I still need Him desparately. May the day soon come when I see Him in the storm and have the faith that He will keep me from drowning and not have to cry out in such a way, that He rebukes me with, "O ye of little faith!"
The Good News is that even when He has to say those words, He still brings peace in the storm. And more Good News is that He has promised to complete His work in me, which means that someday- may it be sooner rather than later, Lord- He will mature me into the person who sees Him in that split-second and is changed because of it. He may need to heal some wounds from the past in order for that to happen. I may need to take some steps in order to change habits. I may need help from others in the process. May this be another journey I am able to enjoy. And most of all may those closest to me have the grace to stay on this journey with me and see Jesus in it as well.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Another self-portrait taken while I was setting up the camera for a group shot.
Learning language is always hard work. I am finding that motivation is coming more slowly as I begin learning my fourth language (besides English), but with each lesson I get a little more excited that it is doable. I have been surprised at how many words in Turkish and Uzbek are either similar or the same. However, the pronuciation is so different that I usually have no idea what I am hearing, even though if I see it in writing I would understand most of it. I find it very funny that while learning Kazak, I was never told that I had a Kazak accent. I always sounded like a foreigner. But when we started learning Uzbek, I was told I spoke it with a Kazak accent. So I somehow acquired a Kazak accent after I left Kazakstan. And now that I am in Turkey I am finding that I am speaking Turkish with an Uzbek accent, which I never had in Uzbekistan. And the major tragedy in all of this language experience is that since I moved to California in 1991, I have lost my southern accent, which I will somehow need to re-acquire if I am going to understand God when He speaks to me in Heaven!
And now onto more serious matters...
The prophet Jeremiah often says that, "the Word of the Lord came to me." When I read this recently I started thinking about how often the servants God uses were seeking Him versus just doing their own thing when He chose them. A quick study shows that most of them were not seeking to be used by Him and some (Moses is the best example) were not excited about the "call". However, most obeyed right away. And looking at their lives it is very clear why people were not lining up for the job, as pretty much 100% of them had very difficult lives most ending in martyrdom.
At the same time Jeremiah does say in chapter 29 that those who "seek God with all their heart" will find Him. But I think in this passage He is not talking about seeking to be a servant as much as seeking to know and obey and walk in His path (obedience).
This lead me to think about both my "calling" as well as how we generally go about it today with mobilizers and the like. A whole industry has developed to help people find what Jesus is "calling/inviting" them to do. What is driving it? Why has it developed? Is it good, bad, or neutral? I am a product of it as are most people I know, so what does that mean? Where do we draw the line between "making the most of the opportunity/using our resources to their fullest" and waiting, listening, walking with the Spirit? Do they have to conflict? When do they conflict?
We have passion conferences and Urbana and many similar events. We are encouraged to pray about what God has for us to do. What is He calling me to? How can I serve? How am I gifted? and so on. As often as not in the Bible, however, people were just doing their thing- farming, shepherding, worshipping, searching for a lost donkey, sleeping, working, fishing,... when BAM! out of nowhere God steps in and says, "I have a job for you." or "Follow me." or "Who will go for us?" or "I want you to be king." or "Go and tell the people of Judah to repent." Most of them were not searching for it, were not even thinking about it; and they were in the perfect place for God to use them. Corrie Ten Boom is probably a good modern example.
I think of books I have enjoyed like, Don't Waste Your Life by Dr. John Piper. I was encouraged and challenged by his words. But were most of the people listed above "wasting their life"? Are we discouraging people or making them feel like lesser disciples if they "just" do their job and raise their family? Is that right? Or when is it right and when is it not right? Lots to think about... May we all be where God wants us.