Category: Following Jesus

Free Pastor Andrew Brunson

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Have you seen this picture on social media? Pastor Andrew’s story has been published in Christianity Today, The Washington Times, broadcast on ABC News, etc. Pastor Andrew Brunson has been wrongly imprisoned in Turkey, accused of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” His family says he’s being persecuted for his Christian belief. The North Carolina man has given 23 years to Christian missionary work in Turkey—building churches and spreading the gospel.

It’s easy to scroll past such stories when we see them online. We become inured to them. But this man’s story got close to home for me when I realized his connection to Cladach Publishing.

Pastor Andrew’s mother, Pamela Brunson is the missionary (with World Witness) who first sent me the manuscript for Paper Poppies: A Memoir, which Cladach published in 2005. At the time, Pamela was serving in Russia and became acquainted with the author, Marianna Vekhova, a Russian Christian working with street children in Moscow, who has her own harrowing story as a suffering, spiritually-hungry orphan in atheistic Russia during WWII.

Pamela distributed Marianna Vekhova’s Russian memoir, Paper Poppies during her speaking engagements while on missionary furlough in the U.S. The last I heard, Pamela and her husband were transferring to ministry in Turkey. Recently I learned that their son, Andrew, is the missionary imprisoned in Turkey.

Please pray for Andrew’s release, and consider signing the petition asking the U.S. President to speak to the Turkish president and request that he order the release of this falsely accused and imprisoned man. The petition has been launched by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination of which Andrew is a member.

On February 6 Pamela shared in a public post on Facebook:

We tend to expect God will bless and protect us. When something bad happens, say a child dies of cancer, we feel confused and disappointed in God. We rethink our concept of Him. Job 1-7, David in Psalms 1-40 and Jeremiah all struggled with this.

While some have faced the same trials as Andrew rejoicing, Andrew has been sifted as wheat by Satan: inability to sleep, terrible nightmares, considered by cellmates as an ‘unclean’ Christian, shock, fear of the future, immobility of confined spaces, feeling abandoned by God, weakness and without books or other input, confused. We just received a letter written on 11th January where he wrote:

“Even if You leave me, I will follow You
Even if You don’t help me, I will follow You
Even if You don’t show me goodness, love, care or compassion, I will follow You.
Even if when I call, You don’t answer but remain silent, I will follow You. This is my intention.”

When one member of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. We are more closely connected than we sometimes realize.

“…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have mutual concern for one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.…” (1 Corinthians 12:25-, NIV)

Grace in Horrific Times

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There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, more than ever before in history.

There are more natural disasters occurring than ever before in recorded history.

There is a growing spirit of division among people, notably in the U.S. and in Britain, as evidenced in current politics and elections. So much of this division seems fueled by fear, anger, and distrust.

There have been horrific times before in history. We humans like to think we have learned from those experiences and that we wouldn’t let such things happen again. Can we learn from history? Will we? Or must history repeat itself?

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Cladach has released books that feature true stories of God—and his people—at work even during the most horrific historical times. For instance:

All these personal memoirs happened in extremely tumultuous times and circumstances. Each describes injustices, cruelty, and evil forces unleashed on nations, people groups, and individuals. Each of these stories also gives witness to God’s grace.

We offer these stories in the hope that readers will find renewed perspective, faith, and love.

Opening to Adventures in Prayer

bee on hawthorn flowers

My husband and I have a bee hive in our backyard, and I have planted many nectar-producing flowers for the bees. We also grow vegetable and berry gardens. Since we welcomed bees into our gardens; the flowers, berries, and herbs have flourished noticeably more. I’m sure the salvia flower stalks and peppermint blossoms bloom longer than they used to before so many bees were relishing closeness with them. The flowers seem to respond and love the bees as much as the bees delight in the flowers and the nectar they produce. Of course we, also, enjoy seeing the well-being of our gardens and eating the honey that results!

Similarly, I believe our relational God longs to commune with us, to create well-being within us, and to influence the course of the future together with us, as we pray.

Our view of God and his providence affects how we pray. If the future is open to God, our prayers and petitions to him can also be open and answered by him in more possible and creative ways than we can begin to imagine. In The Uncontrolling Love of God, Thomas Jay Oord asserts that God has given creatures genuine free will to make choices and to respond to him in ways that affect the future. For that reason, though the future is not pre-determined and known conclusively by God, “the future is full of possibilities, and, being omniscient, God knows them all.” We can live and pray in hope and expectancy. The believer’s life of prayer can be a life of adventure.

This prayer relationship with God reminds me of the relationship I observe in my garden between the flowers and the bees. Deep calls to deep as God calls us to intimate prayer and contemplation with him. As we respond and allow him access, he searches our inner being and comes to know us more and more thoroughly. I believe that to be known by God is to be transformed.

If God is Spirit and omnipresent in every moment of time—all the time everywhere—we can and should pray in the spirit everywhere and all the time.

Because “God lovingly invites creatures and creation to cooperate to enact a future in which well-being is established in surprising and positive ways,” we can and should cooperate with him in faith: praying, trusting, and working toward goodness and his will and kingdom to come. We can be looking for shalom to blossom and grow.

If God’s essence is uncontrolling love, we can and should pray uncontrolling, loving prayers. According to scripture, God actually shares his nature with us. If this nature is essentially kenotic, “self-giving, others-empowering love,” we can pray self-giving, others-empowering prayers.

God is far beyond the comfortable boundaries we have set for him in the past. It’s overwhelming and unsettling at first to consider this, but God is so much bigger than we have believed. How can he also be personal, hearing our prayers, far bigger and far closer than we have imagined? God’s essential being is love and he relates to each of us intimately.

Our open and relational God is calling us to:

  • Praise him.
  • Confess to him our lack of faith, trust, hope, and loving action.
  • Give thanks to him for enlarging our hearts and vision.
  • Bring supplications to him, interceding on behalf of the people and places we see that are far from the well-being of shalom.
  • Listen to and commune with him. Receive and respond.
  • Pray in the spirit always.
  • Say “yes” to what he is calling forth in and through us.

As we watch and pray that God will call forth cooperation from—and give shalom to—his people and all of creation, the prayers of a righteous person avail much! We are co-creators of the future with him! He delights in this.

It is much like the bees that seem to draw out more blooms and fruit from my garden. Through prayer we can work with God to see his kingdom grow. Each one who truly cooperates in prayer and action with the Spirit of God increases his kingdom, his will, his working for good and overcoming evil in this world.

“We know the whole creation has been groaning,” kind of like a garden longing to open its petals to sunshine and bees. Perhaps the world is waiting for us to respond to our almighty and ever-present God in open, obedient, watching-for-possibilities prayer. Perhaps the more people respond positively to him, the more grace is available, like a well-pollinated garden. We have been too passive-aggressive, lazily saying “But God is in control,” on one hand, while on the other hand complaining and becoming angry at the way the world is going. God calls us to be active in faith and prayer and love toward him and toward his needy world. I don’t think it’s irreverent to say he hovers over us like a buzzing bee seeking access to our hearts, waiting for them to open their closed petals to him, to give of the nectar of our lives to increase goodness and to sweeten the future.

If it were true that God sees one set future, determined since before time began, we would have a big God. But the open view of God describes a far bigger God! He sees every possibility. He sees how our ongoing, potential actions and choices in every instance may cause repercussions that affect those around us.


Note: I wrote this piece because I believe in prayer and I wanted to engage with Thomas Jay Oord’s teaching after reading his book, The Uncontrolling Love of God  (NavPress, 2015). This entire post first appeared at http://uncontrollinglove.com and then at http://thomasjayoord.com . I don’t agree with all opinions and philosophies expressed on those sites, but I’m thankful to have the opportunity to participate in the conversation.

An Early Lesson in Racial Reconciliation

Corcoran-bday-1958

 

Children can feel the tensions, prejudices, and injustices that can exist around them.

When my sister and I were about 6 and 7 Daddy pastored a church in a coastal town in Central California, where the parsonage was in a racially-mixed neighborhood. We thought nothing of the fact that we played with Black children. We went into each others’ homes and each others’ apron-clad mothers gave us drinks of water and fresh-baked cookies. I only remember feeling acceptance and friendliness.

Then we moved to a valley town where 2/3 of the student body in our elementary school were Black and Mexican-American, many the children of transient farm workers. In this school in the 1950s, I first experienced racial tension. There I first heard the “N” word used. We were naive little girls, unprepared for the sights of gangs fighting on the playing fields, busloads of kids shaking their fists and yelling out the windows. As insults and epithets flew, I thought, “What is this?!” At the age of 9 I didn’t know anything about the civil rights movement taking place in our country.

I do remember Daddy driving us to a farm workers camp and the shock and sadness I felt when I saw how some of my classmates lived. No sidewalks, no trees, no grass. Just dirt and squalid shacks that couldn’t really be called buildings. No indoor plumbing, out by the cotton fields, with no respite from the hot sun.

Some of our little friends at school bragged about how they didn’t have to go to school during the cotton harvest. They were going to pick cotton with their family and make lots of money! Bev and I went home and told our parents we wanted to pick cotton and make money and not have to go to school! Mother shook her head. “Girls, you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s back-breaking work. The cotton plants cut your hands and make them bleed. And the farm workers get paid very little. Those children’s parents need the extra money their children make just to help them subsist.” I had a hard time believing my mother. When we drove by fields of ripe cotton, the bursting heads looked white and soft as cotton balls.

We were learning about divides between people groups that couldn’t be crossed.

My second-grade sister had a more personal learning experience. She got into an argument with another little girl on the playground, probably over the rules of a four-square game or something. It just happened that the other girl was Black. As the girls hurled insults at each other, the worst thing my sister could think to say was, “You’re nothing but a big chocolate sundae.” Understandably, the girl took offense. She could have yelled back: “Well, you’re just plain vanilla ice cream.” Instead she hit my sister pretty hard and by the time I showed up on the scene, there was my sister on the ground, crying. I got scared and ran home (we lived across the street from the school) to tell our parents Bev was hurt. Daddy came to the school, found that only Bev’s pride was wounded, and made her apologize to the girl.

Well, that was really hard for Bev to do. But later, she and the little Black girl became friends. When Bev had her 8th birthday party, she invited this girl. The picture above shows the two of them with me (age 9) in the middle.

If only reconciliation were always that simple.

Or maybe it is that simple:
Wise and caring authority figures who bring us together, don’t hide from suffering, help us face the truth about ourselves and each other, encourage asking for and receiving forgiveness, then give us opportunities to celebrate our common humanity. 

Walking~and Loving~the Land (Favorite Photos #2)

Sitting on a bulbus rock above Arava Valley

Judy resting on a rock above Arava Valley

God said to Abraham, “Rise, and walk the land.” (Genesis 13:17)

What better way to become acquainted with the rocks, the dust, the fauna, the flora, the smells, the tastes, the changing colors than to stand in it, walk on it, be sheltered at night by it, rest your body upon it? To let your eyes gaze upon the painted vistas then search for trail signs and footholds to cross a river? To breathe the air upon chilly mountains, over silent deserts, and in redolent valleys?

John and Judy Pex did all this as middle-aged hikers who live in Israel—one as a descendant of Abraham and both as believers in the God of Abraham and his promised seed, Jesus the Messiah.

They walked where Jesus walked and “came away to a quiet place” as he did. They met various people groups who inhabit the land and for whose salvation Jesus gave his life. Judy kept a record of their trek over the 600-mile Israel Trail—what they saw, the people they met, and the insights they received. Then Cladach helped them share this experience with people around the earth through the book, Walk the Land : A Journey on Foot through Israel.

In a sense, a travel memoir is a gift to those who would love to go but probably never will. I enjoyed editing and designing this book and experiencing the varied land and people groups along the Israel Trail, vicariously. Here are a few of my favorite photos from Walk the Land by Judith Galblum Pex.

John walking the Carbolet

Nahal Raham, beginning to rain

Mt. Hermon from a ridge above Kiryat Shmona

John and Judy walked the entire Israel Trail from the Egyptian to the Lebanese borders!

Me? Like a Sheep?

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I hear someone saying, “Lambs are cute and woolly, and all that. But aren’t sheep ‘dumb’ and helpless creatures? I’m not sure I want to be like a sheep.”

In answer, I’ll offer a few snippets of Bible verses:

“I am the Good Shepherd.”

“My sheep hear my voice.”

“Follow me.”

“Like sheep without a shepherd”

“Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

“He leads me beside still waters.”

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

“His rod and staff comfort me.”

“We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray.”

“I lay down my life for the sheep.”

“Oh. Well. When He puts it that way … I’ll follow Him like a sheep if that’s what it takes to hear His voice, know His goodness, enjoy those green pastures and still waters, live the life He made possible by laying down His own. … But, what does that mean in real life? for me? How does this sheep thing work?”

I’m glad you asked. God the Father gave us this picture of His sheep in His pastures. He even sent His Son to be the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. But He knew it would be hard for us to fathom such love and all the nuances of such a lamb-like life of trust. So He provided human under-shepherds. And He provided some earthy, mucking-in-the-barn and traipsing-in-the-pastures, shepherds of flocks. These people know sheep. They can tell us a lot about those creatures that God says we are like.

“I’ll bet those shepherds could tell some stories! From what the Bible says, sheep can get into a lot of trouble.”

In fact, I have two friends who are shepherds of sheep. Their names are Marilyn and Millie, two women who have raised thousands of lambs and tended flocks on their farms in Colorado. They have given names to many of their lambs and gotten to know their individual sheep quirks and personalities. They’ve nursed sick sheep, bottle-fed orphan lambs, called flocks in from the pasture, protected them from marauding dogs and hungry coyotes. They’ve laughed at sheep antics and cried over their losses and vulnerabilities.

“I’d like to meet those shepherdesses and visit the sheep farm, but I don’t suppose I ever will.”

But you can! Vicariously. Just read Marilyn and Millie’s book of sheep stories. They’ll even help you better understand how to follow the Good Shepherd “like a sheep of His pasture.”

“Great! Where can I get their book?”

Right here:

http://amzn.com/0989101436

And you can find out more here:

https://cladach.com/all-we-like-sheep/

Remember, keep listening for the Shepherd’s voice. You can trust Him implicitly!

What does CLADACH mean, anyway?

Cladach ~  Kla’ dak ~ Scottish Gaelic for “shore,” as in “seashore.”

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore.” ~ John 21:4

The Lord sends us forth on life’s sea to venture for him, then welcomes us to the safety of his shore; and always he is with us.

Everything I Need to Know About Publishing I Learned from my Preacher Father

My father preaching on the radio around the time I was born

Practically being raised on a church pew helped set me on this bookish course, I think. I remember singing with gusto the gospel song, “Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace; tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.” During my growing-up years as my father’s daughter, watching him and my mother minister in many churches, I learned:

The potency and potential of a book.

In our denomination decades ago, we were people of two books: the Bible and the Hymnal. Every church service began and ended with the hymnal, a wondrous heavy book which, during congregational singing everyone held or shared with the person next to them. The hymnal united us as we raised our voices in lilting melodies and straight-forward harmonies accompanied by my mother’s lively piano playing, often eliciting “amens” of blessing. All the symbols to make so much music resided on the pages of that book, all the words to elicit such response, blended in heart-stirring, mind-engaging, and soul-satisfying rhythm, sense and rhyme. Then there’s the Bible, which actually comes first. In every meeting the Bible was opened and revered. Individuals were urged to read and ponder it daily. The congregation would stand for “the reading of the Word.” With a reverent, sonorous, unctuous voice, the preacher read a passage from the Bible, then exhorted from its inexhaustible storehouse of truth, wisdom, and life application. I saw evangelists hold their big, black, leather Bibles aloft in one large hand and exclaim something like, “The Word of God is alive! It is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing enough to reveal your sin.” And I quaked. I also learned young that real comfort could be experienced from those pages. No mere words on paper. But alive! Jumping off the page and into the mouth of the preacher, into the mind and heart of the reader or the listener. Quickening!

The joy of writing, printing, and disseminating words on paper.

I sometimes watched my preacher father as he typed the church bulletin—and perhaps a newsletter—during the week on his old black typewriter (I loved hearing the keys click and watching the little hammers hit the paper resulting in words appearing and forming themselves into sentences that said something and that people would read and use to plan their week). On Saturday Daddy would crank out maybe two-hundred copies with his mimeograph machine. I can still smell the ink and hear the sheets of paper swoosh round the rollers and shoot out onto the pile of materials ready to be folded and stacked, then handed out and read—to inform and influence—to be published!

The importance of getting the word out.

Twice a year when the church had extended revival services with itinerant evangelists, Daddy would mimeograph a flyer about the week of meetings. I remember a few times when he paid my sister and me 5¢ per city block to take the flyers door-to-door and invite people to the services. (I hesitate to say city block—these were rural towns in agricultural areas.) We learned the importance of overcoming our trepidation, knocking on doors, and getting out the word (much like the publicity side of publishing).

The value of reading and sharing books.

I didn’t have a lot of toys and few of the types of entertainment children have today. (We got our first TV when I was 11 or 12). But always there were books. Books lined the shelves in my father’s study. He took my sister and me to the public library regularly, encouraging us to browse and check out books that interested us. My sister read every horse book she could find, especially those by Walter Farley. I read all the Louisa May Alcott books. And when we brought books home from school or library, our mother often read them too, and we all enjoyed discussing together the stories. In fact, my sister and I always told each other the stories we read. As a result, I felt I’d read the Black Stallion books even though I never did. And she knew the characters and plots in Little Women and Under the Lilacs even though she never read them herself. She didn’t have to. That ability to vicariously experience the stories really helped, because there were so many more books to discover! (A side note: When I was a girl I’d hear people argue their point in conversation by saying, “I know it’s true. I read it in a book!” Whether people were readers or not, most had a sort of reverential awe of books.)

The importance of knowing your readers, your audience, your market.

My father made it a practice to call on his flock in their homes regularly and also to be there whenever trouble hit a family. He would stop by their businesses, farms, and work places to have a friendly chat. When he stood in the pulpit to preach on Sunday, he knew those people. He knew their families, their joys and sorrows, the challenges they faced. He also knew their interests, their hobbies, what made them laugh or cry.

How to recruit, train, and encourage workers.

The work and mission of the church needed people of all abilities and ages (and still does). I saw discernment in operation, encouragement expressed, and responsibilities entrusted. Organizing, scheduling, holding meetings were necessary. But loving God and loving people mattered most. Whether or not I heard that expressed in so many words, I definitely “caught” the mindset. As a publisher I want to see sales and increase distribution. I want well-edited and designed books, I want engaged authors, reliable print providers, and enthusiastic book reviewers. I want customers to buy our books. But most of all I want to experience God’s presence in all we do. I want to always remember that, as a Christian publisher, what we publish truly is “glad tidings.”

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