For the Sake of Friendship

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The theme of the retreat was “Surrender” and it was based on my book, “I Am Hagar: Forgotten No More”.  The retreat was held offsite at a Christian retreat center – great for camping during the summer or renting an upscale cottage anytime of the year.

On this particular retreat we were set up in one of their beautiful cottages that made us feel right at home and provided most of us with the rest and relaxation we needed.  Each cottage had its own special name.  Happiness, Faith, Joy, Jubilee, just to name a few.  However, there was one name that was disturbing and somewhat alarming to some of us.  The name?  “Amistad” – with the word “Friendship” below it.

 

 

First of all, for those who may not know, “Amistad” was the name of a ship that transported slaves and was featured in the well known movie by the same name. On it the slaves endured horrible atrocities which have lingered in the memories and hearts of many African Americans as a painful reminder of what was done to their ancestors.

Below the nameplate at the “Amistad” cottage was the word “Friendship”.  It was also the only sign that had an explanation word after it.  Actually, it felt like an oxymoron.

 

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Secondly, all the other cottage names were positive and self-explanatory while this one didn’t seem to fit. Although it did need explaining, the word “friendship” didn’t help.  Needless to say, none of us were impressed with what appeared to be a very insensitive and demeaning message on that cottage.

In defense of the decision-makers at the camp, we didn’t know them or understand the reason behind the decision.  Perhaps it was in effort to be inclusive.  Perhaps there was something of significance to the name that we didn’t know. We wondered if they included the word, “friendship” after it so as “not to offend”.  However, it did offend.  A powerful name like “Amistad” is too full of historical pain and anguish for a lot of people.  Some of us wondered how the nameplate was accepted in the first place.  We chalked it up for effort through ignorance, which is probably one of the most common ways people offend.

All-in-all, it left many of us feeling unsettled, disappointed, embarrassed and yes, even angry for what our African American sisters were feeling.  During the retreat, a few of the women who were staying in that cottage revealed their feelings of  frustration and anger about the sign.  It brought deep sadness and hurt that someone would do such a thing, especially at a Christian camp.

That was enough for the leaders of the retreat. They decided to call the contact person of the camp and lodge a complaint.  It was received and within an hour the sign was removed.

Following the retreat, a formal letter was sent to the leadership of the camp and the issue will be addressed at their next board meeting.  The church group is suggesting that the new name be “Surrender”.  I personally think that’s a great idea!!

 

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This whole scenario played out in the hours between my second and third talk that I gave on that day.  Why is that significant?  First because there were various cultures and races represented at the retreat and secondly, my third talk was entitled, “He Sees Us”.  During that session, I challenged the women to consider what their “us” looked like on a personal level and for them to think about how they include other cultures and races in their personal relationships. I also challenged them to look at their “us” from a women’s ministry angle and then as a church community.

How might God  use them/us to stand together with the people He has put among them/us?

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That day and through the experience with the sign, we were not only given the opportunity to stand with our sisters of colour in what they were experiencing but we also witnessed first hand how the Holy Spirit was very present and showed us in a clear way that He saw us!!

We should hurt when our brothers and sisters hurt.  In this case, it happened to be around the issue of race and slavery. That is true unity in Christ.

Friends, it is our Unity in Christ that binds us to each other.  Unfortunately, we often allow the messages of the world, the flesh and the devil fracture that unity.

Let us not take our oneness for granted or to excuse away our ignorance.

Let us keep learning and growing forward with our brothers and sisters of all races and cultures.

Let us not only keep the lines of communication open between each other but especially between us and God.  If we do so, we will be able to hear what the Holy Spirit wants us to do to be part of the solution instead of the problem as far as the sin of racism is concerned.

Let us give and receive forgiveness (for misunderstandings) freely as Christ forgave us WHILE we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).  His forgiveness is available for all of us.  He went to the Cross on our behalf and sent his Spirit in order that we would be drawn to Him with confession on our tongues and a receptive heart for His forgiveness.

Have you been forgiven much?  Then I remind myself and encourage you to share that forgiveness freely.

REFLECTION:

What “sign(s)” has God put in your life to challenge your walk with Him?

What circumstance(s) has God put in your life to grow a deeper intimacy with Him?

Who has God brought into your “us”?

How is God leading you to stand / walk beside another person to become part of the solution and not part of the problem?

 

For more information on this retreat, the “Understanding Culture” workshop or other topics, and how you can have them at your church or community group, check out

https://wordpress.com/page/kinitaschripsema.com/188  (retreat)

https://wordpress.com/page/kinitaschripsema.com/586  (Understanding Culture)

https://wordpress.com/page/kinitaschripsema.com/413  (Speaking Topics)

Or please feel free to contact me at kinitaathome@att.net.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Kinita

 

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My Wake-Up Call

Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”.

Our team at the top of the Monkey Temple for Buddhist and Hindu believers.

Our team at the top of the Monkey Temple for Buddhist and Hindu believers.

Saturday April 25th, 2015 will forever remain in my story for many reasons. That was the day of the tragic earthquake in Nepal that killed over eight thousand people and rendered millions homeless, not to forget all the people that will live with the trauma of that day in the deepest parts of their soul for months and maybe years to come. I am discovering that being a survivor of a tragedy like that challenges me to think about “what is really important to me”.

Since my conversion to Jesus Christ at the age of 14, I have grown to really love the LORD and have chosen to serve Him ONLY. Like most relationships, there have also been ups and downs in my relationship with Him. There have been times when I have grown in trust, faith, understanding and strength while at other times I was afraid, doubted, or held on to fear, pride, self-protection or other things that I believed were important to me. Yet, time and time again, God would bring me to scripture passages that would gently turn my heart away from those ups and downs and help me to focus the eyes of my heart on Him.

That day when the LORD shifted the tectonic plates, ultimately destroying physical Hindu idols and monuments made and worshiped by man, I believe He also crushed my idol of self-protection.

You see, protecting myself (aka: porcupine – see “blog post called “Anger Management”) was what was very important to me leading up to that day. You could call it my idol. Although I had confessed and surrendered it on several occasions, I guess it was never completely gone.

The Porcupine I used as a visual aid.

The Porcupine I used as a visual aid.

That day not only did the earthquake take down physical idols that were important to Hindus, my idol of self-protection was crushed – permanently.

Idols can be defined as things that are so important to us that we would be devastated if they were gone. They block our view of Jehovah Jireh (God as Provider). We then run the risk of missing the way He is providing for us in our crisis.

At noon on the day of the earthquake, the Hindu “rain god” was to be paraded through the streets of Kathmandu. The Hindus had prepared a way for the 7-story-tall rain god to move through the city by taking power lines down and blocking area roadways for it’s safe passing. The earthquake hit at 11:56 and was so powerful it toppled and destroyed that structure. To me that was a wake-up call to the church (Church = who we are not just where we go), the Body of Christ, the Body of believers to acknowledge our idols.

The remains of a Hindu temple following the April 25th earthquake.

The remains of a Hindu temple following the April 25th earthquake.

In the Hindu faith, the religion includes worship of stone gods and idols that are in plain view of passersby. In the Christian faith, however, as much as it is a religion, it is more specifically a relationship with a living God. This relationship with Jesus produces a transforming of our hearts and lives so we reflect a living God and not the things of this world.

Unfortunately, some Christians tend to hide idols (in their heart) while showing great commitment to God on the outside (perhaps through service or words). Let’s not forget that, “…The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). I assure you, I am not exempt from that. The Holy Spirit reminds me everyday to hold things loosely so as not turn them into idols.

I believe that Christians would experience the abundant life referred to in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” more effectively if we grew in our understanding and awareness of our internal idols.

I like the way author and pastor Tim Keller says it. In his Epilogue, he writes, “…idolatry is always the reason we ever do anything wrong”. He then quotes Martin Luther, “the fundamental motivation behind lawbreaking is idolatry” (referring to the Ten Commandments). There is something you feel you must have to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God Himself.” (pages 165-166; “Counterfeit Gods”)

All this might sound judgemental to you (believer) but the truth is, as we read in 1Corinthians 5:12 and 13, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside…”. We are also called to “build each other up in the faith” (1Thessalonians 5:11) and that is my hearts desire. In reality, when idols are brought into the light, they not only lose their power but we make more room for Jesus.

Want more Jesus?

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him….They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than The Creator”. (Romans 1:21, 25)

Hey believers, can we please stop feeding our idols and instead, can we be united in Christ and share Him with the world?

REFLECTION:

Ask God to show you the things or people that “if they are removed from your life” you would be devastated.

How powerful are the idols in your life?

What do you need to take down so you can make room for MORE God in your life?

Are you being lead by your idols or lead by Jesus?

Thank you for joining me on my journey.  Blessings on yours.

Kinita

Gotta Have Faith

When the earth moves beneath my feet and the mountains (threaten) to fall into the sea. (Psalm 46)

I gotta have faith.

That happened. No really, but the earth did move beneath my feet while on a recent mission trip to Nepal. By now it’s all over the news and for some people it is just that – news. They have moved on and are now addressing the “next big deal”. But for some of us, it is still a big deal because not only has it changed our hearts forever, but because people we served with and love very much are still digging out from the rubble and doing their part to continue serving others who are suffering the ongoing effects of this tragedy.

Inside the church

Inside the church

I was in CrossWay Community Church in a church service when this life altering experience took place. We had just experienced some of the most exhilarating tear-filled time of singing, worship, and prayer minutes before. The Holy Spirit was so present. My heart was overflowing with praise to God for the amazing 2 weeks of ministry in East and West Nepal that had ended the day before.

Celebration dinner the night before

Celebration dinner the night before

I was getting strengthened for what was next and my heart was open to the LORD for His leading.

Pastor Arbin Pokharel began preaching on Acts 1&2, beginning a new series on “Discipleship” and the importance of it in the life of a believer”. I wrote in my notes that day, “God has given us the keys to the Kingdom”. I don’t remember if he said that, or if that’s what the Holy Spirit was telling me as a result of the message he was speaking on.

Then the lights went out – typical Nepali fashion – so no one seemed concerned. Within seconds everything shook. (As I recount this story, I continue to feel that shaking. The triggers are still strong and unpredictable). It was as though we were all in a doll house and the (giant) child outside was shaking it. We scrambled and some screamed. My teammate fell and I grabbed her to pull her up. I was not about to take another step before making sure we were all safe. In doing so, I wrenched my back, only to find out later that I pulled my trapezius muscle and popped a couple ribs. Ouch.

After huddling by a wall and praying fervently we were encouraged to exit the building because there were cracks on the opposing walls and it wasn’t clear if they would topple at any second.

So much was uncertain.

You see, when the earth moved under my feet, I experienced an immediate sense of loss. Loss of balance, loss of understanding, loss of direction, loss of time, loss of reality, loss of safety, loss of nerves. But all the while, I was certain that God was with me every wobbly step of the way.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God”. I was trying to be still alright. It was a little hard, physically, because the force of the tectonic plates shifting the earth beneath us was more than my body could sustain. My soul however, remained still amidst the encroaching fear. As a team we had celebrated the night before the reality of God’s obvious presence during the previous two weeks. Now I was in a valley of uncertainty. BUT I was determined to claim this same truth. He was present. How did I know? Because His Word says, “I will never leave you or forsake you…” (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5). I chose to put my trust in Him and His Word.

I was certain of God and His Promises.

We all made it safely to the clearing on the outside of the church building. It was like running out of someone’s basement and onto their front lawn. Once we arrived there, we experienced another 6.9 scaled quake. Without having time to recover from the 7.8 in the church, the emotions just piled on.

The clearing outside the church  (far left of screen)

The clearing outside the church (far left of screen)

While on the front lawn of the church it felt like we were standing on a wobbly card table. Not cool.

Over the next few hours we sang, we prayed, and I journaled what I could. I took some pictures because I didn’t want to miss out on what God was going to tell me later about those moments. Yet, taking pictures felt a little awkward because I wondered if I was violating a sacred experience somehow.

As a result of this experience, I am more sure that the keys to the Kingdom are Faith, God’s Word, and Prayer. Do you have them?

To be continued……..

REFLECTION:

What elements of faith do you hang on to in the midst of crisis?

Are you in a crisis right now? Where, to whom or to what are you running to?

Thank you for journeying with me

Kinita

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

Have you ever tried to see how long you could drive your car before it became imperative that you put some gas in it? Well, we have….too many times to count.

After a weekend of lots of driving around it was clear that we were perhaps at the point of running on fumes. Driving on fumes and knowing I was not up to pushing the car to get home, I finally made the decision to go get some gas.

As I waited in the car for my husband to finish filling the tank, I saw a woman walking by our van. I was drawn to the way she was leaning as she walked and it made me wonder if there was something wrong. She was quite unsteady as she made her way to her destination. I wondered if she was drunk or perhaps on a medication that resulted in the imbalance. She finally made it to her destination. The ashtray outside of the store.

What she did next was very unsettling to me.

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Now, I have heard of people digging through ashtrays in hopes of finding that one cigarette butt that might have some remnant left for a good smoke. But I had never actually seen it with my own eyes. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She dug carefully but desperately through the ashes and other trash to find that one butt to quench her craving. She found not one, but three. Three different times she re-lit it and inhaled like it was her last opportunity to satisfy what she was missing.

Not a smoker myself, I was so grossed out by what I saw. Yet I tried to reassure myself that since nicotine is addictive maybe this was her attempt to meet desperation head on.

I’ll be honest, as we drove off, there was a moment that I was tempted to buy her a pack of cigarettes to save her from the other germs she was picking up from smoking used cigarettes. Blech!!!

This post is not a campaign to stop smoking, although that does have its own rewards. I was simply inspired by the visual of the picture presented and the questions it left me with.

When have I been so desperate for something that I was willing to do absolutely anything to get it?

(I don’t remember exact times, but I will say that when I did get desperate I remember feeling nervous, anxious, fearful, and developing a fix-it mentality)

What are others desperate for? Food, alcohol, drugs, time, money, relationships, peace? You fill in the blank.

When do we get desperate? Now that one I can answer. I get desperate when there are unmet needs in my life. The anxiety shows up when the need is expected to be met by someone close to me. My spouse, children, or other family members. The irony is that we actually think they are needs because we use “wants and needs” synonymously with one another. This post could have also been titled, “I don’t want what I need”, or “I need what I want”.

Let’s define it for a minute. I think “needs” are generally things that help us function, while “wants” are desires in our heart, usually based on a feeling. Yes, as a woman I will say, “chocolate is a need at least once a month”. Don’t judge.

I discovered recently that I am in desperate times. Some may call it a valley. Simply put, the challenges in my life are feeling very unmanageable and overwhelming at best. I find myself asking for help more often than not – internally and externally. To clarify, “I don’t have it all together. I never have and won’t until I get to Heaven”. Are you with me?

I am choosing to live through my brokenness.

God is at work, I can see that. For that I have great peace. The thing is, the enemy is at work too.

The enemy has built up a storm of chaos all around me that is thwarting me from side to side. I am feeling battered and bruised from the arrows he is shooting at me. These are desperate times. The LORD has brought great ministry opportunities into our family and the enemy doesn’t like it because it shows that God is using us in His ministry of reconciliation, for His Glory.

So in these desperate times I needed to take drastic measures.

My drastic measure was to stay home on a Sunday morning and to not worship with my church family.

I know, rebellious right? And for an extrovert too!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my church family. They have really been present with us through many joys and challenges that our family has faced over the years.

For some of you, this is a such a foreign concept. You wouldn’t dream of skipping church, as you see it, unless you were really physically ill. It would almost be as unacceptable as picking cigarettes out of an ashtray for one more desperate drag.

For others, perhaps you are relieved that somehow I’m giving you permission to take a break. I am. Just keep in mind I didn’t skip church to do nothing. I skipped church to spend an extended one-on-one time with Jesus, because I was desperate. I wanted and needed more of Him, especially since I was feeling like I was losing more of myself to wrong thoughts and failed expectations. He is what I crave when I am strong and when I am weak. When I feel accomplished and when I feel like I have failed. When I am doing what’s right and when I have disappointed Him. When I am in public and when I am in private.

I can’t say it enough….”church is not just where we go, it’s who we are!!!”

We need to take time out to cultivate our souls daily and then when desperate times call for desperate measures we need to seek extended times with Jesus. Who I am was feeling compromised because it felt like the enemy was working overtime. But this extended time alone with Jesus renewed my identity in Christ. Who I am in the flesh is NOT as important as who I am becoming in my spirit.

With God’s help, I choose to live through my brokenness….will you join me by living through yours?  I believe Jesus is pursuing you.

Who or what are you desperate for right now?

Where are you looking for answers?

Thank you for joining me in my desperate time.

Kinita