Photos coming soon, perhaps...

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If I can figure out how to get the photos off my cell phone I will post a few from this past Tuesday, when I took a stroll along the Corniche. The sunlight was a great distraction from the week of cold rain we've been experiencing and the waves crashing over the rocks were so relaxing you could almost tune out the sound of the traffic. Technology hasn't been overly friendly to me as I've lived in Lebanon these past nine months. Between a dying (and now deceased) Nokia phone, a new cell phone I am not happy with (but content to have a phone), a schizo washing machine, and a laptop that needed some TLC (and a complete wipe and reinstall) I've had enough of the tech world. All of this is quite funny as I am more or less the dedicated person in keeping the internet and computer stuff running around campus. As I write this I am waiting for the man from the phone company to help me figure out some connection issues and ethernet port problems on the DSL router. Despite the change in geography I can't seem to escape the label of computer nerd, so I might as well embrace it.


This week, the last several actually, have been great. Two songs come to mind as I think back over the days, one from Rich Mullins and the other from Bebo Norman. In Mullin's song, "We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are", the chorus goes as follows:

"We are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made
 Forged in the fires of human passion
 Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
 And with these our hells and our heavens
 So few inches apart
 We must be awfully small
 And not as strong as we think we are"


In "The Hammer Holds", Bebo Norman writes:
"A shapeless piece of  steel, that's all I claim to be
This hammer pounds to give me form, this flame, it
melts my dreams I glow with fire and fury, as I'm twisted like a vine

My final shape, my final form I'm sure I'm bound to  find"


"...This task before me
may seem unclear
 But it, my maker holds"


The theme of fire and being refined has been something I've been dwelling on for some time, this season in Lebanon has allowed me to grow quite a bit and experience the love of God in ways I haven't encountered before. Nine months, it seems almost symbolic that the time it takes a child to be conceived, develop, and be delivered healthily is the same amount of time that I've been living and volunteering in Lebanon.

My faith isn't new, it isn't something that I've recently chosen to put on. I've made mistakes, some that were rectified without much difficulty and some that I'm sure to be dealing with for some time. Being a Christian, being who I am in God doesn't mean that my life is perfect, but if I hold on to His promises I am being perfected, refined, and have mercy and grace extended to me to help me move beyond my failures. I've be a Christian longer than I haven't, called to Christ at the age of 7, but I truly didn't come around to being dedicated to the One who  redeemed me until I was in college. At times the truths I encounter make me feel like a child again, discovering how something works or just delighting in being loved.

Absolutes in my life, weapons I chose to wield against God, are constantly being broken...I am constantly being broken. We are not as strong as we think we are. Who are we to challenge the God of creation, the One who can (and does) see inside the deep halls of our souls? Standing in some sort of solidarity with Peter I've held on to three absolutes in my life, two were dealt with long before I first came to Lebanon in 2004 (relating to career and education choices). The third absolute, the one that I've held on to so dearly for around 22 years, has just been shattered and I now stand before God without my weapon, without my selfish and hardened heart to hide behind. I cannot truly pinpoint the moment when my defenses failed and I submitted this area of my life to the Lord, though the moments leading up to it are quite clear. 

Whatever metaphor you wish to use, of being a shapeless piece of steel or that of a lump of clay being worked, beaten, and kneaded before realizing the final shape, the final form...either works for me. I am amazed, though I shouldn't be, on how patient and gentle God has been with me throughout my life. I cannot help but get the feeling that He knew when I'd run out of energy, when I'd be unable to continue compartmentalizing my life and telling Him what pieces of my life He could manage and direct. The times ahead are a bit scary, I truly realize that I am not in control for one of the first times in my life...that I can't open only part of my life to God, it is all or nothing, it is all laid out before Him anyway.

Being forged in the fires of illness, loneliness, a different culture, and supported by prayer I've had a chance to bare it all and come to the place of complete submission. In some way I am in a bind, the fear of success and a fear of failure. Even if it is dysfunctional it is comforting to hold on to behaviors and beliefs we've developed over time, they are familiar to us and there is comfort in that familiarity. Learning to move on, creating new patterns & new ways of thinking, and allowing yourself to be lead can put you in a strange and unsettling place. The relationship we share with God and those we form with others will surely change, all for good, but often with unknown (at the time) results. I more or less know the steps that must be taken next; there is enough light for me to see a few feet ahead of me and that keeps me from sprinting too far ahead, too far ahead from God's direction and guidance. I've spent too many years trying to light my own way as I move forward, it's time that I allow the Light of the World to illuminate the path before me, wholly, without my attempts of control getting me side-tracked.

Perhaps in reading this you've come to the conclusion that I've got some dark secret squirreled away that I am wrestling with. That is most certainly not the case, please be assured that I have nothing to hide. While I am comfortable at times in sharing some things in such a public way I don't feel I have the obligation to share all the facets of my life on the internet. My life is transparent enough due to where I live (surrounded by children) and I have accountability through friends and supporters, so until I am ready to reveal what my last absolute was just be content in the fact that others are watching and helping me along.  In closing this wordy and meandering thought I keep returning to the idea of being worked, processed, and made into something much greater than I could ever be on my own. The picture that comes to mind is of a piece of metal that is rusted and covered with the ravages of weather and time. To transform it into something useful much work must be done...washing off the dirt, sanding and scraping off rust and decay, and polishing. When the act of cleaning is complete you have something that can reflect the love of the one who took the time and care to so faithfully transform it. The process of being prepared isn't always easy, I can certainly say that I've experienced being rubbed too hard (in my opinion) and sanded in way that felt almost unbearable.

The light that is reflected from a life sold out to God and willing to be used shines brightly, pointing others towards the truth. I cannot say I am in a position to declare that my life directs others, that determination must be made by God and those that see me in word and deed. I can only hope and pray that I am becoming the man God wants me to be and the man that uses his gifts, talents, and resources in ways that draw others closer to God and towards healing.




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Think of Others

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While in the Virgin Megastore book section today I came across a book of translated and collected poems by Mahmoud Darwish. I wasn't ready to purchase the book at the moment but one poem in particular caught my eye, "Think of Others." At this point I don't know that much about Mahmoud Darwish except that he was/is highly a regarded Palestinian poet (now deceased). "Think of Others" seems to capture what I am doing here in Lebanon quite succinctly, and echos the mission and values of my sending program as well. The next day off I have I may go back and get the book, the more I looked at it online the more I think I would enjoy this particular poet.



The past several weeks I've had many personal changes, mostly due to attitude and how I look at things. This isn't to say that I've had a negative attitude or anything, but I have been dealing with a few absolutes that I created in my life many, many years ago, before I learned not to make absolutes. There is freedom in handing all this over to God, but some fear as I am unsure where I will be taken once I release all my claims...that is where faith comes in. I've also been sick and dealing with the effects of the cold, once again. This time the sickness didn't end up in my lungs and I recovered much quicker than the last time I was sick. I've also been doing some tentative planning for my trip this summer, which I am excited about. The last month also had me working on some training materials and resources, including doing some translation and page layout/design for some resources that may go international.

That's it for now, gotta get back to doing some computer work for a student...setting up his new laptop so it's nice and shiny and complete for him to use. 'Til next time.


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Kids Alive International, Haiti: Responding to the Earthquake

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As you may have heard by now there was a massive earthquake in Haiti. Kids Alive International, the global program I work for, has a presence in Haiti and cares for many children and their families there. Urgent prayer is needed to best determine how we can help the hurt and displaced as this crisis continues. Financial support is also needed to cover the costs associated with helping more people than they are staffed and budgeted for.  If you think you could help (or want to already) please click on the following link: http://www.kidsalive.org/haiti-relief/ to get more information.


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Observations

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  • Mosques
  • Lebanese woman on bus entertaining a Sri Lankan infant
  • Women in hijab walking
  • Traffic
  • Razor-wire
  • Army guard-booths, surrounded by sandbags
  • Noise of life: construction, horns, cars, people talking
  • In the café today, hearing Sting on the radio and Souad Massi being played on a patron's computer
  • Street children, begging and selling lotto tickets
  • People smoking
  • Patrons wearing their "profession" as a layer of clothing
  • Artsy, trendy people
  • Common people
  • University students
  • Old men drinking coffee, sitting around, talking and relaxing outside
  • Woman in short skirt and boots walking past child selling lotto tickets
  • Customers leaving bags and computers unattended on outside (and inside) tables to use the restroom or order
  • Nokia ring tones
  • Even distribution of Mac and PC usage
  • Black hat, white t-shirt, fingerless gloves, jeans, sneakers...man walking into café
  • Southeast Asian man cleaning restrooms
  • In walking from Barbir to Sodeco thinking how Beirut is becoming my city, even considering how little I know
  • Dimming lights and power fluctuations
  • Skipping cds on radio system
  • Dust and pollution irritating my throat as I walked; breathing, walking, being in Lebanon is such a joy
  • Realizing that learning Arabic isn't as much for me as it is for the children
  • How stubborn I am and how much I still need to let go of things, even when I thought they had been let go a long time ago


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Special Prayer Letter, January 2010

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Here is the latest prayer/newsletter from me, to you (http://files.me.com/mallaidh/gw5npf). The next "official" letter will be out probably in April, recognizing that I will have been in Lebanon for a year by that time. Thanks for your prayers and support, talk to you all soon.




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Happy New Year

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Just a quick note to wish you all a happy and blessed year to come. 2009 was pretty uneventful in Lebanon and hoping it remains that way for quite some time. Will be posting and sending out a special January newsletter in a day or so, it details some prayer requests I have as I advance through the upcoming year.

Off to hit the climbing wall, catch you soon.

Kahlil


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