Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fighting Overbusyness

We can get so busy that we fail to do the truly important things. A few days ago, some of my VOM coworkers joined me for a phone conference on this vital topic. There were four segments of our discussion:

  1. What are symptoms of overbusyness?
  2. What is the root "heart disease" that causes overbusyness?
  3. How does the gospel free us from overbusyness?
  4. What are specific ways we can apply the gospel to our lives so that we are less stressed and more fruitful?
You can listen by clicking here or on the embedded player below.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why I'm Voting for Chuck Baldwin for President

As I've said before, I believe Barack Obama will win the presidency. His policies are frighteningly liberal on both economic issues (wealth redistribution) and moral issues (abortion and homosexual rights) and will result, I believe, in serious problems for our country.

While tempted to vote for John McCain as a vote against Obama, I ultimately opted to vote for Chuck Baldwin, the Constititution Party candidate this year.

I disagree strongly with Baldwin and the Constitution Party on some issues, so please don't paint me as one of them. But I have been disappointed by the Republicans' slide to the left during the Bush years. John McCain is no conservative, and if Palin is a conservative, she seems too "nice" to stand up for her conservative ideals. It seems that the Republican party was more vibrant and conservative during the Clinton administration.

So, I'm casting a vote against Barack Obama. And a vote against the creeping liberalism of the Republicans. We don't need two Democratic parties! My hope is that the Republicans will learn a lesson from their loss this year and return to their conservative roots.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Life in Rural Egypt

This is a fascinating, unvarnished account of life in rural Egypt written a few days ago by a young Christian American woman who married a Christian Egyptian man this summer. I know her mother. Names have been changed or removed. Don't miss my additional comments at the end. -- DB

No worries! I am still alive. The past few weeks the entire village has had no Internet (they all "share" the same wireless address, I put "share" in quotations because we would probably view it as stealing but in the Egyptians eyes they are sharing. For example I finally figured out why the electricity goes out frequently. There is no electricians or building codes here so if you want electricity you go to the nearest poll or wire and connect your wire to them. The same with water, they just attach their pipes to existing main pipes nearby. This leads to a frequency of shortages, but no one complains because it's free! Kind of a weird crafty form of self-imposed socialism)

I can't believe I have almost been here for over two months. I saw my reflection in a mirror the other day and I could scarcely recognize myself. I have lost 20 pounds (thanks to walking or riding donkeys everywhere and 1 harrowing week of "king Tut's revenge" or what I affectionately call "twin shooters" IE: vomiting and diarrhea) I have more freckles and my skin is darker, courtesy of the sun. There is a permanent grime under my fingernails from working in the yard, flaying fish and plucking chicken, and I smell like garlic and burnt wood all the time no matter how much soap I use.

The plague of flies have finally left only to be replaced by a more terrifying and perpetually annoying insect; the lamooze.

We would call them mosquito's, but they behave differently here than in America. It's almost like they don't want to inconvenience the host which they feed on, they are small, quiet, quick and painless. They do not cause the intense itching when they bite. So you rarely know that you being bit until the blood suckers have had their fill. It seems that they prefer my sweet American blood, for I am now covered in their little red marks, from face to toe. I seriously look like I have the chicken pox or some mid evil plague.

I wouldn't call myself a vain person (I know I am not the most gorgeous person and that I am too quirky to be seen as pretty) but I was always proud of my clear skin. That no matter how bad I felt or if I was having a bad hair day, I could always look at my skin and feel good about it. So this has been one of my biggest mental/emotional challenges. One day when I was particularly gloomy and throwing myself a large pity party over the loss of beautiful skin especially on my feet (where the lamooze have taken a special liking) God was good to remind me of a of a verse in Romans 10:15 "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" Which made me smirk and thing of Job's

reply to God "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God" 19:28

Please don't think I am trying to complain or that I am trying to paint the picture of being a martyr, I just wanted to show a clear view of what everyday life is like here. I have been on lots of short term mission trips, and they tend to paint everything in a adventurous and productive/fruitful light. I knew that longer term missions would be difficult but I wasn't expecting it to be so mundane and ordinary. I mean where are the revivals, and clinics and organized tours to exotic locations? Fleshing out Jesus is a lot harder in a foreign hostile land. How do you show Jesus to someone that has the legal right to kill you for doing so? It is only by God's grace, and I have come to realize that we as people have nothing to do with it, and the holy spirit has everything to do with it.

I am adjusting well, however there are still some things that are hard for me to still grasp logically..

1.Having people salvage through my trash.. Call it an ancient from of recycling, the result of extreme poverty or just being resourceful, At least once a week while a person comes over to visit they will begin to look through my trash. Which always leads to some interesting conversations with them holding an American product and saying to me "Eh da?" (what's this?) It isn't too bad sometimes like dasani water bottles or chipped and broken cups but it has lead to some awkward conversations (like how do you explain disposable razors or tampons?!) Eventually everything will get reused, food not eaten given to the chickens, empty bottles filled back up with Egyptian water boxes used for kids to play with, bags to carry an assortment of things and to my great nursing-sterile-technique horror needles being used more than once.

2. The use of the great outdoors. Sometimes while walking among my trees I will accidental see someone using my yard as a bathroom. I don't know why they don't wait for the restroom inside to be vacated or just go next door and use that one but the freedom to defecate and urinate in public is openly practiced here. This includes the streets and back alleyways. The nurse in me wants to sometimes scream and hold a public health meeting about the importance of separating waste from food and water and living quarters, but right now I guess I should be content that at least they recognize the importance of hand washing.

3. While I am sweeping my house and I have a sister-in-law come over they will take the broom away from me and begin to do it themselves and force me to sit down and they repeat over and over boo see (look at) At first I thought they were trying to show me how to do it, that I wasn't sweeping correctly (or washing dishes correctly, or mopping correctly or cooking correctly) then I thought they were saying boosee to me so that I would praise them for such good work and give them compliments. But my husband finally explained to me that in the villages eyes I am of a higher educated class, and so I shouldn't have to do the lowlier jobs, my sisters are trying to honor me and show me love by doing these things for me. I am still humbled by many of the acts of service the Egyptian women in my village display to me

4. One thing that completely shocks me is the legal right a man has to hit his wife. The law even encourages it saying that if a woman acts out of hand the man has a right to hit her. Now let me please clarify MY HUSBAND HAS NOT HIT ME, NOR WILL HE EVER. In fact the only "fist fight" we ever had was this extreme form of tag we were playing, he ended up with three stitches on his finger and I have a broken big toe (courtesy of him blocking a kick) But we are both in agreement that something must be done in a culture that protects women honor harshly but doesn't value or cherish them. One of the first experiences I had with this was in Cairo. I was watching the street from our balcony when I heard a commotion a little ways off. There was a man aggressively kicking and hitting a woman who was screaming. The most insane thing about it was that a cop was on the corner watching the same scene unfold.

Now I was on the 10th floor but I was so flaming mad that I made a dash for the stairwell in hopes to somehow stop this atrocity. Ali stopped me before I left the door and calmly explained that me getting involved would only make things worse, because I know no Arabic and I am a woman (all the while I am think in my head, "Yeah that may be true but I've got my two arm "guns" Liberty, and Justice and I am not afraid to at least try and shield the woman, because who in their right mind would want to hit an American?) So I went back to the window and finally the cops intervened but only after SHE started hitting HIM. It seems like the legal system has laws that protect a man
getting hit from a woman.

5. I part my hair to the side. A trivial note, but here in the village none of the woman wear their hair like this. So EVERY time I go somewhere and walk with an Egyptian woman she will eventually begin to touch my hair and then proceed to give me a slick hair part down the middle. This is an okay look if I wanted to look like Alfalfa from the little rascals but it really isn't my style. I still don't know how to respond to such roving hands. usually I just say thanks and leave it till I get back to my home to let my hair fall back to it's side part.

6. Taking the law into your own hands. It is kind of like living in the old west. The recent buzz in the village right now is that a man was stabbed and then shot in the arm for saying some vulgar things about another man's sister. A man was beat up after he grabbed a girls chest. And currently there is a big family feud (complete with guns)between two families because one man insulted another man's son. There is no punishment for "restoring the honor" by way of killing or revenge killing as I see it. Sometimes the person that causes the offense can offer a monetary compensation but most of the time it is paid in blood.

Things that I am currently missing: Sonic, Teflon pans, American Radio, Shorts, comfortable beds, sanity and sanitation!

But please know, I am in good spirits. Though the challenges are many I welcome them as opportunity to grow. My English classes have just started. I help teach 9 year olds in Sunday school and I am learning Arabic songs on the guitar to play in the church.

Please pray for me to demonstrate to the people in village what Grace looks like. Because in this harsh world there is little grace or even an idea what that is.

Comments from Daniel: The sacrifices this young woman has made in leaving America for rural Egypt are remarkable. Who in her right mind would want to live in a place like she's described? And yet, her sacrifice is tiny compared with the sacrifice of the incarnation, when Jesus laid aside His rights as God, took on the body of a man, was born in poverty, lived in conditions even worse than what this woman has described, was rejected, beaten, and killed by those He came to rescue. It is His enormous sacrifice which has fueled this woman's sacrifices. We love, because He first loved us.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pray for North Korea

This short video is a great summary of the tragic situation in North Korea, and why we cannot forget to pray and work for its freedom.

Open Doors has a good prayer campaign where you can sign up for a 10 minute time slot once a week. Click here for details on that.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fighting Discouragement

The following is the text of the message I will, God willing, deliver tomorrow during my 5 minutes at the Yavapai Baptist Association's annual meeting. If you are a follower of Jesus, pray for me and the others who will be speaking there.

I’m here today representing 200 million people who live in daily danger of violence, imprisonment, or death because they’re identified as Christians. I’m here today representing The Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that provides spiritual and physical assistance to these courageous souls. And I’m here today as one of 9 VOM speakers in Arizona, both men and women. Any of us is happy to come and share about the persecuted church with Bible studies, small groups, youth groups, Sunday Schools, or worship services. Our presentations can be adapted to many lengths, topics, age ranges, audience sizes, and meeting formats. We’re flexible!

A word about money, because I know that’s in the back of your minds. All 260 VOM USA Area Representatives, including myself, are volunteers. No fee or honorarium is requested for a rep to come and share with your church. When we do a book table, like I’m doing here today, we do post a list of suggested donations for the items we carry, but our primary goal is raising awareness, more than raising funds. We trust that if God wants to provide for the persecuted church through VOM, He can do it without us manipulating people.

Our primary tangible goal is – our primary goal of course is to praise God by showing how His glory is revealed through the suffering church – but our primary tangible goal is to get people to sign up for the VOM newsletter. People will forget what we say in a week or two, but the newsletter comes every month, loaded with stirring stories and practical ways to get involved. The newsletter is totally free. When people sign up for our newsletter, they just get the newsletter. We don’t send out those “emergency grams” asking for twenty, fifty, or a hundred dollars. I’ve brought sample issues with me today for each of you to review, be sure you get one before you leave.

I have an extra gift for the pastors here. This is a book of 365 daily devotionals with short, powerful stories from the persecuted church. What makes it valuable for pastors is this handy booklet which indexes the stories by topic and Scripture reference, making it an ideal source of sermon illustrations! Come see me at the table and get your copy.

As pastors, you have probably been persecuted to some degree. At least, I hope you have been. Satan leaves the pew warmers alone. Even in countries where Christianity is severely restricted, for the most part, not always, but most of the time, if you just keep quiet and don’t try to advance the kingdom of Christ, you’ll not be persecuted. But long term opposition has a way of wearing down the resolve of even the strongest Christians. So, for those here who are growing weary in the battle, I have a brief word of encouragement from God’s word, as lived out today by the persecuted church.

“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your struggle against sin.”

That may not sound encouraging. Try that in your next counseling session. “My husband doesn’t love me”. “Well, you haven’t lost any blood yet, what’s the big deal!” But it’s the encouragement the author of Hebrews gave his readers.

First, notice he did not say “in your struggle against people” or even “in your struggle against sinful people” even though his readers did have very real human persecutors, but “in your struggle against sin”. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. And really, isn’t it the “sin” that we have to deal with every day that is so draining to our vitality and joy? Every day, everywhere we look, we find the constant signs of sin, spoiling our dreams, corrupting even the best of our friends and clinging tenaciously in our own hearts.

“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding of blood in your struggle against sin.”

At the close of chapter 10, he talks about how they had accepted joyfully the seizure of their property, but now their joy is waning. Rather than consoling them in their losses, or praying that their suffering will cease, he spends the 11th chapter giving them example after example of heroes of faith, beginning with the first martyr of our faith, Abel, and ending with a whole string of nameless heroes who suffered gruesome fates.

He’s showing us that others have gone farther in their fight than we have. We’ve shed tears; they’ve shed blood. The martyrs of the Bible, the martyrs of church history, and the 150,000 people who now die for Christ each year are our cloud of witnesses, joining voices to call out to us in our own struggles: keep running, keep fighting!

Then at the start of chapter 12 he caps it off with Jesus: “Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” This becomes most significant when we remember that we were the sinners whose hostility He had to endure. Jesus shed his blood for a vile sinner like me; will I not give my all for a glorious savior like Him?

“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your struggle against sin.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Revival Conference

The young man who started Sermon Index is hosting the Second Annual "Revival Conference" October 21-23 in Georgia. It's not the typical religious fluff. He's got a line up of solid speakers. Watch live for free at

Monday, October 20, 2008

When Pets are Sin

My conclusion: most, but not all, American pets should be euthanized. Not because pets are "sinful" in themselves. The question is not "Are pets bad?" but "Is there anything better we could be doing with the money and time we currently spend on our pets?"

In most cases, I believe the answer is a resounding YES.

There are some cases where pets are clearly necessary. Seeing-eye dogs. K-9 units that catch criminals and sniff for drugs. Guard dogs. Barn cats that keep the mouse population under control. You can, no doubt, expand this list.

But still, the uncomfortable fact remains that most American pets are kept for emotional, not physical reasons. We have them for companionship and diversion.

Think of all the wonderful things that could have been done with the $41.2 billion dollars Americans spent on pets in 2007! How many children could this have fed, clothed, educated, or treated?

It is true that pets make ideal companions and help reduce stress. To many Americans, however, they have become substitutes for human relationships. Human relationships are painful. We sin. Dogs don't. And a dog will never confront you about sin in your life. God uses the pain of conflict in human relationships to sand off the rough edges of our character. A pet may make you a happier person but it will not make you (or your neighbor) a holier person. Which do you want more?

Animals can also help us to marvel at the creativity of God. We should indeed take time to marvel at the intricacies of God's design, which include the cat's retractable claws and the dog's sensitive nose. But there are much less expensive (and might I add, more natural) ways to obtain this wonder than taking food from starving people. If you want to marvel at God's creation, go to the zoo or take a walk in the woods.

So put the pet to sleep. Give the money to the people who really need it. And use the spare time to get to know your neighbor.

"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy: then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 22:16, NASB)

Am I being too radical? Please write back with your thoughts. My main goal is not to convince you that I am right, but to cause you to consider before God whether you are using your money and time as wisely as you could.

For a wealth of statistics on pet ownership in the US that should sicken any conscience, visit the American Pet Products Association here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

God's Unpredictable, Exhilarating Guidance

You never know when God might show up.

As we were on the way home from church on Sunday, Dad had the sudden urge to stop and meet the new owner of a car repair garage. Dad tends to be a chatty character anyways so I didn't think too much of it, but it turns out God was guiding Dad. The mechanic was very friendly and talkative and Dad wound up getting a wonderful opportunity to tell him about Jesus. The mechanic told us a lot of interesting stories about how God has revealed Himself to him at many points in his life, yet he is not following Jesus.

Then when we left there, my nosy father decided to postpone our lunch a few more minutes to check to see how the construction on the new bank is coming in our neighborhood. When we pulled into the parking lot (which is also used by a gas station), there was a local pastor filling up his motorcycle. So we stopped and had a very enjoyable conversation with him about what God's been doing in his life lately. Again, thanks to God guiding Dad through a seemingly random impulse.

Monday it was my turn to be in the "God zone", I guess.

Sean, a VOM rep from Colorado, was down here on business for a short window of time. It worked out for us to meet in Camp Verde for lunch. I met him in the McDonald's parking lot. He wanted to eat somewhere healthy though. I was not too sure where he was going to find a place in Camp Verde that would meet those specs (think "small cowboy town"), but I guided him along the short road that was the "business loop". Well, what do you know? Someone had put in a health food store--with cafe--right on Main Street. Small, but adequate. We walked through to the back where they had a small kitchen, small tables, and small menus.

And ... what was this? A VOM newsletter lying on a table with a couple of health related magazines? Huh? That had never happened to me before--in any public place, much less, a health food store! It's not the normal "doctor's office" magazine. And most health food stores (at least in our area) are run by new agers. Not your typical VOM subscriber.

Turns out the owners of the store are messianic Jews who are VOM supporters. When they found out we were VOM reps, they refused payment for the lunch. I had a turkey burger, Sean had a buffalo burger. Sean managed to give a few bucks to the cook as a tip, since she's an employee and not a family member.) Sean and the owners started talking rapidly above my head about Bible prophecy and their favorite spots to visit in Israel.

It seems I have a lot of these kind of "coincidences" when doing VOM work.

Then on the way home I was able to give an unscheduled ride to two teenage guys from our neighborhood (who really are having a rough time of life--pray that they will give their lives to Jesus).

It was a good afternoon.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Prediction: Obama Will Win

After last night's VP debate, I've concluded that Obama will win. I don't say this as a word of prophecy, but simply as an educated guess. I think most Americans would agree with me.

Although I'm far from supportive of his policies, Biden's performance last night was strong. His 35+ years of accumulated political savvy served him well.

After hearing Palin's faltering response on the homosexual rights issue (and she is supposed to be more conservative than McCain?) I am almost positive I will not vote for either McCain or Obama. I will probably wind up writing in either Chuck Baldwin or Alan Keyes. I disagree with both of them on some issues as well but they are a lot closer to my views than either main candidate.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Faithout: The Christian Facebook

For those (like me) who find the advertisements on Facebook and MySpace unacceptable, there is now a better choice. A new social networking site called FaithOut launched yesterday. It is very similar to Facebook but with better ads. Feel free to add me to your friends list on Faithout.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Prophetic" 1999 Mortgage News

Click here to read this 1999 article on the NY Times web site for yourself. The text is below (emphasis added).

Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending


In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.
The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.
Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been
under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.
In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates -- anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.
''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''
Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market.
In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.
''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''
Under Fannie Mae's pilot program, consumers who qualify can secure a mortgage with an interest rate one percentage point above that of a conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgage of less than $240,000 -- a rate that currently averages about 7.76 per cent. If the borrower makes his or her monthly payments on time for two ye
ars, the one percentage point premium is dropped.
Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, does not lend money directly to consumers. Instead, it purchases loans that banks make on what is called the secondary market. By expanding the type of loans that it will buy, Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings.