I have a blog I really enjoy--Life Overseas. I saw a new post today, so I read it, and I recommend it highly: Not an Afterthought. I just want to add my two cents to this. While I lived in Canada, I was eventually adopted by a family of missionaries. They had four "kids," and the oldest, who is a year or two older than me, had just moved to Eastern Europe as a missionary. They invited me to their house on Tuesdays, and I got to watch the mom cook and learn from her (Seriously, nobody beats a Mennonite in the kitchen. Nobody), and I got to sit at the table with them, go for walks with their family, and enjoy their conversation and perspective. They really did make me part of the family, and they treated me like their daughter. Their sons treated me like their sister.

It was the best.

I do frequently feel like there's a bit of a stigma that comes with singleness. It is a compliment to me, definitely, that people have a hard time figuring out why I'm single, and their concern is sweet, but the most amazing thing that people can do, really, is include us singles in their families every once in a while. It gives us a sense of home and an ability to invest in a family when we don't have one. I've had several families in my life (here's looking at you, Mt. Pleasant friends!) who have invited me in and invested in me, and it has made all the difference in how I dealt with being on my own in an unfamiliar place. I have many, many married friends, and I have always sort of wistfully hoped that some of them would invite me over, not just to hang out with me as an escape from normal life, but just to include me in their family. So, married friends, if you know a single, invite your single to dinner! (And talk about something other than why your single friend is single. Pro tip.)

Anyway. That doesn't pertain too much to my post at hand.

I've decided to get back into my Greek a little. I realized the other day that I didn't remember immediately what some of the letters were supposed to look like, and I realized that, in my pursuit of Spanish, my brain was edging out Greek. I'm also in the middle of the section of my One Year Chronological Bible that has all of the congratulations-you've-all-won-a-free-one-way-trip-to-Babylon stuff, so I feel like I also need some Jesus.

I'm currently reading in Mark 7, where the Pharisees, who are apparently the hand-washing police and have no hobbies, start harassing Jesus about His disciples' unwashed hands. Jesus doesn't dignify them with much of a response, stating, simply, "Hear Me, all, and understand--nothing is outside of a man which, entering him, is able to defile him, but the things that go out of a man are what defile him." Then He ducks out of the crowd and heads into a house. His disciples, understandably, come looking for a little bit more detail as to what He means, and He gets nicely blunt about how food goes in through the mouth and out into the toilet, and is thus clean, because it doesn't go into man's heart but his stomach. Man's heart is where clean and unclean happen. And Jesus adds something telling--"For inside of the heart of men, the evil thoughts come out--unchastities, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetousnesses, wickednesses, deceit, sensuality, an evil eye, blasphemy, arrogance, foolishness; all these inner evil things come out, and they defile a man."

As I was reading that this morning, it struck me--who could speak as more of an authority on humans than the one who made them, designed them, and then became one? And He really doesn't have much good to say here. The human heart looks crusty and corrupted.

And yet--and yet He walks with them, eats with them, loves them. John 2:23-25 says, "But as He was in Jerusalem in the Passover, in the feast, many believed in His name, seeing of Him the signs He was doing; but He, Jesus, did not trust Himself to them, on account of His knowing all things, and because He had no need that anyone should bear witness about man; for He Himself knew what was in man." I find two things strangely side-by-side in Jesus--a bleak realism about men's hearts, and a relentless love for men.

I have seen enough horribleness from other human beings (and, frankly, perpetuated enough of it myself to merit whatever kind of accusation), on personal, individual, and worldwide levels that I am, frequently, bluntly cynical. I often delay judgment before I assume a situation has had a good result, because I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or, if I don't do that, I quickly think that perhaps I should have.

Case in point: on Saturday my friend and I went to a wedding celebration in a church in a poorer area of town. It was really sweet. Two couples got married after having lived in union libre for years; two other couples renewed their vows. I might have teared up when a lady renewed her vows to her husband in a quavering voice, almost crying.

Then we found out some backstory. That church used to be a Baptist church, and isn't anymore. The next day it closed its doors, and some of the people went elsewhere with that pastor to have their own church. Now the church building will be owned by one man who is being groomed for a leadership position for a quasi-cultlike group. The building was built by an American church years ago; the church came in, built the building, didn't particularly invest in developing leadership, and left. The previous pastor tore up the church several years ago, and the current pastor has gone really fundie, requiring women to wear skirts outside of the house and all kinds of other things. He also doesn't let people who aren't married take the Lord's Supper. Let that sink in for a moment.

In theory, these are people who have given their lives to Jesus, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are new creations, and are being transformed every day into the likeness of Jesus. And this is not the only story I could tell you about church stuff, not by far.

So it was just interesting to me this morning to read the story in Mark 7 and hear Jesus (probably) very quickly rattle off a laundry list of what the human heart produces. He has no illusions--and yet He loves. He doesn't trust Himself to them--and yet He's never cynical. He knows they're going to kill Him--and yet He stays.

I was trying to wrap my mind around this, because, frankly, I want to become cynical--especially as I watch people being horrible in the church. How could Jesus walk in hope--because surely only hope could sustain that--knowing what He knew?

I think maybe my only answer is that He looked past them to love them--into the future, into the gathered multitude encircling the Throne, into the face of His Father. He could hope because He was present. All of the hope was contained in Him. And it still is.

My prayer time lately has included a fair bit of grief, as I watch IS behead people and trap Yazidis on mountains, as I watch people maim and kill for no reason. It doesn't seem like God is working--or, at least, like God is winning. But people aren't actually worse than they were in Mark 7, and Jesus kept going. There is still hope.

Prayer requests
  • Please pray for hope in the face of craziness. Pray for us to walk in Heaven's perspective, and for the protection of the churches here.
  • Pray for holiness, transparency, and brokenness over sin.
  • Please pray for health. My friend recently made me aware of a really common phenomenon here--people start to get things right with God and each other, and they frequently fall ill. I hadn't realized the grief that has occurred here, as believers have died, sometimes very quickly, from cancer and other illnesses. I've started praying for people's health as soon as I've begun to see God working in their lives. It does seem to be an area of spiritual warfare.
  • Please pray for open doors to share the gospel and open hearts to receive it.
  • Please pray for J and E for encouragement--they started to see doors open up, and things suddenly went haywire. Pray for them to see fruit and for God to work strongly in the people they've been meeting with. It's really common to start meeting with someone, and then have that person suddenly turn really flaky, and it's discouraging. Pray for seed to fall on good soil.
  • I'm going to be attending a different church for the next month, so please pray for that time--and wisdom in how to work with A and P, the church planting couple. 
  • I'm going to hang out with the teenager who showed me how to use the bus system on Friday. Pray for good conversation and wisdom in that. I'd love to connect to her group of friends, but I also want to invest in her and help her. 
  • Please pray for wisdom for me, because I need to reschedule my Spanish class stuff.
  • Craziness notwithstanding, it was really sweet to see the couples get married or renew their vows on Saturday. 
  • My friend and I finally got to meet one of her friends' husbands on Saturday at a birthday party. We didn't really know how to make conversation with him, but it seemed at least like a positive touch. 
  • We had two new guys attend the English class on Thursday, from out of the blue. They approached my friend and asked if they could join. This significantly changes the group dynamic, however. Please pray for us to have good open doors with these guys and with the two ladies that have been attending. I had read a book about Mexican culture before coming here, and it talked about how sometimes husbands wouldn't allow their wives to have even female friends, for fear that their friends would become a pretext to get out of the house and meet with other men. I don't know if there will be any of that because of this group, but please pray for it. We're going to a birthday party for all of the ladies tomorrow, so please pray that that would be a sweet time together.

Thank you for praying!

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