The Power of Paradigms

As one with a motivational gift of “teacher”, I’m always analyzing ideas and, a little like really smart physicists, I like to find ideas that help make sense of many things in life at once…unifying theories if you will. My unifying theories tend to be theological ones as opposed to scientific or even philosophical. In my book, God is what makes everything make sense. That’s still a bit broad though. So, when I hear a truth that helps make sense of life in a broad and profound way, I try grab a hold of it and hopefully integrate it into daily life.

Often times one will hear a teacher/preacher say that something is the key concept to embrace. I’m one, however, who sees nuances and shades as opposed to black and white distinctions. Therefore, I think it’s highly unlikely that anything is the key when it comes to God…who He is…how He moves…the Kingdom of God…etc. In fact, my perspective of God and His Kingdom is that it is so incredibly vast, deep, profound, etc. that while there are certain truths that are probably more foundational than others, we cut ourselves off from further understanding of God and His Kingdom when we decide that we’ve found the key. My feeling is that God does give specific revelation to specific people to study, experience, and share deeply. They become the “equipment distributors” of the Kingdom (“equipping the saints…very similar to the concept of Ephesians 4:11). I find it frustrating, however, that some “equipment distributors” find it necessary to tout their equipment as the most important. Let’s let God decide that and announce that. God is so vast that we need to be celebrating how He’s moving everywhere and in so many ways throughout the earth! We need all his equipment distributors.

This series of 4 teachings by Richard Hays, and American missionary living in Mexico, gives a pretty good overview of “Kingdom keys” that he’s been studying, experiencing and sharing. I say overview because they have a series of in-depth training courses at their church in Mexico that obviously dig much deeper. The keys/paradigms/unifying theories that Richard has been entrusted with are righteousness and identity. I recommended repeated listening to help get the multitude of good points he makes and to be able to experience the power of these paradigms.

He’s speaking in English and it’s translated to French, so it’s also a good practice for learning French or English.

This link will take you to the page on our church’s site where the 4 teachings are.

Freedom Walk

(This post is an excerpt of my daughter Rachel’s Facebook post about her participation in the Freedom Walk in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago)

Around 300 years ago, a religious group of people suffered severe persecution in Switzerland. A certain Lord Ribeaupierre invited those people to come and live in Alsace, France and farm the land. Among his conditions were that the people take a ‘vow of silence’ and refrain from any kind of witnessing or proselytizing. They agreed, moved, and withdrew as religious communities from the outside world. Later, many emigrated to the United States.

This story is about the Anabaptists, who are still around and known as Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. And strange as it may sound, this is the reason I went to Pennsylvania last week.

Sins committed in the past can be confessed, repented of, and forgiven in the present. God leads individuals and groups today to stand humbly in the place of their ancestors and deal with these sins. This work of reconciliation breaks off generational curse of sin and spiritual strongholds that affect and imprison places today.

A team of people from my church in France flew to Pennsylvania to ask forgiveness for having imposed the ‘vow of silence’ and to intercede (pray for) Lancaster by joining a group of various believers to complete a prayer walk around the perimeter of Lancaster county.

I was invited to join by the leaders of the prayer walk (who are good friends), and to help with translating for the French team!

And it was awesome.

Revival is coming to Lancaster.
Revival is coming to the Amish.

We saw some of the beginning signs of this in the 5 Amish families who prayer walked with us! A few years ago, they were given a supernatural healing ministry and were consequently excommunicated from the Amish church. Now they are a community and call their work Light of Hope Ministries. They see themselves as bridging the gap between the Amish and the rest of the Christian community. I LOVED (lovedlovedloved) being with them, spending time with the children, mixing with another culture, and being challenged by their passionate spirituality and vision.
Read more about them here: https://charismamag.com/articles/index.php?id=17482

Because of the French team and their need for translation, I feel like God has also used this week to give me a second chance – (that I really didn’t deserve – to appreciate the French and the French language. For the last few years, I’ve generally resented speaking French and feeling doomed to substandard communication. Despite what people say, I know just how far from fluency I am! Not only that, but my confidence had gone way down after being away at BFA for two years…

So, knowing that He could, I asked God to help me translate beyond my abilities this week. There were MORE than enough opportunities to serve, and of every variety – French to English/English to French, simultaneous/phrase-by-phrase, informal/formal, one-on-one/group situations… and yes, many times it was easier than I anticipated. God was helping me! I learned several things: first, that I may actually be gifted in translating. Second, I learned better to dismiss the fear of being judged for my mistakes. The fact that the people in the French team all know and love me helped. I had to think about others first, and realize when they weren’t understanding… forcing me to be very NOT self-centered. Not always easy.

I’ve been on a total of eight plane trips this summer, and – what are the odds – been given a window seat every time. I know heaven isn’t really a straight up shoot from earth (more of a parallel realm), and yet, there’s something about that “God’s eye view” that takes my mind outside the box… and I smile at the big screaming deal we think we are.

Do you ever wonder what it would look like to fly over the US on July 4th in the evening? I do.

Language Heaven, Language Hell…

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you…

Hogwash!

It’s been clear since God created the world simply by speaking, that words have unlimited power. God Himself saw that His best recourse against the rebellion and pride of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 was to pull the verbal rug out from underneath the construction crew. Voilà, rebellion stopped dead in its tracks… In the Gospel of John, Jesus, the King of Kings is called The Word.

Even in non-ecclesiastical circles, one finds that the pen is mightier than the sword (attributed both to Ben Franklin and Edward Bulwer-Lytton…go figure), the world is full of influential writings, and of course there is the Internet…dare I mention Blogging!?

For our family, language acquisition has been an abiding and profound reality in the last 5 or so years. Even before that, Angela and I had an above average amount of language training in our school years.

Why? Well the motivations run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime. I think behind all of it is a deposit from God in our deepest parts to draw us toward other people; to live the reality that our God is a relational God and has made us in His image.

For us all, learning French has been a very rewarding adventure. There are unending layers of discovery and depth of relationship that have been opened up to us because of the work to learn another language. There is a bit of satisfaction when one aces a test on some obscure conjugation of irregular verbs, but there is immense satisfaction in the joy of relating at a heart level with someone whose heart otherwise would have remained but a closed book on a shelf gathering dust to you…had you not studied for that conjugation test! ;c) There are many other moments of serendipity related to knowing another language…at any level.

Last week when Rachel and I went to Berlin, there were some very special moments like that as we obviously heard a lot of German, in addition to English and French. German is the foreign language that I first studied before French. I had a fair amount of it academically in Jr. High, High School and College, and of course, we did our YWAM DTS in Germany. Since then, it’s been so much French that I have a real difficulty in getting German out of my mouth, even if I can really understand what I need to say…more or less. Rachel studied German for the 1st time last year and really enjoyed it and now Noah is starting to study it and seems to be enjoying it too.

So, speaking a foreign language is all heavenly bliss…right?

Again, the appropriate response is: Hogwash!

When we were standing in the security check line at the airport to leave Berlin, Rachel was asked by the security official if her pockets were empty. It was asked in German. Rachel understood the question to be whether she had anything in her pockets. She said “nein” to the question she understood and assumed the posture of a person with nothing in her pockets. Of course the security guard, heard “no” to his question but saw the posture of a person who should have answered “ja”.

They understood quickly what needed to be understood, but what they did next stabbed my heart…all the security officials laughed heartily and mocked. Not a big deal in the cosmic scheme of things, but each time something like that happens when we try our best to communicate in another language, the accumulated vignettes of misunderstanding can wash over you afresh. You remember the blank looks you get from people you desperately want to communicate with; want to build a friendship with. It’s not always mocking from a stranger but it can really drain you! Of course, the enemy of our souls can have a heyday with this as well! This is a bit of what Language Hell can be like.

Thankfully, these are wonderful occasions to have our heart worked on by the Lord. We have the privilege to take up our cross and better learn the immeasurable humility of a God who would become man because of His passion for you and me. His willingness to be misunderstood, in order to ultimately be able to express infinite love is the very mandate of every person who has ever learned another language and used it as a tool to expand the Kingdom of God.

I saw a wonderful quote by Helen Keller recently in a newsletter by another American missionary family in France.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Our adventure may seem to be insignificant at the language level, but in reality, we’re risking “hell”, to bring Heaven here on earth each time we open our mouths and stumble through some French (or German) to connect at a heart-level and stand in the image of our heart-level God.