Sunday, September 28, 2014

An Insider's Outsider View of the American Church

Dear brother or sister in Christ,
I'm sorry we don't see eye to eye on the state of things for the Church in the US. I see your fear, your very real fear, over situations you read about. I read the stories too. I get my news from the BBC instead of American newspapers, but I read global and American news 6 days a week. (Sabbaths aren't for news stories).

In fact, I may read more news stories than you do about persecution. I get a weekly newsletter from with updates about global persecutions. Sometimes American stories make the headlines, but the US isn't the only country to suffer persecution & many other believers suffer more than the legal battles in the US. I am praying my way through the top 50 countries with religious persecution this year with Spoiler: the US doesn't even make the list with its persecution.
I am a Christian & I was born an American citizen, so I am an insider, a part of your group, Christians in America. Yet, I'm an outsider too. For the past year I have been watching the American Church, as I've been serving as a volunteer missionary in Latin America. I have the perspective of an outside observer, but with claims to the inside of the American Church.

And so I write lovingly with a breaking heart this open letter (it may sound frustrated, but frustration is just the easiest emotion to detect when I hear what the American Church has been saying & vent to my husband).
The next paragraph is the harshest, the most difficult for you to read. I wrote this truth with love, but sometimes the necessary things are hard to hear.

American Christian on the internet, you have become very self-centered and inwardly-focused. You have an attitude of 'woe is me' that is not biblical. You're allowing the persecution & problems that you are facing to blind you to all other suffering except your own. This attitude is not glorifying to God nor is it attractive to non-Christians.

I hear you complain against rules that say teachers cannot publicly lead prayer in public schools. You expect Christians can publicly lead a class in prayer, a class with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and more. Yet if your child came home with news that their Muslim teacher lead them in the daily prayer to Allah that is a core of Islamic beliefs, you would be outraged. If your child was instructed to meditate & try to reach Nirvana by a Buddhist teacher, you would be among the first to call the school to complain. You expect that other religions cannot proselytize your child in school, but you still expect Christians to be able to do so.

I want to encourage you with the reminder that no government can stop a person from praying to God (who does not need our spoken words to understand us) unless the government kills them. Teachers may not publicly lead students in prayer, but that doesn't stop them from being able to silently pray to God whenever they feel the need. I hear the fear in your cyber-voice that the US will write off the amendment to the Constitution that gives us the freedom of religion. I see the worst-case scenario that the US will become anti-Christian & actively persecute believers (like other countries currently are facing and have been facing).
Let me remind you that God works in broken systems. God has worked through pagan kings & rulers actively persecuting the Church in the past. He still is able to work through these channels. He still works things for His Glory.

I hope to share with you a wider perspective. Wider than your problems and your fears.
Truth 1: Persecution is to be expected. Jesus was persecuted. He told his disciples to expect it since servants will be treated like their master. James tells us to expect it.

Truth 2: We are not to complain against persecution. We are to rejoice we can suffer for God. Jesus told the crowds to rejoice when they are persecuted because of him, because they would be rewarded in heaven. The early church were glad they could be whipped & suffer for Jesus.

Truth 3: The proper attitude to have when you face persecution is to have more compassion for other believers (brothers & sisters) with more severe persecution and to pray FOR those who are persecuting you.

Please don't allow the problems you are facing in the culture of the US to turn you so inward, so self-centered that you forget to pray for your brothers & sisters around the world. Please don't complain & whine about the persecution you see in the US. Thank God that you have the freedom of religion. Pray for those without this freedom. God is allowing us experiences that allow us to sympathize better with the persecuted church. React like the Bible encourages: Remember God is Lord of all. Expect it. Rejoice that we can suffer for Christ's name.
your sister-in-Christ,
Liz o' the Niche

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Giveaway of Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht!

As a blogger, I received a free copy of Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht in return for my honest review of her book. I read it, I enjoyed it, and now I'm giving away a free copy.

Here's how it'll work:
You can enter the giveaway below with Rafflecopter. You must provide your email so that I can contact you should you win.

By entering, you are giving me permission to contact you by email if you win to get your mailing address & to forward your mailing address onto the book's publishing company.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Winner MUST have a valid US or Canada mailing address in order to be eligible to receive the prize. If you do not have a valid address in the US or Canada, you will forfeit your place to win the book.

I will provide the winner's name & mailing address to the publisher of Messy Beautiful Love so that he/she can receive his/her prize.

Note: The winner MUST respond to my email with their mailing address within 48 HOURS or he/she will forfeit his/her prize.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Review of Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht

Darlene Schacht has written Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages. I was given an advance copy in trade for my honest review (which is below).

Darlene has a website called the Time-Warp Wife. I found her blog right before this past Mother's Day when I read an article posted about Mother's Days & those who aren't mothers. I've really enjoyed reading her posts about marriage, packed full of Scripture & practical advice.

Messy Beautiful Love is her third book she has published. The other two are The Virtuous Life of a Christ-Centered Wife: 18 Powerful Lessons for Personal Growth and The Good Wife's Guide: Embracing Your Role as a Help Meet. (As an aside, if you pre-order her book before this Sunday night, the 14th, you'll receive both of her other books, as well as 8 other books on marriage).

Messy Beautiful Love is a delightful book. Darlene gives a real look into her marriage & life. Instead of presenting a perfected family, she shares real struggles, mistakes, & feelings. That takes a lot of guts & I admire Darlene for that.

Her book is saturated with Scripture, prayer, & God's grace. Each chapter ends with a challenge for the reader to implement in their life. Her book has tough challenges on giving up your right to be right (chapter 4), stepping back and allow him to lead (chapter 6), praying for your marriage (chapter 15), and many more.

This is a good book on marriage & I recommend it.

If you wish to pre-order this book (& get freebies valued at over $50), you can learn how to do so HERE (but do so before September 15th)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Snapshot of our Mission Trip to Costa Rica: Third Quarter

Our time in Costa Rica is quickly disappearing. The knowledge of leaving brings out a nostalgic thread in me, so I've found 20 pictures of our third quarter in Costa Rica.

Once I started to notice the parrots, I saw them often

We started a Basic I class we co-taught in a local church, in addition to our own ESL classes we taught on campus

This is my favorite butterfly. It's call the blue morpho

We still admire God's power as shown in creation

At the end of April, we had a treat! Our friends from the States came for a mission trip & stayed an extra few days to visit us!!

Lucas got to help at the famous (to us) local church that's expanding to fit it's growing congregation

The church is called "La Finca" which means "the farm"

We heard a fellow co-worker give his testimony & give God the glory

Lucas is helping at La Finca by painting
Mustaches are popular in the States & Costa Rica

For Father's Day, a mariachi band came and played

They sang to the fathers

Liz is teaching her Basic 1 course on campus

Lucas is teaching his Basic 2 course on campus
We went back to Nicaragua to renew our Costa Rica visas and worked in the same school as before

Some of the students remembered us from before

We taught English songs in preschool through sixth grade

We rode in a "tuk-tuk" or bicycle taxi
Lucas is with a Nazarene superintendent, Gerardo

Nicaraguan Money (roughly 20 cordobas is $1USD)