Monthly Archives: March 2013

Letter from Iran

Iran has recently been on my radar screen.  First, I began to read Persepolis, an autobiographical comic book about a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution of the 1980s.  I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s definitely an entertaining, engrossing (I don’t even know what that word means), and enlightening look at a country known in the U.S. mostly for terrorism.

Then, a friend posted this article on Facebook about Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen of Iranian descent who’s currently being held in an Iranian prison and denied proper treatment on account of his faith.

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Day of War – a short “review” of sorts

dayofwarA few years ago, a friend of mine recommended I check out “Day of War,” a book by Cliff Graham about David and the “mighty men.”  He described it as a crazy mixture of Braveheart, 300, “Wild at Heart”, and the Bible.  I was certainly intrigued but had enough on my plate already, so I didn’t think too much about it.  Plus, I already knew all about David’s mighty men, so I figured there really wasn’t any need for me to read the book anyhow.

Here in Romania, I still have plenty to do, but it seemed like the right time to check out the book.  I had the ebook version, so I “opened” it up and started reading.

I’d like to say the book is awesome.  I really want to be able to say that.  But in all honesty, it’s not.  The story is awesome but the book itself leaves a lot to be wanting.  The hard, honest truth is that Cliff Graham is at best a mediocre, predictable author, but at worst he’s downright confusing, has caricatures for characters, and fails to draw the reader’s heart into the story.  I appreciate Cliff Graham’s attempt, but he would have been wise to co-author this book with someone more gifted in writing.

Still, the story carries the book with or without a gifted author.  And there’s no doubt about it that Cliff Graham knows how to pick a great story.  And he’s not afraid to show the hard, gritty, dirty, bloody story for what it is.  He makes war dirty and warriors even more screwed up, and he blows that cartoonish, Sunday school picture of David out of our minds with a shotgun.

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Tongue-in-Cheek “Romania’s National List”

romaniaBefore reading, know that I haven’t lived here in Romania long enough to give anything like a credible list of what really makes Romania awesome.  And know that I love Romania and the people who live here.  It’s a wonderful country full of truly loving people, beautiful scenery, delicious food, amazing music…  The list goes on!

But, with all that said, I have been here long enough to notice some of the more unique (from an American perspective) aspects of life in Romania.  So here is my tongue-in-cheek “Romania’s National List.”  Enjoy!

Romania’s National Food:  Covrigi
covrigNow, do I really think the common, street-side pretzel is worthy to receive the illustrious title of “Romania’s National Food”?  A pretzel?  Really?  Yes, I do indeed believe so.  Now, there are certainly more tasty foods in Romania (from sarmale, delicious cabbage roles filled with meat and rice, to soarma, a favorite “fast food” composed of slices of beef or chicken put onto flatbread along with fries, peppers, cabbage, pickles, etc.).  And there are certainly more “Romanian” foods (take ciorba de burta, for instance, a delicious, slighlty sour soup that contains cow stomach, or piftie, a “jello” made with all the leftover parts of pork after the hotdogs are made, and they’re all clearly visible encased in the clear jello).  And, yes, there are healthier foods (I don’t have space enough to describe the wonders of raw fruits and vegetables in Romania).  But when you can go to the capital city and never fear going hungry because there’s always a pretzel stand within 100 feet… well, that says something.  So, not for its taste, nor for its cultural value, nor for its healthiness but simply for its shear inescapable presence… the covrig walks away with this most coveted title.  So go buy a pretzel and remember Romania today!

Romania’s National Bird:  The Mosquito
mosquitoAlthough you might think that this flying creature’s likeness to Dracula and his blood-sucking tendencies would give it the title of “Romania’s National Bird,” it’s actually its simple tenacity that gives it the name.  Here in the capital city of Bucharest, mosquitoes fly into our windows from April all the way to mid-November.  And these mosquitoes aren’t like what we have back home in Wisconsin.  No, these are tiny, fast, swarming demons, and their sole purpose is to torture you.  They’re not hungry; they just hate you.  Seriously, though, one mosquito in my room left me with about a dozen bites by the morning.  And that’s why it carries away the most sought-after title in all the kingdom of flying creatures:  Romania’s National Bird.

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I’ve been thinking about grace lately

Lately, the topic of “grace” has been on my heart.  It’s such a powerful word, and yet most of us don’t even have any idea about what it means.  We read it in the Bible all the time (“Grace and peace to you…”) and use it even in our everyday lives (“Just give me a little grace this time…”).  It’s almost like we’ve gotten so familiar with it that we forgot what it means, like when you repeat a word over and over and over again so that it eventually loses all meaning.

Grace.  It changes everything.

Just take a look at what grace does according to Ephesians 2:4-9.  It reads, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Simply put, grace is favor, the favor of God.  When God looks favorably on your life, that changes everything.

Grace saves us, grace changes us and perfects us, grace pulls us into heaven, grace welcomes us into the family of God, grace makes us children of God, grace fills us with power…

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A Gypsy Funeral

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were invited back to Bărbuleşti yesterday to speak at the second church in the town.  When we arrived, our host informed us of an interesting turn of events since our last visit.

On Saturday, an older Christian man had passed away.  As he died, he looked towards his son and told him, “I see a fire covering the whole earth.  Repent before it’s too late.”  And then he died.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANaturally, that caused quite a stir.  Our host encouraged us, “Preach repentance.  Preach against sin.  God is touching many people now.  They are very open, but they have many sins.”  That was good news because that’s the message God had put on my heart anyhow.

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Why do the Orthodox Need the Gospel… #7

(Note:  Before reading, please understand that I am not attacking the Orthodox Church.  In general, they have an amazing understanding of the majesty of God, a deep appreciation for artwork and beauty in worship, a respect for tradition, a love of history, and many more admirable qualities.  However, many who call themselves “Orthodox” are desperately in the dark.)

I sometimes get frustrated here because so many people consider themselves to be Christians (almost 97%) and yet most know little about Jesus.  Here is reason number seven for why we need the gospel here.

Reason #7 – Jesus Who?

I’m sure there are many wonderful believers in the Romanian Orthodox church, but I don’t think that applies to the youth.  Many young people with whom I’ve spoken have told me they were never able to understand Orthodox services.  Many had questions about God but found no help by going to church, even though scripture is a central part of worship in the Orthodox faith.

So, why did these young people have such difficulty?

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Welcome to Barbuleşti

Barbuleşti is a strange town.  Twenty years ago, it was called the “Gypsy ghetto” of Romania and was home to all sorts of “unsavory” characters.  Over time and through a combination of revival, police action, and simple old age, the most notorious have since left the town.  Now, it’s an odd collection of extremely poor, unemployed people and the recently wealthy, who don’t seem afraid to let everyone know their new status.  We saw old, cement homes with dirt floors right across the street from mansions looking like Asian pagodas or castles.  During our one day in the city, it seemed just as common to see a horse-drawn cart as it was to see a BMW cruising along the dirt roads.

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