My Immigration Story

I have vivid memories of being 4 years old, in my house in Tehran waiting for my dad to come home from getting groceries. I stood at the door and saw him running down the street, avoiding intensifying riots right there in our neighborhood. The decision was made for my mom and me to leave the heart of it and go stay with my grandparents in London for two weeks.

Meanwhile, my mom began experiencing leg pains, numbness and an occasional loss of balance. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Two weeks were extended to two years as it was decided we would not go back. At some point during those two years, my dad joined us after getting on the last flight before the borders in Iran were closed to anyone, incoming or outgoing. Meanwhile, hostages were in the midst of their 444 days locked in the American Embassy in Iran.

My aunt, who lived in California suggested we come to Los Angeles, to get my mom away from the cold, damp London air that exacerbated her symptoms. The U.S. immigration policy at the time allowed her to help us get green cards. We were “vetted” – whatever that process was at the time. We did our due diligence and were welcomed through the borders of Los Angeles International Airport. My dad got a job, I went to school and my mom was able to begin receiving care from a neurologist and eventually through government aid for all the medical assistance she required. I lost my British accent and began to blend into my environment.

Several years after I was welcomed to the US, I was awakened to the welcoming community of Christ. He who began to reveal Himself to me as He did to my mother and her siblings in an American missionary school in Tehran, became a full indwelling part of my life. Once again, I was welcomed in.

Now, I live in a paradoxical space of being naturalized, born again and still afraid. That same spirit that wrecked the country  I fled as a little girl, continues to wreak havoc on the same region and haunts the waters between us. The same spirit of terror lures unsuspecting young people with a God-given desire to belong.  Some raised here like me, and some even born here inside our borders to martyr themselves to their cause, drive planes into buildings and shoot innocent people at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. The same spirit of terror that strikes fear in me when I wonder, what will happen next?

Today I went to the grocery store and a woman walked in at the same time with her head covered. I smiled and said, I’m glad you’re here. She said thank you, God bless you.

He already has.

Processing Racial Tension and Reconciliation

Do yourself a favor if you haven’t already, and ask an African American person you have a friendship with (or are acquainted with, because this could lead to a meaningful friendship) how they have been experiencing the recent events in our country, particularly the last couple of weeks.

Don’t try to relate, or justify anything or tell them what you think… that all matters of course, but if you just simply ask someone how they feel and what they have experienced, you might be surprised. Don’t get defensive and don’t try to “not see the color” because we all see the color and color is what is beautiful and different colors express the beauty and various facets of our Creator… just listen.

Listen to their passion and the emotion and try to practice empathy. You may think you understand already and maybe you do, but perhaps part of what our problem is that we don’t really take the time to listen and appreciate experiences and perspectives that are not our own. God is bigger and He is near.

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’
as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.” – Acts 17:26-28

Maybe the weight of all this darkness we’ve all been feeling has a greater and more divine purpose of causing us to feel our way towards him, as though we are groping in the dark to find something…some shred of hope…some sense of progress, but ultimately, we are feeling our way towards him and we WILL find him because he has promised us so.

I have always considered myself someone who “doesn’t see color,” but as of late my vernacular is going to change. I’m lying to myself if I don’t see color. It didn’t hit me until last week when my son walked out the door at 9:30pm with his best friend in the world who is black. They went to a movie and my heart sank. It was then I realized, the conversations my friends who are raising African-American sons are having are different than the ones we have at home. They have to learn behavior for different reasons than mine do. To say I don’t see the color is a disservice to myself and those around me.

Things may be getting worse. They may be getting better. They may actually not be much different but because of social media we are more aware. Whatever the case it doesn’t matter. God has determined this time and space where you and I live for a reason much bigger than ourselves. The whole point of everything is for us to feel our way toward him. These too are the trials James 1 talks about that produce a steadfastness of faith. As our faith gets stronger, our works will be more meaningful and the way we love will be more pure and Christ like.

It’s a simple and loving thing we can all do to be part of the solution in a very broken world that is groaning for salvation.

Just ask, “how has your experience been?” and listen.

He is near.

Paris and the One Thing ISIS and I Agree On

 

It was reported by CNN when the gunmen stormed into the Bataclan Music Hall in Paris, they were shouting “Allah akbar.”

God is great.

And He certainly is. Although we are not speaking of the same God, this is the one and only thing I can agree on with ISIS.

Lately I’ve been camping in a story about Syria. Not the ones of late but one of long ago in 2 Kings 6. The story is part of the great story of God that continues with Syria, Israel, and us today.

On this mourning after, we might be waking up numb because these news headlines seem to be coming one after another. Or we may have woken up with a significant measure of fear. Or outrage.

PC: CNN.com

In the story in 2 Kings a young assistant runs to his master, Elisha when he sees the attackers of his day, great in number, with an artillery of horses and chariots encamped around this city.

“What shall we do?”

Isn’t that often our response on days like today? When we see babies washed up on beaches. When we see people in crowded city streets clinging to each other.

Elisha answered him, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Then, Elisha prayed for his fearful young assistant and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.”

The LORD immediately answered this prayer and opened the eyes of the young man, it says.

“He saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

All along there were these angelic armies that outnumbered those who were coming against them. They were there the whole time but they were invisible to Elisha’s servant until the LORD lifted his eyes to see them.

God never vacates His throne and He never turns His face from those He loves. There is great power in our prayers as we pray against terror, as we pray for protection and peace.

I woke up this morning praying for Paris, praying for Syria, praying for Israel, praying for us to have eyes to see what God is up to, but I was also deeply compelled to pray for ISIS.

I believe we are living in a time when the Church is waking up. The upside of the information age is that we can’t look away at the evil and destruction that is happening in all parts of the world. Rather than be paralyzed by fear or numbed by headlines, we need to be moved by our grief, moved by our rage, moved by our doubts because regardless of what we think and fear God is on the move. We who are part of the subversive Kingdom of God are called to arise and walk in love. We are to walk in love because it is written that this is the best use of our time as the days are evil. {Ephesians 5:16} Walking in love is not exclusive from walking in justice, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Love was poured out in the form of all of that on the cross where Jesus died. The answer to “what shall we do?” is informed by what we know, what we have seen and what we believe about God.

The thing about those men who stormed into public places firing rifles with explosives strapped to themselves is that they too have been terrorized.

Like the child who grows up bullied, abused, tormented and mentally destroyed by an abuser grows up to abuse his own children, so are the terrorists who are victims to their government’s evil ideologies and have been shaped by their practices. They are often people who want to be accepted, valued and belong to a people group and a cause greater than themselves.

Can’t the same be said for you and I?

Let justice have its way. It needs to have its way. People who walk in love, like imitators of God are marked by grace, mercy and forgiveness. We are people who are courageous because courage is what you need when you are called to do justice and love mercy sometimes in the form of prayer and sometimes with your hands and feet. Courage is what you need when you are people called to pray and walk in love especially when you are praying for a clear enemy.

We go to the root of the problem and we courageously pray towards the root of evil and pain and pray for the restorative and redemptive way of Jesus to have it’s way in our times and nations.

Because God so loved the world.

This Perfect Love casts out the fear we are feeling today. Perfect Love regardless of any circumstances be they the hardship in your life or the devastating things happening around the world is greater than what we see with our own eyes. The story in 2 Kings 6 provides a backdrop to the words of John, “for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

May the Jehovah Sabaoth, the great LORD of hosts, the LORD of armies be the fuel of every prayer and may He take every thought of yours captive today and move them towards himself.

 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” {John 16:33}

I’m Going to Camp!

Annually, 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in America. One of these victims dies every six hours due to that abuse.

Fifteen years ago when we started attending our church, our eyes began to open to the foster care crisis in America.  Much of  this stemmed from families we have met that have taken in kids as their own and also our church’s involvement with Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp which purposes to give abused and neglected kids who are currently in foster care one week of their lives. A week with positive experiences in a Christian environment.

Until a few years ago, I believed that religion that is pure and faultless is to look after orphans in their distress, but my belief was nestled tightly in a box.  The box was the adoption box.  What I falsely believed in the depth of my heart was that if I was going to do it right… it had to be done a certain way. That if I was really going to believe what those words meant, it meant only one thing… that we had to adopt.

What I’ve learned since then is looking after the fatherless and the motherless can look a lot of different ways.  I never thought our family was called to adopt until a couple of years ago when Steve went to this camp.  For the first time, I questioned those thoughts and now my perspective has changed. While we still don’t feel called to adopt, what has changed is our willingness to do so and to become more involved in the solution regardless of the outcome.

Steve came back changed and therefore we changed. He has always been a great dad for our kids, but when Steve came home from camp, he came home zealous for other kids and also for finding ways to help dads be good dads.

Part of this change for our family has been a result of our relationship with one of Steve’s original campers.  As a mentor to this young man, Steve has been able to bring him around our home and in doing so, he has become family.  Not in the living with us kind of way, but in our love and affection for him. When he is with us, he is family.  And when he goes, our hearts bleed for him.  You see this boy, is just like my boys.  He loves adventure, he loves sports, he plays legos and loves to eat.  He is kind, he is loving and you would never know that every day he goes home, he wonders how long he will be there for. He wonders when he will get to live with his mom again and if he will see his dad again.  He wonders where he will go to middle school because the future is uncertain for him.

This year I am going to camp.

From July 7-11, I’m going to be a counselor to two little girls and my goal is to love them and let them have fun for one week. We will celebrate their birthdays no matter when their actual birthday is and we will celebrate any other milestones that come up during the week.

I am desperately hoping for laughter, joy and adventure. Mostly I’m praying they will leave believing they have value, hearing they are more precious than they realize and they have hope for their future.

Many of my good friends have gone before me to camp. They say I will never be the same. They say it is the hardest week of your life, but also the best week of your life.

Now that it’s one week away, my heart is filling with anticipation and fear.

Would you mind partnering with me?  Would you send me with YOUR prayers? Will you start now by praying for my girls {and the other campers too}.  Pray I will love them well. Pray I will be patient.  Pray I will have strength.  And pray I’m not a hot mess of tears all week long.  Lastly, pray for my boys and Steve who will be home. Pray for our boy at camp who graduates this year. This will be his last year at camp and I’m praying it will be his best. Pray the God of the impossible will do more than we can ask or imagine for him and for all the other campers too.

If you’d like to donate to Royal Family Kids Camp through King’s Harbor Church, your donation helps send kids to camp, provides their lodging, food, goes towards all the fun activities and gifts they will be sent home with.  You can make a donation here or send a check made out to King’s Harbor Church to me or to KHC Administrative offices with “Suzie Lind/RFKC” in the memo.

 

Let’s Talk about Sex

It’s been three days since we’ve been home from The Idea Camp and my head is finally coming up from the water. In our two days in Vegas, I came away with so much more than I thought I would. In fact, the way the conference is set up lends itself to a much more interpersonal and in-depth learning environment than many other conferences. I was going through my notes to try to summarize for you all that I have, but it’s just too much! What I did find is that I jotted down a lot of quotes, so I will leave them for you. Forgive me for not knowing who said some of these things. But I know the people who made these statements all have a heart for Jesus’ truth and love to reclaim all that has gone wrong in this world as it relates to human sexuality. So here it goes:

On Sex and the Marriage Bed (all by Angus Nelson):

It’s important to talk about sex with your spouse and diffuse any unrealistic expectations.”

“We make relationships about us. The reason why the marriage bed is the heart of God is because it’s not about me.”

“What an exchange, if two people can serve each other in safety, love and selflessness.”

“Tell your man everything you respect about him and honor him. When you disrespect the man, you neuter the man.” (insert scissor motion here)

On Beauty for Ashes: Relational Healing for the Church (all by Dawn Carter):

“Dealt with is not the same as healing from.”

“The power of story: mirroring that which should have been as God intended.”

“Understand the role of your authority as a child of God in the Spiritual realm.”

From Charles Lee:

On implementing great ideas: “Friendship is not enough, you need the right people on the team.”

On sexual abuse and sin: “The Church has gotten good at confronting people, but not in walking with them.”

From David Trotter:

“If you are thinking about having an affair, keep in mind you will lose things you never knew you had.”

From Chris Clapp Logan and Ryan Russell:

“Things parents may not be aware of when their kids get on-line:

  1. They assume their kids are good and wont’ get into anything they shouldn’t
  2. Their kids are searching for love and affirmation
  3. Their kids have become callous to sex

“Know your kids friends online as you would off-line.” ~ Chris Clapp Logan

“True recovery is found in Luke 5 because sometimes it takes the power of God through community to bring about healing.” Nicole Wick

On Human Trafficking:

“Instead of being a temple builder, be a well digger.” ~ Mel McGowan

“The whole Church must participate, it takes the entire body of Christ.”

On Jesus and Justice (Bethany Hoang and Gary Haugen):

“At the end of the day, it’s about spiritual formation. The work of justice is given to us to shape us into becoming more like Jesus.”

“When you do the right thing, for the right reason, God has your back.”

“Prayer is the filter for our work, it shapes it and punctuates the day.” (regarding their 8:30 and 11am prayer times as a team)

On practical insight to discouragement in the work of justice (by Gary Haugen):

“Jesus asked us to be His disciples in fallen world. He doesn’t take us out of it, He leaves us in it.” Expect the world around you to be fallen… because it is.

“Spend time in prayer, do your work in community and be intentional about finding the joy.  Joy is the oxygen that makes obedience possible.”

On practical 1st steps to enter into the work of human trafficking (by Bethany Hoang):

“It really is one step at a time. Pick a target country or city. Focus your passion into that particular place. Have prayer time with a few others. Read a newsletter. Get close to the victims.”

On Restoring America’s Sex Trafficked Women by Annie Lobert:

“The world throws us away, the Church needs to love them through the pain, expecting them to fall.”

“Grace is more powerful than we realize.”

“90% of prostitutes are trafficked by a pimp.”

On Trafficking and Orphan Care:

“The church is the hope for the orphan crisis Every person has to play and every church has to engage in this crisis.” ~ Chris Marlow

On Sexual Orientation:

“The authenticity of friendship is that the outcome is secondary.” ~ Andrew Marin

“We have to pause and listen to the human story. We have to let love work its way through incarnation.” ~ Greg Russinger

Sexual orientation is not about an issue, it’s about people.” ~ Charles Lee

On sex and the family (Jud and Lori Wilhite):

“We are missionaries in a foreign world. Our hand is to the plow. We don’t expect our culture to think the same as us and yet we still engage and don’t separate ourselves from our culture.”

“Talking to your kids about sex is not a purity message, it’s a gospel message.”

On One in Six Women (Crystal Renaud):

According to Crystal’s research, 1 out of 6 women are consumers of the sex industry. This number is fast growing.  This ranges from erotica, films that are becoming more “relational” to attract women, and phone sex. Regarding the healing process, Crystal uses the acronym, “SCARS.”

  • Surrender – not just the behavior, but surrender your woundedness to Christ and to the process of recovery.
  • Confession – (James 5:15), Admitting the struggle
  • Accountability – Partnership on a daily basis. Know what your triggers are and tell someone.
  • Responsibility – Say you are sorry and repent to those you have hurt.
  • Sharing – God never wastes an experience we’ve had.

So there you have it… some snippets of what’s been swimming in my head all week-long. I pray it is encouraging, I pray that it will be useful as I continue to share it with those around me.