Tag Archives: God’s power

No Easy Answers

I peered through the slats of the haphazardly made fence; inside was a strange chaotic world of junk piles.  Rotting wood, wrapped with fraying tarps, was stacked to form little teepee shelters, stuffed animals and nick-knack artifacts were perched as sleepy guardians on the different piles, and a small pathway weaving between the junk  led to the leaning shack which was the home.

I called out; my friends appeared and waved and shouted that they were almost ready.  The woman came out first, her face beaming with excitement; I was taking them to a small village to see one of their daughters who had been taken away by social services—a daughter they had not seen or spoken to in 3 years.

Watching the transformation of this couple over the last three years has been extraordinary. They are now the most faithful couple in our church, coming to every event, regularly cleaning the church, assisting us with leading the children’s programs.  Her face, once filled with a painful shame and reticence, is now open and alive.  She prays fervently in church every Sunday, particularly for her 10 children,  ranging in age from 7 to mid 20’s who are now scattered throughout Croatia since their removal from their home.  She couldn’t talk about her son—also a member of our church, serving a sentence in prison for a crime committed a couple of years ago—without her eyes glistening with tears.

We arrived in the small village unannounced; my friends told me that this was a “surprise.”   As we walked up to the door, I noticed the carefully manicured gardens in front, the bright flowers that were planted in every available space. The house was clean and well-maintained—it spoke of order and a simple beauty.

I watched the reunion between my friends and their now 19-year old daughter—the mother clung to her daughter, weeping through a big smile and kisses planted on her face.

We sat on the patio for the next hour, sipping juice and chatting primarily with the Croatian foster mom.  The girl sat quietly, her sweet face and bright blue eyes looking much younger than her years, her only comments to her parents were a shy beseeching to “greet her brothers and sisters.”

At one point the mother leaned in and described their new life in God; how much they loved the church community, how they served the church, how God helped them with every little thing. Her face was eager, full of light, trying to convey what was in her heart.

The daughter sat with the same sweet but vaguely disconnected expression on her face. The Croatian mom whispered to me that she had some psychological problems and even though she had completed 8th grade, was unable to read or write.

At one point, the woman went inside the house to get more juice, and the father leaned toward his daughter: “Come live with us again,” he said urgently, before the woman came outside.

The parting was difficult and painful to watch, the mother crying freely as she hugged her daughter. I turned my back so as to give them some privacy.

“She wants to come back to us,” she told me in the car.

She was speaking from a mother’s broken and longing heart; but the observed reality told a different story.  But there are no hard and fast rules in this reality, few black and whites, no guidebook to say what is better or worse; only the fuzzy grayness  that comes when you intersect the complicated messiness of poverty and brokenness with new beginnings and redemption.


A sign of glory?

He existed in layers of bitterness—each passing year cementing his rage until his mind contorted with an intense hatred toward himself and others.  Born with cerebral palsy,  Boris* was unable to walk or take care of himself.

One day, he looked out the window and saw  a neighbor boy whose face looked different, as if he were glowing.

“Come up here and tell me what happened to you,” he called down.  So the boy brought his Bible and came to tell him how he had come to Jesus two days before. Boris felt something come alive inside his spirit as he listened and opened the Bible.

That night,  Boris  heard a voice telling him how to pray the Lord’s prayer. “My family was Communist and we were a mix of Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim,” he said.  “So I didn’t really have any tradition to follow. But I think this prepared me for what happened next.”

Three days later, Boris was in his room, trying to do some kind of Eastern meditation, when suddenly he prayed, “Please give me the Holy Spirit.”

“I didn’t know why I asked that…I didn’t even know what the Holy Spirit was..but this yearning came from deep within me.”

Right after he prayed, Boris experienced an electric wave move over him…once…twice…and three times.  “I felt life in my body for the first time because I had been physically paralyzed before,” Boris said.  The experience grew more intense and suddenly Boris saw a burning cross. The next thing he knew he was kneeling before it.  When he looked up, he saw Jesus looking at him.   “What are you doing here, my Lord?” Boris asked.

“It was strange…I wasn’t a believer in Jesus, but when you see Jesus there is nothing else you can call him. Suddenly, everything was instantly clear to me…who he was, what he was doing, and who I was.”

Boris heard Jesus say, “Before you become my child, you must renounce your hatred of yourself and others.”  Boris began to cry and then felt himself come back into his body again.

For the next eight days, Boris could not stop crying—he could feel the Holy Spirit healing his mind and his spirit. “I had been so filled with hatred that I was like a crazy person..I had no perspective in my life and it had warped my mind.”

At the end of the eight days, Boris began arguing with Jesus.  “Why didn’t you  completely heal my body?  Now my mind is healed but my body is still crippled! Who will accept me?  I am the least of any person on earth! Who can I serve?”

Boris felt Jesus promise him he would show him those who were in greater need than he—and five years later, when the war in Bosnia ended, Boris found himself ministering and praying for drug addicts living on the streets.

“I am not sure why God did not completely heal my body.  But I think it is because it is a more powerful expression of God’s glory.  Despite my disabilities, I am a pastor, I have a beautiful wife and three kids, and now I can walk.”

Christ’s power perfected in weakness—a stumbling block for those hoping and looking  for a different kind of power. But for others, as they see God’s glory gleaming through the cracks of a broken vessel, they are able to understand God with more clarity.  The way of the kingdom  can be baffling and mysterious—it is both hidden and not hidden, true power is revealed in weakness, and the meek shall inherit the earth.  For some, this is the way of freedom and life,  but others turn away in disappointed confusion, wondering why God seems absent.

*Name has been changed.