Friday, August 28, 2009

Jonah the Drama Queen

"And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."
(Jonah 4:3)

Success sucks. At least from Jonah's perspective. You remember Jonah, right? The guy who got swallowed by a whale (actually, the Bible says it was a 'big fish'). But do you remember WHY he got swallowed by some unnamed aquatic animal? God had tasked him to preach judgment to Nineveh - the wickedest city around. But Jonah ditched God (so he thought) and headed in the opposite direction - to a Spanish Club Med destination. God, however, doesn't get ditched easily... and caused a major sea storm to upset Jonahs' smooth sailing. Jonah convinced the crew to toss him overboard, believing it would appease God and stop the storm. Which it did! Hence, Jonah became fish chow.

But the "God who cannot be ditched" is also the "God whose plans cannot be thwarted." So after a 3-day 'time out,' leaving Jonah to sit and think about what he'd done (sound like something your mother would say?)... Jonah was then spotted wiping fish puke off himself on the beach. And then God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Again. And this time (surprise!), Jonah went.
To say Jonah's heart wasn't quite in it would be an understatement. The best he could do was one 8-word sermon to the people of Nineveh: "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" No cross-cultural sensitivity. No attempt to teach proper behavior change. No hint of mercy or grace. Just simple, straight-forward destruction prediction. Period.
The problem was that people listened. Seriously. They believed God! They changed their ways. Fro the king to their pet sheep!! AND GOD CHANGED HIS MIND. No destruction plans. Period.

Which brings us back to Jonah. The immensely successful revival preacher was not pleased with these results. "What? They believed me?!? They repented? REALLY!?!?! Dang. Crap. That really sucks! JUST KILL ME NOW, O GOD! JUST KILL ME NOW!!!"

A few verses later in the story we find out this was why Jonah tried ditching God in the first place: he knew God's history with forgiveness & grace... and he didn't want those lousy Ninevites to have any part of it. None! Plus, now he looks stupid. Jonah predicted hellfire & destruction... and it ain't gonna happen. (And Jonah just hates looking stupid!)

Funny, isn't it... that we get so wrapped up in our ideas of good and evil... of right & wrong... of justice & mercy... of who's "worthy" of 2nd chances and who's not... that we become offended when God's grace and love trumps our good sense. "Just kill me now!" we cry out. "Seriously?" God asks us. Seriously!?!?

Maybe, just maybe, we can learn something from Jonah's misplaced 'righteous indignation.' Maybe it's not about us and our perspective... but that God might have a bigger picture in view. Maybe we can skip all of the drama, and leave it to God to sort out? Maybe...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Identity & Destiny

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table..."
(John 13:3)

I've been preaching a sermon series this month entitled, 'A Heart for the Poor.' We've been looking at how God feels about the poor and what the Bible says, as well. This past Sunday I delved into the root of poverty - with Wess Stafford's wonderful book, Too Small To Ignore as the basis for this teaching. He spoke about poverty being a collection of a variety of factors: economic, education, health, physical environment, socio-political, and spiritual. One of the off-shoots, quite often, is a sense of fatalism among the poor. It goes deeper than a feeling of helplessness - it moves towards the "I just don't matter" mentality.

One of the ways to combat this fatalism is to introduce people to the amazing love of God. Not in a "you-must-believe-this" way... but an "isn't-it-wonderful!?!" way. That ALL might come to believe the truth that God knows them, loves them, and has a plan for their lives.
As I was reading John 13 today, I was reminded of this in a strange way. A simple sentence in verse 3 stated that Jesus knew "he had come from God and was going to God." It made me stop and think. It's more than knowing "where you're from" and "where you're going." it's a deeper sense of identity (having come from God) and destiny (going to God).

Now sure, this was JESUS we're talking about: Son of God... Savior of the World... Lord Almighty, etc. We're not exactly in the same ballpark as he. But then again, all of us have indeed come from God (in our creation)... and when we give our lives to him, we will be going to God as well. So how then might this knowledge shape the rest of our days? Maybe giving us a new-found sense of confidence - confidence to live out whatever God is calling us to do?!? Maybe a renewed sense of purpose - that our lives do matter, and have eternal consequences. Maybe it's as simple as a deep assurance - an assurance that no matter what happens to us or what we experience (good or bad), that we are held in the hands of God (we've come from him and will be going to him)... and that we will NEVER BE ABANDONED!

Identity & destiny... what an amazing gift! AMEN.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jehoram: departing!

"(Jehoram) was 32 years old when he began to reign; he reigned 8 years in Jerusalem. He departed with no one's regret. They buried him int he city of David, but not in the tomb of the kings."
(2 Chronicles 21:20)

When King Jehoshaphat died, his eldest son, Jehoram, assumed the throne. Then in what had all the makings of a Quentin Tarantino film, he killed his 6 brothers and some of the royal officials (who, I assume, he felt were disloyal to him). He was 32 years old. The Chronicler tells us that "he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD" (v.6) throughout his entire 8-year reign. He died in great agony (see v.18-19 for the gruesome details!). And, here's the kicker... "He departed with no one's regret."

Setting aside the whole kill-your-brothers and do-what-is-evil-in-the-sight-of-the-Lord thing (which, I know, are two biggies!)... how sad to die and have not a single person feel badly about your passing. That tells me that Jehoram lived his entire life only for himself. It was all about him. If anyone else got in the way, they were simply eliminated (whacked!). And in the end, he died in agony and alone. He thought he "had it all," but actually, he had nothing. Nothing.

I was also reading John 12 today... and there Jesus tells his followers, "Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25). I think he means those who live only for themselves will be left with nothing... but those who give themselves away for others (like Jesus did) will gain eternity.

Unfortunately, Jehoram, with all his power and authority, didn't understand that. And he departed with no one's regret. It makes me stop and re-evaluate what I've got planned for my day. Not just today, but everyday. Is it all about me, or others? Hmmm....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Proper Props!

"Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him."
(John 7:18)

If you believe the adage, "there's no such thing as bad publicity," then Jesus is the talk of the town in John, chapter 7. It's the Festival of Booths, and hoards of people have gathered at the Temple in Jerusalem for a week of celebration. Everyone is talking about Jesus (see v.10-13)... and when he makes a surprise appearance and starts teaching, a big debate ensues. "Who does this guy think he is?" they ask. "He doesn't even have any teaching credentials!" (v.15). Jesus assures them it's not his words/ideas/insights he's sharing, but God's - the One who sent him.

Verse 18 really hit me today. Jesus said when people seek their own glory, it's one thing. But it's another thing altogether for one to seek GOD'S GLORY ("the one who sent him"). We all love a little bit of glory. Most of us don't experience it that often, but who doesn't enjoy the praise & accolades of others?!? But Jesus reminds us (especially those of us who are Christian leaders!) that it's not about us and our status in the eyes of others at all... it's about making God famous... giving God the glory! Easy to say, I know... a lot harder to do (at least to do it with humility & sincerity).

To give God glory means to speak the truth in love, because it's the truth, not because of how it will make you look. To give God glory means to acknowledge that all we have comes from him, not by our own striving. To give God glory means to recognize the grace, love & forgiveness that God has showered upon us... and to extend that same to others. All others.

I know... I know... we've all got a long way to go! AMEN.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Not for wimps!

"Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with (Jesus)."
(John 6:66)

John 6 begins with Jesus' miracle of feeding 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread & 2 fish. While it satisfied the crowd, however, they must have misinterpreted the significance... for John tells us that Jesus had to leave because he realized they wanted to force him to be their king ("The Lunch King!"). But the people tracked him down the next day. Jesus decided to confront the issue. 'You're only here because you were fed yesterday,' he said. 'Forget that kind of food. Seek the food that leads to eternal life, instead!' (v.26-27).

What transpires is a lengthy discourse on Jesus as the Bread of Life, and how life comes to the world through his "flesh and blood." Of course, some interpret this to mean a kind of cannibalism... and get very offended. Jesus even tells them he knows who among they does and does not believe. After this, John writes that "many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him."

I wonder why those followers left? Was it because of theological reasons (didn't think Jesus was actually God)? Confusion over what he was saying (what's all this cannibalistic talk, anyway!)? Guilt that Jesus had figured out who didn't believe, but were just hanging around for free meals? Heck, maybe some left out of "vegetarian reasons" (okay, probably not). Or... did some get a sense that following Jesus was going to be a LOT MORE DIFFICULT than they had originally expected? "This teaching is difficult, who can accept it?" verse 60 asks. How true! Jesus' message was all about loving one's enemies... praying for those who've hurt you... reaching out to the poor, outcast & neglected... redistributing wealth & resources so all had enough... putting others first... dying to yourself... hard stuff, indeed! Following Jesus is not for wimps. The cost is great.

...But the result is eternal! Eternal life that starts right now. Not when we die. But here & now. A life with more vitality... more purpose... more fulfillment... than anything we could experience if we kept trying to do things our way. A life lived with the Savior. Now that's fulfilling! AMEN.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Strengthened Hearts

"For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him."
(2 Chronicles 16:9)

King Asa of Judah is an interesting guy. After hearing a very foreboding prophecy against his people because of their sin (see 2 Chronicles 15), he instituted a sincere nation-wide repentance & reform program. He even removed his own mother (the Queen Mother) from power, because she started worshiping someone other than the Lord (it takes guts to do that to your own kin!).

But when King Baasha of Israel (remember, Israel & Judah used to be united under Kings Saul, David & Solomon... then the country split) moved his troops into the neighborhood, Asa panicked. He sent a big bribe to the King of Aram, asking him to switch his alliance from supporting Baasha to supporting him. And the King did!

But God was not pleased. Asa never once asked God to help him against the armies of Israel. So the prophet Hanani came to chastise Asa for his lack of faith. That's when he spoke (v.9) about God looking to "strengthen those whose heart is true to him."

That got me thinking... we often think we need to have a strong & unshakable faith. But this verse acknowledges that God knows even the faithful ones have "shaky hearts" from time to time. If our hearts are true, even if we don't feel especially confident or strong in our faith, God will strengthen us. God will give us the courage, confidence & boldness to meet the challenges that arise. Or, we can, like Asa, make other plans. Plans that don't involve trusting God with all our hearts (weak, though they may be!). Ouch. I'd like to think I'd choose the former.

PRAYER: Lord God... as I seek to be the person you've called me to be, thanks for reminding me that you haven't called me to be "Super Christian." You've called me to be true to you. To be faithful. Not always successful. Help me to trust YOU first & foremost, with everything that comes my way. Put aside my ideas about finding "alternate means of assistance," so I can focus solely on you. AMEN.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mother Knows Best!

"His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'"
(John 2:5)

Most everyone loves a wedding... and the party that follows! They overflow with joy, fun, food, wine & celebration. The wedding in John chapter 2 was no exception. Jesus (and his mom) had been invited to this wedding in the town of Cana.

Weddings in biblical times would last for days. The host, therefore, needed a lot of food and drink. Unfortunately, this host didn't plan well enough, and the wine ran out. Mary mentioned this to Jesus, who seemingly brushed her off ("Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come."). Was Jesus simply saying, 'That's not my problem!' or could he have been thinking his first-ever miracle would be for a more 'significant' moment? I don't know. But he doesn't seem inclined to want to change the situation, does he?

But Mary says something that only a mother probably could. Undoubtedly with Jesus listening, she tells the servants of the host, 'Do whatever he tells you.' This, of course, implies that Jesus is about to DO SOMETHING. And that's what happens!

Why did Mary override Jesus' objection? Maybe the host was a close friend, and Mary wanted to save him (and his wife) the embarrassment of having run out of wine. Maybe she knew that Jesus was a special instrument of God, and believed it was time for him to get to work. Whatever the reason, she gave the servants an instruction that we all need to remember: "DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU."
Indeed, that's great advice for us today. Do whatever he tells you. Of course, the "$64K Question" is how do we know/hear what Jesus/God tells us to do? (Are YOU hearing voices in your head?!?) Here's the top 3 ways I hear God's voice:
  1. By reading the Bible... I'd venture more than 95% of what God needs to say to me is already present in the Bible... I've just got to seek it out!
  2. By quietly listening... to the thoughts/ideas that come into my head when I'm seeking God's direction. Some of the thoughts, of course, are simply my thoughts... but others, I soon discover, have the fingerprints of the divine on them!
  3. Through the words of others... through conversations, by reading books, listening to music, etc.
Thanks, Mary... that's great advice. Do whatever he tells us!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Good, Bad & Ugly

"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep His commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil."
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Ecclesiastes is kind of a "glass-half-empty" kind of book. The author has "been there, done that." He's seen everything. He's experienced it all. He has a perspective that's tempered by his vast history as being a person with privilege & power. Through it all, however, he says over and over that most of this life is boiled down to VANITY. The "stuff" of life is not all its cracked up to be. Period.

In the very last paragraph of the very last chapter we get this last pearl of wisdom: a) Fear God, b) Keep His commandments. Why? Because what we do matters. Because EVERYTHING we do will be made known - the good, the bad and the ugly! Maybe not now. Maybe not even down the road in this lifetime. But definitely in THE END - that time in which we all have to stand before our Maker.

Which could be quite overwhelming - since I know a lot of my good/bad/ugly parts! But I do have one thing in my favor: Jesus. Not that he's a magic wand to get me into eternity... but he does shower me (and everyone else who enters into a relationship with him) with grace & forgiveness. My bad/ugly parts can be made clean. My good parts are tempered with humility. And this life doesn't need to be lived in vain. Thanks be to God. AMEN.

Bearing With One Another

[From 8/10/09]

"I... beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
(Ephesians 4:1-3)

Some people can be quite annoying (can I get an "Amen!"?). All of us have various individuals in our lives that just seem to "rub us the wrong way." It happens to the best of us (heck, WE may even be 'the annoying one' to a few others!).

In the 4th chapter of Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus, we are encouraged to exercise patience, humility & gentleness as we "bear with one another in love." It's easy to get "frustrated with one another"... or "ticked off at one another"... heck, I've even gotten "royally peeved at one another" from time to time. It happens. But God calls us to something greater. God calls us to not take things so personal. To have grace for others - especially those we encounter frequently (our families, our co-workers, our church!).

[NOTE: Of course this does NOT mean we should put up with abuse. Never! I'm talking about the more "minor irritations of people.]

Why should we do this? Simply because we're supposed to be more like Jesus? Well... um... no. Jesus got quite upset at certain folks himself, if you remember (moneychangers? Pharisees? Scribes? etc.). The answer lies in verse 3: "to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." One of Jesus' big goals for his followers was UNITY. He knew the power of solidarity. But solidarity has to be worked at... it doesn't come easily.

PRAYER: Lord God, give me patience & grace for others... help me to truly bear with them, whenever I'm irritated and annoyed. Remind me of the infinite patience you have for me! AMEN.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The MYSTERY is...

"With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven & things on earth."
(Ephesians 1:8b-10)

Magicians (illusionists!) are so popular. Most everyone loves to see tricks (illusions!). But what we love even more is to be told (or figure out ourselves - which rarely happens) HOW the illusion (!) was done (see Penn & Teller!). We want to know the mystery.

In Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus, he "spills the beans" in the very first chapter. he divulges THE MYSTERY OF GOD'S WILL! (It turns out the "Hokey Pokey" was a bit off-base on what it was "all about"!) The Big Picture... the key to life... the End-all and Be-all of what God wants... is actually "to gather up all things in him." (What? You're more excited about putting your left foot in, and taking your left foot out?!?) Actually, that's a pretty amazing statement, if you think about it...

Paul didn't say God wants to gather "the faithful ones" unto him. He didn't mention any prerequisites or preconditions for being gathered. He didn't even hint that one needed to be interested in God to qualify. He simply said that God wants to gather ALL THINGS in Him. I'm reminded of the time Jesus was overlooking Jerusalem ("the city who kills the prophets," Jesus called it)... and he lamented, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how I longed to have gathered you under my wings, like a mother hen gathers her brood, but you wouldn't let me!" That's how God longs for ALL creation!

God created everything - including us. God's great mystery of his will is for all of us to be one. Together. Unity. Harmony. Will it happen anytime soon? Probably not. We seem to have the tendency as humans to repel one another (or at least really get on others' nerves!). But the GRAND PLAN of God is otherwise. In "the fullness of time," Paul says, God will gather up all tings in heaven & earth. Inclusive love... now THAT'S what it's all about (and it's not an illusion, either!). AMEN.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

God the "Shoe Hurler"

"Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet; Judah is my scepter. Moab is my washbasin; on Edom I hurl my shoe; over Philistia I shout in triumph."
(Psalm 60:7-8)

Last year, before President Bush left office, an "international incident" took place. While speaking in Iraq, a man stood up, took off his shoe, and hurled it at the president. It didn't hit him, but then again, we discovered that wasn't his intent anyway. Reporters and Middle Eastern correspondents spoke about a Middle Eastern custom of "shoe hurling" as a sign of protest & contempt. (Note: I've been enjoying NBC's series "Kings"... and in the 2nd to last episode, a man also hurls a shoe at the king during a major speech.)

Well, I was thoroughly surprised today to read in Psalm 60 that God is also in the shoe hurling business! Who knew!?!? To show His reign, rule, and superiority over the Hebrew territories (and those who were once part of the Hebrew Empire), God "calls out" them all: Gilead, Manasseh, Ephraim, Judah, Moab, Edom, Philistia. (It's Edom, by the way, who has the distinction of getting God's shoe hurled at it!). A divine display of protest.

God, who could zap, smite, smote, send blight or pestilence, drought or famine, fire or brimstone... instead... hurls his shoe!?!? It's kind of funny, if you think about it. God is both asserting His authority AND displaying his frustration with His people. I'm sure we could swap out names from today to keep these verses relevant, and we'd still be true tot he text. We are, quite often, a sorry lot.

And yet... the power of Christianity... the amazing grace that changes lives... is the fact that "God the Shoe Hurler" is also God the Forgiver... God the Reconciler... God the Savior. Sure, He may hurl His shoes at us from time to time (okay, more often, probably)... but He never forsakes or abandons us to our own devices. That's love. We don't deserve it (that's grace!).

How cool is that?!?! AMEN.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

An offer you can't refuse...

"Do not forsake your friend or the friend of your parent; do not go to the house of your kindred in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is nearby than kindred who are far away."
(Proverbs 27:10)

Yesterday I re-watched "The Godfather" on DVD. The opening scene has a man coming to Vito Corleone asking for vengeance/justice on behalf of his daughter who has been wronged. Don Corleone listens, then comments on how this is the first time in the 20+ years they've known each other that this man has come to him for help. "You've never even invited me over to your house... to have dinner with you and your family..." In short, you've never reached out to be my friend in all these years, he tells him. Of course, as the movie progresses, we discover just how valuable it is to be a friend of Don Corleone.

So when I read this verse this morning in Proverbs 27, images of "The Godfather" were fresh in my mind. "Do not forsake your friend..." Sure. Everyone knows that, right? There's a special bond in friendship. (And if you finish the verse, you see it's even wiser to go to a close friend/neighbor when you're in trouble, than to make a long journey to go to a relative at a crisis.)

But a curious thing happens in verse 10: there's no period after "friend." It keeps going... "Do not forsake your friend... OR the friend of your parent." Hmmm.... that's intriguing, isn't it? My mind now races back to the book I just finished, The Kite Runner... and the scene where Amir has asked The General for the hand of his daughter in marriage. The General reminds Amir of the importance in Afghani culture, of knowing another person's family. He tells him that because he knew Amir's father - and greatly admired him - then of course he'll let Amir marry his daughter. There's power in family connections! The General was a friend of Amir's father. That settled it.

I think we've lost some of the multi-generational connections our parents & grandparents had. Today's culture seems more "me centered." We've neglected the friends of our fathers (and mothers)... or maybe simply forgotten them. They've unfortunately become irrelevant. How much more would our lives be blessed if we intentionally spent more time cultivating multi-generational relationships?

Ultimately, that's what the church is about when we do what we do best. We connect with each other in the Body of Christ. We help one another. Anyone (hopefully)! Because they just might have been a friend of our Father... AMEN!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Save the Ancient Landmarks!"

"Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up."
(Proverbs 22:28)

Proverbs. Wisdom. Insight. These words usually go hand-in-hand. As I read through the book of Proverbs, I find many 'pithy' sayings. And then I find a few that cause me to say, 'Huh!?!?' Proverbs 22:28 is one of those. "Don't remove the landmark that your ancestors set up." Hmmmmm.....

So I started pondering why. Why is this in the collection of wisdom sayings (and worth repeating in 23:10?)? Were they having a problem with vandalism - people stealing ancient landmarks in order to decorate their ancient dorm rooms? Were they being removed to make way for a new mass transit system? Or were people simply no longer viewing these landmarks as relevant?
Then I started thinking about the "landmarks" that I remember from the OT. Noah's altar when he got out of the ark, safe and sound after those 40 days & nights of rain (not to mention numerous weeks waiting for the floods to recede). Jacob's altar at Bethel, where he had his "angelic ladder" vision - the gateway to Heaven itself! The pile of 12 stones that the Israelites made when they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land (after 40 years of wandering). All of these landmarks are marking a significant moment of God's help and provision. They all point people back to God. Rather than commemorating a specific battle, or building, or exceptional scenic view... the landmarks of the OT had spiritual significance.

So... no matter WHY one MIGHT want to remove it (even if it is to build a new Starbucks!), the wise author of these proverbs knew it was better to leave it there - so others might be reminded of just how amazing God truly is.

I guess that IS worth keeping around. We all can use reminding of that every now and again, can't we? (Homework assignment: What "landmarks" would mark YOUR personal spiritual journey?)

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Hey buddy, can you spare a..."

"Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and will be repaid in full."
(Proverbs 19:17)

I started a new sermon series yesterday: "A Heart For The Poor." There are two main goals I had: a) help people understand God's heart for the poor... b) share my experiences from my trip to the Philippines this past February with Compassion International. Along the way, I hope people will respond with their own hearts, resources, and time.

Today I came across a few choice proverbs on the poor. First was Proverbs 19:17 (see above). My nature tends to be someone who enjoys helping people and letting others borrow something if I have it. Can you imagine God asking, "Hey, Jim... can I borrow something? I'll get it back to you later." I'd be like, "Nah, God... take it! It's yours!" He'd be like, "No, I'll get it back to you... I just need it for a while." As we say in Hawaii, "SHOOTS!" When we're kind to the poor, this proverb says, we're "lending" to God. Wow!

Then I got to chapter 21, verse 13... "If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard." Failing to hear (and respond!) to the cries of the poor is detrimental to one's own relationship with God. We're not called to "mind our own business" when it comes to relating to the poor. God says that the cries of the poor around us IS OUR BUSINESS. Does that mean we have to solve every problem we see? Of course not. But if our hearts are soft and pliable... then God can use them in compassionate ways to help.

PRAYER: Keep my heart open to the cries of the poor and oppressed around me, Lord. Help me to gravitate towards an initial response of kindness. Bless Mboya, my Compassion child in Kenya... as well as all of the children I met in the Philippines - and those who love on them throughout the week! AMEN.