Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dear Pastor Yousef

Dear Pastor Yousef imprisoned by the Islamic government of Iran,

A small congregation in the United States of America prayed for you this morning. My hope is that you felt our prayer.

But I don't write to inform you of our prayers; I write to ask your forgiveness.

You have the world's attention right now.  You are making global headlines with your impossible choices:

Option A -- Renounce Christ,
Option B -- Deny that you once adhered to the Muslim faith,
Option C -- Die for your surrender to Christ,
and the world is watching.

My own struggles and options are vastly different from yours.  Mine involve being patient with my children, not yelling at them, finding time to devote to prayer, the possibility of being dismissed as stupid, silly or irrelevant  by my neighbor if I dare mention the name of Jesus at the mailbox. Mundane things like that, and how glad I am the world is not watching me.

You appear to be winning your battle and I appear so often to lose my own. That I even call these issues struggles indicts me.

Much suffering has been endured by men, women, even children for their fidelity to Jesus Christ, and you have entered the ranks of such men. When I behold you and your impossible choices, I feel ashamed -- ashamed that I squander much of my opportunity and freedom to serve the Lord wrestling foes that should have long been defeated by a Christian of thirty years.

So I write, not to share our prayer for you, nor burden you with my disgraceful struggle with my complicated and spoiled American faith, but to ask your forgiveness.  My soft Christianity makes your bold and courageous stand and potential fall for Christ (as in fallen soldier) a little in vain.  You are overcoming fear in the face of imprisonment and probable execution while I struggle at the mailbox and in my safe living room. My actions do not honor yours.

I am supposed to be a fellow soldier, and I have rarely shown up for duty 100%, duped thinking it's not necessary to really surrender it all. Could I? Would I? I don't dare ask myself. But there you are, not only on the front line, but now in enemy territory, held captive by men who would seek your demise. Yet I imagine you see them as fellow men for whose sin Jesus likewise came to die. I am absent from the battle because R and R (rest and relaxation) is at my disposal and easier.

I do not apologize for facing fewer and less intense trials. I apologize that in light of your faithfulness unto death and in light of Jesus' example of embracing the cross for the joy set before him, I have failed miserably. I have compromised my faith in the sheer admission that these mild issues of ridicule and being dismissed by others and losing my temper with my teenagers are even trials. To me these have been my theatres of defeat.  To you they must seem like a box of green toy soldiers.

I count it God's grace that he would even allow me the privilege of praying for your comfort and encouragement and be of any use to you at all.

Your life, and perhaps your death, cause me to take note of your condition and mine both.  Whether or not Jesus stands and watches as He did when Stephen was martyred, I kneel and take note:
--of your options,
--of my own,
--of your complete fidelity and tried surrender to the goodness of God rather than the evil manipulations and threats of your captors.
Should you share in the sufferings of Christ to the point of death, I will be left alive in my free society and in my western standard of living with many resources at my disposal to be faithful to Him in life, just as you are in probable death.

Please forgive me for my being less than completely faithful in lesser trials. Your devotion is not without consequence. But neither is mine, and you teach me that. So your life, your death, and your faith are not in vain. They are to God's glory. Mine must be, too.

May you and your loved ones feel Yahweh's presence ever with you to hem you in.

Your fellow soldier reporting for duty,
Dawn in America

{Click here for more details so you, too, can pray for Pastor Yousef.}


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In spite of and a little because of Pastor Yousef, I continue to count my blessings : :  #443 - 467

~religious freedom
~prosperity and abundant resources available to the American army of God
~so great a cloud of witnesses that has gone before us
~that no death which serves the purpose of God is in vain
~that the same is true of lives lived for God's glory
~mercy applied to weakness
~forgiveness and redemption
~faith that can grow from seed to towering mustard tree
~things fully surrendered
~physical safety in a civil society
~cool Sunday morning in July
~finding a surprise love song in my inbox
~perseverance in trials, from toy-soldier intense to spiritual-battle-military-theatre intense
~God's endurance and notice of me both
~that He would include me in His will, His work, and His way
~inspiring faith in the face of persecution
~inspiring faith without facing persecution
~prayer and God's presence so close it's within us
~that He never leaves us nor forsakes us
~the things of Earth growing strangely dim
~the care of Jesus
~entrusting myself to that care as many times as it takes
~His patience with me until I get it right
~that He would entrust his kingdom to mere Spirit-filled humans
~promises that are Yes and Amen -- every time.

Sharing these trying thoughts with Ann and with Graceful Michelle this week.


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