Itsara

January 16, 2013

God-Given Work

Filed under: Our Work,Personal,Religion — Adam Heine @ 4:24 PM

A couple weeks ago, Cindy mentioned I got some paid writing work. What’s going on is I’m writing and designing a successor to the computer game I helped make 14 years ago. I’m SO excited. But what’s really exciting about this gig is how God brought it about. Let me explain.

A few months ago, we were especially low on funds. Normally, missionaries in this position have to go fundraising. And we were going to go fundraising, because God’s given us a pretty sizable network of online friends, many of whom would gladly help us if we asked.

At the same time, God has always taken care of us. In the past 8 years(!), we’ve only asked for money twice, and both times were very much: “We’re going to do this whether we get support or not. But if you’ve got a heart to help, here’s your chance.” (And even then, it was only because a bunch of people were like, “You better tell me when you move to Thailand/build a house!”)

So I was praying about our funds and I basically told God I wanted him to do something amazing, to provide for us.  I understood if he wanted to provide via this ridiculously awesome network he’d given us, but I wanted to give him space to do something more . . . miraculous than that.

I gave him a month (being the amount of time I thought we could last without extra cash). If nothing happened in that time, and our next deposit from Coast wasn’t unusually large, I would go to the blogs, Twitter, and Facebook to give you guys a chance to help.

The month went by. Some things happened (we got a significant discount for one of our kids’ schools, for example), but nothing hit the target number we needed to reach.

Then THE DAY I HAD MARKED AS OUR DEADLINE, I got an e-mail from a friend I used to work with asking if I wanted to write for this new game. For actual money.

I might have danced that day.

Does this mean we don’t have to worry about money anymore? Heck no, but it definitely helps and has the potential to continue helping down the road. Mostly, though, it reminds me that we serve a God who takes care of the people he calls out to do stuff.

I mean, I know missionaries who go back to their home country every year or two to raise money, and sometimes I wonder if we should be doing that. But I think that’s just the path God called them to. I would be terrible at it, and I’m pretty sure it would be terrible for my family. I like this path, and I’m thankful for the reminders that God really did put me on it in the first place.

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July 26, 2012

What’s Fair?

Filed under: Religion — Adam Heine @ 4:44 PM

Joel is just starting to apply the concept of fairness to everything. Which, in 6-year-old terms, means when something happens he doesn’t like, it’s “not fair.”

(To be fair to Joel (see what I did there?), he rarely uses it to complain about his family. It’s usually comes up when someone loses a fight in Legend of Korra, for example. Blood bending in particular is “not fair.”)

I called him on it once, because he was saying all kinds of things weren’t fair — for example, if Isaac beat Sam at checkers — when in fact they were perfectly fair.

Daddy: “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” (Yes, I often quote things to my children that they have no hope of knowing it’s a quote).

Joel: “I know what it means. Like if someone has one snack and someone else has a hundred snacks. That’s not fair.”

Daddy (impressed): “Okay, you do know. But what if the person with one hundred snacks bought them with his own money? Wouldn’t that be fair?”

He agreed it would, and the conversation kind of ended there, but I kept on thinking about it. What if the person who bought all those snacks stole the money? What if he stole it from a thief? To feed his starving family? How does the fairness of it change?

To Joel, fairness is determined entirely by what he wants. I don’t think we adults are all that different. But “fair” is really, really complicated. If you don’t have all the information, how can you rightly decide what is fair and what’s not? And, honestly, how can anyone ever have all the information?

Here’s where it becomes about God. Because all of us — Christian or not — struggle with this question of how a God who’s supposedly good could allow people to suffer.

When we accuse God of not living up to his Word, we are essentially saying, “It’s not fair. You said you’d always take care of me, so why are these terrible things happening?”

But “fair” is a much more complicated term than we think it is. I’ve talked about this some before, but essentially our opinions of Good and Right are not always the same as God’s. Faith is trusting that God’s definitions are better.

Recently, something senseless happened in a movie theater in Colorado (just one of thousands of senseless killings around the world, but this one hit CNN, so we’re bothered by it). It would be really easy to say, “Screw you, God. If you were who you say you are, you wouldn’t crap like this happen.” And to be sure, lots of people have.

But a friend sent me this incredible blog post by one woman who did not say this. Who instead saw God’s goodness after the fact. From the post:

Why would you think such a tragedy would make me question the goodness of God? If anything, both of my girls said it made Him a much more real presence to them.

Read the whole thing. It’s a pretty solid example of what faith amidst tragedy looks like.

March 22, 2012

Accepting Someone (a Savior or a Father)

Filed under: Our Work,Parenting,Religion — Adam Heine @ 6:34 PM

Until very recently, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to accept Jesus as your Savior. Did it mean you prayed a specific prayer? You were baptized? You actively told people about Jesus so they could do it too?

I understand a lot more because of what I do. I am constantly faced with whether or not these kids accept me as their father, and I realize it’s the same thing.

Very rarely, one of our kids will not accept me as their father. They’ll throw it in my face that I’m not their “real” dad or that they don’t belong here. I still give them everything, but they resent it, even when I try to love them. They pull away from my touch. They refuse to answer me when I ask how they’re doing.

Sometimes this is just teenager stuff, as they try to figure out who they are and where they belong. I get that. But for others, there are deeper issues. They might see themselves as unworthy of love. They might see me as some kind of usurper dad, when their real dad is still out there somewhere. They merely tolerate me, when they acknowledge my existence at all.

But what a difference when they really accept me! They smile, they laugh, they play. The house does not darken when they enter a room. Even when I have to discipline them, it takes much less time for them to rebound and for our relationship to be all right again.

And this, I’m thinking, is what it means to accept Jesus as our savior. It’s not some nebulous thought process, or a prayer you say once as a kid, or a signature on some dotted line. It is (as we are wont to remind ourselves) A RELATIONSHIP.

Jesus is always right there, giving us all he’s got and trying to have that relationship. But we still have to respond, to say, “Yeah, you are my savior/lord/father. I trust you.”

It doesn’t work if we don’t want it.

February 23, 2012

Truth in Love?

Filed under: Religion — Adam Heine @ 10:07 AM

The other day, I posted this on Twitter and Facebook:

I expected some discussion, maybe even a little heat from some corners (since that always happens when you bring up politics or religion). I thought, at the very least, someone would mention how we’re supposed to speak the truth in love. You know, how it’s loving to point out to people when they’re sinning?

There’s truth in that, you know? If a good friend of mine is not aware that [insert sinful behavior here] is wrong, shouldn’t I, as a good friend, let them know?

But no, there was no discussion at all. There was only overwhelming agreement (with the exception of my “I have an agent” post, I got more likes for this post than any other). I think the vast majority of Westerners know what the church considers to be a sin.

The best part was the likes came from everywhere — friends of mine from all religions (atheism included) and all political beliefs. Are we all tired of people getting shunned from the church for their life choices?

In that case, maybe it’s time we did something about it.

January 12, 2012

God Healed Our Washing Machine

Filed under: Religion — Adam Heine @ 4:39 PM

No, seriously. A few weeks ago, our washing machine was broken — the water valve didn’t shut off, and the machine just chugged water until our house tank was empty.

We thought we were going to have to call a repairman (which, here? not always an easy experience). I waited a few days, hoping the machine would just start working again. It didn’t. So Cindy had the idea to pray for it.

“Why not?” I thought, and we did. Nothing long, just a quick prayer. Nothing happened, and I figured I’d call the service number the next day (a task which would require more prayer).

The next day the machine worked.

And the day after that, and the third day. As far as I know it’s still working (Sean took it up to the village for use there). I honestly don’t understand it, so I’ve decided to call it a miracle.

That’s right, I’ve decided. Some of you know my past with miracles. I don’t see them often, and I don’t always believe them. Often the ones I see can be explained away.

But that’s just it — everything that could be called a miracle can be explained away. Which means seeing is not, in fact, believing. Rather it’s the other way around. We decide whether miracles are real or not — we believe first. Then when something happens that we don’t understand, we apply our belief.

Once again, I am left with the realization that this whole God thing cannot be proven or disproven, not even if someone is raised from the dead (maybe they weren’t really dead) or a sea is parted (maybe it’s a fluke of the weather).

I guess that’s why they call it faith.

November 29, 2011

Lu Gets Baptized

Filed under: Our Work,Personal,Pictures,Religion — Adam Heine @ 7:58 PM

I got to baptize Lutiya last Saturday. She’s actually been bugging me about it for a few months now. We wanted to make it a semi-big deal — you know, with food and friends and stuff — but the bigger a deal it got, the more we just put it off.

A couple weeks ago, our pastor spent some time talking about baptism, how you don’t have to be a pastor to do it, they don’t have to go through an 8-week training course, it doesn’t have to be in a river or an ocean, it doesn’t even have to be total immersion (he said they mis-timed the tide once, so they just found a puddle big enough and muddy enough and then shoved the guy down as far as he would go).

You just make do with what you got like the early church did. And I realized I’d been putting it off long enough.

Of course, Lu didn’t want to do it the moment I asked, so it got put off another week. But as it turned out, our friend Norbert was baptizing two of the girls in Lu’s dance class, so we asked her if she wanted to go along. I’m so glad she did.

The video below isn’t much, but it’s a record. We like those.

November 10, 2011

Furlough, Fundraising, and Other Silly Words

Filed under: Our Work,Personal,Religion — Adam Heine @ 4:26 PM

Let me start off by saying that I understand why these are things. A multi-month trip back home can be essential for a family having a hard time in a foreign country, especially when their primary income comes from the generous donations of their home country.

And I understand why people might have to leave the country after only a few years. God calls them somewhere else, the money runs out, immigration rules change, etc. It happens. I get that.

But it ends up creating a missionary culture with a lot of turnover. Ministries, church roles, and worst of all relationships are started and abandoned and started over again.

As I said, I get that this is the way it is for a lot of missionaries. They have no other way to get money, or their kids need a foreign-culture break, or their organization (which supports them in lots of ways) requires it.

But I don’t like it. Some ministries can handle this sort of turnover, being short term by nature. But most missionary work is based on relationship, and relationships take time. (I also doubt the wisdom of spending thousands of dollars to go back to a home country where the purpose is to raise thousands of dollars. But that’s its own post.)

My main problem, though, is purely selfish: turnover like this makes it hard to make friends. People start to put their guard up against any new relationship, just because the pain of saying goodbye is too much. We saw it in the kids at Im Jai, we see it in many missionaries we meet, and we see it in ourselves.

(Granted, my introversion doesn’t help. Nor does the fact that visitors to our house must willingly subject themselves to being wrestled by midgets. But that is BESIDE THE POINT!)

My motives are selfish, but I do think it’s a good idea for missionaries to actually be rooted in the culture they’re in. I’m always excited to meet missionaries who have no plans for going back (which, you may recall, was what we started out saying), or who have figured out how to make money here and so don’t have to go back.

I understand that not everybody can do that, but I think that should be the goal. “Home country” shouldn’t mean “my real home.” I miss a lot of things about America, but if I still considered it my home, then my heart would never really be here.

October 20, 2011

The Chair Analogy

Filed under: Religion — Adam Heine @ 1:43 PM

In my early Christian days, I remember being told that having faith in God is like having faith that a chair will hold you up. It’s fine to say the chair will hold you up, but if you don’t actually sit in the chair, they’re just words.

Cindy and I were talking about another side to it. Because a relationship with God isn’t just like sitting in a chair. It’s like sitting in the most awesome chair EVER.

It’s so awesome, in fact, that we think we need to bring something to get the most out of it. We think we have to clean ourselves up and put the right clothes on before we can sit. We think we need a pillow or a good book to enjoy it properly. We think we have to add something to the chair so it will support us the way we want.

But God doesn’t care about all that stuff. He just wants us to sit!

A relationship with God is like the most perfect chair ever. It’s like a beanbag chair made out of masseurs! We don’t have to shower because it’s self-cleaning (it cleans you while it massages). We don’t need a pillow because no pillow in the world is more comfortable than this chair. We don’t need a book, because once we’re in this chair, we won’t want to do anything else.

In fact, anything we try to add to this chair will actually distract from it. The only thing we have to do is sit in the chair and relax with God.

Seriously. Try it.

May 3, 2011

God is my Firefly-class Transport

Filed under: Geekery,Religion — Adam Heine @ 7:03 PM

I’ve heard folks say Christians use God as a crutch, implying we use God as a cop out for things we could very well do on our own.

I actually agree with this. Both the accusation (I admit sometimes I blame God for things that are actually my fault) and the analogy, provided we can agree that we’re all in fact broken, and therefore need crutches just to walk.

But people don’t like hearing they can’t walk on their own (even if it’s true), so I’ve got a different analogy: God is my Firefly-class transport ship.

Because God isn’t asking us to walk–he did give us that ability and he does expect us to do it in our own. But God also asks us to do the impossible. He asks us to leave our home and everything we know, to go to places we’ve never heard of and befriend people we can’t even talk to. He asks us to risk relationships by speaking truth and love.

He asks the childless to become parents, of children with issues they don’t know how to solve (neither the children nor the parents) and which make the job far more difficult than regular parenting already is.

Technically, all of this is possible. Technically, anyone can do this. But in practice–on those days when we have faced almost violent defiance, with no one to help and with food to cook and other kids to pick up from school and sanity to keep–those are the days when not quitting is impossible. Those are the days when God is asking more of us than we can possibly do on our own. He’s not asking us to walk, but to fly to the moon. For that, we need something more than just a crutch. We need a freaking spaceship.

Fortunately, God provides that too.

January 4, 2011

Living by Faith

Filed under: Our Work,Personal,Religion — Adam Heine @ 6:26 PM

Sometimes this job is hard, as I’m sure you can imagine. Nine kids, some of them not used to authority, some of them not used to love. It takes a lot of patience and love — patience and love that I don’t always have. So often we feel like we can’t do this, we wonder if we’ve taken on too much.

But we’re not here because we think we can handle it. We are living by faith, because God called us out here.

We know we can’t do this.

That’s the whole point.

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