Abstract: Read the Bible that tells us that it is better to think on the grace and love of God instead of on what we need. The world needs to thank the Lord for health and his graces. To do this, we need to give to those in need all year long.

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Thanks through giving

Aramus Crane, November 2004

One of the things that puzzles people about me is that while everyone is looking at the white, I'll say, "Isn't this black beautiful!" and vice versa.  Going with tradition, here is an unconventional Thanksgiving encouragement for you.  

(As it seems is necessary in any message in these days of lack of absolutes, I'll include a caveat so that I don't offend anyone.  "Nothing in this message should make you think I'm saying Paul, Anthony, Aurelia, I, or any other person or organization mentioned in this e-mail are better than any others, just different.")  

I'm not sure if this message finds you relaxing or rushing, so, I've tried to make two versions of this message.  My thoughts and words are on the left.  Bible and other quotes are on the right.  If you want to read only the left side, you won't miss anything.  If you think that some of my ideas are odd, read the right as a support. I'll throw in some pictures in the blank spaces so I don't lose you.  This way, you can customize this letter to your taste and fast-forward through what you don't want.  Heck, you may not want to hear from us at all and choose to just read the right column.  :-D

Inverting thought patterns

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  Philippians 4:8
I tend to be like most.  When we think of the things for which we are thankful, we tend to think of what we have.  We pray for health, wisdom, and wealth.  Then, when Thanksgiving comes around, we thank God for those which He has provided. Watching the election campaigning on the news we saw and heard most people basing their vote on "do I have more things than I did four years ago".  I realized that as much as any country, America has fallen for the Deceiver's lies.  We have more wealth than any other country.  We have the best health program, drawing people from all over the world to our hospitals and we pay royally for it.  With our educational system and great number of people with advanced degrees, we are among the most educated countries and with one of the most God-fearing populaces, we are among the wisest.  Few countries pursue health, wisdom, and wealth as much as America.  We have the highest level of debt in the world and have sacrificed our future on the altar of a perpetually dissatisfied pursuit of more.  Even our President (God-fearing, in my opinion) on 9/12 suggest that people assuage their unhappiness and shock by going shopping.    Yet our suicide rate is the highest in the world, showing that these things don't make us happy or thankful. Rodica at Valea Iasului
Rodica at Valea Iasului

Breaking-up (with the lust of the eye) 's a hard thing to do.

Jesus' brother James minces no words to admonish us, "You ask [for things] to spend it on your passions.  Unfaithful creatures!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy with God."(4:3-4)
Happiness is obtained not by acquiring (things, a new job, a wife, etc.) but by losing--losing yourself in Christ, seeing the happiness in the eyes of a child by losing what is yours to give to them, even losing your sadness itself.  Perhaps this seems ridiculously naive, but it isn't.  Over the past few years, there have been many losses that have been painful for me and made me unhappy last year.  But, since then, I've seen Philippians 4:8 work miracles in my life.  There is nothing that has made me happier than losing not my 10% tithe to God nor 15% like when I had a real job, but 75% of my salary to invest my days working to help people Liv 'n convince them to Let the orphans Liv.  That was my focus in 1997 when I created Liv-n-LetLiv.net, and it is our focus today. Both James and Paul agree that God makes us happy not when we are seeking and praying for health, wisdom, and wealth.  One glimpse in the eyes of the children peering out from the pictures of our ministry makes me happier than anything I could obtain.  You weren't able be here to see the face of the Romanians when the God of love dawns on their heart.  (There are already too many of us missionaries than the church can support.)  So, our e-mail messages and Liv-n-LetLiv are two ways we can help people learn from experience that thankfulness comes by losing.

God's way is through loss

"If Jesus must live more in me, the fleshly me must die.  For this to happen, some things must be revealed and eliminated from my life.  First, we may notice our weaknesses in others and we become very critical and full of insinuations.  This stage belongs to the stage of infantile immaturity.  Finally, seeing our own weaknesses often much larger, we learn to treat others with more kindness and to be more severe with ourselves... This can bring a bitterness towards God that seems to not be listening to their prayers.  They feel ready to throw in the towel, but the solution is to stop looking at oneself and praise and thank God for His goodness, for His salvation, for His love..." (Translated from Ekman U. Il Leader Spirituale. Marchirolo (VA) Italy: Uomini Nuovi 2004.p. 83)

When we lose what is most dear to us, we reflect God's nature.  He gave up His own Son live among unclean people.  Jesus lost His will to do the Father's, dieing on the cross.  Change is something most humans are not comfortable with, but we are all called to it.  We must first lose our ego and our will, so that we can follow His will.  We must humble ourselves to lose our selfishness and fame- and fortune-seeking.

Taking the word to the people

"God is always on the move and our flesh and desires will cost a lot.  We must break our old patterns and go forward.  We must not try to plant the pegs of our tent too deeply in the ground, but be more like Abraham that didn't have a permanent home here but sought for the celestial city."  (Ekman U. p. 39)

"Numerous are our wants, complete our dependence, bringing us day by day as pensioners with the oft repeated cry of give, give; but greater is our guilt, and greater the need that He should TAKE AWAY.  We are great dependents, but greater culprits; and it is better that He should give us nothing at all, than He should fail to take away.  ...If He give all and not forgive, then we are fattened like the stalled ox for the day of slaughter and for the descending ax."  (Moody D. The Exceeding Riches of the Manifold Grace of God, p. 42)
And this is what our new MasterStudy ministry is about.  It is not just about studying the Bible, but studying the Master and applying what we learn about grace and truth in a laboratory setting.  After our second organizational meeting, explaining our idea, Nicolae said, "I'm beginning to see that this is much more than just a Bible study.  As we learn to read the Bible, we will be working on how we relate to other people."  

Solution to lack of thanks-giving:  correct self, not others.

Being rather original in ministry makes it hard for Missions Committees to understand us.  But Ekman says, "You, too, can be a pioneer that walks with the faith of Abraham and begin a new people, a new work, a new blessing, a new influence!"(ibid p. 52) "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."---Mark Twain
This year, we put this into practice, moving from a nice group whose limited experience in orphan work made them think we couldn't do it.  Least of These is not only successful at it but has a vision for it.

As Paul wrote to those who he brought to the Lord and who support him, now that we are in Germany, I am able to call our team, talk with them, and encourage them for 2 cents/min.   "Over long periods the effect of isolation can be devastating."  (Ekman p. 42.)  We are created to be social creatures and fortunately, my home church, Knox, realizes this and when our old foundation couldn't provide the needed fellowship and support, they advised our move.

In Germany our apartment is in the countryside, among farms.  You can tell when a farmer has fertilized his field.  Like the odor of manuer that enters the window, sadness is something we let in through our spiritual windows to the world.  Buying the latest items and the most beautiful house does little to permanently change our attitude.  Instead, we need to change our perception of what God has given us.  Anthony De Mello describes our error well in his book Awareness (New York: Doubleday, 1990)

Us on our honeymoon.
Us on our honeymoon.
"Imagine a patient who goes to the doctor to tell him what ails him.
"The doctor responds:  OK, I understand your problem.  You know what I recommend?  Move next door to a pharmacist!
"The patient responds:  Thanks so much, doctor:  I feel better already!

"Isn't that silly?  Yet that is what we do."  We think we can become happy by  changing our job, boss, spouse, parents, children... anyone but us.(ibid p. 106)

"Say we had to travel to a faraway city.  The car breaks down along the way.  Well, this is a problem.  The car won't start.  So, we roll up the sleaves and start pushing.  We push, and push, and push.  Finally we arrive in the distant city.  'Great!' we exclaim.  'We did it!'  And so we push the car the whole way to another city!  You say, 'We made it, right?'

"But this is what you call living?  You know what you need?  You need an expert, a mechanic that will open the hood and change the starter.  Turn the key and the car will go.  You need an expert - that is one who knows what to do - you don't need to push.  There is no need to exert yourself."  (p. 173)

How to correct self

When I read De Mello's insight I realized that I had to change my way of thinking.  I admit that I also lost the sense of humour that made me the class clown in high school and gave me the popularity to be Vice President of my class.  Now, I serve, serve, serve.  I still didn't enjoy life.  I didn't have time to enjoy my senses or to paint, draw, and make strumming noises on the guitar.  (I can't claim that it is music.)  I always saw things that had to get done to improve the world or someone's life.  De Mello made me mellow.  Now in this sabbatical year, I work, read, and write.  It is much better to be working only 50 hours a week and to have a social life and friends. I see in people, even in me, a tiredness.  All of us on this team love others and want to change them, to change the world and bring it God's love.  But many of us try harder than we have to and we don't refresh ourselves by taking time to meditate on anything, no less what is true, noble and right.  

Many spiritual workers try to help "push" the external parts of a man with their laws instead of calling the Great Mechanic to change them and direct them.  Furthermore, many don't even believe in the capacity of the Mechanic and don't permit Him to work against the rules of their church!  That is another rather unique characteristic of this ministry.  In MasterStudy, Aurelia and I don't teach them the Bible as much as we teach them how to study the Bible.  This way the Holy Spirit will teach them as they spend much more time studying on their own and as they prepare to teach us what they have learned.  I don't have a Bible degree but I have a talent for studying and learning that earned me two Masters degrees.  Thus, like the Perspectives movement, I too have a different perspective and a team that knows the truth in what Mark Twain wrote.  God has quieted the skeptics by allowing the virtually mute Mariana to speak.  He miraculously provided for my salary before my first fundraising trip to the US, and in fact, after touring the US in 2000, our support has never been as high.  God has done the miraculous in the past and He promises us "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father."  (John 14:12)  What a great reason for thanks-giving!

So, I'm not trying to stop you from being thankful for what you gained this year.  Far be it from me!  But, what I am saying is that Thanksgiving may come more than once a year if we would voluntarily lose more for God.  Have a great Thanksgiving!
a recent picture from our lives
A recent picture from our lives. To see more, click here.
---ljl and aurelia

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