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
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
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."
| 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
Rodica at Valea Iasului
Breaking-up (with the lust of the eye) 's a hard thing
| 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
|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-
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.
| "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
"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. To see more, click here.
---ljl and aurelia