Sunday, January 29, 2017

Living with Difference--by Linden Malki

I don't forget the day that I saw John walking up the side aisle of our store, and I thought, "This is a separate person, with a separate brain, and I shouldn't be surprised if it doesn't think the way I do."  Seems obvious once you think about it,  but in practice, not so easy.  In a bunch of years being married, and a lifetime of being around people who were, there are some things I noticed:

No matter how well you think you know your spouse, there are things you don't know: everybody has certain expectations of what marriage and families are like, and there are always differences.  Assuming that you  know what to expect of other people can bite you. For example, learning how different families are used to doing holidays, and planning vacations, and what is expected of vacations and how do you spend a Sunday afternoon, takes communication, explanations, and patience. One factor in a failure of a young marriage in my extended family was that the husband's idea of Sunday afternoon was sleeping in an easy chair.  His mother commented that is what his dad always did, and I'd seen his grandfather asleep in a chair after Sunday dinner as well.  Life is full of things that we think "everybody" does, and we're usually surprised. People really don't read minds well at all.

Nagging, criticizing, and putting down your spouse in public is a killer.  It's an easy habit to get into, but is hurtful to be the target, and hard to watch. I saw bad cases of this in two different couples at two family gatherings, and in both cases, the next time I saw them, they had divorced.

Probably the most troublesome part of dealing with an imperfect human being (and I remember telling my kids to remember that that's all we have) is anger. Again, expectations are part of this. In some cultures, people are not taught that it is possible to deal well  anger.  If someone makes you angry, it's your fault; if you get angry with them, that's your fault as well. I finally realized that the root of most of my anger was self-pity; and realizing that took all the fun out of it.  I hit a point when  I realized that I was angry enough to get myself into deep trouble (and I don't remember what it was I was so angry about). I remember grabbing onto the rail of a crib and praying desperately to have it gone.  It disappeared like water in a sink drain. I realized that I had the choice of giving up anger. I also learned that ending an argument by one party giving up just to shut the other one up does not accomplish anything useful.  There are times when something doesn't need to be settled right at that moment; often if you agree to disagree and drop it, it usually becomes apparent that it's something that doesn't need to be an issue.  I've known people who have had a difference over something for many years that was eventually settled when reality hit.

God made us all different; it's amazing what a variety of people and personalities there are--often married to each other. One of the most encouraging things John ever told me, not long after we met, was "I know this, and you know that, so look at how much we both know!"

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Putting God First--by Linden Malki

"When I was first married, I thought I should put my husband first, and I found out that it didn't work very well. Then I realized I should put God first, and things fell into place."  This advice came from my aunt just before I married; my mom had been gone for over five years, and Dad and I had been travelling with his brother and sister-in-law.  They were long-time missionaries, and had been married for just over 50 years at the time.  I was also blessed by John and I  having similar spiritual backgrounds, and similar basic values in life--even though coming from half a world away, and from very different societies.  John had grown up in Lebanon and Palestine,  and his parents were from historically Christian communities. His dad's father had been a teacher in a Presbyterian mission school in southeastern Turkey. John and his siblings had been raised in Protestant mission churches--and they had known my cousin, a medical missionary in Jordan. The real frosting on the cake was when we came back from a summer in Lebanon and Jordan to San Bernardino, where John had been living for several years.  The first Sunday after we arrived, I found out that the associate pastor of the church he had been going to--Calvary Baptist--had been the senior pastor of the church in which I had grown up in Spokane, Washington.  Dr Owen Day was a longtime family friend of my dad; my parents had met at a choir party at the Days' house.  He was the best mentor I could have had at that point in my life.

Dad had been transferred to Spokane from western Washington State as a job promotion; and Dr Day was the friend and counselor Dad needed at that time in his life.  Dad had been married, increasingly unhappily, to a woman who refused to move.   Dr Day helped him deal with the end of the marriage, and welcomed Dad's three young adult sons, as they made Spokane a "home base" and learned to love the woman who became my mom.   I grew up knowing that my brothers had a different mother, and as I asked questions, my mom told me that sometimes people are unable to live together, and God forgives and gives second chances.  Dad was also able to counsel with friends and  other members of our extended families, who respected what he had learned the hard way.  According to various family members, his wife was a very difficult and demanding person. I met her  at a family wedding shortly after my own mother's passing , and Dad began talking to me about his first marriage so that I could avoid some of the mistakes.

Marriage is often not easy; and God works in unpredictable ways.  I was blessed in the man that God put in my path; my family all loved him, and we had 41 good years and four great kids.  I honestly don't know what to think about what my dad went through, but I, as well as others,  have been blessed in my brothers and their families. Marriage isn't just about two people; families are  God's glue for communities as well as forming each next generation.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pray as God's Children!--by Linden Malki

One of the most important privileges we have as God’s people is prayer.  I was raised by praying parents, and cherish the memories of bedtime prayers with my own kids—they had a repertoire of prayers, some classics, some spontaneous, some our own compositions.  However, I think I have learned a lot more about prayer in the past 20 years.  We’ve had the privilege of praying with the pastors before worship over the years. Participating in L3 included encouragements to pray, and not only talking to God but learning to listen.  What we have been through in the past 20 years has certainly been an incentive to prayer! Dealing with worship changes, a fire, a rebuild complicated by the insurance failure, the demise of the school, the move and return, has all brought home how little control we really have over what God is doing with us, and how much we need His strength and comfort.

We don’t always get what we want; what we do get is the wisdom and ability to cope with what God wants.  Often we see much later that what we did get is a takeoff point  for something we hadn’t expected.  I have learned much from  praying with Pastor Paul over the years in a variety of situations, and it is exciting to see him in a position to share his vision of growing in the knowledge and service of God with a worldwide audience.

The other side of what we as a church family are experiencing is the generational change—not only with Pastor Chris, but a younger congregation as well. God created mankind as a succession of generations; I remember grandparents, parents, kids, and grandkids of my own.  Pastor Chris is the same age as my younger son; I helped shepherd the youth group with they were teenagers. Now we see Chris growing into his dad’s shoes; my son is becoming a father for the first time this spring, and bringing back  memories of his own father as he looks forward.

Scripture gives us many examples of God’s plans for the next generation; He knows us before we’re born, and calls each of us to a unique life, and offers each of us the opportunity to live it with His grace.  We don’t do it perfectly; we learn more this way.  Reading the stories of many people who have had amazing lives with God, we often find what church tradition calls “the dark night of the soul”, when the challenge is to trust God even when we don’t have the light we yearn for.  Can we remember that He is always with us, even when we wonder where He is, and what on earth is happening?  We know that He is not through with Calvary/NorthPoint, and we look forward to each  new day bringing new blessings and challenges.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Man After God's Own Heart--by Linden Malki

The turnover of the calendar is in one sense an arbitrary division of time, but we find it a good structure for our lives.  This season of a "new year" is one of the most dramatic that I can recall.  We're living through breathtaking political change, which some people are accepting better than others.  Our church is going through a generational change, which is exciting on both ends--to see Pastor Paul headed off for a new direction that has been growing in his heart for some years; the calling to "equip the saints for the work of ministry" was one of the first goals he had when he came to us 21 years ago.  We have been privileged to watch JumpStart grow from a dream to a reality that is taking over his life.

 I find the Bible fascinating reading because of the  personalities that come through.  People have not fundamentally changed as far back as we have records, though cultures and challenges do change. (The fact that we are incorrigible writers is part of it!)  One person that we have an amazing amount of biographical material on is David, the second King of Israel, who lived about 1000 BC.  We have not only the story of his life--an honest telling of good and not so good, but also of his spiritual life--his writings (he is credited for at least 73 of the Psalms, more than any other writer) where he gives us a window into his heart for God; his ability to listen to his advisers, face up to his shortcomings and sincerely repent and be restored.  

One of our first looks at David was when he faced a giant, with only his experience in defending his  father's flocks from predators and his well-used slingshot.  He became a warrior with a reputation--when the cheering crowds chanted that "Saul as killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands" it turned Saul from his patron to his bitter enemy. David was driven into hiding, and exile, but did not take the temptation to attack Saul himself.  After Saul was killed in battle, David came back and built a new Kingdom, based in a city that was not part of any tribal area. Jerusalem was one of the few unconquered cities left after Joshua; David took it by stealth with little damage, and built it into a major capitol. He wanted to make it a center of worship as well; he brought back the Ark of the Covenant which had been captured a generation earlier, and began planning a Temple. He took it with good grace when Nathan the prophet told him that it was not for him to build the Temple, but for his son.  His son Solomon was able to come in and build the Temple, one that lasted over 400 years, rebuilt for another 400 years, and a dream that still lives on.

Does this sound familiar? A man with a history of strength, the experience of opposition and exile, a dream given by God, and a legacy for his son to build.  God still works with people in surprising ways!