Return From Exile

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This should be my last post from Iraq. Soon, we will move out of our trailers and into some tents, awaiting our flight to Kuwait. As I prepared this morning's sermon, it struck me that most of the Old Testament was written with this place as a context. I won't give you the whole sermon, but here are some of the lessons that I've learned.

First, the practical lessons: 1) You can lose your tolerance for spicy food. 2) They close the latrines for 45 minutes each morning for cleaning. 3) Don't sit in the right rear seat of a UH-60 helicopter. It's not called the "cyclone seat" for nothing. 4) Don't leave the bunker until the "all-clear" signal sounds, even if the rounds have stopped coming in. The first and second lessons are painful ones to learn on the same day. The fourth lesson was one of the most frightening days of my life.

Now, the other lessons: 1) Find someone that you can be honest with about grief and anger. 2) Take God's call to be holy seriously. 3) Never forget the importance of true community. 4) Remember that God's reasons for your being in a place may not be same as your reasons for being there. Try to see things from the perspective of the eternal. 5) Remember that God chose you, and maybe you should give him the benefit of the doubt.

In Jeremiah 29:4-7, the prophet gives some advice to those living in exile. One thing he says is to pray for the welfare of the city where he has sent them into exile, for "...in its welfare, you will find your welfare." Pray for the people of Iraq. It matters little now what one thought about the justification of the war. One thing that we are truly discovering is that our welfare now lies hand in hand with their own.

Thank you for your prayers over the past year. May God bless your faithfulness, and may you continue to pray for peace.

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