Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cool heads prevailed

Today's celebration of St. Vitius day, the 618th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, was apparently violence free.  We praise God for that.   Yesterday I wrote that the Tsar Lazar Guards, a volunteer Serbian paramilitary unit had announced its forthcoming visit to commerate the battle.

Yesterday UNMIK spokesmen had announced:

The SRSG intends to issue an Executive Decision in the course of today prohibiting the
Guard or any similar paramilitary group from carrying out any activities in Kosovo, such
as the wearing of uniforms, or inciting ethnic hatred or violence.
Any presence by the Guard in Kosovo will be considered a breach of UNSCR 1244 and a
threat to civil law and order. Police have full powers to take whatever steps required to
maintain law and order, and the SRSG will provide clear guidance to the Police
Commissioner on this issue.

According to Reuters hundreds of people traveled from the site of the battle to the church and monastery in Gracanica to remember the battle.  They arrived by bus, having been escorted by local police.

They later reported that they day ended without clashes and the,  "in a show of strength and a nod to the territory's de facto independence, the bulk of the extensive security operation was handed to Kosovo Albanian police."

Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Please pray for cool heads to prevail tomorrow, June 28th.

BIRN  is reporting that the the St.Tsar Lazar Guard I mentioned here is on its way to visit Kosovo tomorrow.

26 06 2007  Pristina _ The Kosovo police have taken pre-emptive measures to stop trouble from occurring in the event of a visit by the so-called Guard of Tsar Lazar.

The newly formed hardline Serbian nationalist group has proclaimed its readiness to keep Kosovo Serbian if necessary by fighting.

The Guard has announced a forthcoming visit on 28 June, the anniversary of the Kosovo Battle of 1389, to Gazimestan, near Pristina, the site of the battle.

On Sunday, the Kosovo Police Service, KPS, arrested several persons in northern town of Vushtrri / Vucitrn, for delivering flyers put out by a militant group, the Albanian National Army, AKSH, warning of reprisals.

“The AKSH is here, we will wait for you with bullets,” the AKSH message in the flyers read.

This could very, very easily turn ugly.   Prince Lazar was the Serbian monarch who faced the Ottoman Turkish army outside Kosovo on June 28th, 1389.  The Serbian forces were crushed, and it became the most memorable battle in Serbian history.

This is a highly provocative move, especially given the status of negotiations before the UNSC.  Please be praying that cool heads prevail tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Scripture Memorization -- Part II

On Saturday I finished my 100 day wrap-up on 1 John.  Since I wrote about this back in December, I thought it would be good to give a summary of my experience.

Back in December  I shared a methodology from Dr. Andrew Davis that is particularly helpful in memorizing long selections of Scripture.  In summary, the methodology involves learning one verse a day and then repeating/reviewing the aggregate each day throughout the book or selection.  When the selection is memorized you recite the whole each day for 100 days. 

In summary, this whole deal is awesome.  I am such a believer in memorizing large sections of Scripture rather than bits and pieces.  It's phenomenal to get your mind around a whole book.  It's rewarding to be listening to a sermon, or reading a book where one of your newly memorized verses is referenced.  Let me make four summary statements: 

1. It is long and slow.  Both of these words have negative connotations in our society.  When I posted about this in December I had already been memorizing for a couple of months.  That means from start to finish it took 8-9 months to memorize to memorize a small, five-chapter book.  Yikes!  That doesn't appeal to my desire for microwave spirituality.

But this "long-ness" and "slow-ness" is an upside.  You don't have to burn out doing it.  You don't forget everything you've memorized half-way in.  It becomes a daily discipline that I could do long-term.  While there were many days when I just wanted to hurry up and finish the book, the slow pacing of the process is a spiritual discipline in itself.  It is the discipline of "slowing."

2. It's thorough.  Using this methodology ensures I've read, memorized, chewed on, pondered and reflected on each verse dozens and dozens of times (or hundreds, in the case of the early verses).  While I still make mistakes and have mental blocks, I generally know this book word-for-word.  For a guy with a mind like a steel sieve (where everything falls out) this is great.

3. It gets the Scripture down deep. While memorizing a book word-for-word has obvious intrinsic value on its own it's not an end in itself.  More than just memorizing, I feel like I understand  this book better.  I have been seriously impacted by the message of the book.  I've recited over and over, "do not love the world or anything in the world..." several hundred times.  That has affected me.  Even when my I'm sitting in traffic or washing the dishes, my mind goes to these verses and goes through them almost naturally.

4. Other Scripture seems to stay put better. This is purely anecdotal and non-empirical, but having disciplined myself to study this book it seems other Scriptures stay in my mind better . 

If you're interested in memorizing longer passages of Scripture give this a try!  You won't be disappointed...even if you're not a good "memorizer" like myself.


Technorati tags: ,

Monday, June 25, 2007

Serbian--US ties worsening over Kosovo

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is warning that US-Serbian ties are worsening as a result of the US's pro-independence position regarding Kosovo.   While many Americans might say, "ah... so what," we ask that you'd be in prayer that a relatively just solution could be found for the final status of Kosovo.

Many of us travel through Serbia regularly and the Joshua Project lists the Serbian people as .19 percent evangelical Christian.  Though some are finding true faith in the Orthodox church, Serbia remains a country desperately in need of the Gospel.

Please keep praying for Kosovo!

The CMA: Where are we today?

Photo_062007_001 I've been thinking a lot about the Christian & Missionary Alliance lately.  I've been working on another blog post since the end of Council that I still haven't posted.  But in essence, I'm longing to return to our roots as a denomination; I'm longing to return to our roots in my own personal life. 

Last week I was out for a run and snapped this picture in front of a church as I ran by.  The signs were advertising some special "Healing and Wholeness" services. Years ago, "back in the day" these are the kind of signs we would have seen outside Alliance churches (or branches).  But that sign wasn't outside of my own church; I found this sign outside of Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church.  On their website they explain:

On the last Sunday of each month, we offer a Healing and Wholeness Service in our Sanctuary after our 11:00am worship service (usually around 12:15pm). This unique service offers a time of great spirit and grace. We invite you to come and be prayed for by Saint Andrews' pastor and our prayer team or you may ask for prayers for others who are prominent in your heart and mind.

This sounds like the "after-service" meetings that used to happen in Alliance churches.  This isn't a criticism of my own church or even of the contemporary CMA.  It's actually a reflection of the growing longing of my own spiritual life.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Russia Rejects U.N. Resolution on Kosovo

I know some of you are following this UNSC discussions regarding Kosovo.  Here's the latest I have.

Russia immediately rejected a revised U.N. resolution introduced Wednesday that would delay internationally supervised independence for Kosovo to give the province's majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs more time to agree on its future status.

The new text, drafted by European Union nations and the United States, would give the two sides four months to reach an agreement. It states that the resolution's provisions, which lead to full independence, will take effect after 120 days "unless the Security Council expressly decides otherwise after conducting an evaluation."

via Newsvine

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How Americans love Albania!


On the heels of much pro-American ballyhoo, I just had to repost this, direct from Bytycci, my most frequently-read Albanian blog.  Everyone please plant tongues firmly in cheek.

Via South East Europe Online

Still no Kosovo solution in UN Security Council

According to German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, we will not hear anything from the UNSC on the Kosovo resolution until July 1st at the earlier

From B92:

“The job of finding a solution for Kosovo’s status is not over, but we still hope that the new status will be based on the plan of UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a meeting of the European Parliament's Foreign Political Committee, which was closed to the public.
“It is now completely clear that we have nothing to expect until July 1. The main reason for this scenario is the trip of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the U.S. Even the Americans want to wait to see what the outcome of this trip will be,” Steinmeier said, according to daily Večernje Novosti.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

No bodies found at suspected mass grave near Kosovo, judge says

Got a comment from Bg anon today which reminded me of this.  I meant to follow up on the earlier post.  Thanks Bg! 

No bodies found at suspected mass grave near Kosovo, judge says

Say what you want

Pictured below is reported to be a 12-year-old Kosovar who traveled to Tirana to see Bush.

If you're interested, there is a contest to caption the photo here (in Albanian).  The suggestions are interesting (confession: I can't understand them all). 

via Free Kosova

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bush visits Albania, meets regional leaders

President Bush made a seven-hour stop in the Albanian capital of Tirana today.  It's the first time that an American President has ever visited the Balkan nation. 

In an article, Bush is quoted as saying:

"I want to make sure the Albanian people understand that America knows that you exist and that you're making difficult choices to cement your free society," Bush said in a pre-trip interview. "I'm coming as a lover of liberty to a land where people are realizing the benefits of liberty."

Among topics of discussion are future NATO and EU enlargement, greetings for Albanian troop who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan an lunch with regional Prime Ministers.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Every daddy's prayer

It was one of those one-in-a-lifetime moments.  It's a moment every Christian parent hopes and prays for.  It's the moment when your child, without manipulation, without coercion, decides of their own will to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.  This morning my five-year-old daughter made that decision. 

devobookFor several months I've been doing morning devotions with my  two little girls out of the book "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds."  It's based on the shorter catechism and brings to our breakfast table the truths of the faith at a level that honestly teaches all of us.

We've read about "the chief end of man," God, the Scriptures and, over the last couple of weeks, sin.  Now, sin has fallen out of favor in recent days, but fortunately those old English and Scottish divines from the 1640's , those who  framed the WSC knew how to talk about it.

Somehow, by God's grace, after all these months, something clicked in my daughter's heart and mind this morning.  My older daughter, who vividly remembers the moment her grandmother "led her to Christ" had the great privilege of leading her sister to Christ (with a little coaching from dad).

My older daughter vividly remembers sitting in the airport five years ago waiting to depart for Kosovo.  My mom was with her as we wrestled with the ticket agents trying to get all of our junk checked into the airline.  Off to the side, my mother prayed with my then three-year-old to invite Jesus to take control of her life. 

Since then we've often wondered if a kid that age is able to make that kind of decision.  Normally, I would say probably not.  And yet she has demonstrated "fruit in keeping with repentance."  This morning my understanding was again challenged as 8-year-old Madison related how, when she was three, her "mimi" had prayed with her in the airport before leaving for Kosovo.

As my oldest talked to my youngest I thought, "oh man...this is happening so fast!  I want her to remember this day!"  As I've been privileged by God to lead others to Christ I've often had them write the date and time of their conversion in their Bibles.  But Reilly is 5, the Bible she has isn't going be used for's mostly pictures.  So I did what any dorky dad would do.  I grabbed my camera phone and surreptitiously videoed the my oldest praying with my youngest.

 Within the hour I'd posted it up to my YouTube account where it won't get lost.  I haven't posted the video here because it's a private, family moment.  But it's a moment none of us will ever be able to forget.

Thank you Father, for redeeming another of your children.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Serbia excavates possible mass grave of more than 350 Kosovo Albanians

Yesterday I wrote about the suicide rate in Kosovo.  Stories like this are part of the reason.  Another possible mass grave has been discovered right on the Serbia-Kosovo administrative border.  The grave is believed to contain as many as 350 Albanians taken during the war.

  The trauma of war is not something a population can get over when  bodies keep turning up in mass graves.  According to the article:

Since 2000, about 800 bodies have been discovered in two mass graves in Serbia in what appeared to be the former regime's attempt to cover up its atrocities during the Kosovo war.

Of course, this goes for the Serbian Kosovar population too.  They too live with great uncertainty and a history of trauma.  While most of the mass graves discovered have contained Albanians, some (one older example) have contained Serbian people too, though not nearly has frequently or filled with as many dead.

Pray for peace in this place!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

ICG: No good alternatives

As the UN Security Counsel continues to debate the "Ahtisaari Plan" for nominally granting Kosovo's independence, few attractive alternatives have immerged.

This is essentially the message of the International Crisis Group's latest report:

The debate on Kosovo’s future status has reached a crucial point. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has begun to consider elements of a draft resolution to determine the entity’s future, which could be put to a vote in the coming weeks. The best way of ensuring regional peace and stability and lifting Kosovo out of an eight-year-long limbo, with a tired, temporary UN administration and an undeveloped, low-growth economy, is a resolution based squarely on the plan of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. This would supersede UNSC Resolution 1244 (1999), define Kosovo’s internal settlement and minority-protection mechanisms, mandate a new international presence and allow for supervised independence.

This is the problem with real world problems.  There are never any perfect solutions.  Unfortunately, those in power have to weigh the options and finally make decisions that have real effects on real people.  But the clock is ticking on people's patience.


Full report here (pdf).

via Free Kosova

Lost hope, lost families: Suicide rates in Kosovo spiking

I've noticed it in newspaper articles regularly, I haven't stopped to think that much about it.  I've seen crime scene photos of the dead, without knowing much about the issue.  The suicide rate in Kosovo is climbing.  So far this year more than 30 people have committed suicide, more than twice that have attempted to take their own lives.

Blamed on failing family cohesion, post-traumatic stress and growing hopelessness about Kosova's future, young people are increasingly vulnerable to a pernicious hopelessness that is ending in a noose, a drug overdose or a pistol shot.  According to a recent BIRN article, things are only going to get worse.

Eight years after the war, Kosovo is stuck in the economic doldrums. The World Bank’s Poverty Assessment classifies 37 per cent of the population as “poor”, meaning they live on less than 1.42 euros per day. Fifteen per cent of the population live below the extreme poverty line of 0.93 euros per day.
Many believe that these alarming statistics - coupled with the fact that Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe, with 50 per cent of the population under 30, few of whom have much perspective of getting a job – are creating conditions for further trauma.

This is so sad because traditional families ties are failing; young people especially are living with greater and greater anomie.  In Kosovo today many are looking for an antidote.  Some are looking to their traditional faith.  Some are looking towards business.  Some are looking towards political liberation.

All will be disappointed.  People will continue to take their own lives as hoped for solutions disappoint. 

There is only One antidote.  How many will find It?  How many will share It?  These are the two questions that concern me most about Kosovo's future.


Read more on BIRN .