Saturday, 28 January 2012

Approaching the Throne with Faith Like a Child

It dawned on me this morning how much the two year old ball-of-adorableness who is my nephew has to speak to me from God's heart.

I was recalling to mind how I'd stopped in at his house last night after Zumba and how he had run up to me and grabbed me around the legs, smiling up at me with his mega-watt grin. "Na-na!" He exclaimed, his baby-talk for 'Auntie'. Then he'd swiftly done the same for my mom. "Maw-maw!", his baby-talk for 'Grandma'. Again and again he ran between us, hugging himself to us, and when I picked him up, he rested his chubby cheek against my face and patted my back.

Ooh, he is irresistable!

I sat at my bible study this morning recalling his joyful greeting and how much it always means for me to see it.

And then it fell into my heart-- "faith like a child". Kenan never for a moment pauses to wonder if he is loved. He never stands back when Auntie (or most anyone! hehe :)) enters the house, debating how he should approach me. He leaps into my arms, with the faith that I will encase him in my embrace and kiss him up from one side of his rosy face to the other! It felt like a revelation this morning when I heard God whisper to my heart, "If you can love this little one so, how then can you wonder at my love for you? Do you ever wish to withhold your love from him? How can you not see Me too aching always to give it out, in mercy and grace?" How often do I run to Him and throw my arms around His heavenly neck, just expecting Him to lavish His love on me, like my Keebie-beebie and I? Not nearly often enough these days...

And suddenly Hebrews 4:16, which I've been dwelling on in my bible study, takes on a whole new meaning as I picture myself confidently approaching His throne of grace like Kenan confidently throws himself into my adoring hugs-- the ones I am so ready and willing and desiring to give!

"Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help."
-- Hebrews 4:14-16, The Message

And I am so thankful when He opens up my eyes in these little ways to these big, big things...

Goodness, I love that little man!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A Year Out of Africa

It has been on my mind a great deal that this time last year, I was in Africa.

I just never saw it coming. Nor could I have seen the irony that, in hindsight, I felt more peace in my heart those crazy few months in Africa than I really have since!

I have never been one of those people with Africa on the heart. But my heart has been forever altered since He walked my timid feet on that dusty red Ugandan soil. From the very first day it was as if I had no choice but to trust Him like never before. My delayed flight meant I missed my ride from the airport, which meant I was on my own to get from the airport out to the tiny village hour away to the home where I was to meet the friend I was going to work with. The problem is, Ugandan villages don't have conventional addresses, and no one had yet heard of the previously nonexistent ministry we were arriving to set up. So getting there on my own, totally jet-lagged and utterly frightened, was only by His intervention. And I could do nothing but follow Him.

My plane arrived in the middle of the night and I was terrified. The months before going to Uganda, I had wrestled with strange fears over everything. I was not prone to such fears. I awoke to nightmares and I wrestled in prayer. But again and again and again, God confirmed that this was His direction and encouraged me to follow Him. But that first night in Africa, I spent in a tiny and sparsely populated airport, afraid to venture out into the pitch blackness of night, having no idea what awaited me outside those glass doors. I spotted 2 cockroaches scurrying around on the chairs near to where I sat with my bags. I wrote Charles a letter, to feel less alone, and I prayed.

An elderly lady who had come in on my same flight sat nearby and in the early hours of morning we exchanged a few words, learned each others stories. She was a German missionary, and this was her 3rd time in Uganda. She was waiting for her pastor friend to come and collect her in the morning. We kept one another company for hours, waiting for daylight, and I know she was God's gift of provision to me. I ought to know by now that He promises to provide when we step out in faith and obey...

Her pastor friend came and invited me to ride along with them to Kampala, where he could put me on a bus toward Jinja, and then have the bus driver point me in the right direction to get out to the village from there. I could have cried in relief, but I was too tired. Instead, I stared wide-eyed out the window of his car at the red dust, banana trees, roadside shacks, free-range goats and chickens, and beautiful Ugandan people dressed in the brightest colours and patterns carrying massive baskets and buckets and general loads on their heads...

What a different world.

And then there were the sunsets. When the sun would start to set on the horizon, it's shape a perfectly massive red-orange orb over the green of the tropical trees, it wouldn't dally. It seemed to take mere minutes to get from the top of the sky to far below the horizon, leaving us in the darkest dark I've ever known. It always mystified me how quickly it happened. And God's grace in keeping us safe and getting us home the nights we didn't make it in before nightfall...

Walking down the dusty streets in Uganda was always an adventure to me, but one I relished so much. In my first month, I would find myself alone to reflect and talk to God and talk to people on these walks about once a week, and I would hop on a boda-boda and direct the driver to take me "home" feeling refreshed somehow. Chatting with the lady in the lean-to shop or laughing with the old man missing his front teeth sitting on the street corner selling fruit on a dusty blanket was somehow... good for the soul. I found the people He led me to there just beautiful souls with so much to teach me just in the way they responded to their lives... And the strange sense of peace which blanketted me those months of facing one unknown after another. I just felt, in a way I cannot possibly explain, as if he tangible "had my back" like never before. And greeted each day with His confidence... It was such a gift.

Mostly, I think of the children.

I think of how my arms just couldn't open wide enough to hold all the little ones I longed to hold, and how every precious pair of big brown eyes that looked up at me incited my heart to grow that much bigger. Walking through the villages and hearing "Mzungu, how are you?" called out again and again and seeing their eyes light up when we waved at them made my heart light. Visiting orphanages where I could literally wrap my arms around as many little wiggly bodies as would fit made my heart dance... And thinking of the babies in Entebbe I cared for and loved on daily makes my heart long to be back, taking in those sunsets, getting covered each day in red dust sticking to my own sweat, and loving the little ones so hungry for attention and a little bit of tenderness. I was made for such nurturing. In that sense, I was made for those few months in Africa.

And will carry Uganda in my heart no matter how many years pass, picturing those pairs of deep brown eyes, sparkling despite being orphaned, abandoned, infected with AIDS, hungry, poor, or homeless. Yet never hopeless.

Oh, the lessons the little ones of Africa have to teach me....
And you?

****You CAN make a difference right from where you are! Help families with the heart to adopt by donating to Lifesong for Orphans. Or get in touch with my friends at Sun Shines Hope International and help to improve the lives of villagers in Uganda, send children to school whose families are too poor to afford it, teach sustainable living and sanitation to needy villages, all while sharing with them the love of Christ! Get in touch!! We are His hands and His feet here. Do you ever wonder if when we ask Him why suffering exists in this world, He might ask us the same thing?****

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Intrepid Explorers and Awakenings

Being the most non-typical Minnesota winter I have ever seen, it was nearly 50 degrees outside today. I found myself out in it pulling my two favourite little intrepid explorers all over kingdom come in a little red wagon. We wheeled around Grandma and Grandpa's yard, petting horse noses, moo-ing at cows in the pastures, and having conversations at a 2-year-old level about all that we were excitedly observing (Only as the daughter of a funeral director/cattle rancher can you find yourself trekking through a horse arena past farm machinery on your left and burial vaults on your right...)

My little explorers chattered together as they were happily pulled along down the driveway of my childhood home. The unlikely January weather made it feel like a day in early spring, not the dead of winter, and the earth smelled like a hundred memories of growing up here, making "forts" in the woods, playing house where I pretended to be a settler like Laura Ingalls Wilder, or a Native American princess like Pocahontas, or a lost orphan from England (I grew up constantly putting on an English accent when I played pretend-- go figure!).  We turned that old familiar bend in my parents' long driveway and the memory of the feeling of His presence on so many night prayer walks down this driveway throughout high school and summers home from college just struck me like deja vu. The memory of that hunger for Him, that desperate knowledge that nothing else would satisfy but Him, speaking to my heart out under the bright stars hung over my childhood home, singing praise songs to Him as I walked down that dark driveway...

The day gave me a Spring-time feeling; that time when all that has been lying dormant is beginning to awaken, to come back to life.

So many friends in my life have been confessing to me a similar experience of so many elements of faith in our walks with Him feeling like they've been lying dormant. And we have been asking one another to pray-- pray that they will start to feel alive to us again. That moment today, pulling my little men in that red wagon around that bend in the driveway, was like a little experience of awakening.

I know that walking with God is just that-- walking; it is an active journey. It is a series of seasons of life. It ebbs and flows. The weather changes with the seasons and He changes me with them, forever inviting me to trust Him, whether in the summery seasons of faith or the wintery ones. To keep walking that road, exploring its contours whether blanketed by snow, covered by leaves, smelling of fresh spring earth, or humid from the heat of the sun as we walk...  And wherever I plant a foot, His have already trod that ground.

I am struck by His mercy. For the way he deigns to walk so close, to lead if we ask, to quiet if we don't genuinely want to hear Him, and to speak up if we do. I just want to live a life which is set up to amplify the sound of His voice, and to have a heart which is poised to receive what He says, and to have feet ready to move on it whatever the earthly risk may seem.

Lord, I know that everything comes from you and there is nothing I can muster up on my own-- Oh, that you would give me a ready faith. And always always make me an intrepid explorer of Who You are, Lord Jesus, in whatever season (And draw my little nephews to seek Your heart above all else as they grow into men, too!)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Ardently Loved

“The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.
The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.
Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.”

-- Langston Hughes

This little poem struck me deeply when I came across it the other day. All I could hear was God's voice speaking about us. And the idea stopped me in my tracks for a moment. The tangible image of His love and adoration for us, for me.

It struck me that I had forgotten. I had forgotten how great the Father's love for me was. Yes, I know He sent His Son to give His very life as ransom to save mine if I only believe ["...For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only son that whoever will believe in Him will have eternal life." (John 3:16)] Didn't we just remember His coming with our Christmas celebrations? But somehow, the knowledge of it is so constant that I... forgot to remember the extraordinary truth behind it. And what it means to our lives in the here and now.

It was this simple bit of Langston Hughes poetry that grabbed the eyes of my heart and begged them to settle here for a moment and breathe it in...

It was because He's in love with the whole wide world; 
captivated by us like a Bridegroom with His bride. 
"As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:5). 
"How beautiful you are, my darling. There is no flaw in you" (Song of Songs 4:1).
"...that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle or any other defect" (Ephesians 5:27).
"And I will take you as my bride for ever; truly, I will take you as my bride in righteousness and in right judging, in love and in mercies" (Hosea 2:19).
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
Webster's dictionary says that when the word "Bride" is used figuratively, it means, "an object ardently loved." Do you know how ardently loved you are? And if you did, how would it change how you believe, and how you act on what you believe? Somehow, the scriptures upon scriptures which told me so, had faded in my mind, in my experience, and I feel like my life has begun to reflect that forgetting... So, I've been asking God to teach me anew what it means to be ardently loved by the King of the Universe, and what He would have me do resting in that knowledge (because what wouldn't we do with this blink-if-an-eye-existence when we know we are ardently loved by the King overseeing it all?)... 

And suddenly, I am feeling more hope than I have in a while.

Maybe you too need to ask Him to show you again how He sees you, and how He would have you live in light of it? It's a brand new year, a fresh slate for His goodness and love to transform our hearts and lives. Let's seek His heart, running out to meet Him by our prayers....

"Behold! The Bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet Him!"
-- Matthew 25:6

 "In Him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in His holy name. Let Your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in You."
-- Psalm 33:21-22

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