Jesus Loves You

When you hear the phrase “Jesus Loves You” it will bring to mind many different things to different people.  To some it might bring a song, to others it is a signal that they need to leave.

One of the things I really appreciate about living here in Nairobi is that the constant conflict we find with culture is a reminder.  It is a reminder not only of why we are here, but of Whom we serve.  It helps me remember that my view of everything is limited, especially of God.  It brings me to a deeper understanding of who He is, and what He wants.

I was talking to a Kenyan from Nairobi today about ministering cross-culturally.  He recounted some work he did down in Masai land.  He said when you tell them, “Jesus loves you, He wants you to know Him.”  They would respond, “Well why did you not bring him with you?”

A couple of years ago I was trying to explain to a Sunday school class in Nairobi about how God disciplines us for our own good.  So I told them of how, as a child, I would play in my parents front yard.  Often the slope of their yard would cause our ball to roll out into the street.  As a young child the impulse is to run out to get the ball.  My parents taught me that was not good.  They disciplined me to teach me that.  How does a loving parent do things which seem painful?  It is out of their desire to protect us that they inflict pain, a most effective teacher.  When I asked the children why it would be bad to run out in the street after a ball, one girl raised her hand rather vigorously.  I called on her, and she said, “Because the street boys might get you.”  She was right, from her perspective.

Living, learning, loving, they are all affected by our perspective.  If we want to do more of those things, we have to be challenged, we have to learn to see things differently.  Often that can be painful, but it is better than being hit by a truck, or letting the street boys get you, and God knows that.

Home Alone

This is the first time since Petr was born, almost 7 years ago, that I have been alone at home for such a long time.  I have been trying to fill the time getting things fixed around the house and with the car and those types of things.  I have been playing with some of the younger boys I see at Kenyatta Market.  Yesterday to fill the time, I went on a motocycle ride to a place just outside Nairobi.  It is so nice to be outside the haraka haraka (hurry hurry) of Nairobi sometimes.  I mapped it.

I have a little comment about the title of this post for those of you who know the boys.  On the flight from London to Los Angeles, our boys saw the movie Home Alone for the first time.   Petr was so concerned about how the boy got left by his whole family and what a horrible thing it was.  He was frightened by many of the antics of the bad guys.  Andrej, on the other hand, was really enjoying it.  It was the perfect story for him.  Here you have a small boy beating up two adults all by himself.   We had to quiet down all the cheering so the other passengers could sleep.

Comfort breeds confusion

I wanted to follow up on “The You Paradox” as I was travelling from California to Kenya.  In the interim I spent some time in Uganda.

The title pretty much says what I want to say, Comfort breeds confusion.  When we seek our own comfort, it confuses our purpose.  God wants the best for us, and most of the time, that is not for us to be comfortable.  So when we seek our own comfort, we are turning away from where God wants us to go.

I am able to see that with a little contrast here in Africa.  There are less of the “comforts of home” and therefore, if I give up seeking them, my direction, my purpose becomes so much clearer.  It is not about me, it is not about how I feel, it is all about Him.

That is not to say there are no comforts, or especially that I have given up seeking them.  I struggle with them on an hourly basis.  But the less access I have to them, the less I see them as a distraction.  We spend our whole lives building up the comfort level we live in, not to enable us to serve God better, but to be more comfortable.  That is counter productive.  It puts the focus on self and not where it should be.

If you want to hear about someone with clarity of purpose, read about Richard Wurmbrand.  He lived a tortured life in Romanian prisons as a pastor under the communist regime.  Once in prison, Wurmbrand and the other pastors saw it as an opportunity to preach to the guards.  However, the guards told them if they preached, they would be beaten.  Wurmbrand writes in his book Tortured for Christ, “We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us – so everyone was happy.”

That is the kind of focus, the clarity, the drive, one can have when one abandons self and one’s own comfort for eternal glory.  This is a focus Paul also knew well.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:7-11, 16-18 NKJV

God is looking for warriors.  We do not coddle soldiers, we beat them into submission.  They are trained to do a job, and to do it well.  They are taught to obey authority regardless of the self-sacrifice required.  Are we willing to be painfully molded into the sons and daughters He wants us to be?  The adopted sons and daughters that resemble His Son.  In the end, it is the sons and daughters we all ought to be, and that is what is best for us.

The Nile

This is a picture of the source of the White Nile.  It flows here, out of Lake Victoria at Jinja, Uganda down into Lake Albert, then down into Sudan to Khartoum where it meets the Blue Nile from Ethiopia and then flows down to Egypt, eventually into the Mediterranean Sea.
As I sit here with in a stone throw of that river, I started to think about its course.  The Nile is not unlike a lot of rivers in that it does almost all of its major falling near its source.  However, I believe the Nile is quite extreme in that sense.  Jinja is not much more than 3700 feet above sea level, and yet I sit well over 3000 miles upriver from the Mediterranean.  Even more in the extreme, it does the majority of its fall here in Uganda.  Once a few hundred miles into Sudan, the river is less than 1500 feet above sea level and still has over 2000 miles to go!  There is no way an engineer could design, nor man construct, a water management project with that little fall.
What does all that mean?  Why does it matter?  To me, as I contemplate that, it brought to mind the process God takes us through in different times in our lives.
In the beginning of God calling us to something, we are just sitting there.  Much like the waters of Lake Victoria, we can become diseased, mosquito, hippo, and croc infested waters waiting for something to happen.  Then we hear the call of God.  It comes like the rush of the river as it flees the lake.  In thunderous falls we are catapulted into the work God has called us.  We move with rapid speed and through many tumultuous times.  We have a strong passion and feel gravity pulling us toward the goal.  There are times of quite, like Lake Kyoga, or Lake Albert, but these are short respites from the rush as we follow the passion instilled in us.
Then things begin to slow.  The passion is not as strong, and the geography changes.  We can run into a time like the “Sudd.”  The Sudd is a huge swamp in Sudan.  It is a huge flat area where the White Nile has no course.  There is no channel, no route the river follows.  When explorers were trying to establish the source of the Nile just about 100 years ago, none of them could get through the Sudd.  No one could traverse the Sudd to prove it was the Nile from above or below.  Even today, it is a very dangerous place (the Sudanese civil war not withstanding).  This is always a tough time when God calls.  You knew before He had called you to something, and He had provide the passion to thrust you forward.  But now that call seems so distant.  You are not going anywhere and there is nothing but mud and tall grass on every side.
This is a trying time, but necessary.  Often times, this is the place where we quit.  We decide that we must have misunderstood God’s call.  Maybe He meant something else.  Surely this is the closed door we were praying about.  However, this is a time of great learning.  When we slow down and are able to see what God is doing in the quit of our hearts.  We pick up a lot of sediment when we rush down with passion, and God needs to settle that out of us, to prepare us to move on.
If we make it through the Sudd time, God might bring along someone to help.  He does this at different times, but sometimes it is a huge moment, like when the Blue Nile joins at Khartoum.  God knows that it will be only as we work together that we will be able to accomplish His goal.  So bolstered by that help, we push on, into the desert.
The Nile passes right through one of the largest deserts on the earth.  A seemingly never ending stip of dryness that crosses the whole of northern Africa.  The desert time is also trying.  No one else is going to come and help.  There seems to be no end in sight, and the fall in the river, the passion, is so little, it is nearly immeasurable.  From Khartoum to the sea is over 2000 miles with 1000 feet of fall.  The path is not even straight, at times it wanders away from its goal.  This time requires patience and consistent dedication to His will.  God is testing you.  Do you have what it takes to cross the desert sands?  Will you stick it out, or dry up and quit?
Eventually, if we perservere, we reach the goal.  The thing God wanted in us is accomplished and we see the glory in it as the fertile delta spreads out into the sea.  God’s work, manifest in us, has brought about great change.  Change, not only in us, but in the world around us that we touch and influence.  He can provide waters in the desert through us, if we are willing, committed to His purpose.  And having accomplished the goal, He gives a time of closeness to Him before we are plunged back to earth to begin another long journey He has set before us.

In Uganda

One of the things I have learned about living in another culture is how much of my own culture I have.  I have noticed with a lot of the North American missionaries that we work with is that they have a hard time at Christmas in Nairobi.  Singing carols in a t-shirt and sandals is not their idea of Christmas.  Growing up in San Diego has meant that I have never really had a “white Christmas.” There was one time when I was really little in North Dakota, a place I do not recommend visiting in December (there may be some other months I would not recommend visiting, but I do not want to upset the ND Chamber of Commerce).   However, there are a lot of other things surrounding Christmas that are a part of my culture, and I really enjoyed being in California for it this year.  I also enjoyed many of the things not associated with Christmas;  In-n-Out burger, good Mexican food, Disneyland (Thank you Dad and Mom), nice roads, law abiding drivers, stores that have more than you could ever need, restaurants that actually serve what is on the menu… but I digress.  I was really cold though.  Yes, even in San Diego, I was cold.  I think my body has adjusted to the climate in Nairobi.

I had a wonderful time.  I am happy that Cammy and the boys are still able to enjoy being with family there.

I have returned to Africa.  I spent a couple of days in Nairobi trying to adjust to the time difference (11 hours from California).  Then I flew over to Entebbe, Uganda and am riding in a car to Jinja today.  I am here for a couple of reasons, but mainly to help out missionaries serving in Central Africa with their computers.  I spent last night with the same family I stayed with last year, serving with AIM AIR here in Entebbe.  It feels like my Uganda home.  They are great.

I will try to post more about my visit to California later when I feel more rested (heh).

Thankfulness

Paul is back in Africa while I stayed a little longer in the States to be with family and to see some doctors.  I am very thankful to not have been traveling because I came down with a case of shingles the next day.  I am missing my husband and it got me thinking about how thankful I am that he is in my life…

November was a hard month for us.  I mentioned that we had another miscarriage that ended up with me being admitted to the hospital for two nights.  However, I did not mentioned that the time I was admitted was Paul’s birthday.  I was rushed to the hospital at 6:30pm the night before his birthday and was admitted to the hospital room just after midnight.  Not the start I wanted for my husband’s birthday.  I had planned on making his favorite breakfast, french toast.  At noon I was going to surprise him at the office with a picnic lunch.   And when he returned home I was going to make one of his favorite dinners, nachos.  I was even planning on making a pumpkin pie! (another favorite)  Instead, Paul had to go to the hospital cafe and eat alone.  Oh, how much I hated that! My wonderful husband had to spend his birthday looking after me.   He never complained.  He stayed by my side and only left when he was sure I was ok.  He slept two nights on a very uncomfortable window seat bench so that I wouldn’t be alone.  It was not a glamorous birthday.  But we were together and I am thankful for that.  Here are some things about my husband that I am thankful for  in pictures for your viewing.

I am thankful for my husband of 9 1/2 years

_MG_4524

. . .for the way he loves me_MG_4492

_MG_4464. . .for the way he makes me laugh

…for asking permission the first time he wanted to hold my hand_MG_4535

_MG_4564…for his commitment to his family, supporting with his strength

. . .for his daddy heartdsc00141 and his hugs20000418 181

20000411 052. . .for his sense of adventurep1310016

DSC06902…for his passion for the word of God

Thankful for who he is and what he stands forDSC02375…a family man, a Godly man.