Friday, January 27, 2012

Under These Acacia Trees...

Just a quick updating sort of blog ---
my head and heart are over flowing, it's best to let them flow out so i have space for more to come in and teach me. I need that space -- i have much still to learn.

We are needing to head out the door in moments - headed to Tumaini today -- to see "our" kids there.  We carry bags of gifts to them from many of you who love them as well. It is sure to be a sweet day with God in the middle of the moments.

Yesterday, Steve and i purposed to take the entire day to stay put --- giving us time to process, pray, ponder, pray, talk, pray, and just "be still and know" that our God is over all. We pleaded with God yesterday to not allow us to miss what HE has planned -- may our thoughts be put to the side, may His thoughts and plans prevail.
"Lean on, trust in, have confidence in the Lord with all your heart and mind. And do not rely on your own insight or understanding".  Proverbs 3:5

It takes intentionality to die to self each and every day. "He must increase, i must decrease." John 3:30 But dieing to self is not enough --- He must increase --- for in God's hands - always --- when something dies, much more is produced. So may more of God's goodness be seen as we choose to decrease ourselves in His hands.

The day before, we drove north to Kwambakenya to visit a community where we will be working. Perched at the base of the beautiful Aberdare Mountains; there it feels like you can step back in time to a simpler time. A place where my Papa James would have fit in perfectly. They turn the soil to grow their food, they milk their cows to feed their children. They walk on red dirt trails that weave and meander between fences made from sticks and wire. It's a beautiful, enchanting sort of place. But just under the surface of it's beauty are single mothers doing the work of 4 women to care for their children. A school with glowing faces beaming from the windows and waving hands of welcome plunging through each and every opening. It's a place where beauty overcomes pain ---- God is seen, but suffering has not been defeated.  We sat and talked with the head school master who is also a local Pastor. A tall man with a genuinely kind face, we talked together of why Steve and i will be found walking in his community and hopefully teaching the "flock" of followers he has been given charge over. He dropped his head as we shared our hearts desire to encourage husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church and wives to respect their husbands, laying down their hidden tools of manipulation. Tools that destroy rather than grow. He was deeply sincere as he responded with words of welcome and appreciation. "The men here need to know what God says to them, we need help to understand and encouragement to obey". Amen! God --- may we carry your love and truth with us. May the men and women here receive a softening in their hearts for you and your ways.

It all seems far too big.
It is for us.
It is NOT too big for our mighty God.
It is His.
We are His.
May He increase --- may we decrease.

I must run now --- our driver is here. We have far to go --- and another house to look at before we head to the mountains to see "our" kids.

"May the God of Hope, fill you with joy and peace, as you trust in HIM. So that you may be filled to overflowing --- by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Yes Lord, could we carry Your Hope in us so that is splashes over onto all who come near us --- and may joy and peace be what remains after we have gone because of your touch in the moments and your blessing on the words. All this --- because of you and your goodness --- and your powerful love. We ask this because we need this --- in Jesus' Name. Amen

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This and That - Kenyan Style

It feels like I’m watching a moving ---- or in one. So intrigued to see what will happen next. I’m curious about the characters, the unexpected twists and turns, the surprise appearances, and the unpredictable relationships. But it’s not a movie...

Silly of me I suppose --- but I can’t seem to keep from wondering…
Will I really be able to create a “home” on the other side of the world?
We’ve lived on Mockingbird Road for almost 30 years. My nest is the perfect shape of our Taylor flock.
Will people really “hear” the good news Steve and I have for them? Will the men be willing to love their wives and bless their homes? Will women be willing to love their husbands in more God surrendered sort of ways?
Do we know what we need to know to throw this smooth stone in the middle of this glacier like pond called hurting marriages? Will the ripples from the impact break up the glasslike surface and bring life to the water’s shoreline?

It really does feel like we are walking through a movie set. We’re surely “not in Kansas anymore”.

Tonight we lay in a hot hotel room (no air conditioning here) and listen to the train whistle in the distance. The train travels on tracks originally laid in 1899.  The tracks lead to Tsavo and then on to Mombosa. Tsavo is the town where two rogue man-eating lions halted the building of the railway bridge by relentlessly killing and devouring the railway workers. In the late 1800s, many people living in this very town where we now find ourselves, were killed by the man-eaters. “The Ghost and The Darkness”  is a good movie that depicts the true story.

Yep – it’s got to be a movie…

At dinner tonight, we sat with two Kenyan gentlemen who love God. Our conversation was rich, ranging in topics from African soccer to scripture memorization. We shared scripture with one another highlighting verses that had changed our lives and had helped carry us from where we were to where we now find ourselves. All the while inspiring each other to go farther still ---- we affirmed for each other, there is more, much more.

And then i must indulge in laughter whenever possible --- 
In very rural Ngaamba, a group of children asked me what my name was. I replied “Donna”. They giggled. But I’m use to Africans giggling at my funny way of saying things. (Goodness, I’m use to Americans laughing at me too.) I asked them what their names were and we enjoyed sharing more laughs as I tried to pronounce their names. Then they asked again, “What is your name?” I replied, “Donna”. This time they guffawed with pure delight. I inquired as to why they thought my name was so funny. With no Kwamba words in my vocabulary and few English words in theirs, we labored at understanding each other. They finally said, “Donna is food”. Whaaaa?? --- “donna is your word for food?” “Yes”, and they  mimicked putting something in their mouth and chewing. I was so surprised, how odd for my name to mean “food” in their language.

Then a Kenyan friend came to my rescue and began inquiring of the children. By this time we had drawn a small crowd, about 75 kids flocked around the car all repeating my name, making chewing motions, and laughing hysterically. My Kenyan friend began howling with laughter and exclaimed to me, “Your name, donna, does not mean food in their language. They are laughing because they think you are saying your name is “donut” and they know that English word. They think you have the funniest name they have ever heard…” Oh goodness, how great is that. So today as our car departed we were quite literally surrounded by beautiful Kenyan children calling out “donut-donut-donut” as they waved goodbye to the funny talking mzungu.
Life is sweet! Yes…

Even there – it felt like a movie --- a very good movie.

Next day – we arrive back in Nairobi – here for one night. Able to jump back on internet for a few hours, we find the sweet news that Peter, our youngest son was crowned Homecoming King at his High School Saturday night. What a hard thing to not be with him and share his joy! BUT, what a wonderful thing to know his sister and brother and aunt and uncle were there filling that “love” space of an absent mom and dad. Peter knows exactly where we are, and that we simply couldn’t be there. He actually would likely prefer we be here preparing the way for his move to Kenya with us later this year. But still, it’s hard to miss those special moments. 

Only in a movie, would so many different sights and emotions crowd into such a short amount of time: 

-       Today we saw photos of our son wearing a "crown" and shining with happiness.
-       Today I was blessed to love on a little boy who was abandoned at birth. He is 2 years old now. His beautiful face carries saline scars, proof of his mother’s unsuccessful attempt to abort him. He is beautiful and happy.

-       Today we drove past a woman carrying a heavy load of sticks on her back. Two worlds colliding there – why am I in a car and she’s carrying sticks on her back?
-       Today on Mombosa Highway, there were camels on one side of the road and Twiga (giraffe) on the other (in the distance) --- now tell me I’m not in a movie…

-       Today I bargained with a young girl who lives in Kibera Slum, buying 3 sweatshirts for 3 boys who slept on the street just days ago. Praise God they do not tonight!

I'm not complaining --- not stressing --- just sayin' --- today has been a really long, but good "movie".

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   Romans 15:13

Photos taken by Steve

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lost and Found - God's Boys

"I once was lost, but now I'm found..."

I once was scared, but now I'm safe... I once was hungry, but now I'm filled... I once was alone, but now I'm received... I once was wounded, but now I'm healed... I once was beaten, but now I'm safe... I once was dirty, but now I'm clean... I once was abandoned, but now there's hope... I once was scared, but now I'm held... I once was broken, but now I'm whole...

Their names are Joseph G. and Joseph M.
To friends, Joseph G. is known as Cheu (Ch - a - oo), Joseph M. is called Josantos.

They had been back on the streets for 3 weeks now, having run away from the Children's Home where they had lived for about 2 years. These boys have known too much pain in their 15 years of living. When they feel wronged, they will either fight or fly. They're well equipped to fight back, they know how to fight ---- but they didn't, they ran. Still even when we run from something that has hurt us, the marks that impacted the heart still do much damage. They had run to the streets when they were small boys, because they could not endure the beatings. They ran back to the streets because they felt mistreated.
The injustice of it all is smothering!
At least on the street they have the chance to defend themselves and fight back.
But on the street, hunger presses for survival, then fists and feet are sometimes used to rob and run. Not really a "choice", but more of a fact.

What were their options? Were there any?
What would i have done if i had been born in their place?
God help them...

We arrived early so David could scout about and inquire if either Joseph had been seen in the area. Joseph G. (nicknamed Cheu) had been seen just moments before, but had left to go buy more glue for the night. David asked the boy to give Cheu a message if he returned, "Tell him, i'm here for him, i'll be coming back to find him. Tell him to wait here. I've come for him."

Joseph M. (nicknamed Josantos) had not been seen in the area.

David came back to his three compadres and gave us the good news, "He is near, he will be back". We had again prayed on the way, we prayed silently as we walked to get a bite to eat as we waited. We could feel the intense prayer cover surrounding us --- we knew we walked in complete safety. Only God can do that. For all of you who prayed for us (and i know there were MANY) thank you, thank you, thank you -- we felt your hearts there with us as God responded with a mighty "Yes!", and the Heavenly Warriors pushed back the enemy.

About 9:00PM, David left us again headed back down the alley. We hoped Cheu had returned. We waited. Within seconds a small boy slowly approached. He looked to be about 8 or 9 yrs. old, barefoot, torn clothing, so dirty, so broken, so "wrong" ---- OH GOD THIS IS SO WRONG! As i looked in his eyes, i thought of my sons Peter and Michael --- what if their eyes looked back at me from this face, this world, this "hell". Oh God... this is all so completely wrong.
Keziah talked with him and translated for us. His name is James, he is 15 years old, he knew Isaac, and he wanted money for "food" (or glue -- glue drives the hunger pains away longer).
We talked with him for a bit, he lost interest in us,  he wanted money, not conversation. I couldn't blame him.
We walked, knowing boys would soon surround us if we kept standing still.
At 9:15 -- we met David on the street, with Cheu at his side. He looked GOOD! So good!
David shared with us later, that he had found Cheu sitting on the curb waiting for him.

Cheu wanted to be found. He wanted someone to come for him. He wanted to be wanted. How the past 3 weeks must have haunted him, wondering if anyone would come. Wondering, does anyone care... 

Cheu said he knew exactly where Josantos could be found, near Mathari. It was late, we would have to hurry, Cheu's eyes pleaded. Ten seconds later we were in the car headed to Mathari.

At Mathari, David and Cheu left their 3 praying partners in the car parked in a lot with a guard. We watched them walk into the darkness behind a building --- headed to a very unsafe place. Prayer cover was so thick around us all --- we thanked God and made our prayerful petitions again.

Minutes later Josantos bursts out of the darkness with David and Cheu close behind him. His white teeth shining, he headed straight for Steve, nothing but a hug would do for that glowing, wounded boy. Steve shot out of the car and strong arms surrounded a boy aching to be loved. He hugged us all --- you could see it in his face --- he felt loved --- he felt saved.

He had the wounds on his face from a beating he had taken from bigger boys. A cut under his left eye and swollen cheek with red blood vessels filling the sclera of one eye. Glue in his back pocket and a glove on one hand, he looked like a child that had survived a war.
I wish you could have been there with us --- to feel the glowing light that surrounded us in that dark lot. These boys had not become hardened yet --- they were thrilled that someone had finally come for them. So happy to take pictures, they wanted it recorded, proof, they were loved, someone cared, they would not have to run in the streets that night.
We asked Josantos what he had in his back pocket, he shyly looked down. Then pulled his glue bottle from his pocket and threw it into the darkness. Cheu followed suit. Two saved boys --- two glue bottles thrown back into the blackness that borders "hell".

Nairobi is a city with over 5 million people covering an area of around 300 square miles. Make no mistake, a miracle happened tonight. Two boys who survived by hiding in the shadows have been found, plucked from the pit, saved by the Savior. These boys had been most certainly claimed by the enemy, they were in his territory suffering under his hand --- they were defeated. But God... God heard prayers, God prepared the way. The city bowels were ruptured and two have stepped back out into the Light.

As we rode along towards Moses Children's Home, David inquired of the boys how they were and what had happened to them. Cheu spoke little, but Josantos shared his nightmare. On Tuesday (3 days earlier), on the night Steve and i had landed in Nairobi, one of his friends had been wrongfully accused of stealing. The boy was attacked by a mob and stoned. Not fully dead yet, the mob set him on fire and left him to die slowly on the dirty, stone covered street.
Munyiri was his name. He was a boy -- with a heart --- and a soul --- and a mind.

Josantos and some friends realized the boy was still alive and carried him in their arms to the hospital. The boy died shortly after they arrived. The next day, big street boys had attacked Josantos. His face showed the marks.
Josantos knew how very badly he had needed to be rescued. Perhaps that is why he glowed as he burst out of the darkness, running to Steve's ready arms. Oh God...

We asked if they were hungry. Cheu was not, Josantos yes. Never have i felt so emotional stepping into a KFC. Chicken and fries would fill his stomach. God, will you please fill everything else that is empty? Thank you God, i know that is in your plans, why else would you have sent us, why else would you have allowed us to find him. Please God, soften what is surely hard inside these boys, bring them to the place where they can feel your love for them. May these two grow up into men who rescue others and walk with You.

We talked of the future, they shared bits of their past. We asked what they dreamed of in the days ahead, they had an answer; hope had not been drained from them. Cheu wants to be a pilot. Josantos wants to learn a trade like woodworking. Hope is an amazing healer. Just 3 days ago he carried a stoned, burned friend in his arms; tonight he dreams of a future.

Father God, will you meet these boys in ways that are beyond what we could imagine. Will you protect them fiercely please --- please never allow another hand of violence or hate to come near them. Heal their broken, secret places and overwhelm them with your love for them. Meet them in their dreams, the ones they will have at night and the ones they hold in their hearts during the daytime. Father God, may the schemes and plans of the enemy to devour them be defeated and instead may Cheu and Josantos be covered by you --- overhead, underfoot, behind, before, to the left and the right. May they be nurtured by you; may they grow into mighty men of God that make a powerful difference in this world. As they sleep tonight, please meet them. Transform what must be changed, grow what is stunted, provide what is needed, touch them in such a way that the lack of love from those who should have loved and cared for them is no longer a wound in their soul. But instead may they be so filled with Your love and presence, that they feel no loss or lack. I ask this of you God, because you are God, only you are able to do this. May your Kingdom increase and your Name be glorified in the redeeming story of the years ahead for Cheu, Josantos, and Isaac. We ask all this in Jesus' Name.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound --- they once were lost, but now they are found.
Thank you God!

Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  Luke 15:6

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”  Luke 15:32

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Thursday, January 19, 2012

David found Isaac who is now with Moses - God's Men

For the years I’ve been in Kenya, I’ve been very intentional to be indoors before dark arrived.
But last night (Wednesday), we left at dark, went out from the security of a well lit room and walked into the night ---- following the Light. We knew what was needed, and we understood our part.
Isaac, Joseph M. and Joseph G. were back on the Nairobi streets, waiting for the night to become black enough to dig through dumpsters for food. They sleep in the day, hiding from the eyes of the police, they roam at night looking for ways to survive. They “miss” the Light, they move about in the Dark.

I prayed hard before we left, we prayed together on the way. We knew FULLY our inability – we embraced completely the ability of the One who loves them most. It’s a tender, tedious place to willingly sit in, a place that should not be orchestrated by “men” but one that should be responded to when God stirs.

I’ve always been warned concerning the streets of Nairobi, after dark, for a mzungu (white person). Even our Kenyan friends, David and Keziah were cautious. But we knew the potential ---- both good and bad. If we did not go and search for the boys – they might be lost to Light and Love. We did not suppose to “save them”. Rather we were overwhelmed with the deep knowing --- they needed to be found and the Savior was sending us to do just that.

When we arrived, David parked the car in a well lit area. We walked down the street, the four of us (the four of us that could be seen with human eyes). But even as we walked in silence, I prayed and asked God, “How many unseen warriors have you posted over us dear God?” I knew they were there. I could feel them breathing on my shoulder. There was peace. Thankful for the scriptures cemented in my mind that have sharpened my sword, I spoke them, I talked with my Fortress, I hid in the cleft of the Rock, I spoke His Words to Him, and walked towards the dark to find precious boys held in claws.
This is not what Steve and I feel called to do in Kenya. We are ill prepared for this kind of work. We had been in meetings all day long to help prepare the way for the work we know we are called to do. But this, this “work”, this was orchestrated by God. It had been whispered in dreams to David the night before. It would be a foolish thing to choose this path on our own. But this was not a path we had designed. Likewise, it would be a foolish thing to ignore God’s clear lighting of this path before us. Too much could and would be lost if we ignored His soul whispers to us. We were hungry for the possibilities that can be felt when we listen and obey.

We came to a street corner. David said this was where the boys would begin to appear when the day was fully gone. He told Keziah, Steve and I to walk the blocks around this corner while he, alone, went down the alleyways to places he knew the boys would be hiding. David knows where they hide, he use to hide there himself. David knows the importance of finding and rescuing them, he too was found and rescued. David knows the death that hangs over the street boys, he was saved by the Savior, pulled from the pit, escorted from death to life ---- he knows what it feels like to have gentle hands reach to hold dirty hands and put good food in hungry stomachs. He uses what he knows to find them.

We, the pretty Kenyan lady and two wzungu (white people) walked, hands in pockets, praying, seeking. I felt my Father beside me and behind me. I have never felt safer in my life. We walked for about 45 minutes, circling streets, dodging people, stepping into darkness, praying.
We walked by many street children ---- painful air surrounds them and pierces my soul. One, likely only about 3 or 4 years old --- such a beautiful, broken child ---- it was gut wrenching to walk past him. Oh God… Oh God… forgive me for walking on…

This world is wrong --- a loud cry lingered just behind my lips ---- oh how I hate the evil one. Oh how I love my Abba. But how Father ?--- how can I walk by him? --- I ached to grab the boy and run to Heaven with him. I prayed deeply --- and God whispered – “I’ve got him donna, I’ve got him in my eyes and I hold him in my heart. I’ve called you to do a specific thing tonight --- obey me --- I will send another for him --- you obey me to search for the one I’m sending you for --- I am GOD --- I’ve got this little one --- you obey --- I’m not displeased with you as you walk on ----- I’m asking you to obey – and I will be God to you, to the one you seek tonight, and to this little one you have been pierced by. I Am and I will be God.”

Two more blocks of walking. Heavy steps. A heavy heart. And then we saw them, David walking towards us with a very timid Isaac beside him. Oh God…

Isaac, with those big eyes, frantically watched every movement of every person within 20 feet of him. Frightened, hard, hurt eyes watching and wondering. He did not smile, he did not even look at us. He was a bundle of emotions all held within an exterior of stone. We greeted him, hugged him, patted his shoulders as we spoke to him, he looked down. No words. I asked if he remembered us, he nodded yes. David asked him what our names were, he meekly said, “donna and steve taylor”. It was as if he was a different boy inside the dirty body of the Isaac we knew. His eyes were cold, his body language was hard and distant. The Isaac we knew, laughed quickly with twinkling eyes. And I realized, this is what a child looks like when they have claws of evil dug into their back. I could feel the struggle swirling between Light and darkness --- good and evil ---- White Warriors and hell’s hounds. It was a tangible, real presence. I sharpened my Sword by rolling the scriptures around in my mind and whispering aloud “God help us”.

Isaac was distant, and seemed to want to stay that way. He said, “no” when we asked if he would like to come with us. He was drugged, he could not really know what he was saying. But force him to come --- we could not do that. So we lingered and took turns loving him with our words ---- and surrounding him with prayers. Steve bought him half a chicken and a water, we sat in strained conversation as he persisted that he would not come back with us to Tumaini. He did not like the teachers there, he felt they were unfair to him and the other street boys. Keziah offered that her uncle Moses had a place in Nairobi for street boys, a safe home, where Isaac would be understood and helped. He would be given time to transition from the street life to a healthy life, he would be loved and supported as he rehabilitated and left drugs behind him. He persisted with his response of “no”.
“God help us, God soften him, God intervene, God have your way - i know you sent us for him, God help us.”

I talked with Isaac in very simple, methodical ways ---- as a mother would talk to her wounded child. Isaac is fourteen, but he looks more like ten. I explained to Isaac that the decision he made tonight would effect the rest of his days. He was at a crossroads. I helped him look at the possibilities of life 20 years from now. If he chose the street life, he would know pain, suffering, drugged nights and dark days. He would likely not live to see his 30th birthday. If he chose to come with us, and give Moses (and God) a chance, there was Hope. Hope for a life like David now has; an education, a family, a happy life with a healthy body and mind. Isaac looked at me long and hard --- there was silence. I let him think (and prayed against the effects of the drugs distorting his ability to do so.)

He said ---- softly --- with pained eyes ---- “no”.

David took his hand and talked long in Swahili.

Then, God moved. David took Isaac’s hand and we all began walking down the street towards the car. Keziah, Steve and I followed behind big David and tiny Isaac not knowing what was happening --- but praying. David knew what he was doing, God's hand was on him.

David unlocked the car, Isaac got in, we followed their lead. And then we were driving down the road, with Isaac beside us, quiet, reserved, weary to his little bones. David called Isaac’s mother and handed Isaac the phone, he talked with her reservedly. Steve called our Maggie, she knew Isaac well and loved him much (Peter was still in school so we could not call him). Isaac had perked up each time we mentioned Maggie and Peter, so we thought he might be encouraged to talk with her. It was sweet to hear her muffled voice in his ears and hear his timid, shy responses to her flood of happy words. God was comforting him ---- we could feel it. He handed the phone to me, laid his head back on the seat and closed his eyes.

We arrived at Moses home for children. Isaac was greeted warmly by Moses and the boys at the home. When we walked in the room --- I could feel it. Their eyes seem to “recognize” Isaac. They knew where he had been, they knew how he felt, they knew what needed to happen next, they knew how to give Isaac a chance. They were fully prepared to help him breathe in and breathe out and make it through from where he now stood to where he needed to go ---- hope was present.

I expected them to hand him a bar of soap and a towel ----- he was a filthy boy after all. But no --- I was floored at what happened next. These kind, reformed, street boys, with such warm gentle eyes, told Isaac to take of his shoes and hop in bed. These big boys slept two to a bed, fully clothed, on top of the covers. On the street, they sleep in piles (for warmth). So here, they sleep together for warmth and reassurance --- reassurance that they are not alone. One big guy patted his top bunk bed and said, “come on man, you’ll be fine now, just go to sleep, it’s ok”.

The perfect words, a safe place.

And the Mighty God surely said  ---- “Well done Isaac, well done. I’ll heal those aching wounds that the claws have left --- but for now son --- just sleep.”

I could almost smell the scent of the Robes I had been clinging to ----- as I stood in that room surrounded by the aroma of dirty, good, peaceful warrior boys. Boys who have felt immense evil, just before they had walked into the Light and found Love. They had the roadmap for Isaac. And Moses was ready to help him put one foot in front of the other.


He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 2 Samuel 22:18

In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud...   Psalm 81:7a

He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.  Psalm 107:20

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8

He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel (and Isaac) from the power of the lions.”  Daniel 6:27

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves...  Colossians 1:13

Photos taken by Steve and me in Nairobi.

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

The Storm

When two clouds collide in the sky and thunder rolls, we call it a storm. When cold air and warm air crash into each other, we call it a hurricane or tornado.  So what should I call it when two “worlds” collide?
This is the storm that came Tuesday night in Nairobi.

In my “world” children don’t go hungry, bare feet are covered, dirty hands are washed, and torn clothes are mended. In my safe world, lost children are looked for and then held tightly in arms of love.
As we rolled through the dark streets of Nairobi last night, headed to our resting place for the next 5 nights, two worlds collided in front of me -----I felt broken by the storm.

If there were no evil, we would never need to reach for the goodness of His Robe.

There is evil ------ and so we reach and take hold.

We rode through the dusty streets in the black night, moving slowly; so many holes and ruts in the road. There are caves of deep “darkness” in the nighttime streets of Nairobi. Our friend slowed his car to a creeping roll and said, “I always drive slowly through here, it is where he sometimes can be found.” We asked who he spoke of, and the storm hit hard.
“Isaac, our Isaac.”
Clever, grinning, twinkly eyed Isaac no longer lays his head on a soft pillow in a safe bed when darkness comes. He’s back on the streets, in a world fully equipped to abuse and devour him.
I wanted to jump from the car and scream! “This is so WRONG!”
But no sailor has ever screamed at the raging sea and stopped the harm those relentless winds would bring.
None but One, our Savior. The One who wears those robes I’ve decided fully to cling to. He can stop the storm, He can hold and heal what is hurled about in the winds. I couldn’t scream at the awfulness of our Isaac being back in the mouth of evil --- after all, he had actually chosen to return to the streets. 

Years ago, long before we knew him, the hurts that had been inflicted on this child had been soothed in the streets by the numbing effects of the glue he sniffed and the brew he drank --- it was his escape when storms hit. No one had been there to feed him when he was hungry or cover his tiny bare feet. No one had washed his sweet chubby hands when they were dirty or mended the clothes he wore. And so he had run to the streets of Nairobi, to escape the beatings and abuses that rained down on his little five year old body. Street children will tell you, they would rather gamble at being beaten on the street (holding on to the hope that they can run and escape) rather than remain in an abusive place and endure the unavoidable abuse.
Oh God ----- could you please come back today.
It’s all so wrong here!
I come from a “world” where children’s hands are held when they cross the street and mouths are wiped clean after they’ve eaten their fill.
But this, this right in front of my eyes, this “world” where hands are used to harm them and no mouths need to be wiped because no food has crossed their tiny lips ---- this “world” is just too wrong, too broken, too awful, too evil.

So could you please come today Lord --- because when you come, their pain will end. Oh but God wait, do they know you? How very weak I am – how very thankful I am that You are GOD.

I’ve learned that “if” they know of You, God, they’ve decided they don’t trust you. They don’t trust anyone or anything.
Oh God… I want to rail at the wrongness of their storm.

But then I pause and I wonder ---- how you must feel over it.
After all ----- the Garden of Eden was your plan --- not this.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night. Job 5:14

Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.  Job 11:17

He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light.  Job 12:22

Turn night into day; in the face of the darkness light is near.  Job 17:12

Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.  Job 23:17

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  Psalm 18:28

He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.  Psalm 107:14

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.  Isaiah 9:2

Photos taken by Maggie in 2007 and 2009

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Filling the Sheath

Here's a challenge and a gift  ---- if you take the first, you get the second.

I want to challenge you to memorize 12 scriptures this year ---- let 2012 be the year you store up 12 verses. That's just one new verse a month ---- just ONE. And you know, deep down inside, even as you are reading this ---- you want to, you know you need to, you know it would be so good for you. :)

Oh - I know the hesitations that press down on us -- i get it. Memorizing scripture can feel so challenging, it somehow feels so impossible. Seems like something only the really "devout, holy" people can do, right? But here's a dose of the truth for you. If you have Christ in your heart, if you are a believer and adopted into the family of God, then you carry "holiness" around inside you everywhere you go. You are that "temple of God" with skin all over you. Christ dwells within you --- you are righteous because of HIM, not because of you. So "holy" is done, in the personal indwelling of our Savior. The devout part ---- well, that's a choice. You get to choose how "devoted" you want to be to the One who has saved you.
But the Bible tells us that "in this world we will have trouble". (John 16:33) It doesn't take long to realize the unavoidable truth of that verse. That same verse tells us to "take heart", our Father has "overcome the world".
His Bible, God's letter to us, is filled with proofs of how He has and will "overcome the world". But while we're still in this world, we need His encouragements, His reminders, His truths flowing through our minds, to help us overcome the challenging, hard moments that can come while we are still this side of Heaven. At least i know i do.

If we want to be strong, we are told in Ephesians to "put on the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11). There are several pieces to this armor ---- but the last one given is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17)

That means ----- every verse i memorize from the Bible sharpens my "sword". A sword that can be used to defend and protect me. In truth -- the battlefield i most need that sword on, is my MIND. My mind can be like an unruly child --- running off in all directions, even though i have clearly told it exactly where to stay. It seems to have a "mind" of its own at times, bringing before me all sorts of thoughts and doubts, worries and concerns --- none of which i want or invite. But if i don't manage my mind carefully, i can find myself down a rabbit trail that leads to a perilous cliff. Not somewhere i want to be.

Over the past year, i committed myself to memorizing scripture. I wanted to give discipline to my mind, my thoughts, my mental wanderings. And so, i chose scriptures from the Holy Bible that applied to what i most needed, and corrected my mind from the trails it most often seemed to wander down. It was an amazing, life changing experience.
When i found myself down the trail of doubt ---- i could recite, "Lean on, trust in, have confidence in the LORD with all your heart and mind. Do not rely on your own insight or understanding". Proverbs 3:5 (Amplified)
When i found myself tempted to be envious of something another had that i had always longed for ---- God would easily whisper to my soul ---- "Jesus said, 'If I want him to live until i come again, what's that to you? YOU follow ME." John 21:22 (Message) My "personal donna" translation goes something like, "if I want her to have that or live there or go there or be promoted ---- what's that to you donna? YOU follow ME --- I have a specific plan for you donna, it looks different than hers but it is no less precious to me... less can be more with me donna" (My dear God, how He does comfort my soul as He leads me.)
When i found myself discouraged and sitting in "ashes", my sword would slide from it's sheath and remind me ----- "Provide for those who grieve in Zion - bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of HIS SPLENDOR." Isaiah 61:3 (NIV) And i would remember that the pile of ashes that seemed to surround me could and would be transformed proportionately into beauty, in HIS hands. (the bigger the pile of ashes, the bigger the beauty to come)
When i found myself tired, He would whisper ---- "Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?" Song of Solomon 8:5 And i would rest as i leaned hard on my Beloved.
When i felt ashamed and weary from having "fallen down" again, He would restore me with ---- "He was pierced for my transgressions. he was crushed for my iniquities. The punishment that brought me peace was upon Him and by His wounds i am healed". Isaiah 53:5 (NIV) And i would remember that just behind repentance comes peace --- peace that HE paid a high price for. Condemnation is not from our Savior. Healing and peace are ---- when we turn to and walk with Him.

I could go on and on ----- but you get the idea.

These verses are stored away in my mind. I don't have to go to my Bible to look for them. I can be driving down the road, sitting in a meeting, talking with a friend, or eating a meal ----- and they are there, ready, waiting to be pulled from the sheath and used to defend and protect.
EVERYDAY verses roll through my mind ---- because EVERYDAY they are needed.

I want you to have this gift --- the gift of life and truth and protection and defense against the many lies and hurts and attacks and discouragements that come to all of us. No one is immune ---- we all have our own portion of "trouble" in this world. We all need protection, we all need to be defended. We all need the sword --- found in God's Word.

For the next 12 months ------ would you please choose just one verse a month, a verse that matters to you, and commit it to memory. Write it down everywhere: on stickum notes and notes cards, on your bathroom mirror and kitchen window, on your Iphone Notes or Text it to yourself and someone else everyday. Just get into that verse and sit with it for one month. Then keep holding it and reciting it the next month as you embrace a new verse.

At the end of the year --- you will have gifted yourself with something no one else could do for you.

Beth Moore inspired my Bible Verse memorization last year. She asked ladies to memorize 2 verses each month. But at the end of the year, i ended up with 9 verses and two chapters solidly memorized --- and 8 verses "in the wings" (not memorized fully but stored up in part). God bless that dear lady for her inspiration.

Would you please join me?
Every month i'll write one blog post about the verse (or chapter) i'm memorizing for that month. I'd LOVE for you to email me or comment on the blog sharing the verse (or chapter) you are memorizing. It's a sweet "gift" we can encourage each other to give to ourselves. And can you just imagine God's sweet smile over it all too.

So here goes -----

My verse for January 2012 -
"May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

I'm needing lots and lots of hope, joy, peace, and trust this year, this month, this week, ---- today. So this is the perfect "sword" for me to pull minute by minute wherever i may find myself.

Please join me ---- come on ---- i'd love to share the sweetness of 12 new verses (or a chapter or two) with you this year.
It's a sure fire way of grabbing hold of His Robe.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."   -Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 NIV

Photos by Maggie

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Monday, January 2, 2012

His Water - my thirst

A week at the ocean, walking on the shore, listening to the waves, feeling the "rightness" in the mighty rhythm  ------- feeds the soul. It's a peaceful, powerful sort of gift --- what the ocean can give to the person needing to receive what can not be found among those that breath air.
The mighty ocean, it's a picture of our Lord.
And we ----- we are the sandy shore ---- always needing one more touch from its waves.

We stand so dry and crisp, so thirsty. We need the life that comes from the life giving depths.
And so the Lord gives Himself to us, freely, steadily, eagerly, relentlessly. It's all so disproportionate: His power, our weakness - His vastness, our minuteness - His greatness, our smallness - His fullness, our empty need...

Without the life-giving water, we are blown about by the wind having no solid footing to hold ourselves steady. Blown from one dune to the next, unable to resist the relentless winds, with no moist ocean water to hold us steady, we can so quickly be lost.

Waves. They are relentless. They caress and stroke the shoreline with a unwavering "giving". It's as if the shoreline is helpless and unable to move from its lifeless place. So, mercifully, the ocean water's bring life to it. Most often the waves on the sandy shores are gentle and methodical. That's the way my Abba pours Himself in to me each day --- it's gentle, unwavering, methodical, and life-giving.
But there are times when the waves beat down --- they become painfully serious. I've felt that from my Father as well. When i lacked focus or willingness to listen, when i allowed other things or other voices to have my ear ---- the "waves" will become intense, they should, they must, too much would be lost if they didn't.  

The ocean waves never sleep. They don't grow weary and rest from exhaustion. They give, they pour out themselves, they offer watery life to the crusty, dry shoreline ---- day and night, whether their goodness is witnessed or not, the waves never stop their steady life-giving work. That's my Jehovah, always giving, pouring out Himself, offering life.

It's too mighty to get our minds around, its supply of water is unfathomable, it reflects the huge sky above it and is not intimidated by the billions of stars that dance over it each night. The moon and sun seem to play around it, playing chase in the vast blueness above. It's big and powerful and uncontrolled --- yet it is ever giving of itself to the endless shorelines.

The porpoise at play has fully given itself over to the waters. She glistens when she erupts from the waves for a brief moment and the sun shines on her ocean soaked skin. Do i? Do we? Have we given ourselves over completely to the greatness of our God? ---  do we glisten of His goodness? Oh if my walk with God could mimic the joy of a porpoise at play.

There is a section of sand, usually found just at the edge of the lapping waves, where the sand is firmly packed. That's where the cyclists can ride their bikes, where the sand is firmly packed. It's the same section of beach where the birds are most often found, digging for their next meal. It's the richest part of the shoreline --- it's the section of sand most often watered by the waves.
That's the part of the shoreline i want to be found, closest to the waves, firmly packed by the steadying waters, giving life and steady ground for those who come near me.

A week at the ocean --- stirs me to a deeper longing for more of it's Creator.
A very good way to begin a New Year.

Genesis 1:12 "So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good."

Jeremiah 2:13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

John 4:10 "Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.' "

Revelation 7:17 "‘He (the Shepherd) will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”

Photos taken by Steve and Maggie at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (New Years 2012 -- thank you Elaine and Tom!)

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe