Saturday, April 18, 2015
It's 4 am, the morning of the day we fly “home” to America. The need for a solid night's sleep before 24 hours of travel is crucial. But the body's rest passed quickly as the mind's workings would not stop. I've prayed, and pondered scripture; i've scolded worry and tried to drive it away. Have i remembered everything i need to carry back home? And, all the details of leaving our home here for 3 months... are all those details in order? And prayers, prayers for the many i carry in my heart ---- those prayers can roll into worry if i'm not very attentive to controlling my thoughts. Do your thoughts run out of control in those early-morning-wrestlings too? Sometimes it's best to just leave the horizontal and “stand”.
I'm not... worried...
truly --- i've wrestled it out enough to see it's not worry that's robbed me of sleep.
Rather, it's the whirl of soooooooo many emotions.
Thankfulness is at the top, right on it's heals comes a sense of unworthiness and inability. So i'm stopping that flow by going vertical under the stars. Even the birds outside my window are not ready to start singing this morning --- i can sense them squinting out of one barely opened little eye wondering what their mzungu is doing up so early.
So i make a cup of java (coffee), and thankfulness whispers Jenn's name to me, she's the friend who fills my cup with VIA. I pour the warm “good morning” in my beautiful cup, and thankfulness whispers Maggie and Ray to me, they sent me the cup for mother's day last year. I sit down to read from those much wiser than me, and thankfulness whispers Byrdie's name to me, she gave me the devotional book 14 years ago. And i wrap a soft, green blanket round my chilled self as thankfulness whispers my sister-in-love's name to me, Ann gave me the blanket many Christmas's ago. (or was it my mother-in-love, Mary, ah, they've both been so good to me...)
I pick up my Bible, i bought it from Angie at Heavenly Dove, she engraved my name on the front. Thankfulness brings tears as i run my fingers over the bronze lettering, and i sit my cup beside my journal, Denise made sure i had a special journal.
Oh Lord, is it possible to be overwhelmed with too much good?...?...?
...and... may i never, ever again overlook the smallest of gifts ---- i have a table to sit at, a chair under me, food will fill the table, and a fork will be in my hand. I'm spoiled beyond reason because i'll have another cup of coffee and a napkin will wipe my lips...
Oh Lord, there are too many who will have NONE of the things listed in my last gush of words.
I'll do the part i can to bless their lives ----- but first i'll control my heart and head to be grateful. Nothing good comes on it's own. Nothing good is free.
Everything good comes from Your hand Abba. Everything good has been paid for by s-o-m-e-o-n-e. The secular world would say, “Yea, your friends and family pay for what you enjoy...” But my heart cries out meekly, “It was Jesus who first paid ALL, and now HE let's His goodness flow through them, and i'm stunned at the doubling flow of it all...”
My first waking thoughts (about 2 hours ago), were of my parents.
That's common for me, i think of them and the many i love when my eyes first open.
I'll get to see them again in about 36 hours. Oh my heart...
(...and my fingers can not resist the sharing that comes below --- my parent's usually want their goodness kept private, but today mom and dad, i simply must share of it...)
Last week my first-born-son had a wreck. It was a rainy day on an unfamiliar road. He looked down at his GPS for just a second to get clarity on his next turn. The car in front of him stopped abruptly... Mike did not stop as quickly... airbags deployed, scrapes came, metal bent wrong, sirens screamed.
Three cars were involved ----- no one was seriously injured. Thankfulness brings tears again even as i type.
Mike was the only one scraped up a bit, but no hospital was needed.
Police were gracious as they did their job --- Oh GOD, thank you for good police officers – there are so many who are good.
Mike's first phone call ------ was to his Papa and Nana.
And while Nana prayed, Papa went straight to him.
Straight to him... prayers... presence... the gift of “you---are---not----alone” flooded 'round my son.
Mike texted us, we called him immediately.
We could not be there ---- but we were not needed to be there ---- God had other plans ---- and they were/are good.
What followed was beautiful. Papa and Mike together attended to the necessaries that follow a wreck, and then made their way home to Nana.
Mike's words later filled the air with such goodness when he said, “Mom, i was feeling so down over the mess of it all, but when i saw Papa's face and when i walked in their house, i felt so much love. And while Nana doted over my small scrapes, i wondered if they both knew how thankful i was for them.”
Nana and Papa have a mission field of their own --- right there on Castleberry Road in Cumming, Georgia. It's about loving well and leaving a legacy to their kids and grandkids and any who come near them.
It's about showing love to others --- HIS love flowing through them.
That is THE mission field.
His sister, Maggie, came by to check on him. Sisters care.
Then my sister, Kathy, came by to double check everything. She texted to reassure me his injuries were minor and all was well.
Two more on THE mission field...
Later that night i ached over not being able to be there, struggled over not getting to be a part of the love-flow-in-person. Worried over the thought that my parents were doing what i felt i should be doing ---- taking care of and supporting my son... ya' know the accuser of our souls isn't going to let it pass by without trying to wound.
So i prayed --- thankfulness ---- and then asked for my Father to tend to the lies of the accuser.
And His words flowed into my heart ---
“my little donna, you do worry too much sometimes. And while I tell you and all my children not to worry, I also understand that in this world there will be troubles that can make you worry and bring you down... on your way down, come all the way down to your knees, I'll meet you right there, and cover you with my Grace. You know... my Grace is sufficient, it's enough, it's what is needed, and it defeats the lies of worry, if you'll let it, it's what I want. Listen to me daughter... I, God, have placed you where you are. You are to obey Me and serve ME in the place I put you. The accuser is a liar... you are wise to always remember that he lies each time he opens his cracked-evil-crusted lips. You are not a bad mother and your parents are not being over-taxed as they care for your son. Don't forget ---- he is their grandson, their blood is in his veins, and they are even now doing MY good work in the place I have put their feet. They are my servants, they are well-suited to serve ME in this beautiful way. What they are doing for Michael is pleasing to Me, and I, GOD, will bless them for letting my love flow through them. So donna, don't let “self” get in the way here. You do what I've called you to do each and every day ---- and you let others do what I've called them to do. Today, Mike didn't “need” y-o-u. Today, Mike needed ME, God. And I WILL CHOOSE who I use to flow through today, tomorrow, and the day after that. You, momma-to-Mike, are not “needed” ---- I, God, AM NEEDED. Always remember that donna ----- never forget. No one needs “you”, everyone NEEDS ME. And I will be found ministering to those who call on Me, sometimes through parents, sometimes through grandparents, sometimes through aunts or uncles or sisters or brothers or strangers. But always --- always ---- always ---- it will be ME choreographing my love flow. So donna, don't get discouraged when I ask you to flow in one direction but you'd rather get to flow in another. I know what is best. I promise, I always work to do what is best for My children. And one last very important point to remember daughter ---- if you had been there, then Mike would have missed something very important today. He would have missed the tripled portions of love he felt flowing through his grandparents, his sister, his aunt... you see, if you had been there donna, you would have stepped in and taken care of things --- and the single love flow would have seemed like enough. But that's not how I do things donna. I'm the One who gives generously ---- in double portions. Today I called on your parents to work for Me, I also called on you to work for Me, but in another place. Don't doubt Me, don't question My plans, I am God, I am to be obeyed and trusted and revered and honored.
Thank ME for your good parents.
Thank ME for the protection that surrounded Mike.
Thank your parents for loving ME enough to do my good work ---- right there at home.
It's part of their mission field.
And -------- I cover all.”
And peace... comes... down.
“Hebrews 10:38, The just shall live by faith...”
When I can not enjoy the faith of assurance, I live by the faith of adherence. (Matthew Henry)
...and then i find myself back on the solid ground of gratitude.
Gratitude that many are called to do God's good work, and many are busy at it. It's weak emotions to bemoan where we serve --- faith calls us to fly above the fowler's snare, his snares can too easily capture us if we fly too low. Faith says, trust God, obey Him.
The sun is beginning to peek through the acacia trees now. The birds are waking and singing. I'll finish packing, walk to the lake, and thank the One who is gracious enough to let us go home for a visit.
...and i'll hug that son and daughter long, and thank my parents for much...
Friday, April 10, 2015
Samuel was the son of Hannah, the barren woman, who prayed to God asking for a child. She gave birth to a son. Hannah had promised God, “if you will bless me with a son, i will give him back to you”. She kept her promise.
Samuel grew up living in the temple of the Lord, under the care of Eli.
These chapters in 1 Samuel have been the focus of my readings of late, there's so much to learn here.
This time around it's the wisdom of “questions” that is on the class syllabus. In Samuel, we see many questions placed before the Lord. It begins in 1 Samuel chapter 3 when the Lord first speaks to the boy Samuel in the temple. Waking the child from his sleep, the Lord calls, “Samuel”. And Samuel's response, “Here I am...”
These are the first recorded words of Samuel the servant boy who would become a powerful prophet of God.
“Here I am...”
These 3 words ---- change lives.
There's an eagerness in them, can you hear it too?
A whisper unspoken that says “yes... what is it...did you call me...what would you ask of me?”
And these are the first words God chose to let us hear come from Samuel's mouth.
It's at the beginning of Samuel's days, serving Eli in the temple, with a heart asking... “what would you have me do?”. His mother Hannah taught him early, you were born to serve the Lord.
Before serving, we must “ask” to know what is needed, we must ask to know what God wants.
Little is known of the “boy” Samuel. 1 Samuel 2:18 – 21 gives us a glimpse of his life. And in verse 26 we read that he grew taller and in favor with the Lord and the people.
Then in chapter 3, those three words come.
“Here I am...”
He didn't hide in fear.
He didn't yawn and roll over.
He didn't strut with self-worth.
He didn't yell back with rebellious attitude.
He was “clean” and able and willing. No “dirt” of self held him back.
He was eager and ready ---- for whatever would be asked of him.
Samuel thought Eli was calling out to him. He would not presume the Lord would be speaking to him. For in those days the voice of the Lord was not heard often. (3:1)
So when the voice awakens him, Samuel runs to Eli to ask, “did you call me, what do you need...?”
Eli had not called him, Samuel was sent back to bed.
Three times this happened in the dark of the night until finally Eli realizes the Lord is calling out to Samuel. He guides Samuel to respond the next time, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”.
That's Samuel. A boy awakened from his sleep by the voice of God.
The surrendered son who served.
The boy who became a prophet and spoke over the heads of earthly kings, because he served One who was higher.
We read further in the book, and find the story of Saul and David. How Samuel was instructed by God to anoint Saul to be the first king of Israel. And then David, the shepherd boy who played the harp to calm the fretful king Saul. David who killed Goliath with one smooth stone. David grows in the favor of the Lord, Saul does not. Saul disobeys God's guidance to him. The tension grows in the king's palace as Saul's jealously increases. He wants David killed.
Then we come to Chapter 23 --- David is hiding from Saul, Saul is pursuing him with plans to kill him. And the powerful lesson of questions comes front and center. (NOTE: all parenthesis w/comments, bold font, and underlinings added by me)
The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” (question 1, answer 1)
3 But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” (no question, just a telling – no answer from God)
4 Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” (question 2, answer 2)
5 So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. 6 (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)
7 Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.” 8 And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men. (no question, no guidance from God)
9 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.” 10 David said, “Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.”
And the Lord said, “He will.” (question 3, answer 3)
12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”
And the Lord said, “They will.” (question 4, answer 4)
13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.
14 David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.”
Saul could not “find” what he wanted, he wandered, he was unsuccessful...
Saul had not asked God.
David was “hidden” from those who pursued him.
David trusted GOD more than he trusted his own judgement.
David asked for God's guidance 4 times, he received 4 answers. (in 14 verses)
Do we ask?
Do i ask?
Do we fear asking because we don't think God will answer? -- is He there? -- does He care?
Or do we not ask because we want our way, and we're afraid God won't give the “right” answer?
Or perhaps we don't ask because we don't realize our need for help. We think “we've got this”.
Doesn't that have the bad-smell-of-Saul?
He thought he was clever enough to know what he needed to do ----- he thought he didn't need to ask.
And as a result ---- he got neither answers nor guidances from God ----- and he “searched” but did not find...
The dirt of the slum seemed worse somehow; the smells stronger and the drunks were out. There were too many puppies and ducklings and children and babies and too much filth. My heart twisted inside me and my words went flat. The children's hands were stickier and their grasp was not gentle as it so often had been, instead it felt... more... desperate.
More roofs and walls and locked doors were needed. Eleven new huts were being built to replace the last of the trash dome houses. SO many people had come alongside the work, it was all God's work, we could claim not one speck of it. The much needed moneys had been generously given. The physical work was being done by Kenyans. It was a partnership choreographed by the One who loves.
Much more was in the works --- concrete floors for every hut, then jigger treatments for each and every sufferer. And finally shoes for every bare foot.
Many people heard about it, and ---- they ---- cared! They gave.
In less than 5 months every needed dollar was donated and ready.
Our task shifted from raising the needed funds to insuring the wise, proper allocation of them.
Today we visited to see the progress and hold everyone accountable to honesty. Too many thieves live in this place, accountability is a priority.
At the first new hut we were greeted by a drunk woman and my heart sank low. She twirled about in her drunken state asking us to take her picture. Her posing was disgusting and my ugly-flesh wanted to shake her hard. Her children ran around the almost finished hut, excitement gushed from them. Reality was coming too quickly to process. The drunken mother was demanding my attention, but the squealing children was where my focus wanted to be. They were happy beyond words that someone cared enough to build them a place to live; a place with walls and a metal roof and concrete floor and a wooden door. They felt loved and cared for, they felt seen...
Beside me danced the drunk momma who should have been providing this for her children, but instead she had chosen the brew that was rotting her mind and helping her forget. Forget where she was and what she had endured.
And my ugly flesh wanted to judge her...
Oh God --- i wanted to mentally convict her and lock her out of my mind and heart.
And so... i did just that.
My focus lingered only on the children and i prayed for them. They need so much that their mother can't give them --- can't, or won't --- or couldn't, or just doesn't --- confusion comes with poverty, and i was standing in the place where confusion and poverty had won.
We have to choose to not be devoured --- we have to choose to focus on what is true and noble and right and pure... excellent... praise worthy... (Philippians 4:8) The impact of those words comes close when the drunken mother has not kept her focus where it should have been ------- but the children dancing around her wobbly legs are still trying to. And my heart crashes over it all. It's a crash and burn moment that no one can see but my Father.
And my soul erupts in the middle of the filth and i ask, “Lord, HOW COULD SHE possibly keep focus? How much suffering has pressed in on her to wipe away any glimpses of what is right and pure and lovely and... Oh God, it's a pit that sucks-in those who come near... maybe that's why most DON'T come near this place of sin-filled-stench. I feel myself sliding ---- Lord, we need to get these kids OUT OF HERE. Before they get pulled d-o-w-n into the pit that has already taken their mother's mind. Oh God, what are we doing here? ...”
We walked on to the next hut, just sticks and a roof so far, but 3 layers of mud were soon to come. I was despairing in more ways than words will fit into. The children still clung to our arms, their dirty feet leaving muddy footprints on my once-clean-shoes. And my soul asked again, “Lord, are you SURE you REALLY want this work done here in this slum? Are you really certain this is the right thing to do? GOD, i must hear You speak or i'm going to run... LORD, shouldn't we use the dollars given to rescue these children OUT of this horrible place??”
Then the gentle-faced young mother carrying her swaddled newborn baby walked humbly to the door, looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you so much for this home, God bless you and those behind you.” It came out in Turkana, but my heart knew what she had said, even before it was translated for my ears. Her eyes spoke it perfectly...
She was the second momma of the day. The momma of the second house. She was young and barefoot and as she unwrapped her precious child, i could see just how “new” it was. Her whole face gleamed through her shy demeanor as her every move and gesture conveyed love and care.
PEACE was present.
And the confusion in the filth was washed instantly --- the reassuring answer came to my soul---
As 3 powerful words spoke in the middle of a slum ------
“donna, see... i love her d-e-a-r-l-y. I love them d-e-e-p-l-y. My love is NOT altered by where my children are or even by what they choose to do. My love is abiding and near --- and I want this one to know i'm w-i-t-h HER. I am God and I will NOT be chased away by evil. I will enter into the places where darkness torments ------ I would have My love brought to the places where no love is found. donna, don't doubt what I've told you to do, just do it. It doesn't make sense... I know that full well... the outcome might not “work” in your eyes... but it will accomplish the plans I have. Don't question MY plans donna, just obey Me, and love, love, (wash your hands lots) and then love some more. You can trust Me donna ---- this is My work, My plan, My love, and MY WAY.”
And in the middle of Kipsongo slum, Samuel and David and Saul flooded in just as if they might be found around the next stream of mud huts.
Samuel... “here i am Lord, speak Lord, your servant is listening...”
David... “shall i attack ?... Go, attack ---- and save ----.
And then the thought of Saul --- who didn't ask --- but he only did what seemed right to him --- and he wanted, he wandered, he was unsuccessful...
God says ----------------------------------------------
I'm God, ask Me...
I'm listening to you...
I am with you.
I will answer.
In my way, for my purposes (not yours, but mine)... for the good of many (and for you ----- but --- not just you).
Ask – I'll answer --- and the outcome will be mine, I'll take responsibility for how it “looks” and what it accomplishes --- you take responsibility for whether you believed ME enough to obey Me.
Saul searched, but did not find. (He didn't ask God...)
David asked, and got answers, and was rescued from his enemy.
Samuel began his discourse of life ----- asking, responding, serving, and getting answers.
-------------- and the Lord called out, “Samuel!” --- and Samuel replied,
“Here I am Lord.
your servant is listening.”
©2015 Donna Taylor Reaching for the Robe