It says... “All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.” Right there in front of my eyes, David said it, wrote it down, in another age, so long ago. But the words still speak into today. The Creator cares about and offers shelter to all humanity, and not just in a mansion on a secluded hillside, but also in a shack in the bowels of humanity. The Word says all humanity finds shelter in the shadow of His wings. And the shadow of His wing is found right up under His shoulder, up close, b-e-s-i-d-e Him.
Oh the places He can be found...
“Come pray for a little girl please, she is very sick, and she needs many prayers...”
Those words carried our feet on the packed-earth pathway that weaves between mud slathered walls holding up rusty roofs, with a tangle of twine tied from this one to that one holding dripping dry laundry washed in muddy waters from the stream at the bottom of the hill. Those tight, closed in places where living souls are trying to breathe and live in the midst of stagnant air and... too much evil. We walk quickly, as no good would come from pausing beside the overly friendly men sitting beside the bowl of fresh cooked brew. Here, you walk with purpose, with intent.
We arrive at the doorway and step inside, leaving the bright light of day and entering into darkness.
Eyes must be given time to adjust, if i don't give them time, i'll stumble in the darkness...
As eyes adjust, so does my soul. An adjusting soul doesn't need time as much as it needs the whispering of prayers. God's Word tells us to “Guard our hearts above all else, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23
So when entering “dark places”, it is right to be diligent to put a guard over our hearts.
Prayers are right when we step from light to dark.
Some might say --- we shouldn't go there --- we should protect ourselves best by not going to the dark places...
But my soul has heard His voice speak clearly in my heart --- why have you been given such a great Light if you are not willing to carry it into the darkness?...?...?
Two steps from the blue sky canopy, the rusty tin holds many shadows. But the sounds inside the tiny hut are sweet. A mama speaking softly in Swahili and a child making childlike sounds and my eyes adjust. And slowly by slowly i begin to see. Within the four-wall room that is their home, a mother holds her five year old daughter. The treasure in her arms wears not a stitch of clothing but the mother holds her close ---- you can feel the love in the room. Her daughter's head is dramatically dis-proportionate to her body, the little girl's head is larger than her own mother's. She struggles to hold it up, but she works hard to do so because she has a smile to share --- and her smile ---- is a carrier of intense J-O-Y.
This naked child suffering from an accumulation of fluid on her brain (hydrocephalus), is a giver of joy... and the story told by her mother's eyes needs no language of the ear... this child is loved.
In this slum area tucked in Africa where much is needed... my senses focus in on one thing ---- love.
My human eyes go to war with my heart --- because my eyes want to shoot arrows of “this is SO WRONG” -- but my heart rests in an other-worldly place ---- responding to my humanness by whispering solidly ---- she is loved ---- she is loved ---- she is loved ---- she smiles with joy ---- she knows what it is to be deeply loved ---- look at her mother's eyes ----- she is dearly loved...
One of the things i have learned here in Kenya is that a child with a birth defect is rarely abused by those who do evil things (molesters, abusers, rapist, etc.) because they are “afraid” of catching the “curse” they believe she carries. They usually will not even touch the child.
So this treasured one, is not molested by wicked hands. And that is a great merciful blanket that surrounds her unclothed shoulders.
Her mother holds her as we talk, a translator helps me understand what the mother shares. Little Mary is her third child, two others are older. Mary's father is a good man who sells fruit and vegetables in town to provide for his family. The mother gathers wood in the nearby forest, she then sells to her elderly neighbors. She says of her husband, “He is a good man...” Those are golden words to hear from the mouth of a woman in a slum in Africa, few women can speak those words in these places.
Time slows down...
In a world that struggles with the rush of busy, here, in these moments, it slows down.
Time slows down for little ones like Mary and the kind mother who holds her.
The outside world is shut off from these places. No electricity lines in these alleyways, no television shows invade here, no internet, no emails, no social media presenting its fabricated appearances. Life is raw and basic ---- food and shelter and water take priority --- there is little time for other things chased after by the masses who live beyond the horizon.
We've been asked to come and pray. We've not been asked to come and fix... or change... or “do”. We've been asked to p-r-a-y.
Again – the priority is solid and clear.
This mother does not know what is wrong with her much-loved child. But she DOES KNOW that praying for her beautiful daughter is what is needed. Prayer... simple, earnest, heart-felt prayer.
And little Mary rolls her head from side to side. But as i pray, she blesses me with rays of JOY as she works hard to hold her head steady long enough to be sure i see-her-smile-of joy. It's all she has to give............ and she works hard to give it ............. and i know.......... Jesus is present.
The mother wiped eyes that grew wet as we called out to the One she knows loves her daughter too.
Simple faith --- in a far from perfect place.
Pure love --- in a hard and dirty world.
Complete joy --- in a child's eyes who knows nothing beyond the place where she lives.
...and i'm amazed beyond belief at the magnitude of the wave that rolls through me.
As i leave their hut, i try and help the two dear friends who are with me in their processing of what they just saw and how they are internally responding to it. We usually respond internally before we take action externally (we should), so healthy internal processing can lead to better external thoughts/actions. I know they are stunned – shocked --- overwhelmed perhaps (likely).
Less than a week prior they were doing life in America --- today they met “life” in a completely different setting. Every sense is challenged and all those questions impact the heart before dripping down into the soul. And the processing of it is an important step, for the soul to be impacted in God-honoring ways.
The enemy of our souls is ever watchful and eager to make us view things in distorted ways. He's always looking to make God appear a liar (that hasn't changed since Gen. 3: 1-5).
So as my guests and i walked and talked, i encouraged them to try and “see” little Mary's world from her eyes. She is l-o-v-e-d. She is cared for by the tender, gentle hands of a mother and father --- that is rare in this world. She is fed, and held, and washed, and safe. She actually has more joy and contentment that many children who live in fine places.
We look at her and see neediness ----- SHE DOES NOT.
And we must be careful. We must seek God diligently before we let her see “our” eyes and impose on her a look of pity. Pity would be a mystery to her. For she lives wrapped in joy and love.
Oh it's a hard moment indeed.
But it's part of the “i must decrease and HE must increase” that's found in John 3:30.
We must learn that our Abba does great things in hard places... He doesn't have to have polished, pretty, well-decorated rooms to work His great miracles.
And in this world ------- isn't the presence of complete joy and love ---- a miracle?
Our minds might want to demand that healing would be the right miracle... but would we overlook the miracle of joy and love in the midst of sickness?
I've learned many hard lessons living so far from all that was familiar and comfortable.
I've sat long and silently (imagine that miracle in itself:) -- and looked up.
And i've embraced the suffering that happened at the Cross – where the blood of the Innocent One flowed down on the souls of the guilty masses – and the miracle of salvation was birthed through unimaginable pain.
And i've learned... that my Abba can work so beautifully in places where we weaker ones shrink back. He's not afraid of suffering. He's not afraid of pain. He knows exactly what to do with it. He works miracles in the places we hesitate to touch.
So in the processing with my dear guests, i asked them, “do you think we should immediately cast a net to the many who love us and love God – and raise funds to have a needed surgery to place a shunt in little Mary's body? Do you think the risk of invading her body through surgery done here (not in America, but here, where surgery here looks very different) and with recovery time required, in the place she lives now – do you think that is for sure the right thing for her? Do you think we should “rescue” her from her home, the only place she has ever known, and bring her into our home, for a safe recovery --- where her mother and father will not be able to be beside her... because they will have to remain in their hut so squatters don't take it from them? And what do you think will happen to her little heart, her mind, her soul --- if she endures the surgery, recovers in our home, then goes back to her home w-o-n-d-e-r-i-n-g ---- why? Why is her home so different, why does water not flow threw a pipe, why does light not hang from the ceiling, why...why...why? And in those moments do we really think the enemy of her soul will miss the chance to drain her of the valueable love and joy she now glimmers with?
She will always need follow up surgeries...
She will always need a clean place to live...
She will always need good medical care...
For her to live long --- she will need these things.
But i've learned another hard lesson here.
Life is valuable, this i learned many years ago as a child. But living long is not the most important thing about life. The value of life is found in the way it is lived. What we do with it, how we share it, if we love others with it...
Do you know anyone who lives their life for themselves? What they want? How they can get what they want? Who they can use to get what they want? Distracted... from the needs of others because of the many distractions they surround themselves with...
Are they living well?
But it might possibly look like they are, if we just view the “outside” of them.
If we just look at the outside of little Mary's life, we could wrongly judge it and say, she needs to be rescued from the one room shack in the middle of a slum...
But if we pause long enough to feel the joy-of-the-Lord in the radiance of her smile --- we can more accurately see the good LIFE in her. Perhaps she was placed exactly where she is, by the hand of a God ---- who because of His great love --- also placed His Son on the cross.
Abba can work miracles in desperately hard places.
And we can feel the intense weakness of ourselves in those same hard places.
Doesn't He remind in His word --- that “in our weakness, He is strong”.
I asked my young visitors to let God guide them carefully as they processed little Mary's situation. Not to view it through “American”, “Western-world”, “save-the-world” thinking. But instead to allow themselves to face their helplessness and in that moment choose to see God's able-ness to do all that is needed regarding His precious little Mary. Then ---- in those moments --- in closet-prayer-with-Him --- ask Him if HE would have them do anything according to His good plans for her.
I did the same. I prayed fervently in the same way.
Oh it can feel so wrong to not jump in with everything we've got --- thinking, “this is wrong and i must do something...”
But in the quietness of “being still and knowing that HE IS GOD” --- peace flows strong to trust Him and believe, He knows what He is doing and i----- do-------not.
Perhaps you're reading these words (if you've made it this far) ---- and you might be thinking --- this woman is a nut! I'll laugh with you there and say, i might just be.
But all i can do is learn what my Abba is teaching me --- and trust what He is doing ---- and when He says jump in --- may my feet clear the ground at “j”.
But when He says, h-o-l-d steady --- i'm doing a work that doesn't need your hands ---- may i sit still and pray.
It's a part of “He must increase...”
The hard truth is this...
Precious smiling Mary will likely not live to the fullness of 80 years. She will most likely succumb to an illness sooner rather than later. But the life she is living right now in the little hut of her mother and father who love and care for her --- is rich.
She sparkles with joy. She rests in love. She is content with the sounds of her mother and father around her. She brings Light into a dark place. She proves, things do not have to be perfect in order for them to be good. She preaches the good words ---- “under His wing, refuge is found”.
And His wing is not limited in where it can reach.
Mary will someday leave this earth --- just as we all will.
But i am most certain of this one thing ---- when her little brown feet step into her Maker's Heaven, her head will not falter when that sparkling crown is placed on it. And she will not need help when she lifts it from her normal-sized brow and places it at the feet of the One she is well acquainted with. And her days here may be shortened only to allow them to be increased in a land where there is no suffering, where the lion lays beside the lamb, and no disease or sickness is found.
Guide us Lord ---- help us Father -----
to see things more with Your eyes
and realize how very needy we ALL are
for more of You
and Your ways.
And Lord --- thank you for the JOY you have placed inside of little Mary. Help her Lord to shine Your love in a dark place. Bless her momma and daddy, give them all they need, fill their hut with your greatness, and if you choose to ask us to action on your behalf regarding Mary, we are most willing. We trust You and what You are doing --- more than we trust ourselves and what we would do. So you guide ---- and we will follow.
Oh Lord --- thank you for being God.
Thank you for little Mary.
And thank you for little Joseph --- that precious little baby you put in front of me just four days ago. With his ulcered skin sores and whimpering attempts to scratch them ---
Thank you that with him you whispered so surely, this one... this one... get him the help he needs. And now already, the meds are working and he is being healed.
Oh the places You are found...
“God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” Psalm 9:18