Posted in Choices, Harvest, Healing, Love, Uncategorized

The Dance

Worship
No on knows what’s behind these lifted hands.

It’s been a few weeks since my last post; we’ve been in the middle of a move and if you’ve ever moved you know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, the house we moved to is a short distance from where we were, making the actual transporting of our things a bit easier. I still need to hang curtains for the few curtains I had are too short to fit the windows – I’m wondering how long I can bear leaving my few bedsheets on the windows.

I’m forever explaining myself away.

Why I’ve not posted a blog.

Why my husband and I choose to keep pursuing overseas missions.

Why, why, why do I feel indebted to explain everything away to everyone?

Romans 13:8 NASB “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

Inside I feel, as I suppose many of us do, the need to be understood and accepted. I easily concur with the above verse from Romans; the only debt I have to others is to love them. However, I want others to love and accept me and my natural tendency is to explain things away to gain approval.

What a waste of energy because the opinions people have of us can change as swiftly as the direction of the wind.

In our church here in Bujumbura, we have a lovely lady named Mama Christine Makamba who is one of our cell leaders. To get by, she farms; she works hard and shares her harvest with poorer single mothers who attend her home cell group. When they arrive at her home for meeting, she has a meal prepared for them and spends time listening to them, praying for their needs, and trying to help them find a way to feed their young children.

This past Sunday, as usual, Mama Makamba and I chatted about her group, about certain ones we want to help, and as she talked I marveled at her smile. Her joy is almost tangible when talking about her ladies and the change in the lives of her members. Her frustration also rises to the surface when she feels she’s not breaking through and making a difference.

What most people don’t know about Mama Makamba is that she is 67 years old (she won’t mind me saying so), has had 10 children and was a pastor’s wife in one of our churches. Her husband died about 10 years ago from complications of a stroke he had a few years prior. Two of her 10 children were poisoned and died and she has had to face the harsh realities of life as a widow in Africa. I can’t imagine what she has had to endure.

And yet, she has the strength to smile and the strength to love. She believes in paying that debt of love.

On Sunday, Mama Makamba is the only older person in our worship team. Everyone else is much younger but they all sing with her without regard to her age, and I think this is because she loves them all and it shows. She leads them in joy and love – and when she dances something moves in the heavenlies.

No one, besides God, knows the price she has had to pay, the price any of us have paid to get to where we are and there’s no explaining away the work of God in each of us because His grace meets us all where we need to be met. No one else, besides ourselves, can “get” what He has done in and for us and that gives us reason for joy.

I’ve decided, instead of explaining, to follow Mama Makamba’s example and dance – God knows why I’m dancing and He is the best Partner.

Zephaniah 3:17 NKJ “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

 

 

Posted in Choices, Destiny, Fame, Fear, Popularity, Uncategorized

Keeping Things Under Wraps

walk-of-fame-2163255_1920

Popularity – pɒpjʊˈlarəti/

noun

  1. the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people.

How much of our lives is spent in the pursuit of what is popular or to become popular? For some reason, we are wired with an innate desire to be liked, to be first, and to be the best. Early in childhood we all wanted to be first on the best swing, first on the climbing frame (monkey bars for all my US readers),  and first to take a turn at hop scotch. From there, everyone slowly steps into line in the “pecking order” of the group; everyone knows his or her place. The first place always goes to the one who won, who got there first. Thus, the “popular kid” is born.

As you might have already guessed, I was never the first kid on the playground. I wasn’t blessed with the speed needed in those days to get the coveted first spot. Now, looking back, I realize that there were very few first kids because there could only be one first place among a group as large as our elementary class of 20+ children. The great majority of us were simply the ones who came in last – for first was all that mattered back at that time.

Try as we might, human nature (especially when it is unredeemed) continues to chase after the invisible goal of popularity. As much as we wish it didn’t, the idea of pleasing people, being propelled into the spotlight as “best in class” still can entice the humblest among us.

Enter Jesus.

John 2:25 ESV “and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

Throughout Jesus’ three-years of ministry on the earth, He did nothing to raise His own profile on purpose. His profile was raised naturally by the fact that His goal was to fulfill His Father’s will (Luke 22:42); not His private agenda. I imagine it would have been very easy for Jesus to convince the disciples to engage an advertising company, raise banners, start a Twitter account (not really but the ancient equivalent), and offer free fish sandwiches every Friday evening by the Sea of Galilee. Indeed, there were times it seems the disciples wish He had taken the popular route.

Acts 1:6-8 ESV  So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”

Even after all they had witnessed (ministry of miracles, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus), the disciples still wondered if they were going to be “first” among the nations. Patiently, as per His character, Jesus simply said (my paraphrase), “It’s not for you to know…but I’m giving you power to go, so go and tell the world the Good News.” It seems that His response stunned them for in Acts 1:10,11, they simply stared into heaven and had to “snap out of it!” (Again, my paraphrase!) By all accounts, it seems they couldn’t believe that after all Jesus had been through, He wanted the world to be reached – through them. He wanted them to stop thinking about themselves and look to those around them who hadn’t experienced what they had.

Wherever Jesus went, except when entering Jerusalem for the last time, He didn’t seem to put much weight into the thought of being popular as He knew what was in the hearts of men. He knew, as He went down the road to Jerusalem for the last time with crowds praising Him, that not many days would pass before those who cheered Him on would crucify Him.

Popularity, it’s a poison that, when it takes effect, seduces and then destroys those who are unfortunate enough to fall victim to it.

I’ve been reading in the book of Mark and have begun noting scriptures where Jesus wanted to keep miracles “under wraps” as it were. In 3 chapters alone (chapters 7-9) I found 4 separate instances where Jesus didn’t want anyone to know what had happened (Mark 7:24; 7:36; 8:30; 9:30), this begging an answer as to why?

Some say if word got out of the miracles then His ministry would be hindered by the vast crowds. I can understand that viewpoint but there are many instances in the Gospels where Jesus ministered to large multitudes.

I wonder if Jesus didn’t try to keep things quiet at times in order to keep the monster of popularity away. Once word got out, for example, that someone has raised from the dead or been healed of leprosy, I’m sure every newspaper and important figure in town would have wanted to see the person themselves – all at the risk of becoming popular.

The Son of God chose to come to this world in the most obscure way, had an opportunity to become popular (and in fact was popular for a time but was not wooed by it) but ended up dying between 2 thieves.

I wonder if we took the energy we expend on garnering popularity and shifted even a small bit of that energy  into “going” (as the disciples were told in Acts 1:8) to all the world, we would find ourselves in a much better place. The world wouldn’t hold us and the grave would no longer frighten us.

John 15:18 NLT “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”

 

Posted in Courage, Fasting, God's call, Uncategorized

When I Danced Bollywood

bollywood

Have you ever wanted to be someone you’re not? Or be able to do something you’re not naturally talented to do?

I’ve tried my hand at many things: embroidery, cross stitching, making small rugs, pottery, many different crafty things but the very best (futile) attempt I ever made was at Bollywood Dancing. Yes, you read correctly – I tried my best to fit in with Bollywood. (For those who might not have heard of Bollywood dance, it is a form of dance from India.) The story goes like this:

I’m a lifetime fitness enthusiast; I have exercised everywhere I’ve lived and that has often presented me with some challenges but I’ve always been ready for a challenge. When we lived in Lilongwe, Malawi, I found a small group of ladies who welcomed me to exercise with them and it was wonderful! I truly enjoyed the classes and I was also offered the opportunity to share Christ with a group that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.

It was with great hope then, when we moved to Blantyre, Malawi, that I looked for a similar group to join. With the advent of social media, I quickly found several groups but only one piqued my interest. It promised 30 minutes of cardio training and 30 minutes of strength training. While I’ve grown accustomed to working out alone, I do like finding others who have the same fitness interest as me. The class met on a Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 pm; I waited anxiously for the day of my first class to arrive.

Finding the venue wasn’t too difficult, even for me, the most directionally challenged in our family. There were many cars parked out in front of the house where the class was to take place. I entered a bit gingerly, unsure of where to go but was ushered in by a very kind lady who I later learned was the instructor. The garage of the home had been turned into an exercise studio of sorts and everyone scouted out and claimed a spot. I found an inconspicuous corner in the back of the room, spread my exercise mat out, and waited for the class to begin.

As with most classes, we began with a stretch which was nice; I was pleased that I managed all the stretches with everyone else. Once we had finished with stretching, the background music changed from a slow warmup pace to something much faster and a bit foreign to me; it sounded a bit eastern and it was fast. Suddenly the instructor said, “Alright everyone, it’s time to Bollywood dance!” The atmosphere changed and everyone began moving in ways that I had never even thought was in the realm of possibility for me. The instructor and other ladies in the class tried their best to show me, to encourage me with the steps but it was to no avail – any hopes I might have had up until this point to be a Bollywood dancer had been thoroughly dashed.

Thus ended my Bollywood career. No matter how hard I might have tried, I simply wasn’t able to follow the steps. I even tried to go back a second time – and it was worse than the first time! It was back to working out alone for me, but it can never be said of me that I didn’t try Bollywood dance.

The call of God, thankfully, doesn’t depend on our natural talent. If serving in Africa depended on our natural talents, I’m afraid the work here would be sorely lacking. What is there that we can offer to the people of this continent that can bring change to their lives? When we first landed in Zaire in 1987, we were overwhelmed by the need that surrounded us and the crushing poverty of the people. Where were we to start? What were we to do? How could we possibly help? We didn’t have any natural abilities that could bring any substantial change; what had we gotten ourselves into?

It wasn’t until I understood that God isn’t looking for talent, He’s looking for obedience. He then supplies whatever we lack to get His work done. The key here is understanding that the work He calls us to do is His work, it’s not our own.

1 Samuel 10:1-10 gives the account of the choosing of Israel’s first king: Saul. He didn’t come from a rich or popular family. In fact, when he was anointed king, he was on his way to find his father’s donkeys that had gone missing. Imagine, a king looking for donkeys! What Saul did, however, was follow instructions at that point and when the time was right, God changed him into what he needed to be for the task assigned to him:

1 Samuel 10:6 NKJ “Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”

The work of God clearly can’t be done if we qualify for clearly, none of us qualify! The needs of this world are devastating and without Jesus at the center of it all, it would be impossible. Without God’s power empowering us, we’re just out looking for donkeys!

Today, allow God to exchange your lack for His abundance, your weakness for His strength, and your nature for His. It won’t be like Bollywood dancing was for me, flipping and flopping all over the place. You’ll find yourself keeping pace and walking in step with His plans and seeing things done that only He could do.

“The call of God is an expression of God’s nature, not ours.” Oswald Chambers