Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happy 1 Year In Africa

I’m sitting here trying to remember what it felt like to pack up my belongings, get on a plane and arrive on a continent almost 9,000 miles (over 14,700 km) away from “home,” family and friends. 

It’s been one year, exactly, today.

It’d be a cliché to say, “It’s all a blur. Time flew by quickly…” But the truth is, time did fly and some of my memories, so far, exist only in pictures.

I’ve lived and oh, how I’ve learned.

I rejoice today, not because I’m here in Africa, but because—by the grace of God—I’m being obedient to Christ. I believe in obedience over location. It’s not where I’ve gone; it’s whom I’ve followed. And that person is Jesus.

So here’s a small list of things I’ve learned following Jesus in the last year.

1) True JOY means finding Jesus in everything I do.

I enjoy traveling, tasting new foods, meeting new people, and doing things I’ve never done before. I love adventure. All those things wouldn’t be as fulfilling, though, if Jesus wasn’t in them. I don’t do those things to be filled, momentarily gratified, and then be emptied again.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…” (1 Peter 1:8) When the travel stops, the food tastes OK, the people aren’t nice and I’m sitting at a desk day to day waiting for my ‘next adventure’ my joy doesn’t have to stop. He’s there in the everyday things.

2) It can be lonely, but I’m never alone.

I’m single. In the words of a friend, I’m “single single, like there’s not a guy in the picture at all…” And at times I’m completely cool with that. When I have a bad day or a really great day and I come back to my flat, make dinner for one and celebrate/cope by watching “The Office” or painting a picture, it makes me very aware that I’m alone.

Yes, I’ve learned to live in community. I’ve learned that singleness is a gift. I’ve also learned that life can be lonely whether I’m in my flat by myself or with a crowd of people on Christmas. “…For it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave your or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). So though I’m lonely, I’m never alone. Can I get an amen?

3) Less isn’t always more; it’s just easier with less.

Downsizing was perhaps one of the most painful and freeing things I’ve ever done. When I left for Africa I had two suitcases full of clothes and shoes, and a duffle bag filled with miscellaneous. It wasn’t much.

Having less clothes, less food, less options in general, makes the item less appealing and the occasion more meaningful. It’s not about what I’m wearing, but who I’m meeting. So to me, less isn’t more, it’s just easier.

4) I’d rather have experience than expectations.

When it comes to doing “new” things and seeing “new” places, I keep my expectations low and my experience high. When you wipe your plate of expectations, it’s no longer about what you could get, but rather receiving the moment as it comes. It took me moving to Africa, to learn this.

5) The Gospel changes everything.

I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. There’s people I’ve met and places I’ve been that will never be the same because Jesus made himself known… And me? I’ll never be the same.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in (me) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6) Praise the Lord, because I still have so much to learn.

Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Shades

Painting by Mykul Anjelo

He wasn't beautiful. He wasn't popular. No one even noticed him.

But he cared for me. He saw my fears and my struggles. He saw my heart in all it's wretchedness... and this disturbed me.

He did't make it up the corporate latter. In fact, he was homeless. It wasn't the way he looked at me, though the thought of that makes me ponder. It wasn't the way he's provided, though he's withheld nothing good from me... No, it was the way he poured out his soul to death, FOR me.  

I'm in love with a man who gave it all for me. For you. He's full of great mystery and wonder.

50 shades of red, covered me:

1) To absorb the wrath of God
2) To show me the wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners 
3) To learn obedience and be perfected
4) To achieved His own resurrection from the dead 
5) To please his heavenly Father 
6) To show His own love for me, and for you
7) To cancel the legal demands of the law against us, not just me 
8) To become a ransom for many, not just me 
9) For the forgiveness of our sins 
10) To provide the basis for our justification 
11) To complete the obedience that becomes our righteousness 
12) To take away our condemnation 
13) To abolish circumcision and all rituals as the basis of salvation 
14) To bring us to faith and keep us faithful 
15) To make us holy, blameless, and perfect 
16) To give us a clear conscience
17) To obtain for us all things that are good for us 
18) To heal us from moral and physical sickness 
19) To give eternal life to all who believe on Him 
20) To deliver us from the present evil age 
21) To reconcile us to God 
22) To bring us to God 
23) So that we might belong to Him 
24) To give us confident access to the Holiest Place 
25) To become for us the place where we meet God 
26) To bring the Old Testament priesthood to an end and become the Eternal High Priest 
27) To become a sympathetic and helpful priest 
28) To free us from the futility of our ancestry 
29) To free us from the slavery of sin 
30) That we might die to sin and live to righteousness 
31) So that we would die to the law and bear fruit for God 
32) To enable us to live for Christ and not ourselves 
33) To make His cross the ground of all our boasting 
34) To enable us to live by faith in Him 
35) To give marriage its deepest meaning 
36) To create a people passionate for good works 
37) To call us to follow His example of lowliness and costly love 
38) To create a band of crucified followers 
39) To free us from bondage to the fear of death 
40) So that we would be with Him immediately after death 
41) To secure our resurrection from the dead 
42) To disarm the rulers and authorities 
43) To unleash the power of God in the Gospel 
44) To destroy the hostility between races 
45) To ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation 
46) To gather all His sheep from around the world 
47) To rescue us from Final Judgment 
48) To gain His joy and ours
49) So that He would be crowned with glory and honor 
50) To show that the worst evil is meant by God for good

I take no credit for this list. You can go here, to read in full on each reason that this man came so that I might be with him for now and into eternity.

Do you know him?

To read his profile go here: Isaiah 53

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Africa Advent: Free from Fear

One of my favorite stories in Scripture would be in Exodus 14. The great escape.

God’s people suffered many years, serving Pharaoh, sweating, bleeding and dying at his hands. God heard their cries and He sent Moses to release the people from bondage. So many aspects of this story capture my attention. God calling the unqualified servant. Water turns to blood. Each plague, unique and powerful. Fire pouring from the sky. Literal darkness. The Passover. The pillar of cloud and fire leading the people. And finally, crossing the Red Sea.  

But being in Africa I stop and pause on Exodus 7:10-12, the very first plea to free the people. God told Moses to have Aaron throw down his staff and it would become a serpent, so they would know God’s power. But then Pharaoh called the sorcerers and by “their secret arts” they also turned their staffs into serpents.

“…But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”

Here in Africa there’s a lot of African Traditional Religion (ATR). There’s animism and witchcraft. There’s a lot of “secret arts” that hold these people in fear and bondage.

I spoke with one teenage girl. I shared with her the story of Jesus and the many miracles he performed. Jesus had power over nature, death, sickness and demons. It wasn’t when Jesus raised the dead, healed the sick, or calmed the storm that caught her attention, but when he cast out the demons.

Her eyes lit up and her mouth dropped open. “Wow…” she gasped. I said, “Yeah.” Confused and interested, I asked, “Are there demons here?” She nodded and said, “Yes. Out there.” She nodded towards the whole township.

I see the power of God all around me breaking the bondage of fear and freeing the people from the “secret arts.” They find liberation and freedom in a God who’s power will “swallow” up the darkness they live in. A Jesus who came to cast out demons and to break the chains of fear.
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