Sunday, August 26, 2012

Getting it

Something exciting is going on.
It isn't the large exchanges of gunfire that went on outside our gate yesterday.  Although that does have its own measure of excitement.
It isn't the return of football season and watching Texan's games at midnight...although there is about to be plenty of that as well.

No, this is even better!  I am finally figuring something out. Something that is setting me free and making me think that GOD may just be significantly cooler than I even thought.  (surprise surprise)

You know by now that I am a former "church girl". You know the type--good girls who always go to church, who know all the hymns, who don't say unpleasant things and who have the bible all figured out. They know exactly what GOD likes and what HE doesn't and they never miss a "quiet time" or they miss GOD's blessing for the day.  That was totally me!

Beth Moore says that the Word of GOD was not meant to make us scholars, it was meant to make us victors.  As a church girl, I knew the Scriptures.  But, if I have to be truthful, I wanted to know them to be smarter. I wanted to have a better grasp on my faith...not on my GOD.  I would approach the Bible firmly tied to my religion so that I knew exactly how to interpret everything I read.  I liked controlled, quiet, ordered services and would say it was because GOD is a GOD of order.  Really, it's because I was uncomfortable with what I felt was not a controlled setting.  I wasn't realizing that when GOD is controlling a setting it may look very different than what I am comfortable with.

A couple of weeks ago, GOD shined HIS purifying light on a couple of areas where a religious spirit was still hanging out.  At first, this freaked me out.  HE was starting to get into some hard and fast (so I thought) parts of my life in HIM. And one of them was a biggie----prayer.  
Since childhood I have been conversational with GOD--I talk HIS ear off throughout the day.  Why not? HE is my best friend! Unlike many others in my childhood, HE never told me I talked too much.  I like that.
But for years I have carried around a secret---I suck at prayer.  I do it...not always very successfully, but I do it. I have read many books about prayer--great and helpful books... but in the end, I am sitting back in my quiet time with my list and my routine. I would pray but I did it because I knew I was supposed to and I truly desired the things I was bringing before HIM and I know HE talks about prayer and its importance and I want to do what HE wants. And after all, this is prayer, right?  Right?

Recently, things got bad. I didn't want to pray that way at all. I didn't want to sit with my eyes closed for an hour going down a list. It was boring and unlike any other part of our life together.  I would talk to HIM the rest of the day, but in the morning, I stopped pulling out my list. I gave up. I was confused. How could I seemingly "get" HIM in so many things but fall flat here.
Then something happened.

About a week ago I confessed to HIM that I just don't like prayer. I don't get how to do it. I decided that this morning I wouldn't close my eyes, or get my list. I was just going to talk to HIM and listen for HIM to talk to me. Fear began to penetrate. What if I didn't hear HIM right? What if I failed?
I had to go for it anyway! And that's what I did. I just talked to HIM. HE even talked back (don't get scared, church girls! GOD does talk to HIS people!) HE told me things. Things about my kids, things about me. It was as if I was talking to a friend on the other end of my couch. It was a real conversation. I wasn't talking "at" HIM. I was talking with HIM.  At one point I started to plead with HIM to pour out HIS SPIRIT on my children...and just as I was saying those words, HE interrupted me and said, "This is prayer".  I was silent (shocking, I know).  This? This is prayer time? But this is fun!!
Then, a picture came in my mind. I believe it was from HIM.  It was the top of Mount Sinai. There was a raised ridge that once you climbed over you were in a small little area on the top. The ground was sandy. There was a rock and there was GOD sitting across from the rock.  The rock was for me! It was my seat facing HIM.  I could just picture myself sitting down there and talking to HIM. I sensed HIM say, "I AM always here to talk to you like this."

A few days later a friend came to see me---one of those friends who knows JESUS really well, a woman with grown kids who has walked the crazy wild life of loving JESUS.  I told her about my discovery and she laughed. She understood.  For some, the eyes closed, long list is how GOD does prayer time with them. HE is a FATHER. HE knows how to converse with each of HIS kids.  But that's not me.  I want to really talk to HIM. I want to pour out my heart. I want to pray HIS list.  I want HIM to decide what's on the agenda.  I want HIM to tell me what to pray so that I can pray it back to HIM.  HE is real! So why did I just talk at HIM like HE was a genie in the sky? Why did I enjoy a real PERSON the rest of the day and then treat HIM like a statue in the morning?

So here's the moral of the story, kids.  Let GOD rock your world.  These are important times in the KINGdom.  Let HIM strip away everything that was built up by religion and not by HIS TRUTH.  Don't be scared of what HE will do.  Learn, study, devour the Word and do it without an agenda.  Hear what HE has to say. Be ready to let HIM change your mind.
Not that life is all about fun, but life is really really fun. And where GOD is, there is life!! So, give HIM free reign to invade all the safe, religious areas of your life and fill them with HIS GOD life!

This is not a safe journey---but it is an exciting one! I want to walk this adventure with my LIVELY, UNTAMED LION of a GOD. Besides, walking with a PERSON is so much more fun than walking with my lifeless church girl checklist. And the conversation is significantly better...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Keepin It Real

Let me start with the disclaimer---I love Africa.  I ached to come for ages and I know GOD sent us here.  But lately, I feel weary of it.

I am tired of...

* everyone asking me for money.
* explaining and repeating and repeating...and repeating instructions and when the work is's still wrong.
* having nowhere to go for fun.  (That's not exaggerating.)  There aren't any parks, playgrounds, bike trails or even one single fast food restaurant in all of Conakry.
*  our family jumping from one illness to another.
*  trash.
*  rain
*  slow internet (i miss youtube)
* buying everything online
*  mice and lice
* did I mention trash
* crazy expensive prices (think 60 dollars for a pound of cheese)
*  being cheated at the market...or at least the attempt to.
*  my uncut, uncolored hair.
*  having no place to drive to when I am angry and just want to be alone.
*  not driving at all...having to rely on drivers to go anywhere

This is how I feel...but as I've been learning lately in Ephesians--the reality is that I am blessed with every spiritual blessing.  So even though these are frustrating parts of life in Africa, I can know that in the midst of them, I am lavished with blessing from my FATHER...not in spite of them but in them!
This is where it matters: Believing HIM, I mean.  It's easy to believe that I am blessed when I have scenic places to walk with my family, healthy kids, plenty of activity and our family all around us.  But if I believe it then and don't believe it now then obviously I equated blessing with my circumstance.
GOD is way too cool to let our blessing be circumstances!  Sometimes we see it in them, to be sure. But ultimately, GOD wants to bless us with permanent and lasting things---even if it means I can't actually see them right now.

So..I'm OK with weary and tired...and even with trash.  Because I am blessed with every spiritual blessing. I am seated with JESUS!
and from those seats...things look pretty good!

The Trumpet

Ramadan is over.
I know this because this morning trumpets, drums and other instruments I didn't know were even present in Guinea, shocked us out of a deep, comfortable sleep.  Once the surprise of being awoken by a brass band in a third world country subsided, it was incredibly exciting.  I went to my kids who were confusedly calling out for me and we all headed up to the top floor to see if we could spot the musicians through the dark.  We discovered they were playing outside the gate of our next door neighbor. It was meant to be a joyous alert that their month of fasting was complete.
I am not Muslim, but I still couldn't help but feel excited. The whole thing reminded me of something which is precious to JESUS lovers like myself.  One day we're going to hear a trumpet too!
Exciting, right?!
A time is coming when, like my friends and neighbors here, my fast will come to an end. Life is wonderful but if you love JESUS, this is a time and a place of fasting.  GOD's SPIRIT in us has made us hungry---really really hungry for things we can't see, for a place where we don't yet live.  We hunger and thirst after a PERSON that we long to be with all the time.  Truly, HE is present with us here. It is glorious! But I am really hungry. I am hungry to see HIS face and live in HIS KINGdom and walk and talk with HIM in person.  For now, while HE is bringing all things into order, it's our time to fast.  We eat the temporal food of this world, we endure ugliness and contempt for the NAME of JESUS.  WE are ridiculed, criticized and  marked as intolerant when the reality is that those who love GOD, love people.  But, when the last trumpet blasts, our fast will end and the feast will begin!

When I hear that trumpet, unlike this morning, I hope it doesn't catch me living my life all snuggled up in slumber. After all, trumpets are significantly more enjoyable when you are expecting them to play..

Friday, August 17, 2012

Meet Mrs. Anderson

My friend and I chatted and laughed over coffee yesterday.  She lives about 11 hours out of Conakry in a village.  Occasionally she makes it into the "big city" of Conakry.  I love it when she does.
As we sat and visited, I found myself enjoying her so much that I wished there was a way I could share her with all of you.

Imagine how excited I was when I found out she blogs!!!!

So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you my amazing friend, Mrs. Anderson...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Babies Without Milk

If you happen to pass by my gate on a Friday afternoon you should stop in.  On Fridays the Missionary women who live in Conakry and others who are in from the villages stop by for coffee on that day.  It's come to be known as the Morningstarbucks.  We rotate between bible study and prayer each week...but we have coffee every time.  I order special coffees and creams from the States and for a couple of hours, those beautiful hard-working women, sit in the air conditioning, sip coffee and enjoy JESUS.  For that brief time we all feel kind of normal like we're just doing what girlfriends in the States are doing. When I first arrived, I avoided missionaries.  I didn't want to get caught up in a mini American community here. I was in Africa, for crying out loud.  I didn't come here to make more white friends.
Now, though, as I think of their faces, I can't imagine not wanting to be part of them.  GOD had different plans.  HE wanted them spoiled rotten.  Really!  There are a lot of reasons we are in Guinea--some I can see, and some I can't.  This one, though, I am absolutely certain of.  HE wants to spoil these girls rotten and HE's tasked us with the job.  How fun is that?
Yesterday was Friday. I stood in my kitchen visiting with a few ladies before we began prayer time when a woman entered, a missionary I knew by reputation before I ever met her. She'd never been to the Morningstarbucks before and now here she my kitchen! I was honored and excited and it showed because I immediately put my foot in my mouth. Isn't that customary when one is star struck?  Prepare to get a little star struck yourselves.
She and her husband have been on the missionfield for a long time. In fact, her grown son now lives in another village with his wife and kids serving JESUS. I don't know how long she was here before she simply couldn't handle seeing so many babies die.  You see, many new mothers die and when they do, their infant babies would have to die too because everyone breastfeeds.  No mother, no breastmilk.  So, Ella and her local friend, Adama, began to get formula and train the grandmothers to feed the babies with bottles.  Now, when a new mother dies there is a knock on Adama's door.  She isn't well educated, and she can't write very well but she knows babies and she speaks 10 languages. So, anyone who comes for help will be able to communicate in their tribal language.  
The intimate, kindred setting of the group allows me to see these missionaries in the raw. They share the real needs of their hearts. It's incredibly humbling. I want to tell you the request Ella shared with her friends this week. Right now she is providing milk for 196-197 least that's how many whose names she knows and there are more whose names she doesn't know.  She doesn't have enough milk to feed them all.  She wants GOD's wisdom how to apportion out the formula she has.  She can't turn people away because that is literally a death sentence for the newborn.  Since they weigh all the babies every two weeks, they will work out a way to cut back a ltitle formula from some of the healthier babies so that no one has to starve.  With babies over six months they're mashing peanuts to make a milk that will go further.  
That's desperate isn't it? It is almost unfathomable that in a world where I can buy DVDs, expensive coffees and enough ibuprofen that my children never have to have a fever that babies people love and want will die because they have no milk. I asked Ella how many people she has who are committed supporters of her Babies Without Milk ministry.  Are you ready?  
But she was quick to say that her PRIMARY DONOR always makes sure she's taken care of.  Here and there a check will come from a little prayer group somewhere and help with the $2000 a month it takes to buy the formula and milk for all the babies.

Curlygirl sat beside me during prayer and later that night while we washed dishes she told me she wasn't very good at praying.  "Of course you are", I told her, "Prayer is just talking to the FATHER.  You know how to talk, it's just like you're doing with me right now." 
"No," she argued, "those women pray different."  She is right. 
I guess that when you really get WHO you are talking to, and how desperately you need HIM, praying gets serious. Ok, so maybe our Friday Morningstarbucks isn't exactly the same as what girlfriends in the States are doing...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Joy in the Journey

Our church meets on Sunday nights.  So most Sunday mornings we spend laying around the house and (gasp!) resting.  I love it.  
That's how we thought we were going to spend this Sunday morning as well.  Our plans changed, though, when we found out that a car was on its way to pick us up for an outing we hadn't planned on attending.  I am glad for the mistake because it led us to have my favorite day in Guinea so far.

We drove about an hour out of Conakry and then turned off the paved road onto a bumpy dirt road that led through small villages in thick grass. The large, rumbling vehicle felt like a crude intruder;  its constitution a contrast to the quiet primitive world it was barreling through.  
We weren't meant to ride through this world, peering through windows like spectators. Its simplicity demanded that we join.  
Just feet to dirt.   
We eagerly responded, delivering ourselves from the prison of the vehicle to began the hike.  Now we were part of it, part of the sounds and the smells and the experience.
Curlygirl said, " I could walk forever".

Eventually, we had to arrive at our destination--beautiful, flowing waterfalls.  They were amazing. Breathtaking even. The kids swam and splashed and buried themselves in its powerful cascades.  My Man led them carefully across the rocks where they could climb and explore.  It was a surreal experience. 

and yet, none of it compared to the walk it took to get there.