Life This Week

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I returned from a two-week trip to Zambia, Africa last Thursday. Entry back to life here is always a struggle and this time has been no different. It’s extremely hard to respond to the question, “So, how was your trip?” There is simply no way to answer it in a word or two. Words that come to mind, but are still insufficient: full, hard, alive, heartbreaking, stunning, prayerful. The best words I have found are not mine, but easily could have been, I nearly gasped when I read them:

Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size – even the sky seems higher. And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open. They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they begin to understand why, until then, they have only half lived. In Africa the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death – are more immediate, more intense. Visitors suddenly realize what life is for. To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives we have lost human values that still abound in Africa.

Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, at 1-2.

I have written four or five red exclamation points next to this paragraph, multiple stars, and underlines. Nothing could be more true and it is not just the first time one visits, as Dowden says, it is every time. What I experienced in Zambia was the intensity of the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, and death. Each is present in every single moment, which is why the moments are too full to take in all at once. It’s almost like you have to turn away, take a breath, and return to the moment. God is in every moment and you know it with certainty.

This week what I desire most is that I don’t slide back into the wasteful wealth and time-pressed life that I left, but that I remember and embrace the essentials of existence, so:

I’m asking God to remind me of the essentials. Light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, and death. Life is not life without any one of these.

I’m bathing my life in Scripture. I haven’t reached a full understanding of this yet, but something about recognizing these essentials of existence is critical to living out God’s Word. Interaction with widows and orphans sparks this connection. James wrote, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) These always seemed like separate thoughts: 1) take care of orphans and widows; and 2) keep oneself from being polluted by the world. But, I’m beginning to see they are one thought. Each enables the other. It is no wonder James also wrote: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) I am dedicating more time to reflecting on and living Scripture.

What does your week look like?

How could you bathe your life in Scripture?

Life This Week

imageThis week I will be in Lusaka and Ndola, Zambia.  I arrived in Africa on Saturday morning.  Unlike my last two trips, I am very homesick already. I am looking forward to my time and it will be good to see dear friends.  But I am really struggling with the desire to go home.  Who knows why it is so strong but I’m praying God uses this time to continue conforming me into the image of Christ. I have been praying nearly constantly for courage and strength. It is quite stunning to be in Africa. I still can’t get over it. God blows my mind. Enough rambling. This week:

I’m praying for courage and strength and health.

I’m praying God will use me in whatever way brings him glory.

I’m thanking God for the opportunities he has given. Who would have ever thought?

I’m praying for my sweet girl back home that she feels loved and secure.

I’m trusting I will encounter God today…and every day.

Life This Week

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My trip to South Africa and Zambia is upon me now. This is my third trip to Africa, yet in some ways it feels like the first. I know more what to expect, but the fears, anxieties, and uncertainties about the travel are no different. The trip is no less significant in its impact on me than it was the first time. God is faithful to grow me on this trip, when I am out of my comfort zone, totally reliant on him and those he places on my path. In quiet moments, my stomach tightens at the thought of relying totally on God. I wish it came more easily, but it is always a struggle. There is only so much letting go I can do in the routine of my life because I know how to manage things. I operate much of the time (knowingly or not) under the illusion that I control my circumstances. On a trip across the world, there is no such illusion, all control, imagined or otherwise, is stripped away. This week, I am in prayer and surrender:

I’m praying. Father, keep me safe. Keep my sweet girl safe and feeling loved while I am gone. Make the skies smooth. Defend my body against sickness and ailments. Guard my heart against fear and anxiety. Show me beautiful things, new things about who you are. Make my time fully glorifying to you. Bring me home safe, filled with your love, aware of your character, and quick to give you thanks and praise.

I’m asking for prayer. Please pray for me, especially in the moments the Holy Spirit brings me to mind. You won’t know why, but I will need you to carry me into God’s presence in that very moment.

I’m relying on God’s promises. In particular, I’m holding onto this one: “Do not be anxious, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

I will be writing as much as I can when I am gone because I know I won’t be able to help it, God will show me amazing moments, introduce me to beautiful faces, and place in me a deeper understanding of his love and provision.

What does your week look like?

My To-Do List for this Week

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It’s Monday again.  This week has a ton of potential.  Yesterday at church, we started a three-week series called Celebration of Hope, during which we will learn about churches around the world, serve churches in Africa and South America by providing for community needs like seeds, medical supplies, and clean water, and help equip their pastors and youth leaders.  I could wait out the week and see what the teaching is next Sunday, but I can’t do it, I’m taking this last Sunday right into Monday.  Here’s my to-do list:

I’m expecting to encounter God today.

This tops my list again this week because there is just nothing better.  Psalm 89:14 (NLT) says that unfailing love and truth walk before God as attendants.  I’m looking for unfailing love and truth.  There, I’ll find God.

I’m reading Scripture out loud to myself.

This one from Acts 2:42-47 never gets old to me or fails to fire me up.  When the church operates this way, it is the hope of the world.  I’m reading it out loud.  I may even stand up!

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God, and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I’m inviting a friend for dinner.

It’s one thing to text and email love and encouragement.  It’s another to sit down, face-to-face and have a conversation over dinner.  One says love and one does love.  Both matter.

I’m carrying around one of Jesus’ questions.

Last week, I typed out Jesus’ question, “Do you believe I am able to do this?” and set it as the background picture on my phone.  My faith grew last week because I finally turned over to God a wound for healing.  I had not believed he could.  This week, the question I’m walking around with is from Luke 6:46: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  Every time I look at my phone, this question will be there.  Who knows what could happen as this one makes its way into my heart at the same time there is such need in the global community.

I’m writing letters, packing seeds, and praying.

I sponsor three precious, growing kids in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia.  Today, I’m writing each of them a letter to encourage them and their families.  Every day this week, I’ll pray for them with their pictures in front of me.  On Friday, my daughter and I will join our church community and pack tomato and squash seeds into small white envelopes that will be sent to Africa to help communities there grow gardens.  I’m praying for each person in our world who is hungry.

I’m thanking God.

I am thanking God for my daughter and for the way he works through his church.

What’s on your to-do list this week?

Scripture to consider:

Psalm 89:14

Acts 2:42-47

Luke 6:46