Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WFW - Prayer bowls

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.
He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints,
on the golden altar before the throne.
The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints,
went up before God from the angel's hand.
Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar,
and hurled it on the earth;
and there came peals of thunder, rumblings ,
flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

Revelation 8: 3-5

Dave Schmelzer, in his book Not the Religious Type, brings up the concept of prayer bowls as found in the Book of Revelation. He describes the picture of a bowl filled with incense and the prayers of the saints (you and me) which, when full, is hurled on to the earth, and dramatic things happen.

Then Dave poses some questions and ideas...

"What if each thing we pray for has its own bowl in heaven, as it were?
And what if each prayer we pray on that subject finds its way into that bowl?
And when the bowl is full - shazam! - our prayer is answered.
And what if the bowls all have different sizes?
So let's say I have a head cold and you pray for me and I actually do feel better afterward.
On this theory, that's one size bowl, and your prayers filled it.
Let's say, conversely, that we pray for peace in the Middle East.
Can we agree that that's a bowl of a different size?
But the key thing here is that peace in the Middle East does have a bowl -
however vast, it's still finite.
So hypothetically, if we got millions and millions of people to pray about that every day,
perhaps even that bowl is fillable."

I've seen a lot of answered prayer in my life, some that I would consider pretty 'big', but I also have unanswered prayers in my prayer journal, waiting for the day when something big happens on earth and the miraculous comes to pass.

Could it be that the prayer bowls for certain unsaved friends aren't filled yet?

Or is there more to it than the size of a bowl and the number of prayers?

What do you think?

For more Word-filled Wednesday pics and scriptures, head over to Amydeanne's 160 Acre Woods.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A bit of a moan and a self-pep talk

It's another one of those days... I feel myself slipping into a melancholic state, and I'm trying desperately not to give in to it.

John's been in Sudan since last Monday, so I've been doing double-duty as a parent, and trying to keep up with all the communications and decision-making that he would normally do. None of this is new to me, so that shouldn't be a big deal.

But I also have to keep my programs running, and this week we had 2 special events in the prison ministry that aren't in my normal weekly routine. One was to collect Simon, a prisoner we have been working closely with, from the prison gate when he was released on Tuesday and take him home. The other was to visit the women's prison and introduce ourselves and the Alpha Course. We hope to start the course there with them next Thursday.

So life is a little busier than usual...that's fine. I can cope.

But then throw into the mix a farewell party for some friends who are leaving Arua.

Katie (on the right) and I (center) have become very close in the last couple of's one of those friendships where you recognize a spiritual twin. We've shared deeply and prayed hard, and seen God working miracles in our lives.

And now she's leaving.

She's planning and praying about coming back longer term in September with her family, but it's not a guarantee.

I struggle with this coming and going business. Next to having to leave behind parents and siblings and extended relatives and miss out on all the milestones of family life, the second hardest part of missions isn't the pit latrines or malaria or dial-up's having to say 'good-bye' again and again to yet another friend who shared life for a season

and then was gone.

I've just been getting to know Susana (above with me and Katie), my little Spanish prayer partner, and now she's also about to leave.

And Rianne (on my left), a sweet Canadian girl that I trained with and ran the MTN 10k with, only has one more week here.

Yes, there's always e-mail, and both of these ladies plan to come back, but it's still a grieving process when they go, not knowing for sure what plans God has for them,

because His, after all, are the ones that count.

So I've been feeling a bit down in the dumps,

and then my little girl gets sick.

Vomiting, diarhea, the whole nine yards. She's in a lot of pain, but there's not much I can do for her. Seems like a stomach bug is going around because many people are complaining of the same thing, so I dose her up with pain reliever, make her mint tea, and keep rushing her to the bathroom whenever she starts doubling up in cramps. She's only 3, so there's a lot of whining and crying going on, which grates on my nerves at the best of times, but now feels like sharp claws scraping away at the very tiny amount of patience I have left. I know she's sick, so I give her grace, but it's still killing me. I look at the clock...

'only 2 hours 18 minutes 'til bedtime.'

Then my stomach starts getting crampy. It hasn't developed into the full-blown sickness, yet, and I'm praying it won't, because then we'd be in a right mess. My kids need me to be healthy more than ever right now.

I'm not all that surprised with the sequence of events, though...seems like we regularly face challenging situations when John goes away, especially when his trip is highly sensitive. And because I'm kind of used to it, it's easier to fall back on God and say, "Here we go again, Dad! Just tell me what you want me to do...

I'm trusting you for another victory."

This morning my pastor was talking about Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, and he was reminding us of God's promise to Joshua, that He would give him every place where he set his foot. Although the victory was certain for Joshua,

he still had to fight against the enemies living in Canaan.

Right now, I'm looking at all the amazing things God is doing in the prison ministry, and I know He has given us victory, but we still have to fight the battles. I still have to find strength in the Lord, even when my husband's gone, and my friends are leaving and my children are sick. Because no matter what the circumstances, I am not alone. God will never leave me nor forsake me, whether I'm in the heat of battle,

or munching on grapes and honey.

He is with me wherever I go.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WFW - The wrong kind of altars

I got a chill when I saw this photo. It was taken about 3 weeks ago during a scouting trip by some of our team members. They had gone to visit the Lugot people of southern Sudan, and what they found was truly heart-breaking.

Our team came across several altars like this one, and smaller ones built right outside of witchdoctors' huts. When you see the state of the lives of these people, you witness first hand the devastation of life without God. They have set up for themselves high places and sacred stones on every high hill and under every spreading tree. They don't know the one true God and how much He loves them.

We are praying about how to go and tell them.

For the whole story, see The tragic reality of the Lugot of Sudan.

For more Word-filled Wednesday, head over to the 160-Acre Woods.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Living, dying and trusting God in all of it

I just finished reading Randy Pausch's book, The Last Lecture. If you haven't heard of it, it's written by computer science professor, Randy Pausch, who delivered a 'last lecture' at Carnegie Mellon University on September 18, 2007. It seems to be normal practice for professors to deliver 'last lectures' in which they share any golden nuggets of wisdom as if it were their last chance to make an impact on the world. Normally this is hypothetical. In Randy's case, however, it WAS his last chance...he was dying of pancreatic cancer and given 3 to 6 months to live.

I read the book with a mixture of admiration (for his amazing attitude towards finishing the race well) and intense sadness (for his 3 little kids who will grow up without their Daddy, and his wife who will lose her best friend).

Because I'm a sucker for happy endings, I rushed to the internet to see if he had been miraculously healed, but sadly I read that he passed away on July 25, 2008.

This was probably not a very good time to read his book, because my husband is in Sudan right now in an unstable area and I am home with our 3 little kids trying desperately to trust God and not think about becoming a widow and watching my kids grow up without a Daddy. It's especially painful since I lost my own mom to cancer when I was 15, and growing up without her has been excruciating. I actually walked away from God for 13 years because I blamed Him for my mother's death and couldn't reconcile a good God with the tragedy of losing my mom.

Despite all that, the book is very inspiring and Randy really got me thinking about my own life and the legacy I will be leaving behind. Do I live my life as a Tigger (energetic, full of life and enthusiasm) or an Eeyore (always complaining, living under a perpetual dark cloud)?

I immediately picked up Dave Schmelzer's book,
Not the Religious Type.

In the very first chapter, Dave talks about hesed...a Hebrew word that means "mercy" or "kindness" when applied to God, and tells us two things: (1) God will keep His end of the deal, and (2) God will blow us away with shocking acts of kindness, love and power when we least expect them.

With fresh tear streaks on my cheeks and mascara smeared under my eyes from Randy's book, I was gently reminded of just how good God is, and has been, in my life. Yes, I lost my mother. Yes, it was, and still is, hard. Do I understand why? No. But what I do know is that God kept His end of the deal. He said in His word that He would never leave me, and He didn't...even when I tried to leave Him. He tagged along all 13 of those years, watching over me, wooing me back to Himself until I finally gave in and took Him back. Yes, He is faithful.

And since then...whoo! How many times has God not only met my needs, but gone over the top in blessing me...blowing me away with shocking acts of kindness, love and power? Sooooo many! I can't even recount them all.

I don't want to lose my husband...I can't hardly stand to think about it. But if the worst happened, would God still be good? Yes. Would it be hard? Obviously. But I can't walk through life in the grip of anxiety wondering if I'll be a widow and single mother tomorrow. I have to trust God and relax, knowing that if it does happen, He'll be there for me. He'll keep His end of the deal. And in the meantime, He's enjoying blowing me away with all those shocking acts of kindness, power and love.

Anybody need some of that?!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A legacy from my mom

A special tradition I got from my mom (who passed away 22 years ago) is making creative birthday cakes. She used to make all kinds of specialty cakes for my sister and I, and it's a tradition I've incorporated into my own family.

In the beginning, my cakes were a bit iffy... like the time I tried to make a Bambi cake for Aidan and he said it looked like a dog (which in all fairness it did.)

But over time the cakes have improved and now they actually resemble what they are meant to be. Which is why I have to show off this Lightning McQueen cake...

Birthday boy, Joshua Asiki, borrowed our Cars DVD about 6 months ago and has watched it more than 20 times. So when his mum, Cathy, asked if I would make his birthday cake, it was easy to decide what to make. It was a lot harder actually making it, but all the sweatin' and lip chewin' was worth the smile on his face today...

And before I finish boasting, here's a couple more photos of Joshua with his friends, and Kezi sporting a new dress given by her friend, Fatu....the little Liberian girl in the pink shirt.

Happy birthday, Joshua!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Death by chocolate

What an awesome birthday! I think my friends and family, who are very well aware of my chocolate addiction, set a record this year...I got 3 chocolate birthday cakes in one day!

My birthday happened to fall on our weekly women's Bible study day, so Pam (the one on the right) brought a chocolate cake to celebrate.

Then my sweet hubby...

...slaved in the kitchen all afternoon to make me a layered chocolate cake with chocolate cream filling in the middle! (Sorry that the photo is so dark, but what to do?)

Then my hubby took me out with some friends for a lovely pool-side dinner, and Joanna made me another chocolate brownie cake! Ai yai yai!

So this morning I went for a 35 minute run, road my bike 20 minutes back out to that pool, and swam 20 lengths back and forth! My own little mini-triathalon backwards!

What a blessing to have such loved ones around me, even if they do make me gain 5 pounds in one day!

God is good.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

One tired mama

What a week!

Our internet's been down for 9 days (it just came back yesterday), and the electricity's been off for 4 days (not to come back anytime soon).

We've had the National Leadership Team here all week (see the YWAM Arua blog for update) which was excellent, but of course, we are now quite tired.

At times like these, in the midst of the challenges and exhaustion, I thank God for the 3 little wonders He blessed us with who (almost) always make me smile. No recent photos of Aidan, but I'll work on those for next time.

Kezi in her 'bling bling' outfit...a gift from an Indian friend.

Noah and Kezi in their nursery school uniforms...Kezi's first year in school.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

WFW - Training women in the prison community

What a privilege to share the Word of God with these women...younger ones, older ones...all wanting to experience the love of God in their lives. We are running an Alpha Course with these ladies in the prison community of Giligil, and witnessing first hand God's grace in the face of great difficulty.

Their situations are hard, their challenges many, but they persevere.

(For a recent update on this ministry, scroll down to yesterday's post "God is in their midst".)

Be inspired by other photos and scriptures for Word Filled Wednesday at the 160 Acre Woods.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

God is in their midst

Krys (white lady) and Peace (black headscarf) lead a small group discussion

We're into our 3rd week of training on the Alpha Course with the wives of the prison warders at Giligil prison, and I'm struck by several things...

One is that, what I thought was a group of prison warders' wives turns out to be quite different. One of the participants is a prison warder herself, and three others are policewomen! Wow! Can you imagine the impact in the workplaces of these women if they begin to live their lives with Jesus at the center?!

Two, I'm humbled by the meagre resources of these women. I was feeling discouraged because my husband's bike had just been stolen the day before right out of our compound while we were at home! What with the financial crisis and related concerns, we were debating whether or not to spend the money to replace it.

But at the Alpha meeting, one of the ladies in my small group asked us to pray for the people living in the prison staff quarters...apparently the tin roofs are old and cracked, and during storms they can easily be ripped right off the houses. They all leak and rainy season is coming. Suddenly John's stolen bike seemed very trivial.

Cecilia makes tea for the fellowship time.

Cecilia passes around the tea to my small group.

, as a mom, my heart breaks so much more easily for the plight of other children. All of the children of the women in my small group were sick, and one boy threw up twice during the discussion time. It was amazing that the mother stayed to finish the discussion...she just cuddled her son and carried on with the meeting.

It hurt to see all the little kids sick, but what hurt more was watching this little girl playing in the dirt, just grabbing handfuls of soil and letting it run slowly through her fists while the wind whipped it away. I don't have a problem with playing in the kids do it all the time. And this little girl was having a great time, but my mind ran to the playroom in our house, loaded with toys my kids hardly ever play with. They choose to play in the dirt, but this sweet little girl doesn't have a choice...she doesn't have a single toy to play with.

, another little girl broke my heart, too...I can't remember her name, but Krys Cassels, the other Western lady in our Alpha team, noticed there was something odd about her. After asking a few questions, she discovered the little girl has cerebral palsy. She's a year old and not even sitting up by herself. Her mother has no idea what to do for her, but thankfully Krys worked with just such children back in Canada, and was able to show the mother various exercises she could do to help the little girl learn to sit, and hopefully eventually stand and possibly even walk.

Finally, one woman's testimony really touched my heart. I won't relate all of it now, but I just ask you to pray for Regina, the woman in the purple top and green head scarf. She is a prison warder and helps dispense the medicines to treat the prisoners. She is also HIV+. She has been on ARVs for the last 3 years, and has seen tremendous improvement in her health, but life is not easy. I'm thankful that she has the peace of Jesus in her heart, and seems serious about following Him.

I look at these women and the challenges they go through and I praise God for their tenacity. I also pray that they will have a living, intimate relationship with Him that will surpass the hardships of this earth, and that the joy of the Lord will be their strength. I know He is with them.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Do you live beyond yourself?

One thing I love about being a woman is the social part of our nature.

We just love getting together! Any excuse for a gathering, and we're there.

Throw in some food (chocolate in any form) and off we go. We are made to gather. We can't NOT gather.

Our women's Bible study group meets weekly to study the Word, but we also meet for Ladies' Nights, birthdays, holiday celebrations, farewell parties, etc. etc. Like I said, any excuse for a gathering and we're there.

But this weekend was special. For the first time in the history of the group, which has changed over the years with the comings and goings of life on the mission field, we had an overnight retreat to kick off the start of our next study, Beth Moore's 'Living Beyond Yourself'.

Although we live in the remote, northwest corner of Uganda, we are blessed to have White Castle... a nice resort just out of town with a swimming pool, conference room, and lovely gardens. This was our venue for the retreat, and in true 'make the most of it' fashion, we all headed out early Friday afternoon to swim and play before the 'work' started.

Of course, we had to have a toenail painting session...

Joanna, (missionary with World Gospel Mission and expectant mother hugging me), had organized the whole thing, including games, songs, snacks, accommodation, prayer partners and the devotional aspect of it all. What a woman!

And God was with her! My roommate, Katie, is me in a different body...we are so alike it's scary. We even discovered we have the exact same mobile phone, same color and everything, and not only that...but we have the same ring tone! How bizarre is that?!

Katie is such a blessing and a breath of fresh air in my life, although she is a bit paranoid about creepy crawlies. We discovered this cute little tree frog in our room, and I was forced to catch it and take it outside, or Katie swore she wouldn't sleep the whole night.

Another divine partnership God set up through Joanna was my prayer partner assignment. Susanna is from Spain, with a strong Catholic background. She's been through a rough patch the last few years, but God's been with her and she's now on firmer ground. As we were sharing our prayer requests, I heard God say to me, "Your heart has always been in Spain, and for the Spanish people, but you've followed me here to Uganda. Since you can't be in Spain, I have brought Spain to you. If you were in Spain discipling people, this is what it would look like."

I was blown away. Truly God can do all things. A sense of His awesomeness and deep love for me overwhelmed me and the tears started to flow. Why would God bother to meet that small desire in my heart? Because He loves me.

And as we start this Beth Moore study, looking at the fruit of the Spirit and whether or not we are really living beyond ourselves, I am expectant for more revelations of God's great love for me. Just the fact that He gave us His Spirit so we could partner with Him and do the impossible...that we could actually live beyond our own ability because it's His power in us that will accomplish the work He has started...that alone should send us to our knees in awe and reverence. This great big God loves us so much that, as He calls us, He gives us Himself to help us do what we could never do alone.

One thing Beth said in the DVD made me think: "If you're not attempting to do something that is even slightly beyond your human ability to do, than you're not really living in the Spirit." many times have I said or thought, "I can't do that," and turned my back? Of course I can't do it...God's not asking me to do it...He's asking me to do it WITH Him, and we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. Wow...think on that for a bit.