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.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sacrificial giving

One of the most profound, yet difficult, times on the LTC in Nigeria was an offering we had.

It was a multi-dimensional offering that went on for several hours. We were all asked to pray and ask God for His heart of generosity, and to ask Him to show each of us what we were to give. It started with giving each other words of encouragement, and then moved in to a time of giving money and personal items, either to specific people or into a general blessing box.

Counting the money offerings given in US dollars,
Nigerian Naira, West African CEFA, and Egyptian pounds.

The idea was that we would share as God led us, and be a blessing to others. Many of the students hadn't yet paid their school fees, so part of the goal was to clear as many students' school fees as possible. Everyone was encouraged to ask God what they could give, even if they didn't have money.

But the real heart behind the offering was to let generosity flow, and allow God to work in some of our attachments to money and possessions.

I didn't realize how hard this offering time would be for me. As I prayed, I felt God leading me to give away a personal possession that I used all the time. It wasn't an heirloom, not even a gift. It was just an item I had bought on furlough one time, but had become quite attached to.

The blessing box

For reasons I can't explain, giving that thing away was like cutting off my arm. I wept while I was putting it in the blessing box. I couldn't believe how much my heart hurt. It was the first time I can honestly say I gave sacrificially.

I wasn't the only one. Other people gave away suits, guitars, computers, cameras, best pairs of shoes, even bedsheets. Many people cried as they parted with their treasures, but in the evening, when people shared their testimonies, the joy of giving was real on their faces. All had given and all had received, and there was a strong atmosphere of love and unity among us.

I sent a text message to John telling him all about it. I was still sore and bruised, and was crying as I typed the message.

Offerings laid out on chairs

A little while later John sent back a message, "Aidan was asking me this evening why we have to sacrifice money, and not animals. I thought, 'what a question' and a long discussion ensued. When I told him what you had given away, he burst into tears."

This floored me. Why would Aidan cry over my offering? He wasn't attached to it.

It made me wonder if I was modelling something selfish that Aidan had picked up on, and by acting in the opposite manner (giving something special rather than clinging to it) I was breaking something that even he felt all those miles away.

The first thing Aidan asked me when I got off the bus after my long journey home was, "Mommy, why did God make you give that thing away?"

More offerings on chairs

First I had to explain that God didn't MAKE me give it away...He just prompted and I obeyed. Then we talked about greed and selfishness and getting too attached to material things. We talked about generosity and blessing others, and holding things lightly that God gives us. We talked about the freedom of not being chained down by possessions.

It's not an easy lesson to learn, but I'm grateful for the work God has done in my heart. It's like He helped me pry loose my strangle-hold on the things I have and see that, in the end, they really are just things.

Now if I can just keep remembering that...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Painfully pruned, expecting much fruit

I just spent 3 weeks in Nigeria for a YWAM Leadership Training Course led by the founders, Loren and Darlene Cunningham.

It was a wild ride of extremes for me...the teaching was excellent, but the living situation was hugely challenging for me. I was housed in a hot, smelly, crowded, noisy dorm with 19 other women, zero privacy and zero consideration of whether or not someone else wanted to rest or sleep.

"Be thankful you have a bed," someone said. Yes, good point, but not necessarily helpful when I'm tired and cranky and have no quiet place to recharge.

I struggled with the food. Then I'm hearing stories of times when whole YWAM bases lived on soya beans for 40 days. Our diet wasn't quite that extreme, even if I did lose 5 pounds in 3 weeks.

I struggled with the climate. Hot and humid, my clothes were always sticking to me to the point where I developed a prickly heat rash all over my back. Then I'm hearing stories of running schools in unfinished buildings in the middle of winter and the students having to write while wearing gloves. At least I could shower and cool off a bit.

Those were just the struggles with the basic creature comforts.

Then there were the other challenges that made me feel undermined, unvalued and second-rate. I don't believe this was intentional or probably went completely unnoticed...except by me.

One of the teachers commented in class that, "It's easy to say we want to be servant-hearted and that we're willing to serve others without recognition, but what about when others start to treat us like servants? How do we respond then?"

I had to seriously consider this question in light of my own situation, and came face to face with several other questions, "Who are you serving, after all? If you are doing this for Me, then what happens when you're not recognized, not appreciated, not valued? What happens if nobody cares whether or not you are comfortable or well fed? How will you respond if you are just a nobody in the eyes of those around you?"

Yes, I had learned all about Relinquishing My Rights on my DTS...I had said I would lay it all down and pick up my cross, nails and all, to follow Jesus. But I hadn't experienced what I felt was such a massive violation of "my rights" all at the same time like I did on this LTC, and I'm sorry to say I wasn't very eager to lay them down.

But I didn't have any choice...there were no options for me to change my situation: they wouldn't let me change rooms, I couldn't change the menu, and they wouldn't even let me put the fan on in our dorm room. I couldn't wave my CV around or expect total strangers to respect me...what made me any different from anyone else? Why should they grant me any favors?

All I could do was pray for grace, and He gave me that.

Now I'm home and trying to process it all. Although my instinct is to blot out the hardships from memory, I know God had lots of good lessons for me in those hardships. This morning I was reading John 15:1-17 and thinking, "If I ever thought I'd been pruned before, it was nothing compared to the LTC." God must have been doing some serious cutting back to the quick, because it felt like He stripped me to the bone to get rid of the superfluous and show me what I was made of. Looked like a lot of spineless jelly to me, but somewhere in the gloop I saw a tenacious hold on Christ that would not let go no matter the circumstances. Maybe that's the sticking power the leaders were talking about when they said, "Success is not quitting, no matter how hard it is."

If this truly was God pruning me, then I look forward to the 'much fruit' I will bear as a result. Like Beth Moore said, "No matter how scary it may seem, you can trust God with a pair of shears."

I'll write more about the amazing teachings, new friends, and faithful works of God in Nigeria when I've digested the hard stuff a bit more.

Was it all worth it? Definitely.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An unexpected gift for Bingi and I

This was an amazing gift for Bingi and I…

We had the opportunity to meet with the founder of Youth With A MissionLoren Cunningham…to ask about his visits to East Africa.

For YWAM’s 50th Anniversary celebrations next year, the regional communication team for East Africa is putting together a visual documentary of the history of YWAM in East Africa. I am gathering information from all the bases in the region to establish when and where YWAM first came to East Africa and how it spread from there.

Since we are with Loren and Darlene right now in Nigeria, I thought it would be good to take the opportunity and find out when and where he first came to East Africa for our visual documentary.

I explained my purpose to one of the LTC staff who then arranged for me to have 15 minutes with Loren just before we started the evening session.

I took Bingi with me because I knew this would be our only opportunity to have a personal meeting with Loren and I didn't want her to miss out. When we got to the door and I knocked, she stopped and backed off saying, “I’m scared. I’m scared.”

“Come on!” I said. “This is your only chance to meet Loren personally!”

We went into the guesthouse and all the other LTC leaders were there finishing supper.

After a few minutes, Loren came out and sat with us in the living room. Then he started talking.

One by one the other LTC leaders headed off to class.

But Loren kept talking.

Soon it was only me and Bingi left.

And Loren kept talking.

Concious of the time, I half-heartedly tried to leave at least 3 times,

but Loren kept talking.

Two hours later, when the other LTC leaders started coming back from class, Bingi and I said our good-byes. We couldn’t believe we had been given a private audience with Loren Cunningham for 2 hours!!!

His stories were so inspiring, encouraging and thought-provoking…I have much to process and digest.

What an amazing blessing.

Thanks, Daddy!