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.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

When it all just seems too much...

I wasn't sure whether to write this post or not until I received an email from a friend sharing her concerns about coming back to Arua for another short-term stay. It was her statement, "I feel like God wants us to come back to Arua, but I'm not sure if I want to go" that made me think...Yeah, I need to write this.

You see, it's not just my friend who is torn between wanting to come back, and not wanting to because she knows the challenges she and her family will face... after 13 years here, I also still face that same battle.

The most recent time was just last weekend. I'd spent 2 glorious weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand, enjoying airconditioned hotel rooms, hot showers, pothole free roads, Starbucks coffees and hi-speed internet. I came home anxious to see my family, but this time the transition back was so much more difficult.

On the bus ride up to Arua (7 hours in the baking afternoon heat), all I could see was the rubbish that littered the road, the huge plumes of diesel smoke from the battered lorry ahead of us, the rusted tin roofs, the dirt-stained buildings, the dilapidation, the poverty...

I've seen it all before. I live in the midst of it. But this time it affected me deeply...not with a new burden to bring change, but with a new desire to run away.

The next few days I tried to get back into the swing of things, but unbeknownst to me, I was in the first stages of malaria. I thought the body aches and lack of energy were just due to the long journey, and I tried to keep going, but by Tuesday I was shaking with fever and later that day discovered I had malaria.

That day and the next, all I could think about was how fed up I am with Africa. I ranted and raved about the corruption, the disease, the filth, the underdevelopment. I told John, "These are no rose-colored glasses...I'm wearing mud-colored bifocals and the view from this side is hopeless."

I just wanted to get out. I'd had enough. Why am I here? I kept asking God. Haven't I 'roughed it' enough?

I could see no good thing in my ministry here. What had I really done to make any difference? The kids on the other side of the fence are still walking around naked with snotty noses and nothing I'm ever gonna do will change that.

I was really in the pit of despair.

Then God spoke to me once again through Beth Moore (I just love that woman!). She was teaching on Daniel 6 - in the lion's den, and she focused on v. 10 where Daniel learned about the decree prohibiting prayer to any god apart from the king. His response was to go back to his upper room, get down on his knees, and pray, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Beth pointed out that Daniel had developed a holy habit of prayer that became his default response to any emergency.

She said we all have default responses to emergencies: we can become critical...blaming everything and everyone; we can react in anger...raging against everything and everyone. She mentioned several others but my mind had latched onto those two and I thought, "That's just what I have done. For some reason coming home this time has triggered a default pattern in me to criticize and blame everything around me for how miserable I feel."

Beth went on to point out that Daniel didn't just pray, "Lord help me help me help me!" but he gave thanks to his God. Beth took us to Phil 4:6-7 and reminded us that we aren't supposed to be anxious, but to pray about everything, and do it with thanksgiving! And doing that will guard our hearts and minds!!

Boy did my heart and mind need some guarding. I had to pause the sermon right then and get down on my knees and say sorry to my Daddy for my attitude, my criticism, my lack of thanksgiving. Something in me broke and I just cried in my Father's arms, and soon I could see all the wonderful things He has blessed me with. And I began to name them, and thank Him for them, and soon that peace He promised came and blessed my soul.

I know it's not all about me, but it's easy to make it seem that way. However, I want to reset my default settings so that, instead of ranting and raving and generally hating my circumstances, I automatically drop to my knees and begin praising my God, thanking Him for His wonderful works and glorifying His name.

Because you know what? No matter my circumstances...He is worthy to be praised.

Friday, March 12, 2010


This is team bonding at its best...a bunch of YWAMers braving the unknown, overcoming their fears, and stepping into new frontiers together...

...the FISH Spa!

<--- Pam, Becs, Sarah, Kris, Calvin, Leda and Kelly cozy up for the foot nibbling experience.

Martijn and Mark also joined in
on the fun --->

<--- In the beginning there was lots of squealing and water splashing as some of the ladies yanked their feet out of the tanks. The swarming of the fish and the little nibbling sensation was just too much to take at first, but eventually everyone settled down to let the fish do their job.

The Fish Spa is right near a main road
with glass walls so everyone
can watch as the fish
eat off the dead skin
on your feet and lower legs. --->

<--- Some of the fish are tiny; others are a couple of inches long. You can really feel the nibbling of the bigger ones. It's the strangest feeling to have all these fish chewing on your feet! Yes...those are my feet in there!!

We stayed at the Fish Spa for about
an hour and a half,
but it was far from boring.
Apart from the whole 'fish-eating-foot' experience,
we also got to watch some kids
playing on all kinds of funky toys in front of the Spa.

This little boy was bouncing on
this curved, pogo-stick like thing. --->

<--- He managed to bounce quite high at times.

This guy here was REALLY good
at the pogo-stick things. He wore one on each
leg and did all kinds of tricks.
Here he's kind of doing the splits --->

<--- More bouncing!!

Sooooo, if you're ever in Chiang Mai
and looking for something really
to do, head for the Fish Spa.
It will be an experience
you'll never forget!!!

Pics and thoughts from Chiang Mai, Thailand

After days of CRIT meetings in the hotel, we had the opportunity on Thursday afternoon to get out and explore the city of Chiang Mai.

Here are a few of us serving in communications in Africa: (from left) Vikki (me!), Pam, Tim, and Lydia. Far right is Sarah from Nigeria who is serving in the Asia Pacific region.

Some of the more interesting local cuisine
was on display at food stalls
near a waterfall.

The flames were keeping the bugs off the bugs.

Charles got an up-close
look at the bugs
but couldn't quite
bring himself to try any.

Erduk, however, was a little more adventurous.

Here he's about to eat a fried worm.

Here's a cute little girl
enjoying the cool water at the waterfall.

Although their religion encourages a lifestyle of humility and denial of material things, the lure of the mobile phone is great.

This huge statue in a Buddhist temple
reminded me of the 90-foot golden statue
that King Nebuchadnezzar erected in Babylon.
In their integrity, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
refused to bow down,
and God met them and delivered them
from the fiery furnace.

This sweet old man (yes, he is alive) has spent his life meditating his way to nothingness.
If only he new of the One Who had big plans for his life.

I'm not very sure what this sign means,
but I do know that there WAS a beginning,
and the Word was there,
and the Word was God.
And He came to us in the flesh,
to reconcile us back to God,
to die for us
so we might live.
And His name is Jesus.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Being a fool so God can be King

Before I left for Thailand, I was conscious that God has specific reasons for this trip, specific things He wants to do in my life, specific ways He wants to lead me.

I was also conscious that I could get in the way of what God wants to do by letting pride in my abilities or giftings take attention away from God. It would be so easy to receive the accolades and fall prey to the false belief that it's somehow all about me.

Such a danger, pride. So sneaky and destructive.

As I prayed with a good friend before I left, she was impressed with a picture of me carrying 2 flags. One flag represented my achievements and giftings. The other represented God. And she prayed that I would raise high the flag representing God, that I would point others to Him no matter how much they may try to lift the arm holding the flag of 'my' strengths. She prayed that every compliment, every piece of attention, would be redirected back to God, because He alone is worthy.

It's so easy to idolize things
(wealth, education, achievements)
when really God should be the
only One on the throne.
A Hindu altar in the mall in Chiang Mai --->

So that was the prayer I came here with, and I told God, "Dad, I don't want to miss anything you want to do through, in and around me this week. I'd rather look like a fool than miss out on anything from You. Keep me humble."

God loves to answer prayers like that! Be ready if you pray something similar. This is how God answered my prayer:

Day 1, getting ready for the first sessions of the first day...I blew out the fuses in my room trying to run my hair dryer on the wrong voltage. Duh! The hotel engineer had to come to get the lights turned back on.

A few minutes later, down in the dining room, I spilled coffee down the front of my WHITE trousers just minutes before the meetings started. No time to change or clean it up.

After lunch, I managed to lock myself out of my hotel room. By the time the engineer came (AGAIN!), I was 15 minutes late for the afternoon session and looked like a tardy school girl.

Yes, God answered my prayers...kept me humble by helping me gently look like a fool, not only in front of my CRIT colleagues, but also in front of the hotel employees! I'm sure the people at the front desk are saying, "That lady in room yai yai. She's going to give us headache!"

<--- At least I didn't have to wear one of these t-shirts that they sell at the night market for God to get His point across!

No, it's not easy when God actually responds to those kinds of prayers, but I appreciate His faithfulness because it protects me. It keeps me in the place where I can't raise my own flag, because mine is impractical, clumsy, coffee-stained and late.

But God's flag is elegant, white and always timely.

May He keep me focused on Him, may He give me the grace to raise His flag high, and may He be glorified in every minute, because He, alone, is worthy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thailand: a new perspective

I arrived in Bangkok airport yesterday around noon, grabbed some lunch and sat in a quiet corner overlooking a beautifully landscaped garden. Some kind of temple sat in the center of the garden, surrounded by golden dragon-like birds mounted on tall poles, as if standing guard.

The last time I was in Thailand was in 1994, when I was still in the thick of a 13-year spiritual quest to find the meaning of life; to prove there was something 'bigger' out there.

I didn't find the answers in Thailand. Instead, I followed the hippy trail around the country, from the drug-infested hill tribes in the North, to the drug-infested beaches in the South. Everyone I met was trying to connect with a higher power, usually 'assisted' by psychologically enhancing opiates. There was deception on every corner, and I stupidly got scammed by fake gem merchants in Bangkok.

My visit back then was all about me.

Today, my prayer is that this visit will be redemptive of the former. That it will be all about God...what He is doing in this place and around the world, and how I can serve Him in the giftings He has given me. I pray that His love and compassion for the people in this place will rise up within me.

May God be glorified in these meetings and in my life, for He, alone, is worthy.