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.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Treasure Island in land-locked Uganda

Mama Caroline Odubo
I was at a birthday party yesterday in the village near our YWAM base, and had the opportunity to chat with Mama Caroline Odubo. Caroline is the Vice President of the Local Council, and the 'Woman of Peace' God led us to when we were first looking for land to build the YWAM base. Caroline and her family sold us the first plot of land.

Caroline told me more of her story yesterday, how her husband ran off with a mzungu from New Zealand and left her to raise the children on her own, how her father gave her a plot of land as an early inheritance, how she cut grass and tied it into bundles and sold it for those wanting to thatch the roofs of their houses.

"I paid my children's school fees through the grass growing freely around me," she said. "That was wisdom from God."

Caroline also cultivated the land, growing sweet potatoes, cassava, sorghum, and beans.

Somehow Caroline got hold of a copy of Treasure Island, and inside was a picture of Jim Hawkins sitting under a tree, contemplating his predicament. When Caroline saw that picture, she also happened to be sitting under a tree. Caroline stopped reading, stared at the picture, then looked up into the mango tree branches above her.

"This is my Treasure Island," she murmured. Caroline told her children, "We will get gold from this place, but we must work hard and not give up. From now on, we will call this place Treasure Island."

Caroline lived in a small grass thatched hut with her children, the chickens and the goats.

"All in one room?" I asked.

Caroline nodded.

"Even the goats?" I persisted.
Chobe National Park - Botswana

"It was very difficult," Caroline said, shaking her head, "but 'Lak lyec negu won ungo' - the elephant's trunk, though it is heavy, cannot defeat the owner."

Caroline painted the outside of her mud hut, then wrote the words of that African proverb on the wall. "Every day I read those words and they encouraged me to push on."

Even though the challenge of raising her children single-handedly was great, Caroline refused to be defeated. Today, her children are doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen.

Whenever you feel discouraged or weary, remember the elephant's trunk, and the brave Ugandan woman who set her sights on greater things.

With God, all things are possible, even an island in a land-locked country.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Seeking, or scared of, the Presence of God?

Recently I heard a statement that literally shocked me into silence.

Our women's Bible Study group is working through Luci Swindoll's Cultivating Contentment, and we were talking about a statement Luci made that, "Our souls are restless with a longing to see God." (pg. 10).

The discussion spun off from that statement to the question, "What does it mean to see God? Can we see Him? What about the warnings in the Bible where God said, ' may not see my face, for no one can see me and live'?" (Ex 33:20)

And yet, earlier in that same chapter the Bible says, "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, like a man speaks with his friend." (Ex 33:11)

One of the ladies said that Moses was special, unique...the rest of the Israelites didn't get to speak with God like that. They used the example of Mt. Sinai to illustrate the point, showing that Moses went up the mountain to meet with God, while the rest of the Israelites stayed at the foot of the mountain, at a distance.

The statement that made my mouth work like a voiceless guppy was this:

 "I'm with the Israelites. I don't really want to get that close to God. 
When God comes near, the earth quakes and mountains tremble. 
Let Him be over there and I'll stay over here and we'll get along just fine."

Pause for a moment and just take that in...

Then another missionary woman said, "Yes, I feel the same. Whenever I try to get close to God, it seems to cost me more than I expected. I'm afraid of what God's going to ask of me if I get too close."

At that point, my jaw slammed shut and a deep sadness overcame me. These women, missionaries who had 'laid down their lives' to follow Christ, were afraid to get too close to God because of what He might ask them to sacrifice, to give up.


I've been pondering those statements for the last couple of weeks, and I've started to understand their fears. Yes, to follow Christ will definitely cost something. It will cost a lot. It will require us to lay down our lives, pick up our crosses. It's not an easy road. It's narrow, it's unpopular, it's a process of dying to self. Why would anyone want to do that?

Because 'those who lose their lives for Jesus' sake will find them' (Matt 10:39). 

Find what?

Find life. 
Real life. 
The life God purposed for you before the world began, before He formed you in the womb.
 (Ps 139:13-16, Jer 1:5)

Why would I want the life God purposed for me?

Because those purposes are designed out of a heart of love so wide and long and high and deep that it's hard to grasp...His love surpasses knowledge...we can't even imagine the greatness of the plans God has for us. Instead, it's much easier to imagine the hardship, the suffering, the cost.

If only we could grasp that love! If only we could be like Moses and climb the mountain, reach out for His Presence.

I believe the Israelites missed their chance for close communion with God. Yes, Moses was special, chosen for a specific task to lead God's people out of slavery.

But I believe God wanted to speak directly to the Israelites right from the beginning...

Moses said to the Israelites:

"Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, 'Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.' You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice." (Deut 4:10-12)

"When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leading men of your tribes and your elders came to me. And you said, 'The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey." (Deut 5:23-27)

The Israelites had an amazing encounter with the Presence of God, and survived! But they felt like they were pressing their luck to want any more. They were afraid that if God continued to speak to them directly, eventually it would cost them too much... they would die.

It was the Israelites who requested that Moses be their mediator...God was quite happy to speak to them directly, but they were too afraid. They chose to keep their distance.

But what good did keeping their distance do for them? While Moses was communing with the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Israelites were building idols. They preferred to worship something made by their own hands, than worship the One who made them. (Ex 32)

Sad. So sad.

Why would any follower of Christ want to be like the Israelites, rather than like Moses? Are we afraid of what God is going to ask of us if we seek His face? If we yearn for more of His presence? Does that fear keep us at the foot of the mountain, standing at a distance, possibly worshipping idols that are 'safer'?

Do we think it will cost less to serve lesser gods?
It will cost will cost us our eternal lives.

Yes, God is to be revered, awed, adored, glorified, feared...but we are not to be afraid of Him. He is our Father in Heaven, the Lover of our Souls, our Good Shepherd. He is our All in All. Without Him, we can do nothing of Kingdom value.

So don't settle for the foot of the God's face while He may be found. Hunger and thirst for His kingdom and His righteousness. His promise is true:

"You will seek Me and you will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13)

Be seekers of God, then taste and see that the Lord is GOOD!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Never Give Up

About 2 years ago, God impressed on our hearts the idea of doing a sabbatical.  As John and I continued to pray about it and seek His will, we felt led to go to Cape Town where John would do the School of Biblical Studies, and I would finish a book I'd been working on for 4 years already.

But the process of hearing God's call to do a specific thing, and actually doing that thing is not as straight forward as one might think.  The road of obedience is more like no road at all.  It's an overgrown jungle path that one must hack through with a machete while swatting at disease-carrying insects and fighting off poisonous snakes.  It defeats many.

John and I made it through that perilous journey, not because we're super heroes, but because God kept speaking a refrain over and over that we took to heart:   
"Don't Give Up."

 Back in July 2011, when we were told by the South Africa High Commission in London that we had to apply for our student visas in Uganda, we thought God was closing the door on our sabbatical in Cape Town.  We didn't have time to get back to Uganda, apply for our visas, and drive to Cape Town in time for the start of John's course.

But God said, "Don't give up."

We got the visas in 48 hours, and arrived in Muizenberg 2 days before the course started.
God is faithful.

We awoke early the next morning in a house with no electricity, no gas for the stove, and no food.  We were cold, hungry and discouraged.  I couldn't even make a cup of coffee.

But God said, "Don't give up."

I got in the truck, and just five minutes down the road found a place where we could recharge the electricity meter, refill the gas bottle, and buy some groceries, all under one roof.  They even had a coffee shop with pastries.
God is merciful.

During the next 6 weeks, when John was busy with his course, and I was left to entertain the kids, shop for food, fix meals, look for a more permanent house, settle the kids in school, do the housework, etc etc, I felt frustrated.  "What about my sabbatical?" I fumed.  "I'm so busy running the house and family, I'm never going to get to write my book!"

But God said, "Don't give up."

We soon moved to a different suburb and finally got settled enough for me to begin working on my book.
God is gracious.

But then I became overwhelmed at the challenge of rewriting a manuscript that was already 4 years in the making.  The outline I had sketched out years before no longer seemed to fit, the characters kept doing things I didn't expect.  Soon I ran out of scene ideas, and had to open the computer every morning with no idea what I was going to write that day.  I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of words.
But God said, "Don't give up."

Over the next few months, God guided my fingers until one day in April, I was finally able to write the words, The End.

God is a promise-keeper.

One of the Scriptures God used to encourage me during those months in Cape Town is:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, 
"In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay."

"But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back."

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
Hebrews 10:36-39

I want to do the will of God at all times, but it's not easy.  It takes stubborn determination to keep going against the odds.  A quote I read somewhere sums it up nicely:

She must be prepared to beat to windward if she would reach her goal.

An easy goal that requires little effort to achieve is unsatisfying.  Yet the dreams of God are impossible to achieve on our own.  They require death to self-sufficiency, and acceptance of the fact that without God, we can do nothing of everlasting, Kingdom value.  The only way to fulfill the dreams God puts on our hearts is to cling to him with all our strength and say, "Let your will be done."  Each step of obedience, no matter how painful, is taken with Him right by our side saying, "You can do it.  I am with you.  With me, all things are possible."

I read a poem that thrilled my heart and made me long for more of the things of God:
I prayed for good fortune, 
God gave me dreams.
I dreamed of high places, 
God gave me wings.

May God give you wings to fly to the heights and achieve the God-given dreams that burn in your heart.  
God is able.

Never give up.

Watch this short video for more encouragement...
a man without limbs who never gave up.
Nick Vujicic

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It is finished! (Well, not quite ;)

After five long years, on again off again, I’ve finally typed those two little precious words...The End.

How did it feel? Awesome. This book has been burning in my heart for at least five years. Every time I put it away, it haunted me until I picked it up again. I would become restless and unsettled just thinking about it until I had a chance to start working on it again.

And yet, it felt anticlimactic at the same time. Ten minutes after I typed ‘The End’ I was in the shower and thought of something I needed to add to that last scene, so still dripping, I reopened the file and wrote a few more sentences. I know very well that just writing ‘The End’ doesn’t mean it’s the fact, I know of several gaps and loose ends that I ignored purposely as I focused on writing the key final scenes. There is a ton of rewriting and editing and more rewriting and more editing to do before I can really say, “It is finished.”

But DANG it feels good to have finally written the end! After all these years, I feel like I’ve finally done it. Time to set up another Ebenezer stone...thus far has the Lord brought me.

And that’s another crazy thing...when I started writing the book, it was part of a creative writing course I was doing on-line, and I had to map out the entire book, scene for scene, as part of the assignment.

So when I started writing, I had all the scene summaries there, and all I had to do was write each scene.

But somewhere along the line, I started changing things which meant I had to scrap the last half of the scene summaries because they didn’t fit with the changes, anymore, which meant I didn’t have a plan.

Ack! No plan?!?! I like having a plan.

I prayed that God would show me the way forward, give me the outline so I could rewrite the scene summaries, give me the ending. But nothin’ doin’. Instead, I felt God asking me to trust Him, to write the second half ‘blind’...just let the scenes come to my mind and write what I saw, what I heard, what I felt.

This was a whole new process, and a bit of a scary one, but at the same time, it was so exciting. Every morning I sat down at my computer not knowing what would happen that day. I had an idea of where I ultimately wanted to end up, but no clue how we were going to get there. I wrote my main character into corners without knowing how she’d get out of them, but God provided a way every time...just like He does in life.

It was amazing, co-authoring with God. My characters seemed to come to life like never before in the first half of the book. Things happened that I didn’t expect. I laughed, I cried. It was very bizarre to be writing and reading at the same time. I can’t even explain the process, and it may sound crazy but that’s what I felt happened. My prayer is that that same partnership will continue through all the rewrites and edits, and that God will get the glory because:

“Lord, you have established peace for us,

All that we have accomplished

you have done for us.” (Isa 26:12)

I could never have done this without God’s, but it has been a long journey of believing in what I cannot see. For any of you still waiting to see God’s promises in your life come to pass:

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast

because they trust in You.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord,

the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

(Isa 26.3-4)

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,

you will receive what he has promised. For

'In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.'


'But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.'

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed,

but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:36-39)

“If you do not believe, you surely will not last.” (Isa 7:9)

Blessed is she who has believed that

what Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” (Luke 1:45)

Those were key verses that I clung to during the dark moments of writing, and I’m sure I’ll need them in the days to come as I go back through the whole manuscript again and again and again. I can’t even think about what comes after that...I’m just concentrating on getting it to the best level I can.

Whatever happens next is up to God. And from what I’ve seen over and over in my life, I can trust Him with the unknown because His faithfulness endures forever.

Many thanks to all who have been praying for me...please continue to do so as I enter this second phase of rewrites. I highly value your prayer covering!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Anointed, whether we know it or not

I'm starting to fall asleep as I type a scene for my book...not a good sign. So instead of berating myself and whining about how boring my book is, I've come back here with another thought to ponder.

A few months ago I read a comment by Priscilla Shirer that stuck with me:
"An author can pen a book without the anointing,
but only the anointed author can write words that carry the weight of God
to accomplish eternal purposes in the lives of the readers."

Like many Christians, I battle between wanting to use my talents for fame and fortune and wanting to use them to bring glory to God. It's the struggle between flesh and spirit, the things of this world and the things of the's age-old, nothing new under the sun. But it's still there.

So when I read Priscilla's words and think about the anointing, my first thought is, "Do I have the anointing to write this book?"

Then I think, "Of course I do. God told me to write it so I must have it."

But then I worry. "Maybe I lose it when my motives are less than pure, when I start imagining my book on the NY Times bestseller's list."

And then I fret and say 'sorry' to God and remind Him (and me!) that it's all about Him, and I want the glory to be His alone.

(This scenario happens on a regular basis.)

So does the anointing come and go? Do I have it when my heart is right, and lose it when it's not?

I did a little research (not much, this isn't exhaustive...don't quote me) and was encouraged by 1 John 2:20-21, 27:

But you have an anointing from the Holy One,
and all of you know the truth.
I do not write to you because you do not know the truth,
but because you do know it
and because no lie comes from the truth...
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you,
and you do not need anyone to teach you.
But as his anointing teaches you about all things
and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit -
just as it has taught you, remain in him.

God has anointed me (and you!) through the indwelling Holy Spirit - the Anointed and the Anointing are One and the same. Therefore, everything I need to accomplish the task God has given me is available to me at all times through the Holy Spirit:

the skill (how do I 'show' the way the thump of an African drum bounces around in your chest),

the energy (wakey, wakey! no falling asleep over the computer),

the determination (I think I can, I think I can),

and especially the faith (believe in what you do not see).

Isaiah 7:9 (NASB) says:

"If you will not believe, you surely shall not last."

So I am taking a stand today to believe I have God's anointing for this task, and I am leaving the results in His hands. I want to be of the ilk that it's said,

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:45 NIV)

May you realize the anointing God has given you through His Spirit to carry out the work He has called you to, and may you be blessed as you believe Him to accomplish it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beating to windward

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't blogged for so long.

The good news is: I'm finally writing my book!

The bad news is: this is the hardest project I've ever undertaken in my entire life.
Helping pioneer a YWAM base in northern Uganda was easier than this.

I decided to blog about this new journey to have a place to sound-off. That writing itch is kind of finicky...I can be fed up with my book but still needing to write. So be warned...a lot of what comes may be complete jibberish. It's just me slogging this out.

Recently I read an article about prayer by Evelyn Underhill and she was discussing the necessity of exercising our will in our prayer life. One statement she made is written on a sticky note and fixed to my desk:

"She must be prepared to beat to windward if she would reach her goal."

Underhill was talking about prayer, but this statement spoke to me on several levels:


The life of following Jesus,
praying 'Let Your will be done' on a daily basis,
taking time to listen to Him and go deeper in His Word,
and then being radically obedient to His commands...
...these are not easy things.

This lifestyle takes sheer, teeth-gritting, vein-busting determination.
It takes that 'Never Give Up' attitude that separates the grain and the chaff.
It involves moments of terror when you KNOW God told you to do that thing, but it's not working,
nothing's going right,
it feels like the whole world has conspired against you fulfilling that task...
...and finally,
when you're sweating and
your nails are bit to the quick,
God shows up and saves the day.

And He gently asks, "What were you so worked up about? I told you it would work out."
Some of you know what I'm talking about.

Zooming in a bit:

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to Know God. I'm studying Isaiah at the moment, and have been struck by the following scriptures:

Isaiah 1:3 "The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel
does not know. My people do not understand."

Isaiah 5:13a "Therefore my people go into exile for their lack of knowledge."

Hosea 4:1, "Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and
no knowledge of God in the land."

Daniel 11:32 "With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him."

There are loads more verses which talk about knowing God, but even in just these few it is so clear how essential it is to know God.
Not just to know of Him.
Not just to pray once in a while.
But to really know Him,
to spend time with Him,
to learn what's on His heart,
to develop that intimacy with Him where you hear His voice
and He teaches you to walk in His ways.

The scariest verse that shows the danger of doing for God without taking time to be with God is in John 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,
did we not prophesy in your name
and in your name drive out demons
and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly,
I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!’

Yikes!!!! How horrible to hear those words and be banished forever from the Lord Almighty.

Knowing God is not something that just happens.
It takes time and commitment.
It takes a hunger and thirst to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. It's a steadfast pursuit on both sides.

Finally, on a micro-scale:

Completing this book will require serious beating to windward. It's been burning on my heart for about five years, but it refuses to write itself.
Each scene is wrestled onto the screen,
each description freezes in my mind's eye and won't let me transform into words.
I'm pushing and pulling, cajoling and pleading.
I give up and go watch Master Chef USA for relief.
I recheck the word total and see
I've only added another fifteen words to the daily total.

It's painful. It's like the marathon that never ends.
Did you hear about that guy that ran a marathon every day for an entire year?
365 marathons in 365 days.

That's kind of what I feel like at the end of the I just ran another marathon and don't have the glutes to show for it.
(As if I knew what it feels like to run a marathon. I can barely do 10km!)

No matter how fiercely those words dig in their heels and refuse to come to my party, I'm not giving up. That's one good thing about being usually comes with an extra portion of determination.

So I will keep beating to windward to write this book while seeking to know my God more and more because He is my secret weapon. I'm not writing this alone. I'm co-authoring with the greatest story teller ever. And that's enough to keep these oars slapping the water.

Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!