Religion

40 Plus a Few Days

A few days back I had my fortieth birthday. I am a few days into my new decade, and I have to say so far it is not so much different than the last decade. 

Aging has never been a fear of mine. Instead of worrying about the decay of my virility I worry more about missing opportunities to accomplish something grand and meaningful with my life. Personally I do not measure success using a bottom line, the amount of goods acquired or consumed, or the number of people following me. I do not have  a problem with those as measures of success, because frankly I need people who are successful in those areas to help me be successful. I try to measure success in my life by the people I encounter. If both of us can walk away from that meeting different, better, and just a bit closer to Jesus, then I count that as successful.

Am I there? Nope. Still working on it. Which is why I do worry about it from time to time. There is a passage in the Bible that comes to mind, and after a quick search on Bible Gateway, I can actually quote it:

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

That is me today. Trying to not grow weary while doing good. That is where I find myself at forty.

 


Learning to Grow - In Love

Love is one of those things that religion, philosophy, and music have tangled and complicated almost beyond recognition. 

I learned that the Bible has several different words for love: 

  • Agape - love in a spiritual sense
  • Eros - physical love
  • philia - mental love

There could be more, but that alone is enough to make muddy what should be crystal clear. I know if I love you or if I don't love you. Greek words are not needed, nor is a classification of that love. All love is the same. Love is love. Love is sacrifice. If I love you I will give up a part of myself for you. Simple.

The hard part is learning to love someone who does not love you back, or whom it is not natural for you to love. 

When the girls first moved into our home it was simple enough to love them. I mean they were cute little kids who needed us, easy receptacles for love. It became more difficult when the love was not reciprocated. Downright near impossible when they started demanded our self sacrifice. That was a game changer. I had to learn to grow in love towards the children, who because of the trauma they had experienced, found it hard to love in return. 

I do not have any big fancy Greek words to describe what happened. The love was strong enough to weather that storm. In fact I grew to love them more, because they were pushing so hard against us. In my mind it was the same sacrifice that Jesus made for me. He loved me before I knew him, before I could reciprocate that love. He sacrificed himself so that I could know love. That is how I have grown in love. We sacrifice now for these children, so that one day they can love as well.

Not that I have learned all there is to know about love, but for sure I know that I love these children.


Living by Faith?

Once upon a time when I was attending a semi-fundamentalist charismatic church there was much empathis on giving, giving money that is. When I was in Bible school there was a lot of talk about living by faith, meaning that if you gave all (money again) then God would provide for your needs. I tried it out, and found it lacking. Our former church even had a guarantee, or at least spoke of one, for paying tithes. If you paid your tithes for 6 months and you were not blessed then they would refund that money. Of course typical white middle class folks, which is what the church was made up of, will have good things happen to them within six months. That's if you pay a tithe or not. I did put it to the test, though being the rebellious sort I am I did the opposite. I stopped paying tithes for 6 months. What I discovered was life changing. I actually had more money in those 6 months, because I was not giving it to the church. Nothing bad happened. God did not strike me down for robbing him. I survived.

It occurs to me that this might not be the right track for a fund raising post....

Living by faith is not giving everything away and hoping that motivates God to love you enough to give you stuff. Living by faith is listening for that "still small voice" and attempting to obey. Taking that step to love someone whom it is not normal for you to love. Loving that someone who seems to be doing everything possible to make it as difficult as possible for you to love them. That is living by faith. Sure sometimes it involves money, and even sacrificial giving. But that giving must come from the heart, from loving, not from a desire to acquire more and more wealth. 

Kate and I do live by faith. We have faith that readers of this blog, followers on social media, friends, family, and organizations will believe in what we are doing enough to part with some of their hard earned money. We live in faith that there are people who are willing to make sacrifical gifts to help us care for abandoned and orphaned children here in Nakuru, Kenya.

That is how we live by faith.


Well Pleased

Apparently it takes more than two weeks to unlearn thirty years worth of religious indoctrination.

Something has been bothering me for a couple of years now. Part of my nature, which some might consider a negative trait, is to ignore problems. That impulse is so powerful, that often times I can literally forget about whatever it is that bothers me. Which is what I have been doing with this particular situation, trying to ignore it till it goes away.

I have been getting the same answer to prayer for at least two years now. No matter what I pray, how I pray it, where that prayer is made, I get the same answer.

I was listening to a sermon this morning where the guy posed the question "What if this is the only answer to prayer?"

Something clicked in me. I need this answer. Preachers, Sunday school teachers, parents, Bible school, and myself have been telling me that God does not like me. He cannot even stand to look at me. Thirty years of that is hard to wash away.

Yet the answer I get to my prayers is the opposite of that message that God is displeased with me.

The answer to all my prayers is the same one Jesus heard after his baptism.

Luke 3:22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

God has been telling me that He is pleased with me. He has been saying "I like you." I am still learning this, but this morning at least I feel liked, wanted, and loved by the Divine.

Perhaps this is the answer to your prayers as well.


Muse?

Where is my muse? She is nowhere to be found. I think she might have left me for someone else.

We all lose our inspiration from time to time. Last week I wrote how Jeremiah 29:11 was our inspiration, which is true in my head. However my heart needs a kick in the "feeling inspired" department. Nothing has changed. We are still loving and caring for these children and others, but it feels too routine right now. No, more like I'm wading through a tar pit, and a velociraptor is waiting with that sharp claw for me on the far side.

Trust me I know how crazy this sounds. We just bought more than eleven acres of land, a dream long in the making. All the children are well, mostly happy, and being educated. I am married to a woman too good for me. I should feel like I am on top of the world, instead I find myself mired in tar and beset on all sides by razor sharp claws.

Do not think I am depressed, I am not. Just not feeling inspired at the moment.

My prayer; this too shall pass?

 


Family

I love reading the news. Scanning headlines for interesting sounding tidbits brings me happiness. I learn many interesting facts and/or psuedo facts. Example, read an article in Newsweek yesterday about secrets in the Vatican. I now know that the Pope likes toast, and apparently the vatican is riddled with corruption. Politics intrigue me. The process, the images, the posturing, the elections, and all the flim flam that goes along with it. 

In fact this year is full of politics. Campaigning going on for presidential elections in Kenya and the U.S.A. They are only going to get noisier. 

So noisy that concentrating on anything else will get difficult. Unless of course we switch off the news, but since that is unlikely we need a plan.

I propose that we remember what is really important. Governments will come and go. Sometimes our pick will win, and then other times not. That's not all that important. 

So what's more important than current events? Wars? Economic crisis? Celebrity gossip? Terriosim? 

For me it's this:

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The beginning?

Let's start at the very beginning. I was born on a certain day in a certain place to a particular woman. I grew up here and there and had a childhood. Upon becoming a man I started doing man things, which eventually led to getting married. That in turn took me to fatherhood, which is pretty much where I am now.

Now that all that biographical data is out of the way let us look at a major beginning in my life. It all starts in a book, the Bible.

Matthew 25:34, 37 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:I was hungry and you fed me,I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,I was homeless and you gave me a room,I was shivering and you gave me clothes,I was sick and you stopped to visit,I was in prison and you came to me.'

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

I read this many many times. Once upon a time I devoured the Bible everyday. I had a strict reading plan, and I stuck with it. Too often I read without attempting to understand, I simply read to fulfill an obligation. When I threw out my reading plan and put away my Bible for a few years I finally began to see.

I saw things like this story in Matthew 25. Which if read honestly is quite clear. Jesus is to be found with the needy.

That was the latest, and perhaps greatest, beginning in my life. The realization that Jesus was not found in religious obligation, but instead was walking amongst the least of these, changed everything for me.


Answers?

Is it possible?

Can it be done?

Is that really a reasonable goal?

Have you thought this through?

Do you have something to fall back on?

Are you 100% sure this is God's will?

Will you survive?

 

I have no clue.

 

I have experienced the following though, and am slowly learning to trust Him.

Luke 1:37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”


Hope, Johnny's Perception

Kate and I have been writing as practice. We're flexing our muscles a bit. It is not writing we intended to share on the blog, but I'm feeling frisky this evening. What follows is raw emotion and thoughts(Kate will be sharing on hope as well):

 

 

I am not sure I have any hope. Life just does not offer me any reasons to feel hopeful.

 

What exactly do I mean by hope? I am thinking of that feeling where you are actually looking forward to tomorrow. That sense that the future will be better than today or yesterday. That is hope to me, or at least as exact as I can be at this moment.

 

I do not have much, if any of it.

 

Everywhere I look the outlook is dire. Just last week I read a Newsweek article predicting that within fifty or so years the oceans could be virtually void of fish. Not a pleasant prediction, and unfortunately not an unreasonable forecast. I can see no hope in politics saving us. Politicians are so obsessed with winning the next election that they are paralyzed when it comes to making tough decisions. Putting your hope in them is the equivalent of believing in Santa Clause.

 

Hopeless.

 

Can I survive without any hope? Not for long. Without it there is really little reason to even try. Is there a way for me to find hope?

 

I am not sure that there is any hope in me finding hope in the future. What about Jesus? Sure I have hope in an eternity with Him, but it does not translate to the here and now very well.

 

Instead, perhaps I can find hope in today, in my moment right now, right here. I can imagine some hope in that situation.

 

This very moment is chock full of hope. In fact it is overflowing.

 

I may not be able to affect what is happening in the oceans, my vote is not going to create any change in the political system, the future is what it is, yet I can impact my here and now. This second is mine. I can chose to hope that it will be well. I can find hope that this moment will be alright.

 

Hope.

 

I found you.

 


Fake Miracles

Some time back I wrote about an experiment we were undertaking. We wanted to try and focus on a sick individual , at least more closely than we normally would, and help them get well enough to care for themselves.

The experiment started with one of the girls in our house's sister. Millicent was a perfect candidate. Poor, h.i.v. positive, and chronicly sick. Everything went well. We bought food, medicines, helped her children get into school, and purchased some household goods. Normally we would have only done one or two of those things, but this was the experiment. A more indepth assistance.

It worked. Her health improved and she was able to start caring for herself once again. It is our plan to do this for others now, and hopefully make a larger impact overtime.

Unfortunately we cannot control all the variables in this experiment. Millicent was doing better. She was feeling better, more optimistic than she had been in a long time. She became a perfect target for a conman.

You see, there is a plague of faith healers/prophets/evangelists/pastors or whatever they are calling themselves here in Kenya. They prey upon the weak and ignorant. One of these snakes visited Milicent. He prayed for her and declared her cured of h.i.v./a.i.d.s. To prove her faith in this healing he advised her to stop taking her medication.

She did, and of course got very sick. We took her back to the clinic where the medications are provided, but they refused to give her anymore. Or rather, refused to help her find a new regiment of drugs which would now work for her. We ended up taking her to another clinic, far out of the way, and they were willing to help her.

Please do not mishear me here. I believe in miracles, I've seen too many to dismiss them. However in all the years I have known about h.i.v./a.i.d.s. and the hundreds of people I have known with the virus, I only know of one guy who was positive and is now not. Logic dictates that once you have it, you have it for life, no matter how hard you pray, how much money you give, nor how pious you are.

Milicent is in a rough place now, thanks to some faith healer's prayer and bad advice. We are brainstorming on how to deal with these situations and hopefully reduce the occurrences of these fake miracles.

In the meantime, we will continue to love as many as possible and provide for as many real needs as we can.