Entries from November 2019
Another area of my life where I feel real optimism is my faith. My faith is at a point that, honestly I can say is greater than ever before. Or maybe a better word would be it is healthier than it has ever been. I believe in the Divine. I follow Jesus. I believe there is more to life than what I can observe with my five senses.
Many of you, who have followed my journey for awhile, will be aware that I separated my faith from my religion around fourteen years ago. That process of separation took a few years, but the two came apart officially back in 2005. Never shall they be rejoined. I do not hate religion, for some people it holds meaning and is useful, however it only harmed and hindered me. That is a story for another day, today's story is about hope in the future of my faith.
When Kate and I made the move out to this rural village on the outskirts of Nakuru I made a decision. That decision, which I believe was prompted by God, was to take a three year sabbatical from all things spiritual. I mean all things.
I had already ceased regular Bible study and ritualistic reading. (God asked me to put the Bible down a few years before the sabbatical. It seemed counter intuitive to my faith at the time, but after a few months I understood why He asked me to do that. The Bible had become a god to me. It was an idol. Plus having read and studied it for years I was familiar enough with it and God was saying that I should use my time more wisely.) I stopped reading books on Christianity or any other topic of faith. I attended no religious meetings and had few conversations on spiritual matters. I stopped praying. I took a break from all things spiritual.
Three years stretched into four. When it was time to break my spiritual fast I began to analyse what had happened to me during my four years of no spiritual (or very limited) activity. Not much had changed.
Certainly I had not grown spiritually. i did not feel more in tune with the spiritual side of life. I did not feel closer to God on a personal or intimate level. However I had not gone backwards. I was in the same place as I was when the sabbatical started. No spiritual or relational growth with the Divine had occurred, but I had not digressed either. Emotionally I was alright. I felt good about myself. I was still a good person rescuing orphans, pouring my life into them and the work here in Kenya. There was however one place in my life where massive growth had occurred during the sabbatical; my faith.
How could that be? That is the question that the old Johnny asked. That Johnny who fervently attended a charismatic/Pentecostal flavored church. That Johnny who prayed in tongues multiple hours each day. That Johnny who read the Bible religiously each morning and evening. He reared his head and asked, "How can by not doing the things that are meant to build faith actually end up building faith?"
The answer it turns out was quite simple. Those spiritual practices, at least the ones I was fond of, do not build faith, instead they tend to reinforce religious behavior. Praying in tongues, which by it's very nature is not understandable, cannot build faith. To my ears it was meaningless mumbo jumbo. It served to prove to me, and I thought to God, that I was faithful. Look at me pacing back and forth in the back yard praying in tongues for hours and hours. Look God at how faithful and spiritual I am. Look at me! Those practices were meant to show God how cool I was and how deserving I was of his attention. My religion had taught me that God hated me from the moment of my birth since I was born a sinner. God, I was instructed, could not even stand the sight of me. Naturally then I needed to find a way to show Him how worthy I was of his sacrifice of his only son because I was born a sinner.
That kind of spirituality only built in me layer upon layer of practices. Rituals meant either to please God or to make me more worthy of His love. What happens when you add more and more layers upon layers? The center, the core purpose, of those practices becomes smothered under all those layers and layers. Remember the Pharisees and their building of fences around the law? Eventually you cannot even see that core anymore, only the spiritual practices are visible. I had even begun to mistake some of the layers (practices) as the core. i.e. the Bible.
When I went cold turkey for my break from all things spiritual, I was able to peel back those layers one at a time. It took four years but eventually I arrived back at the core. That faith which bloomed in an eight year old Johnny in a little Assembly of God church in Splendora Texas was still there. Squished under years of religious obligation and sin management, but it was still there. That kernel of faith that is God's gift to all of mankind was uncovered and shown the light of day again.
I realized something right away, that kernel was huge. My faith had grown leaps and bounds during my sabbatical.
My emphasis on my spiritual practices had distracted me from the simple act of believing. Stopping them allowed my faith to once again grow. I believe more now than ever before. I am willing to trust God and take steps that before I would have to have spent months in prayer, Bible study, intercession, and the consulting of gurus known to us as prophets before deciding what to do and therefore missing the moment.
This growth in faith has filled me with optimism. God is with me and I am with Him. I, like the sheep, can hear His voice, and the road it is leading me on is very exciting.
I have returned some spiritual practices to my life. I pray, admittedly in very disorganized fashion, but it is semi regular. I meditate. My meditation is specific to me, and does not resemble any guided meditations I am familiar with. (I will still do a guided one from time to time, especially if recommended by a friend. ) Contemplation is a serious part of my spiritual life. Finally I have returned that spiritual practice of communing with God. Where I attempt to know just a little more of the unknowable. Futile perhaps, but it is a necessary part of my life.
I now keep these things in check and regularly examine them to make sure they are not becoming the thing my life is about.
Believing I have come to understand, really should not be that difficult.
Fundraising can be such a pain. Why? Because often you (I) end up doing it when I really need the money. Meaning that the needs have become so pressing that I am forced to speak more directly about money. Like right now. I recently posted this about my immediate needs.
The thing is I end up then playing catch-up and having to focus on today's needs and do not get a chance to talk about the plans for the future. It also tends to sound like I am whining or complaining when talking about the urgent immediate needs. Yet they are there, those pesky needs. I even have a list, and another list of "less immediate needs." If you are willing to help please follow this link and see how you can get money to me here in Kenya.
Kate suggested I do a fundraiser, not for the immediate needs, but for the future. I have decided that to return my focus to working in the slums of Nakuru with sick single mothers and grandmothers I really need to be living in Nakuru. It would make all aspects of that work easier to be closer. Which means I will need some money to rent a place and buy a bit of furniture. If I am in town I can live without a car. (Kate will keep the Land Rover to use on the farm.) One of the great things about Kenya is that public transportation is everywhere and cheap. Bad thing is that it is not always the safest nor most comfortable way to get around. All this just to say I am considering Kate's advice about running a special fundraiser to help facilitate this move.
Which is difficult to think about when I have to figure out how to feed the girls and animals tomorrow. (I have received some gifts related to these needs. Thank you to those who have given.)
See I told you fundraising is a thorn in my flesh.
I recently shared how I was feeling optimistic about the future for the first time in a long time. I talked about shifting the focus of the community work that I do here in Nakuru to sick (bedridden for the most part) single mothers and/or grandmothers caring for grandchildren. You can read about it here. I also mentioned that I would share other areas of optimism I am feeling about my life with you, and well that is what we are doing here.
Fundraising is never an easy thing to talk about. I am a missionary who depends on the generosity of others to not only conduct the work I do but also to survive while doing that work. It takes a long time to come to terms with the fact that you have to ask people for money on a regular basis, it is humbling to say the least. It is a reality of this life. To help others I need help.
When Kate came out as gay and our marriage fell apart it was all very public. The money coming in was drastically reduced, understandably so. Donors saw a dramatic change happen in our lives, a change they nor I was prepared for. The future of what we were doing here in Kenya was suddenly cast in a shadow of doubt. That did not create a confident space for donors to send their hard earned money. Some of that future is still in flux, but one thing has not changed; and that is my commitment to what I believe I am meant to do here in Kenya, help provide hopeful futures to as many hopeless people as possible.
Admittedly of all the things I am optimistic about fundraising is the hardest one to maintain that bright outlook in. I think mostly because I just need to catch up, restock the house, and have cash to assist in the community. When that occurs then I will have more time and energy to devote to rebuilding monthly donors again. (Those of you still giving, thank you. You have been a huge blessing to us.)
This is me asking you to help me maintain this optimistic outlook on fundraising by helping me with some immediate needs. All these needs (listed down below) are related to feeding the girls, maintaining the property, and taking care of myself. It is not a big need and meeting it will not have any long term impact on the mission, but it will go a long way to creating a happy space in our household here in Kenya.
I need approximately $500 dollars to meet these immediate needs. (I created a little wiggle room for exchange rate fluctuations, bank fees, and the inevitable thing I forgot.)
If you would like to help, and let me say thank you up front, you can use Paypal, write a check, or the quickest way is to use Wave. If you use Wave it sends the money directly to my phone in a matter of minutes (there is a verification process the first time you use it that takes a little while, but it is still fast.) If you want to use Wave just email or message me and I will give you my phone number to use. ([email protected])
Thank you and without further ado here is the list of immediate needs.
- gas cylinder $20
- feed for cows $27
- pet food $37
- chicken feed $7
- rabbit feed $5
- labor $26
- internet $10
- phone credit $5
- fuel for car $20
- food $243
- meat $20
- veggies/fruit $29
- Total $449
Thank you for reading and considering helping us out here in Kenya. Also more optimistic posts coming soon, including a rare glimpse into my personal life and emotions.