Friday, March 29, 2013

Faith

Wednesday nights are awesome for two reasons: we have beans and rice for dinner (my favorite!), and it’s cell night! Watoto Church is a cell-based church, meaning everything is centered around small groups that meet in homes around the city. I have made a habit of stopping by the information desk on Wednesday mornings and peeking at the cell agenda, so I can prepare my answers to the questions ahead of time. Cheating, I know! “To close out cell this week,” it said “each person should name someone they will invite to Easter services this weekend. Pray over these names together.” I turned to my friend and complained “Ugh! I’m so sad that I don’t have anyone to invite! All my friends here already go to Watoto!”

Mmm chapati. Chapti is my favorite Ugandan snack, and my friend, Thomas, sacrificed a 500 UGX Crane to fill my growling belly during our morning break. It’s 1:00 and we’re released for lunch, but I am still full from my chapati, so I grab my Bible and a pen and head to the sanctuary to spend my lunch break with God. I sit down on the hard wooden pew, open up to the book of Deuteronomy and begin reading where I left off.


At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.’ So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the Lord commanded me. –Deuteronomy 10:1-5

Hold on. God, why don’t you talk to me like that? It would be so awesome if you gave me such specific instructions all the time, like you did to Moses. I bet Moses was never confused about what you wanted him to do!

“Go to the street.”

…what?

 “Go to the street,” and in my mind, I see myself sitting on the steps just outside the church.

After doubting for a few seconds, I decide that if this really is God speaking to me, I’m not going miss it.

I walk out of the sanctuary and out the front door and take my place on the steps, just like I saw in my mind. A guy comes up to me and asks me my name and where I’m from. He seems to be kind of a creeper, and I’m thinking “God, really? Did you bring me out here for some guy to hit on me?” But then I notice a girl directly across from me, sitting with her head in her lap. I wait a few minutes to see what would happen, avoiding eye contact with the creeper to my left. There are people around this girl, but I think she’s here alone. I take a deep breath, walk over to her and sit down. “Are you okay?” She says she’s feeling dizzy and I give her my water. She explains that she had a doctor’s appointment at 11:00, but the doctor wasn’t in, and they told her to come back at 3:00. She’s just sitting here waiting.

“What’s your name?”

“Faith.”

If you were under the impression that you can’t get goosebumps when you're sitting in blazing African sunshine, you are wrong. 

“It’s good to meet you, Faith.”

Faith is what got me here. Faith is the reason I’m sitting outside my church in Uganda, talking to a complete stranger. Faith is the reason I listened when He told me to go to the street. 

We make small talk, and she tells me she goes to Makerere University. We’re having a huge praise rally at Makerere later this week! My lunch break is coming to an end, so I invite her to the praise rally and the Easter service on Sunday, and she says she hopes she can make it!

Faith.

Holy Spirit, give me faith to listen, and faith to do what You say, even when it sounds crazy. Jesus, give me faith to follow wherever You lead with my eyes and heart wide open.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Am Barabbas

I am Barabbas. I’m sitting in the corner of a prison cell, chains around my ankles. I am a murderer, a criminal. Any second now, the guards will call, “BARABBAS!” Hope is distant, death is near. I hear the crowd shouting outside and I feel my punishment looming over me. Crucifixion, the highest sentence. Crucifixion, my certain future. I feel the weight of my chains and the weight of my sin. I am nothing. There is no room for redemption now. “BARABBAS” This is the end. “BARABBAS!” and I am led up to the place where Pilate stands. Death is nearer than my next breath. Facing Pilate is a man I’ve heard of before. Jesus, and they say he is a king. I stand beside him today, and I am told that I’m free to go. My body is numb and a lump rises in my throat. How could this be? I can hardly breathe as the guards release me. My chains are broken, and He is bound. I am set free and Jesus is sentenced to the cross. Who is this Jesus? And who am I that He takes my place? I am Barabbas, a sinner. I am filthy. I am the lowest of the low. And because of this Man, I am walking away from death. I am liberated, my life is renewed. As I push my way through the crowd, I glance back over my shoulder and I see Him looking at me. I expect to see hatred and condemnation in His eyes. The guards are scourging Him brutally. His skin is slashed and scarlet blood is gushing out. They’re giving Him what I deserve, and He looks past the crowd, straight at me, with love in His eyes. I am Barabbas, the one set free, and this Jesus loves me.

My name is Natalie, and I am Barabbas. I am the thief, the murderer, the sinner. I am the one unjustly saved from death. I am the undeserving one. I am Natalie, and this Jesus loves me.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Adventure of Surrender

Tell God He can have it all, and mean it.

Really mean it.

There is no limit to what He can do through you when you live with arms wide open. There is a misconception that when we surrender to God, He takes away everything we like and makes us follow a bunch of rules. People think surrender means a boring life. But let me tell you, surrender is a great big adventure. I’m following the Man who walks on water. If anyone knows adventure, it’s Him! Each morning when the sun shines through my window and I crawl out of my mosquito net, I have two options. I can choose to cling to my desires, selfishly clenching my fists and claiming my life as my own, or I can choose to open my arms wide in surrender. God offers adventure, even in everyday routine, if we humble ourselves enough to find it.

It’s a normal Sunday evening. Ministry is done for the day, and I’m headed up to my room to check Facebook, maybe catch up on some reading, when I hear scrape and the sound of laughter outside our gate. I know this means the neighborhood kids are out playing. We live on top of a hill, and the kids have made a game of sledding down the pavement on scrap pieces of plastic. Before giving it a second thought, my feet carry me outside with my housemates, Callie and Jack, and we’re mobbed by at least thirty children who all want to hold our hands and pull our hair. We play with them and laugh as we try to teach the concept of Simon Says. When we’ve run out of games to play, Winnie, who is about seven or eight and seems to be the leader of the pack, says “You tell us a story!” The children squeal with excitement and sit down on the pavement, waiting in eager anticipation. Jack begins to narrate the story of David and Goliath, and just like that the common becomes sacred. An ordinary day becomes an adventure. I play the part of King Saul, with my favorite baby, Man (yes, that’s his real name!), wrapped up in my arms. Callie plays the part of Goliath, and we all fear for her life when the kids start collecting rocks to take down the giant. (At least we know they were listening!) I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry as I watch these children act out the classic story of God's faithfulness. Our friends come from the slum just down the hill, some of them don’t go to school, and some of them are Muslim. I don’t know much about their lives, but I know that Jesus loves them and I do, too. The sun is setting and their mommas are calling, so we all put our hands together and bow our heads. I pray for them, that Jesus would pour out His love on these precious children and their families. I pray His protection and power over them. I thank God for my new friends, and with a full heart, I say amen. We hug them all good night and promise to play with them again soon.


As I walk to my room, I’m thinking “God, who am I that you chose me to show your love to these kids?” I’m on an adventure of surrender, and it’s much bigger than I am. On my own, I could take one, maybe two steps before crashing in a heap on the floor. Oh, but when I choose surrender! In surrender to the God of the Universe, the adventure is boundless. With arms open wide, I am unstoppable.

For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
-Psalm 18:28-30