Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dancing in the Fire

We have a gas stove in our house. It’s really scary. You turn on the gas, throw a match in and hope you don’t get your face burned off. Everything in me tells me to run away when I see that huge flame. My reflex is to scream and jump back. Every time.

I think of these three guys in the Old Testament that I heard a lot about in Sunday school as little kid. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I’m sure you know the story. Big Bad King Nebuchadnezzar set up an idol and said everyone had to worship it or they would be thrown into a fire and die. When he heard Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not worship his god, he gave them two options: bow down to my god right now or be thrown into my fiery furnace. All of the sinful flesh inside of them must have been saying “Fire! Scream and run away! Do whatever you can, just worship his god and be saved!”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden image that you have set up.” –Daniel 3:16-18

That verse tells me something inside Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was much louder than their flesh telling them to run away. They weren’t listening to their human nature, reason, or fear. Something much stronger was ruling in their hearts. In that moment of decision, with fire before them and logic behind, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were moved by complete faith in a God who saves.

Everyone watching must have thought these guys were crazy. “Really? Just bow down…it’s not that hard. Do you really want to lose your life over this?” The Spirit of God was so strong in Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that their flesh was swallowed up by it. They had so much trust in their God that they had no other option but to run towards the fire.

I think of my girls in Texas who are missionaries in their schools. The other kids must think “Really? Just be a normal teenager…you don’t have to talk about Jesus so much. Do you really want to lose your popularity over this?” But the Spirit of God in them is so much stronger than their flesh. They keep inviting their friends to church, they keep having Bible study and worship after school, they keep pressing forward, because they’re listening to Him, not their own fear.


My flesh tells me the slums are an awful place to be. The slums smell repulsive, they’re dirty and it’s uncomfortable to see so much poverty and suffering. People must think “Really? Don’t go to that part of Kampala…it’s filthy. Do you really want to lose your normal life over this?” But the Spirit of God in me tells me to RUN to the slums. He tells me to hug and kiss those babies, no matter how dirty they are. He tells me these are His people, He loves them, and I need to love them, too.


Guess what the end of that story is! Nebuchadnezzar looks into the furnace and sees not three, but four men, unbound walking around in the fire. God must have seen His sons’ faithfulness and had to come down and celebrate with them! I like to think they were dancing and singing right there inside their death sentence.

I pray the Spirit of God in me would grow so strong, that my flesh doesn’t stand a chance. When a moment of decision comes, I pray that I’ll always run towards the fire, knowing He will be right there with me. When logic tells me “Natalie, this is crazy. Run away. Do you really want to lose your life over this?” may the voice of human reason be drowned out by the voice of Truth. May my sinful flesh be swallowed up by the Spirit of God.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tiny Blessings: Spiders and Street Appointments

I’ve been receiving texts from my dad at least twice a week saying “Need a blog, baby. We’re all waiting.” I think to myself “Ugh I just don’t feel like I have anything to write about. Nothing blog-worthy has happened!” I didn’t see anyone miraculously healed from HIV this week. I didn’t rescue a baby from an abusive mother. God didn’t audibly speak to me, and I didn’t see any burning bushes or talking donkeys. To be honest, my week probably wasn’t much different from yours. I woke up each morning, I had a cup of tea and read my Bible. I went to church, I laughed, I hung out with my friends. Pretty normal stuff.

Maybe nothing “big” happened this week, but there is always beauty. I imagine that God tucks some beauty inside each day and waits eagerly to see the expression on His daughter’s face when she finds it. God made his birds wake me up just in time to sip African tea with my Momma Esther and hear her stories of God’s power. God created today knowing I would be called “mzungu wange” by a little girl in a white dress and it would make me smile so big my cheeks hurt. He set up an appointment in the street for me to meet the mother of Man (my favorite little boy in the world!), something I have been praying for. I’m sure God was smiling to himself when he made his giant spider crawl into the shower with me, knowing more than freaking me out, it would just make me laugh and remember how crazy it is that I’m actually living in Africa. Don’t worry, I still killed it! God knew my heart would overflow with joy when my tiny friend, Winnie, left this note with the gatekeeper to give to me:


Beauty.

God is enormous. He’s mighty and strong, but He’s still in on the small details of my life. Somehow in the middle of running the entire Universe, in the middle of saving the world, He finds time to stitch beauty into each day, just for my eyes to see.

Father, open our eyes and our hearts to the beauty you put on display for your children every day. Make us aware of your presence and your involvement in every detail of our lives. Thank you for loving us so much and giving us such beautiful gifts, that we sometimes don’t even appreciate. Holy Spirit, open our eyes and make us aware of beauty in the midst of the ordinary.



My challenge to you, and to myself, is to keep a list of all the tiny beautiful things you see today, and before you go to bed tonight, thank Him. Thank Him for the sunrise or coffee or green traffic lights. Thank Him for all the things you don’t normally thank Him for and see if you don’t feel way too blessed when the day is done. And I would love to see your list…leave a comment or a Facebook message or a text and we can feel way too blessed together!

P.S. Dad, you got your blog post, so you are required to write your list of tiny blessings and post them in a comment :)

*mzungu is a name used for white people, derived from a word meaning “traveler.” The little girl called me “My Mzungu.” :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Homesick

Home. Home sounds like Dad’s boots walking to his police car at six in the morning. Home feels warm and smells like Mom’s coffee brewing. Home is skipping our last class and driving to the island in Hannah’s red pickup truck to have lunch and laugh until we cry. Home feels like 70 mph (sorry Dad) on my way to church as the sun rises on a Sunday morning. Sometimes on a hard day I get homesick for that kind of home. I long for the comfort of everything I’ve known for the past nineteen years.


I used to get homesick for Africa. I remember sitting in class dreaming of sunshine, chickens running around, hundreds of tiny hands all fighting to hold mine. I’m here now, the sun shines bright, the chickens live right outside my door, and the tiny hands are those of my best friends who live in the slum down the road. Now home is eating beans and rice by flashlight because it’s rainy season and the power is out again. Home is playing Kapa Egoba* with the kids in Suubi and not even noticing the language barrier because we’re sharing so much laughter. Home is singing hymns with my classmates in perfect harmony and not being able to breathe because Jesus is just so close, so present.


And now I’ve got a problem. Two families. Two homes 8,594 miles away from each other. A life full of goodbyes. I don’t think I can handle June 9th when I will have to say goodbye to Uganda. I definitely won’t be able to handle the day when I’ll leave everything behind and permanently move to Africa. If I think about it for too long, tears well up in my eyes and a lump rises in my throat. No, God, I am too weak to keep saying goodbye to home!

And He so graciously picks me up and reminds me that I don’t have to. I don’t ever have to say goodbye to home, if I would just run to Him. When I let Him become my comfort and peace, I am home. He IS my home. And wherever He sends me, He will be right there with me. With Him, my heart is home and a new kind of homesickness is brought about. The more He becomes my home, the more my heart looks like His, I become homesick for things to be right again, for wars to cease and famines to end, for the Lord to return and make all things new. The eternity in my heart longs for the day when death and mourning will be no more. The more my eyes are opened, the more I see what He sees, the more desperate I am for the day Jesus will return for His bride and we will be home with Him forever.


Jesus, come fill me. Satisfy me. Be my comfort, my peace, my home.

 *Kapa Egoba is my favorite Ugandan game! It translates to Cat and Rat. Everyone stands in a circle, holding hands. “Egoba” stands on the inside of the circle and “kapa” stands on the outside. The cat chases the rat, and the people in the circle try to keep the cat away from rat by blocking him out with their joined hands. Does that makes sense? You should just come over, and my friends will teach you how to play…;)