Impossible Ways

“God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep

that it is impossible to explain his decisions

or to understand his ways.” 

Romans 11:33

I think this is a challenging passage for people in the Western world.   We seem to thrive on figuring out anything that comes our way.  We discuss it…analyze it….figure out the why’s, and make plans and decisions so that whatever went wrong will never happen again.  We love to feel safe, secure, well-prepared, and we set up as many plans and strategies as possible so that “it” cannot touch us again.   We love to be in control.

When God first “invited” me to the Sahara Desert to interact with the Saharawi people living in the refugee camps there, I was utterly terrified. I’m sure that I left skid-marks all the way across the Atlantic. Nothing was as I had imagined, and the “mission” to  gather 9 children, get them on a plane, and bring them to the US turned upside-down from the get-go.

The next trip, I had gathered a team and we had all focused on trying to cover every detail so that everything would go as smoothly as possible.  We had a great plan.

Well….. By Day #2 in the desert, I had a clear picture in my mind of handing my pages of plans, strategies and details to God, watching Him patiently look through it, then crumpling it up in His Hand, tossing it over His Shoulder and with a big smile and twinkle in His Eye, saying,  “OK…. now here’s what we’re going to do…”  And I was again flying by the seat of my pants, hanging on for dear life to His Coattails.

The Path God has led me along in these past 20 years would have NEVER, ever, ever been a thought in my own mind.   Certainly not anythingI would have considered, hoped, or wanted to do.  Yet, I wouldn’t change it for anything.  The challenges, the tears, the sense of loneliness, the spiritual warfare at every turn . . . none of that outweighs the depth of joy and awe that I’ve experienced by having a front row seat to watch God’s Spirit, in an impossible place and impossible situation, moving, working, bringing awareness of His Love, and touching..changing hearts and lives for eternity.

His Ways, His Decisions have been SO far beyond what my plans could have done.  More than I could have even imagined.  They have also involved deep pain and loss, also more than I could have imagined. But even in that, His riches, wisdom and love have been deeper still.

And in my heart of hearts, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The Right Hand

“…Then He laid His right hand on me

And said,

‘Don’t be afraid! 

I am the first and the last, the living One.

I was dead,

But now I am alive forever.

I have the keys of death and hell.’”

Rev. 1:17-18 

John had been living in a forced exile and was nearing the end of his life when he had this experience with Jesus.  John had knownHim.  He had walkedwith Him.  He had spent yearswith Him, and had shared a close, loving relationship with Jesus in those years.  John had known Him well.

Yet, in his exile, loneliness, and all the memories which he held in his heart, he didn’t recognize this One he loved so much. John hadn’t humanly known Him in his present context.  He was suffering and alone.  John had communicated with God’s Angel before, but this would be different.  (Rev. 1:12-18)

Jesus came.   But not as John had experienced or known Him before.

Jesus’ tender, powerful words to John were unexpected. John was frightened.  It had been a long time since he had experienced any human tenderness . . . perhaps any human interaction at all.  He must have thought that his life was over. Everything revolved around memories . . . the past.

In the desert, my people there have taught me so many things that were not of my experience in the Western world.   There, the “right hand” has significance, on a daily basis.  The right hand is treated differently than the left.  It is the hand that touches another person.  The greeting of a hand-shake, the friendly touch on a shoulder, . . . these touches of affection are done with the right hand. The left hand is used for dirty tasks, and the friendly touch is not done with the left.  Respect is demonstrated by the use of the clean right hand.

The noted detail of Jesus laying His right handon John’s shoulder has meaning.  It silently expresses the touch of a Friend, with tenderness, respect, and affection.  John must have needed that touch.  He had been isolated. . . alone . . .for such a long time.  And Jesus was asking him to write the things He was about to show him.  Things belonging to the future that had not been revealed before.  John would have needed that unspoken reassurance from his dearly loved Friend as he took pen in hand and began to write.

Such kindness, tenderness, and respect Jesus wove into this Divine Encounter.

 

 

Kingdom

“But first,

be concerned about His Kingdom

and what has His approval.

Then all these things will be provided for you.”

Mtt.6:33 

It’s difficult for us, as people living in the Western Hemisphere, to begin to wrap our minds around what it means to live in a Kingdom.   Our nation’s very roots came out of a determination to live freely, independently of a kingdom that had always dictated the rule of life.  They established a new way of life, one which was “self-governing,” rather than under the rule of a king.  Independenceis an underlying rule of life for Americans.  And, of course, it also affects our understanding of all that a King is in all of his power, authority, rule, and majesty.

When we step into the Kingdom of God, we have the challenge of learning what it means to live in the Kingdom over which God is the King.  He isn’t the President of a democracy.  He is The King.

My first real exposure to a kingdom on this earth, and of an actual king, came through my experience in the desert refugee camps.  Through the decisions of a King and Kingdom, their country was militarily invaded, and their lives and future as a nation were forever changed.  The Saharawi people left their homes, neighborhoods, belongings, jobs, and all that encompassed their daily lives as they literally ran into the barren, harsh desert across their nation’s border. Everything changed.  All that had been, was no more.  A Kingdom had come, in all of its power and rule.

We have the King of all Kings invitingus into His Kingdom.  He does not come with force, even though His Power is far beyond all powers on this earth.  His Kingdom is perfect.  His rule is based on perfect Love, and is Just and True.  This King does not invade our lives by force.  He invites us into His Kingdom, having personally paid the cost for each of us to enter.  We are not required to earn our entrance into His Kingdom…it is offered freely.

What desert have you stepped into, where people wait to hear the Good News of a Perfect Kingdom, whose Perfect King invites them to enter and live?

 

 

 

 

Good News

My beautiful young language tutor was helping me during my first visit to the refugee camps.  Suddenly, the busy room emptied.

Leaning in, she whispered, “Are you Christian?”

I nodded hesitantly.

“You know Jesus?”

Another nod.

Eyes sparkling, she whispered, “Tell me!”

As the Story of Jesus unfolded, there were many tears.     Why?

“Your words bring God so near.   We only know Him as far, far above us.”

Taking her hand, I prayed, “God, please come near to Aisha.”

One year later, she told me, “Every day we (family) pray that prayer.  We like this very much.

Come Closer…

toa-heftiba-270811-unsplashI leaned over his little sleepy form to kiss him good-bye.  My time in the desert was coming to an end, but his would continue for another week.  For the first time, my child’s children were meeting the S** refugees who have become so much a part of our family’s life.

He stirred, and opened his eyes.  “Won’t you come under my blankie, Omi?”  How could I resist?  Rubbing his back, his big dark eyes soon closed, and it seemed that he had fallen asleep.  I quietly began to move off of the simple mat, only to find that his little fingers had entwined into my scarf.

“Won’t you come close, Omi?” he whispered as he pulled me near. “Closer….closer…”

Each time I would move, thinking he had fallen asleep, he would whisper, “closer….closer…”

The sweetness of that one little word…that invitation…that request…brought tears to my eyes.   How precious to be asked by this dearly-loved little one to be near…to be close.   I love to be close to him.  But his whispered invitation made it all the more precious.

God, is this what you long to hear on the lips of your children?  On my lips?  In my whispers in the night?  In the darkness?  When I’m not even fully awake or consciously intentional?  That kind of spontaneity from my heart?

A Governor

federico-gutierrez-664500-unsplash

He led the largest camp with quiet strength, wisdom and vision.  The previously struggling camp was transforming into a vibrant, productive community.  He worked tirelessly toward his goal:  If they can learn to thrive in hardship, they will flourish when they are back in their homeland of Western Sahara.

Often weary and overwhelmed, he would journey alone to the sand dunes and peer into the star-studded heavens.  There in the vast quietness, he would pour out his heart to The Creator. Perspective returned. Clarity.  Purpose.  Comfort. And he would return to his camp, ready to face another day.

Refuge

Refuge post on Desert Spring Blog

The refugee camps had been devastated by unprecedented flooding.  Homes were gone.  Buildings were down.  Shops had collapsed.  Everything was changed.  Large ponds now covered the Sahara sands.

It was shocking to see the disaster that people with so little were now dealing with.  What will the future hold?  How do you rebuild when you have nothing?  

As regular visitors, we wondered what would now change in life as we’d always known it there.  

Seeing the concern in our eyes, our old Saharawi friend gently, simply said,  “Don’t worry.  

We are your refuge.

Another Checkpoint

desert spring blog by Janet Lenz

Another checkpoint stop.  Another middle-of-the-night flight to catch.  Another long, lonely stretch of travel beginning.  Alone in the truck, while the driver shared tea in the cooler night air, I felt the loneliness, the weariness, swelling in my heart.

A soldier emerged from inside the checkpoint and strode toward me.  A passport check?  A flashlight scan?  

Through the open window, he handed me a cold, sweating bottle of water.  A smile, and he was gone.  

I was not alone.  God’s care and love, in unlikely form, turned my sadness into sweet rest and reassurance.  He was there.

Life Goes On

Life Goes On a story from Desert Spring by Janet Lenz
Heavy rainfall pounding on tin roofs for the seventh day.  Extremely rare in this vast desert.  Muddy bricks shrinking, dissolving.  Walls will move….fall.  A nearby scream compels neighbors to bundle necessities and run to higher ground.  The sound of falling walls, bending sheets of tin, shouting voices all announce that struggling survival will have to begin again.  

Yet, in the midst of the chaos…the devastation, there are tiny cries of new life.  Babies are born.  Life will go on.  Neighbor helps neighbor.  No one is alone.  The old tents return to their ancient roles of shelter…..of family….of heritage.  

Beauty of hearts and spirits continue to bloom in the desert.