Morning Prayer

When I get on my knees early in the morning, I usually feel very needy. That is probably because most of the time, the path of life seems to be more difficult to follow than I have the ability for. So I am in need of God’s help — strength — guidance — intervention — wisdom — grace: all of the above.

This morning in my typical “Please help me, Lord” mode, I was struck with the incongruence of that continual cry.

“Why don’t you say, ‘I want to help you, God,’ instead,” the Spirit nudged.

But can I really ‘help’ God? I pondered.

Ironically, God does need us. Well, He doesn’t need me, necessarily, because if I do not do the tasks He has in mind for me to do, He definitely has a ‘Plan B.’ Someone else will get the privilege.

But He does need us; He does need His people. He does need our hands and feet, our lips and hearts, to be the messengers of His love and fulfillers of His purposes.

I will be praying differently in the coming days. “Lord, what do YOU want me to do today? How can I serve you? Help me do it, by your grace.”

~ Diane

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Like a Child – Daddy’s Voice

The college where I train Early Childhood teachers is housed at KIS, a pre-primary Montessori school. Last week I was at the entrance during “home time,” when nearly 200 children sit on benches waiting for a parent to come pick them up. Of course each parent has to be cleared before he or she can enter. Then as soon as the parent comes in and calls out his or her child’s name from the inside barrier gate, their ‘own’ comes running excitedly. Obviously, each child recognizes his or her parent without question, and each child knows his or her parent’s voice.

This busy scene reminds me of Jesus’ story of a shepherd in John chapter ten. In the picture as described, sheep belonging to many shepherds are together in one holding pen. The watchman opens the gate for a genuine shepherd. When that shepherd calls, his sheep follow him out. When the next shepherd comes, he also calls and the sheep that belong to him also follow.

The point here is that as children — sheep — of our father God, we are exhorted to know His voice. We are also exhorted not to follow after a different voice. The shepherd’s call should be both recognized and distinguished.

Certainly many voices call to us. Our own desires call out, wanting us to follow. The systems of this world call us. The lusts of the flesh call us. Our own selfish desires and our own human ideas speak loudly. They also want our attention.

At KIS, we have never had a problem of a child going to the ‘wrong’ parent. Children definitely know their father and his voice. And like a child, amidst all the beckoning voices, I never want to follow the ‘wrong’ one. My heart longs to recognize and more clearly distinguish my Father’s voice, and follow Him alone.

~ Diane

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Like a Child: (Just) Enjoy Life

We just spent several days at our neighbor’s beach house on Kenya’s beautiful Indian Ocean. What a privilege!at coast

 A sign on the porch, written like a to-do list, reads:

Enjoy life

Enjoy the beach

Have fun

Relax

Quite a list! It sounds like a typical plan for a child, doesn’t it? The work of the day for a 2-year-old is pretty much to enjoy life, have fun, and of course learn effortlessly in the process. But for us as adults — is that approach irresponsible? Only valid during an annual one-week vacation?

Actually, the wise King Solomon says, something very similar. “Go, eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart. . . . Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love.” (Ecc 9:7-9)

Coming from a task-oriented, ‘purpose-driven,’ administrative work-a-holic (yes, that is a confession), this is actually a difficult concept to embrace. Ibrahim often reminds me, “You are a human being, not a human doing!” It is so easy (for me) to feel that the value of one’s day is found in the tangible accomplishments. And by extension, that the value of one’s existence is found in the same.

But for sure, being like a child involves being carefree and fun-loving. God has given all good things for us to enjoy!

~ Diane

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Like a Child: Growing Up

Yes, we finished the “Like a Child” posts last year. . . . but I have a few more to add. Permission granted? Thanks.

We already know that being an adult is not all that it is ‘cracked up’ to be. This morning, waking up to chilly air (yes, in Kenya), lots of responsibilities, bills to be paid and problems to be solved…. I just wanted to cuddle in a warm blanket and be a child again. You can probably identify.

Yet, for a child, ‘growing up’ is the main excitement in life; being ‘big’ is the greatest thing to look forward to. Grown-up life looks like a magical world where you don’t have to always be bossed around and you can make your own decisions. Maria Montessori called this desire the horme — an innate urge toward personal development and independence that ‘drives’ a child in the early years.

Now, it could seem to be a major contradiction to talk about growing up, or being mature, when promoting child-like faith. How are we supposed to be like a child, and be mature, at the same time?!

The idea here is that children really, really want to grow up. They do not want to remain ‘babies’ forever. And in our faith, we also should desire to grow. We are urged in God’s word to eat meat and not milk — to press on toward maturity — to leave childish things behind. Yet it seems that so often it is easier for me to just be content where I am. We stay put and stagnate; we enjoy maintaining the status quo.

Faith like a child, that will earn us the Kingdom, is faith that wants to mature. What does God want me to grow in today?

~ Diane

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The Privilege of Presence

Just one week after Easter, the work of Christ on the cross is fresh in our minds. But for sure, the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection is what we live in on a daily basis, all year round.

As much as the children of Israel were God’s special and chosen people, they did not enjoy the privilege of His presence. Yes, God was with them. But entering His direct presence was the privilege of a chosen few. Only the High Priest could go behind the veil into the temple’s holy place.

When Christ breathed his last on the cross, the temple veil was torn, giving direct access to the holy of holies. Jesus became the new high priest, our intermediary, and the only way into God’s presence. Because of Jesus’ death, a path for accessing the Father was prepared for the nation of Israel — and for all of us!

Entering the office of great men and women in the world can be very difficult. One must go through many hurdles (read: secretaries and protocol) in order to reach a CEO, a political leader, or even some pastors!

Jesus is now in the throne room, sitting right next to the Father. And we are also permitted to sit with him there (Eph 2:6). Do we take this privilege for granted? Do we intentionally acknowledge and utilize the permission to be positioned before God’s throne?

Sitting in the heavenly places with Christ is my very favorite spot in all of earth and heaven! Thank you, Jesus, for opening the way.

~ Ibrahim

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The Power of Faithfulness

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.

These women were on a mission. They had prepared themselves, then they waited for the Sabbath day to dawn. They wanted to keep ministering to Jesus even after His death.

Of course, the women were not expecting to witness the most significant miracle in the history of mankind! They knew that Jesus was dead. They had stayed at the cross when the disciples ran away. They watched his body being carried to Joseph’s tomb. These women stood by to the very end. In fact, during His three years of ministry, they had supported Jesus. They made sure he was well fed. Now, early on the Sabbath, they wanted his body to smell good.

In this respect, women have outdone men. They were faithful. Although the culture of the time relegated women to an inferior status, Jesus had turned things around. Even in his death, he took the effort to ensure that Mary would be taken care of by giving instructions to John.

On that Sabbath morning almost 2000 years ago, there was a great message that the men missed. A history-changing event had just taken place. But who would be the first witnesses of the resurrection? Who would be the first to proclaim that Jesus had risen? We know that it was the women.

This speaks to the power of faithfulness, the power of commitment, and the fact that God trusts those with more who have been faithful with whatever little they have. Thirty-two years ago, Diane (Diener) said in our wedding ceremony, “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” Two months ago, she became a citizen of Kenya. I am forever grateful for her faithfulness to God and to this promise.

Lord, remind us this Easter of the power of faithful commitment to Christ and one another.

~ Ibrahim

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Dual Citizen

31+ years of living in Nairobi. 3+ years since the application was submitted. Today, I became a Kenyan citizen. After three years of being told ‘Be patient and wait,’ we were called last week toDiane Citizen collect the certificate.

No fanfare, no pledge of allegiance, no questions to answer. Just an overworked lady in a tiny, overcrowded office on the 7th floor of the infamous Nyayo House. I paid. I signed. I carried it away.

The day was so typical, but in ways that are iconically and uniquely Kenyan.

  • We left the house at 6 a.m., trying to ‘beat’ Nairobi traffic. While driving along, suddenly oncoming traffic was speeding down one of the lanes that would normally be ‘ours.’ No signs. No warning. Only large cement blocks in the middle of the road that made it impossible to mistake the new traffic pattern. Whew – we got through safely.
  • At some point, 2 policemen on foot crossed the road two cars in front of me and stopped a vehicle. Both lanes of traffic remained at a standstill while the officers had a not-very-friendly conversation with the driver. After 3 or 4 minutes, the car pulled to the side of the road. Great – we are moving again.
  • After 2 ½ hours on the road (distance of 11 miles with a short detour), I arrived at work. Our new term in college was scheduled to start today. Two out of seven returning students were present. But starting dates and times in academic institutions, including the best of them, are very relative and often just pretense here. Okay – no cause for alarm.

After class, and wanting to avoid the impossibilities of parking in the city, I boarded a matatu (public mini-bus) to go to the immigration office. Music booming and vehicle often off the road – but we arrived.

  • At the first counter, I was told I would need to pay 10,000 shillings ($100) to renew my alien registration prior to getting the citizenship certificate. But after a short conversation in Dholuo about where our “home” is (rural tribal roots in Luo-land) and how many children we have, I was told “Bring 5,000.” Tribalism, or what? But I did not object.
  • After going to the second and third and fourth desk, I was told that the person who could help me had gone out and would be back at 2 p.m. It was around 12:30. Oooh – I hate waiting!

I wandered to a nearby Christian bookstore to pass the time. A magazine titled “Africa Leadership Today” attracted my attention. But how disturbing to find that all the articles were written by Americans, with examples about “a growing church in Colorado,” “the pastor from Fairhaven Church in Dayton, Ohio….” on and on. Africa leadership?  ‘How dare they?’ I moaned.

  • Back in the immigration office at 2 p.m., nothing was happening. When I ventured to ask around 2:30 if I would actually be served, I was told “people are on lunch break.” Listening to the Swahili conversation around me, I realized that there had been someone would could have helped me in the morning, but just didn’t feel like it. Not in the mood, I guess. “Do I really want to be a citizen of this country?” I fumed under the courteous façade.
  • The high-in-demand clerk arrived around 2:45 and scolded those in the office for making me wait. She had left someone to take care of clients, she insisted. Anyway, within about 30 minutes, the certificate was in my hands. WOW!

Now back to the bus. On board, a crippled beggar was circulating with a letter, stamped and signed by a local hospital, saying that he was in need of financial help for medical treatment. I gave him 200 shillings ($2.) He was elated. After collecting donations from a few other passengers, he literally fell out of the bus at the next stop. But he was still smiling as we drove off. Such harsh realities.

Nearing my destination, the driver cut through a corner going the wrong direction. The conductor motioned for me to get out, in the middle of the busy intersection. I was just glad the bus had actually stopped for me.

Now, back home, I am deeply thankful. Okay – I missed several other appointments, but not a big deal; it’s normal. Yes, this is the frustrating, unpredictable, intriguing life and country I have come to love. And now I officially belong.

~ Diane

P.S. The certificate is date 23 October 2015. Apparently they were not in the ‘mood’ to notify us until January?

 

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