O Sing to the Lord a New Song

October 19, 2003

Good morning friend.  Today I am staying on site with Cottage #1 while the others have been transported to church.  There has been a new willingness from the staff to assist in transporting children and mamas to “morning prayers”—we can be changed–praise God.  We all have surrendered much to get here and yet are still quick to draw lines and raise boundaries over which we will not yield– DSC00318 as though to say, “This is as far as I am willing to go.”  The curious thing is that we think we are choosing the good when we say that–it is the pathway to some new misery!

This morning I will go down to the gazebo and pray with the children and share the story of Jonah and Auntie Janet and I will sing as many hymns as we can.  She loves to sing and we trust as the children mill around and play that their spirits are absorbing profound truths of the faith.   Robert One day as Robert and I walked hand in hand to the dining hall he began singing with such fervor “Great is Thy Faithfulness“.   It melted my heart to hear that precious African accent and wonderful pitch remember and sing that song with such gusto.  What do you think God will do with a boy with such a heart?

Mike made it to the Post Office yesterday and they had a note in our box that said there was a package waiting to be picked up.  Of course when he went to the package pick up spot it was closed.  We will have to paDSC00326y some shillings (about 50 cents worth)to the Post Office because they have been kind enough to hold the box!  Things are so different here–every service performed is seen as an opportunity to raise revenue–since there is almost no taxation on individuals it makes sense to recoup business expenses this way. I will let you know about the package after Mike retrieves it tomorrow.

DSC00575 I trust that you are worshipping well to day–I listened to Jeff’s sermon on Jesus as Physician for our souls and was wowed by the boldness of that Word.  How would we be blessed if we believed the sufficiency of our God?

I am grateful for these hours alone in the house–drinking coffee–listening to praise songs and eating toast with cranberry jam.  Talk about refreshment of soul–this is it!  I do not miss things much at all–but privacy and being alone at times is a longing that about knocks me down.  As with the leaves there in Asheville–I did not know the magnificence of alone time when I had it in abundance!  I savor this like the finest treat…it is.  I join the psalmist and “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy.”
Love to you,
lissa

October 21, 2003

Dear Girlfriend,

DSC01331 Today the housemothers and I will be discussing the 6th chapter of John–I’ll be re-teaching the lessons that I learned from you in that passage years ago about whether we want Jesus as Bread King or as He is –the King of the Universe.  Tomorrow we head out to Jinja and our boxes are supposed to arrive and be delivered by the time of our return Friday.

It cost another $500 to get those things through the customs maze–they open each box and if you have too many towels or sheets, or new things they charge you as though you are a business bringing in things to sell.

We are being helped so much by a Ugandan agent who will usher our things through and try to advocate for us.     Jane–I wish you could have seen Casey’s face as she opened the box from you yesterday.  She was as thrilled as could be and immediately rushed next door to share her good fortune with the Coiner girls.  Lisa immediately requested to borrow “A Knight’s Tale” and Casey allowed her to have first viewing.  She loved the bracelet –it looks so much like Casey and she had it on going to school this morning.

For me–I soaked off the red mud in a bath and climbed into bed on my heating pad with a book and don’t remember waking or wincing with joint pain last night!  Thank you,thank you my friend!

I pray that we both will grow more and more like David who had learned to despise sin in himself and in those around him. He longed for holiness–he was longing for heaven!  I hope your eyes rest on the faithful in this second day of ACTP.

Love to you,
lissa

He Made me a Polished Arrow

Helen (Small) Helen Roseveare had just graduated from medical school when she moved to the Belgian Congo to serve as a doctor to local tribes. She built a hospital made of handcrafted bricks, stocked it with medicines, and for 12 years treated malnutrition, nursed lepers, delivered babies, and performed amputations.

Her work there was tragically interrupted with the onset of a bloody revolution. On August 8, 1964, the Republic of Congo was plunged into a civil war. That day marked the beginning of five terrible months of savage brutality during which 27 missionaries were killed, more than 200 Roman Catholic priests and nuns were murdered, and nearly a quarter of a million innocent African civilians were butchered.

Roseveare was rescued from the carnage, along with many others. She returned temporarily to her home in England to heal from her anguish and to share her story.

But when this woman known by the nationals affectionately as “Mama Luka” spoke of her experiences in the Congo, a provocative question repeatedly surfaced: “Why did God let you suffer?”

The reality of a missionary, who laid out her life to serve God only to be rewarded with cruelty and suffering, seemed incongruous. Routinely people in search of answers unburdened their hearts to Roseveare: a young mother whose baby drowned, a girl who was raped — people who lived in angst, unable to connect the dissonance of life’s experiences to the God of the Bible. Her answer became simply to share with them how God had given her faith and strength to overcome her own heart-wrenching trials.

paediatric-600Invited to address the question of suffering with a small gathering one night she first quoted Isaiah 49:2, “He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He hid me; He made me a polished arrow;  She reached backward toward the mantel and eased a long-stemmed rose bud from a tall vase. As she spoke, she broke off the thorns, the leaves, the petals, the green outer layer of stem – every element that makes a rose and rose. All that was left was a lithe, straight shaft. The pieces that lay on the floor were not bad things. But, she explained, they had to be removed if she were going to make an arrow. God does this to us, she said. He removes everything – even innocent, good things – that hinders us from being the arrows.  He strips and sands and polishes so that he can shoot the arrow for his purposes at his intended target.”

Independence was declared in the Belgian Congo on June 30, 1960. Mutiny broke out in the army, the white population fled, and interracial relations crumbled. “It nearly broke my heart,” says Roseveare. “It wasn’t only in the upper echelons of government, it wasn’t even just in local government, it was in the church.” A colleague once told her, “Well doctor, we don’t blame you for being white. In fact, we’re really rather sorry for you being white. But at the end of the day you are white.” Her beloved friends no longer trusted her.  She prayed and fasted fervently, seeking God’s face for reconciliation.

Then came the rebellion and a terrible night that transformed her faith.

“It was a Saturday afternoon,” recalls Roseveare. “A truck drove into the village where I lived, and I could hear the noise from house of rough, angry voices shouting. And then two men burst into my home. That was the first indication I had that we were at war. “[The men] inspected everything and smashed a lot of my property, and then I suddenly realized that they were intent on evil. I tried to run away and hide, and they came with powerful torches, and they found me. They struck me, they beat me. I lost my back teeth to the boot of a rebel soldier that night. They broke my glasses I can’t focus on anything if I haven’t got them on. That was most frightening. When you can see them, you can at least put an arm up to take the blow. When you can’t see, you’re so defenseless.” During the course of the evening, Roseveare was badly violated by her perpetrators. “I don’t think I was praying; I was numb with horror, dread, fear. If I had prayed, I think I would have prayed, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” I felt He’d left me. I didn’t doubt God. I never doubted God. But I felt, for that moment, that He’d left me to handle the situation by myself.

cg-150As these thoughts poured into her mind, Roseveare became aware of a holy presence near her. “I knew with every fiber in my being that God, the almighty Creator, was there,” she pronounces with quiet certainty, insisting that God never gives us evil, but takes what is intended for evil and makes it good.

During the pinnacle of her suffering, God spoke to Roseveare in a way that He knew she would understand and accept. “I believe the words that God spoke to me, although I didn’t hear them as words, were,

“Can you thank Me for trusting you with this, even if I never tell you why?”

You know, that’s shattering. You and I think of us trusting Him. But the thought that He wants to trust us, that was something very new to my thinking.”

He gave her the strength to say yes and she prayed, “Yes, God. If somehow, somewhere this fits for purposes, I don’t know how, but yes, thank You, God, for trusting me with this.” God did not take away the wickedness, the cruelty, or the pain. It was still there. But He turned her fear into peace.

Roseveare and her fellow missionaries endured faithfully that long and dreadful weekend. The following Tuesday the rebels returned for her. She was taken away by herself in the middle of the night. As dawn broke, they came to a village. The rebel soldiers had gathered nearly 800 local men into the village square. They had been told they would attend a people’s court in which Roseveare would be tried for the things that had occurred the previous week. At the given signal they were instructed to shout, “She’s a liar! She’s a liar!” They would then be asked, “What will we do with her?” The mandated response was, “Modecco! Modecco!” which meant “Crucify her! Crucify her!” The defendant knew she would die, although she did not know how.

The trial scene began.

“They wanted me to go through in detail in front of these 800 men what had happened the previous Thursday,” Roseveare says, an audible quiver in her voice. “I wasn’t going to speak up in front of all those men. They struck me over the face with the butt end of a gun; I couldn’t stand the pain so I spoke up.”

The moment of judgement came.

Roseveare couldn’t see her jury; her eyes had nearly closed with the swellings of the beatings. But she could hear. “I heard a sound I had never heard before and will probably never hear again. I heard 800 strong farming men break down and cry.

They were weeping.”

Now, instead of seeing her as the hated white foreigner, they saw her as their doctor.

“They have a word in Kibudu, which means “blood of our blood, bone of our bone,” she says. “They rushed forward and said, “She’s ours. Helen2 She’s ours.”

They took me into their arms and pushed the rebel soldiers out of the way.

“In that moment the black/white division disappeared,” she professes triumphantly.

“I can honestly say, right through till today, in that area there has never been a black/white division again. We’re all one in Christ Jesus.”

When she fervently sought the Lord so many years before, she had no idea that God would make her an instrument in bringing about racial harmony.

Why does a God of love allow suffering?

For Roseveare that question is, in itself, a contradiction. Love and suffering are inextricably linked.

“If you didn’t love, you wouldn’t hurt,” she explains, pointing to her exemplar as evidence.

God loves us so much that He gave His own son to the Cross. Because He loves, He suffered, giving us an example to follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21)”

In the years following the brutality that she suffered she recounted other thoughts that were in her mind as she was insulted, cursed and abused.  “Suddenly Christ had been there.  No vision, no voice, but His very real presence.  A phrase came into my mind, “led as a lamb to the slaughter”, one outstanding fact seemed to dominate:  For my sake, He went as a willing sacrifice.  Then, as swiftly, He spoke into my heart: “They’re not fighting you: these blows, all this wickedness, is against Me. All I ask of you is the loan of your body.  Will you share with Me one hour in My sufferings for these who need My love through you?”

She looked back later on this whole period and wrote: ‘We learned why God has given us His name as I AM (Exodus 3:14). His grace always proved itself sufficient in the moment of need, but never before the necessary time.

“He Gave Us a Valley”, Helen Roseveare, p.36,

“Arrrows in the Hands of God”, Challis.com, June 15, 2005

“Can you thank me?” an interview with Helen Roseveare, Tonya Stoneman

The Fountain of God’s Mercy

cove

Mike and I just returned from a trip to The Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina.   I had looked forward to this trip since September when I first heard that John Piper would be teaching Romans 12-13.covetrees He began teaching chapters from Romans starting in the summer of 2001 with “The Great Eight–Romans 8”  and then  “God’s Word has not Fallen–Romans 9-11”.  It would be impossible to overstate the impact that these teachings have had on my own thinking and teaching.  This seminar entitled The Mercies of God and the Transformed Christian Mind” was stunning!  I came away awed by the mercy of God to the church of our day–to allow us to have a Paul like thinker in our own time–how marvelous!  It was an immeasurable Piperprivilege to sit under the passionate exposition of God’s Word by Dr. John Piper–that five hours of teaching left me hungering for more!  There were about 500 of us gathered in the beautiful mountain retreat and the teaching bathed us all in the richest — most hope filled truths of Scripture.    CAW9W7JD

Here is a sprinkling of the heart provoking teaching and questions that were addressed in this wonderful get away weekend:

  • What is wrong with the human mind that it needs to be renewed?
  • When did God become completely and totally for me?
  • God’s words do not just declare something they constitute something.
  • Christianity is not a will power religion–it is a passionate relationship.
  • When God calls, no one says, “No!”
  • Our bodies were not intended to be used to impress others with how we look they were intended to be used to make God look good!
  • Our bodies were not made to show off muscles–they were made to show off mercy!
  • Let your body show what you think about God!
  • “Good” and “Evil” are objective realities that exist apart from my preferences.
  • The inner life of our preferences is to be brought into conformity with external objective truth not vice versa!
  • Mercy in my life toward the undeserving is the best way to show the world that my God is Mercy!
  • What is acceptable to God?  Himself!
  • I was created to show something to the world–the world is not impressed with seeing mirrors of themselves–we will seize the day when we stop showing the mean – spirited judgmental face of law driven religion and begin to show the world our tears.
  • When you take a log out or your own eye–it hurts and tears begin to flow–the world needs to see our tears.
  • The main feature of a renewed mind is that it is radically Christ centered.
  • Faith looks away from itself to another.
  • Our worth consists in treasuring the worth of Christ–our significance consists in savoring the significance of Christ
  • Faith is a gift given to obliterate pride!

the Cove May these words and others not be just type marks on a page–may God write them deeply in my heart and mind so that being transformed, the world may see how great is the mercy of my God!

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers,

in view of God’s mercy

to offer your bodies as

living sacrifices, holy

and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of

worship.”  Romans 12:1

Here I am to Worship

September 23, 2003

Good Morning Friend,

How much I have to learn about what it means to worship!  It is not about being comfortable in a pew–it is not about having a great sound system–it is not about beginning on time or being well ordered–it is not about being timed down to the hour.  As I engage in worship with my friends here they show me it is the greatest treat of the week!  They come prepared to stay the day! They hunger to talk and share of all the ways God has blessed them in the past week, so the services begin with testimonies of God’s faithfulness–there are so many wanting to speak that the Pastor often has to limit it to 8 or so! central baptist 2(Small) It was heart melting when our helper Flavia stood up and with tears in her voice gave thanks to God for her new job with JjaJa Mike and Lissa. What a privilege it was to be in worship in this place!  Worship is alive in Wakiso and in my heart.  There are two churches that we take the children to.  One is close, just a couple of miles from the village and is called Wakiso Central Baptist Church. That church is led by a wonderful shepherd named Pastor Fred Kibuuka. Fred and Susan (Medium) (Small) His wife is named Susan and she is a great help to Rafiki both in ministering to children and identifying girls who would be good candidates for the Girls’ Center.  

When worship begins,  it opens with music.  Here at Wakiso they have a fragile electronic piano and a man whose enthusiasm more than makes up for any lack of skill.  His chord progressions are more rhythmic and drum beat like than they are carrying any melody line.  The worshippers love for the music to be vigorous and to build in energy and participation, so the praise time goes on and on with people on their feet clapping and so joy filled. I was struck with how the faces are smiling and how delighted they are to be together—our worship seems passive and unemotional by comparison.   DSC02785 (Small) Solos flow into congregational singing and back again–and yet there are no bulletins and you are convinced that what goes on is spontaneous and honest expression from hearts overflowing with love and gratefulness to God.  Following the music, the Pastor invites the congregation to pray and everyone does–out loud and at the same time–the cacophony of sound that rises is powerful–some crying out for mercy, some jubilant and thankful, some confessing and asking for forgiveness. 

There is no hurry in any of this and at a time that seems corporately sensed a quieter song begins and we are ushered together into a time of Pastoral Prayer.  The most striking difference in American and African prayer is that we bring a list of requests to God and they bring a list of praise and thanksgiving.  What a contrast–we have much and want more– they have almost nothing and are profoundly grateful and want to speak it!   The time of offering is also an event–there is a table with a basket set up front and the people sing and dance on the way to deposit their shillings and seem thrilled to have some to give.

I love Pastor Fred’s wife Susan.  She is a fireball and completely dedicated to children’s ministry. DSC02788 (Small) Children from the surrounding village wander into church at odd times and find a place on a crooked, rough bench and look up to her and listen attentively.  They sit pressed together for about 45 minutes relatively still and listening–no flannel board visuals, no VCR, no snack time or toy time–they listen to her teach/preach from Scripture.  The children range in age from about three years old to about eleven. 

The only discipline I see being done is for her to move a child to the front row so they could listen better!  She too begins her time by asking the children, “Who has a testimony of what they are thankful to Jesus for?”  25 hands reach for the sky and they are anxious to go to the front and tell their friends how Jesus helped them by giving them a t-shirt, recovery from flu (cold), providing school fees, healing from malaria, some new slippers (flip flops), or a mother healed, or getting a sweetie (candy), etc.  It is the most humbling thing in the world to sit amid a people who seem to have nothing but who have eyes to see that life is a gift and who have trained eyes to look for something to be grateful for.  How much I have to learn about worship!  Until later—lissa

Candle in the Dark

 Amy Carmichael is for me a hero of the faith.  Elisabeth Amy CarmichaelElliot wrote a wonderful biography of this woman entitled “A Chance to Die”.  She was serving as a missionary in India rescuing young girls from being sold as temple prostitutes when she suffered a terrible fall.   That fall left her confined to her room for the last twenty years of her life.  She was in constant pain and yet her letters and devotional writings composed during that season of pain continue to strengthen believer’s hearts and reveal the riches of a life whose roots are sunk deep in Christ.  I awoke with some melancholy this morning and immediately thought of this friend who sought a candle in the dark.

“All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness.”  Psalm 25:10 RVcandle

All does not mean “all but the paths we are in now” or “nearly all, but perhaps not just this specially difficult painful one”.  All must mean all.

So your path with its unexplained sorrow, and mine with its unexplained sharp flints and briers, and both with their unexplained perplexity of guidance, their sheer mystery, are just lovingkindness, nothing less. 

I am resting my heart on that word.  It bears one up on eagle’s wings; it gives courage and song and sweetness too, that sweetness of spirit which it is death to lose even for one half hour.  God bless you and utterly satisfy your heart with Himself.  I remember in old days almost desperately repeating to myself these lines from Tersteegen; 

 Am I not enough, Mine own?  Enough Mine own for thee?… Am I not enough Mine own?  I forever and alone, I, needing thee?” 

It was a long time before I could say honestly “Yes” to that question.  I remember the turmoil of soul as if it were yesterday, but at last, oh the rest, “for in acceptance lies peace”.  

Amy Carmichael, “A Candle in the Dark“, p. 46 

My Greatest Temptation!

open armsIf I am understanding Galatians 2 rightly,  it is a stunning correction to one of my deepest inclinations! 

According to Paul–and my heart agrees, my greatest temptation is the strong inclination to reject grace in favor of rule-keeping, moral behavior as a basis of relationship with God.  I can not ponder this too often or make too much of it. 

When I seek to make my behaving the basis of my relationship with God I have torpedoed the glorious gospel of grace.  In fact, if my arms are not open wide receiving then I am rejecting Christ’s perfect and complete work by offering.  Do I really think I have any thing to offer to the gift of salvation?  He said “It is finished!”  To reject grace is to substitute self effort!  

Sinclair Ferguson reminds me that the glory of the gospel is that God has declared believers to be rightly related to Him in spite of our sin. That is the amazing part of amazing grace!  But our greatest temptation and mistake is to try to smuggle some of our faulty, blemished character into His complete and perfect work of grace. 

My greatest need is to be reminded daily that I contribute nothing but my sin to my relationship with Christ and He graciously and freely covers my weakness with His perfection!  That is a great and amazing gospel.

My attempt to achieve acceptance or forgiveness or approval from God through any effort of my own is really a twisted form of self worship.  Thomas Schreiner put it this way, ” The desire to obey the law, though appearing commendable is actually an insidious way to gain recognition before God”.   Sounds serious enough that I want to REPENT and RECEIVE!   My arms are open and ready to receive today’s grace gift Lord!

I am under the heady influence of C.J. Mahaney’s sermon, “Enjoying Grace and Detecting Legalism”.

Waiting…

Psalm 130 shouts to my soul that waiting is a purposeful attitude of the heart!

 “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord…”

waiting.jpg

So many times my inner thoughts shout back, “Lord, why so much waiting–what have you got against “now”?’ 

My impatience is conclusive evidence of how much unbelief still lives within.  Impatience has become a siren that lets me know that I am resisting and rejecting the truth. 

In waiting, I have noticed that my faith mushrooms from childish, spoiled ranting to a settled, secure confidence that no matter how long it takes my God is worth waiting for! 

That movement of the soul is from wanting something to wanting the all-satisfying someone!  Waiting whets my appetite for God and what I hunger for is to know Him better.  When that happens Warren Wiersbe says, then living becomes not a mirror in which I see myself better but a window through which I see the Almighty!