Friday, May 24, 2013

No shame in dancing naked

A few weeks ago I spent a week at Mwika Hope. It's an orphanage that Convoy of Hope provides food for. These children have seen and gone through things that no child should ever have to experience.

One child was put in a plastic bag and literally thrown away when he was born. His mom couldn't care for him and didn't know what else to do. But, we all know that there is no such thing as a life without purpose. God has plans for this young boy. A woman heard him crying and rescued him. As the years went by it was hard for the woman to care for him. She had heard of Mwika Hope and brought the boy there. He is doing well and loves Jesus. He's about 9 years old now. He knows that Jesus has a plan and purpose for him.

Several of the children were abandoned or orphaned or shunned by the community. Many of them are HIV+ as are their siblings and parents. You look at where these kids come from and the trials they are facing and it's easy to be overcome with sadness and sorrow.

Mama Mrina started Mwika Hope because of a dream she had. God told her to care for the children of her community that don't have anyone to care for them. Her husband is a pastor. Their church is on the property.

Some of the kids are part of the children's worship choir. Let me tell you something. When these kids sing and dance all you see in their eyes is hope. They aren't letting their circumstances define their future. They sing and dance with everything that is in them.

As my eyes filled up with tears I asked God why can't I sing and dance like they do? No, I'm not talking about physically haha. If you know me at all you know that I can't dance.
I'm talking spiritually. The hardest times in my life pale in comparison to what they have gone through and yet I have a hard time finding the joy to dance before the Lord like they do. God told me, "Joy is in the dancing. Freedom is in the dancing." I mentally battled my desire to be free and my insecurity of dancing.

Joy is in the dancing. That has played over and over in my head. Today I asked myself when was the last time I dance before the Lord? Danced because of what God has done. Danced because He is good. Danced because of the freedom He has given me.

Naturally, I thought of King David. He literally danced naked in worship to God. I, however, prefer to dance naked spiritually. Sometimes we put on this front like God doesn't really know all of who we are. He does! He loves us with an unfailing, relentless love. And, that my friend, is worthy of a dance. Like a child. Innocent and carefree. Twirling and jumping and expressing love and thankfulness to a God that isn't far removed from us but closer than our skin.

So, go ahead. Dance naked! Dance at church. Dance at home. Dance with your kids. Dance alone. Dance because joy is in the dancing. Dance because freedom is in the dancing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Can't stop. Won't stop.

About 2 1/2 years ago I met my way cool BFF Mary Beth during my internship with Convoy of Hope. I often compare our relationship to that of David and Jonathan. A friendship that could only have happened because of God. The internship ended but we remained in touch.

We decided to do a devotion together via Facebook. She was in TN/MO and I was in California. We chose a study on John by Beth Moore. Changed my life forever!! Ever since then we have been doing bible studies regularly. Whether we are doing the same study or different ones we message our thoughts and responses to each other. This has made me so desperate to know God more and more. There would be gaps of a couple of days between studies and I found myself anxiously waiting for the book to arrive or eager decide which one to do next.

We have done at least 7 studies so far. Just yesterday we started No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. We decided to do this one together. Though I'm in Tanzania and she's in TN we can still encourage each other spiritually and discuss our journeys through these mini adventures with Jesus. Discovering mysteries in his word, learning more about his faithfulness, seeing things in our lives that need to change, encouraging each other to step out, asking questions without feeling judged, all things that draw us closer to God. 

It's safe to say I'm addicted! I don't ever want to not be doing some sort of bible study or devotion. There is no way to know everything there is to know about God but I want to spend my life getting to know him as much as I can!

Here are some of the studies and books we have done/are doing. I encourage you to do a study with a friend or a group. There is no limit to what God can do when we approach him honestly and openly. Find a person or 2-3 that you feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable and open with. Allow God to use the group and the devotions to stir up a passion in your life! 

Bible studies/devotions:
By Beth Moore:

By Kelly Minter:

By Lysa TerKeurst

By Lysa TerKeurst

By JoAnn Butrin

By Dave Donaldson

I hope you enjoy one, some, or all of these as much as I have. I also hope that your relationship with Jesus will be more than you could have imagined!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A little foreskin, a big responsibility

I've been here for about 35 days now. It would take 35 days to tell all that I have seen, heard, felt, tasted, and smelled. It's a lot let me tell you!

One day I had a conversation about thieves, drugs, gangs, and the Masai circumcision ceremony. That hour and a half conversation left me bug-eyed and thankful to be a woman and respecting the Masai men a little more than I had before.

I want to share with you what I learned about the circumcision ceremony.

As a woman I am not permitted to know some of the details. I'm okay with that!
This is what happens- according to my friend...

The boy decides when he wants to be circumcised. He approaches his father and tells him that he is ready to be circumcised. The father begins to beat him with sticks and "test" him to see if he really is ready. Asking, "Are you sure you want this?", "So you're ready to be a man?", and so on. All the while hitting him and making sure he is ready mentally and physically.

When the father can see that his son truly wants to go through with it he prepares for the ceremony.

The son is taken away from the family -no females are permitted to see him. With the father and few other men they start the ceremony around 2pm. The son is taken into the woods. There the men continue to torment him. Testing his mental and physical strength and determination.

As darkness falls and the moon is the only light, they take the boy farther into the woods. One by one a man leaves the group. He begins to make hyena sounds and animal cries to scare the boy. The son is questioned, "where is so-and-so?" He doesn't know because it's too dark and he is in unfamiliar land. They tell him, "We killed him just like we are going to do with you" or "The lion got him". One by one they leave until it's just the father and son. The son is soon left alone. In the dark. Not knowing what is coming next.

Day breaks. The boy is sleep deprived and hungry. The men continue to test him. The sting of the sticks against the skin, the pinching, the mental games forcing the son to have the courage to go through with the circumcision or to back out and lose respect from the community and the chance to become a man.

Finally the time comes, around noon, to perform the circumcision. The son is washed and prepped. He mustn't cry or even flutter his eyes. They sit him down. Two men holding him at the shoulders. The father performs the circumcision. The son must remain brave and strong. If he even flinches he won't be considered a man.

The procedure is done. The boy the came into the woods has emerged a man. Now, he can no longer be picked on or told what to do.  For 30 days he is celebrated. Singing, dancing, and fed choice foods and meats. Once he returns to the community he has earned the respect of the men, women, and children.

My friend that shared this with me got circumcised when he was 13. Wow. And, ouch.

To become a man is a choice. It isn't at a certain age or if you have sex or when grow facial hair.  It's a decision that carries a lot of weight and isn't taken lightly.

Kinda gets you thinking about what you would do to become a man doesn't it? And, fellow women, can you imagine the angst of being away from your son for thirty days not knowing what is happening to him? I couldn't imagine. As painful as the process is it shows that manhood is a responsibility that is earned not just assumed.