My ways are not His ways…

22 02 2012

It always makes me laugh when God opens your eyes to something He has already done. When He ever so gently whispers into my ear the work His Spirit has been conducting within the depths of me, I laugh and think, “How do you slip these things by me.” Obviously I quickly realize it is because my ways are not His ways and my thoughts are not His thoughts(Isa. 55:8-9). Quickly to set the scene for this entry, I want to say that I thought I came here without expectation and only now do I realize that I was misguided in this thinking.

I came to Sudan almost 5 months ago now. I recently became aware that my strongest expectation and one of the main reasons I came here was because I knew without a doubt that I would have a solid community surrounding and strengthening me in my walk. I can’t express how I have missed just this in the past year or so. I wasn’t without community back home but it was lacking in areas I find important. Nevertheless, I knew that being here I would be surrounded by single-minded brothers in the Faith(guys need guys). I was also convinced that this was exactly what I needed as it is all I could figure that I had been lacking back home. I was certain that my walk would begin improving and even that struggles might fade. Now you all should know that the Lord was faithful in answering this desire for community in a smaller way and I am certainly not absent of community all together. That being said, the only other guy within my entire community left over two months ago. There are approximately  10 girls within my community, however, my desire was more specifically to have brothers to share life with. There are guys here from other communities, but my access to them is limited at best. I am also living alone, so nights are rather quiet and overall not what I pictured.

Back in December I was expecting two guys to come and move in within weeks after my old roommate left. Despite this universal(amongst my community) expectation I kept hearing God tell me that I was about to go through a season of testing in solitude. Even my leader assured me I would be alone for a few weeks at the worst. For reasons beyond my explanation, I was sure about God’s recommendation to prepare for solitude and so I did. Well God proved faithful in His guidance as around mid January I discovered that I would be on my own for a significant amount of time as the other guys’ visa requests had been denied. I was surprisingly content during this whole process, even though I had been so sure that a firm community of guys was the situation necessary to grow closer to the Lord. Before I continue I want to say that my situation is not ideal, and I still firmly believe that a solid community of brothers is a good thing in the eyes of the Lord and can help tremendously with one’s walk. With that clarification, I want to reiterate that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. God didn’t provide me with a community of brothers to surround me. He didn’t meet my expectation of community during my time here. He didn’t use what I thought I needed to improve myself in my walk with God. No, instead He quite coolly said His desire wasn’t for me to have more community but rather more of Him. Amen. I am blessed to say that He has been faithful to show me more of His ways and His nature as I simply faithfully remain obedient  to His will in my life everyday. He continues to teach me about contentment in all situations, especially in solitude with the Lord. My abiding time has never been stronger and my communication is clearer and more consistent than I ever recall. What’s more is that through this season of solitude I am becoming exponentially more grateful for any community time I do get. Praise God for His perfect will.

I say all of this really just to say that the Lord is blessing me more abundantly than ever as I die to my dependence on community every new day. I am growing in ways and to extents that I wouldn’t have had I been engulfed in a sea community. All glory to God as He is the one that spoke to me the prophecy of a season of solitude, He is the one that directed me in my preparation for this season, His strength allows me to endure each new day and challenge, and He provided the growth and fruit in my relationships with Sudanese, the Body, and most importantly the Lord, Himself.  I pray that as you read this you rethink your role in your development and direction. We all must die to what we think is best and spend time in silence and solitude listening to the gentle voice of a loving Father. We simply need to remain obedient to the Spirit’s leading and the Word in all things. We must have the faith to keep walking in the direction and situation He is leading in even when He doesn’t tell us the destination. He alone is good and His will is perfect. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Take a step back and ask yourself who leads your life. Pray for direction and for revelation of His thoughts. Fair warning: If you do this prepare to die to yourself, for there is no other way to follow where the Lord leads. May the Lord keep you and bless you all. May His love abound. Shalom.

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Views around Sudan

12 02 2012

So I decided to show all of you some of my favorite pictures since I have been here. I hope you enjoy.

 

This was maybe a week into my stay here. Brock and I went out on the Blue Nile to do some canoeing… I never planned on staying in the canoe.

This was one of my favorites from the trip we took to see the Sufi whirling dervish dancing rituals. It was fascinating how different this particular sect was in its practices.

Brock, Hussan, and I went to the Khartoum International Music Festival and I think there was some confusion because they sat us beside the British Council. ha This was a wonderful British folk band whose name escapes me at the moment.

This is my first Sudanese wedding, but it certainly wasn’t my last. It is quite different than American weddings. There is about a 5 minute ceremony and the music starts and dancing begins. Of course males and females do NOT dance together.

These are a few of the guys I hang out with around the English center. They were kind enough to invite us to the wedding.

This was a meal served to the men at an engagement party. This meal is complete with the likes of tamia(falafel), Fuul(Fava beans with cheese), Salata Aswat(Eggplant mush), Sheep’s stomach, Lamb meat, Batates(potatoes), and a few other treasures. I throughly enjoyed it all.

Us guys stopped to climb a mountain in the middle of the desert. Major man points. That is Sem walking with me to start the decent.

This is a nice picture of one set of the Nile cataracts from the view of an old British fort.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to go out on this amazing sailboat but I love the pictures I got from it.

We took a trip up to the Meroitic Pyramids in the northern region of Sudan. This is a nice shot of our camel ride to the pyramids from the campsite.

Despite this frowned upon activity  being short-lived due to getting caught, it was great to climb a pyramid. 🙂

This is a shot I got from the roof of a friend’s building. It is a nice view of Khartoum.

I hope you enjoyed these photos. I will try to do some more of this as I gain more photos. I think the next project will be my apartment. May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you always.





Street Livin' in Sudan

28 01 2012

I want to take this opportunity to tell you all a story suiting of my life, yet absolutely ridiculous. First to set the stage…

I had been out pretty late one night because my friend Abdulla was graduating from university and I went to the graduates party which is a whole other story. Anyway, By the time I got back to the flat I was ready to crash to say the least. I walked into the little complex I live in and as I try to get in the building, I am shocked to find that my key will not work. I had been having issues with the lock in the past but this was a different situation. I was tired and there were no other doors to get in and so begins my story.

Well the night guard came from around the corner because he heard me and my slight frustration. For the next 20 minutes he and I stood there calling building managers, landlords, and potential short term visitors among others. Keep in mind this is at just past midnight and apparently none of them were waking up to answer which I can’t say I blame them. After calling every possible solution I began to think of other means of getting inside while the undesirable possibility of finding alternative sleeping arrangements loomed within my thoughts. Needless to say I eventually gave up. I told the night guard that I had another place to sleep which wasn’t a lie. I had already picked out a place right up the road.

He quickly agreed to let me go to my alternative place of rest, although he did want to try continuing calling. I was to tired though, so I bid him good night and made my way just down the road to my decided place of residence for the night, a large pile of rocks at the end of my road. I don’t deny that there were possibly better alternatives but I was tired and that pile of rocks was vacant. I think that seems logical enough. I think the most common question I have gotten from hearers of my story is, “What line of thought lead to the choosing of a pile of rocks for a bed?” I will answer this by explaining the advantages of this particular pile. the back side of the pile had a sort of plateau on its slope and the rocks were smooth. This created what I describe as a “really firm, memory foam mattress.” This “Mattress was formed on the side of the pile blocked from the wind which in Sudan at night is a good thing. Lastly, I would like to say in my decisions defense is that it was not terribly uncomfortable by any stretch of the imagination. There was just one thing I didn’t count on. Apparently that was the coldest night Sudan has had in quite some time.

I did sleep for about three hours before waking up with no feeling in any of my appendages and a desperate need for a bathroom. I climbed the wall to the preschool I live beside in search of a bathroom only to nearly step on a night guard sleeping in there. He woke up to a bearded white guy asking the whereabouts of the bathroom. I am sure people have been terrified by less, but this guy was awesome. He pointed me to the bathroom and upon emerging from there I see him setting up a mat with a pillow and even a blanket in the back of the preschool. I thanked him as much as possible whilst shivering and numb. I slept there the rest of the night and this story has a very happy ending as I awoke early only to be served tea and cake by my savior that was a part of the Family. I thanked him for all of his hospitality frustrated that there wasn’t more that I could do to express my gratitude. He just assured me that was the way the family of God should work. I got in to the building shortly after waking up and all was well.

I love this story not because of its appropriate randomness or the manliness of sleeping on rocks out in the cold streets. I love and will always remember this story because of the brother that exemplified the way we should treat each other within the Body. He will not be forgotten. On top of that blessing this story has blessed many with a lot of laughter. Even if it is somewhat at my expense I am glad it can bless people in anyway. That is my story though. The story of my night on the streets of Khartoum, Sudan. Hope you enjoyed it. Blessing to you all.

Timothy





Restful times in lavish beauty…

29 12 2011

Blessings to you readers in the name of JSS. I am in Nairobi, Kenya at the moment and I can only muster the words “God gives extravagantly.” I am not certain of whether it is the smell of flowers flowing in my window right now, the beautiful foliage I am surrounded by, the extreme change from Sudan, or some mixture of the all these factors, but I do believe this is one of the most wonderful places I am have ever been. I had been in Sudan for two and a half months before coming here and I must say that it was a well-timed trip. I was becoming somewhat tired and just wanted a break from my work and studies in Sudan to recharge. As a small disclaimer I would like to say that many work longer and harder than I, and I praise God fora time of rest for them.

Well as I stated before, the Lord gives extravagantly. Hallelujah! Upon stepping off the plane at the Nairobi airport I was hit with a cool breeze thick with humidity. The weather was perfect. Overcast, with a smell of rain and green grass abounding. I knew the Lord had brought me here in His perfect timing. We arrived at our lodging at which time I was astonished at its beauty and peacefulness. My room here is small and cozy and the bed…. Oh the bed! I think it is mainly because of the fact that I am no longer accustomed to having a real bed or a reason to use blankets living in Sudan that I find it so invigorating to sleep in it. I am staying at a Mennonite guesthouse just so that you know. It serves three meals a day, has a tree swing, prayer garden & walk, and flowers so bright and beautiful that I often carry around the ones I find on the ground as I see this as an unfit end for such beautiful creations. The guesthouse has a huge backyardish area with some trees worth climbing and  others offering sights of majesty in their old age and immensity, along with plenty of places to sit and read quietly or fellowship with others. At night especially, you can smell the resplendent fragrance of the flowers. I have a theory that the reason I smell the flowers with greater pungency at night is because my eyes are deceived by the darkness’ attempt to cloak their beauty, so God is seeking to dazzle me with the flowers using my other senses that I may experience them 24 hours a day. My first night here I laid down around 8:30 and the next thing I remember is waking up at around 8 to a really loud knocking on my door saying breakfast was almost over. Nearly 12 hours of undisturbed rest amongst a beauty I can only speak of in a whispery reverence was truly a gift from God.

I have gotten to do some souvenir shopping and some serious nom-nommage(eating) among other things so far. However, I must say that I am mainly enjoying the relaxing time out in the grass here at the guesthouse. I am excited to see my Kenyan friend Ron from college tomorrow and spend the day allowing him to show me what I need to see of Nairobi. I am also blessed to be going on safari on the first of the new year. What a wonderful start to the new year. I am also going to do a little more shopping and God willing I am going to go hiking up some volcano near by that some fellow guests were sharing with me. On the second I head to Brackenhurst which is a conference center surrounded by tea fields to venture through up in the mountains. I will finish out my time here in Kenya there. I return to Sudan on the sixth of January and while I am so thankful for this season of rest I am now equally ready to return anew to the land and the people I was led to serve.

As I said, I am grateful for this extravagant rest the Lord has blessed me with; however, I recognize it for what it is and nothing more. This time of rest is swiftly coming to a close and I pray that the Lord would prepare me for reentry into Sudan and all that that entails. When you need rest ask the Lord to give it to you. He is faithful and gives lavishly. When God gives you that peace and joy and hope that exceeds understanding do not dare hoard it. Harness and use it for God. Share it with those around you and proclaim the One from whom you received such magnificent gifts. Blessings to you all. I am going to go partake of the rest the Lord provided. Soli Deo gloria. Amen.





The blessing of solitude…

27 12 2011

First I would like to say that my brother Brock is back in the United States. His flight was on Saturday and I am now in a period of time where I have no roommate for an unknown period of time. Before I go on I want to give thanks for Brock. It was a true blessing from God to have the opportunity to live, serve, and grow with a young man of such high character and humble demeanor. He will be missed. Furthermore, I pray for a blessed Christmas with his family and friends back home.

I have faced difficulty with being alone in the past, and at times loneliness has overcome my senses. Loneliness is a state of such spiritual weakness that I see it as the most dangerous circumstance a human being can face. Praise the Lord because there is hope in Him. The Lord has called us from loneliness to solitude as Richard Foster said in his book Celebration of Discipline. The difference between the two is vast as the joy of the Lord. Loneliness is a state of emptiness, whereas, solitude is a state of being full of God with evidence of joy and peace. I have been similar to the multitudes that cannot fathom more than an hour of silence without music or Facebook or movies as a buffer. Gradually as I have spent a greater amount of time seeking God’s kingdom and through an uneasy transformation  at times, I am being filled with an inner solitude and silence that goes beyond consciousness. The silence of a life spent in inner solitude with God resonates with the silence of God in everyday circumstances without actively attempting to remain calm or joyful or hopeful. The solitude I feel with God in typically frustrating or even enraging situations creates habitual unaffectedness. This unaffectedness is Godly and not to be confused with apathy towards anything or anybody. I associate the unaffectedness with Colossians 3:15 which says,”And let the peace of the Messiah… control your hearts. Be thankful.” This means the silence(peace) the Lord offers us should keep our love, joy, hope, gentleness, kindness, and self control constant amidst the Devil’s attempts to steal them and the inherent sinful nature of our flesh. Praise God for the blessing that He can make all things new!

God is continuing to show that I haven’t arrived and am constantly arriving speaking in terms of spiritual growth. I pray the realization of this particular growth causes greater desire for God’s love and silence in my life rather than arrogance in spiritual growth. I have discovered the latter is one of the most cunning tools of the Devil and also one of the most destructive both individually and communally. I have come to this conclusion based on my own shortcomings in this area. May spiritual discipline never exceed its purpose which is to keep those seeking them on the narrow path to God’s Kingdom. Once the disciplines of God are no longer the direction, but instead the destination the Devil has deceived you and self-righteousness will be the wretched consequence. Praise the Lord for surrounding me with others who’s lives remind me that I have ample learning to do.

I can say that glory be to God that as I spent time preparing for time without constant community due to the absence of a roommate He was molding away at the lump of clay which is my very being and soul. He went before me, He prepared my way, He taught me exactly what I need to learn at the exact time I needed to learn it, and in all this is faithfulness and love forever rings true. At the risk of being too cliche, I am not surviving a lonely season, rather I am joyously thriving in a season of solitude with the Lord, Hallelujah. I pray that all of the people that read this would more fully experience the holy silence inside the peace of the Lord unveiled through joyous time spent in solitude with God. Soli Deo gloria. Amen.





Love and be unoffendable…

7 11 2011

The more time I spend in a country where I am the spiritual minority, the more I realize the importance of the Lord’s words to His disciples in Jhn 15:17-16:3. The Lord said that as believers we will be hated and persecuted by those that do not know the Lord or that He was sent by God. In 16:1 the Lord said that He had spoken those things to them so that they would not be offended. In the next verse He goes on to prophesy that even martyrdom would occur.

In my prayers I have sought understanding of this passage from the Spirit. Praise God, He has been more than faithful in answering my prayers. The Lord said all of those things to help us maintain a loving and joyful spirit even in the face of skepticism, mockery, hatred, persecution, and even death. I feel as though He is reiterating His teachings on loving your enemies(Mtthw 5:43-48; Lk 6:27-36).

This truth is becoming an evermore important aspect in retaining a loving spirit and preventing frustration and contempt from overcoming my mind and my actions. I do not want to mislead anyone. As far as I know no one wants me dead or is planning to stone me, and physical persecution has not reached me at this point. That being said, almost daily I am experiencing strong skepticism, as illogical as it may be, denial and mockery of the truth of the Lord as our Savior, twisting of the Word, and other attempts to disprove Christianity. I would like to bring attention to the fact that these things do not encompass my entire day or even every conversation. There are many that are interested and dare I say even intrigued by my beliefs. Now that there is more clarity about  my circumstances, I can say that what I am experiencing accompanied with everyday stresses can easily cause cynicism to take root in my heart. This quenches the Spirit’s ability to speak through us and comfort us causing increased frustration and a lack of self control.

So far I have been in one religious discussion where my words and beliefs were attacked and I briefly engaged in argumentative talk with a group of Those whom the Lord loves. I felt terrible the rest of the day and convicted of the realization that I had acted in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. nothing good comes from arguing and my lack of self control and patience makes me no different than the people that don’t follow the Lord. The Lord said that all men would know we are his by our love(Jhn 13:34) not by our superior intellect or debating ability.

God also revealed to me His superiority in this situation. He doesn’t need us to defend Him or His Word with useless arguing.He is more than capable of defending Himself. Instead we should allow our faith to speak in our place and use the Spirit’s discernment to decide who is asking genuine questions and who is trying to pick a fight. Upon realizing these different situations we can more accurately respond and steer the conversation in a direction that glorifies God and His Kingdom.

I have said all of these things to say that my prayer right now is that I might become “unoffendable” in the love and guidance of the Spirit. The Lord has called us to this characteristic and I simply am trying to be obedient to who He wants me to be. This is my prayer for all of you as well, that you not be offended by those that disagree with you, use you, persecute you, and hate you all for the glory of God.

I want to conclude with a testament to the love made available by God. I had a discussion the other day and the argument afore mentioned was brought up. I apologized and explained that arguing was not my purpose. Some of them that have gotten to know me informed me that it was no problem and they knew how I care about deeply for them and others. They said they could “see that in me.” I was taken aback but I managed to respond, “I love people because God first loved me,'(1 Jhn 4:19). How lost we would be without His love. I pray you all embrace it more wholly each moment. I want to give all thanks to the Spirit for this post as He has revealed these truths to me. All glory belongs to God. Amen.

Ma salaama,

Timothy





Embracing the strength of weakness…

25 10 2011

Friends, I am one to deny weakness in my life despite how true its presence has been in the past. It is just part of who I am I suppose. That being said, I am weak. I don’t mean I am having difficulty, rather I am admitting to impossibility in my walk here in Sudan. Thankfully, what is impossible with man is not only possible with God but probable. Amen. With each passing day I realize more and more that I can do nothing without God’s grace in my life.

The conditions are difficult here and my physical health is weary at best. Please note I am not deathly ill and most of my ailments are common and not terribly serious. My ability to learn the names I am hearing and the Arabic language comes from God alone because it is extremely difficult. Praise the Lord for patience and resilience in this area. Lastly the People the Lord loves can not learn His truth via my ability. Only through the divine intervention of God will the People the Lord loves find everlasting joy in the Lord.

God spoke to Paul in a vision and said, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness,”(2CRTHN12:9). My prayer is that my weakness will continue to point more clearly to the strength and power of the Lord to whom all glory belongs. I have no doubt in my mind that there are many other instances where I am decreasing and the lord is increasing, but I hope my point was made. I hope and pray that al is well where ever you may be, and remember to embrace weakness and gain the Lord’s strength.

Grace and peace,

Timothy