>Are You Offended?

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I am sitting in my room on my makeshift couch, which is a bed against the wall with another foam mattress behind it covered by a beautiful African material, swatting at the bugs who want to live on my laptop screen because they are drawn to the LIGHT!!!  And I am listening to some Kenyan worship music from the house next door.  There are two guys, missionaries from Kenya, who live next to me.  There are actually African missionaries from Kenya and Uganda in Sudan.  It’s awesome.  And so I get to hear, and learn if I want to;  Swahili from Kenya plus their local dialect, something from Uganda, and Arabic and Bari from Sudan.  Right now I am concentrating on Arabic.

 I am loving the different cultures of Africa.  While doing my R&R last week in Entebbe, Uganda which is about 40 miles west of Kampala, I would walk the village paths and alleys which were off the beaten path.  I would go into neighborhoods where there was no rhyme or reason to their paths and alleys and would have been utterly lost had I not asked my way every so often.  The people would be so shocked to see a white person walking on these paths that they were all smiles and so happy to help me and explain things as I asked them.  The children would always run up or walk up and greet me and mothers would even gently push their children towards me to touch them.  I really felt Jesus all over me and how He must feel when He walks among His people, just the peace and love inside of me for these beautiful people of Africa.  My smile could not have been bigger nor my step lighter.  I wanted to walk these paths forever.  It was truly that wonderful.

 I left Uganda last Saturday and as we flew over the border of Northern Uganda into Sudan I noticed how very thick the forest was below me.  We flew in a small plane which you couldn’t even stand straight up in and we flew closer to the ground than a big plane and so the landmarks were very distinct.  I thought about the rebels, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and how they must love these dense forests to hide in.  I am reading a book that is written by a nun who chased the LRA into Sudan to get her convent girls back in the late 1990’s.  They, the LRA, are basically a group led by a Ugandan named Joseph Kony who has vowed to take over the Ugandan government and make the people live strictly by the Ten Commandments.

Kony kidnaps young boys and girls and through his leaders has them kill and torture and rape and mutilate people for no reason, not that there would be any reason for this, and he leads by intense fear of death reprisals if they don’t do what he wants them to do.  He does not know the Lord at all.  The LRA is growing smaller as the Congolese and Ugandan and Sudanese armies hunt for them and arrest or kill them.  Right now as I type this, there was a sighting of foot soldiers of the LRA about 20 miles from here.  And so, when I viewed the thick forests below me, I thought of these men and boys and women and girls who need Jesus so much more than we could know.

 Although Sudan has been at peace for almost three years now there is still a lot of subsurface unrest.  Both the Army and the police have their share of problems and then there is the possible split up of North and South Sudan, again, and the powers that be will not be happy with it and so next years pre-elections could cause things to escalate all over again as many are fearing already.  And so the climate here is peaceful with an underlying tension of what may come.

 So!  That is about as political as I get.  I would much rather talk about the things of the Kingdom and faith and love and the goodness of the Lord.  In these things there is no underlying tension, except for the tension of our hearts being pulled by the Lord, and will they break?

Here’s a thought.  Faith is agreement.  If you have faith in something or even someone, you must be in agreement with the outcome of it in order to have the faith in the first place.  Yes?  And love, it is understanding and not so much about faith.  You don’t have to agree with someone to love them.  But in order to have faith in a thing you have to agree with it.

Jesus said to Peter, “Satan, get thee behind Me for you have no part in Me!”  He said this directly to Peter after Jesus told Peter that He must die.  It was like a slap in the face to Peter when he was rebuked in this way.  Jesus did not agree with Peter yet He loved him so much.  Love, is understanding, not agreement.  Jesus told the crowd of disciples, “Eat My flesh and drink My blood.”  The disciples who stayed didn’t necessarily agree with Jesus, they didn’t even understand what He was talking about, but they loved Him and so they stayed.  They had nowhere else to go.  Their faith in what He was doing took over and they came into agreement with Him.

Sometimes Jesus will offend our minds to see who will stick around.  Has my mind been offended lately?  Sunday I went out to the Children’s Center to spend the day.  A little girl about 12 months old came up to me and wanted to be held.  Her pants were soiled and it was still early.  The babies here don’t wear diapers and so….  It would be hours before I could get back to the compound where I live and change my clothes.  Will I let love offend my mind?  I picked her up and I held her.  I would wash later.  I find myself doing this on a routine basis these days, picking up soiled kids, and not being offended anymore.

When we say, “Here I am, Lord send me, all of my life I make an offering” do we really mean “all”? Love doesn’t agree, it understands.  How many times oh Lord have I walked past a young person who offended me because they were too “soiled” to touch, because the words of their mouth offended me or the music they listen to offends me?  God, forgive me.  Offend my mind daily and show me a new way to see, a new way to love.  Help me to “want to” embrace those who just need someone to pick them up, to understand them.

I learn the most amazing things about love by watching the young people of this culture.  Sudan has not known peace in 50 years.  Just since 2006 are they even tasting a little of it, and there is still so much corruption.  These kids have grown up running from tanks and bombs and land mines.  They have been afraid to sleep at night for fear they wouldn’t wake up.  They have been afraid to walk to school for fear they would never see their parents alive again.  They have been afraid to walk on the smaller trails for fear they would be abducted or killed by the LRA.  They have been afraid of coming home only to find their family dead and mutilated.  They have been afraid to be at a church service because this is the first place the LRA will go.  Many of these children have only known violence.  Children are strapped to the back of a mother as the father machete’s her to death.  Other children are beat daily because their parents have never known anything but violence.  This is a country that has grown up in fear.  And yet…….

Sunday, after church, at the Children’s Center there were five teenage girls visiting together.  Three were three girls and two were their friends who lived in the village.  They were all around 15 years old.  The girls brought out chairs for their two friends to sit on.  They brought out a nice small table to set the tea and bread on that they offered to their friends.  After a bit the girls then went and brought a plate of lunch to their friends, offering it to them on their knees with their heads bowed in respect.  Yes they really presented it on their knees in the dirt because I was there and I noticed the dirt on their knees as they got up.  They brought a pitcher of water to rinse the hands of their friends before the meal and watched their friends eat before they even got their own lunch.  They waited until their friends were done and had had plenty before they got their own.  This is the culture of Sudan!  This is the culture where the children grew up in total violence.

When I watch this display of true humility, I see the woman with the alabaster jar at the feet of Jesus and Him telling the owner of the house, “You didn’t wash my feet or my hands when I came in like she has done.  You didn’t offer me a kiss when I arrived like she did.”  These children who have been so abused by their own parents and other people, just like Mary, they love so deeply and honor others above themselves.  I am so humbled by them, so humbled.  Love understands.  Lord offend my mind again today!

Luke 7:44-45 Do you see this woman?  When I came into your house, you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave Me no kiss, but she from the moment I came in has not ceased to kiss My feet.

People were offended.

I watched as young children were throwing rocks up into a very tall mango tree trying to knock down some mangos that were about 40 feet up.  Earlier that day they were practically fighting over these small golf ball size mangos that weren’t even ripe.  They weren’t having any luck and so I joined in the effort and threw sticks and rocks and nothing was coming down.  We saw a single mango hanging low enough to almost reach with a long bamboo pole we had but just out of reach, until I climbed onto a jagged tree stump and was able to knock it down.

They then picked it up and offered it to me, the only mango.  I could not take it.  I wanted them to have it.  They refused and kept holding it out to me like an offering.  I was the guest to this country and deserved the mango, even though I was white and rich in their eyes and could easily purchase 50 mangos.  I took two bites and insisted I was full.  They finally accepted it and shared it amongst themselves.  Then some of the kids were able to climb the tree and brought down about ten nice mangos, although still small.  They came running up to me and gave me the largest one.  This has been the Sudanese culture I have been experiencing.  This is love, ALWAYS giving their best to another before taking for themselves.

Will I give my biggest mango if given the opportunity?  Or will I pick out a nice one, reserving the best for myself?  God, I want to give my biggest and best mango, even giving it to someone who can easily purchase a truck full.  God I want to kneel in the dirt and give an offering of love and honor to another regardless of who they are and how well I know them.  I want to wash Your feet and kiss Your cheek.  What I do for the least of these I do for You.

Mathew 25:40  And the King will reply to them, Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least of these, you did it for Me.

Today was a hard day for me, one of the very few since I’ve been in Africa.  After work I walked the garden on our property, and as I looked up at the stars in the velvet sky I lifted my hands to heaven and listened to my “calling” song that has been mine since last year and I sang it with my heart in my hands and I was reminded yet again as to why I am here.  The song?  The Motions.  Every word is powerful and evokes such emotion in my spirit.  It is my calling song from the Lord, a few of the lines are,

“This might hurt, it’s not safe but I know that I’ve gotta make a change.  I don’t care if I break, at least I’ll be feeling something.

No regrets, not this time, I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind.

I don’t wanna go through the motions, I don’t wanna spend one more day without Your all consuming passion inside of me.

I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking, what if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions.

Have I given everything? Am I giving everything?  Will I give my small trials to God?  Not nearly as much as I want to.  I know that when I truly give myself, my heart and my mind, the only things that God really asks of me, I will realize what “everything” means.  It means the way I think, the way I act and react, the way I honor others, how I love.  Will it cost me anything to give Him everything?  All it will cost me is my mind and my heart, all of it.

Once we give God our minds then He has access to our hearts, without reserve, the “Oh yes Lord, anything You want Lord, because I love You Lord, all because I love You!” then our spirits will explode with such passion that nothing we encounter can stop this flow.  All boundaries and borders that we have set with our minds will disappear.  Walls will come down.  Doors will blow wide open.  And nothing will stop the tempest of His love for you, a mighty rushing wind unleashed upon us.

There’s a knot in me that gets stuck in my throat so many times and I try and push it down, yet all I want to do is release this cry from my very mouth, this cry to live in the freedom of His love!  I dam it up thinking that the breaking will come so fast and so forcefully that I won’t recover quickly, only because of the very power and force of His love for me, because oh I have so much to do today and what will people think because I am always broken for the broken and wounded for the wounded?  My mind gets in the way.

Within you resides the key of David.  The doors you have opened God, no man can shut!  You have unlocked me!  You have thrown open wide the doors to my very heart.  I cry out, “Abba Father!  Abba Father!” and I cry, “Come in, come in!” for once again, He has access to my very heart because it has finally defeated my mind.  Common sense has lost again.  I am free for the SON has set me free!

And I am free to sit in the dirt holding a naked child who has no clothes and feel heaven come down.  I am free to walk the village paths lifting filthy little children into my arms and hearing their laugh, in spite of their tragic lives, and feel the heartbeat of the Father.  I am free to sit at the village well and pray over the baby with malaria and worms and scabies and feel the hand of the Savior.  I am free to receive a warm hug and kiss from a local woman who sweeps the dirt floor of her mud hut so that I can come in and have tea with her and I feel the peace of the Holy Spirit.  I am free to learn from a child.  Free to be a child.  Free to learn how to love from the least loved, the people of Sudan.  I am free to love my Abba radically and fully abandoned to the passion that has swept my very soul for HIM because I see how He loves!

Relationships are what matters here over everything else.  You cannot do business here without forming relationships first.  You cannot just walk down the road and do your own thing.  People want to know you.  They really are interested in hearing what you have to say, not being distracted by their lives, however hard they may be.  Relationships are their very lives.  It is so very nice.

Jesus, You are all about relationship.  Imagine that……. He rarely got time alone.

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