Thursday, August 28, 2014

Liking the "Unlikely"

"God doesn't consider age, background, nationality...He looks at our hearts."

I fervently shared these words with my young friend, who was trying to bravely and cautiously think about her future. I knew she was doubting if and how God could use her, lead her, and bless her.

"I love the scripture in 1 Samuel that says 'man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart'."

I really think God likes the unlikely. 

He promises a long-awaited son to an elderly ancient, well-past-their-prime couple. (Abraham and Sarah)

He chooses the forgotten, smells-like-sheep little brother to be the next anointed king. (David)

He collapses an impenetrable wall - with crazy shouts and trumpet blasts. (Jericho)

He transforms an arrogant teenager into the second most powerful man in Egypt. (Joseph)

He creates an entire nation from a motley crew of 12 brothers born from a dysfunctional polygamous family. (The nation of Israel.)

He calls uneducated, rough-around-the-edges fishermen to be his first disciples. (Peter, James, John)

He almost seems to favor the very young, the very old, the poor, the despised, the overlooked, etc. (Samuel, Moses, the Samaritan woman, Zaccheus...)

Why? Because He likes the unlikely.

It is the "unlikely" who best display His radiant glory. The weaker the vessel, the greater His power is shown.

This is the message I wanted to convey to my friend this afternoon as we shared tea and sweet brown bread. She comes from a poor family, was raised in the islands, is shy and quiet, is one of the few Christians in her predominantly-Muslim home, and has struggled with many challenges over the years.

But, God loves these odds - He really does.

Don't even think there is anything you can or can't do, or that you were born with or born without, that will throw a wrench in His plans for you.

After we prayed over my friend's future and the coming steps and days that only God knows, I told her I was excited for what lies ahead. Because I really am.

I am excited because He has brought her so far already.

I am thrilled because she loves Him and wants to please Him in all she does.

I am very eager to see her unfolding story.

I am confident that the One who began His good work in her will continue and complete it. (Phil. 1:6)

The Author God loves writing in interesting twists and surprise endings, doing above and beyond what we can even ask or think. He's awesome like that.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21

P.S. Please be praying for my friend, Fauza, that she would continue to trust and believe in the God who has good plans for her.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Videos from Murchison

Here are a couple of short videos that I took during my recent visit to Murchison Falls National Park. Happy viewing! :)

Wishing you all a blessed weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Awe of His Handiwork

The awesomeness and creativity of my Creator often leave me speechless and take my breath away.

I had several such experiences during a recent "safari" trip to Murchison Falls National Park in northwest Uganda. It is Uganda's oldest park and its largest - spanning about 5000 kilometers.

I took many photos of fun, interesting, and beautiful creatures and birds, as well as incredible scenic views and vistas.

God doesn't have to try to be creative, beautiful and majestic - He just is. And when He gives us glimpses of His character and handiwork, we are left in awe.

Murchison Falls on the Nile River.

Giraffe (there were so many in the park).

An amazing morning sky.



A mother impala helps her just-born young try to stand.

Hippos in Lake Albert.


Saddle-billed stork

Trees on the bank of the Nile.

Murchison Falls


Sunrise on the Nile at the ferry crossing.

A brilliant sunrise

Cape buffalo
I loved seeing all of the different types of trees!

Kaluma Falls - upriver from Murchison Falls.

"Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. 
Full of splendor and majesty is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.
He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful." - Psalm 111:2-4

To see more photos, click here. :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Breaking His Heart

Thankful for the incredible expanse of God's love.

“What do you think God is thinking?”

I pause a moment – debating how to respond to my young friend’s passion-filled question.

“I think it breaks His heart,” I comment slowly.

We were talking about a former female student who had left the school last term. I was a bit uninformed as to all of the circumstances of her departure, but my young friend filled me in – drawing her information no doubt from the ready “gossip” circulating in the girls’ dormitory.

“Mary” (name changed) had become pregnant a few months ago. But as the story unfolded - in an extremely strange turn of events, she was allegedly impregnated by the same young man who had just impregnated her own mother. In great distress, Mary’s mother then took her unborn baby’s life followed by her own.

Now it seemed Mary had also aborted her little one as well. And, she was apparently acting as if nothing had happened. This blatant nonchalance greatly bothered my young friend, which prompted the above question.
I think she expected me to respond with a judgment or sharp criticism of Mary’s behavior.

“I think it breaks His heart,” I began, continuing with an illustration of how a parent must feel after doing their best to raise a child and then that child rebels and goes after, not what is best, but what is actually most harmful to him or her.

“God will accept her back, if she returns to Him,” I concluded.

My heart aches and breaks for the youth here and how they often settle not for “better” or “best,” but what is sugar-coated garbage in comparison. Seemingly-easy choices with instant results and gratification, versus the “best” – God’s best – waiting on Him for His perfect timing and the right paths carefully planned for them.

I want this for them. But God wants it so much more for them. In fact, He died so they could have it – freely and abundantly.

I love the beloved parable of the Prodigal Son (found in Luke 15) and especially the part where the gracious father runs and embraces his rebellious-turned-repentant son. In that wonderful moment, all sins and debts are completely forgiven and forgotten. The son is fully restored.

I imagine God’s heart breaks over those who are still far – those attempting to find satisfaction in the pig sty, feasting on the swine’s disgusting “leftovers.”

The original Greek uses “prodigally” as an adverb, meaning, “riotous, reckless, wasteful.” The young dude didn’t just go and spend a few quarters at the local arcade, no, he likely indulged in every form of sin-soaked act you can imagine. He went all the way, lived to the hilt, sparing no expense. Even worse was that he squandered his father’s hard-earned wealth - while his father was still living.

We may judge, but we are all prodigals. We are born neck-deep in muddy, disgusting sin, wasting what our Father has freely given us of His wealth, eatin’ with the pigs – oblivious to our sin-encrusted, destruction-bound state. And our Father’s heart is breaking for us.

I may judge Mary, but every day I make choices that break my Father’s heart – when I settle for what is “okay” or even sinful, rather than embracing His best for me, when I saunter toward shiny enticements, and walk away from Him, when I blindly judge other “prodigals,” not gratefully realizing the extravagant grace I have been given.

I don’t know why He waits, looking for me, or why He has compassion, runs toward me and embraces me. That kind of love is incomprehensible. That kind of forgiveness is unfathomable.

It just shows what kind of Creator and God we have. Though His heart has been broken countless times over thousands of years, He still waits, watches, hopes, pities, runs, embraces, kisses, forgives, robes, rejoices, and celebrates over each and every prodigal son or daughter who has returned.

Where do you fit in the story? Are you the prodigal who has, or who has not yet returned?

If you haven't come back, your Heavenly Father’s heart is breaking for you. And He is waiting…and watching to catch a glimpse of the long-lost son or daughter He loves so incredibly much.