Sunday, May 24, 2015

Gaining Perspective

View from the top of Lingira hill.

One of my favorite places is on the top of the hill which runs like a rocky backbone down the middle of the island.

A 20-minute hike up the stone-embedded and grass-covered slope and you reach the top. The stunning 360-view makes the breathless endeavor so worth it as you take in the immense lake, the other islands and the landforms of all shapes and sizes.

On the hilltop I gain a different perspective; I feel small. Not insignificant, just small in comparison to the vast panorama.

As I sat atop the hill last weekend, my ears were alerted to chirping and “clicking.” My eyes scanned the skies and I saw tiny birds flying, swooping and riding the air currents. I no longer felt like the small one as I watched these little creatures in their own world.

Looking toward the southeast from the hilltop.

I realized one’s vantage point can change one’s perspective.

I imagine in their own environment, my winged friends prize their station. But when they ride the massive waves of the air, they are “put in their place.”

A bird's eye view of the island.

Bigger than they, I feel significant in “my place” and the island I call home seems large enough – until I climb the hill and gain a new vantage point. The lake and landforms stretch as far as the naked eye can see. Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, with thousands of islands scattered across its surface. The wide and long panorama puts me back in my humble position once again.

A massive lake with numerous islands and yet on a map, Lake Victoria shrinks in comparison to the continent on which it sits. It is put in its place. Africa has 54 countries and is the second-largest continent and the second most populous in the world.

Uganda in East Africa.

My home of Uganda is the world’s second most populous landlocked country, trailing only behind neighboring Ethiopia. (1) And it is the 35th largest country in terms of population. Yet, it can be difficult to find on a map, compared to the enormity of the continent it is enveloped in and to the rest of planet Earth.

Africa itself is home to 1.13 billion people or about 15% percent of the world’s population. Its expanse covers six percent of the Earth’s total surface and 20 percent of its total land area. (2)
Speaking of the Earth, I love those film documentaries that show our planet from space – giving again a greater view.

On our blue and green globe, we feel pretty important. We used to think we were the center of the universe, until we took “a step back” and gained an accurate perspective.


According to NASA, if the sun was as tall as a typical front door, the Earth in comparison would be the size of a nickel. (3) As an inhabitant of our “important” planet, how do you feel now?

Again, according to NASA, there are billions of solar systems in our galaxy and billions of galaxies in the universe. (4) Have you ever tried to count to a billion?

Our solar system orbiting the sun.

Each time I look at the star-studded night sky, I am reminded of the immensity of the universe.
In our own realms we seem to know “our place” and our importance. Yet it is not our geographical location nor our status that gives us significance, it is the fact that we were created and are known by our Awesome Creator.

The same God who sees the tiny bird atop my small island is the same One who takes in our “immeasurable” universe in one glance. Just try and wrap your mind around that.

A sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from His notice and yet the nations are a drop in the bucket to Him. (Matthew 10:29, Isaiah 40:15) How is this possible?

I don’t know and I can’t wrap my mind around it. But recognizing God’s amazing power and omniscience reminds me my problems are not difficult for Him. It is enough that He sees me and knows me as a unique and prized individual (Psalm 13) and expresses that what is important to me is important to Him. This is incredible, incomprehensible love.

When the status of our lives or our country or of our world begin to birth anxious thoughts in our hearts and minds, may I encourage you to watch the sparrows or look up at the night sky. Our God is an Awesome God. He sees all, He knows all; He is sovereign. Yes, He intimately knows our troubles, but He tells us not to worry because He’s in charge and always will be.

He’s got the whole world and so much more in His hands.

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8 (NIV)



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Spin on Prayer

A Ugandan butterfly.

"I stopped asking God for things, and started thanking Him for them."

These words have echoed in my heart and head for a long time, after initially hearing them from a wise Ugandan friend. Such a perspective on prayer intrigues me.

What if I stopped asking from God and began thanking Him for how He has already answered?

I think you would agree with me the needs around us are endless - world crises, national issues, requests of family and friends, and our own personal petitions. And yet God is fully and intimately aware of each one and is already working upon them - even when we don't see the "answers."

So, what if I began thanking Him for His provision and protection, rather than repeatedly asking for it?

What if I thanked Him for already being there for the people from whom I am far?

What if I spoke words of gratitude that His will will be done in each situation and on behalf of each need?

What if instead of asking for my daily bread, I thanked Him for what He has already provided?

It's not like God changes or we have to remind Him to continue be the Awesome and Sovereign Father He has been and always will be - forever.

Too often my prayers come from a weak faith in a great God - not that He has at all changed or shifted in His immutable character and ways.

It's amazing how when you pray in gratitude for who God is and what He has already done, it turns prayer into worship and praise and less into a delivery of a laundry list of needs - as if we serve a "vending machine" Supreme Being.

In a sense, when we thank and praise Him, we are saying, "Yes, God, Your ways are best and I want Your will to be done above my own." Oftentimes I am not even sure how to adequately pray for myself or others, and yet when I thank Him, I am saying, "God, you've got this and I am going to rest in that confidence."

And rather than reminding God of all that is burdening my heart, I again recall He is already awesome, loving, trustworthy, gracious, faithful, merciful and so much more.

He doesn't need the reminding of who He is - I do.

So, I encourage you - the next time you pray - thank God for how He already has and is answering your petitions. You might just start a life-changing habit. :)

P.S. Please know I understand that intercession is an important aspect of prayer and Jesus did include it in His model prayer for the disciples. But I think we could spend a lot more time thanking our God and less asking from Him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Declaring His Glory

Before coming to Uganda, I don't recall seeing such amazing cloud sculptures, stunning sunrises, and incredible vistas as I have here. Even after 5+ years I still catch my breath and run for my camera at God's incredible artistic displays.

During my last visit in the States some dear friends blessed me with a new camera. (I had made the mistake of packing mine as I flew home and it wouldn't turn on.) Yet, God bestowed a nicer model than what I previously had. The camera has some features I love and which help to enhance the natural beauty that surrounds me.

Here are some recent images.

"So that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at Your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy." Psalm 65:8 (ESV)

"He spreads out the northern skies over empty space;
He suspends the earth over nothing.
He wraps up the waters in His clouds,
yet the clouds do not burst under their weight." Job 26:7-8 (NIV)

"He covers the heavens with clouds; He prepares rain for the earth; He makes grass grow on the hills." Psalm 147:8 (ESV)

"Sing to the Lord a new song,
His praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
you islands, and all who live in them." Isaiah 42:10 (NIV)

"'For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.'" Isaiah 55:12 (ESV)

"Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns!'" 1 Chronicles 16:31 (ESV)

"Let heaven and earth praise Him,
the seas and all that move in them," Psalm 69:34 (NIV)

"For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD," Psalm 89:6 (ESV)

"Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it." Deuteronomy 10:14 (ESV)

"The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic." Psalm 29:3-4 (NIV)

"Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
Your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
Your way through the mighty waters,
though Your footprints were not seen." Psalm 77:18-19 (NIV)

"The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
Fire goes before Him
and consumes His foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles." Psalm 97:1-4 (NIV)

"He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven
and sends it to the ends of the earth.
After that comes the sound of His roar;
He thunders with His majestic voice.
When His voice resounds,
He holds nothing back.
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;
He does great things beyond our understanding." Job 37:3-5 (NIV)