Recently, I had a dream where I was hiking through some woods with God.  We were hiking towards a place I could not see, and I kept peering through the trees trying to see our goal.  Then the dream changed.  We were still in the woods, but God was sitting on a log beside a campfire.  I was standing off to the side unable to rest because we hadn't arrived yet.  Suddenly, I had a vivid sense that God was inviting me to stop waiting impatiently for the journey's end and to enjoy my time with Him.  After I awoke, I knew that God was talking to me about trials.  We weren't hiking through a sunlit field, but rather a shadowy forest.  He was saying that in times of walking through trial, I could take time to enjoy His presence and get to know Him better, or I could stand apart from Him in my impatience for the end of the trial.  The only way for me to have joy was to take my focus off the end of the trial and to put it on the God walking with me.

I do find it hard to enjoy the moments when I'm walking through trial.  Though I want to maintain an attitude of hopefulness and joy, I find myself tangled up in a battle against hopelessness and complaining that I never seem to win.  I thought about James 1:2-4, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (ESV).  I have already learned how to look back at testing and see good in it, but that does not help me in the moment.  In the moment of trial and testing I lose joy and hope.  Romans 15:13 reads "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (NET).  I asked God, "Teach me how to have joy and hope in times of trial."

God chose the evocative image of sitting around a campfire.  Recently, while we were spending a week in the bush teaching at our DTI, we sat around a fire with some Maasai believers.  We were waiting while water heated for our bucket baths.  Alitzah looked at the fire and said, "We should have brought marshmallows."  What is more delightful than holding a stick over fire while slowly roasting food?  God's image invites me to roast His word in the fire of the Spirit, letting the Word take on new richness of smell that I can savor from the moment I begin to cook to long after I finish eating.  And the taste!  And the nourishment!  A nice German sausage, anyone?  Years ago, while we were waiting to go to Kenya the first time, I began reading passages that had the word wait and a name of God.  The study greatly strengthened me.  Right now, I've decided to put passages that talk about joy or hope or  endurance or suffering or comfort on my stick in the Spirit fire, savoring about three or four a night for the next several months.

Anyone who has been to church camp knows that campfire is a time for praise and worship.  As we sat around the fire, I gazed up and saw the familiar three star pattern of Orion's belt.  Behind me was a newly familiar constellation, the Southern cross.  Those stars depicted different pictures to our Maasai friends, but to all of us they declared the glory of God.  As we listened, we could hear the familiar sound of crickets and the crackle of the fire.  We could also hear the newer sounds of zebras and hyenas not very far away.  Sometimes, we would gaze into and poke at the fire.   Shalviah squatted nearby, fascinated.  The wind blew around us as we wrapped Maasai blankets and sweaters around our shoulders.  The wonder of it all called forth song.  We sang, "He's a good, good Father" and "I'm no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God."  Joshua translated "Holiness, holiness, is what I long for" into Maa, and we sang that.  We lifted our hands and danced.  Sometimes we silently reflected.  God's image invites me into worship.  We are called to join the heavenly declaration of God's glory.  In Luke 19:40, Jesus tells us, "If [we] keep silent, the very stones will cry out!” (NET)  I would often listen to worship music while I worked, but now I am setting aside daily time simply to worship.

Campfires are also times for testimony and remembrance.  After a day of studying heavy topics at the DTI, we sat around and swapped stories.  Some were funny.  One of our Maasai brothers told of a time when he was camping around a fire with other Maasai and visitors.  They woke in the night hearing an elephant approaching.  Our friend described how he leaped over the fire to get away, accidentally grabbing a bone instead of his sword and how one visitor couldn't get his sleeping bag unzipped and had to flee like a caterpillar.  Our friend was a good storyteller, and we could picture it vividly as we laughed.  I remember a time I asked God to show me IMG_0374something that makes Him laugh.  The next day, I saw a one inch caterpillar on my doorstep,  When I approached, it reared up and wove its body back and forth like a cobra.  It had two eyespots and something that resembled a forked tongue.  A tiny caterpillar pretending to be a deadly serpent made me laugh with God.  Proverbs 17:22 tells us "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (ESV).  In Genesis 21:6, "Sarah said, 'God has made me laugh. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me'" (NET).  I want to tell the stories of how God has given me laughter, so God and others can hear and laugh with me.

Some stories were testimonies.  We learned how the first pastor of that congregation became a believer.  He used to drink a lot.  One night, his body began to swell after a lot of drink.  Though he hadn't yet heard about Jesus, he cried out to Creator God, and God healed him.  Shortly after, the missionaries arrived in his village and told him about Jesus.  He gave Jesus his life that day, and he has never returned to alcohol.  Campfire time is a time to say to God, "Do you remember that time when I ..., and you ...?"  I remember how I used to be terrified whenever anyone was late.  What if the rapture had happened, and I was left behind?  My youth group had watched the thief in the night movies, and they had terrified me.   One day when Alitzah was a baby, Joshua was late, and I felt the familiar fear rise.  I remember standing at the sink doing dishes when I felt the presence of God and His assurance, "I haven't left you."  That fear has never returned.  In Isaiah 43:26, God tells us to put Him in remembrance, but too often, as in the passage, we only remind Him of our complaints.  A campfire is different.  For those who grew up going to church camp, a campfire calls us to tell stories of hope and joy.

Campfire is also a time for prayer and for thanksgiving for answered prayers.  At the DTI, they have a tradition of praying for and blessing one another.  Some of our Maasai brothers were struggling with colds, so we prayed for them.  They gave thanks to God afterward that they slept better and were enabled to concentrate in class.  Isaiah 62:6-7 reads "On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent.  You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth" (ESV).  During the years we lived in the bush, I was overwhelmed with fear.  Returning to the bush for this week was like measuring myself on a growth chart and finding myself grown beyond imagining.  I overflowed with thanksgiving for what God has done in me, and as I gave thanks, my story encouraged the students to trust in what God is doing in their hearts.  I give thanks to God for all those who have prayed into my growth with me, such as our home group members and our prayer supporters, and I praise God that He allows me to pray into the lives of others.

The Bible tells us in the last days we will see visions and dream dreams.  When I started having visions and dreams a few years ago, I stopped writing because I wasn't sure how people would respond.  Recently, I decided that I will not let fear drive me any longer.  I love sharing what I am learning.  If you are on this journey with me, may God bless your campfire times!  May they bring you joy and strength, and may you find an abundant hope harvest in your heart!


(continued from part 1)

God is the God who says, "Come away with me to a quiet place and rest." He is the God who told Martha that Mary had chosen the better way. He is the God who said, "Let the little children come to me." Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." When Jesus said these things, the Father said these things. In the prophets, God cried out that He longs to hear us call Him Father. But even reading these things, I didn't understand.

One day, one of our daughters was asking why the word LORD is often in all caps in the Bible. My husband loves that kind of question, so he began to explain to our children how the Hebrew names of God are translated. Now two days before, a Kenyan friend had told me that her husband was having some time off work and had asked her to let their houseworker off so that they could have some family time. I understood. We do the same thing. Well my husband got to the name Lord GOD, and said that it could be translated Lord LORD.

In that moment, I heard God speak. He said, "You've always been afraid of the 'Lord, Lord' passage." Well, that was certainly true. He continued, "You have always thought that I was saying, 'You haven't worked hard enough; get away from me.' That is not true. I am saying, 'It is family time; let the slaves and servants go.' I knew that He was saying, 'If all you ever do with me is ask me for a list of things to do, then leave. This is family time, play time, I want the people who have gotten to know me.' He was also saying, "You've always tried to be my slave, but you're not a very good one. You aren't meant to be a slave. You are meant to be a child. Be my child."

It is hard to put into words exactly what God says. Sometimes, I hear words and other times, thoughts; sometimes, I see a picture or have a story come to mind. One thought that began to come to mind is that I try to earn my rest. After my work is done, I can rest. But I started to see that we have to work from rest. I had this thought, "You don't say to a car, earn your petrol (gas)." We can never earn our rest. It is a gift.

I also began to understand the Hebrew day, which begins at sundown. What happens in families at sundown? The evening meal, the family fun time, bedtime. All restful. In the Hebrew week, there are six days, each beginning with rest followed by work, which culminate in the seventh day, the weekly Sabbath, a day of complete rest and celebration.

One day, my friend Joyce told me a story. She had asked God, "Do you play?" and God told her to watch her husband. At that time, Joyce opened her front door to go out but saw something that made her shut it immediately. She said, "Don't open the door. The cat has a mouse and wants to hide it in the house." William, Joyce's husband, whispered to her, "Watch this." He opened the door and shut it quickly while tossing a small ball across the floor. He yelled, "A mouse!" Their daughters began to shriek. At that moment, God leaned over to Joyce and said, "I am a Father."

One of the hardest things I have done has been sitting on top of my children's toys to play, without saying anything about the room. The interesting thing to me has been that as I play with them, the children are much more willing to work with me. Also interesting is that I am more rested and able to work as well.

(read part 1)

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"Mommy, will you play with me?"  I hear this frequently.  "I'm busy." or "In a minute."  My children hear these statements with equal frequency.  You see, I tend to think that work is the priority; fun is for when the work is done.  There are beds to be made, dishes to wash, laundry to do, ... I have a long list.  And of course, just when I think I'm about done, I find that the children, who were left alone too long while I worked, have dumped out all their toys so you can't walk through their room.  I sigh and think, "More work."

Right about then, I hear, "You said in a minute.  Can you play with me now?"  I suggest, "How about I help you clean your room?"  While we, make that I, clean their room, complete with lots of prodding, some yelling, and some accusation, I point out that if they would help me more around the house, I would have time to play with them.   Though I didn't put it into these words at the time, I was trying to motivate them by guilt.  I thought if they just felt bad enough, they would help.  It didn't work, of course.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus asked a lot of questions to challenge our wrong thinking about God.  One of the questions He asked was whether we parents would give our children a rock when they ask for bread, or a snake when they ask for fish.  I think I have, many, many times, but I thought I was supposed to.  I thought I was being like my Father.

I knew God has purposes He absolutely wants to accomplish -- the saving of the lost and the care of the needy.  I thought He was single-minded in His pursuit of these purposes.  I didn't think that He could be bothered about anything else until these purposes are accomplished.  I saw Him as a parent who is so busy with work that He doesn't have time for His children.

In my mind, He had been concerned about me when I was "lost."  It seemed to me that as soon as I came to Him, no longer needing to be "saved," I basically moved to His blind spot.  His single-minded focus was on the lost and the needy.  I was no longer lost, and need is relative.  I might think I have needs, but not compared to others.  I was one of the ninety-nine left in the sheep fold.  Only, I wasn't just left there while He went looking for one sheep.  He was out looking for many lost sheep, and consequently, He had no time for me, not even time to take me to the pasture.

I felt that the only way to get the Father's attention was to work hard, to help Him.  I needed to be blind to need in myself and to focus all my attention on the needs of others.  Anything else would be selfish.

I did not understand Isaiah 43:4, "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.  Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life."  I didn't understand that He was willing to pause on this work of seeking the lost, this most important task, just to spend time with me.  These others, the lost ones, are valuable to God, but not so valuable that He forgets me for them.  He will pause in the middle of His work just to spend time with me.


(continued in part 2)