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Friday, April 6, 2012

Rambling through the Psalms, Nkhoma and Bible Study

This year we've had some solid visiting speakers at our staff Bible study Wednesday nights.  One is a church planter from Ohio, and close friend with some missionaries here.  He spoke to us on the practice/discipline of breath prayers.  They are short phrases that we can repeat in prayer throughout the day, to draw us back to the reality of our dependence on God.  First Thessalonians tells us to "pray continually" throughout our day, in order to be in constant communion with God.  A 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence practiced this prayer discipline, seeking the presence of God at all times.  During our Gospel Emphasis week at the academy, I presented to the students on the disciplines of prayer and solitude/silence.  Our culture not only makes it difficult to practice these, but sometimes, it seems like it actively seeks to destroy them in the lives of Christians.  There are people around, there is music to listen to, there is stuff to do.  Productive, with people, multi-tasking, busy.  These things are all great, in moderation.  But they quickly take the place of #1 when we don't spend time alone with God.  We run to activity and noise to fill the time.  So my breath prayer since that Wednesday night

The reason that I spoke on this topic was because I have really struggled with it the last few months.  Since Christmas break, things seem to be moving at warp speed.  It's like I can't get my feet under me, and my heart and mind are behind too.  With the busy schedule and the fatigue comes a weariness that we've probably all experienced.  My problem was that I hadn't treasured solitary time with God.  Time in the early morning hours each day, time in between classes when I find myself alone for just a few moments, time walking home from soccer; the scheduled time and the unscheduled times.  So I ask you, O patient reader, when is the last time that you spent quiet and alone with God?

Hopefully it's quite recent.  The weekend before presenting during Gospel Emphasis week, I was with a few teachers and 11 students on an overnight hike of Nkhoma Mountain.  It's a special place, and the kids have a great time.  This year we went to the peak for sunset, instead of our usual sunrise hike.  It was gorgeous.  The next morning, I was up for the sunrise just a few hundred yards from our hut.  In the 30 minutes I spent standing and listening and watching the sun rise on a quiet, green, majestic mountain, God met with me.  He reminded me of the sweetness of His presence and the quiet medium that he often chooses to speak to us in. 

Our talk that weekend was focused on Psalm 62 and 63, the topic of another guest speaker's Wednesday night study.  He was a missionary to Pakistan with his family for over 20 years and now serves as a missions pastor at a large church in San Diego.  He said that God brutally humbled him and restored him through Psalm 62 in the midst of severe illness.   He then made him grateful through Psalm 63.  Thank God for His living and active Word in the Bible.  He also shared a piece of advice from a veteran missionary in Pakistan who said: "You will either grow more grateful as you serve here, or you will grow more bitter." 

I feel that sometimes in Malawi, and had a battle with it yesterday.  Frustrations with fuel, our car, Road Traffic office, District commissioners offices in Lilongwe and Kasungu, Malawi time...  Will I grow more grateful or more bitter.  Ask Becca, I spent a good hour stewing over what a victim I'd been of these great inustices!  It's the worst part of my heart that wins out sometimes.  God used Yami, Becca, Nell Spencer, and a short night's sleep to help provide some perspective, and turn my heart back to the narrow, difficult, and good path of gratitude.

I come back to prayer: "Oh God, deepen my faith."  That's my breath prayer right now.  Since we started the adoption process, there have been quite a few ups and downs.  We got Yami November 30th, and we're supposed to leave Malawi on June 25th.  That's a quick seven months to get through a process that usually requires more than seven months in a country with very negotiable ideas of time.  I have found myself worrying quite often, and sometimes at a deep level.  "Oh God, grow my faith." Translated: Oh, I'm desperate, God, you are my God, grow, you alone can do the growing, my faith, in your promises and faithfulness.

I'm not sure what the point of this blog is really: spend time with God, say your breath prayers, choose gratitude over bitterness.  You choose, I just hope you're encouraged in your faith.