Thursday, July 31, 2014

Streams in My Soul

There are times that living in Uganda allows me to read and understand the Bible in a new light. Simply living in a different culture and context, especially one that's arguably closer to the one in which Jesus lived, opens my eyes to new perspectives. I can read these ancient verses and see truths on a new level.

"A lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings' palaces." Proverbs 30:28

This is an unfortunate truth, if you ask me. The geckos that sneak into all of our homes and take up permanent residence are the bane of my existence in Uganda. Most people argue, "Oh, but they eat mosquitoes." I'd rather have mosquitoes, thankyouverymuch. Or at least someone willing to catch them for me.

God says, "I own the cattle on a thousand hills." Psalm 50:10

Every time I'm traveling southwest of Mbarara, this verse plays on repeat in my mind. Scenes like this must have been on God's mind when he spoke those words.

"And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town." Matthew 10:14

"So he took him into his house and gave the donkeys fodder, and they washed their feet and ate and drank." Judges 19:21

Washing your own feet and the feet of your guests was part of ancient civilization culture and hospitality. Because people typically wore sandals and walked on dusty, dirty roads, it was a necessity to wash one's feet before entering a home. I literally shake of the dust from my sandals in the dry season before entering any house, and I wouldn't dare climb into bed at night without first washing my feet. Gross.

I grew up in a town with concrete sidewalks and paved roads, yards covered in lush grass, and shoes and boots for the slushy, muddy months. I didn't experience what it's like to continually have really dirty feet until living in Uganda. Because it's always summer weather here, we wear sandals year-round. If it's rainy season, the roads are muddy. If it's dry season, the roads turn to beaches of dust. And a walk through town always requires sidestepping garbage, food scraps, open sewage and... you don't want to know what else...

But it's the dust that sticks with us wherever we go. It sits on our skin after a long car ride. It sticks to our shoes and seeps into our pores. It hangs in the air and settles on our doorsteps. No matter how much I scrub my feet, the orange lingers. I think Jesus should have said "How beautiful and dirty are the feet of those who bring good news."

We are dusty people.
We are dry to the bone. Souls like deserts, longing for cool relief and refreshment.

But Jesus says: 

The Spirit in us not only provides an indwelling, but he also produces an outpouring. We all know that in a dry land, life can only be found and sustained at a source of water. As believers, we receive blessing and become a blessing to others when rivers of living water flow out of us and create streams in a wasteland. Yes, there are times to shake the dust from our feet, as Jesus said. But many times we are called to wear the dust and dirt of this place because of a love for the people.

Revelation 22 describes a river of pure water that flows directly from the throne of God, and along the banks of that river grows the tree of life. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of nations.

We, too, are those trees rooted in streams of living water that flow from the throne of life. There are souls thirsting for something (Someone) more, and we have the ability to bring refreshment "in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

We were created from dust and will return to dust unless the Living Water causes us to live and the Holy Spirit refreshes our souls. When we dwell near our Source of Life and send out roots into that river of grace, we produce fruit and life-giving nourishment for those around us. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Never Say Never

There are many aspects of daily life here in Uganda that I sometimes forget aren't "normal" for me. Things like opening my front gate to see a herd of cows ten feet away or having holes appear in most of my shirts due to some unseen yet hungry insect... These things never used to happen to me, but now they're commonplace. Before moving to Uganda...

I never... thought I'd have my electricity company account number memorized. When power goes out unexpectedly, it never hurts to call the power company and report the issue. Sometimes it's "scheduled maintenance." Sometimes it's "a fault on the line." Most of the time, they have no idea. With these frequent phone calls, I had our 9-digit account number ingrained in my brain in no time at all. And I know their hold music and message by heart.

I never...considered how much I appreciate window screens and sealant. You don't realize how much they keep out until all those things can come in.

I never... knew the Twilight Bark was real. You think it only happens in cartoons, but no. It's real, and it's loud. It happens every night with the neighborhood dogs that roam free, and it's much less civilized than in 101 Dalmatians.

I never... went into the bank to get small bills. The ATMs dispense primarily 50,000 UGX bills (approximately $20, which is the the biggest amount), and while these are useful for making occasional big purchases, they're no good when shopping at the market or for paying a boda driver. It's too hard to make change for such a large bill, and you'll wind up standing around for ten minutes while the shopkeeper goes to other vendors collecting enough money to give you the balance. This is why I always keep a stash of 1,000 and 2,000 bills (40 and 75 cents, respectively), which requires going into the bank and changing out the 50's.

I never... knew how quickly Americans/Westerners walked. Ugandans generally walk like they have no where to be, no time frame in getting there, and take frequent rests to enjoy a patch of shade along the way. I've never felt like I walk at a break-neck speed, but compared to the average Ugandan, I do. I call it "walking with purpose." They call it jogging. No, seriously. I walk with friends a couple mornings a week, and my boda driver usually asks how our "jog" was. And I was recently walking with a friend, and she asked me if I'm good at running. I explained that, actually, I'm very terrible at running and don't enjoy it. She replied, "Oh, I thought by the way you can walk you must also be very good at running."