21 July 2014

Planned neglect; saying 'no' to good things so we can say 'yes' to the best

I was asked recently -
"What are you busy doing?"

I'm not sure the person understood my answer - - "Well, actually... I don't try to be busy. And I try to be, rather than doing."

This article addresses the issue much more eloquently than I did.

- - - - - - -
How to Plan Neglect: Saying No to Good Things So We Can Say Yes to the Best
by Randy Alcorn

There are times when I’m overwhelmed with seemingly endless opportunities to do good things. I have to weigh what I can or should say yes to against what I need to say no to.

I hate to disappoint people, but in those times it becomes clear that I have to be carve out time to fulfill my most basic commitments and do what I believe God wants me to.

I have to make sure I am living to please God, not everyone else.

We shouldn’t say yes to something just because it’s a good thing or even a great thing.

I must say no to people concerning the vast majority of good things they invite me to, in order to be available to say yes to God concerning that small number of things He has truly called me to.

Sometimes we tend to say yes to too many of the good things, leaving us exhausted and unable to bring our best to those relatively few God-things.

There are only 168 hours in the week no matter what we do (and during a third of those we should be sleeping!)

If we have X number of people to make time for, they have to come out of the same small pie of available time, and pretty soon the slices of the pie get smaller and smaller. You end up having dear friends who no longer get a sliver, because it’s been divided so many times.

Ask God for wisdom as to who these should be, and God will give it (James 1:3).

This is planned neglect.

We need to neglect doing the things that countless people want us to do, so that we will be available to do what God wants.

And sometimes He speaks in a still small voice, while people speak in a big LOUD voice. We have to make sure we’re listening. To do that, we need to put our ear to His Word and pray and seek His face.

I want to be available to listen to God and follow Him when He gives me those totally unexpected divine appointments.

But if I’m booked so tight there’s no room in my schedule for unanticipated God moments, I’ll miss them, and thereby miss some of life’s greatest joys and opportunities and occasions for gratitude.

If you don’t give yourself room to breathe, you won’t give God room to move.

Instead of exhausting ourselves doing many secondary things, may we do a few primary things well.

And that begins with our daily time with God.

When Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet soaking Him in, and Martha was mad because Mary wasn't doing what she wanted, Jesus said to Martha, “Only a few things are necessary, really only one; Mary has chosen the better portion, which shall not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42).

Decide what you're going to neglect this week in order to pay attention to God.

I saw this article by Randy Alcorn on Ann Voskamp's website.

03 July 2014

Definition of knowing God: Do good by defending the cause of the poor and needy

Do it today
Never walk away from someone who deserves help. Your hand is God’s hand for that person. Don’t tell your neighbor, ‘Maybe some other time,’ or ‘Try me tomorrow,’ when the money is right there in your pocket.
~Proverbs 3:27-28, Message

Use encouraging words
One of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, reminded him that he had ‘strengthened feeble hands and faltering knees. He went on to say that his ‘words had supported those who stumbled’.
~ Job 4:3-4, NIV

Learn it!
Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
~ Isaiah 1:17, NIV
We are to practice a religion of obedience to God, focusing particularly on justice toward people who are exceedingly vulnerable and without ordinary social protection.
~ Study note from New Revised Standard Version, Isaiah 1:17
Our good works will be rewarded
I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.
~ Jeremiah 17:10, 32:19, NIV
[See also: Psalm 62:12; Romans 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Ephesians 6:8]

Definition of knowing God
‘Josiah did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord.
~ Jeremiah 22:15-16, NIV
To love God fully includes serving those in need.
~ Study note from New International Version, Jeremiah 22:15-16
What does God want?
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
~ Hosea 6:6, NIV
Mercy (Hebrew 'hesed') can refer to right conduct toward one’s neighbor.
~ Study note from New International Version, Hosea 6:6
God's requirement
What I require of you is to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with me – wherever I lead.
~ Micah 6:8, NIV

God made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love.
~ Micah 6:8, Message
This is the most memorable statement in the Old Testament defining a proper relationship with God. Acting justly and loving mercy or kindness is the kind of obedience God expects from his people.
~ Study note from New International Version, Micah 6:8

Don’t look for big things
Jesus took a towel and began to wash the disciples’ feet. 
~ John 13:3-5, NIV
This was a menial task normally performed by a servant.
~ Study note from New International Version, John 13:3-5
The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do.
~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
God's command
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. 
~ John 15:12-13, Message

Persist in doing good
God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life.
~ Romans 2:6-7, NIV
Persistence in doing good is proof of genuine faith.
~ Study note from New International Version, Romans 2:6-7
Faith expressing itself
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
~ Galatians 5:6, NIV
Faith is not mere intellectual assent, but a living trust in God’s grace that expresses itself in acts of love.
~ Study note from New International Version, Galatians 5:6

Do not grow weary
Let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. Don’t give up or quit. Every time you get the chance, work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. 
~ Galatians 6:9-10, Message

Created to do good works
We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
~ Ephesians 2:10, NIV

We are to join Jesus in ‘the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing’. 
~ Ephesians 2:10, Message
Works are to faith as exhaling is to inhaling. Good works are not what we do to win salvation; they are what we do to demonstrate and enjoy it.
~ Study note from New Revised Standard Version, Ephesians 2:10

Pour yourself out for others
Get out there and run on the road God called you to travel, steadily pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love. 
~ Ephesians 4:1-2, Message

God’s extravagant love!
Keep company with God and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. The good, the right, the true – these are the appropriate actions. Figure out what will please Christ and then do it. Make the most of every chance you get.  Make sure you understand what the Master wants. 
~ Ephesians 5:1, 9, 10, 16, 17 (Message)
We are to live for the sake of others.
~ Study note from New International Version, Ephesians 5:1

Prefer others
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
~ Philippians 2:3-4, NIV
Christian love sees others as worthy of preferential treatment.
~ Study note from New International Version, Philippians 2:3-4
As our hearts and minds are directed away from self and toward others in the practice of attentive, humble service, we begin to identify with one another.
~ Study note from New Revised Standard Version, Philippians 2:3-4
Be zealous for good works
Jesus gave himself for us that he might purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. 
~Titus 2:14, New Revised Standard Version

  • zealous of good deeds, King James
  • eager to do what is good, NIV
  • real enthusiasm for doing kind things for others, Living
  • totally committed, New Living

Real religion
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: To look after orphans and widows in their distress. 
~ James 1:27, NIV

Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight.
~ James 1:27, Message

Faith and good deeds go hand in hand
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  
~ James 2:15-18, NIV
Genuine faith will produce good deeds.
~ Study note from New International Version, James 2:15-18
You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. 
~ James 2:18, Message
“We shall be judged according to our works. This is why we are exhorted to do good works. Grace and active obedience are complementary. There is no faith without good works, and no good works apart from faith.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian (1906-1945), The Cost of Discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I've been using a reading schedule to read through the Bible again this year. Many themes stand out - one of which is ‘doing good’. The scriptures above are included among those I've collected so far. 

I hope you'll take a moment to listen to this classic song. The lyrics are based on Ephesians 2:10.

If You Love the Lord, by Keith Green
    (sung by Jason Jacobs)

If you love the Lord, you will love His will for you.
Instead of questions why, there'll be praise for all he brings you through.
And if you love the Lord, you will love His holy commands.
Delight yourself in them, and everything you do will surely stand.

We are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ.
He calls us to offer up ourselves a living sacrifice.

Well if you love the Lord, his discipline you won't despise.
Cause it will prove to you, that you're a child in His eyes.
And if you love the Lord, you'll seek His face with all your heart.
And even when you're old, from His Holy place you won't depart.

We are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ.
He calls us to offer up ourselves a living sacrifice.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's my desire, Lord, that my life will be characterized by good works.
Good works that flow out my love and obedience for you!
Good works that will bring you glory and honor!

01 July 2014

A visit upcountry - Kakamega, Kitale, Nzoia Scheme, Eldoret

Several buses, including mine, were stopped by the police. After parking alongside the highway
for a while, we were told to drive to Gilgil police station. In total it was a 2.5-hour delay.

I had a lovely visit with Elaine, who lives in the Malava area (not far from Kakamega).
I also had lunch with Masudi, but didn't get a photo of him.

Buying a chunk of beef - the Kenyan way - at Kitale

Mary Alu and Pastor David

Joseph is one of the boda boda (motorbike taxi) drivers I use frequently.

I had a nice visit with Agnes and her boys. Click here to see more photos from this visit.

25 June 2014

A collection of thoughts on my birthday

African proverb on the date of my birthday,
from my perpetual flip-calender 

"Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious gift from Me. I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant presence. By the time you rise from your bed, I have already prepared the way before you. I eagerly await your first conscious thought. I rejoice when you glance My way."
~June 25th reading from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

Indeed the sun was shining on the morning of my birthday, after many days of overcast skies! I saw it as God's special gift just for me! And indeed, he had laid out the day for me!

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
~Psalm 118:24, verse accompanying the reading from Jesus Calling

Never hold anything in reserve. Pour yourself out, giving the best that you have, and always be poor. Never be diplomatic and careful with the treasure God gives you. This is poverty triumphant.
~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (excerpt from reading on June 26)
" ... having nothing, yet enriching many."
~2 Corinthians 6:10 (accompanying above reading)

May I be the person to whom others are certain they can go in the midst of their 'fires of sorrow'. May they find that I have 'ample leisure' for such hurting souls. May I be nourishment for others.
~my personalized version of Oswald Chambers' reading, on my birthday June 25th

"Thanks a lot for your kindness to me. For sure, Deb, you are a good friend. May the Almighty God protect you and continue to shower his blessings on you."
~Masudi's entry in my guestbook, as he left my house today

Masudi and I at Kona Baridi (Cold Corner), the first stop of our really great day celebrating my birthday!

Ngong Hills, as seen from Whistling Thorns (Masudi's and my last stop of the day)

24 June 2014

Fun birthday photos and kids at school

My neighbor, Hannah, joined us as we celebrated Joy's birthday on Kenya's Madaraka Day

Joy is now eight years old!

Neighbor boy Andrew also had some cake.

I took part in a really fun Treasure Hunt that was a fundraiser for a new classroom at Tamalaki school. 
The children were all quite excited to see us!

Jim at Matunda Highway Academy (Kitale area)

Robai at her school in the Eldoret area

Celebrating Margaret's birthday 

Celebrating Linet's birthday 

Last, but not least, celebrating my 59th birthday

21 June 2014

Scrabble, Jenga, fixing a flat tire, buying dvd's, a concert, a debate, homegroup, plus Carol and Jeremiah's church

Hannah was the victor in one of our recent Scrabble games.

On this game with Jennifer, Joanie, and Hannah,
I was the winner and got the coveted medal!

Fun game of Jenga with Moses, Emily, and Pippa

Joanie stayed with me for 8 days recently.
When she got ready to leave, we discovered she had a flat tire!

I was unable to get the spare tire off, so I called my trusty
boda boda driver, Fredrick, for his masculine muscle :)

Buying dvd's at a hole-in-the-wall shop in downtown Nairobi

Joanie, Hannah, and I had an absolutely lovely time at a concert with the Greenwood Singers,
held at the British High Commission.

Several folks from my church took part, including Cheryl (in the middle).

I attended a so-called 'debate' between the Christian perspective of Christ's deity and the Muslim perspective. My friend, Dave Osborne (a missionary in Kisumu) gave the Christian perspective. He informed the crowd of approximately 175 people that he had no interest in 'winning a debate'. Instead, he spoke of God's love and forgiveness for all of mankind.

My homegroup at a recent social. Such a GREAT group of people!

Dennis gave the sermon when Hannah and I attended Carol and Jeremiah's church recently.
On the right is his interpreter (from English to Swahili)

Some of their members that were in attendance that day, in front of their tent.

Jeremiah, Carol, Joy, and Jasmine after the service

19 June 2014

Cycling with camels; my 37-mile bike ride to Olorgesailie prehistoric site

Brief pit-stop 10 miles into my 37-mile ride

This shot and the one below are at Kona Baridi,
before beginning the 3,000-foot descent into the Great Rift Valley.

I had a nice chat with these folks at a remote police road-block.

Liberty Baptist Church

I was surprised and amused to see this large herd of camels ambling down the road :)

I pulled off Magadi Road and headed to the campsite at Olorgesailie right at dusk.

A few folks from my homegroup drove in to join me for an overnight campout.
Ngatha - plus his sister, Zuwena - blow out candles on his birthday cake.

It ain't really camping without s'mores!

Beautiful sunrise the next morning!