25 March 2014

True Fasting: Maintaining justice and doing what is right

Today marks the end of my 21-day Daniel fast, based on Daniel's life as recorded in the Bible:
Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet.  
“Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see.” 
The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables. (Daniel 1: 8-16)

Along with a few friends, I started my fast on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Basically I ate only things that come from plants - vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. I did not consume anything that comes from animals - meat, milk, eggs, cheese, etc. I also had no sweeteners, no caffeine, and no leavened bread.

We know from Matthew, chapter four, that Jesus fasted. Guess what? If we're a follower of his, then he also fully expects us to fast. This spiritual discipline is included in a list of three acts of righteousness in Matthew, chapter six: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. He said, 'When you give to the needy... when you pray... and when you fast.'

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However, Isaiah chapter 58, speaks of a different type of fasting. God calls it a true fast.
This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
  •     to break the chains of injustice,
  •     get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
  •     free the oppressed,
  •     cancel debts. 
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
  •     sharing your food with the hungry,
  •     inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
  •     putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
  •     being available to your own families.

The book of Isaiah speaks a lot about justice:
  • The Lord is a God of justice. (30:18)
  • Maintain justice and do what is right. (56:1)
  • We look for justice but find none. The Lord was displeased that there was no justice. (59:11, 15)
  • I, the Lord, love justice. (61:9)

In fact, the theme of justice and doing what is right, is found throughout the entire scriptures:
  • Keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Genesis 18:19
  • David did what was right and just for all his people. 2 Samuel 8:15
  • The proverbs of Solomon are for... doing what is right and just and fair. Proverbs 1:1-3
  • To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3
  • Josiah did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy. Is that not what it means to know me? Jeremiah 22:15-16
  • Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Ezekiel 45:9
  • What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
  • I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against... those who oppress the widows and fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice. Malachi 3:5
  • Jesus: "You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God's love." Luke 11:42 (Message)

A few more related scriptures:
  • For I desire mercy. Hosea 6:6
  • Religion that God the father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
  • Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13

For the past sixteen years, I've been doing a variety of fasts as a spiritual discipline; I will likely continue to do so throughout my life. 

But I will also follow the true fast, as laid out by God. 

I will share my bread with the hungry and open my home to the homeless poor. My life will be characterized by removing the yolk of injustice and letting the oppressed go free.

Like Josiah, my aim is to do what is right and just. I shall defend the cause of the poor and needy. 

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Do you fast? 

If so, what kind - a fast centered around food for the physical body? Or maybe you've chosen to give up something non-food related for Lent - such as TV, the internet, etc. Either of these types of fasts are excellent ideas.

However... the question I want to leave with you is - 

Do you regularly participate in what God calls a 'true fast' as described in Isaiah, chapter 58?

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Note: both images taken from internet

19 March 2014

Gospel Lighthouse Churches honor Bishop Wanjala and his wife, Margaret

Bishop Justus Wanjala and his lovely wife, Margaret [Note: photo taken on a different day than the auspicious occasion]

Pastor Josiah Syanda with his wife, Josephine (in red), and Carol
Pastor Syanda and the Kayole branch of Gospel Lighthouse Church recently hosted a day to honor Bishop Wanjala and his wife for their many years of faithful service.

Many pastors from the ministry came from all over the country of Kenya to attend this special occasion.

Many of the faithful old-timers that served in the branch at Kayole were also in attendance. It was a great reunion seeing everyone and brought back so many good memories for me.

Bishop and Margaret's daughter, Esther, and Pastor Syanda's secretary, Linet

There was quite a time of celebration when they arrived in a caravan of cars!

There were joyous hugs all around when Bishop and Margaret arrived! 

I greatly admire Bishop and Margaret. They are incredible people and make a great team in the service of God's Kingdom. They've done so much for me and I truly count it a privilege to call them my dear friends.

Along with many others, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these four lift up praise and worship to God. They were an integral part of the  worship team when I first came to Kenya in 2001. Together, they were quite gifted ushering the congregation into the Lord's presence in praise and worship. I have so many great memories of the 'good old days' at GLHC kwa Chief's Camp.

Pastor Syanda, the host for the day's event

17 March 2014

Camping with Africa's [dangerous] wildlife

I belong to a great homegroup from my church! In late January, we had a weekend camping trip at Lake Naivasha. We had an absolutely splendid time! This group shot was taken just as we started our hike at Hell's Gate Gorge. [In addition to those in the photo, there was also one more adult and three children.]

Our campsite

We camped right on the lake and enjoyed the beautiful fog rising from the lake both mornings.

However, the close proximity to the lake also brought hippos to our campsite! On the first evening, one of them got quite uncomfortably close to a few of us that were up late enjoying the campfire. The caretaker of the campsite did a good job of subtly encouraging the beast to move to a different area.

Later on, while trying to sleep, one of them grazed on grass right next to the tent we four single ladies shared! Munch, munch, munch... all through the night! Just before dawn, I heard it plunge into the water with a mighty splash! ***

Information about hippopotamus -
  • The hippopotamus is one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and is the most dangerous toward humans. They kill more humans than lions, elephants, or buffalo. 
  • Hippos weigh between one-and-a-half and three tons! They leave the water at dusk and travel inland, sometimes up to six miles, to graze on short grasses, their main source of food. They spend four to five hours grazing and can consume 150 pounds of grass each night.

In addition to the hippos, there were also a few quite active and noisy hyena near us. Their barking, yowling, growling, yelping, and laughing was not only annoying... it was a bit scary as well.

A herd of zebra, although peaceful and harmless, also disturbed my sleep. They have a funny squeaky-sounding bark. At one point, they left the area in a noisy stampede.

I thoroughly enjoyed tending the fires throughout the weekend. It was a challenge, though, as the caretaker provided us with wood that was either green or was a pulpy reed. Finally, we managed to buy a bundle of decent firewood from the nearby market. In the photo, I'm cooking sausages for breakfast. **

On Sunday morning, we had a lovely informal time of worship. A few pesky Vervet monkeys disturbed us, though! They first perched high in the acacia trees to scope out any potential loot. Then... down they swooped, snatching some of our bananas and leftover chapati! You can see a chapati in the hand of this one in the tree.

Our picnic site was a great spot to view Lake Naivasha.

Hiking at Hell's Gate Gorge was great fun. Here, the kids had climbed up high on some rocks.

Myself with Anna and Mandy, trekking through the gorge  It's known for flash floods, another danger-factor in our weekend. *

One can always see a nice variety of wildlife at Hell's Gate National Park.
In the foreground are Cape Buffalo, another dangerous animal. *

Waterbuck *

Another gang of pesky Vervet monkeys got into Mandy's car and blatantly stole some of our bananas!
And how do I put it nicely? Uh... one of them left behind a smelly mess of poo in the car!

Up on top of the gorge and done with our hike

Such getaways like this are so refreshing and healthy for me! And it's especially fun to enjoy them with great friends! It fits some of the criteria in my recent blog post on how to manage Missionary Stress:
  • Escape - I need daily, weekly, monthly, and annual respites. God made the Sabbath for people, so I must be sure to keep it. Reading, music, hikes, worship, and vacations are necessary.
  • Activity - Since stress prepares one for fight or flight - and as a missionary I can probably do neither - I must have some physical activity to use that energy. Sports, an exercise plan, and active games with family or friends can reduce stress.

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    * photos taken by Jabby 
  ** photo taken by Anna 
*** photo of hippo from the internet