21 May 2015

Seeing God’s glory; touched by his presence

Jesus’ solitary time with his Father was more important than his ministry to others.

In fact, his ministry was an overflow of his time with his Father.

If Jesus practiced the discipline of stepping away from the noise and the crowds, then I must also do so.

Beholding the wonder of creation often moves me to spontaneous worship, proclaiming God’s majesty. The Holy Spirit’s presence enfolds me and before I know it, my cheeks are moistened with a steady stream of tears.

I feasted my eyes on the unfolding drama of yet another of God’s evening paintings in the sky, full of oranges, pinks, and yellows. All across the vast eastern horizon was a row of white puffy clouds, like soldiers standing at attention. My gaze spanned across the colorful 180-degree panorama.

One of the clouds grew in height, drawing attention to itself with a pale pink tint. As the sky continued to darken and the sun continued its descent behind me on the western horizon, the color became more and more brilliant. Eventually it became a vibrant and rich hue of pink.

Riveted by the marvel of its beauty, I could not take my eyes off of that particular cloud. It was as if a heavenly spotlight gloriously beamed down on it. God spoke to me through its stunning isolation, reassuring me that all would be well. I have no doubt he will bring ‘pink beauty’ out of darkness.

Step out of the traffic. 
Take a long, loving look at me, your High God.
Psalm 46:10

I had come to this fabulous place for a 48-hour retreat, intentionally setting aside time to obey the command - ‘Be still and know that I am God’.

I was at 8,000 feet in elevation on the Elgeyo escarpment. 4,000 feet below is the floor of the Great Rift Valley.

The view is simply spectacular.

Not wanting to miss the sunrise, I set my alarm for 5:45am. As I dragged myself out from under the warm covers, I watched in delight through the floor-to-ceiling windows in my room.

God is at your service from the crack of dawn.
Psalm 46:5

Yet another dramatic spectacle unfolded before my eyes. A beautiful cloud cover encompassed the floor of the valley far below. During the ever-evolving movement, occasional openings cleared off.

Simultaneously, above in the sky, God’s creation danced as clouds evolved from one shape to another. I was quite enthralled for a solid 90 minutes. This glorious display of God’s handiwork was not yet finished when I headed down the hill for breakfast.

As I enjoyed breakfast, I engaged with the dramatic and glorious spectacle. God’s performance was still very much alive and active. The fascinating movement of the clouds and fog held my gaze.

Sometimes the clouds thinned out, allowing the valley floor below to reveal itself. Simultaneously, some of the clouds overflowed up the escarpment and onto the shelf half-way up the long cliff. Stunning.

Attention all! See the marvels of God!
Psalm 46:8

I stood up for a while to gaze at the beauty as I waited for my chai to be brewed. Patches of wispy fog and areas of delicate mist developed here and there. Then suddenly... the entire panoramic view became a dense, impenetrable cloud that literally came right to the windows. Even though I could see nothing, I sensed God’s tangible presence with me.

God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.
Psalm 46:1

God, you envelop me in your love.
Your presence wraps around me like a warm blanket.
I am at peace, knowing you are with me.
You are ever-present.
You are my constant companion, so near I can feel you.
When I reach out, I touch you.
I am engulfed in your expansive presence.
I am enraptured by your glory and your love.

[Note: Scripture quotes are from the Message.]

19 May 2015

Living gladly to make others glad; a few thoughts regarding hardships and risks

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
~ Ansel Adams (1902-1984), American photographer and environmentalist

 "If you live gladly to make others glad in God, 
your life will be hard, 
your risks will be high, 
and your joy will be full." 
~ John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life

 The five of us had such a great time at Paradise Lost, just a short distance from downtown Nairobi. None of us had ever been there before and we didn't really know what to expect. 

We were beyond thrilled, though, as the place is absolutely beautiful! There is so much to take in and enjoy.

Linet literally danced in circles at the waterfall, exclaiming - 
"I love nature! I love being out in nature!"

Derrick, Jim, and Jeremy really enjoyed the cave. They especially had fun exploring the dark recesses with my headlamp. At one point, Linet and I just sat down and waited until they'd had their fill.

After we ate our sack lunch, the boys climbed some guava trees and enjoyed eating their bounty.

Jim and Derrick tried their hand at rowing a boat... for their very first time. I'd say they did a pretty good job, as they managed to take us from one end of the lake to the other. Next time we go, Jeremy will have to take a turn at rowing.

The boys were also quite happy to ride horses, especially when they did a bit of galloping.

“Be strong, live happy, and love, 
but first of all Him whom to love is to obey, 
and keep His great command!”
~ John Milton (1608-1674); English poet, quote from Paradise Lost 

I have no idea if this park is named after the epic poem Paradise Lost, but it might be. Written by the 17th-century English poet John Milton, it concerns the biblical story of the fall of man.

When we returned to Nairobi, I treated everyone to an ice cream cone and we shared stories about our outing and all the fun we'd had. Such a fabulous day!

Sadly, just after I said goodbye to Linet and the boys... I had a personal encounter with the 'fall of man'.

While in a matatu on Haile Selassie Avenue, I experienced a pick-pocket attempt. There have been many such bothersome incidences in my 13+ years in Kenya - some were successful and some weren't. During the times the criminals succeeded, I wasn't aware of what was happening and only discovered it later... much to my chagrin.

This was the third time I've known exactly what the culprits were trying to do. Such an uneasy feeling comes over me each time.

I was able to circumvent their evil plot. The men (at least three were in on the dastardly deed) were especially 'in my face' about it. After I authoritatively told the guy next to me to 'back off' he mockingly and loudly proclaimed, "Oh, I see you've lived in Nairobi a long time. You know about these things." 

I managed to get out of the vehicle, but my dander was up. I was upset and most likely physically shaking. Words fail to adequately express how disconcerting such a happening can be.

As I walked, it began to rain. By the time I got another vehicle I was quite wet from the knees down, even with an umbrella.

Walking in the rain and while trying to dodge puddles through my tears, I professed to God (and to anyone else that cared to listen) --

I will not allow such things to deter me. I will continue to follow God's call on my life. I will continue to demonstrate his generous and unconditional love to the friends to whom he has supernaturally connected me. I will not be defeated by the dark powers in this world. I will overcome the risks that are inherently involved with living in this developing nation, a foreign land. I will declare God's glory and triumph in the midst of evil and hardships.

 “Make your choice, adventurous stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”

~ C.S. Lewis (1898-1963); Irish novelist, poet, and Christian apologist

14 May 2015

Enjoying life with good friends

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, 
nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one 
when you discover that someone else believes in you 
and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist, lecturer, and poet

A proper British 'high tea' at Hemmingway's

Celebrating Valentine's Day with some lady friends, at Hemmingway's

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together, 
there is something you must always remember. 
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, 
and smarter than you think. 
But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... 
I'll always be with you.”
~ A.A. Milne (1882-1956), Winnie the Pooh

Hannah and I enjoyed a fun Sunday afternoon at Ngong Racecourse

A competitive game of Scrabble with friends, Ruth and Hannah, combined with some yummy chocolate fondu

Another good visit with Agnes, this time in Kitale town

“Friendship is a slow ripening fruit.”
~ Aristotle (384-322 BC), Greek philosopher and scientist

I had a lovely overnight visit with longtime friend, Vera, with baby Deb

Vera and Ben's darling older children, David and Dorothy

"These things are fun and fun is good.”
~ Dr. Seuss (1904-1991), author of children's books

A fun outing with these guys included a view from the top of Kenyatta Conference Center in downtown Nairobi

Looking out over Upper Hill, with Ngong Hills on the horizon

Linet also enjoyed the view

A.M. Jeevanjee (depicted in this statue) donated the land for this garden space in 1906, "for people to relax".

We also thoroughly enjoyed a visit to the Nairobi National Museum and Snake Park. Derrick, Jim, and Jeremy posed with a statue of Louis Leakey (1903-1972), a famous paleoanthropologist and archaeologist from Kenya.

“The purpose of life is to live it, 
to taste experience to the utmost, 
to reach out eagerly and without fear 
for newer and richer experience.” 
~ Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), American politician, diplomat, activist and wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

12 May 2015

Enjoying God's out-of-doors; camping at Swara Plains and hiking at Gatamaiyu Forest

A group of folks from the homegroup I attend had a great time camping at Acacia Camp in Swara Plains on a recent weekend.

Anna and I got there early and walked the two miles from the highway. It was actually quite thrilling!

Because, as we walked... we were treated to a variety of wildlife so close to us.

There was a large group of Wildebeest, including many young ones.

There were also young ones among the zebra.

Mwanga, out for a ride

- - - - - -

On a different outing, some of us from homegroup enjoyed a picnic and hiking at Gatamaiyu Forest.

Note: All photos by Anna, except the one with the tent

07 May 2015

Enjoying God's out-of-doors; a hike and a bike ride at Hell's Gate National Park

Mount Longonot in the background

On a quite hot day, Hannah and I rented bikes to cycle through the park and to the gorge entrance. It was a total of 12 miles (20 kilometers), all of it on a rough and sandy road.

Such stunning views!

We really enjoyed watching various animals come to this watering hole. You can see how close we were to the buffalo as they cautiously approached, very aware of our presence. A few minutes after I took the above photo, our guide told us we better back away and move on.

Cape Buffalo approach the watering hole

Zebra are such beautiful animals! The birds are Cattle Egrets.

Warthogs - are they comical or ugly?

Beautiful male impala

Female impala

The gorge is a rather difficult place to hike, with steep cliffs.

Hannah tests the temperature of the waterfall from a hot spring.

Note: The photos of the animals were taken by Hannah