Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ponderings from the Nile River

I made it back alive after a 3-day felucca trip up the Nile. A felucca is a traditional wooden sailboat used primarily to sail the Nile. 30 of us had 2 feluccas with 2 crew members on each. We ate vegetarian each meal and plenty of pita with various toppings. We took a night train Friday from Cairo to Aswan, and boarded the boat Saturday afternoon. I showered Thursday night before we left for Aswan, and then not again until this afternoon, Tuesday. I am definitely being pushed from my comfort zone; at home I shower at least once per day. And Egypt is hot. I mean hot. We were dripping sweat most of the time, which meant of course-we must cool off in the Nile.

It is extremely questionably water; I am sure it was not too safe for my new tattoo (see previous post..), but no one got sick and it was nice to float around with no real agenda. Free time is a new concept to this group, because we are always rushing somewhere, having classes, studying or taking tests. This semester has been my busiest yet, even without my job or friends and family to spend my time with.

Saturday night I spent a few hours just laying on the boat and praying. I journaled, I re-read my posts from the beginning of the trip, and pondered my future. It is difficult to dwell on the future when I am thousands of miles away and a continent and oceans prevent me from planning every or any details.

I read Tales of a Female Nomad this weekend. It showed me that I do not have to worry about providing for my every need. There are so many people out there that have helped me find a place to stay, a job, transportation, friendships, etc. God has me in his hand. That concept is so abstract, it doesn't always fit in my head very well. But while I know the value of planning and hoping for a good job and for things to turn out well, this time I want to fully depend on God. It is perfect, because I have no ability to work out my own future this far away.

My felucca ponderings have given me a peace about these next six months. I cannot wait to see my family and friends in December, and what is beyond Christmas I have no idea. I will rest in that, because God has always, always, always revealed the next step for me.

Tonight we leave for Kenya, and internet will be intermittent, if at all. If you don't hear from me, just pray that God would continue to work in this team and in my heart. Daily He is showing me how to trust in his plan rather than stress about how to provide on my own.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pyramids at Giza

I'm studying for our World Religions midterm tomorrow morning, but here are a few pictures from today!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Final tattoo, Psalm 29:11a

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace, Psalm 29:11

One of my goals for the trip, unofficially, was to get a Hebrew tattoo in Israel. I mentioned it to the group in passing in our first two weeks in Argentina, and a few prayed about getting one as well. Fast forward 2 months and halfway through the trip- 6 people decided to go through with it.
The part that scares me the most is the declaration this particular verse is making: The Lord gives strength to his people. I know this to be true, it is the foundation of my life and God is the only reason this team of 30 students and faculty have bonded so quickly. Our foundation in Christ is the reason we are able to make it through tough classes, sickness, frustrations, various personality differences, all of our service projects and unending culture shock. God has brought each individual here, and we are reminded daily in large and small ways of His truth and present action in our lives.

And that is exactly what scares me: To have a permanent reminder on my body (my right arm, to be specific) that I can and should be fully dependent on God as my sole source of strength is the largest claim I can make. It is a declaration, but it is also a prayer that I would be continually renewed in the word as I actively seek His face rather than my own desires.
So in Christ I am broken yet full, dead to myself and alive in Him. May my present actions take me in His direction as this journey continues. Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shout to the Lord

I step out into the busy streets. Darkness covers this beautiful city, the Jaffa gate is visible from here as I pass through and continue onto my destination. My heart is excited, light in anticipation: Worship. The group of us rushes on through the streets, along the city wall, continuing on Jaffa Street. Twenty minutes later we find a spot to sit; the group piles onto the ground, ledges and cobblestone steps. This group consists of two schools- Marietta Bible College and Concordia University students are staying at the same hotel, and tonight we find ourselves together on the cement stairs.

Our eclectic compilation of instruments are scattered between our two groups to form one worship band. Holy is the Lord, we sing. I close my eyes to focus on the words I'm singing out to God, in this crowd of people with one purpose. I open my eyes after this first song and the largest group has appeared around us. Christians stretch their heads out of surrounding stores and restaurants, couples and families stop to see why we have gathered-to understand why we sing these praises.

Between each song I hear whispers permeate this sacred space. Who are you? What are you doing here? Why do you sing? Several students wander the edges to answer questions and offer prayer. How Great is Our God. Most of us take off our sandals as a symbol of this holy ground. The concrete steps have turned into God's dwelling place. Our hearts sing Him out, our voices lift His name in praise and adoration.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord. Some passing tourists stay the full two hours, others stay for a song or two. Soon individuals shout out song requests in English with various accents. Forever God is Faithful. The three guitars rotate between several musicians to display their own style.
We press towards the center of our contrived circle to accommodate the increasing crowd.

The community felt there can only by formed and felt because of God's presence and the Holy Spirit's actions in our lives. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. It is what binds us together in perfect unity. May God seal up that worship time-the words sung, the prayers prayed, the witness portrayed, in Jesus' name, in His City, among His People of Israel.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What I learned in the deserts of Egypt and Jordan

Let us have grace to serve the Consuming Fire, our God, with divine fear, not with the fear that cringes and craves, but with the bowing down of all thoughts, all delights, all loves before him who is the life of them all, and will have them all pure. We, therefore, must worship him with a fear pure as the kingdom is unshakable. He will shake heaven and earth, that only the unshakable remain.

It is the nature of God, so terribly pure that is destroys all that is not pure as fire, which demands like purity in our worship.
The symbol of God's presence, before which Moses had to put off his shoes, and to which it was not safe for him to draw near, was a fire that did not consume the bush in which it burned.

He is against sin: in so far as, and while, they and sin are one, he is against them-against their desires, their aims, their fears and their hopes; and thus he is altogether and always for them.
The Consuming Fire is the active form of purity-that which makes pure, that which is indeed love, the creative energy of God.

Gone then will be all anxiety as to what his neighbor may think about him. It is enough that God thinks about him. To be something to God-is not that praise enough? To be a thing that God cares for and would have complete for himself, because it is worth caring for-is not that life enough?
The Consuming Fire, George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons

God has been working on my heart. It isn't easy, but I know that I am learning character on this trip. I love it here, there is always something to do, see, learn and read. I am dealing with losing things I once held valuable, and that shows me that my heart needs to move more towards living in the moment rather than thinking about what used to bring me happiness.

The team is growing closer as we study and travel together. We spent this last weekend in the desert near Wadi Rum, Jordan. We rode a caravan of camels (30 people, 30 camels, which were borrowed from neighboring villages to trek us all through the desert). Jordan is hot, sweaty and full of sand. Tomorrow we go to Petra, and we are here for 3 days. I'm looking forward to what the future has in store, while continuing to live in the moment.