Saturday, January 6, 2018

Abiding in Christ, Resting in the Lord

While living in Rwanda several years back, Antoine RUTAYISIRE, then team leader of African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) Rwanda, and I would spend a week in prayer and fasting as we began the New Year.  We enjoyed being refreshed together by God’s presence, earnestly crying out to the Lord about life and ministry issues which lay deep in our hearts.  While in seminary at Fuller, each year I would take a few days of retreat at St. Andrew’s Abbey up in the High Desert of Southern California where I would reflect over the past year while seeking God’s presence and will for the year to come.  Those were incredibly meaningful times of prayer and silence and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. 

The majestic and famed Nile River

The day after Christmas Kristi and I spent several days doing a prayer retreat on the shores of the Nile River here in Juba, South Sudan.  It was an enjoyable, restful, and relaxing time of reflection, enjoying nature, and praying over 2018.  We spent many hours just sitting alongside the giant river, watching the methodical current flow northward.  Sitting by the river and simply being still has a calming, healing effect.  I believe that God inspired our minds and our prayers during our time there. 

Gazing at the glorious sunrise on the horizon

In reflecting on 2017, Kristi and I realized that this last year has been one of “surrender” and “giving up control.”  Major decisions were made last year greatly affecting us over which we had no control.  We simply had to submit to these decisions as God’s will.  Moreover, we also came to a place of surrender – realizing that we had to hand over to the Lord significant  hopes and dreams, knowing that there was nothing in our strength or power we could do to make them happen.  To surrender and not have control are humbling realities which refine our character and build our faith.  During our time of reflection, we gave thanks for the many wonderful things that happened over this last year.  We could see God’s hand of blessing, grace and goodness in our lives regarding new and old friendships, memorable experiences, and a good transition to South Sudan. 

The Oasis Camp, a local guesthouse, was the picture
of warmth, hospitality and peace 

In looking forward to 2018, we each chose a word and a scripture verse as thematic for hopes in this upcoming year.  As Kristi took time to pray, the word that came to mind for her was “abide,” from Jesus’ words to his disciples in John chapter fifteen.  She considered concrete ways that she can abide in Christ, such as finding new and creative ways for prayer, being present to others, and cultivating our home as a place of sanctuary and freedom.  For me, the word that came to mind was “rest,” inspired by the words of the prophet Isaiah, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…’” (Is 30: 15).  In being afflicted by the Epstein - Barr Virus (EBV) for almost eight months now, rest has been a constant theme; it is from the place of rest where I gain strength and freedom and even ‘salvation’ from the worries of a harried world.  This unwelcomed guest, EBV, has taught me to slow down, to see people and issues more clearly and more deeply.  Richard Rohr, the Franciscan monk and priest, says that mystics of ages past use the verb “rest” more than any other verb.  On that note, as we enter the gravitas of a New Year, I feel the need and the desire to “rest in the Lord” moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month. 

Perhaps difficult to see, but two Giant Kingfishers sit
a few balconies down, gracing our environs each morning

Some hopes and prayer for the New Year include:  physical healing for me, greater clarity for Kristi in her ministry role, wisdom for me in my teaching coupled with a love for my students, continued progress and comfort with Juba Arabic, finding a rhythm of life that works for us, having restorative times away (R&R, vacation), finding a church community to regularly worship and connect with, wisdom regarding opportunities to collaborate with other ministries, finding ways to be more organized, staying connected with family and friends back home.  We invite you to pray with us regarding these hopes for 2018. 

We also invite you to consider a word and scripture that would be an anchor for you in this New Year.  We invite you to join us in this journey of abiding in Christ and resting in the Lord.  Grace and peace to you, today and always! 

 


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