Thursday, September 24, 2009


While there is some debate on who to attribute this quote to originally, I think it describes this video perfectly:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
This was my 3rd summer in my house. This bird, or one of it's relatives, has been around every year. Every morning from spring to late summer, I wake up to BANG, BANG, BANG as he attempts to fly in to the reflection in the window. At first, I felt really bad for the little guy. He just didn't get that no matter how many times he flies into the window, he's not going to get through it. Then, well, it just became entertainment.

How often in my own life am I just like that bird? I know what I want to do... I look through the window and for a brief moment I see a reflection of God and I run right into the window trying to get to him. Unfortunately, we cannot become more like God by running to a reflection of him. Only when we run directly toward him can we even get a glimpse of what it will be like to see him in all his glory.

We tend to make things more difficult than they need to be. We keep trying the same methods and make the same decisions over and over again, of course getting the same results. Sometimes, we have to realize it's just a matter of turning around and flying in the right direction.

What patterns do you have in your life that you need to break in order to really fly into God's plan for your life?

On another note, how do I help the poor guy? Do those decal things work?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Journey to Africa and Beyond Part 10

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8   Part 9

Back at the university, I continued scraping glue with Isaac. One of the funny-now-but-scary-at-the-time stories happened in the shop. I was working diligently with my turpentine (which, by the way, is flammable - you'll need that bit of information in a minute) when I heard what sounded like a giant bug getting zapped in a bug zapper, and a lot of yelling and scuffling. I looked around and I was completely alone. I looked behind me and the fuse box was on FIRE. The old adage "women and children first" definitely did not apply here. I left the shop and asked about the guy that was actually working on the fuse box. He ran out of the shop, and just kept running. We didn't see him for hours. After we were sure it was safe, we went back to work. The manager came in and was talking to us and he decided it would be a good idea next time if they turned off the electricity before working on the fuse box. Great idea.

Eventually, things got back to normal and I went back to scraping glue again. I noticed as I would finish with one piece and set it aside to begin working on the next piece, I would look back at the last one and see another spot. So I'd go back to it and scrape a little more. Then I'd go on to the next one and continue to find more spots on the ones I had thought were complete. I kept trying to get them perfect, fully knowing that I would never see the end product. I wouldn't know what the plaque would look like, or who would receive it, or what they thought of it. I began to think about the student center that was being built and how we would never see the finished product other than in photos, maybe, someday. And I kept going back to the last frame I worked on trying to finish it. Eventually, I had to just say, "It's good enough."

As soon as I surrendered that it was never going to be perfect, that I couldn't make it perfect, I knew in my spirit that God was speaking to me. Even though I gave up on perfecting those frames, God never stops refining me. He never gives up on me. He never sets me aside and says "that's good enough". He is always scraping away the glue that allows the world to stick to me. He never stops. He never gives up. He has all the time in the world to perfect me... I only had 2 weeks in Africa.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:4-5
Many students will attend that university in Nairobi. Many will spend time in the student center eating, talking with friends, praying, in chapel, and whatever else they decide to do with that building. It's true that our hands didn't build it, but we were a small part of making it happen. The students that flow through there will go out into Africa, the Africa we didn't see, and they will spread the Good News. And I'm good with that.

Soon we would leave, but not before visiting a few other places. The Giraffe Sanctuary (ever kiss a giraffe? I have. One of the best quotes of the whole trip was "Sure. Don't drink the water but go ahead and swap spit with a wild animal.") We went into the city of Nairobi. If I didn't know I was in Africa, I never would have guessed. The traffic was like home, except they don't really have traffic lights or stop signs, but just about every intersection is a round-a-bout that is 3 or 4 lanes wide. You better hope you're in the right lane at the right time. That was actually the scariest part of the whole trip!

We went to the mall (yes, the mall). It was much like any shopping mall, except for the roof. This was where the market place was. It was all the same stuff we saw at the Maasai village, only in greater abundance and with a lot more bartering opportunity. Let's just say I bought some souvenirs for the church back home and some gifts for my family and got out of there!

We soon packed our things and headed back to the U.S. We had an 8 hour layover this time in London, but it was early Sunday morning and the weather wasn't great so I stayed at the airport while a few from our group went to do a little sight seeing. As I sat there, at one time I looked at my ticket and noticed it said "Karen Byrne - World Traveler". I wondered what that would mean for me for the future.

Had I really seen Africa?

I learned a lot about myself, and God did show up and speak to me, but I couldn't help wondering if I had missed out on something amazing. Every place we went was safe or run by Christians or had been thoroughly inspected before we arrived. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for that. I didn't want to sleep on the ground or dig under rocks for bugs to eat for dinner or fight off wild animals with a stick, but I know that the people of Africa are different than those we saw at the mall. While we were shopping, I wanted to walk along the road that leads to the university and talk to the people who live in shacks there and hear their stories and encourage them. Love them. Let God love them through me. But this was not my experience.

I've heard of people coming home from a mission trip and getting depressed after seeing how others in the world live. I came home and got depressed because of what I didn't see. Again, don't get me wrong, waking up in the morning and seeing a giraffe out your window is super cool. But I think God made me for more than that. What that is, I'm still trying to figure out.

Thanks for indulging me as I worked through this series. Now I feel like I can get back to some regular posts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Journey to Africa and Beyond Part 9

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8

On our way back from our safari (which, by the way, is Swahili for journey) we drove through a couple of dust storms. It was pretty wild. I tried to take a picture but it really didn't turn out that great. We closed the windows in the vans as best we could (think old school bus windows), but the dust kept coming in.

When we got back to the university, one of the ladies was standing outside our van when I got of and she took one look at me and said "Oh honey", and I could tell from her look and her tone I was a mess. I looked around and no one else was dirty. Just me.

It took me a while, like a few months, to figure this out. I should have known, but I wasn't thinking right at the time. I'm going to tell you something you really don't want to know about me, but my face sweats. I know, I'm a lady and I should say "perspires" but the moisture that accumulates on my face when I'm hot is way more disgusting than perspiration... it's sweat. So, when we went through that dust storm, all of the dust settled on my face. Paints a lovely picture, doesn't it? (No, I didn't have a picture taken.)

I went inside and stood next to the bathtub and looked at my face in the mirror. I really was a mess. I looked at my clothes and my face and said a little prayer that went something like this: "Please God, send us a little rain so I can go out and get this dirt off me so I don't get the bathtub all dirty and no one has to wash the filth off my clothes.

In that moment, I realized that's how so many of us approach God. It's why so many never approach God. They think they have to get cleaned up before they can come to God. What they don't realize is that God is in the dirt and the mire with us. He comes into our mess and he is the one who washes us. We don't have anything to do with it, other than just showing up and allowing him access to clean up our mess. He's just waiting for us to ask.

I don't remember if it was during the trip or shortly after that this song really hit me. The lyrics are included, so I won't repeat them but there is one part that really sticks out to me as I write this.
I wanna come home but the sands of time surround me and the dirt's finally covered my shame.
Sometimes, we press down so hard on the sin in our lives that it gets buried under all the other junk in our lives and we can't even see it anymore. It's in those times that God has to scrape away at the outer level of dirt to get down to the heart of the matter. It's not a fun process, but it's worth it.

to be continued...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Journey to Africa and Beyond Part 8

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7

We also had planned a trip to the Masai Mara Game Reserve for a few days. This was going to be a 3 or 4 hour trip. We would be stopping by a Maasai village on the way. Finally... we were going to see Africa.

The village (pictures below) was interesting. When we arrived they danced for us, and then they jumped; they are known for how high they can jump. We learned that the ones wearing the head dress made of a lion's mane earned them by killing a lion that came into the village. They don't hunt the lions, but they do kill them if they intrude, and this gives them a celebrity-like status in the village. Their homes are built by the women out of mud and manure (and other "natural" products), and most of them 3 or 4 rooms... many of which are home to chickens, goats, and other animals they keep inside to protect. The homes do not last long as the Maasai tend to move around a lot. In this particular village, which is visited frequently (I think by appointment only) some of the young men go to school, and everyone in the village is a Christian. We had a demonstration of how they start a fire (was anyone a boyscout?). Then, we walked through a small entryway to the marketplace. This was where they all started hounding us to buy their products. Jewelry, carvings, etc. Things they made themselves and really, really, REALLY want you to buy them. Many tables had the same items on them, and each "seller" was trying to convince you that theirs was the best. This was the day I decided I would never, ever, EVER barter. It was overwhelming to me. I never wanted to escape a place so quickly in my life (for those who don't know, I really hate shopping - it used to be my least favorite thing to do; now it's bartering). You can learn more about the Maasai here.

Once we finally left the village we continued on and arrived at the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Could tell we were getting closer because we saw more and more zebras and giraffes. We checked in and went to our "tents", which were actually nicer than the rooms we had at the university.
Yes, that's my tent.

I posted a few of my pictures on Flickr.

The last day we were there we went out early in the morning. The only animals you see are vultures eating the left overs from the night before. I'll spare you those pictures.

As we were heading back in the vans, I kept asking that same question I'd been asking all along... is this Africa?

to be continued... (almost done, I promise)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We Interrupt This Series...

Sorry for the interruption, but I wanted to share something really special with you, brought to you by Dirty Girls.

Now, before you think I've gone off the deep end, keep reading.

We don't often think of women when we talk about folks who struggle with pornography, but more and more women are opening up and confessing how they struggle with this stronghold. One of those women is Crystal Renaud, and having struggled to overcome this addictive behavior, she's doing something to help other women break free. You can read her personal testimony here.

Through this ministry she is helping church leaders learn how to help women in their own congregation through a coaching network. Women can sign up to attend Online Recovery Groups.

If you or someone you know is a woman who struggles with pornography, or if you just want to help spread the word, check out Dirty Girls: A Ministry to Women Porn Addicts. You can also follow Dirty Girls on twitter, Facebook, or check out or subscribe to their newsletter.

And now... back to our regularly scheduled blog series...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Journey to Africa and Beyond Part 7

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6

My understanding was that we had set aside a day to visit an orphanage where all of the children's parents were victims of AIDS. When we arrived, the children were so excited to see us (they were expecting us). They were all eager to have their pictures taken and view them on the screens of our digital cameras. Their ages ranged from just a few months old to 17. Once they turn 18 they must leave the orphanage.

The woman who runs the orphanage is a follower of Jesus. She loves the children there as if they were her own. She depends on the generosity of others to keep them fed and clothed, but she also teaches them to make jewelry and other items that can be sold. For the most part, they are well taken care of and are happy. They performed a few songs for us, all about the devastation that AIDS has brought to their lives, and also about Jesus. Many of the children have AIDS themselves, but it's not clear which ones. They all have responsibilities, with the older taking care of the younger. We only stayed for an hour or so.

Below are some of the amazing children from the orphanage. There are stories in their faces that we didn't get to hear. There is something in their eyes the draws you into a place where you don't want to go but you know you have to - yet there wasn't enough time.

Again, I ask myself, "Is this Africa?"

to be continued...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Journey to Africa and Beyond Part 6

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5

My first assignment was in the chapel. There was dry wall to hang (HA!) Ceiling to be painted (HA!) and various other things I was not qualified for. They convinced me I'd be able to do it. So there I was with a hammer and nails (used, many crooked) ready to work. A few short minutes later they were finding me something else to do. They had me climbing up on this scaffolding that was not safe at all. I don't remember what I was going to be doing up there... painting, I think. I finally was able to climb to the top and was laying down holding on for my life! A few short minutes later they were finding me a new location to work in. Yes, I was fired. But I was not alone. One other person was asked to leave as well. They were nice about it for sure, but they said I might be better suited for some other work.

Part of the team was replacing some windows in one of the buildings, and another part were working in the office, and another part was painting some dorm rooms. They seemed to be pretty well covered, so I was sent to the wood shop. Immediately, memories of Junior High shop class flashed in my head... they were not pretty thoughts.

This is where I met Isaac. He and I spent many hours together over the many days I was there. He lived far away and traveled a couple of hours to and from work each day. The university only hires Christians. And Isaac had Jesus all over him. He was kind, gentle and extremely patient. Don't worry, I didn't use any power tools.

One of the tools they do use there for just about everything is turpentine. They use it to remove paint (of course), to clean, to soften glue on the windows they were removing...everything. If there was something that needed to be done, you can pretty much bet there would be turpentine nearby.

So in the wood shop, they brought out a bunch of picture frames. Just like the ladders and scaffolding, they made their own picture frames. So they needed a little sanding. So I sanded. For many days, I sanded. There must have been a hundred of them, though I probably only saw 20 at a time.

Then they brought what looked like black boxes. A closer look revealed they were wood boxes covered in felt. Someone had already glued the felt to the boxes, which it turned out were actually inserts for the picture frames. One thing about glue on black felt... it makes a mess, and whoever did the gluing didn't really try to make sure there wasn't glue everywhere.

That's where I came in. Armed with a scrub brush and a bottle of turpentine, I went to work... pouring turpentine on the brush, and scrubbing to get rid of the excess glue and residue. They were making awards for their 10 year anniversary celebration happening a few weeks after we would leave. So for the next several days, I scraped glue off of picture frames in Africa.

As I worked, I got to know Isaac and his friends. We talked about our lives and how different they were. We sang a few songs now and then, and I sanded, and poured, and brushed, and scraped. And I just kept thinking, "Is this Africa?"

to be continued...   Part 7