As I prepared for church this morning, I noticed a dark sky in the direction of the church. Monique announced that it wouldn’t rain until I got to church,but not to stone her if she was wrong. As I retrieved a shirt from the line, I joked that burning at the stake would be more appropriate for the offense. Bible and umbrella in hand, I left the gate and plodded churchward. I met up with Megan and Ellen at the street, and we quickened our pace into the shadow, hoping to reach the sanctuary before the bottom dropped out. At the midpoint of our journey, we met the rain we’d been chasing. After a couple hundred feet with useless umbrellas keeping only our hair dry, we ducked into a “snackbar”, which is a cross between a bar and general store…and doesn’t serve any actual prepared food.
We and a dozen Cameroonians served our little stint in purgatory for having left 5 minutes too late for church. After buying a bottle of water, there was little left to do but stare out the concrete opening. We watched as the dirt turned to mud, the low spots into rivulets, the rivulets into streams, and the streams into rushing rivers. Ellen imagined herself on a little island in the middle of the road, only to be wisked away as a vehicle forded the intersection. As if to add insult to injury, a motorcycle splashed through a spot just downstream. “OUCH!”, we both said.
So we watched as God watered the corn outside the Church, settled the dust, topped off water barrels in the neighborhood, and washed the litter off the streets.
In the conversation, I let someone else’s secret slip…the second secret about this person to the same listener, and they commented that they’d better not tell me any secrets. This hurt, but she was right in calling me out. Usually, I’m a vault, acting appropriately on the priveleged information I know without letting on, but twice in a row I’d been a gossip about the same person, a person that had confided in me. I apologized, still wondering if I should apologize to the other person. I whispered a quiet prayer giving my tongue and mouth back to God (see Isaiah 6:6-7 and James 3), the noise of my prayer being drowned by the thunderous pounding on the tin roof.
Later, in the service, the pastor prayed for those still en route, and declared these sorts of days a test of our faith. He also congratulated the congregation for their triumph. This reminded me of the opposite sentiment from Brad Paisley: “There ain’t nothin’ that’ll test your faith like a long sermon on a pretty Sunday” …and for the umpteenth time this morning, I giggled.
The sermon was about stewardship, and Pastor Jean-Jacques did his best not to make the whole sermon about money. He deftly avoided Malachi 3:8 and used 1 Chronicles 29:10-14. (I found an interesting article on tithing that’s worth considering: http://bible-truths.com/tithing.html )
10 Then David praised the Lord in the sight of all the assembly. David said,
May You be praised, Lord God of our father Israel, from eternity to eternity. 11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all. 12 Riches and honor come from You, and You are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and it is in Your hand to make great and to give strength to all. 13 Now therefore, our God, we give You thanks and praise Your glorious name.
14 But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand.
~ 1Ch 29:10-14 HCSB
In 1 Chronicles, David prayerfully reminds himself that EVERYTHING is already God’s, and we should seek to be as generous with our blessings as He has been to us.
As you know, sometimes I have been the French-English Translator at church. I don’t count myself among the public speakers of this world, but I’m comfortable translating if I don’t have to worry about blashphemy. Knowing that our Former pastor, Pastor Herve, was a godly man and that his sermons were guided by the wisdom of the Spirit, I’d asked God first to let any false words fade away, then to attach me to the pastor’s spirit for that time so that I could translate both the words and sentiment. I don’t know if this request was scripturally sound, but God has a habit of granting some of my most foolish requests, and I believe that God has blessed me and the congregation through it. Nowadays, we have a new, younger pastor, and I’ve been reluctant to translate until I have an idea what to expect from him. Apart from that, he tends to give a paragraph to the translator, and you end up scrambling and revising rather than translating.
Today, I was called up to the pulpit by surprise to pray for the offering. During the service, I’d already realized the folly of my request, that the words bubble up from the Spirit and not the pastor. I’d instead asked the Spirit to attach me to and bring me ever closer to Himself. I’m usually not all that comfortable composing prayers in front of a crowd (my dad was always the designated pray-er in a group) , but this time I felt that the words I spoke came from much deeper than my heart and mind…deeper than ever before. I’ve always imagined that the Spirit took our mangled and humble words and took them up to heaven, telling the Father in a vaguely apologetic tone: “Ok, so here’s what he meant to say…”. I’m not saying that I expresed anything groundbreaking or new, but this was a different flow, where the intercession came between my heart and my lips, rather thn after.
I’ve been guided by the Spirit here to Africa, but I hope that this new depth is a new level of moment-to-moment growth and maturity in my relationship with God.
After church today, I was reading today’s Morning and Evening devotion by Spurgeon. It reminded me of the downpour of the morning and the confession of David. Here are some excerpts:
“I will pour water upon him that is thirsty.”
— Isaiah 44:3
All the riches of divine grace you shall receive in plenty; you shall be as it were drenched with it: and as sometimes the meadows become flooded by
the bursting rivers, and the fields are turned into pools, so shall you be—the thirsty land shall be springs of water.