Archive for August, 2011

“This old guitar taught me to sing a love song
It showed me how to laugh and how to cry
It introduced me to some friends of mine
And brightened up my days
And helped me make it through some lonely nights
What a friend to have on a cold and lonely night”
–John Denver

As my time in Africa winds down, there is a goodbye that I was not expecting to hit my heart so sentimentally–and that is saying goodbye to my guitar. Guitars are not easy to come by in these parts and I am happy to leave mine here for others to learn on and enjoy. Even so, part of me feels like I am walking away from part of my body…like I am leaving a finger or foot behind me in Africa.

Kids Assembly

It’s not like I was ever great on it. I wouldn’t dignify what I do on the guitar by calling it “playing” but I do nonetheless manage to bang out a few melodies (as long as they stay within the confines of a basic 3 chord progression). And sometimes (whenever I let it happen) the Spirit gets ahold of me in the midst of a melody and I am transported to another place.

This old guitar taught me to find the voice of my heart when I could hear it no other way. With this guitar, I learned pray and to pour out my soul to God. My thumping strumming somehow helped to open my ear and to sing His very song back to myself and to others. This guitar provided an outlet for the Spirit, an on-ramp into the heavenlies, and a voice to the unutterable depths of my heart.

I know, I can always get another guitar, but this is the guitar that I learned to worship on. It has been with me all over Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana, North Carolina, and now Kenya. Here is where it will probably spend the rest of its life.

The guitar is a Fender. Now, I can’t resist throwing in these lines: “My old transister’s sounding just as clangy as Fender. My radiator growls like Elvis after Sunday dinner…” Good ol’ Maria McKee!


I bought it right after I graduated from college and took it up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where I spent the summer picking at my sore fingers and lamenting my lack of ability to strum and sing at the same time. Finally I had a breakthrough. A miracle due to the fact that it was fairly easy for me to move from Em to Am to G. My first song was an old coal miner balled called “The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” which I learned from Michelle Shocked’s first album. (“I was born and raised at the mouth of Hazerd Holler, coal carts roll and rumble past my door.”) I knew now that I was going to hit the bigtime. My next dream was to move to Nashville. Ha ha…pie in the sky, but I figured if I could at least walk around the Grand Ol’ Opry for a while, maybe something in the air would help me turn into a Nashville cat, or at least a distant, slobbering cousin of one.

It wasn’t too long before God stepped into my life in a radical way. Instead of Nashville, I found myself living out in the boondocks of Arizona, down a dusty dirt road that was close to Po-Dunkville and no where else.

It was there by myself in my little cabin, with my guitar, where I learned to sing and flow in the Spirit, with no one to hear but God. It was a divine season, hand-crafted for me by my Father; my own school of the Spirit, my personal seminary, my tomb and my womb. For much of those 7 years, all I needed was my Bible, my Strong’s Concordance, and my guitar and I was a happy girl, even if I sometimes played through my tears.

During this time, I read somewhere that sandalwood was a symbol for worship. I was so excited that I had a small bottle of the perfume oil, and I remember pouring it over my guitar; with the declaration that it was holy unto the Lord and would only be used to worship Him.

And what was my song? It always came down to this: “I am Yours. I believe You—help my unbelief. I trust You Lord. You are beautiful. You are glorious. Show me Your face. Teach me Your ways. Show me who You are! Draw me after You. Jesus, Your Name is a fragrance poured out…”

This song is still yet the song of my life–the song I have sung even here in Kenya, and I hope by His Spirit, I have helped others to sing as well.

Singing ourselves back home

To think that I almost didn’t bring this old guitar is now unthinkable. On my last day in Richlands, Joann Varner told me that the Lord told her to pay the extra baggage fee for me to bring my guitar with me. So, at the last minute, I added the guitar to my luggage, never dreaming what a blessing it would be here, or that it would not return home with me. Thank you again, Joann.

And thank You Lord, for taking my feeble strumming and infusing Your life into it. Shortly after arriving here, I was reminded of a message that pastor Wendall Ward had preached on people with one talent…an army of one-talent people going out fearlessly into the earth and using the little they had for the glory of God and letting Him bring the increase. God can do more with a one-talent person who is fully His, than a ten-talent person who hoards his riches for himself.

The guitar will stay at EERC, under the watchful care of Omonde, who is already learning chords and strums it every chance he gets. He is already writing songs. My favorite starts with this verse:

“Out of prison of rage and bitterness I call my soul
My precious soul, hear the sweet melodies of angels,
Sailing home.
I’m sailing home, to see my Father up in heaven
Sailing home…”

Omonde is also learning the keyboard

Often, if he hears me strumming and humming, he will come running from across the school to join me in a song. The other day I was strumming, “Behold You have come, over the hills, upon the mountains. To me You have run–my Beloved, You’ve captured my heart. Dance with me, oh Lover of my soul, to the Song of all songs…Romance me oh Lover of my soul, to the Song of all songs.”

I had my eyes closed but heard the door bang open and someone begin to hum with me. I looked up to see Omonde. “What is that song? That is the best song I have ever heard in my life! You must teach it to me!”

If there is one thing I know for sure about this trip, it was for me to teach and impart the heart of God, regarding His desire for intimacy, union, communion, truth in the inward parts…relationship. For 6 months, I have woven bits of the Song of songs throughout much of our teachings, culminating with a time of delving into the first chapter of the book.

Omonde strumming on the Fender

Nothing makes me happier than to hear the teachers and students humming these love songs as they go throughout their day. I hear them singing:

“Give me dove’s eyes; give me undistracted devotion for only You.”

“Take my life, I lay it down. All my gifts and all my crowns. I am Yours. I am in love, with undivided focus…”

“I wanna sit at Your feet, drink from the cup in Your hand. Lean back against You and breathe, and feel Your heartbeat…”

“Like oil upon Your feet, like wine for You to drink, like water from my heart, I pour my love on You.”

“Feasting at His banqueting table, His banner over me is love…”

God has truly blessed this time, making Himself so real to our hearts, penetrating religious traditions and mindsets with His amazing, disarming love and presence. He is a cluster of henna blooms in the garden of En Gedi; a fragrant oasis of life in the midst of dry and weary land. He is altogether lovely.

I know Omonde will take the guitar much further than I ever did. I leave with him the essence of every good thing that Father inworked in me all those years–may it blossom in his life and bear much fruit and may the fragrance spread abroad across Africa.

Let the fragrant worship arise!

I have a few days left with the old guitar, since I am taking it with us to Barwessa this weekend. Please pray for this short mission trip. It will be the first time that many of my Kenyan friends have done anything like this. I hope to get a good update on the baby and the calf and everyone else, as well as play a few farewell melodies of love and life under those desert stars.

Lord, let Your winds blow upon our garden…and may Your heart be satisfied with the fragrance! Carry our worship on the wings of the wind and fill the earth with the knowledge of Your beauty.


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