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Archive for January, 2012

Life becomes very simple when I think of it as a journey in which the one goal is to walk with God consistently. The pathway and the destination of the journey have the same goal: to know God. My primary objective is not creating a certain kind of ministry or getting a certain kind of job or any other outward thing. Deeper and simpler, the goal is just this: To walk with God consistently through everything. To continually increase in the knowledge of Him; through all the thick and thin, the ups and downs of life…To “suck the marrow out of life” as Thoreau said–life being in this case, “that they may know You, the one True God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

Since I have started this blog, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to hear from new people–folks I’ve not met in person–who want to learn how to walk more closely with God. Considering all there is to know on this subject, I am a novice. The subject is vast, but there is none more fascinating to me. I can think of no other pursuit that is even remotely as worthwhile and fulfilling as this one.

If that is the case, why do my actions so often seem to contradict the desires of my heart? Why do I put off the very thing my heart most longs for? How can I gain a more consistent walk with Him; one that not just in position, but in experience, overflows with His life?

As I think about the simplicity of walking with God through life, my mind goes to Enoch; the first person who was described as having “walked with God.” In the next few blog posts, I would like to take an imaginative journey into his life; to see what Enoch saw and to see what his life–at the dawn of the ages–signifies for us, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Enoch

“Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21).

Two incredible things are linked together here: walking with God, and bypassing death! During my lifetime, we’ve heard a lot about a generation that will bypass death. I suppose there are many ideas out there about what such a thing will look like. I also know from the Scripture that there are many dimensions and layers to this truth of bypassing death or overcoming death. The exploration of those dimensions is a fascinating topic. But what really captures my attention and heart is this whole concept of “walking with God.” If bypassing death is the result of walking with God, then our attention should be given to pursuing this manner of life. This is something that Enoch grasped, as no one else in his generation did.

In describing Enoch, it is not said that “he had a worldwide ministry, and then was not, for God took him.” It doesn’t say that he raised the dead or fathomed every mystery or brought daily sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. It simply says that he “walked with God.” Surely in his 300 years of walking with God, there were many other good works wrought through him. There are extra-canonical books credited to him, one of which is quoted in the book of Jude in the New Testament. (I will get to that later). But whatever else Enoch did or didn’t do, from God’s perspective it was all summed up in this one amazing sentence: “He walked with God.”

Surely there were others in Enoch’s day who walked with God to some extent? After all, he was descended from the righteous line of Seth. His fathers must also have walked with God in a measure. But there was something unique about Enoch’s walk that set him apart from everyone else around him. Of Enoch alone it was said, “He walked with God.”

In fact, if you look at the genealogies that precede him, there is a very obvious pattern describing his forefathers. Each one lives a certain amount of years, begets a son, lives a certain amount of years after that, and then dies. The pattern continues unbroken until we come to Enoch, the 7th from Adam.

Enoch’s life starts the same as all the others. He lives a certain amount of years (65 to be exact) and then he begets a son (Methuselah, famous for being the person with the longest lifespan in the Bible at 969 years). However, after the birth of Methuselah, something radically changes in Enoch’s life. Instead of merely “living,” as he had done before the birth of his son, he begins to “walk with God.” What brought this great change into his life?

I imagine that in his youth, Enoch spent a lot of time with his great-great-great-great-grandfather, Adam. Yes, Adam was still alive when Enoch was born. In fact, Adam lived for 298 years after Enoch’s birth–the majority of Enoch’s life.

“Grandpa, tell me about the good old days!”

I can just picture a young Enoch, filled with an insatiable curiosity and yearning to know the kind of life that his great-grandfather had once known. And Adam would tell Enoch of life in the Garden. Life before the curse–before there was such a thing as thorns and hunger and sweat and pain and hiding from God. Life before man had any idea what it was like to dig a deep hole in the dust and lay a lifeless body in it.

It was a life, Adam told him, of incredible unity and harmony with all creation. A life in which Adam could peer into a creature and see its essence–and thus “name,” it by calling out the nature that he perceived within. Adam was a co-regent with his Father, assisting Him in the finishing touches of Creation. And like his Father, Adam was a gracious king without a hint of malice or greed toward the creation around him. To destroy anything would be unthinkable. Life pulsated with its own extravagant beauty and seemed to continually be overflowing out of itself.

Most of all, it was a life of familial affection with God, the Father, the Source and Root of all life and beauty. He told Enoch how the voice of God would come into the Garden in the cool (or the ruach, the spirit or breeze) of the day and how they would walk and talk as friends. He shared with Enoch about the perfect righteousness, peace and joy that he knew in the presence of God. Of course, back then, while in the Garden, he did not identify it as righteousness, peace, and joy–it was just the way life was. It was all he knew. He had nothing to contrast it with.

He told Enoch of the shimmering light that clothed God–and himself. He talked about the mist that arose from the earth to water it, and the River that divided into four and ran throughout the land. Sometimes Adam and Enoch would walk down to one of those rivers, which still ran through the earth in Enoch’s day–and indeed still run to this very day. And while they walked along the banks of the river Pishon, Adam would reminisce about the headwaters; the Mother River that was now buried in darkness under impenetrable layers of hard earth and stone.

Adam spoke of his expulsion from the Garden and the cherubim guarding the way back to the Tree of Life–God’s way of protecting him and his offspring from a fate-worse-than-death. (There is only one fate worse than death, and that is to live forever in a state of immaturity and selfishness mingled with corrupted knowledge and power. Contrary to popular opinion, it is a fate that God inflicts on no one, but rather one that from the beginning, He ensured our protection from). Adam spoke of the progressive fading of the Garden, and how even the plants began to slowly change from their original appearance, until the original Garden was barely discernable. Many of these new plants took root and faded quickly, and a different sort of balance of nature began to spread–one dominated by “good” soil and “bad” soil that produced both fruits and thorns. And all of it was tended by hard labor.

Of course, the two Trees at the center of the Garden disappeared from sight…but not from mind. One Tree had taken root in Adam. And the other Tree, of course, had vanished–apparently without a trace.

The Faded Garden

In Enoch’s day, some of the other ancient trees from the original Garden still lived. As they walked in the place where the Garden had once been, Enoch would lay his hand on a gnarled old trunk that with roots that went back to a time before leaf knew what it was to fall from branch. His grandfather would try to recall memories so distant they may only have been a dream. “It seems like I might have once sat here with Eve and God–the three of us–laughing together. In the beginning, though, I did not call her Eve. God called both of us ‘Adam,’ for we were one. He pulled her out from the depths of my being and built her from my very essence. Yes, she is indeed my very soul!

Like his very soul; like Eve; the Garden was only dim and fading shadow of its former glory.

“…And over there, that dark and tangled area is where we hid from Him. At least I think so. It’s so hard to tell now…” And Adam would sigh the kind of sigh that can only arise from the howling abyss of a soul estranged from her Lover.

They rarely walked in the shadow-Garden. It was hard now to even find the way back to where it had once been, as its borders began to bleed and blend with the thorny environment around it. Mostly, it was a place that the people of Enoch’s generation avoided, in the same way one avoids walking across the grave of a beloved grandfather, or a man avoids returning to the magical forest that he played in as a child–because the pain of seeing it through jaded, adult eyes is just too great.

And to be sure, what good does it do to recall one’s shame? Why should anyone willingly remember the height from which they have fallen? Better to forget the past and try to survive as well as one can, before one returns to dust. And so goes life under the sun. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

As much as Enoch’s heart yearned for the wonder of the world that his great-grandfather had known, his heart was moved even more strongly by a greater desire…he longed for communion with the Source of all the beauty. He was fascinated by the One who had invented all of it; the Heart and Mind that had brought everything into existence. What was HE like? And what was it like to walk with the Voice of God in the Spirit of the Day? Was it still possible to connect with Him in a meaningful way? Though everything had changed, could he still walk with God? Could he also sit in His presence under a shade-tree in the cool of the day and laugh together, as his grandparents had once done? Did God have any lingering desire yet in His heart for fellowship with His creation? Or was the fate of mankind perpetual banishment, with only an occasional glance at God as through a veil or a prison lattice during our brief existence in life-as-we-know-it?

Of course, there were always those who “called upon the name of the Lord.” It began in the days of Seth’s son, Enosh–Enoch’s great-great grandfather. But Enoch, wanted more than that. He didn’t want to just “call upon the name of the Lord.” He wanted relationship, if he dared to say it that way. The kind of relationship that God and Adam had once experienced. Knowing God through a veil was better than not knowing Him at all, but Enoch’s hopes were set on more. His hunger drove him on, and many times he would venture alone and heavy-hearted into the faded boundaries of what had once been a Garden.

“Is it possible for me to walk with You? Could I know You for myself? Would You tell me about Your thoughts, Your feelings, Your plans? Could I know You in a way that transcends merely hearing stories about You?

“Do You still care about us? Do You want my company?”

And even deeper; the implied question, the one he dared not voice was this: “Will there ever be restoration for mankind?”

It took a while for these thoughts to crystallize within him, and it was the birth of his son, Methuselah, that was the tipping point; the great divide of his life. Enoch was 65 years old. It was the year that everything changed.

I have never had a child myself. But as I write these lines, my imagination is transfixed by an image I see in my mind’s eye. I see Enoch looking down in the eyes of his newborn son and seeing his eyes–his very own eyes–looking back at him. A locked gaze between Enoch and Methuselah; a gaze that can ever only be known between father and son.

In the buried recesses of his heart, an idea is moving, kicking, trying to come out. A knowing about something. Something sacred. Something beyond language. Something that he sees in the eyes of his son…or is it his own eyes he is seeing, staring up into his? And at that moment, his heart skips a beat, because he hears the Voice of God, coming from somewhere–a place he cannot quite identify. It is a whisper that roars. It is the Voice that comes in the Ruach; a Sound that cannot be denied.

“The feeling in your heart as you gaze into your son’s eyes, is the same way I feel when I look at you!”

Ah, at the dawn of the ages, a glorious light is dawning in the heart of one man! With an infant son in his arms, Enoch takes his first baby step. His walk has begun. It is a small step for Enoch and a giant step for all of mankind.

“I am a direct descendent of God. His image in me, though marred and faded and indiscernible as the Garden, still remains as an unmoving testimony to His original purpose. It was carried from Adam to Seth and all the way down the family line to me. It passes through me and on into my son. He also carries the image. And in the same way that my heart is moved with compassion and hope for Methuselah, so God’s heart is moved towards me. As I desire him to be my friend–so my Ancient, Ageless Father desires my friendship.”

And with a heart overflowing with love for his infant son, he dares to wonder: “Could it be that the desire that I have felt as I have searched for Him is only a tiny fraction of the desire that is in His heart for me; an infant son of the Most High?”

A simple thought. It wasn’t rocket science–it was infinitely more profound. And though Enoch’s great grandchildren have since gone to the moon and back, created atom bombs and found ways to genetically modify seeds (the very seeds that are themselves descendants of the outer garden that Adam tended in the sweat of his brow), very few have grasped the significance of what Enoch grasped that day. And fewer still–perhaps a handful or less–have shared in his experience of being translated past death and into God’s manifest presence.

At least up to this point in human history.

“I am beloved of God. In spite of my weakness and sin–I am desired! And if I am desired, He will indeed make a way to restore me–and all of us–back to the fullness of His presence and life. Death will not reign over creation forever! The Garden will be restored!” Oh, the wonder of it! Once the thought took root within Enoch, he could never again deny it. It was not merely something that he hoped might be true. It was something that he knew, a knowing that transcended all experience and was past argument.

And in Enoch’s soul, the faded edges of the Garden began to take shape. A cool, life-giving Ruach began to blow. And a small seed that had once been hidden by a flaming sword that turned in every direction, burst up through the soil of his heart.

How could it be? It was a miracle, no doubt about it.

And so began Enoch’s Great Walk, the only walk worth walking–the walk that we are all invited into–if we have ears to hear the Call. And blessed indeed, are the ears that hear!

….To Be Continued….  ~Mercy Aiken

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Diane and baby Tehillah Timbiti

There is much more that I want to write about in this blog, including many of my post-Africa musings on Scripture, the state of the world, and my life in general. But before I go any farther, I would be remiss to not post a public thanks in memory of Diane Grey.

When I left Eldoret on August 10, it was Diane who dropped me off at the small local airport. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see her–in this dimension at least.

Jesse's nickname for Diane was "Pinky."

I owe Diane a huge debt of gratitude. It was because of her hospitality that I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in Kenya.

I met her in early September of 2010, about a month after the passing of her husband Jesse. They had been living in Greenville, SC, waiting for him to recover from kidney complications due to diabetes–and then they planned to return to Kenya, where they had spent the past 20 years. After Jesse’s passing, Diane immediately began to make plans to return to her beloved adopted homeland. That’s when I entered the picture.

My pastor, Wendall Ward, connected us, knowing that I was praying about returning to Africa for a longer visit. (I had previously visited the nation of Niger in the Spring of 2010 for a 17 day trip with a group from our church). After chatting on the phone with Diane and spending a day together in Greenville, we both agreed for me to make plans to come to Kenya in 2011–and that is how my whole wonderful adventure began.

Left to Right: Abraham Tarus, Margaret Tarus, David Kipyego, Ruth Kipyego, Joseph Kibet. Front row: Ann Fyall, Diane, Judah

She showed me a lot of the ropes of living in Kenya, introduced me to some wonderful people, including everyone I met through SILA and EERC. (Both these ministries are direct fruit from their ministry, Kweli, and I told Diane I saw Jesse’s footprints all over the place in people that I met—even in remote places like Barwessa).

I never got to meet Jesse in person, but I was able to know him a bit in the spirit through his African family, as well as Diane. In addition to being a Bible teacher with a prophetic edge, he was also an artist–and his paintings and drawings of Kenyan wildlife filled Diane’s beautiful African-themed house. (I miss her big, sliding glass window/doors that filled the living room with light and opened directly into her yard. I miss those beautiful ever-flowering trees, in whose shade I used to pray…I miss the grove of sugar cane outside the kitchen window. I also miss her wonderful cooking, especially that Nigerian Peanut soup).

Diane loved to giggle. She had a wry sense of humour and a practical outlook on life and ministry. She loved children and served them in many practical ways, like paying school fees for them to go to school, making curtains for the children at Dominion Home or filling 300 bags of popcorn for the EERC kids when they went on field trips. Limited in some ways by her health challenges, she did what she could. She was a strong support and mother figure to SILA, and also greatly assisted Ann Fyall in overseeing the Dominion Home. (Ann lives in the United States and comes to Africa several times a year to manage the Home and connect with the kids, etc). She was a wonderful and generous hostess.

Diane and spiritual son, David Kipyego

Together, Jesse and Diane did a great work in Kenya, teaching believers the gospel of the kingdom. They played a foundational role in teaching and discipling the core group of SILA (David Kipyego, Joseph Kibet and Abraham Tarus and their families—as well as many others).

While other missionaries and aid workers, as well as Kenyans themselves bemoaned the rampant corruption in the Kenyan government and church (I heard piles of horror stories from the first day I arrived in Kenya, believe me), SILA truly stands out a solid ministry of integrity, transparency, righteousness, humility and true service.

Crammed "bus" ride home from school

I see EERC as not only a model school for Kenya, but Africa as a whole. If a school in the USA was doing some of the things that EERC is doing (ie, organic garden on the school property that the kids eat from, power generated by bio-gas from the local cows, etc.) they would be considered cutting-edge…and that is to say nothing of the loving, nurturing and supportive environment that the school provides not only for the children, but also for the teachers and the rest of the staff. It was amazing to see such an incredible model of how great a school can be–in Africa no less!

Diane showing some kids how to use a computer

Of course, the school–being quite young–is still in need of many basic supplies such as matatus (busses or vans) to transport the kids to and from school, books for a school library, computers, and other similar classroom items. (Notice how I am cleverly making a plug for donations for EERC in the midst of a blog post about Diane? Somehow, I think she would be pleased!)

Diane passed away on October 3 of 2011, just about 6 weeks after I had returned back to the States. She had several long-standing health issues, but her passing was sudden and unexpected. I know that her many friends in Kenya must still miss her greatly.

The last I talked to her, she was still planning on building a house on her Kweli property (next to the children’s home) and growing an acre or two of coffee–the blossoms of which she said smelled like jasmine or orange blossoms. She had spent part of her life in Florida, and the blossoms would remind her of home. She was looking forward to their fragrance blowing through her bedroom window at night.

Our first day in Nairobi, Diane took me to her beloved "Java House;" a great European-style coffeeshop

Though she initially hated Africa, (she told me that she cried most of her first year there) her life is a testimony to the transforming power of God…In those early days, she would have never believed it if someone told her that she would happily live the rest of her life in Kenya, even returning alone to the place she once loathed to spend the rest of her days there.

As her husband had requested before he died, she carried his ashes with her across the ocean and scattered them over the Kerio Valley. Less than a year later, she joined him. But through the lives of those they touched, Kenya will never be the same–and the legacy continues, even in their absence.

I think that is a most happy ending to a wonderful story.

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