Archive for the ‘Bob Dylan’ Category

I have been leading a daily bible study with the EERC teachers since I have been here. We are currently studying the Kingdom of God through the context of the Beatitudes. I have been really enjoying it–as I was telling a friend of mine, each beatitude becomes my favorite one until we move on to the next one!

Right now, we are on “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Mercy, is of course, a subject that I have been drawn to study–for obvious reason, I hope! For years, people have told me that my ministry and calling was one of “mercy.” This used to annoy me, because in the way that it was first presented to me, it seemed that the ministry of mercy was not very powerful or effective—but at least it was “nice.” (Very early in my walk with God, I had been told by someone that my calling was “mercy” whereas theirs was “prophet,” and that mercy and prophetic giftings were exact opposites. The prophet would help someone get to the root of their problem, whereas the mercy person would comfort them through the difficult process by doing things like bringing them a cup of tea). Because of this, whenever people would tell me that my name was my calling, all I felt was a bit of irritation…until God began to teach me about true mercy.


He showed me that rather than being the exact opposite of a prophetic ministry, mercy is the heartbeat of any true prophet. Mercy, by its very nature, wants to get to the heart of any situation where there is bondage and deception and bring deliverance and healing.

"Mercy and Truth have met together." Little "Truth" and me. We call her "Truthy."

Truth is not opposed to mercy and mercy is not opposed to truth. The two are forever united in God; two sides of the same thought, two letters in the same word, two facets of the same jewel. They are incomplete without each other. Alone, neither has the power to bring forth true righteousness or justice. Truth is not fully true without mercy, and mercy certainly is not mercy unless it is founded in truth. It is not a matter of being too soft or too hard–it is a matter of caring enough to do whatever it takes and say whatever it takes to bring salvation, healing and deliverance to all. That’s what Mercy-Truth does. This is the ministry that Jesus revealed in breathtaking beauty and perfection.

Mercy and truth are linked together 44 times in my NKJV, almost always with “mercy” mentioned first. It is interesting how “righteousness” and “justice” are often used in conjunction with these two qualities, and how often they are associated with the Throne of God or the throne of the king. Mercy-Truth is truly a kingly quality and is at the center of the kingdom of God; the kingdom made up of king-priests.

“In MERCY the throne will be established; And One will sit on it in TRUTH, in the tabernacle of David, Judging and seeking JUSTICE and hastening RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Isa 16:5

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face. Ps 89:14

Mercy and truth preserve the king, And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne. Prov 20:28

In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil. Prov 16:6

Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Ps 85:10

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

The Hebrew word for “mercy” by the way, is “chesed” and can also be translated as “lovingkindness.” One definition I remember reading years ago said that it means something to this effect: “The earnest, fervent, passionate, unrelenting desire to good to someone and to bless them.”

The biblical phrase used to describe God far more than any other is, “For His mercy endures forever,” or “His lovingkindness endures forever.” It is as if God is saying, “If there is just one thing you know about Me, just one feature that you remember of me, let it be this: ‘I AM good and My mercy and lovingkindness endure forever.’”

That phrase is powerful. It was what those who were designated to praise the Lord sang, when David brought back the Ark and established his tabernacle (1 Chronicles 17:41).

It is what the trumpeters and singers were singing at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, when the house was filled with a cloud and the priests could not stand to minister but fell on their faces before the glory of the Lord. It was what they continued to sing, faces to the ground, at the end of the dedication, after fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering.

We all know the story of how the singers in Judah went before their army, and how “the Lord set ambushes against the people Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, and they were defeated.” For years, I heard that story just in the context of praise, but I find it interesting that I never remember anyone teaching us WHAT the singers were singing day–it wasn’t just random words of praise, but a very focused and simple thought: “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.”

I wonder what the melody sounded like? Was it fast or slow? Was it sung in minor chords? Were the ladies playing their tambourines? Did they kick up a trail of dust as they danced and sang?

According to David’s instructions, the Israelites sang this phrase responsively after returning from Babylon in the days of Ezra, when the foundation of the Temple was laid:

“Praise the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever towards Israel.”

Jeremiah records a wonderful promise in chapter 33 of his Word of the Lord:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Again there shall be heard in this place — of which you say, “It is desolate, without man and without beast” — in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:

“Praise the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His mercy endures forever” —

and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,’ says the Lord.”

And of course, Psalms 100, 107, 118 and 136 are filled with the phrase.

Suffice it to say, I think God really likes it when we sing and talk about His mercy enduring forever! In fact, I think He wishes that we would sing about this subject a whole lot more and that we would meditate on His lovingkindness every day. This should be the “theme song” of our lives, for it is only to the degree that we are beholding a God of mercy that we can become those who give mercy. Mercy and truth.

Upendo (Love) with her little sister, Truth

Since seeing this concept so powerfully in the Word, I often now sing these words as I walk into any new situation. I sang it as I came to Africa. I sing it before I walk into a situation that I know will be stretching for me. I sing it over people facing difficulties. I sing as many variations of it as I know, and some that He just gives me for the moment. I see the song moving before me, clearing the path for me, filling everything around me with His presence–His light and glory and kindness…His mercy and truth.

As I sing, I see God’s heart filling with joy, to be known as HE longs to be known, as He is in reality–a God of mercy and lovingkindness.

The Rain-Sermon

On that note, I wanted to share a very special time that He gave us yesterday. We were just beginning our evening Bible study on “blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” and I had just laid out a few introductory thoughts concerning the mercy that is in the heart of God. How He is good to all and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Anyone, even crooks, are kind to their friends or those they can get something back from—but to be kind and merciful to the unthankful and those who hate us is to be like God Himself.

At that moment it started raining, just beating on the tin roof, so that I had to begin to yell my message to be heard over the din. It took less than a minute for me to realize how dumb that was. The message of mercy in the rain could speak louder than anything I had to say. It was almost like God said, “I’ll handle this one. Just be quiet and let ME be the voice today that tells about My mercy.” So I suggested that we just spend some quiet time in the presence of the Lord and begin to pray and release mercy to others in need of it.

For a few minutes, I could hear the muffled sounds of people praying and some singing softly, but then the rain suddenly doubled its intensity and it was too loud to even hear yourself think. There was nothing for us to do but just sit in absolute silence and listen to the pounding, thundering rain-sermon falling above us and all around us.

I thought of Jesus standing at the door of the church and knocking. Through that rain, I heard Him knocking at the door of our heart with all the passion and thunder inside of Him…asking us, CAN YOU HEAR ME? CAN YOU HEAR MY HEARTBEAT? ARE YOU LISTENING? DO YOU GET IT? No, really–DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS? DO YOU GET ME?

He so longs to be known as He really is, to be seen in truth, to be beheld by the ones He loves. For us to come to Him and receive–and then give–His mercy. This is what kings do!

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown…

In closing, I will share the lyrics to one of my favorite Dylan songs, which just seems to fit with the feeling of the crazy rainstorms we have been having–for the chimes of freedom are indeed the chimes of Mercy-Truth.

Chimes Of Freedom

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing


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In the past week, the rapture/end of the world had come and gone without much fanfare…. During this cataclysmic week, against the backdrop of the world ending, a young girl in our school—3 year old Ramona—suddenly became an orphan. A week ago, her mother (Faith) died in a most ridiculous accident. She had taken Ramona out to dinner after school and they were returning to the home they shared in the country with Faith’s parents. Faith was out of the car closing the gate and somehow the truck rolled backwards and pinned her underneath, with the weight of it pressing into her head. She died underneath the truck while Ramona sat crying inside it. Over half an hour passed before the situation was discovered by the grandparents…I can’t imagine their shock to come upon the horrific scene of their dead daughter pinned beneath the truck, and wailing grand-daughter sitting in the front seat.

Little Ramona and her youngest auntie

It has been a heartbreaking week for all of us. Little Ramona has been out of school, surrounded by the love of her grandparents (who she will continue to live with) and her aunties. We went to Faith’s funeral yesterday. She was only 24–very bright by all accounts and about to graduate from the law school at Moi University. She was a great help to her parents, assisting them in the running and management of their farm. The funeral was held outside in their yard, with many tents erected for shade and her casket on display. (I could only glance and then walk away…just too sad). I would guess that there were between 500 to 1000 people there, ranging from young university professionals to old “mamas” with their heads tied in colorful cloth and stretched and dangling earlobes from their younger tribal days.

Their farm was beautiful. I always love being out in the Kenyan countryside; and even in the midst of the sad occasion, I couldn’t help but enjoy the bright sun, red dirt roads, cornfields, wooden work shacks with clean dirt floors, and the beautiful Eucalyptus trees.

Some of the mamas at the funeral

It was a Catholic funeral, African style; which means that it went almost all day long, with preaching, tributes, offerings, serving of communion, singing songs, and eating food, as well as other formalities that I did not understand. The priest mentioned Harold Camping in his sermon. I am annoyed by how much publicity that thing got, even making its way to a rural funeral in east Africa, with some people in this area getting rid of all their possessions in preparation for being beamed up out of here! (For the record, I believe that the “rapture” doctrine as well as much popular “end time” teaching is based on misunderstanding of figurative biblical language and historical context in which the New Testament was written). Don’t mean to offend anyone with that rant; I many of us grew up with this view, including myself, and I know it may still be a dearly held belief for some reading this….There is a lot more we could discuss on this issue, but I would rather (at least for the purpose of this blog) move on to other subjects.

Lucia Sol Otero

During this same apocalyptic week, my sister gave birth to the first grandchild for my parents. The one they have been waiting for…for too long! I was totally unprepared for the emotions that flooded my heart. Part of me wants to leave Africa right now so I can get home and just be with my family and hold that sweet little baby!

Lucia Sol was born several days past her due date, making her grand entrance on May 24, 2011; Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday…the significance of which you would appreciate only if you knew my family! We ALL love Dylan, as any of our extended family friends of any age can attest–being subjected to “Like a Rolling Stone” or “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” whether they wanted to hear it or not! So, all day long on the 24th, I was already in full celebration mode for my brother Bob…and then the icing on the cake was for Lucia to make her grand entrance.

All week I have been floating high on a cloud of baby-sweetness, singing “Forever Young” and “Jokerman” and “Precious Angel” and “Visions of Johanna” and “Lord Protect My Child” and 100 other Dylan songs. I am thinking about writing a blog just on Lucia/Dylan. For all you folks that are groaning right now, I apologize in advance. You can always skip that blog if you are one of the people who could never get past his voice. (If that is you, I recommend just reading through one of his lyric books. It might help you gain at least a rudimentary appreciation for him. If that don’t help ya, I don’t know what will).

On that note, I guess I will just close this section as I did the first one: There is a lot more we could discuss on this issue, but let’s just move on! ha ha!

A perfect ending to the end of the world

Allen (one of my star actors) digging a hole for his seedling

Five days after the end of the world, the older students at EERC planted 100 seedlings on the road leading into the school property, creating a tiny new forest of avocado, cedar, teak, and other baby trees all mingled together.

Kids and seedlings

There is a nursery just a stone’s throw from where we were planting, and so we got all our seedlings from there. I love that EERC has such a holistic and hands-on vision for education. It is one thing to learn about all the benefits of trees in a textbook; but it is another thing entirely to actually plant a tree yourself. Before we planted the trees, we asked the students to give us some good reasons why we wanted to plant trees. These kids were sharp! For wind protection, they told us—as well as shade, medicine and food, protection from soil erosion and renewal of the air. And don’t forget beauty!

Gardeners' hands

I couldn’t help but think of the old adage, that a man has begun to discover the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree” said Martin Luther.

An orchard in the making

And so I bless these trees: May their roots go down deep and may they grow into a grand old orchard, outliving even the children who planted them. May they provide medicine, shade and food for future generations. And may the children who planted the trees also become medicine, shade and food for future generations. May they grow into “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord” and may the tree of life be found in their mouth; may they be healers of their nation and of Africa and of this world. Amen.

“Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.” – E.F. Schumacher

….And to that I add—not just one oak tree, but a forest of oak trees! One seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.

Getting seedlings

Lillian and kids

Our own fertilizer recycled from the school's milk cows

Maxwell with his tree

Ivy and her little sister Faith--2 bright eyed girls

Waiting to get their seedlings to plant

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