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Fire.

In my last post, I had just given you glimpses of how I’ve been living in Uganda. But of course, that just scratched the surface. I want to let you in on what I’ve been experiencing spiritually (I will try to make it as condensed as I can bear, because I could probably write for days about it).

Here’s the background story:
Before leaving Uganda, I asked the Lord to give me one thing that I could ask people to pray for during my trip. However, sometimes when you ask God for a cup of water, He gives you the ocean. Instead of one straightforward prayer request, He brought images to mind.

They were: a picture of broken clay pieces in a potters hands, fire, and water.

I believe that the hands symbolize God’s hands as the Potter, and I was reminded of the process of making pottery. The potter must first center the clay on the wheel, and then, after running handfuls of water over it and carefully applying pressure in the right places, the creation is set out to dry and then fired. (God also gave me passages of scripture to go along with all this: Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 43:1-2, Ezekiel 36:24-27).

All that was before coming to Uganda. Fast forward to our ‘free day’ of the month, and we’re bouncing around in George’s white van on a game drive. While there, we had the incredible opportunity to take a boat ride on the Nile and look for animals. As the coarse, yet beautiful African landscape rolled past the boat, I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge… In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course… Who can discern (your servant’s) errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.”

I saw everything around me, and I couldn’t help but think how incomprehensibly creative Jesus is. I turned my focus to the water spraying back as the hull of the boat cut through the river, and I was reminded of all the water imagery in the Bible. Jesus is the living water, He is the spring of life, He leads me by still waters, He uses water for baptism. Surrounded by the water of an ancient river, I asked God to also show me His fire and teach me more about how both elements apply to this trip and my life. Leaving the game drive, a powerful storm rolled in. The clouds were dark against the dry grass and trees, and the red, dirt road seemed to stretch endlessly before and behind me.

Murchison Falls, Uganda

As this scene unfolded in front of my eyes, questions rushed through my head like a torrent of pent up water. What do the coming days, months, and years hold? Am I holding on to something that I need to let go of in order to move forward in my life? And of  course, my age-old question, ‘what is my PURPOSE?’. Does my heart fit in the puzzle of African and Uganda, or does God want me elsewhere? I’ve always promised that I would go wherever He goes and stay wherever He stays, but in either of those places, what does he want me to DO? How am I supposed to serve God and bring Him glory?

These were the questions bleeding from my mind as I sat perched on the van’s roof racks, the wind pounding in my ears, the   obsidian clouds looming in the background. What is my purpose, Lord? Or rather, ‘what is YOUR purpose, Lord?’. Tears pricked my eyes as I closed them to the strangely peaceful storm around me. “God, what about that fire right now? You could send a bolt of lightning that sets a tree on fire, perhaps.” But I’m learning more and more that God often doesn’t work within our idealistic, limited plans—He works far beyond our flimsy boundaries. There was no lightning. There was no fiery tree. There was only me, the Lord, and the powerful display of His creation.

When I was eventually called off the roof and back into the crowded, sauna-like van, I continued to seek the Lord for wisdom. My eyes were glued to the road ahead of me as I was jostled around in the backseat. Isaiah 30:21 came to mind, the verse that I used for my fundraising shirts: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'”. I didn’t need to know right now what was ahead of me. All I needed to do was to trust Him, moment by moment. Because, in my mind, trusting God is like standing on the edge of a cliff. The shear drop makes my stomach turn, but as the Holy Spirit’s presence envelops me, He whispers to my heart, “Have faith. I will provide the ground for each step.”

As I continued talking to Him, He gave me the story of Elijah pouring water on the altar before Jezebel. My heart leaped within my chest. “I am poured out like water before you, God.” He drew my attention to the absurdity of Elijah’s situation— people jeered at him, but he continued to throw water on the altar. He knew full well how crazy it was to light soaking wet wood on fire. But he also knew he served the living God. The Lord spoke to my heart again, saying, “pour yourself out to Me completely— hold nothing back. On your own, what you are setting out to do is impossible. But watch and see! I will do the impossible through  you to bring glory to My name.”

As the sun sank lower behind the overcast sky, I looked out the window in time to see a bonfire, most likely meant to burn rubbish. I tried to dismiss it as coincidental. Surely this wasn’t the fire I had asked for.

As we kept driving, my phone died while I was listening to music (I felt terribly car sick, so the music served as a distraction). Luckily, Savannah was more than happy to share her music and one of her ear buds with me for the rest of the trip. At some point, I absentmindedly thought, “God, it would be awesome if she played a song about fire.” Hours later, after dosing off several times, I sat bolt up right. As we past small houses, I could see on the side of the road even more rubbish fires. We saw not one, not two, but at least six fires within 15 minutes. As my ears tuned back into the music, I heard Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire”. I shook my head and laughed. Who would have thought that God could use Ed Sheeran to answer a prayer? As if things couldn’t get any crazier, out of the blue Becca started singing, “set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain that I can’t control, I want more of you God.”

Later that night and the next day, there were several other songs that came up in the same way. Let me share the lyrics from few of my favorites.

“Rich or poor, God I want you more than anything that glitters in this world. Be my all, all consuming fire. You can have all my hands can hold, my heart, mind, strength and soul. Be my all, all consuming fire. Cause we have all we need in you.” (Charlie Hall)

“You provide the fire, I’ll provide the sacrifice.”

So, through these past few weeks, God has been teaching me so much more about prayer, being aware of His presence throughout the day, what it means to be broken, and also about restoration. My God is a jealous, all-consuming fire, and I need to give him permission to burn up anything besides Him that has a hold of me.

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