I don’t know what to call this post.

Ian here.  I’m not into Taoism at all, but I do read a lot of different stuff and I know wisdom when I read it.  Lao-Tzu, considered the father of Taoist philosophy said “He who knows he has enough is rich”.  That quote inspired to go outside the other day, sit alone, and think.  After a couple hours I wrote the following thoughts which I decided to share here.  I’m a little nervous about this because I did not write thinking other people would read it,  I was just thinking through stuff to myself.   Sorry I’m disorganized and random, it’s just how I think.

Right now I’m sitting barefoot on a manhole cover on an elevated drainage culvert at the Umoja end of our compound.  I’m surrounded by tall grass and various low bushes but am high enough to see all around.  I look down the valley to wards Landless Estate, behind me I hear lorries on Garissa road.  Below me I hear the sewage flowing.  To my left I hear the Centre children now at home playing, crying, and yelling in Umoja Slum.  I can see a few from here and every once in a while one spots me and yells my name in a high pitched shriek.  I can smell the grass and also burning trash.  Last night one of our centre girls, an 18 year old orphan named Rose, had a baby boy.  At right about the same time a man was killed at the BAT (British American tobacco company) just over the field from here.  It’s been raining so much we are mostly stranded because of the deep mud and standing water covering our roads out.  The slums are unimaginably dirty with the mud and flowing water that mixes up all the trash, sewage, and other stuff on the ground.  Many of the dwellings are full of standing water and deep mud, it is really something.

Most of the time I doubt God if I am honest with myself.  However, I usually try to act as if He is real and actively involved in my life and the world around me.  Something in me knows He is in spite of the overwhelming evidence I’m surrounded by, that man is alone in this mess we’ve created here on earth.   I ache for the day when all is made right.  When people can live in honesty, sincerity, and the innocence I know we were designed for.  There is no end to the misery and struggle people live with all around me, only the temporary relief of alcohol or sleep for so many. 

Even so, children light up at a simple smile, wave, or acknowledgement.  They are so quick to smile back, laugh with me,  hold my hand and walk together…  mysteriously alive in the land of the dead and dying. 

No matter where I am in the world there is a constant hum in the background giving the same consistent message:  Take, get it for yourself, your pleasure is all that matters, it is your right to feel good, have lots of things, and consume the pleasures of this world.  If you don’t take, you will not be satisfied, you will miss out on the good things in life. 

Jesus said we should take everything we have and give it away to others and then take our time and serve others, not ourselves.  This is the way to fulfillment, happiness, and true reward.  He did not say this as an analogy or story representing some abstract truth either, but quite literally and clearly.  This scares me, a lot.  But it’s kind of like the fear you feel before bungee jumping, you’re body is scared and trying to convince you to stop, but your spirit knows you’re in for something sweet if you can push past it and step off the platform.  The ever present battle between the foolish, selfish, earthbound Ian and the spirit within me that knows the beauty, passion, and adventure I was made for.  What scares me even more is the idea that I could completely miss out on the life I was made for because I can’t push through that fear and listen to quiet whisper of God’s truth to my spirit.  So I chose to listen and act on what I know is true even when it makes no sense to me, or those around me. 

 The more I give, the more alive I feel.  Giving (sacrificing to meet someone else’s real need) has proven for me to be the only reliable means to near instant gratification except for substance abuse and other destructive behavior.  When I give up my time, money, pride, stuff, security, ambition, or safety to try and benefit another … the bigger the sacrifice the more “right” it seems to feel.  Sometimes the biggest (most painful) sacrifices I feel led to make are not doing what I want, when I want to, or sacrificing what others might think of me (allowing myself to look bad) if doing something to influence their opinion is not in the best interest of others.  I become increasingly aware that for me giving is the only path to meaningful accomplishment that I can control.  Maybe it’s not the giving actually because it is also linked to following a prompting of my spirit.  It’s those times when I know I should, not just whenever a need presents itself.  in fact most times when people ask I say no.  It’s the times when that small voice tells me “now..this is the moment”  and I usually don’t want to do it, but I have learned that those moments are where the greatest opportunity lies.  I’ve learned to trust that quiet voice and have yet to be let down, quite the opposite, it has created most of that which I consider good in my life so far.  It feels like my little secret sometimes because so few people around me actually practice giving that requires sacrifice and that therefore rewards them in profound ways, at least that I know of anyway.  Everyone knows about this concept but I fear that very few have the courage to really test it out in a way that could hurt if God doesn’t hold up His end of the deal. 

So, now that I read through what I wrote that day I suppose this itself is an example of what I was talking about.  I don’t really want to share this with anyone and feel uncomfortable putting my thoughts out there.  I fear I will sound self righteous, arrogant, and judgemental among other things.  However,  I know I’m not and I know I feel like I should post it, and so I will.  Thanks for reading…I’m off to put Lucy to bed.

12 thoughts on “I don’t know what to call this post.

  • Eve

    Good stuff, Ian. Wisdom usually doesn’t come in the form of pumping other people up, but convicting them. I know you wrote this for yourself, but thanks for putting it here for us to benefit from as well.

  • Bonita May

    Loved your reflection. Challenge for continued reflection: where do you find yourself in 1 Cor 12:4-11, 27-28? What is the difference between heart-attitude and spiritual gifting? Is there any significance in the order of Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 12 & 13 – God’s choice of gifting, body unity, description of love, challenge that only these three remain – faith, hope and love with loving being the greatest of the 3? May God continue to “work His will” deep within you and keep you safely in His hand (as well as our precious Anne + baby, Eli and Lucia.

  • connie clemens

    This reminds me of something Ron said in a sermon not too long ago. He made a point about all the people who put-off having a relationship with God for a long time. When they finally do, and begin to feel the joy that comes with that, they realize how much good time they missed out on. With you, you are feeling the real joy of giving that so many others are missing out on. I have plenty of friends who live well and feel joyless. They have lots of fun as they seek joy, but they’ve never found it. And the agony of thirsting for that joy, is always with them. The way I see it Ian, you have experienced the fruit of the Spirit, and now, with that taste in your mouth, there’s nothing else that will ever compare. So go with it! Experience the life God created you for. The life you could create for yourself will never be as good. It may be more fun on occasion but that will never fill your cup 🙂 PS- Not some ancient philosopher but I do like this… “If God had a refridgerator, your picture would be on it!” Max Lucado

  • Karissa

    Ian-Thanks for sharing. While I was reading this post, I was wondering how you might NOT do all those things in the life you have now. I miss your straight-forward thoughts during our care group discussions. Good reminder for all of us middle-class Americans (and don’t take this the wrong way…I didn’t think your post sounded arrogant).


    Dude, thanks for taking a risk and sharing.

    Love you guys.

    PS – did Eve use the word ‘pumping’ in her comments?

  • craig

    6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

    I timothy 6

    Great Post. Faith in an invisible God in this world is the thing. Also, I reflect on this thought: The fact that we see and feel injustice and that thing aren’t as they should in itself is a great argument for God. Evolution is cold to that. Adapt and survive and if you don’t you are weak anyway. You are working for justice and the injustice shows us there is an Ought that is explained by God. Tim Keller’s thoughts not mine.

  • vicki steele

    Ian, I’m glad you posted your feelings. They are profound and truly hit home for me. I cannot imagine what goes on there – hearing it and being there are worlds apart I know. The daily suffering, death, filth, difficulties, the time it takes to master small tasks, children who are hungry, alone, and helpless – yet always with a smile. It definitely makes me think how spoiled, selfish, and impatient I can be as I go throughout my day.

    There are so many needs right in our own back yards. It’s sad that many don’t recognize opportunities to help others, I miss out on many myself. Today I will try to recognize more of those — and do something.

    I do have to also say that in my position here at Community House, I’m priviliged and so amazed to witness so many in the community giving of their time and money to help out. I just have to imagine God smiling when He knows His children are really trying and listening, such as yourself. May God continue to richly bless you!

  • Matt Lindley

    Hey old friend. I really enjoyed reading your post. I read it twice. It reminded me of the many conversations/debates we used to have in college. There’s so much I want to respond to here. But before I open my big mouth and ruin something; let me just say it’s really cool just to know what you’re thinking about and to feel the deep bonds of friendship… on the other side of the world. I tallied off a few different vibes as I read your post– things I thought you might be feeling– and I got: Sober, Aware, Questioning, Vigilant, Joy, Sadness and Faith with Doubt. You stated that you felt like you should post this; I am wondering why this was important to you. ML

    P.S. Loved the Lao-Tzu quote.

  • Bonita May

    Matt, I wonder if Ian felt compelled to post this not so much for himself but for us who are reading and being challenged?

  • Matt Lindley

    I know Ian pretty well but I’d be foolish to think as well as you. I have a hunch here. I’m waiting for his answer. Peace.

    • mayfamily

      Why did I post it??? Like I said, I just felt compelled to. Nothing more really. I’m not trying to meet a need in myself, or make any point, or prove anything to anyone, I just felt a small tug deep inside saying that I should. I have moments where I feel compelled to do something that I often don’t really want to do and I’ve learned to follow that prompting. Kind of like moving to kenya…I just knew I should so I did. I’ve given up trying to reason with myself and explain my self, I just try and do what I feel lead to do. Things seems to work out better that way. Was that your hunch Matt??? OK lets hear it. Ian

      • Jim Rickwa

        Well, I’m sure glad you did, Ian. I actually put a link to it on my Facebook account and cited how a line from it was impacting me. Within an hour a friend thanked me for posting it and wanted to talk about it more.

        I really enjoyed, Ian, and want you to know your obedience to God will always have ripple effects far beyond what you can imagine. God has a strange way of splicing all our lives together. I mean just look at us… first, you steal my girlfriend and 16 years later I’m being edified by your blog.–LOL

        Seriously, thanks for writing it. You know very well how we self-absorbed Americans need to have the true state of the world shown to us and be challenged by it.

        Congrats on Ameena, by the way. She’s adorable and it’s great to hear the blessings she’s bring you and Anne.

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