Greetings from the Desert!! Summer is surely here as temperatures soar well above 110 quickly each morning. Even at 5AM the air is warm and heavy. As the midday arrives people seek shade and cool rooms to avoid the sun. I always wonder how people survived here prior to air conditioning. I have seen the wind chutes designed to push air through the homes but find even the wind hot. People from the region probably wonder the same thing about those who live in the snow regions. How do we live?
This is the week when Ramadan month starts for the Muslim world. Life in the UAE makes some shifts as the time arrives. Ramadan is time of religious focus. People are encouraged to fast during the daylight hours. Besides food and water, some other activities are defined as fasting as well. In the evening hours the fast ceases. People appear to make up for the fast with feasts. Remember, I am an outsider, so do not understand all the rules. I witness all the advertised food specials for Ramadan time and the overflowing carts at the grocery stores.
Taking time to seek out spiritual aspects of life is, of course, important. We all need a time of quiet to remove the clutter and clanging of our busy lives. I pray that people, as they seek, will find the Truth. I pray they will discover the loving God who loves them. These are my prayers for the Ramadan season.
Over the past months, I have used my desert time to read and explore different places and thoughts. Before you consider me to be a ‘heavy thinker’ reading only ‘deep,’ thought-provoking books, I will let you know I love to read many different styles of books, especially mysteries. I like the character Jack Reacher by Lee Childs, The Camel Club series by David Baldacci, and stories centering about British jockeys by Dick Francis. Michael Flynn, Clive Cussler, Jack Higgins, Robert Ludlum, Stephen Lawhead, and many more write fun novels to read. I have not moved into romance novels, but I enjoy many styles of writing.
Today, I was reading in the book of Acts in the Bible where Peter is speaking to the group of disciples. Here were a group of 120 men who had been called to spread the word of Christianity. Most of these men probably never had been out of Palestine, a very small region. I imagine most had limited formal education. Yet they were the ones selected to step out in faith and obedience to spread the word of Christianity. As you look across the globe, these 120 men, through their efforts and the efforts of those they taught, and those these taught, and on and on, spread the word of truth far and wide. The work continues today. Maybe you, too, look at a task and think it is too big and you are too few; think of these and step out in obedience.
During my reading, I heard again through Bonhoeffer the cost of grace. Cheap grace is merely a myth, a tickling of your ear, and not the truth. Andy Stanley shared that any worthwhile vision will be costly. We all end up somewhere; why not try to end up somewhere on purpose? Bill Hybels talks of the need for quiet to be able to hear the whispers of God for your life. Hebrews shouts ‘we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,’ let us press on. Wayne Cordeiro reminds you to ‘fill your tank’ as a leader. Hybels again taught to count the cost and prioritize your work: “What are the things we will never quit doing even if our funding dropped 50%?” Patrick Lencioni, in Death by Meeting, stresses the importance of planning and conflict in making meetings valuable. All leaders are driven by the need for integrity. Your walk, that is your life and actions others can see, must be consistent with your talk. You will never be a great leader if people see inconsistency in your life. The examples in life are just too numerous to count.
Desert time is therefore a valuable time. You are given time of quiet to think and look at life. Since I have had the time away from the previous numerous duties of Kenya, I find more opportunities to look and listen. I look and listen to the current challenges I face and the environment in which I work. I also take time to look and listen concerning my life and what could be.
Look is probably the wrong word, right? I think when we look at something we make a quick summary and pass on to other objects more interesting. Taking time and focus will change a mere look into a time of examination. That is desert time.
All have experienced desert time in our lives. The desert time does not require sand and heat but can be any time of emptiness. Facing those times, we really have two choices. We can look around us at the desolation and despair, or we can settle in to wait for the desert time to pass and use the time for growth. Part of the ‘crowd of witnesses’ we can seek include major leaders who made it through the desert to become leaders of quality, integrity, and focus. I think of Paul, Moses, Elijah, Bill Hybels, and Mother Teresa, to name a few. The key is to remember that in all times and in all places we travel this life journey in His grip.