Monday, 5 December 2011

Pyramids and Papyrus.

One of the mixed blessings of getting older is that there are fewer things left to do!  One of my things was to see the Pyramids. That has been now ticked off the list of things to do before I die. But I have added a caveat to this accomplishment. See them properly next time and not from the roof of a rather persistent local's house who really would rather we had paid a lot more money to him and he could then have taken us into the enclosed area at a special rate.... just for you... very cheap...etc etc. Instead we climbed the steps to the third floor roof and had an amazing view across the roof tops of the rambling suburb that is right up against the tourist zone that is the Pyramids and the guarding Sphinx.

A 16 hours stopover on the way back from Tanzania to the UK meant this whistle stop visit to these ancient tombs of the Pharaohs was possible.  We got a taxi from the airport hotel and off we went. Very clear instructions of what we wanted were totally ignored by the driver who preferred to drive through the city centre. Cairo has now topped 25 million people. So the crush of cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes, donkey carts and camels has contributed to traffic chaos, exhaust pollution, dust and noise. Every vehicle driver has one hand on the wheel and the other on the horn. The latter is the most employed device. Where roads had two lanes, four vehicles jostled abreast for space, each trying to get an edge ahead of the one behind. The windows are open just in case there was a need to shriek some expletive in Arabic at the one who wins.

We crossed the Nile.  Earlier this year we stood on the banks of the Nile in Uganda at the retreat centre of Mto-Moyoni where we had taught a Fatherheart School in May. This is perhaps 1000 miles or more to the south at the source of the Nile as it flows out of Lake Victoria. Mto-Moyoni means a "river in the heart" and is run by our dear friends Ingrid and Winette. Their desire is that the love of God the Father would flow all through Africa and out into the sea in Egypt. As we looked at the frenetic life on the streets of Cairo I wondered how that would ever become a reality.

Our taxi driver stopped at a authentic "Papyrus Museum".  Free admission, very nice, very good, very clean, very cheap... this last one was the clue. I think it belonged to his cousin who wanted to show us how amazing the production of papyrus is etc. It was. It is. And do you know we could have bought a papyrus picture with our names written in hieroglyphics on it etc. We quickly got the idea. The freely proffered tea was a real sweetener, in every sense.  The taxi driver had lots of cousins in seems all in the tourist industry, all very willing to help us experience the delights of Cairo, all very clean, all very cheap. At the papyrus shop.. opps I mean museum I was shown an Islamic picture which had the 99 beautiful names of Allah inscribed on it. I asked if one of them was Abba.  He said  "No, Allah has no relatives and no sons so how can he be Father?"  I wondered if they know that "Isa - the second prophet after Mohammed" called him Abba all the time and came to reveal him as Abba.  It seemed to me for the river to run through the heart they need to know Abba.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Kilimanjaro revealed.

All this week we have been working in churches and at a World Vision Conference in the N E of Tanzania.  Every place we have been has been on the lower flanks of  Africa's highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro.  I have heard of this mountain all my life and remember watching the old movie called the Snows of Kilimanjaro. I know a lot about this mountain, it is almost 20,000 feet high and is a volcano. It rises above the vast African plains of the Tsavo and Masai heart lands that stretch for hundreds of kilometers in every direction. It has captured the imaginations of countless generations of African tribes who live in its sight.  European explorers, settlers and writers have immortalized it in our psyche. It is shrouded with mystery as much as it is wreathed in cloud.

Arriving at the nearest airport, Kilimanjaro International, I strained to see the fabled mountain from the aircraft as we came into land.  All there was to see were  clouds.   Our hosts greeted us and assured us that the mountain was there, we just needed to look up at the right time.  Each morning I awoke with expectation of seeing the mountain. We had glimpses of the top one day; snowy crags hanging disembodied above, with  swathes of clouds  ringing the lower slopes.   We heard stories of people who had climbed the mountain and reached the summit.  It takes 5 days to get there. The last day climbers rise at 2.00am and reach the summit at dawn. Then they go back down covering in a day what had taken four to get to the top.

Each day the glimpses became more revealing. I began to get and idea of its extraordinary height and I felt its presence. My longing to get a photo and to really see the mountain grew each day.   The reason we are in Tanzania is to speak at a conference with the East African leadership of World Vision. Each day we have been sharing about the love of God who is a Father to us and that we are his sons and daughters. We are speaking about the incredible love that the Father has for us and how he longs for us to come home to him and know him loving us right now. We have had glimpses of his love, but so often our view of him is obscured by the clouds of our own brokenhearted and wounded perceptions of Him, our fear of him, our misconception of him, our tendency to hide from him.  Like the mountain we are longing for glimpses of his reality, to know him and to experience his love for us.

This morning I woke early and went on to the balcony of the room that we are staying in. I looked up to the north in the direction of the mountain and there it was, completely unveiled, bathed in morning light. My breath stopped momentarily in my mouth.  The snow on top gleamed with a compelling invitation. It was calling me to come up, to climb, to embrace the majesty of its awesome power, to experience the mountain.  I was overwhelmed as I stood there because I knew that it was not the mountain but it was the Father who was calling me, who was inviting me and longing to embrace me with his love.  It was God, my true Father, who was drawing me to rise above my brokenness and wounded ways. In that moment I felt again his love for me. It was as if he was showering me in his liquid love and I felt saturated  by his love. I knew in that moment that I am his beloved son and there is nothing I have to do to qualify for his love, he just loves me as I am.  

There was a deep resonance in my heart as more healing flowed into me. There was an all pervading sense of peace and an indescribable joy. Tears of joy soaked my face and hands as I watched the morning clouds gather in a protective veil around the mountain.  But my heart was soaring high above the mountain as I felt the Father loving me.  I know his love is not veiled from us, it is real, tangible and life changing.