Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Sacred, Public Pathway: Life in Community

I pressed my cheek to the earth. I remember the cold creek gurgling in the distance, the wind rustling the leaves, the birds chirping gaily in the blackberry bushes. The worship of the Creator around me filled my soul to brimming over. In nature, I find the Lord quickly, feel His presence more fully. In fact,  the moment I chose to follow Him I was in a field closing my eyes and feeling the wind seemingly clothe me in His love and grace. In times of desperation, I have run to find my Father in the woods. I have picked cotton for the sheer joy of knowing He could create such a soft, beautiful flower (Can you tell I'm from Alabama yet?). For the first fifteen years of my life, I never once felt that the Lord was far from me.

Then we moved to the city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's bustling, crowded, and ever-growing capital. Every day I struggled to find my Father. Being near Him, speaking with Him, became a draining job that left my heart thirsty and yearning for more.

I would not trade that desert time for all the fields and forests. God taught me to know Him through His Word, through song, through tears. He taught me to lie prostrate in anguish on hard tile floors and know He was there. I found Him in the faces of my neighbors and in the laughter of my children. Although it still comes as a shock to me, God does indeed live in the city.
In June, the Lord moved us to a village. On the first day there, I was overwhelmed with the task ahead of us. I walked a short way down the dirt road and sat under an old tree. Here, the roots rise up from the ground stretching several feet in every direction. The wind whips across the rice paddies rustling palm branches and making the rice look like a green ocean full of waves. The mountains tower over the palms and paddies in the distance, clouds settling on their summits. I stood there, and, for the first time in five years, the sense of the Lord's nearness came quickly and easily. What a mercy!

After days of failing to have time to wash clothes, of burning meals I am just now learning to cook, of broken generators, and of children's tummies filled with parasites, I remembered that little spot. I rushed out the gate, stood under that tree, lifted my eyes, and the wind brought His Word right to my heart:

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted.

I look to the hills. Where does my help come from?

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.

My prayer place
I think I raised my hands in worship. There were certainly tears. I turned around to find two neighbors looking curiously at me. Before I could offer an explanation, they began a heated discussion about what I could possibly be doing. They concluded that I must enjoy looking at rice paddies and turned to go, remarking how strange it was that someone could enjoy looking at something that took so much work and effort to plant.

Despite the introvert in me, I return to pray under the tree often. I have taught my children to pray there. Lord willing, I will pray there with a neighbor someday. Who knows what Srey Niet's sacred pathway may be? May God bless every pathway we use to seek and worship Him.

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."

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