Thursday, November 29, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Ogbomosho
Ogbomosho, Nigeria is the town I grew up in. Christmases there were so special. Nigeria is a country on the coast of West Africa just beneath the Sahara Desert. Christmas in Nigeria comes in the middle of the dry season in a special part of the dry season known as Harmattan.

Wikipedia defines Harmattan like this: The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March. Humidity can drop to as low as 15 percent. In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog.

And against this backdrop, we celebrated Christmas. My father used to say he liked the fact that Christmas came in the middle of Harmattan. In America everything was stark, cold, and dreary with the trees bare and the air full of winter’s chill and in the middle of this otherwise dreary time, Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior with ornamented and brightly lit Christmas trees, gifts, good food, and Christmas cheer. Likewise in Nigeria, when the world is dry and dusty, all the leaves and grass are a dreary brown, Christians are celebrating the joyous birth of their Savior with songs and good cheer. The celebration in both countries injects cheer in an otherwise dreary season and proves that our joy over Christ is not based on our circumstances.

I loved the Christmases of my childhood! They were unique and wonderful. A missionary kid friend of mine, Peter Gilliland, has written a short memoir about his childhood memories of Christmas in Ogbomosho which I will post in two parts over the next few weeks. His memories are so similar to mine since we were both blessed to spend our childhoods in the 50’s and 60’s in the same wonderful town – Ogbomosho, Nigeria or as the Nigerians write it, Ogbomoso. (Their “s” is pronounced like an “sh”.)

On a humorous note, when I was a baby, I had very thin wispy blonde hair. During the Harmattan season the static electricity from the dry blowing air caused my hair to stand on end most of the time and my family fondly called me “Harriet the Harmattan cat” because my hair looked like the hair on the back of cats when they arch in fear or anger.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Two Edged Sword

God is still God!

“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God!”              
                                                              1st Kings 18:39 NAS

            The story of God sending fire from heaven in response to Elijah’s prayer illustrates God’s miraculous and amazing power. However, an understanding of the beliefs and customs at the time of the miracle yields an even greater appreciation of God’s power.

            The people at that time in history believed the different gods they worshipped had territories. Elijah was a prophet of Jehovah – the God of the Jews. There were many other gods that the people worshipped as well. Baal was one of these other gods. The miracle of Jehovah sending fire from heaven when Baal was not able to occurred in Baal’s territory. As amazing as this miracle may seem to us, if it had happened in Jehovah’s territory, the people at that time would not have thought it to be so spectacular because Jehovah was supposed to be able to perform miracles in His territory. But, in Baal’s territory, Baal should have more power; he should have been able to send the fire – not Jehovah. Yet, Baal couldn’t send the fire. Why? – because Jehovah is the true God. He can work anywhere. God is still God, even in Baal’s territory!

            This truth is the reason believers can walk bravely ahead even in dangerous situations. Believers can, for instance, serve as missionaries in countries where Christ is not worshipped and Christians are persecuted because God is still God, even there.

            Do we have territories in our lives where Christ is not Lord? Is our workplace a seemingly hostile environment? What about certain relationships in our lives? I take comfort in remembering that God is still God in these places and situations. Yes, God is still God – even in Baal’s territory!