Thursday, July 22, 2010


Was it four weeks ago that I described a place of dirt, mountains, truckers, and children? Time has gotten the better of me, but I believe it was. It was. I miss the laughter and proud smiles of the aunties; the smelly food and little fingers curled around mine. O, the heavy love I carry for them. It is daily hoisted onto my shoulders by remembrance. It presses down on me every time I hear the chorus of high-pitched questions in the streets:

“How are you!?”

“Mzungu! How are you?”

I turn to see smaller children shying behind others, smiling next to the pile of trash littered on the side of the street. It is just there and I can’t rid myself of it. The weight, oh, the weight.

I am no longer surrounded by dirt, truckers, or orphaned children, but I am still surrounded by mountains. I now stare from my new home, over the rocky path, to the mountains that stare back, perfectly adjacent to Lake Victoria. The sun spreads orange on the horizon as it sinks into the water. Welcome to Kandaria.

I would love to paint in your mind a perfect picture of Kandaria but I am not an artist; I am certainly not masterful enough with this brush. If I attempted the endeavor, my words would turn a perfectly good canvas into a children’s coloring book. My hills would be perfectly smooth lines filled in green below and blue above, where a cotton cloud would squiggle next to a yellow, circular sun. The chickens would smile and the people would smile back. It would lack dimensions, shadows, and true emotion. It would be a cheap charade. And if you had any true experience, any masterpiece to compare, you would see the lack of coordination in my hand. So instead, I am going to simply tell you a story. I am going to share with you a recent experience. I am simply going to trace and pray that I am tracing a masterpiece.

What is worship? I think worship is following Jesus. Too general for you? Too obvious? It seemed that way for me and still does at times. But that is what this story has transformed into. Worship. What you worship will stop you from following Jesus. It will take your life because you will gladly give your life to it. These thoughts were replaying in my head as I bounced up and down, left and right, pulling against the seat belt that, every so often, would tighten right underneath my ribs. We were bouncing through the Kandarian hills in a Land Cruiser we call The Beast. Myself, David (the man, no, friend, who I am living with), and six strangers in the back, one of which was not moving anymore, except to the bumps. Nor was he breathing. It was early and it was grave. I do not know which of the two was the cause, but I was at a loss for words. I could only breathe and think.

How did I wake up to this?
What is going on?

Is this happening?

We are going to run out of gas, I know it. We are going to run out of gas driving to the mortuary.

The silence was broken by clanging of metal against metal and a chorus in a foreign language. The five strangers were family; the one lifted into the back of The Beast that morning was the sixty-something father, brother, and uncle to the rest. They were singing. No, they were worshipping as we drove over the unpaved roads, avoiding ditches and potholes. They had no idea it was killing me. The song mixed with the repetitive metal clang reminded me of a montage at the end of a movie, where you watch multiple scenes at once in their own little squares. And in this movie, people were dying in those squares. Others were crying. In the last square I was sitting in a passenger seat, still bouncing, confused. I would have never picked this soundtrack. The repetitive clang made me flinch more than the rocks that jutted into the tires. If I was forced to pick a song for that moment, if I was completely true to the gravity, no worship song ever played on my iPod, iTunes, cd player in the car, or guitar would have amounted. I do not know what that means but it was what I was thinking.

There was gladness mixed with grief. Gladness in celebrating their relative coming into Polo (Heaven) and meeting Him for the first time. Face to face. There was grief. That was plain in the way they sang and wholly evident in the repetitive metal clash, and even more apparent by the tears swelling in the men’s eyes. They had a song for this moment. I did not. What is worship now? Obviously it was more than the song or the terrible instrument. It must, then, be them just singing to God, at that moment. Right then. That was how they were following Jesus. It has to be. Right?

“Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

That is not just a saying when your flying 100kph down an African rode with a mourning family and a corpse in the back. It is offensive. If they were following Jesus right then, that was the most heart-wrenching worship I had ever experienced. That was Job in real life. But if that was just part of the culture or tradition, rapid fire songs to relieve despair and grief, stopping short of truly honoring the real God; what would it look like if I turned around and said, “Stop that. Let the dead bury the dead. Focus on Jesus and what He has done for you, what He is doing for you.”? What if I called them dead, in that moment? What if.

But then it struck me. The obvious hit me square and knocked the breath out of me. That verse was not for them. It was completely for me. What if that was my father in the back? Or worse, what if that was my younger sister in the back? I felt sick to my stomach. It felt so real. I knew it was not my sister back there, but at the same time I did not want to turn around and look. I did not want to see that pain, and I certainly did not want to turn around to see that same pain singing to God. Hearing it was enough to tear into my gut. They were worshipping! That verse was for me. That verse hurt. What a terrible instrument! I know if I ever am forced to carry a loved one unexpectedly to the mortuary, as I bounce over those unpaved roads, I will want a Reece moment. I will want a second to pity myself. I will want God pause for a moment and focus on me. I might not voice it, but I knew it to be true. Oh God, am I really worshipping you?

That is all I could think about. I wanted that possibility out of my head, but the singing persisted and the terrible instrument would not end.

I came to Africa! I am living among the impoverished day to day! I have seen it! I am doing it! This is ridiculous! This has got be fruits of the life of a disciple! This has got to be enough!

What if it is not though? What if it is not enough? What if I am not giving everything? Could I go further? I think I could. I think I could give more, and if I can give more, I must give more. Everything. Everything must go to Christ. All those really strict parts, those impossible parts, must become evident. I must take all my thoughts and capture them for His control. I must work my mind to know His Word so that I can yield it like a weapon. I must not forsake any part. I must do this so that I do not crumble when the torrent comes. I must give up on attempting to add to the foundation. He is taking everything, in every moment, and it is more difficult than I ever imagined. I am going to lose myself in it, but it will be worship. It will be obedience. It will be following. And I will not be among the dead.

So that is where I leave you. There truly is no ending. I was sickened by Christ’s words when they became more than philosophy, as so many have been. I officially had the intellectualism slapped out of me by realism. Those words are life and I know that. They are joy as I have been so adamantly proclaiming. They take away any excuse, any plea, any justification, and leave us with an offer to worship Him or something else. I am not choosing something else. I am going to sing. I am going to dance. I am going to labor. And just as that mourning family did, I am going to worship!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


“What is the sign of a friend? Is it that he tells you his secret sorrows? No, it is that he tells you his secret joys.” -Oswald Chambers

These words have been repeating in my head ever since I read them June 3rd. At the time, I was sitting in a messy three-row seat with the hum of enormous engines allowing me to hang miles above the earth. I was on a journey to the other side of the world and I had no idea what was over the horizon I could see so clearly. I mind was going wild, I mean, wouldn’t yours? There were thoughts of seeing the most beautiful parts of God’s creation and worshipping Him for it, of dancing with the Masai on the barren ground, of shouting at the top of my lungs ALL of Psalm 96, which has been so implanted in my mind, and thoughts of watching people finally find the One who created the mysteries they had been trying to answer since the beginning of time. There were also other thoughts. Thoughts I had been fighting so hard to purge from my mind. Selfish thoughts. Thoughts of seeing the most beautiful parts of Kenya and capturing them for all of Facebook to see. Thoughts of adventures, of stories to tell, of bragging opportunities, merits of my masculinity. And of course, as with all parts of life, there were thoughts of a girl, which, honestly, I never know which category to place and still do not. So I was praying. I was praying pretty hard. I remember asking, “What are you saying? My mind is utterly killing me; it is all over the place. Can you speak to me over these incredibly annoying engines? I love you. Bring on whatever is in store, I do know I am ready to follow and follow gladly! Your will be done.” Then my eyes got heavy and I fell asleep to the heavy humming.

It has been over one month now and a lifetime worth of events flew by. I wrote a journal entry recording the events of just the first two weeks and it took a full two pages, which if you know anything of my handwriting is quite a feat. I want to share to enlighten you. Not necessarily with the recent events of my life, but to my intimate joy. Here is a tid-bit from that entry on fast-forward:

I arrived in Kenya, drove recklessly over the scariest roads in the world at night, hiked to Lake Naivasha with Strong Tower orphanage, visited the children of Rhema orphanage, bought a cow, slaughtered a goat, got sick, sneezed, visited Kwambekenya, played with a sea of children during their afternoon break, lodged at Thompson Fall’s (which I hear a heck of a place to visit but I wouldn’t know because I spent the day sleeping in my room trying to recover from the illness that befail me), painted Rehema orphanage, aided in making the worst representation of the Prodigal Son ever, limboed, drove far into the bush of Kenya, stared in awe at a half-rainbow stopping just before the peak of Mt. Kenya, met Benson (the child my mom sponsors), almost was stranded by my forgetful group and ran like the wind, stopped to watch elephants pass, prayed for a woman suffering from melanoma with all my might, slept under the Milky Way, woke up soaked in dew, visited homes of the Masai, ducked my head and toured the 8ft x 8ft house of six people, watched the horizon become hazy then disappear, ran like the dickens from the rain chasing my shirt-tail, looked up to see the creation so obviously made by the Creator, took a shower in the rain, watched the U.S. tie England in a small Kenyan house, cheered like crazy, slept, woke, coughed, visited HOREC orphanage, let children climb all over me, dropped an HIV-positive child on his head, felt my stomach turn as he cried, slept, woke up the next morning with my bladder ready to explode, fixed the problem, played catch with some of the nursery kids still in HOREC, hit one of said kids in the face, made another orphan cry, left HOREC, returned to Nairobi-area, visited the slums, felt sick inside, watched my team leave, watched some of my closest friends in the world leave, watched my sister whom I love so much leave, walked inside, read her note, and failed at holding back tears.

My joy lies in those poorly penned lines and that quote was still echoing inside my head, bouncing from ear to ear.

Then I spent time in Beat the Drum orphanage learning to live life like a child, realizing that doing this is truly the next stage of growing up. I have experienced the back-breaking burden of need and realized that eating a can of spinach or ripping off your shirt to reveal Superman strength wouldn’t cut it. Only strength drawn from hope could actually give you the means to stand up and continue on. But, now, if you have been following along, you already know all of that. Yet, you still do not know my joy.

My joy is not seeing the beauty of the Creator’s magnificent creation or singing with all my lungs while dancing until I sweat. My joy is not laughing until my stomach hurts because the children cannot blow bubbles or going through the aunties prized picture albums. My joy is not even sharing these gifts of God with you and bringing you along from thousands of miles away. If you thought that my joy was in these things you were wildly off mark. If you thought my joy even rested in the tears that fail from my sister’s beautiful letter, you were terribly mistaken.

These things would be prized with or without the name of Christ. People could look to many of those events and say, “That stuff sounds pretty amazing. I would want that stuff with or without Christ. I want to run from rain, shower in it, and then watch the different colors that are displayed in the skies. I want that close of a relationship with my siblings. Christ may or may not be real or the son of God, but those experiences are commendable and relationships are real. I want them.” If that is where you are I have done you a terrible injustice. I have invited you into my house decorated with fine linen, gold chalices, and wonderful paintings while neglecting to show you what was supporting the house. The Foundation.

You see these events are so close to my joy that they could be easily seen as something to be prized. I, at times, undercut myself from what is to be sought after with the most vigor because the water that gives me strength to continue taste so wonderful. And my worst fear is that I do the same for you, that I paint you a picture of a picture; no matter how good it looks.

Here is my joy. Here is the most intimate thing I can share with you.

“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, shout , O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again feel evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you in gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. I will gather those who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach.”

This relationship is my joy and it is my joy to watch others be taken by it...To be sung over my Jesus. To live without evil, fear, and treachery. To be rejoiced over with gladness. To mourn no longer. To be in the Kings midst.

So I do believe it is true that sharing your joy is the most intimate thing you can do with others. What would not and could not leave my mind seemed to have weight. If the opposite was true then the closer I became with God the more sorrows He would share with me and I would have no reason to rejoice. Truly, I would be crushed. But the complete opposite happens. As He infiltrates your soul and your intimacy grows, and your desires merge in an eternal relationship. Instead of being crushed, I am saved and quieted by his love.

So my joy is to become more overwhelmed by Him. It is to be a part of His redemption of this world. It is to show you the Foundation and then the tapestries. And to the rest, I pray my joy is unrecognizable. I pray it is to live a pitiful life because my whole being is focused on the unattainable.