Give it up!


One of the great things about being here at Rift Valley Academy, is there are lots of opportunities to speak in chapel, Sunday mornings, devotions, etc. All that time just forces me to spend time in the word – and come up with something that seems like it would be helpful and beneficial to those listening. 

One thing that keeps hitting home is how much of what I say sometimes feels like it’s more for me than others.

Yesterday we did devotions with our 7th-grade girls, and since final exams are coming up next week, there is a lot of anxiety. 

We looked at Philippians 4:6

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God

Do not be anxious….about ANYTHING.

That’s a lot easier to tell some jr. high kids to do, than it is to live in my own heart. 

Like so much of true, deep contentment, we know how it works….it’s just SO HARD.

So that’s all I have.. 

Stick with the basics. We’ll never get them down perfectly, so we can always return to them.


Read over Phil 4:6-67

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. – The Message

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -ESV

What do you need to give up? What things are your anxious about, that you need to let go of? Not just giving it up to a void – not ignoring it – but giving it TO GOD.

If it helps – write it out on a scrap of paper – then crumple it up / burn it / throw it away. 

Try to find that peace that is promised


God of Peace,
you know all, see all.
You know these things 
that linger in my heart.
Frothing up anxiety 
Take them from me.
I’m tired of them

Abide – not just refill.


Last week we looked at Gas-Station devotions, that approach that sees ‘some time with God’ as ample to fill you up with what you need until you run out and need him again.

But there is an approach where the same thing – daily devotions – can be life-brining, meaningful, and helpful throughout the day. 

When Jesus spoke to his followers about their relationship, he described it as a branch connected to a vine. Cut it off, and it dies. Keep it attached, and it can’t help but produce fruit. But it doesn’t produce fruit because it’s such an amazing branch, but because it’s connected to a healthy and good vine.

If we can focus some time each day, reminding us of our need to stay attached, refocusing our attention, and strengthening our attachment, it’s a great way to start your day. 

When Jesus had his feet anointed with fine perfume (Matt 26, Mark 14, Luke 7, John 12) those present complained about the waste. The disciples said the perfume could have been sold, and the money used for a good deed. But Jesus defended the action.

Perhaps we can see the time we spend with Jesus like that. Sure, there are lots of other good things we could spend that time on. It may even feel like a waste. But Jesus seems to think it’s the right thing to do.


Read over John 15: 1-11

I Am the True Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

What would it practically mean for you – today – to recall throughout the day, that you can only produce fruit if you remain attached to the vine?

What changes can you make to today- that allow you abide more deeply?


God of all good things,
You have invited me to be part of your redemption story,
and you have good things for me to do,
but only if I remain connected to you,
can I do anything that is actually good.
Give me awareness of my connection to you,
all throughout today.
Help me stay firmly connected to you,
no matter what happens.
Let me be a branch that produces something good today,
not because of who I am,
but because I am attached to,
and abide in you.

Fill ‘er up – The Discontentment of Gas-Station devotions


More than once I’ve been told to prioritize morning devotions because I need to ‘fill my spiritual tank.’ The risk of skipping them is that I may not have enough to make it through the day. 

What a horrible metaphor.

You fill your tank with gas, put the nozzle back, and drive away (OK – hopefully, you also pay…) You now have enough gas to drive and you only need a gas pump when you need more fuel. (which for some people is when they hit 1/2 a tank, and others when they are sure there are still some fumes left). 

This is pretty far from the image from the Bible’s invitation to remain constantly connected to God. 

“Abide in me” is what Jesus said. As branches, we remain attached permanently and continuously receive nourishment from the vine. That’s not a one-and-done kind of relationship.

We become discontent when we think God has let us down. We spend some time reading his word, squeeze in a prayer, and then move on with ‘our day.’ But that’s not what he asked us to do. Not what he told us. 

Paul said “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” That’s about as ongoing as you can get. 

Continuous, constant, ongoing.

Remember, we can’t just go running to God every time we have a problem, and then become discontent with our relationship.

It’s not a matter of ‘spending more hours’ with a devotion book open – it’s about realizing our whole life is His. 


The Greek word adialeiptós {ἀδιαλείπτως} – unceasingly – is used only 4 times in the Bible. Once in Romans 

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you Rom 1:9

The other three are all in the short book of 1 Thessalonians:

1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father

2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

What can you practically do today to make that more realistic for you?

  • set your watch to chime on the hour as a reminder to pray
  • say “help me see this person through your eyes” every time you step into a meeting
  • instead of pulling out your phone the second you are bored, spend the time praying for someone you know is going through a tough time
  • skip a meal and spend time reflecting on His Word


God of constant abundance,
you are always there for me,
help me to remember.
Give me wisdom to see my life through your eyes.
GIve me kindness to see others with your heart.
Give me compassion to see problems with your grace.
Give me mercy to see problems with your love.
All throughout the day – remind me you are here.
Help me be mindful of your presence, love, and mercy.

East-African Aquatic Widow-Maker


so sensible

UK regulations forbid electrical outlets in a bathroom, and lights have a pull-cord so you don’t even physically touch the switch 

so very resonable

If there is an outlet, it’s a special shaver-only outlet with a small dedicated transformer built into it with restrictions on its power use, and it only outputs a few volts. 

In much of North America, the rules dictate light switches can’t be close to a tub, shower, or sink, and all outlets have to be GFCI protected.

safety through technology

Ground Fault Circuit Interruption means outlets constantly monitor the electricity flowing in and out. If there is suddenly less coming back (like you dropped your hairdryer in the sink – and you created a fault where you and the sink are now the ground) it will instantly shut off the circuit. Those 110 volts should stop before they do real damage.

In many other places I’ve lived and traveled, light switches should be far enough you can’t reach them from the tub, and try to keep outlets away from the sink.

Everyone knows that electricity and water don’t mix.

Then there is Kenya with its electrical shower heater that is mounted RIGHT ON THE SHOWER HEAD. That’s right, 220v right there in the shower with you. They’re everywhere. You would think at the very least if you were to put an electrical appliance in the shower, you’d protect the electric wires with a few meters of water-proof tubing so the connection would be made well outside the shower. Nope. Pretty much everyone I’ve seen has like 5cm of wire, meaning there is an OPEN LIVE ELECTRICAL connection right there.

yes….this is our shower

On top of that, often they are literally grounded ONTO the metal shower pipe (see above). So now, all you have to do to become the Ground Fault (with zero Circuit Interruption) is splash a bit on your shower. Seems like there’s a pretty good chance of that. Guess that’s why they’re called ‘widow makers.’ I’m convinced the Swahili word for ‘shower’ actually translates as “prepare to meet your maker.”

see…..220v outlet and switch a solid 5cm outside the shower. 

On top of this…not that it matters at this point – but it seems you can put outlets wherever you want, just keep them out of the shower itself because they won’t work well there.

Why this story? (besides – if you don’t hear from me you’ll know what happened)

When we move from one context to another, things change. Move to a new country, get a new job, marry into a new family, join a new church. These things all have distinct cultures in them. They have their own ways of doing things. A new job often means differences in what you do, how you do it, and what tools you have access to. A new family means celebrating holidays differently than all you have known your whole life. A new church may mean a key community you used to belong to is now gone from your life.

Sometimes we lose our contentment because something we used to have is gone. Or we have some additional difficulty. But this discontentment often comes from comparison. Comparing one job/church/family/country to another never helps. We need to accept that as we move through life, things change, and we don’t always appreciate those changes right away. 

Maybe to experience contentment, you need to just stop comparing what you have, what you are doing, who you are with right now with memories of the past. I can dream of my electricity-free showers in other places I’ve lived, but that’s not where I live now. I am here, and I will never find true, deep contentment if I constantly dreaming of what used to be. 


What do you miss? From an old house, old friendship, old job, old whatever? 

Name that thing you miss. Is it the great backyard, the way they always knew how you felt, the Fridays off? Name it.

If you need to …grieve its loss. If it is an actual loss. 

Now move on. Accept where you are – and remember you are called to find contentment “in all circumstances.”


God of all things,
all places, all times.
Give me strength to accept what I have now.
Give me grace to find the good in where I am now.
Give me eyes to see the great things around me now.

Stop Pretending to be the Ambassador


After Susan and I had been married one year, we moved to Kazakstan – the Central Asian, former Soviet republic. That same year, Susan’s older sister lived in Japan and we thought it would be nice to get together for Christmas. I found cheap tickets for her to fly to us via Moscow. While her Moscow to Almaty flight was en route- we got a call. She was being held in a detention cell in Sheremetyevo airport and being deported, she thought. To Canada? Japan? No one would speak any English. They took her passport, wallet, and tickets, and they sent her to a room where a young man from Cameron said he had been there for 3 weeks – he thought. 

We immediately went to the Canadian embassy in Almaty- but they said there was only so much they could do. (Russia ….am I right?)

We had one contact in Moscow and were in touch with him.

He jumped into action – put his suit and his Canadian flag pin on his lapel, and went to the airport. He walked up to the appropriate desk and said, “I understand you have a Canadian citizen in custody, and I’m wondering if you can tell me why. “

They didn’t know he spoke fluent Russian and knew they were saying, “the Canadian embassy sent someone – get that girl out of here” 

They also didn’t know he was actually just an American missionary who had a maple leaf pin kicking around his apartment for some reason. 

They released her on the spot – and got to see Red Square and the Kremlin before catching a flight to see us. 

Sometimes – the things we see on the outside – are just enough to fool people for a bit.

However, the truth eventually comes out. We will never be content if we are constantly trying to convince people we’re something we know we’re not.

Jesus has some great insight for us when we fall into this trap. 


He says we don’t have to try to be something we’re not – because if we stay connected to him, the rest will happen.

We don’t have to try to force ourselves to be more loving, patient, and kind. Which is great – because we can’t and we’ll just end up incredibly discontent as we see ourselves as failures.

We stay connected to him, and God and His Spirit will make the growth happen. 


Read the following words of Jesus from John chapter 15 (the Message version) – and then reflect on this:

What kind of fruit are you trying really hard to force? 
What thing do you know you should be doing, and are trying hard, and constantly failing?
What thing have you tried to quit over, and over, and over – yet can’t stop?
How much have you focused on the fruit instead of remaining attached to the true vine?

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. 
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”


God the only true source of goodness,
forgive me for trying to do good things,
help me instead to be so connected to you,
that you actually make me a better person.
Help me not just try to love,
but become a loving person.
Help me not to try to make myself a loving person,
but remain connected to you,
and allow your Spirit to change who I am.


Thanks….but I think I know what’s best


Most of the time we are SURE what we want, and we’re pretty sure we know what’s good for us. 

Take a random 12-year-old boy and ask them what they want to drink. In some parts of the world – the answer may be Mountain Dew. 

Never mind that one bottle contains a day and a half worth of sugar, the US version has more caffeine than almost any other soda, has been banned in many countries for years – probably because it contained fire retardant, has been linked to a childhood dental crisis, …..(and yet enjoys a strangely cult-like following in some places.)

Clearly – there are many things that are BETTER for the child. Their sense of “GOOD” is skewed. Most anyone older &/or wiser can see that.

Now -I’m not picking on the soda-that-has-always-reminded-me-of-automotive-antifreeze here. There are PLENTY of things that I think are good – that aren’t.

I think impressing others is good. I think my success in certain areas of life is a definite good. And I always think getting what I want is good. 

One reason we are discontent is because we are convinced God is not being ‘good’ to us. 

We know what we want. 
We think we know what we need. 
We think we know what is good. 

Then we judge God against that standard. 

We will never be content when we judge God’s goodness against the standards that we have set. We need to watch for how we create our own measures of goodness – and then apply those to God….instead of the other way around. 


What have you been convinced in the past was something you needed – but turned out you didn’t? 

Something you saw as good – that turned out not to be?

What is some experience/achievement you were convinced was necessary – that turned out not to be?

What is the one thing right now you would honestly say “God…if you’re GOOD…you’ll give me ______”

What if you’re wrong?


I admit I don’t always know what’s best for me.
I can’t even always sort out good from evil,
and even more good, from not-so-good.
Give me courage to rely on your judgment.
Help me to trust that you have plans for good,
and not just what I think is good.

Blame the Elevation


I’ve been trying to run quite a bit since arriving here in Kenya. But it’s hard. We’re over 2000m above sea level and live on the side of a hill. So everything is up and down on rough dirt and rocks, and the air is rather thin. The first few weeks here the walk up to our place would cause my watch to interrupt with “Looks like you’re exercising – want to record a workout?” “NO WATCH. I’M JUST WALKING HOME – LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Of course, the reason is that my body is not used to the elevation. My lungs, my muscles, and my blood all needed time to adjust. It is getting a bit better – though I plan on blaming the elevation for my slow running as long as I live here, to be honest.

Sometimes we hit challenging phases in life, and then are shocked at how hard things are. Some seasons, some months, some years – are just harder than others. 

Sometimes we have to admit we need time to adjust. Or even time to wait out something. 

One of the things I keep telling myself as I pant, exhausted back up the hill to our place, is that I’m getting stronger. Not just compared to last week, but this elevation is probably making my cardiovascular system more efficient than it’s been – maybe ever. That’s the benefit of getting through hard things. You build up strength.

Don’t despair when things get tough. Don’t let your happiness be based on your surroundings, lean yet again on contentment bassed deeper than your current situation. 


What is the SINGLE HARDEST thing you’re facing right now?

How may that be building up inner strength? 
How might getting through this be equipping you for something else? 
How may this training prepare you for what might be next?


God-I’m going through some things I didn’t ask for,
things I don’t want,
things I’m not sure I can handle.
But your strength can get me through,
and you can use this to build me up,
so that I can serve you and others in new ways.
Give me resilience, and a long-view of these current and momentary troubles

The Sting of Discontentment


I have a fairly distinct memory from when I was about 7 years old. We were at camp, I was sitting drinking an Orange Crush from a glass bottle. Took a swig of that sweet, sweet nectar – and suddenly realized something was horribly wrong.

Instead of joy – there was pain and confusion. 

I had failed to notice that a bumble bee had flown into the bottle between sips, and it was as displeased to now be in my mouth as I was to have it there.

Discontentment often comes from that kind of experience. A situation where what we expect is drastically different from what we experience. 

I don’t think 7-year-old me was wrong to expect sugary joy from that bottle instead of pain, but often we as adults set ourselves up for disappointment. We set ourselves up for discontentment.

We expect things to always go well.
We think we deserve a good outcome.
We believe we are entitled to something enjoyable. 

Of course, we will always have some things go well and experience some good outcomes and enjoyable experiences. But we sometimes approach life with the expectation that we deserve it.

We need to remember the basic definition of contentment is when our expectations are in line with our reality. When what we’re experiencing is acceptable compared to what we feel we deserve.

We can’t always control what we get – but we can control our expectations.


What is the one good thing you are really anticipating? Something you are looking forward to having, or doing, or experiencing?

Now – imagine you don’t get it. How does that make you feel? Can you adjust your expectations so that you can live content even if that good thing doesn’t come to pass?


God of abundance,
Lord of giving,
Creator of good gifts,
you have given me so much,
help me to see that – instead of what I lack.
Let me dwell on what I have, not others.
Give me eyes to see how you have blessed me,
instead of feeling left out, left behind.
Thank you – honestly – thank you.
I know I don’t always have a thankful heart,
please change that in me.

You are NOT a floating spirit


One of the reasons we struggle with contentment is that we are setting ourselves up for failure. We intuitively know we are whole – integrated beings. We have spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and other needs/longings/hurts.

The problem comes when we try to compartmentalize them.

For some reason when we think of contentment, it’s clear that there is a spiritual component, the mental part is evident, and the emotional contribution is obvious.

But your physical being is not just a meat-bag to carry around the spiritual/mental/emotional parts. It is an integral part of who you are.

When Elijah had been chased away by Queen Jezebel, he had to run and hide in a cave. God showed up to minster to him – but it’s interesting to note how he dealt with Elijah.

Then he {Elijah} lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. – 1 Kings 19:5-6 

God let him sleep, then fed him, then let him sleep some more, then fed him again.

He didn’t scold him for being tired, or tell him to press on and stop being such a baby. God was perfectly aware that Elijah’s limited, human body could only do so much. Before he could be used by God in any other way, he had to have his physical needs met.

Sometimes the thing limiting our emotional well-being, our mental stability, or our spiritual contentment, may just be our physical state. We would be better off if we tended to that part of ourselves with the same concern we show the others.


Choose one physical thing holding back your whole-self-contentment:

  • not getting enough sleep (consistently 7-9 hours per night)
  • forgetting to drink enough water (or worse – replacing it with sugary drinks)
  • too much fat/sugar in your diet
  • not getting some (20 minutes) of active movement/exercise every day

Pick ONE – and do something about it. Start small. But start today.

Don’t just put this off. This may be having a significant impact on your mental/emotional/spiritual well-being. It may be affecting your whole-self contentment more than you realise.


God who created this body I inhabit,
you yourself took on flesh,
you needed rest,
you needed good nourishing food.
Help me steward well the gift of this body,
you have given me to dwell in for this time.
May it not hinder my pursuit of you,
or my desire to help others.
Give me strength, health, energy,
so that I can serve others better.