Monday, October 8, 2012

semi-precious stones

Standing in the beauty of creation on a crisp fall night I feel so alive. The rich dark sky embraces my senses, brings the stars almost within my grasp. God is close.

A few hours later, as I am tossing and turning in anxious sleep, satan hisses. The self-contempt that slithers into my consciousness are earthly things: temporary setbacks, imagined obstacles, past regrets, impending shame. Exhaustion has opened the gate. Like stones taken from a quarry, crushed and spread as base beneath a newly paved road, I am being smothered by layers of lies, oily asphalt.

I wake and God seems so very far away.

My heart beats loudly in the anxious silence.

God hears the voiceless prayers of my heart, invites me closer, shifts my focus away from obstacles, setbacks, shame and regret. God melts the layers of lies, opens my eyes to see that what I fear is temporary or imagined, not impending but tethered in the past.

I find comfort in the necklace I wore for the funeral of my niece, a time when hopelessness, grief, loss and fear gave way to a celebration of her life and her New Life.

In the darkest of moments, when we are feeling less than precious, when we fear death and darkness, God hears our hearts cry. God is already there.
... the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 NIV
Rw

Saturday, September 29, 2012

life is not a tea party

Nausea sweeps over me. I find it hard to hold back the tears as I read:
 ... the State Department ... released a global study focused on human trafficking titled "Trafficking in Persons." One angle the study focused on is child prostitution in America, finding that 83 percent of girls prostituted in the U.S. are born in the country ... According to the Minnesota Girls Are Not For Sale campaign, about 213 underage girls are sold every month in the state ... - MN Girls Are Not For Sale, Washington Whispers USNews.com
The innocence of childhood is a delicate fabric, easily torn away, right here in the United States. Gentle watercolor images of American Girl dolls, grandmother and granddaughter shopping days, and tea parties on tiny tables and chairs slip away into something much darker - the horror of human trafficking, slavery.

We are making progress. We have a long way to go.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Every decision I make impacts another life, multiple other lives.

Rw

SlaveryFootprint.org

39 Slaves work for me, and though I've never paid for sex, I hesitated to pull down the zipper. Will you be brave?







Wednesday, September 26, 2012

your book, her story

"It's your book!" Joanna does not like the suggestion that her name appear on the cover as co-author.
"But, it's our story." I think it is a great idea ... —John Sumbo, An Honest Look At A Mysterious Journey

The opening pages embraced me like a well-worn upholstered chair at the cabin of a friend, a familiar place and time, an unexpected starting point for a mysterious journey.

Is it my own junk? Or something in simply being human that makes me want to avoid stories like this one, the crushing medical issues, the helplessness of the hospital bed, the difficult road of convalescence? And in writing that question, I find that the direction I was taking this post has turned.

There is an urge to quit typing.

Tell her to bake a cheesecake. js

This is the best part, my favorite page, the opening of the chapter STUNNED ... a mirror in my heart to the story of Moses, a man who asks God to choose someone else.

God asks us to trust. We struggle.

When God is clearly calling us to take a step of faith, to act
in some way, I don't think He's too excited when
we sit around and talk about it some more ... 
even if we're talking to Him. js

In my borrowed copy of the book, the author has written a message to my friends Melinda and Larry, and beneath it, tucked into the lower right hand corner, a notation: Ps 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul. 
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake. 
Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 

You prepare a table before me in the presence
of my enemies. 
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. 
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Rw

Captivated by the story Perfect Fit
The bedside wife Artifact


Monday, September 24, 2012

an unfamiliar trail

THAT wasn't as easy as it sounded. THAT was uneasy, difficult, exhausting, and apparently, difficult to watch, to witness.

THAT was easy to write, wisdom snipped from Covey's '7 Habits' book.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Most of us do not listen with the intent to understand. We're usually speaking or intending to speak. When we listen differently - with the intent to understand - we listen with our ears, with our eyes, and with our hearts. We listen for feeling and meaning. We sense, we intuit, we feel. We focus on receiving the deep communication of another human soul. Stephen Covey, excerpt
today i can't even recreate the experience factually here. we were exploring Exodus 2, Moses' childhood and early adulthood, our childhoods, parental impacts, things learned by mimic and observation, the strength of doing over speaking. we moved on to examples of good people without faith in Christ. i forget the question that came next, an exploration of death and life, doing good versus faith, what does the Bible tell us? the response from behind me, poorly quoted here, 'hell will be full of good people' ... is probably not even close what was said. i don't remember because i wasn't listening, i was choosing instead to pounce with "Love Wins!" a reference to the work of Rob Bell and my faith that God has a bigger, more inclusive plan for broken humanity than 'turn or burn' ...

but that is not the THAT that was uneasy, difficult, exhausting.

THAT was what happened next: an invitation to seek to understand before seeking to be understood, to repeat what the other person had said, to engage with a tell-me-more approach rather than a dissertation of my own thoughts and beliefs. i was ill-equipped, unprepared, nervous ... feeling a little incompetent and grateful for the reprieve when Perry asked the other person to repeat himself. this time i heard something softer, in part because i was listening and in part because as he repeated, he phrased it differently.

'that was softer, he said it differently' were the words that eventually bubbled up from my heart, past the lump of fear in my throat.

THAT that was uneasy, difficult, exhausting ... a sprint on an unfamiliar trail.

later i would go over the experience with the person on this earth who knows me best and he would ask, was Perry picking on you? no. honestly, i admit it, i opened my mouth, raised my fist and invited THAT in the same way i'd been doing all my life ... the conversation was softened by a knowing nod and duet of laughter.

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 
You need to persevere so that when you have done
the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." 

Rw

p.s. this verse found me this morning, displaying on BibleGateway when i turned on my computer, and my belief that nothing is random soothes the blisters of my disbelief

photo credit: Annie's Simple Life 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

9 years old

I don't know what to do with this:

Average age for first time contact with pornography is around 9 years old.
Average age for seeking help is 30-35 years old.

The anecdotal evidence from women and men, the stories shared with me in the past 3 1/2 years, and my own experience as a child, echo truth here ... and I don't know what to do with this.

Pray for curious children exploring nightstand drawers, closet corners, internet histories, video stores?
Pray for teens who are babysitting or mowing lawn, exposed in homes where adults are too casual?
Pray for casual adults who don't realize the risk?
Pray for wounded adults who realize the risk and choose to be careless?
Pray for adults who are intentional?
Pray for adults who look the other way?

Pray for healing and restoration.
Pray for grace and mercy.

Pray that we not look away.


But this is a people robbed and plundered;
All of them are snared in holes,
And they are hidden in prison houses;
They are prey, and no one delivers;
For plunder, and no one says "Restore!".
Isaiah 42:22

Rw

stats: 10 Seconds
prayer guide: Salvation Army

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Undone Again

I often feel ill-equipped to engage the world, to speak the pain in my heart, to feel and express the damp oozing left behind by decades of life.

I am filled with joy and jealousy, healing and suffering, passion and sloth. How can one life feel so duplicitous?

Exploring Exodus 2 on Sunday, a question is asked:
"Why are we so reluctant to call on God?"

My answer is swampy darkness itself:
"We believe there is a chance God will say no."

~

Over a year ago words flowed from the heart:
"... If I live to be 100, my life is half over ... and the thing I want to do is public speaking ... changing hearts and minds with words ...
empowerment
vulnerability
heaven on earth
we can take it with us
not the $
but the people
relationships
Yes. No."

Undone

Today, I find myself attempting vulnerability while engaging in a very public debate sparked by the word "pro-aborts" ... and I am feeling ill-equipped with every keystroke.

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
to proclaim freedom for the captives 
and release from darkness for the prisoners..."
Isaiah 61:1

I am an encourager, a writer and speaker of words.

I will risk crossing the picket lines.

I will risk walking into the dark places God calls me.

Rw

an old blog Undone
a beautiful resource Care Net
photo credit Tim Markley

Monday, September 17, 2012

yolo

you only live once

What is keeping you from living life to the fullest?


 

This morning I think of my friends, ordinary women and men embracing life with extraordinary courage, and I wonder what is keeping me from living life to the fullest too?

Rw

ordinarycourage.com

Sunday, September 16, 2012

force, fraud, coercion

It was unexpected, the revelation that she'd been manipulated into prostitution, this young woman among the attendees at the human trafficking seminar.

The presenter kept his composure, drawing on his decades of experience in law enforcement. Only those in the front row or two saw his eyes glisten with held back tears.

The myths of human trafficking help us sleep at night, help us believe this is happening somewhere else to people who don't look anything like us, that our daughters - our sons - are safe.

Traffickers do not discriminate. Using force, fraud or coercion, traffickers induce and recruit from all facets of humanity: wealthy, middle class, impoverished; immigrants and citizens; children and adults. Traffickers come to steal, kill and destroy.

In 1981, the General Accounting Office estimated there were 600,000 American children, under the age of 16, working as prostitutes in the United States. (childrenofthenight.org)

 Are you surprised?

 Help dispel the myths. Learn about human trafficking.

 Traffickers are counting on us not to care.

 Rw

Some resources to get you started:
Celia Williams, PhD
Polaris Project

Monday, September 10, 2012

Leap of Faith

magnet by papayaart.com

Are there times in every life when panic sets in? When we find ourselves in circumstances that leave us feeling trapped?

This week as Fellowship explores the first chapter of Exodus, the midwives Shiphrah and Puah are new to me.

The king of Egypt tells them, "When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live."

The consequences of disobedience are unspoken.

As the story unfolds, we read that the midwives fear God and do not do what the king of Egypt asks. Shiphrah and Puah do not murder the male babies in the shadow of childbirth, make it appear as though children were stillborn, died of natural causes.

In choosing to let the boys live do the midwives risk their own lives? Are they afraid?

Called before Pharaoh and asked why they have let the boys live, the midwives answer, "Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive."

So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became
even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God,
he gave them families of their own. Exodus 1:20-21 NIV

When I am feeling trapped or cornered, I often want argue my way out, teach 'Pharaoh' about right and wrong, instead of trusting God to guide my actions and my words.

Instead of panicking and trying to take control, I'd be so much better off  in remaining quiet, choosing as my transportation a leap of faith.

Rw

fellowshipcf.org

Monday, August 13, 2012

Prerequisite for Membership

"This series also serves as a prerequisite for membership at Mars Hill Church" –Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Seattle WA more

As I listen to the "Doctrine" podcasts, I bristle at the words: "prerequisite for membership" ... the idea that belonging requires anything more than a belief in Jesus as Savior. Is my heart holding too tightly to the inclusion of all?

I want to slam closed the guillotine gates of my heart and mind, re-immerse myself in the narrative theology and the teachings of Rob Bell, Shane Hipps, Marilyn Dancause, Steve Argue ... within Mars Hill, Grand Rapids MI.

Is my mind too wounded by my childhood indoctrination to embrace Driscoll's doctrinal approach to faith? Yes!

Case closed. Shut it off. Loose the link. No!

As difficult as this series is for me, I am listening. I am journeying into what I've often considered "enemy territory" and am surprised at what is happening: I am gathering words for expressing my own beliefs, doing my own exploration of the Bible, debriding some of those old doctrinal wounds. Months ago, I wrote a bit about being unhinged by words like secular, prejudice and righteousness. Today I add to my word un-list: doctrine, theology, membership.

After the statement about prerequisite for membership Mark Driscoll opens "Image: God Loves" with this prayer:
Father God, we come today thanking you for making us, male and female, in your image and likeness for relationship with one another and with you. As we study your word today, Lord God, it is our prayer that we would see Jesus as the perfect image-bearer, and that by the power of the Holy Spirit we would understand what the Scriptures have to say to us so that we might be like Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Leaving out my "unhinge-ing" words I am challenged to express what I Believe with a smaller and simpler vocabulary.  Am I up to the task?

Rw

Unhinged
We Believe

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Color is Your Cape?


Hands down, the best summer blockbuster is The Avengers. My favorite Marvel character is Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, especially when he is defying authority.

Little girl me watched the after-school-television Batman, so perhaps my childhood cape is one lined with shimmery gold.


My adult cape is much heavier, a recognition of my own idolatry of power, wealth and celebrity ... Matthew McConaughey on the cover of Esquire comes to mind.

I often bristle and quickly argue a theology of compassion and human dignity for 'my' half of humanity, the female half. And I am easily convicted. All of the truly great men I know do not look like the celebrities on the cover of Esquire. A camera, even in the hands of a highly skilled photographer, cannot capture what matters in the men and women I love: self-denial, sacrifice, death, resurrection, suffering and rising, living in Christ.

Often these days, the cape of the super hero feels more like the heavy wings carried by the Angel of Grief each person, each life, each story of death and redemption like a feather made of stone.


My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God's truth, don't write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God. James 5:19-20 MSG

Rw


Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl: vi.sualize.us
Angel of Grief at Wikkipedia: WWStoryRome

Monday, July 16, 2012

structure







Faith is a delicate balance.

Clinging tightly to the brittle theologies
vs upholding the teachings of Christ.

Embracing a rigid doctrine of broken humanity
vs intimately exploring God's Word.

Grasping only tidy black-n-white beliefs
vs touching and tasting miraculous Creation.

My indoctrination into the Catholic faith, my 12 years of CCD, laid a good intellectual foundation in the 10 Commandments and a faint heartbeat for the calling articulated in the Sermon on the Mount. more

Like an art student who studies color, form and structure, but never engages a blank canvas, I learned to color inside the lines, held the Treasure in a sun-dried jar of clay.

In recent years I am experiencing re-formation. The jar of clay that was once me is broken, the shards crushed and finely ground, then mixed with tears. I am on the Potter's wheel, learning to submit to the artistry God intends for me.

But you, [Timothy] man of God, flee from all this, and pursue 
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life 
to which you were called when you made your 
good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of 
Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate 
made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command 
without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  
which God will bring about in his own time 
—God, the blessed and only Ruler, 
the King of kings and Lord of lords,  
who alone is immortal 
and who lives in unapproachable light, 
whom no one has seen or can see. 
To him be honor and might forever. 
Amen.
from the writings of Paul, 1 Timothy 6:11-16 NIV

Rw

Inspired by: Container and Contents
Image credit: Grigory Stepanov

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Passport through Darkness

Over a year ago I read this amazing book in a single sitting: Kimberly L. Smith’s Passport through Darkness. I am inspired by her courage, her wisdom, her passion, her faith. I am awed by her frailness, her strength, her vulnerability, her humanity.

My original tear-stained paperback and a later-purchased copy are out on loan, books weaving their way across the U.S. from friend to friend, and hand to hand. Today, I discover Passport through Darkness is available for Nook and Kindle FREE until July 15. Details here kimberlysmith.blogspot.com

Sitting in the cool quiet of my office, shaded windows gently lighting the room, I open my new e-book and my heart is again carried away to the dark evil of Sudan, a woman named Kimberly, and her faith in God:

"I stood at a precipice, a crag of rock in a parched, thirsty land that mirrored the condition of my heart. From where I stood I looked down upon the riverbed ..." 

Rw
No atrocity is too large, no story of redemption too small, for our God. A Heart Not Big Enough

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

dangerous lyrics

"Break our hearts for what breaks Yours ..."

The words repeat, build, embrace.

Today, I stop to wonder, is it dangerous to sing along? Is what I am asking for the very thing I most fear?

God is breaking my heart, exposing the view at the end of my pointing fingers.

I often catch myself changing the lyrics to a more personal: break MY HEART for what breaks Yours ... and today I know that whatever God is asking me to do is only possible in community.

In my tears, do I hear an invitation to change?

Rw 

Jesus, Friend of Sinners Casting Crowns
Image credit: Morozova Tatiana

Monday, June 25, 2012

58: The Film

10am Jun 30 Sat, Micon Cinemas Chippewa Falls

Journey from the slums of Kenya to the streets of New York, from the sun-scorched plains of rural Ethiopia to British shopping centers, from Brazilian ganglands to the enslaving quarries of India.

Confront the brutality of extreme poverty, meet those who live out the True Fast of Isaiah 58, and embrace stunning new possibilities for the future.

Come a few minutes early for coffee and rolls. Stay afterwards and explore opportunities for volunteerism locally and globally.

Touched Twice United
Teamwork Africa
Freedom Through Fellowship
iHelp
Jungle Hospital, Rio Viejo, Honduras
Whispered Hopes
Fierce Beauty
LSS Run Away and Youth Services
Hagar USA
Just Us Run
Parents 4 Learning
Safe Families
Hope Gospel Mission
58: small group (July)

View trailer here 58:

Free movie and event hosted by volunteers from Fellowshipcf.org in cooperation with Micon Cinemas, Chippewa Falls.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, 
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your food with the hungry 
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter 
— when you see the naked, to clothe them, 
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, 
and your healing will quickly appear; 
then your righteousness will go before you, 
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; 
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I."
Isaiah 58:6-9 NIV

Rw

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tomorrow You Die


 
I don't know why I picked this one.

When offered access to the bookshelves of new friends, "Tomorrow You Die" is the title I took home, a story of young women who dared to smuggle the Gospel into a communist country, a nation that had sealed Christian citizens in barrels and rolled them into the sea.

 I can't imagine being interrogated, hearing my answers repeated in a language I do not speak, interpreted by someone whose first language is not my own.

Luke 21: Don't be concerned about how to answer ....I will give you the right words and such logic that none of your opponents will be able to reply! (TLB)
– "Tomorrow You Die" pg 81

I can't imagine being told after hours questioning, "You are a traitor ... and traitors are shot. We will come for you at nine tomorrow morning."

... and returning to a hotel room to sleep, trusting God enough to sleep.

Rw

Luke 21:14-15 NLT

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pink Lemonade for Krystal

God's angel sets up a circle
   of protection around us while we pray.
Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
   how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.
Psalm 34:7-8 MSG

A young woman, a brunet with bright blue eyes, runs for the first time in decades. She is freed from her wheelchair by death. She runs to Christ.

A mother grieves. A father mourns.

A priest wears the pink vestments out of season.

In the church people celebrate life. Her caregiver Ivan reads a poem composed for this occasion, a celebration of Krystal and her favorite color pink.

She is buried near the edge of the cemetery, behind the church.

Krystal Kathleen
September 16, 1984 to May 24, 2006

Friends and family gather for the luncheon; the lemonade is pink.

 Rw

photo credit nombresconsignificado.com

Friday, May 18, 2012

Brownies

I am
not Abel
but Cain,

not the
prodigal son
but the
jealous sibling,

the virus
not the
antidote.
January 2012 more

This morning, the brownie wins.

My humanity is hungry for comfort, and the chocolate brownie satisfies – momentarily.

Yesterday at a table with ministry leaders from across our community we prayed for those tempted by suicide, our sisters and brothers in desperation, people seemingly without hope.

Today I am grateful that when my life slips
from chaos and exhaustion to mourning and despondency, that Christ surrounds me with people who care enough to share hope.

The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. 
Some days I can think of nothing better. 
Paul in Philippians 1:23 MSG 

Paul is open about his desire to leave this earth ...
then he boldly makes plans to stay.

So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you 
as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues.
Paul in Philippians 1:25

Paul invites us to trust God and be companions to each other here on earth.

On the days when we can think of nothing better than breaking camp with life here on earth – finding a friend to pray with, acknowledging our sorrows before God, is essential.

Praying with her until God caresses our hearts with the chocolate embrace of hope is life changing, equips us to make a plan to stay.


Rw

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tenacious Oak


My much neglected morning devotional opens with this verse:

By faith we understand that the
universe was ordered by the word of
God, so that what is visible came into
being through the invisible.
Hebrews 11:3 more

The question that follows is:
"What in God's creation feeds my spiritual life the most?"

Trees
the seasonal cycles of deciduous trees
the coming back to life after winter
the seed helicopters on the maples
the tenacity of oak leaves over winter
the sounds of birds
the scrambles of squirrels
the branches catching the movement of the wind
the shade on a warm summer day

Reading my 'chapter a day' I find myself nodding in recognition at Paul's words:

The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful.
Philippians 1:22-26 MSG excerpt


I am like a tenacious oak leaf hanging on through the winter, assured in the arrival of spring.

Rw

Photo by Vasyl Nesterov more

Friday, May 11, 2012

Earning Permission

There are tons of blogs out there ranting to masses, preaching with bullhorns, trying to move a giant wave: the 313,514,154 people in the United States. Or perhaps the 7,012,669,276 people around the world.

I hope this blog is not one of them, that I remain focused on the person next to me and the friend sitting next to her.

This morning I am inspired by Amanda Palmer at kickstarter.com more, the power of simplicity, each person invited to giving small, their combined gifts potentially world changing. Amanda Palmer is seeking backers for her music, a studio album. Minimum pledge $1. Maximum $10,000.

With 11,727 backers, the average is about a dollar a week for a year.

The current total pledged is $626,181 – more than 6x the $100,000 goal.

What moves each person to pledge? What moves you? Or me?

Whispered Hopes is about pledging our lives to friendship in Christ.

Whispered Hopes is not an indexed doctrine of Biblical answers nor a neatly typed
Q 'n A page of appropriate responses to frequently asked questions.

Whispered Hopes is sitting quietly side-by-side with a stranger until we strangers become friends, answering each question with the dignity, honesty and faith we'd use to encourage our closest friend.

Whispered Hopes is respecting each person enough to earn her permission, engaging with loving answers only after the questions are asked.

God invites us to start with giving small.


 Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.
Ephesians 5:14 NIV

... let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead. 
Isaiah 26:19 NIV

Living together in Christ changes everything.

Rw

Amanda Palmer more
Brick by Brick more
Population Clock more
Photo by Dmitriy Shironosov more

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cupcakes, Pringles and Tears

Something chocolate 'n sweet followed by a fat-filled salty snack – the combination signals danger, an impending ride on an emotional roller coaster.

The combo repeats:  two evenings each month sharing chocolate* with the women and men, my friends who work in the strip clubs, then consuming something salty on my way home ... and two mornings each month, like this morning, the remaining Pringles and two left-over cupcakes eaten while drinking my coffee.

Tears followed.

Nutrition-minded friends gasp at the poison content of my choices and easily link mood swings to my consumption. I'm quite certain that my mood will swing today no matter how healthy my food choices.

The day after we visit the clubs is always a time of tears. The phrase that brings tears today is 'bringing grace to graceless space' which used to make my heart sing and is now tainted as it seems to imply that 'we' have something 'they' don't, as though Christ isn't already in the clubs, as though 'they' is so very different from 'we'.

Satan wants the separation, the division, the deep trench of distance, a belief that somehow separate is better ... the twisted lie that being in the world but not of it keeps us safe.

God keeps us safe.

This I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, 
you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, 
the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, 
but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 
Jesus, in John 15:17-19 NASB
 
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, 
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—
this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern 
of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 
Paul, in Romans 12:1-2 NIV

The enemy uses our own fears against us, our belief that 'graceless space' is somewhere outside us, that 'we' can keep our children safe, that our daughters and sons would never end up there – in a club or wherever.

God's daughters and sons work in the clubs.

'We' are not better parents than God.

I want Christ's church to be a place for all God's children – not 'we' and 'they' separate – All of us.

Better Together.

Better Together in Christ.

Rw 


* more than just chocolate, volunteers often bring full meals to share with our friends in the clubs

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wrestling with God

Oct 5: With food costs spiraling out of control, my friend Kimberly, asks for $150,000 to feed orphans in Sudan. more

Oct 10: Kimberly boldly and transparently writes about the "businessmen" offering to SELL an entire year's worth of "USAID NOT FOR SALE" food. more

Oct 20: Kimberly is back at her keyboard: "All morning long I wrestled with God, or maybe whined to Him. 'I don’t get it. Even when Betsie Ten Boom was dying in a concentration camp with her sister Corrie she only recalled your Word, Our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.' ... Why can’t I just call on You and let it go?
I really don’t want to write about children going hungry one more time.” more

Asking for help is difficult.

One day Jesus was teaching ... and the power of the Lord was with
Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man
on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.
When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the
tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
Luke 5:17-26 NIV excerpt

Jesus knew exactly what the onlookers were thinking.

Jesus ... said, "Why all this gossipy whispering? Which is simpler: to say
 'I forgive your sins,' or to say 'Get up and start walking'? Well, just so it's clear
 that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both ..."
 Luke 5:22-24 MSG

Asking for help is trusting others to hold the corners of my mat, submitting to being lowered through the roof and placed at the feet of Jesus.

Asking for help is risking that the crowd may doubt and scoff and gossip, that people will hear "I forgive your sins" as an exposure of my brokenness rather than an affirmation of Jesus' Divinity.

I need your help.

I need your help with provision for Whispered Hopes.

Please consider donating gifts, joining us in prayer, volunteering to visit the clubs, or asking friends to be ambassadors in their own faith communities. more

Like my friend Kimberly, I am wrestling not with God's abundance, but with my own unwillingness to risk asking for your help.

Rw

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom book
Passport Through Darkness by Kimberly L. Smith book

I will not accept another young bull from your household 
or a single male goat from your pens. 
Every creature in the forest, 
the cattle on a thousand hills, is mine. 
I know every bird in the mountains.
Everything that moves in the fields is mine.
Psalm 50:9-11 GW

Monday, May 7, 2012

Streetwalking with Jesus

streets.org
John Green's signature on the opening page reminds me that Streetwalking with Jesus
is a book written by a friend from Int'l Christian Conference on Prostitution, a brother in Christ. Nearly a year has passed since adding it to my bookshelf. Too long.

Early in the introduction, John's words deliver hopelessness: "My eyes caught the blur of his falling body just before I heard that sickening sound ..."

A homeless man jumps to his death.

A life is ended. A life is changed.
 

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly
and to love mercy
Micah 6:8 more

The former alter boy raised in middle-class American values: hard work, doing good, living well, owning things, following the rules ... finds himself in a new paradigm. A heart is changed.

John writes, " I heard God clearly say, '... I value justice, mercy, and humility. These are my values.'" 

Streetwalking with Jesus is a passageway, inviting us to break the habits we call happiness and embrace the delight in what God has planned.


Rw 

image credit: streets.org

Monday, April 30, 2012

Just Us Orange Slices

Nothing is random. Life is filled with choice.

My life moves forward in the tension, belief in the Creator, the dignity of free will, and His plan for every breath of my life.

Orange Slices is devoted to celebrating the sweetness, pushing back the murky shadows in my peripheral vision and centering on a celebration of life. This year
I am committing one blog a month to a retrospective of goodness.

Books:
God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker
Not for Sale by Nathan Batstone

Theater:
a high school production of Grease
a community theater performance of Gypsy

Excellent Choices:
Not for Sale workshops more
The Michael Rambo Project more
58: The Film more

Special Blessings:
a new website in development


Learn to do good.
Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:17 NLT more


Rw

Sunday, April 29, 2012

God in a Brothel

"Daniel Walker has worked as an undercover investigator ... working to free women and children from sex trafficking ..." reads the back cover of God in a Brothel.

The investigative approach and law enforcement perspective in telling the story frequently left me feeling as though I was reading a report ... until in the final pages when ... God in a Brothel takes an unexpected turn toward grace.

When contemplating the impact on his nieces, nephews and other children and young people he cares about, Daniel Walker passionately turns the tables on
my critical heart:

"I want so much more for them than a cautious, safe and untainted personal development. I want them to live fully aware of the fact that God knows they will make mistakes and anticipates that they will sometimes suffer. But like a young Betsie ten Boom, who during World War II found her self inside the horror of a Nazi concentration camp, I want them to know with all their being that there is
'no pit so deep that [God] is not deeper still.'"

"When they do fall or choose unwisely, when life with all its unfairness ambushes them, and when they find themselves walking through dark valleys, I want those children to know that they are still pursued and adored by their Maker. I long for them to know in the core of their being that there is nothing they can do that will separate them from that love. I want them to know that all things can be made new: 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'  
2 Corin 12:9. And in that knowledge I want them to live full, courageous, free and abundant lives."


Rw

Image Source: Hagar International
Betsie ten Boom more

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gypsy

The State Theatre

When my husband and I dream the ‘what if’ dream,
he wants 800 midwestern acres of forested land
with a lake. I want a tiny loft in Manhattan more ...
and access to Broadway.

There is power in live performance: sitting in the audience watching a story unfold on stage, experiencing our friends as actors immersed in the telling, seeing the characters struggle and change.

A daughter chooses a divergent path for her life.
A broken and demanding mother experiences tenderness.
A friend who is a quiet blonde appears on stage a bold brunet.

My heart engages in the transformation.

Paul-who-was-once-Saul writes about torment – a thorn in his flesh. Pain? Brokenness? Struggle? Change?

Struggle is inherent in our humanity. The gritty pain and brokenness of life on earth are instruments of change. And God reassures us:


My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
—2 Corinthians 12:9 more

God invites us to embrace the gypsy, the weary traveler within, the child destined not for this earthly life but for her one true home.

Rw

Photo Credit: Gypsy

Friday, April 27, 2012

Submission

Pastor Jesus
Again this week someone invited me to join their church – not collaborate but actually leave my faith community in favor of theirs.

It is an awesome experience to feel so welcome within a faith community that we invite others in. I believe this is what Christ intended: inviting, welcoming and encouraging others.

Though just a few short weeks ago her invitation might have offered a welcome respite, today my heart says Never!

I can't imagine life here on earth without Fellowship.

And Fellowship is difficult. Intimacy and transparency can be exhausting as we mix in our broken humanity: misunderstandings, mismatched personalities, old wounds and fresh pain.

In an effort to avoid hurting others, fragile-ME wants to be polite, which at some point causes human-ME to slink away in shame and self-doubt, which causes broken-ME to rage, which brings true-ME to my knees before my Creator – eventually.

I wish it didn't take so long.

I search desperately for someone else to blame.

On my knees before my Lord, I realize the biggest stumbling block is ME.

Submission is not an attitude nor a moment of decision. Submission is a journey.

As a writer I often envy Paul, his adventures recorded, his acts of faith read over centuries by millions of people exploring the New Testament. As a follower of Christ, I celebrate Paul's candid and human words:

When someone gets to the end of his rope, 
I feel the desperation in my bones. 
When someone is duped into sin, 
an angry fire burns in my gut.
If I have to "brag" about myself, 
I'll brag about the humiliations 
that make me like Jesus ...
I crawled through a window in the wall, 
was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life.
 —2 Corinthians 11:28-22 excerpt more

This past Sunday my friend and pastor knelt during our teaching, demonstrating a posture of submission. podcast

I celebrate his candidness and humanity, his willingness to kneel.

Though just a few short weeks ago I sought respite, today my heart says Never!

Fellowship is where I belong.

Rw

Illustration by David Hayward Pastor Jesus

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Breaking Chains of Injustice

now showing
Wednesday afternoon I shared lunch with a sister
in whispered hopes, then spent time with a new prayer volunteer. Our hours together reminded me how precious life is and how frail we are in our humanity. How frail i am in MY humanity – crying most easily when telling the 'cucumber' story, how in a summer when vines were wilting in my garden, we arrived at the club and received a gift of abundance: cucumbers from the garden of a friend, one of the women working in the club. more

In the 3+ years since whispered hopes began I've been blessed with opportunities to talk about our journey with 300 people, perhaps more. Out of the hundreds, a couple dozen on our prayer team intercede for us on club nights and nine women go into the clubs. I know in my heart many are praying for us, praying for the women and men working in the clubs.

And, I know many are called to do other tasks, their human hearts prepared for different works.

The imagery in 58: speaks to me.

God shines vibrant light from within the darkness. 

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
   and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
   you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
—Isaiah 58:6-9 more

58: The Film is playing Apr 29 and May 2 at Jacob's Well in Lake Hallie. 6:30pm.

Poverty steals, kills and destroys. Break the chains of injustice. Watch the trailer, then invite a friend. Let your heart be moved.

Rw



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Concatenation

"The question came as quietly as soft bird twill on a cool spring wind. Alluring,
easy, seductive. Thankfully we have no money. Thankfully there is no time.
We are exhausted and there is so much that needs to be done..."
Dan Allender, Count the Concatenation

Mother's Day cards provide
birthing kits for women in Liberia
Teamwork Africa
It seems like just yesterday that Peggy and I were sitting on the steps, the carpeted stairway that curves upward to the bedrooms in the home of closest friends. We'd moved away from the people congregating in the kitchen, were talking one to one. She was planning her first trip to Liberia, sharing the concept of sacrificial giving.

Thinking back to the moment – the fear in my heart – I am sure I looked stunned, like a deer in the headlights. I couldn't imagine making that kind of commitment.

As I read Dan Allender's blog this morning – the one he posted March 13th – I am no longer a deer caught in the headlights. His words, Thankfully we have no money, speak to my heart.

Recently, during the planning of a Not For Sale event, I awoke one night startled, my nightmare: that the venue was too small, that the crowd overflowed the auditorium, people stood in the back and filled tables in the adjoining commons ... 1400 people?

I remember the emails in response to this choice of venue: Since this is God's event – I say we go large! followed by I agree, go big or go home! 

I remember the disappointment felt within my broken humanity: an auditorium with lots of empty seats.

I'd do another project with these risk takers for Christ in a heartbeat, no hesitation!

Sacrificial giving is more than choosing to give 10% and live on 90%. Sacrificial giving is striving to invert those numbers, risking wildly, living in a way that says THIS matters.

God connects Dan to Cherry in Africa. God links Peggy to Peter in Liberia. When we show up and open the door, God decides who will fill the seats. Do we really want it any other way?


Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, 
and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, 
not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 
And God is able to bless you abundantly, 
so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, 
you will abound in every good work.  
—2 Corinthians 9:6-8 more

Rw

yup! i had to look it up: concatenation dictionary.com
photo credit: Teamwork Africa website

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mama Bird

A few days ago I came across the podcasts from God Loves Great Sex. In the second season women talk about their journeys – both sorrows and joys.

I am amazed at the strength within my friends.

This morning, mama bird is back on my porch, safe and warm in her nest at the top of the column. She and her mate have nested on our front porch since 2009.

The first year eggs hatched but the chicks didn't make it. Boldly the adult birds came back the following spring to build again, and were blessed with hungry, healthy baby birds for two years.


In this unseasonably warm spring – their fourth year on the porch – the nest has blown off the top of the column three times, as though God is somehow saying: Not yet, mama bird, it is too early to lay your eggs. 

Each time the nest blew away, mama bird disappeared for a day or two. This last time she stayed away longer, long enough that I thought she was gone for good.

Harley
A few days later a small pile of sticks and grass appeared, then an empty nest ... and this morning she is there to greet us as Harley and I step out the front door for our morning walk.

As I think about my friends, the courageous women who share their stories in podcasts, in blogs and in person, I see trust and hope in Christ.

Like mama bird these women are "... working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love ..." believing God is with us no matter how often that nest seems to blow away.


Our work as God's servants gets validated—or not—in the details. 
People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . 
in hard times, tough times, bad times;
when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; 
working hard, working late, working without eating; 
with pure heart, clear head, steady hand;
in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; 
when we're telling the truth,
and when God's showing his power..."  
— 2 Corinthians 6 more 

Rw

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Three Little Javelinas

On Day 102 journeying through the New Testament, this passage intrigues me:

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 more

Forgive me if this sounds childish: I immediately thought of the three little pigs. Or rather, The Three Little Javelinas written by Susan Lowell.

illustrated by Jim Harris

The book ties my heart to the years when Morning Glory lived in the desert southwest. 5th-grade-me and 50-something-me adore the javelina building a solid little adobe house and the tip of Coyote's raggedy tail whisking past the window on his way to the tin roof.

The brave little javelina does not hesitate to welcome others: the javelinas who built their homes of tumbleweed and saguaro ribs then show up seeking shelter.

How often do I hesitate to offer shelter to others? How often do I build on the foundation of Christ Jesus using highly flammable materials of judgment and condemnation?

... while the coyote huffs and puffs, follows us through the desert undeterred?


Rw


The Three Little Javelinas illustrated by Jim Harris more

This year, I am adding a daily something instead - a chapter a day for 260 days, a journey in the New Testament, beginning to end. Rw Treats 07 Jan 2012 more

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

He Loves Me

The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. —1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV more

Paul, the writer and Christ follower, had once been Saul, a man who reveled in the persecution – the execution – of Christians.

In the ancient world the people of Corinth were known as unruly, hard-drinking, promiscuous. Paul arrives and spends time with them as their pastor, a year and a half. Sometime later he learns that things are not going well, that the people are struggling, falling back into old patterns. Paul writes a letter. Not a scorning demeaning letter, but words that celebrate and proclaim "God is with you!"

God is with you. God is with me. In these past 40 days many things within me were revealed – things worth celebrating and things hidden, dark patterns in my behavior. I am addicted to control. My weapon is manipulation. My mask is perfection. My anger is often passive, manifesting in depression, a belief that I am beyond help.

Paul-who-was-once-Saul proclaims that the Spirit dives into the depths and brings out what God planned – for me, for you. God invites us to put down the old patterns and celebrate. God loves us.


"Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing
through the churches. I'll give the sacred manna to every conqueror;
I'll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name,
your secret new name." —Revelation 2:17 MSG more

God loves us. God calls each of us by a new name.

Rw

David Hayward, Naked Pastor God’s Daisy He Loves Me

Monday, April 16, 2012

Baggage

It is so easy to get lost in the darkness, to experience our bodies as though we are breathing thick black oil instead of fresh clean air, to disengage ourselves from community and crawl into our wounds, forget that the night is nearly over.

When people ask how I came to be here in this place, my story begins with a decade long absence from community — a drought violently begun in 1997 when I broke away from Catholicism, a long dry season that ended ten years later in the open arms of a holy catholic apostolic church, a multi-denominational community, a place where for weeks I did not introduce myself, was known only as the woman who cries.

Yesterday, after a 40 day absence, I returned home. As my heart steps out of the darkness, the tears flow freely.

Breathing the thick black oil of darkness began nearly a year ago, triggered unintentionally by a person who mistook compassion for friendship, a person who cannot hear my pain, a person cruelly misled as plastic me expanded to mask the inadequacy inherent in my humanity.

I allowed the oily plastic mask to distance me from God and disconnect me from true friends, the people who love deeply enough to accept me baggage and all.


The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. 
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness...  
Romans 13:12 NIV more


I am again the woman who cries.

Rw

Listen to Sunday podcast here
Catholic vs. catholic more
David Hayward, Naked Pastor baggage 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Patience is not my virtue

I asked my friend and pastor to pray with me, to pray with me for patience, once. That was more than enough. That was spring 2008.

I expected a gift-wrapped package of patience. God as delivery-boy? A sprinkling of stardust to change me instantaneously. My Creator as fairy-god-mother?

I now realize that when I pray for patience, God answers. God gives me situations that cultivate and grow this virtue, challenge me, stretch me, embrace me, slowing down the places within me that rush into life without appreciating the beauty and the depth.

Patience is a deep and quiet, like diving into a pool of water and moving beneath the surface, instead of skipping a stone from the shore.


What does patience feel like?

It’s a subtle unfolding with time as your ally. You feel relaxed and trust
that it will all work out, even if in this very moment,
there’s no clear path to the end.

It feels like the subtle uneasiness of allowing
all you’re uncomfortable with
to be exactly as it is.

Jackson Kiddard

The Roots of She


I used the word Predator a couple days ago. I practiced patience ...

... then I picked up and threw a stone.


... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, 
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control ...  
--Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

Rw
.
Photo Credit: fairy with pink wings by miszaqq