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Chaos, Social Justice, and Facing Fear in order to Seek God's Face

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.  Isaiah 26:3 A warning in advance-in...

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Surrendering to Sabbath…choosing to serve…

God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped  His people and continue to help them.
Hebrews 6:10(NIV)

I have surrendered to Sabbath. It is time for quiet, time to serve, time to reflect. May His Peace be with you...Off to do the AIDS Walk in Central Park
(my Sunday FB status update)

(it took awhile to get this posted. Lately, when Sabbath comes, I am in full surrender.  Sometimes, surrender is about acting for the greater good. Read. Enjoy.) 

On this Sabbath, I was blessed to serve. On Pentecost Sunday, when so many Christians engage in corporate worship, attired in red to honor the alighting of the Holy Spirit, I got soaked in New York’s Central Park alongside nearly a million members of my tribe. Those who heed the call. My people. We weren’t friends, in fact most of them I’d never even met, but we were joined in service.  According to AIDS Walk event creator and producer Craig Miller,

In 1986, about 6,000 very visionary people from throughout the Tri-State Area came together to launch a strong and compassionate response to the AIDS epidemic at a time when government and the media were doing very little to help, and over the decades it has proven to be a key source of support for GMHC and New York City’s fight against AIDS.
Interestingly, this year’s walk theme was “Community.” We were, all of us, collectively, in communion with a common goal.

More of church needs to happen outside the walls because it all matters. He never forgets the
works we do or the love we show His people.
How and why do we serve? Chatting with the friend who invited me to participate, (I walked with a team representing URAWarrior.com) we shared our disappointment that neither my church nor hers even considered putting up a team. We were encouraged by the diversity of the event, that so many young people, families with children and Corporate sponsors were out in force, but where was the body of believers?  

I thought of Jesus healing the leper; serving the least. It’s not like those were popular choices then, and they don’t seem any sexier now. My call to action was clear…we’ve got to do better.

How often do we actually put into practice, “WWJD?” Does it frame and inform every action? How about all the words we say, or every single approaches we take, not just on Sundays but in every area of our lives? I know my answer-social justice should be a sacrament.

I’m glad I got wet. Soaking in the rain was today’s wake-up call. More of church needs to happen outside the walls, and I’m starting here and how. I’ll be doing more. I’m  committing to more consistent deliberate action in everything I say and do; because it all matters. Because He never forgets the works we do or the love we show His people. We need to be about paying it forward. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Depart to serve…

 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV)

My entire life I’ve seen the words, “Enter to Worship, Depart to Serve.” Emblazoned somewhere in nearly every church to which I belonged my entire life, I’ve known the words, but not experienced them like this before. No fan of endings, with six months participation in the God Sized Dream Team book launch project drawing to a close, I’m feeling the inevitable discomfort. Except that this exit is like leaving church after worship. I am taking what I learned, what God grew in me in this six months’ time, and am prepared to give it to the world.

And with that, I bid this chapter “farewell.” 
I’m departing to serve.
Recently I came across author Anne Lamott’s reference to the Four Immutable Laws of the Spirit, and through it gained a new lens through which to view the Master’s Work. These laws help me manage my natural impatience, being mindful that there are things I can do while awaiting His Will and His timing, and most importantly for this; endings are merely benedictions. Harrison Owen wrote the Four Immutable Laws of the Spirit:
Whoever is present are the right people.
Whenever it begins is the right time.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could of happened.
And when it's over, it's over.

It’s over. We knew when Holley heeded God’s call and drew us together, a diverse and unwieldy group of strangers,  it was only a six month commitment.  Six months was an eternity at the time, and none of us considered an end and the “after.” We were so very certain that we were hitching our wagons to her shooting star that we risked missing the enormous blessings God had in store, unleashing new anointings, knitting together new kinships, taking us as far beyond a book launch team…“as far as the east is from the west...” Psalms 103:12 (NIV). It’s over, and now I understand that this is a good thing.

I thank God for releasing me from my fear of OVER, appreciating that this end is but a benediction; a blessing over what comes next. In the Orthodox Christian Church,  benedictions are given at both the beginning and the ends of service. We enter (not only into spaces, but into relationships, seasons) understanding that in life, things change. Things evolve. Appreciating what God has revealed, I can say farewell with minimal sadness. Though this time draws to a close, I take away so much while leaving only what no longer serves me behind.
On Wednesdays, I pray and and play with friends here...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Trust in the God Who always knows… or, I keep forgetting I am broken

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding;
Proverbs 3:5 (KJ21)

(written with love and profound gratitude to the Divine Gifts who are my Gayle, my BFF, my buddy, and she whose heart “bleeds for the these beaten down souls.” I also have to thank the sisterhood of GSDers, without whom I could not have learned to know myself, or my Father in Heaven, so well.)

As the weekend neared its end, I approached the point of a breakdown. This girl is weary, worn, and sad. Because I frequently forget that I am broken, I find myself humbled into painful submission as my shoulders sag under the weight of burdens I should never have carried any further than the Throne.  I find myself humbled to the point of painful submission when once again I take on more than any fool should reasonably attempt, when I’ve cast myself in the role of martyr and nobody cares because martyr is not my name. I frequently forget that I am broken.  Thankfully, when I remember little else, I remember to trust in the God that always knows.

Monday, May 20, 2013

On living broken…

Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (KJ21)

before something else breaks,
I’m throwing up my hands to yield.
 Not only am I not fighting,
I’m also not playing the victim.
I will praise while I wait,
and trust more deliberately
Amanda, writing at hill+pen left words on the screen, saying something this broken vessel desperately needed. I have made peace with brokenness, understanding that embracing it gives me permission to be free, honest, to look at the scariest things, go to the deepest places, to  trust, to grow. To learn, but not to heal. I never want to be unbroken. Not ever. My brokenness keeps me close to the Throne, hiding under the shelter of His Wings, as it is He Who alone holds me together. My brokenness (and my buddy) remind me that I am nothing without shelter.

Despite my having made my peace, my brokenness occasionally leaves me more weary than hopeful. So to read…
“Dreams are for the broken. For those who hold their arms out wide and say Lord, I can’t bear it any longer. Help me find a way, with the talents you’ve entrusted to me, to serve. To find joy.
To laugh. "
gave me hope when I thought I was all out.  I needed some hope. You see,  God gave me vision of walking out of my wilderness, but for now,  I'm still here. 

I’m here but He does not leave me beyond the reach of His Grace. Every day He whisper some reminder of His Love, His Faithfulness, my brokenness and His Promises.  All day today. One of my sweet dreaming sisters Amber wrote this, and I was certain it was for me…
“Watching those who tread a deep valley without losing faith, no matter how long the journey, is beautiful.
Lord, I read the words, I received the lesson, “never give up.” I’m trying.

I’ve needed this lesson before, in Paul’s words, long before I’d realized the wilderness is where I was and I needed to make my way, By Grace, out. In Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians there is the kind of encouragement I'd want in the trenches. Rejoice (all the time, because there's always a blessing in there…) Pray (all the time, because there is always a blessing for which we should be deeply grateful). In everything give thanks (see the previous sentence). Quench not the Spirit (because who wouldn't want a deeper immersion in the Holy Spirit?)  Hold it, I think this is where I need to stay…Quench not the Spirit.

So what have I not been doing? I did a little research on the ways we might “quench the Spirit” because on its face, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. One preacher wrote that quenching the spirit occurs when we resist His ministry to us by failing to yield to God (ouch), saying no when He calls us (yikes), attempting to direct ourselves instead of being obedient (eek!) Just last week I confessed that I’d gotten too wrapped up in trying to handle it all and now I’m here. 

So before something else breaks, I’m throwing up my hands to yield. Not only am I not fighting, I’m also not playing the victim. I  will praising while I wait,  I’m trusting more deliberately that He will “Help me find a way, with the talents …entrusted to me, to serve. To find joy. To laugh. " Thank you, Amanda. Thank You Lord.

On Wednesdays, I pray and and play with friends here...

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I got nothin'...(Come join me at Circles of Faith)

Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, 
Surely the darkness will hide me   and the light become night around me,
even the darkness will not be dark to you
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
Psalms 139:7-12(NIV)

When I wrote this originally, I could relate to the Oprah Winfrey’s Sofia from The Color Purple, when she said,
“I know what it like to wanna go somewhere and caint. I know what it like to wanna sing... and have it beat out ya. I want to thank you, Miss Celie, fo evrything you done for me. I members that day in the store with Miss Millie - Is feelin real down. Is feelin mighty low. And when I seed you - I knowd they is a God. I knowd they is a God."

I was having a sad and sorry day. When I allowed myself to sink into the depth, I found that I couldn’t stay there long.  This lesson is fundamental to my faith, to the how and why I write, why I know that
when life gets particularly rough, there is comfort in that in an imperfect world, a perfect God loves us and abides with us through all things, reminding me that my cup is never empty and my blessings overflow. Come join me at Circles of Faith to read more…

I gave my daughter my last dollar this morning.  Looking into my wallet, I thought, “I got nothin’.” I was expecting a deposit to hit my account this; it hadn’t arrived.  (Good thing I didn’t make a pre-drop off production of getting to the bank; that could’ve proved embarrassing…)  Clearly I needed to remember from whence my provision comes.  Sighing quietly, clear that it was solely my business and no one else’s burden, I gave away the cash.

“I got nothin’.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I am my brother’s keeper (we all are)…

Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is your brother Abel?
I dont know, he replied. Am I my brothers keeper?
Genesis 4:9 (NIV)

We are our brother's keepers.
We may not be able to fly across 
the world to make a difference
but everyone of us can do something.
There are times when reading about mission work that people I know and admire are doing, I get a little discouraged. Not too long after, Thank God, my righteous mind reminds me that there are many ways to give and many mission fields in which we can work. Galatians exhorts us not to grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). It is better to do something, no matter how small, than not to act.  This week, Holley challenged we dreamers to write about our favorite non-profit organizations. There is an organization in our local community that reminds me of the Waterfront Rescue Mission where my dad served as program director until the Lord called him home. For years my family spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas serving members of our community home cooked and lovingly donated holiday meals while providing clothing, gifts and necessities. Where once I spent every holiday at the Mobile Shelter, now my heart belongs to MESH

Mesh is Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless, Inc. They are a “local, faith-based organization dedicated to engaging the Montclair community to provide basic and essential services to Montclair’s most vulnerable homeless adults." It all began when a local Episcopal priest grew increasingly concerned about people we all saw regularly, or perhaps tried not to...our neighbors, sleeping huddled on benches and in shallow doorways during a particularly harsh Northeastern Winter. Ours is a community where may residents do well. He decided that as a community, we could do better.  

I haven’t poured nearly enough time or resources into MESH yet, but the organization is energetically and soulfully led by my friend Gwen Parker Ames. She is a force of nature. More than simply providing meals and emergency shelter, MESH’s larger mission is to educate our community, as early as kindergarten, about challenges faced by the homeless and the hungry locally and globally. Kids in our community attend Homeless and Hungry Fairs where they attempt to construct viable shelters from donated cardboard boxes. It’s fun in the beginning, making Condiment Soup (which is kind of cool according to my son but not at all tasty), but the notion of dropping temperatures, no heat,  and just the merest amount of rain or snow and suddenly, these well-loved, well-fed, well-exposed children have just a frightening glimpse into the lives of their neighbors. Suddenly one of the awful scary things they see on TV are problems to which they can relate, and the lives and struggles of people who were once invisible but now see regularly become very real to them, AND they want to help.

Gwen takes her mission seriously. She lives her beliefs, and through FOGs (friends of Gwen) challenges us all tactically, financially, administratively, to live what we proclaim. We are our brother’s keepers, and while we may not all be able to fly across the world to make a difference in the lives of others, each of us, every one of us, can do something. So, in addition to volunteering at MESH, I’m writing about them, and using my voice to spread the word.  We are our brother’s keepers. All of us.

So whether you packing a bag to go across the world or packing groceries to cook and carry, remember two things,
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up…” Galatians 6:9 (ESV).
Cain’s question, and the Lord’s answer….”Am I my brother’s keeper?”  We are our brother’s keeper. All of us.

Go. Do. Something. Bless because you can, because no matter how meager your circumstances, even 5 fish and 3 loaves may be shared with a multitude.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Your Spacious Place is Coming

I am pleased and honored to introduce my friend Christine to you in a guest post today.  (My first guest poster ever). She writes at Living Joel 2:25. We met when we thought we were applying to a book launch team. We were, but God had bigger, broader, deeper plans for us, and Christine was among His Plans for me (Hallelujah and Thank You, Lord). We haven't met yet, but she is absolutely my back of the class, wise-cracking, hard-charging, hard-praying, fierce warrior sister forever and ever.  She writes what I need to hear, and prays for me, even when I'm too weak and weary to lift my own pleas to Heaven. She's awesome. 

You need to read what she's written. You will enjoy this, and you will be blessed...

All that is swirling around you right now, does it ever lead you down that path of, “Could it really be true?”

"I don’t know when or what the plan is,
but I know God is at work."
Your Spacious Place is Coming
Not God.

Not the Word.

Not the incredible fact that Jesus died to take away your sin. 

You got that.  That’s embedded down deep in the fabric of who you are.

But the promises He’s made you specifically?  Those He’s whispered so clearly, you looked around, certain the people next to you heard Him too.  Those He’s written so plainly, it wouldn’t surprise you if you came across your very name in the scriptures,

“I will repay you, Christine Wright, who lives in Florida and loves donuts, for the years the locusts have eaten...” Joel 2:25 (personalized Christine Wright version)

And yet nothing looks to reflect that promise.  Sure, sometimes you get a glimpse and you can feel your heart leap, but as quickly as it comes, it evaporates into more wilderness.  Miles upon miles of wilderness walk.

And all you can do is claim it.  Through tears, through the advice of well-meaning, but sometimes nay-saying friends.  Day in and day out, you claim it.  It is coming.  You know it is.  Because He does not change His mind. 

But eventually, even you start to wonder,

“Did I hear You right God?”

Because how could the promise possibly look like this?  Never did you think the path would be so long or would involve so much.

And yet, that little thread knows, “It’s coming...”

So you keep going.
And on.

I was there.  I am there.  I was broken.  I am broken.  And I am standing here telling you, if you need something to cling to today, if the walk is getting too long and the promises seem like maybe they were meant for someone else, please take this with you for the journey,

Your spacious place is coming.  It is. 

He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” (2 Samuel 22:20 NIV)

I don’t know when or what the plan is, but I know God is at work.  And those promises?  He will keep them.  Just because the road seems never-ending and the path, jarring, doesn’t mean He’s not weaving together the plans He has for you at this very minute.  All because He delights in you. 

I began writing this and over the next two days, things in my own life started taking a nose-dive.  A family member was rushed to the hospital.  A nasty head-cold set in (the kind that makes you want to crawl into a hole), and with it, a bone-deep exhaustion.  To top it off, all manner of God-sized questions (and doubts!) started filling my mind about my God-sized dreams and His promises to me.

And here I was, writing to assure you of a spacious place.

 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 (NIV)

It’s not the first time that’s happened.  

Here’s something those times have taught me though.  They aren’t a detour away from my spacious place, or an indication it’s not coming.  It’s merely a pause along the way, for my own good.  A sifting.  A little shake-shake to separate the good grain from the chaff and dust, that’s not worth lugging around.  Meant to lighten the load for the journey ahead.

That spacious place?  Oh, it’s coming, friend.  It is.


Christine has a heart for broken women who hide it well.  Women who find it impossible to believe God has a calling for them.  Personally touched by such things as divorce, miscarriage, sickness and alcoholism, she has walked a pain-filled road and believes the places her own heart has broken, are the places she can best help others.  Her life verse is Joel 2:25, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...”  Christine is married to Mr. Wright and has four children, ages 16, 14, 7 and 3, which means having a child in high school, middle, elementary and preschool, all at the same time!  She loves writing, pants with crazy prints, a really good nap, walking the beach at early morning, and donuts.  Lots of donuts.  Christine blogs at www.livingjoel225.com

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Breaking, broken, brokenness…(a check-in)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18(NASB)

Breaking, broken, brokenness. Broken is my OneWord for 2013. This is where I belong. Broken used to frighten me. I am no longer afraid. This year has been such a revelation, confessing my brokenness, because breaking gave me permission to be free. It gave me permission to be honest, to look at the scariest things, go to the deepest places, to  trust, to grow. To learn, but not to heal. I don’t want to be unbroken. My brokenness reminds me that I must stay close to the Throne, as it is He Who holds me together. I don’t want to be unbroken.

The 34th Psalm reminds me of my right place; close to my Savior.  
Join me at Still Saturday and at Barbie's Freshly BrewedLife

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