This is What You Are Looking For

I've been struggling to write this post for some time now. Because I wanted to reflect on advent. On the hope, love, joy, peace…the anticipation of what is to come. But I've had a hard time "feeling" in the Christmas spirit this year. So I thought maybe I could write about that - but my lack of Christmas motivation couldn't really be pegged on something. I could not drum up some inspirational post about those going through difficult times, or struggling with family dynamics, etc. Because the truth is I love going home for the holiday's and I love spending time with my family. I think I've just been really busy, and I think the fact that California has had 80 degree weather has made it just not FEEL like Christmas.

But as I reflected more I thought - the anticlimactic-ness of it all is something I think we often struggle with. Something everyone has struggled with along the way.

I was re-reading the birth account in Luke the other day in my copy of "The Message" and was struck by this phrase: "This is what you are looking for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and laying in a manger" (Luke 2:12).

That's it?

That's what all the fuss and prayers and anticipation and planning and preparation and prophesy have been about? Do you think the shepherds cleared their ears and asked the angels to repeat themselves? I think most of our friends would think we were crazy people if that was our response to their years of lament and cries for help.

I am oppressed and need a victor to rescue me…This is what you are looking for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and laying in a manger.

I am tired. I need rest. I need help. I need relief…This is what you are looking for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and laying in a manger

I am lonely. I need love. I need to belong. I need to feel significant…This is what you are looking for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and laying in a manger

I have no more hope. I need to believe it will all get better and there is a point…This is what you are looking for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and laying in a manger

I am poor. I need money and resources. I am afraid of what will happen to myself or my family if I can't figure out soon how to make ends meet…This is what you are looking for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and laying in a manger

But it's exactly that anticlimactic-ness that makes the story the most amazing and relatable.

When there seems to be no reason to hope, we have hope.
When there seems to no one or no reason to love, Christ became love.
When there is no cause for celebration or joy, we have joy.
When our world is so turned upside down we shouldn't find peace, Christ is our peace.

Christ came to turn the world upside down. Came in powerlessness to adjust expectations. To help us realize it was not about what we could do: with our brute force, witty political prowess or celebrity status - it's the power of God. If God was going to redeem the world, it was going to have to be done his way - and his ways are not our ways. His ways (quite frankly) make no sense a lot of the time. But they are beautifully relatable - a Savior that understand rejection, loneliness, hunger, pain, boredom, tiredness, oppression, darkness, and abandonment. But a Savior that also understand love, joy, hope, peace, perseverance, power, relief, resources and true communion with God. Had he been born our literal version of a King like Israel expected, he couldn't have understood or experienced those thing. He had to flip the paradigm upside down - he had to be born in an anticlimactic way so we would adjust our expectations and he would truly suffer human existence.

So if you're having a hard Christmas this season - whether you can't get in the holiday spirit, or you have come from a rough year with difficult struggles, or you feel lonely, or you're lacking in hope - know that you are not alone.

…This is what you are looking for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and laying in a manger.

This Post First Appeared on The Salt Collective


Sitting in the Pain and Darkness

It's one of the harder conversations you'll have out on the track. The ones that seem to have no hope. The ones that end in tears.

Running into a smiling face that you see week to week is both joyous and heart-breaking. Joyous because we love building relationships with the women out on the streets and it is a gift being able to see them multiple times and hear more bits and pieces of their story. Heart-breaking because each time we see them out on the track means one more week they've been trapped. One more week they've been a slave to the obstacles and lies in their life.

We saw "Sixty" on Friday (not her real name). And I love running into her. She always has the biggest hug waiting for me and a huge smile on her face. But this week was slightly different. She greeted me with that same hug and smile- the slight scent of alcohol on her breath - as she told us to "hurry up and pray for her so she could get on her way." But then she became deflated. She said she was sick of it all and wanted out.

"I'm serious. When have you ever heard me say this before? I mean it. Get me out of here."

My heart rate livened. I became excited. And I became hopeful that perhaps this was the night. I offered to call some places for her right there. We'd sit down on the curb and make calls all night until we found her a safe place to go, but she was discouraged by that. "You mean I have to call places? I might have to wait? I have to do intakes? I don't have all night to just sit around and hope something works out."

And so that was that. I was sad, but I know it's frustrating. I know when you are discouraged and at the end of your rope any small obstacle in your way feels enormous - but my heart ached in that moment that Sixty wasn't quite ready to take the steps to get free. And there was nothing I could do but sit in the pain and the darkness with her. To  listen to her talk about the thoughts that go through her head in her darkest moments of wanting to take a handful of pills so it'll all be over. Of her pleas that I would make up a false complaint and call the cops so she might have a few nights of relief behind cell bars away from it all. 

And these are the moments it is the hardest. It is difficult to just stand in the chilly stillness and be present. And it is maddening to eventually have to walk away. Knowing that God loves this woman more than I ever could and he is working a bigger picture that I am only a small part of, but feeling like the only thing I am doing is abandoning her.

We spent last night as an After Hours outreach team talking about our fears, and the fears of the women we meet out on the track - and how many of those fears stem from our inability to grasp and truly believe our identity in Christ as his beloved. Loved. Enjoyed. Before we did anything. Because when we don't fully grasp our worth - it is hard to fight for even our own lives. 

I'm making calls and looking up places that might not have long waiting periods. I'm hoping the next time we meet Sixty will be in a space where she is more willing and able to fight those obstacles in her life. But until then, I pray. I wait. I weep. And I trust the God who finds her worthy beyond compare to come to her aid when my efforts are insufficient. 


Who Am I?

I just sat through a weeklong intensive for my Fuller Doctor of Ministry Program on the Psychosocial and Spiritual Development of Adolescents. It was fascinating and intellectually exhausting. We talked about a lot of really in-depth and important things, but there was one thing that stood out to me as being the simplest yet hardest concepts of the week.
Identity. Who am I? This is the most significant question we can ask ourselves today. And most of us have no clue how to answer it. According to Henri Nouwen, (you should all read his book “In the Name of Jesus”) we answer it in one of three ways:
I am what I do (Ambition)
I am what I control (Lust)
I am what others say about me (Pride)
We constantly subject ourselves to forces outside of our control. We can never sufficiently answer this question of “Who am I” when we seek to answer it in one of these three ways – based on others and cultural circumstances. They reinforce an identity based on a second love.
But the truth is our identity is quite simple: I am the beloved child. Loved. Enjoyed. Before I did anything.
Before I messed anything up.
Before I did anything brilliant.
Before I made something of myself.
Before I impressed all those people.
Before I made any money.
Before I lost it all.
Before the addiction.
Before the recognition.
Before the divorce.
Before the promotion.
Before the kids.
Before all the surgeries and cool clothes and fake glasses and make up and….before.
It’s so simple. But it’s the hardest thing we’ll ever learn to grasp. To rest in an identity of being rather than doing. Of growing rather than achieving. Of trusting in God’s love rather than proving my own goodness.
Who are you?
This post originally appeared on The Salt Collective


All Those Bible Verses That Apply To You...But I'm Not Sure If They Apply To Me

I just turned 30. That gives you reason to pause and reflect a bit on where you have come from, where you are going and what you are doing with your life. And if you are the kind of person that believes in God – He’ll likely be a central role in those reflections.

Let me introduce my backstory just a bit. I grew up in a loving Christian home. My dad was a youth pastor in a congregation for a while before taking to traveling and speaking (like a missionary) full time. My parents also lead short-term mission trips during the summers across Western Europe. In high school I far too closely resembled Mandy Moore from the movie “Saved”. Somehow I ended up at seminary where I studied Theology and Cross-Cultural Studies. In my travels around the world I gained a heart for the vulnerable and oppressed, specifically the sexually exploited. So I focused my cross-cultural studies on that demographic. In the midst of seminary I began volunteering with an organization called After Hours Ministry, a street outreach to men and women who are prostituted in Los Angeles. I now work with them on staff.

The problem is, as I’ve gotten to know God more – the more distant He’s felt. The more silent He’s gotten. I love reading about saints like Mother Theresa and learning that a majority of her life was a dark night of the soul. I don’t envy her – and I hope that is not how the rest of my story goes – but I really do struggle at times to see how she pushed through. How she cognitively clung to promises she had no actual experience of.

And that’s what brings us to the title of this post.

I read things like Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Or Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
Or Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Or Romans 8:28, “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.”

And I believe it (yes, I know I am proof-texting and out of context, hang with me) – I’ll tell the men and women who are prostituted on the streets of L.A. I meet those very words with all sincerity – the problem is…I really don’t think they apply to me.

Sometimes the Bible feels so big and impersonal. Full of contradictions you aren’t sure which pieces to hold on to and how to reconcile the others.

I believe fiercely in a God of justice that longs for human flourishing. That cares passionately for the oppressed.

I think the reason I have a hard time translating that to my own life is because I don’t think I’ve suffered as much as the pain I see in the world, so I translate that to God being busy passionately pursuing and attending to those others with the “real” problems. This is the same reason I have never once taken the time to talk to a pastor or leader at any church I have been at, always saying in the back of my mind “they are probably very busy and there are other people with ‘real’ problems that need their time.”

How do I expect God to care about my deep loneliness or the unbalance in my life when chemical weapons are being used in Syria?  Or when young boys and girls are being enslaved and prostituted…

Or when there is drunkenness
Or when there is divorce
Or when there is adultery
Or when there is codependency
Or when there is homophobia
Or when there is addiction
Or when there is sickness
Or when there is death

It is hard to believe God is that big. And not rolling His eyes at me when I pray my small prayers and requests.

I think that is why we need community. That’s the only way the Bible and God begin to make sense. Because when I have a hard time believing those promises apply to me that’s when God sends a Krissy into my life to say “God told me to love you” and maybe that’s enough right now in this dark night of the soul. Maybe God will choose to be silent a whole longer but He sends others along the way to speak to me on his behalf, to help me to believe or to believe for me.

If you have a hard time believing the truths in the Bible that God loves you, will not forsake you, and blesses those who seek Him – I’d love to hear from you. Cause I have a hard time believing that for myself too – but I believe it for you, and sometimes it’s easier to see God moving in someone else’s story – so I’d love to hear yours.


Why Doesn't Washington Look Like Me?

We all make biased decisions. And if you say “not me” you’re lying. So what I don’t understand is why those that represent America aren’t actually more….representative. Perhaps it is because campaigns have gotten so out of hand and a typical lower or middle class person with a modest or poor living would not stand a chance running a successful one. So then their voice isn’t heard over those with more fundraising capabilities.
Earlier last month the House of Representatives passed a bill by 217-200 in favor of cutting food stamp benefits.
Eliminate food stamps? Sure!! That’s a great way to save some money and we don’t REALLY have to think about the ramifications when we are an upper or middle class citizen. Do you think if you had someone in the House of Representatives that was ON food stamps right now that conversation would have gone differently?
Cutting food stamps would save us $39 billion over 10 years – but it would impact 4 million Americans on the program. Most of which are children, elderly or disabled. 1 in 7 Americans profit from this program. And 15% of Americans today live in poverty. (All this directly ripped off of the BBC here)
Now, I am not arguing anything against or for that actual bill – it’s probably been vetoed/destroyed/shot down/killed by now – what I am arguing is that stuff like this wouldn’t even end up on the table, or would certainly have a deeper and richer conversation, if our representatives were actually “representative”.
Do you think a governmental shut down would happen for this long if Congress had been forced to take a break from their pay? Or been forced to take furlough? Okay, some of them have voluntarily done this, so let me phrase it a different way – do you think the shutdown would last this long if taking no pay wasn’t an option for them? If they weren’t in such a fantastic place financially (with over half on congress being millionaires) that they are able to look charitable by forgoing they pay they “should be getting”?
The decisions they make don’t impact them in the same way it does those it trickles down to, which is why they are able to so quickly make them. And I understand that they believe they are speaking for their constituencies – but sometimes I wonder if we got a better representation of what America actually is with more diversity of economic status, race, disability, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.; then we would get vastly different decisions and conversations coming out of congress. We all have bias – that’s why we need those different from us to help balance us out – make sure we’re seeing with proper perspective. I don’t think our congress has that. At all.
For other interesting reading:
Congress Millionaires Club 


Why I dislike the word "real"

I have seen a lot of conferences and blog posts and books and advertisements (and you name it) that cater to letting you know how you can be a "real" man or a "real" woman or "real" christian or "real" adventurer or "real" beauty (or insert "real" here). 

I dislike the word real. I dislike this challenge to be a "real" woman, because how do we know what a "real" woman is?

At this point in my life, I don't have any real strong desire to be a mother. But I have friends that are AMAZING mothers - which one of us is a real woman?

I love to cook. I have friends of mine who would burn down the house if they tried to cook - but they are way better at listening, praying and encouraging others than I am. So, which one of us is a "real" woman?

I am curvy. I have friends that are skinny. I have friends that are mexican and asian and white and ambiguous and tall and short and freckled and tan and flat chested and straight toothed and tatted and curly haired and hairless. So, which one of us is "real" beauty?

I get the heart behind it. The heart behind biblically challenging women that to be a "real" woman (although, don't get me or Rachel Held Evans started on the word "biblical") to read the bible and pray and support your husband and do a  million other things. But what about women without husbands? What about women that suck at praying - women who experience God better out in nature - who commune with God better when they are working with their hands or hiking rather than down on their knees? Does that make them any less real?

We can't define men and women and beauty and Christianity because we can't define humanity. God made everyone different. We experience life uniquely thorough the lens we were created with. 

So please stop defining yourself by these terms. Stop trying to live up to cultures expectations of whether you are a real woman or not. You are real. You are you, and that's as real as you can be. You are beautiful, and unique and perfectly suited to be all God made you to be. Don't try to be anything other than that. And I won't either.


Open Letter to Travelocity

I work for an amazing company, Fuller Theological Seminary. We have the great privilege of working with and for ministry leaders from all over the world. One such leader is a pastor and seminary professor from Myanmar. In order to be the best professor and pastor he can be he has applied for the Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller. 

We were able to find this pastor a full scholarship for this first course here on campus. A generous and gracious church has covered all his expenses: flight, housing, food, tuition, books - it is a really beautiful thing.

So our office has begun making arrangements to bring him to campus. We booked a flight with you, Travelocity, from Myanmar to Los Angeles for him. A few hours after booking the flight we were contacted via email letting us know it was canceled. 

We called you to inquire as to why the flight had been canceled. After one of my colleagues was on hold with your customer service for one hour and thirty four minutes, you informed us that the passengers name was not acceptable. You see, he only has one name. No first name, only a family name. So when booking the ticket we put in "First Name Unknown" and then his Last Name. My colleague inquired "am I not able to use your service if the passenger does not have an American name?" to which your customer service representative replied, "If they do not have a first and last name, the bank will not allow them to book a ticket."

We are paying for his ticket as the accredited graduate school supporting his studies, so I do not understand why the bank should be an issue. We have a copy of his passport verifying he only has one name - why is it that you cannot complete a simple transaction allowing a citizen from Myanmar to use your service to fly to America?

It baffles me that in today's world we still make things so inaccessible to those who do things differently than us. 

So we booked the flight through Expedia. It took approximately 34 seconds and in the amount of time it took me to write you this letter we already got the confirmation of the ticket. I am glad to see that some companies are willing to work with various cliental from around the world. Thank you, Expedia, I will be using you a lot more in the future.



The Significance of Space

Lately I’ve been thinking about the significant of place.

Asking myself questions about where I am at in my journey – looking at how far I have come, asking why I am not further – figuring out what steps I need to take to grow, transform, and awaken my soul.

I got finished reading “Pilgrimage of a Soul” by Phileena Heuertz. And it is a GREAT book. I really related to it in a number of significant ways. But what struck me as she told her story and shared about her journey out of darkness was that much of it took place on a pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago in Spain and during a sabbatical in North Carolina.

Spirituality would be a whole lot easier if we didn’t have to tease it out in our normal routine.

When I think back on my most profound spiritual experiences, they have taken place camping in a tent underneath a waterfall in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland; watching the sunset against the red rocks in Las Vegas, Nevada; or sitting in the presence of a suffering man in a leper colony in Kathmandu, Nepal.

But each time I come back from those experiences, I slip right back into routine at home and get frustrated losing half of all the progress I’ve made. Sometimes it feels like I need to “go away” in order to make any real significant headway in my spiritual growth.

I just started reading the book “The Solace of Fierce Landscapes” by Belden Lane. First of all, amazing. I have only made it through two chapters, so there is only so much I can say about the book at this point – but I am fairly certain I will be encouraging you all to buy it! In the introduction as he begins to talk about mountain and desert landscapes he says, “Growth in the spiritual life requires adopting a conscious ‘habit of being.’ Far too easily do we embrace the illusion that changing places is the simplest way of changing ourselves.”

And that’s exactly it!

As I embark on this journey of awakening and transformation coming out of this long season of darkness I've been in, I can’t help but feel that things would be easier, or at least faster, if I were not in my normal everyday routine. If I were able to just get away for a 4-month sabbatical or go on a pilgrimage across the highlands of Scotland. If I were able to escape all that constantly frustrates me, and drags me down, and causes me to lose my patience, and those things I lust and obsess over. But you can’t ever escape it. And even if you are lucky enough to get a sabbatical or embark on a pilgrimage, you have to come home sometimes. So you have to learn to develop a spirituality that can survive.

I spent just one day at the Center for Action and Contemplation with Fr. Richard Rohr last week and really enjoyed some of the contemplative routines he implemented throughout the day. He started the day with several minutes of centering prayer. Throughout the day a timer was set so every 20 minutes a bell chimed and the whole class stopped for just 5-10 seconds to pause, detach, and center ourselves from wherever our focus was back on God. And our afternoon break was a 30-45 minute contemplative walk around the neighborhood – trying to clear our minds. Fr. Rohr said to us “don’t think, just look” – and this is a very hard practice to learn. But I want to learn. And I need to learn – to begin to implement new routines in my life to nurture my soul in the everyday.

What are some of your favorite routines that help you to detach and reconnect with God in the midst of the chaos? 


A Position of Love

From "Theirs is the Kingdom" by Robert D Lupton

Why do Christians not agree on such important matters? Is it because some are more spiritually mature than others? Are some more hermeneutically astute and able to gain more accurate insight into the word of God? Surely God doesn't contradict himself. What shall we do when well-meaning Christians come up with different answers from the ones God has clearly revealed to us as his truth?
Perhaps we should try to educate these ignorant ones. If they refuse to accept the truth, we can cut them off from our fellowship...But one of the things that troubles me as I take up causes for the kingdom is this: our Lord has told us the essential I.D for all "card-carrying" Christians is "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). There is nothing distinguishing about holding certain political positions, engaging in debates, staging protests. Whether we pledge allegiance to the moral majority or the radical minority, whether we vote Republican or Democrat (or Independent , Libertarian, or Socialist), there is no visible statement to the world about our commitment to the lordship of Christ. We may join pro- or anti-nuke, life, draft, NRA, Contra, or defense bandwagons and do so for all the right reasons, but this will not cause us to shine like lights in darkness. Such affiliations may express our convictions, but they do not set us apart as "Christ-ones." 
There is only one activity so unique to this world that Christ distinguished it as the proof of his deity and of our authenticity as his followers...It is more reconciling than Camp David peace accords, more convincing than arguments for and against abortion or gay rights, or the authority of scripture. It illuminates the minds of men and women more than Christian television or political debates, and it is not an option for a Christian. It is a command. It is love. Love of a special sort. 
Unfortunately, we seldom see this love. We talk about it, but quickly abandon it in the pursuit of "rightness." Perhaps building cases for issues is much more exciting than loving each other; issues allows us to win, or at least compete. Love on the other hand, lays down its ego, its case, its defenses for the sake of another--and that isn't fun.  
And yet our Lord saw love as so vital that he spent his last night emphasizing and reemphasizing it to his disciples. He assured them (and us) that he would reveal himself to them, give his Holy Spirit to teach them, grant all that they ask, give them peace and joy, and call them his friends of they would but obey him by living out his love (John 13-15). Would it be easy? Is laying down your life easy? Yet, said Christ, this is how love is measured.  
But what about the issues? Shouldn't we take stands on important issues like human rights, war, and even life itself? Of course. We must. This isn't to say that all Christians will take the same stand. As long as we are fallen and our perceptions are colored by our experience, as long as we have blind spots and different personalities, we will continue coming up with different answers.  
Yet somehow in the tension between the poles, God continues to work. Love leads us to an appreciative understanding of the unique contribution each member makes to the body of Christ, and thus the tension is creative. But without the willingness to lay aside, at least for a time, our own position in order to affirm a dissenting brother or sister, the tension will undoubtedly be destructive. I suspect that Christ is working overtime these days healing the ears (and egos) of those we have slashed in his defense. Perhaps it is time we put away our swords and began displaying the mark of "Christ-ones:" Love.

Enough said.


Manipulated for the Sake of Relationship

I started reading "Theirs is the Kingdom" by Robert D. Lupton. I might be A LITTLE behind. The book came out in 1989. But to be fair, I wasn't all that into reading when I was 6, so I feel I have a good excuse.

This book is great though! I love the unique angle he takes in talking about life and ministry in urban settings. Most of the book is just stories. And a whole lot of it is about failing. Wrong decisions, mistakes, struggles and fears. The book is raw, honest, challenging and convicting. I am sure I will talk about it a bit more later…but for now I want to engage one specific chapter.

It is the chapter titled "Kurt" and it is about a man he got to know in his neighborhood with a really difficult story. His mom was murdered, he had tried to take revenge and had suffered the ramifications of trying to take things into his own hands (beaten in skull with a baseball bat for one thing!). He was an alcoholic and drug abuser but was trying to (and seeming to succeed in his efforts to) turn his life around. 

He had gotten a job and needed money for the bus fare. So Robert gave him that money. Only problem was Kurt ended up purchasing liquor. 

Robert was devastated. He felt used. Lied to. Stupid. 

I think I deal with these thoughts, reservations, and this skeptical outlook often as we work with the women out on the track. I hear a lot of really sad stories. A lot of seemingly helpless situations - but I often wonder how true they are. When it seems like all they need is some money for formula and diapers - I wonder how true that is. If I were to give them that money - would that really solve anything? Would the money really go to buy diapers?

Robert goes on to say "I can see the conditions I place on my giving, my own subtle forms of manipulation. I am confronted with my pride that requires others to conform to my image. I see my need to control, to meter out love in exchange for the responses I desire. I will opt to be manipulated in person. For somewhere concealed in these painful interactions are the key to my own freedom."


I was in class in February and one of the other students told a story about  Mother Theresa handing out food on the street. Several of the people were going through the line three or four times! One of the volunteers came up to Mother and told her that someone should regulate the process better because these people were taking more than their fair share and trying to go around the corner and sell it!! Mothers response? "The rich get spoiled so often, it's about time someone spoiled the poor."

How profound.

I know there is so much more to this conversation and it is such a fine line (giving without regard and caring about unhealthy behaviors) - but I think I agree with Robert's line of thinking. I would rather be manipulated in person. I would rather build relationships, and listen to the half truths that spring from the deep need that resides within. Maybe the money or resources don't always go to where I wish they would or where I would choose - but the first step is presence. Consistency.  Love. And then freedom.

I don't know - maybe this doesn't make sense. But this is what I'm chewing on for the day….chew with me. And pick up the book if you get a chance. We can dialogue more.


The Already....But Not Yet

Last night out on the track it was Good Friday. And I couldn't help but think about our interactions with the girls in light of this significant night. This significant moment we stop to pause and allow ourselves to lament. To cry. Sunday is coming, yes, but it is not here yet. We are left with the tension of despair and darkness and hope and gratefulness. Kingdom Come. They say it is "already, but not yet" - and most days it just feels like not yet, because the "already" is so hidden. 

And this is what our girls face on a daily basis. They live on Friday night. They live in the despair and darkness of the defeat of death, and it is up to us to bring the power of the resurrection. To let them know that Sunday IS coming. That things can be different. That death is defeated and the Kingdom has come…and is coming.

But we have to be willing to sit with them in the darkness. In the pain. Not everyday can be Sunday. Friday and Saturday had to come before. And I think we are uncomfortable with those days. We don't like to hear about the mother who is out on the track because she just has to buy her kid some diapers and formula. We don't want to hear about the girl who is out on the track because she tried to get away several times before but her pimp found her every time. We don't want to hear about the young lady who is on the track because dad is in jail, mom is on drugs and she's got siblings at home to take care of. We don't want to hear about the young mother who is out on the track because her 9 month old got cancer and she has to find a way to pay the bills. Those stories make us uncomfortable. We want to jump to the success stories. To making it all better and offer solutions. It is hard to just sit in the pain. To cry with someone. And to realize all you have to offer them is hope.


It is so powerful. But Hope with Faith is even better. Hope that is built on nothing less than Jesus love and righteousness. On Christ the solid rock, I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. 

Praying for the grace and ability to see the "already" while holding out hope for the not yet.


Two Great Lectures

Attention People Who Like To Hear Other People Talk:

Fuller's The Burner Blog and Doctor of Ministry Program have two events coming up (back to back!) that I think are pretty fantastic. And they're FREE! So you should come. But first, you need to know about them.

1. Rob Bell: talking about his book and being Rob Bell. April 10th. First Baptist Church. 7p

2. Chris and Phileena Heuertz: talking about Word Made Flesh and hopefully "Unexpected Gifts"! April 11th. Payton 101. 7p.

I'll be at both, so really...you should come just to hang out with me.

But, seriously, don't miss out. 


Irresistible Jesus

Last night's outreach was fun. We were able to talk to around 20 girls or so, and have some good conversations, but what I remember most about the night is how irresistible Jesus is. I'll just share one story….

There were two girls standing on one corner. We approached N* first, she was polite and took a bag but when we asked her if she wanted any prayer she was very adamant that she did not. So we moved on. 

We then talked to M* who was standing on that same corner just a few feet away. She was very open to chatting with us. She very much wants out of prostitution, she is tired and sad and beaten down. But knows that it is a battle within her own mind that is keeping her trapped where she is. We offered to pray for her and she eagerly accepted (Actually, I think she asked us for prayer before we could even offer it!). 

In the middle of our prayer for her, another woman we see quite often out on the streets, L*, walked up shouting "My girls!!!!" She ran to embrace us and join in our prayer time. Seeing us all embracing on the street and praying together, N* walked over and said, "okay, um…I want to pray to, I want prayer!"

It was a beautiful and holy moment. 

The woman who didn't want to engage with us and was very resistant to prayer couldn't resist it any longer when a community of people came together on a dim street corner to pray. When M* was vulnerable enough to acknowledge her weaknesses and need for God, it enabled N* to do the same. When L* was free in her excitement of seeing us and joining in our prayer, it enabled N* to do that same. It was a holy moment. Christ was irresistible, and he met N* in her resistance, hesitancy and vulnerability. 


The Power of Prayer

We ran into a beautiful young woman last night that we've had the opportunity to talk to a few times before. She was very friendly, and willing to engage in conversation for a while. But what really stood out to me was when I offered to pray for her. 

She got this sly smile on her face and told us that while she didn't necessarily MIND prayer, but the last time she let us pray for her - she got a lot of thing she wanted, but she also got a lot of answers to prayer in ways that she didn't want. 

This got me thinking about my own prayer life. My own relationship with God. How often do I dumb down my own prayer life because I am afraid of being bold enough to ask God for things. I think this plays out in two ways:

First, because I am afraid I won't get what I ask for. I think this will be a reflection on my stupidity to ask in the first place or my unbelief in being able to bring it to fruition. So I just avoid it. If I am not specific in my prayers - then I don't have to deal with disappointment. I avoid praying for healing. For vision. For clarity. Because when I don't get these things - It is less disappointing when I haven't specifically asked for them.

Secondly, I am afraid of how God will bring about the answer to my prayers. If I ask for greater faith - what sort of struggles will I have to go through? If I pray for humility how is He going to bring that about? If I pray for an understanding of God's great love for me - not seeing my worth through the eyes of others - what sort of situations will I go through to truly grasp and understand that?

So I could totally understand why this beautiful young woman didn't want prayer. Why she actually FEARED the bold prayers of those of us who believe in a God that deeply loves her and has an amazing plan for her life. A God that will never give up on her and desires to see her flourish in freedom and communion with Him. 

That's a frightening thing if you don't believe it for yourself yet. If you're afraid of how those prayers will be answered. 

While we were with her last night we said a prayer of blessing and protection for her children (that much she would allow!). But tonight - and in the weeks ahead - I will be praying for her - for her life and purpose - and I am excited to see how God begins to answer those prayers. And I'm excited for the next time I run into her and can check up on how she continues to be fearful of the power of prayer. Because prayer IS powerful. And we forget that a lot. It was nice to be reminded. 


Preaching and Justice

I just took my first Fuller Doctor of Ministry course. And it was....amazing. So very grateful for this week I got to spend in class with 15 other dedicated and innovative ministry leaders. Inspiring conversations, challenging my assumptions, and best of all - deeply refreshing to my spirit. A great week of personal renewal in the midst of academic challenge.

I am still very much debriefing and processing the week - so I thought I would share just a few tidbits for the week. Some quotes, some thoughts, some brief disjointed notes from lectures--I'd love your gut reactions and feedback. I'll try to write more as I process more and especially as I move into the writing of my paper. I am not giving you context on purpose - so if you choose to respond I can hear your interpretation of some of the things we talked about in class. Then maybe we'll flesh some of those things out (in context) later.

"smallness is the absolutely inverse of the God who made himself known in Jesus"

"Our life is lived in the context of the triune God. We are adopted into the perfect union of father, son and spirit. Our lives are in and with and for the father, son and spirit. In that context, we are nurtured back to health (human flourishing) – recast in the context in which we were meant live. We are given a fresh vision of human flourishing: perfect love, no rivalry, no alienation. As we live in that communion we are given a new home and new context in which to dwell."

"How do we hold on to a theological view of flourishing through the fog of our own social location (whether privilege, oppression or poverty)? We are searching for the righteous, just character of God. The giver of life. The giver of a vision of life. The deepest expression of what it means to be human. The church is a journey (agent) of humanizing of the world. We are seeking to be an agent of people becoming fully human in the way we were designed to be."

"Most of what I know and do has been learned from having done it badly in some way"

"In a world of violent aggressive justice – it makes it hard to love God. There are serious challenges to loving God when there is a world full of suffering that is intentional, evil and brutal and is taking place on a large scale. God allows this?!? So how do we love God in a fallen world of violent injustice?"

"Humanity is the same everywhere. We are around people right now that in their seeming civility have a great capacity for evil and oppression. It is not just 15 hours away."

"What is Justice? What is Injustice? At its core – it is about power. Power, from scripture, is an objectively good thing. God is powerful. Power is the capacity or ability to affect, to do something. But what we are aware of is that it is a capacity with tremendous dangers. It corrupts."

"Violence requires lies and deception. The oppressor is actually working from a position of weakness. If everyone could see what they were actually doing – they feel insecure in their position. The reason oppressors actually lie about what they are doing is because they are afraid – that they won’t actually be able to hold their position. You think the violent oppressor has no fears, but you begin to see the way they have to lie to keep doing what they’re doing – and in that they are exposing their fears. You can see what they are afraid of and what they don’t think they can stand by those lies."

"We need to learn the capacity to let ourselves be deeply impacted by things – yet not paralyzed. And to let God meet us in that. You create the space to invite suffering into the narrative of hope or to fence it out."

"The hardest thing for people to believe about the Christian faith? That God is good. Simply because they are in so much pain. What is God’s plan for making it believable that He is good when there is so much suffering in the world? We’re the plan! And God doesn’t have another plan."

"You need to have an emphasis on the intentionally on seeking refreshing joy. It is not sustainable to serve endlessly in the darkness and in the sorrow and in the grief without times of getting out of it and running and finding and spending times with beauty and laughter and joy and goodness so you are refreshed to return to it."

"As a well-educated white man, the things I want to call wise are because they are readily available to me.  It is “wise” to have AAA, but really it is sociological. The wisdom I teach needs to be much more than my sociology, it needs to be the gospel. How do we break out of that? What happens in the new humanity is that slave and free, man and woman are all together and we all pursue the wisdom of God – it can’t just be the social circumstances I look at – in our diversity we labor and look together. We bring this across lines I find hostile, awkward, inconvenient and difficult."

I know these are disjointed thoughts (and too many of them!) But there were so many more I didn't even put on here. I am so excited to process in the weeks and months ahead. And I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on God's heart for justice - and how that plays our in your local context, ministry or congregation. 

I was so encouraged coming out of this week by the discussions - and by the men (I was the only woman taking the class!) who were excited to bring this foundation and passion for justice back to their congregations. To get involved with ministries like After Hours - to see what they could do to cultivate their hearts of their congregants to be more aligned with the heart and passions of Christ. It was a beautiful thing to witness and converse about for a week.