We Didn’t #bringbackourgirls – So Now What?

In May there was an uprising on social media of celebrities and nobodies raising our call for social justice in a cry for the voices of the oppressed in Nigeria be heard.
What happened to #bringbackourgirls? Celebrities took cute photos. Wrote hashtags on poster boards and rallied their twitter followers. We were so gung-ho on this campaign we all put up pictures, hash-tagged all our posts, and linked to news articles.
We rose to the fad, until we got tired.
I think part of having a correct view of the word “biblical” especially when it comes to biblical justice is figuring out how to sustain our empathy and concern for the long haul.
It has been more than 3 months since the kidnap of more than 200 school girls – and THEY STILL HAVEN’T BEEN FOUND. But we, in America, lost interest. Perhaps that’s not fair – I don’t think I could say anyone I talk to has lost interest, we’ve just lost steam. We’ve become overwhelmed with how to figure out how to actually do something about it.
They weren’t brought back and we had no idea what to do after that.
In June, Boko Haram kidnapped 60 more girls – and we became even more paralyzed – and some of us didn’t even notice because we had removed ourselves from the heartbreak of the story. According to many news outlets and analysists – #bringbackourgirls has failed.
This issue is much bigger than even the #bringbackourgirls campaign. New York-based Human Rights Watch says more than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Nigeria this year by Boko Haram. The deaths occurred in around 95 separate attacks in more than 70 towns and villages in the north-east, where Boko Haram launched its insurgency in 2009 (Guardian News).
The Nigerian Government says it knows where the girls are – but they are fearful of retaliation against the girls in captivity or other civilians if they were to launch an operation to rescue them. It is indeed a messy and scary situation.
I fear Boka Haram thinks that was the extent of our response. They aren’t the least bit afraid of a hashtag. Which isn’t to say they’re useless – but we can’t stop at posting a witty 140 character thought provoking responses on twitter.
And many have given up hope. “Privately, some Western diplomats have already begun to play down expectations that the girls will ever be rescued…What may happen is that from time to time, some may seize a chance to escape, or a deal may be done with one particular local faction that is holding some of the hostages. Over the course of a few months or years they may begin to reappear” (The Telegraph).
But I’m not here to make you feel guilty (really!) I just want to convey that this is something we should STILL care about. And that I understand it’s very tricky. Advocating and caring for those caught up in violent oppression is a whole different kind of justice.
So….what do we do now?
  1. Keep Praying. As my father used to always say, “Prayer is not a preparation for a greater work, prayer is the greater work.” You can see repeatedly throughout scriptures that the prayers of righteous people immediately impacted situations (Amos, for example, in chapter 4 praying against his visions, three separate times, and the Lord relenting and sparing Israel).
  1. Continue conversations about this. I know it is uncomfortable and horrific – but pretending it is not happening won’t make it any less real. Bring it up with your leaders at church. Request to have small group discussion and sermons preached on a theological response to violence against women. Bring it up with friends – talk through the frustrations and your helplessness. Simply bringing the conversation back alive is a step in the right direction.
  1. Take it a step further and use these conversations to then begin confessing and shattering the silence of violence against women without our own context. “In the United States one out of ever four women has experienced domestic violence and one out of six has experienced attempted or completed rape” (NCADV). Stop the cycle of violence, stop the shame, open the church to conversation and make it a place of safety for healing and restoration.
  1. Use the political influence you have. There is a separation of church and state – but the Church is a large entity here in the States and can be a powerful voice for steering responses to injustice in our world. Make your voice heard with your representatives that this is not some issue “over there” but one you believe the United States needs to step into to care for our Nigerian neighbors. I am sure there is much more going on politically than you or I know – but simply letting your representatives in government hear that this is an issue they can’t forget about and have to continue pursuing is helping bring the voice back to those suffering waiting to be found.
  1. Become aware of the resources available to help victims of violence. What programs exist in your community that are providing a holistic look at the cultural, political, religious and social environments of the women in their care. What can you learn about violence that would make you a better stranger, friend, mentor or neighbor to someone who has experienced violence that you may be in relationship with now or in the future?
  1. Don’t wait for someone else to do all of the above things. Don’t think “my pastor will do it” or “those in politics will take care of advocating” or “the social justice team at our church will take care of it.” YOU. You are responsible to do your part and become a voice for the change God desires to bring to our broken and hurting world.

The Christian church today is guilty of the sin of omission when it comes to seeking justice against violent oppression in the world. We’re not the ones oppressing – but we’ve turned a blind eye and decided the mission of God for the dignity and flourishing of human beings can be handed over to our political officials. It’s time to take it back. It’s time to recognize who is our neighbor and that, as Martin Luther said, “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly”
The education and dignity of women is a human and theological issue. As Elizabeth Gerhardt in her WONDERFUL book The Cross and Gendercide reminds us, “There is no optimistic, utopian hope for a kindgdom of God on earth. There is only the Christ that encounters us and call us to be for the other” (p. 166).


The Problem With The Word "biblical"

Since President Obama took office in 2009, questions of biblical justice have come to the forefront for Western Christians to consider. Plenty of these questions were issues even before President Obama took office, of course, but the tides of history seemed to change and themes of justice took on a new light and gained new invigoration as the first black President of the United States took oath. For many Christians, the central role of justice in the political sphere has similarly led the church to address the role of justice in the Christian faith, these issues were and continue to be important for the church to think about.
The Western church is at a point in history when the call for biblical justice is great. Some issue or aspect of biblical justice will affect you no matter who you are, where you live, or what interests you have your life. Obamacare, gun owners rights, immigration reforms, abortion laws, gay marriage, terrorism, unemployment, environmental laws and labor and sex trafficking are just a very few of the issues calling for the Church’s attention. The problem is the Western church cannot agree what biblical justice looks like in any of these situations.
Even the major voices guiding the church today cannot seem to agree. At a conference last year, Mark Driscoll, lead pastor of a mega church in Seattle, said that because the world would eventually burn up, he drives an SUV, implying that we have no need to care for the environment (this may or may not have been said tongue-in-cheek – but he said it and many were confused by the statement). Theologians such as Tony Jones and blogger Rachel Held Evans rose to the bait and defended the need to care for creation and take seriously the effects of global warming and the damages taking place to our environment. Doug Pagitt, pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, defended the rights of homosexual couples to marry attending rally’s and being present on the steps of the state senate to voice his opinion as political leaders were going in to make their vote on the marriage amendment. John Piper, a mega church pastor in the same city, argued that God has and will send his judgment for the church and humanity having fallen so far from the gospel.
With so many of the church’s major voices being in disagreement on what it means to follow Jesus in these issues of justice, it is difficult for the church to know what to do, how to act and what to believe. Biblical justice begins to look very confusing.
One of the main problems is that although we place the term “biblical” before the word justice that word has lost a significant amount of meaning for many Christians who look to the Bible for guidance. The church has long been endangered by its proclivity for embedded theology. Stone and Duke, in their book How to Think Theologically, talk about the danger of embedded theology which they describe as “what we learn about God, the church, and the Christian life from our earliest exposures to faith.” They continue writing that “we absorb this theology from the continuous living in and among the church and her people. We could call this blind faith…Our embedded theology may seem so natural and feel so comfortable that we carry it within us for years, unquestioned and perhaps even unspoken except where we join in the words of others at worship” (p. 11-25. Too often, our embedded theologies teach us that our way is correct, all others are heretical and we need to defend our theologies even when we do not understand why.
In my own upbringing, I was taught that abortion was wrong, no matter what the circumstances were. While there were some really sad and unfortunate situations, there was never a reason to consider abortion an appropriate moral choice. When I first started exploring this as an embedded theology, those I grew up with called me a baby murderer. Studying Scripture and culture, I discovered that abortion laws were more complex than my embedded theology had raised me to believe. There are varying opinions of when life actually begins and, for many, pregnancy can continue a cycle of poverty and injustice. This is true of many of the women I meet on the streets through After Hours Ministry, the non-profit organization I work with. After Hours reaches out to men and women who are prostituted and, for these women, pregnancy can be a permanent sentence to poverty and, as a slave to a pimp, a terrifying reality knowing that your child may also one day be trafficked.
Despite the complexity of abortion and unexpected pregnancies, much of the pro-life movement resonates with me – particularly the desire to protect life even at its earlier moments and the ability to imagine a better life for a child even when the parents cannot.   Yet, we all must realize that we have embedded theologies and we do the Church a disservice when we fail to have a heart and mind open to other perspectives. This openness must also allow the possibility that viewpoints other than ours might be “biblical.”
Underneath much of the harsh political commentary, hateful accusations and divisive theological discourse is fear. Fear that I might be wrong about the stance I am taking or the ramifications of Obamacare and what it might mean for my personal finances and my family’s stability. Fear of affirming gun rights and having to experience situations where someone who did not deserve those rights violates them. Fear that the world is becoming a more dangerous and unpredictable place that we cannot control.
Despite all these fears, the theological question that persists is our call to help the poor. Helping the poor will deplete our resources, crowd our boarders, and tire our volunteers. Helping the poor requires recognition that our faith is not just about us. The gospel has become an individualized message that we spend time cultivating in our own personal hearts and minds rather than using to transform the world outwardly. This individual view of salvation takes away from salvation’s communal nature thus removing the responsibility we have for the other and laying an immense burden upon individuals who feels they must carry their burdens alone. Chris Heuertz writes, “the Western church…has mistaken God’s financial blessings as individual provision rather than resources with potential for kingdom development.” (Simple Spirituality, p. 67). To truly live out biblical justice we must overcome the fear that entangles us, that makes us feeling isolated and on our own, and care for the poor.
And we’ve got to come up with a better definition of “biblical” justice. I’ve got some ideas that we’ll discuss in future posts. Anyone want to get the discussion started?


I Know I'm Going To Hell

What have we as a church been teaching theologically that makes women in prostitution believe they can’t talk to God? That makes them believe they can’t ask for help in the midst of a rough situation? What is the theology we’re communicating that makes these women believe they have to have their lives cleaned up in order to earn God’s ear and grace and forgiveness before he’d intervene in their lives and situations?
Just last month I was sitting across the table from a woman in her early 20’s. She sat nervously pushing her food around her plate, avoiding eye contact and bouncing her leg up and down. She asked me repeatedly “do you think I am going to Hell?”
I met a young woman out on the track the other night, she couldn’t have been older than 17. She was terrified of her situation, hopeless and wanting help but felt too far gone. When we offered prayer she responded with nervous laughter and told us that she didn’t want to be a hypocrite.
I was talking to a lovely woman who has become a very dear friend to me over the last few years the other day and she began recounting a very dangerous situation she had managed to break free from – with many scrapes, bruises and a couple broken ribs to tell the tale. A john had grown increasingly violent and started to strangle and beat her. And in that moment, she told me, “I wanted to cry out to God to help me, to save my life. I wanted to pray, God just don’t let me die like this! But I knew he would never hear me. After the life I’ve lived…there is no way God would still hear my prayers or let me into Heaven.”
What have we as a church been teaching that makes each of them so convinced they are going to hell – that they are beyond redemption? That they don’t even deserve the ear of God anymore, that he is so far removed from them, he no longer desires to hear their voice?
Last time I checked, I was told each time I cheated, or lied or had lust in my heart or was gluttonous – I was free to turn back to God again and again and again. So why do we make certain sins unredeemable and DIRTY. I think that’s the difference. A life of prostitution, and those who are trapped in it whether it is their choice or not, is so taboo, something we can’t even really address or talk about from a pulpit so they are alienated. If their sin is so dirty we can’t even TALK about it in church, no wonder they think it’s too severe for God’s ears.
But Christ, by his death and resurrection – and even before that by his life on earth as a human – has redeemed these women – they are made in his very image, the imagio Dei. The baptism of Jesus paints a picture of our identity in God. Christ’s worth was not based on his merits, work, miracles or anything he did during his ministry on earth. God declared him “my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11) before he had a chance to do anything, good or bad, to base the formation of his identity on. The fact that Jesus got baptized at all shows incredible solidarity with us as sinners. Baptism signifies repentance, and Jesus, the only human being who did not need to repent, identifies with humanity in its brokenness. He is not ashamed of us and is proud our identity is in him
Jürgen Moltmann in his book “God in Creation” says it well when he says, “What is evil only emerges in the light of what is good, in the same way sin can merely pervert something which God has created, but cannot destroy it. Sin is the perversion of the human being’s relationship to God, not its loss” (p. 233).
So the next time you talk to someone about the accessibility of God and their possibility of going to Hell (which may or may not exist – but that’s a conversion for another day :)) think about the implications you are having. I realize that most who have this conversation or make this accusation are doing this out of a deep deep love for God and desire to see someone living their life in a way that is evident of no sin. But there is a bigger picture at play: addictions, systemic abuse, oppression, manipulation, violence, etc. And we would do well to show grace in the face of all of these things, to show love above anything else and to leave eternal damnation to God. For we would not want to prohibit any attempt these men and women make to reach God by intimidating them that he’d never hear them in the first place. The church should be the place that radically loves.
And for anyone reading who may think that they’ve fallen too far and no longer have a right to the ear of God: no matter what you do, ever, you remain in the image of God. Nothing can take that away. Into God’s image you were created, and sin can only pervert that not take it away as long as God continues to adhere to it. And I believe in a mighty faithful and loving God that won’t let go of you, no matter how unloved and unredeemable you may feel you are. Just reach out – he’s there.


You're Not That Important

Sabbath is a strange thing, and I’m not sure why.
The 10 commandments are something we as Christians generally think are really important. But somehow we think we can ignore Exodus 20:8-10 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.”
Somehow we as a society have equated being overworked and having no boundaries as being successful and dedicated. We are slowing killing ourselves with our work ethic.
And to make matters even worse, we think those that have healthy boundaries are doing something wrong. The ministry I work with, After Hours, makes it mandatory that all our volunteers and employees take one weekend a month off and one month a year – so we are sure that we are getting the rest and rejuvenation that we need. When the director of our program took her first month of sabbatical off it was amazing the number of people that privately asked us if she was being disciplined or was having trouble and that was why she was stepping away from ministry for a month.
How did we get to this place where rest is seen as weakness? How is it that we feel if we take time away we are signifying LESS of a commitment to something than if we were to come back at it rested and with new perspective?
Jesus often lead by example in this area – when ministry was really heating up, just when the disciples were seeing results, Christ would say, stop – rest. Mark 6:30-31: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not eve have a chance to eat, he said to them, come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
How counter-intuitive! NOW is the time to keep pressing on. The people were hungry for the message. Whatever they were doing was working! They were in a rhythm! But Jesus called for rest knowing that our worth is not in what we do, but in who we are – and who we are cannot be strengthened when we never stop to feed, reflect and nourish our souls.
And I love the picture of Luke 23 of the women who had come to the tomb to wrap Christ’s body and prepare it for burial. Christ, their leader, their beloved had just DIED. Don’t you think they would drop everything to see that he was properly taken care of and buried? Verses 55-56 say: “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Not even the burial of our Lord and Savior was enough of a reason to get these women to break the Sabbath commandment. Surely that impatient client isn’t one either.
Kurt Fredrickson says: “[A Sabbath] lifestyle is confession and declaration that we are not necessary. It is hard to admit, but we are dispensable. We are worthwhile and we do good work. We are loved and cherished, but we are not necessary. The work will go on without me. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3, I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. We need a more sobered attitude about our work and ourselves. Too much of what we do is wrapped up in us proving to ourselves, and others and God how valuable and necessary we are. Sabbath living declares my worth is not in what I do.”
So what about you? What are the things that keep you from investing in Sabbath? What do you fear you’ll miss out on or lose if you take the time to break away?


A Sunday Morning Prayer

Hear me quickly, Lord
for my mind soon wanders to other things
    I am more familiar with
        and more concerned about
            than I am with you.

Words will not do, Lord.
Listen to my tears,
    for I have lost much
        and fear more.
Listen to my sweat,
    for I wake at night,
        overwhelmed by darkness and strange dreams.
Listen to my sighs,
    for my longing surges like the sea--
    urgent, mysterious, beckoning.
Listen to my growling gut,
    for I hunger for bread and intimacy.
Listen to my curses,
    for I am angry at the way the world
    comes down on me sometimes
        and I sometimes on it.
Listen to my crackling knuckles,
    for I hold very tightly to myself
        and anxiously squeeze myself
            into others' expectations
                and them into mine,
        and then shake my fists at you
            for disappointing me.

Listen to my footfalls,
    for I stumble to bring good tidings to someone.
Listen to my groans,
    for I ache towards healing.
Listen to my worried weariness,
    for my work matters much to me
    and needs help.
Listen to my tension,
    for I ache toward accepting who I am
        and who I cannot be.
Listen to my hunched back,
    For sometimes I can't bear
        the needs and demands of the world anymore
            and want to put it down,
                give it back to you.

Listen to my laughter,
    for there are friends
        and mercy
            and something urges me to thank.
Listen to my humming,
    for sometimes I catch all unaware
        the rhythms of creation
    and then music without words
                rises in me to meet it,
            and there is the joy of romping children
                and dancing angels.

Listen to my blinking eyes,
    for at certain moments
    when sunlight strikes just right,
    or stars pierce the darkness just enough,
    or clouds roll around just so,
    or snow kisses the world into quietness,
everything is suddenly transparent...
and something in me is pure enough
    for an instant
to see your kingdom in a glance,
and so to praise you in a gasp--
        then gone,
            but it is enough.

Listen to me quickly, Lord.

--Ted Loder, "Guerrillas of Grace"


A Tribute to Bonnie Lou

Mother’s Day was yesterday, so we’re all over it, right? Well, not me. So you’re going to have to sit through another sappy Mother’s Day post.
You know that moment, when you’re sitting in therapy, and you realize that you’re EXACTLY LIKE YOUR MOTHER.
That happened for me about a month ago.
And it took me by surprise because everyone tells me (and I mean EVERYONE) how much I am like my father. We look alike. Have a similar sense of humor.  I preach like him (when I preach, which is not very often). Love all the same sports teams, are addicted to coffee….the list could go on and on!
And I have always been proud of that. Because my dad is one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet. I am sure there will be more on him at a later point in time. But he’s the speaker – the out in front man – the one everyone knows about. My mom is the sneaky behind the scenes woman. The strong, independent, hilarious badass that too many tend to underestimate. And it’s not their fault – they don’t get a chance to see all her intricate layers.
I often get asked why I am not married yet. And for a while I wondered the same thing. But then I realized it was because of my mother! (hang with me, it’ll all make sense!) Growing up, my dad was gone an average of 15 days a month traveling and speaking. My mom was a part-time single parent, and I never ever heard her complain. She is the strongest person I know, so independent and fierce. Looking back, I have no idea HOW she did it. But watching and observing her – I think that fierce independence and belief that I could do anything ingrained itself in me.
I’d love to find a loving man like my father some day. But I also grew up knowing that I could do it on my own. Knowing that I had a role model of what it meant to be strong, independent, loving, patient, dedicated and passionate. To this day I don’t think my mom gives herself enough credit for how amazing she is. For HOW MUCH she did and continues to do.
For all the cheerleading uniforms and accessories she made. For all the musicals she did the costumes and make-up for. For all the sports games she attended. For all the music lessons she pushed us to not drop and keep practicing for. For all the church events she drove us back and forth from. For all the school field trips she attended and chaperoned. For all the homework assignments she worked diligently for hours with us on. For all the meals she prepared. For all the bags she packed for overnight trips and overseas trips. For all the tents she slept in summer after summer with four kids to keep track of and try to keep cool in the middle of a hayfield. For all the weekends dad was gone and she had to wrangle four kids all on her own. For never being in any pictures because she’s always taking them all. For celebrating every holiday with special meals and gifts and treats. For all the teenagers she took into her home over the years so dad could counsel them and they could have a strong example of two loving parents. For packing up a car and driving across country to help kids move – or flying overseas to help kids move home. For painting houses and moving furniture. For sleeping over to help take care of newborn babies so new mamas can sleep.
For the calm conversations she had with her growing and exploring daughter expanding and pushing her bounds of theology and justice. For her patience when that daughter got tattoos and piercings. And then her fierce prayers when that daughter took to the streets of LA in the middle of the night each week in pursuit of those passions and her call to justice.
I love you mom. And I love that I turned out just like you. Thanks for teaching me how to be fierce and take the world by storm. Your love compels me to try and love others with the grace of God.
Happy Mothers Day! How are you like your mother in unexpected ways?


Why I Tell Myself I Don't Want Kids - My Messy Beautiful

If I tell myself enough times, maybe I’ll start to believe it. That’s been a life theme of mine. And this has come out in many different story threads throughout my life, but most recently, it’s come through conversations of babies. If I tell myself enough times that I don’t want to have kids, then maybe I’ll start to believe it.
I have endometriosis. It’s not a big deal, really. At least not yet. Endometriosis is a female health disorder that occurs when cells from the lining of the womb (uterus) grow in other areas of the body. This can lead to pain, irregular bleeding, and infertility.
I can manage it well enough. That pain is, at times, unbearable. But through many many MANY visits to the doctor I have found ways to get it under control and live a relatively normal life (most of the time!). And when I can’t – it’s a great excuse to stay home and watch Netflix!
The part I struggle with are those last two words. …and infertility.
I am 30 and single and not sexually active. So there is really no way at this point for me to know if that part of endometriosis will affect me. I might be able to have 12 perfectly healthy, energetic, bounce-off-the-walls kids. But I also might not be able to have any.
And so I have decided I don’t want kids.
I tell people I have no desire to ever have kids. I don’t even want to try. I’m just not cut out for it. I need too much sleep! I love that my time is my own. I have so much I feel called to accomplish in the world, and I don’t know how I could do it while adequately taking care of a child in the way they deserve. I love a clean house. I’m too selfish. I hate the Disney channel!
Mostly I’ve come to believe that’s true (well, some of it IS true, I really don’t like the Disney channel!). I think I’ve convinced myself. And on my good days I feel just fine with that decision. But when I’m cuddling with my niece, Rosaleah, or on my lonely, self-reflective days, I wonder if that’s just the excuse I give to self-protect against the “what if”.
What if I am infertile? It is just easier to say I don’t want to have kids than to go through the heartbreak of getting my hopes up, trying, and then being disappointed.
But we can’t protect ourselves from heartache. We can’t protect ourselves from all the what if’s in life. Brené Brown talks about the power of vulnerability – and our societies inclination to numb. But the problem is you can’t numb sadness (or fear, or doubt) without numbing joy! You can’t avoid the hard parts of life without also avoiding the most joyful parts. Joy inevitably brings pain – but pain also brings joy. The light is so much brighter in the midst of darkness.
So, maybe I am infertile – but maybe I’m not. Maybe I will want to have kids, maybe I won’t. The point is, I don’t have to decide right now. I don’t have to make a decision based out of fear to protect myself from a possible heartache in the future.
And neither do you. Whatever you’re trying to convince yourself of, don’t forget to live today. And choose whatever makes you happy, even if that happiness might break your heart tomorrow.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To read more, CLICK HERE! 


On Being Bi-vocational

I am a bi-vocational ministry leader, and I’m not alone. There are many people in my generation that want to do life changing sustainable things for the world around them. They want their work to be meaningful, but often times that doesn’t come with a large paycheck that’ll cover the rent and utilities and put food on the table. So we have to ask ourselves: do you sacrifice that call and desire to find meaningful work that feeds your passions to see change in the world? Or do you sacrifice a sustainable income that’ll provide for your needs and the needs of your family?
The third way I see emerging in more and more situations as a response to this tension is being bi-vocational. This is not new. People have been bi-vocational for decades, but this term has given new language and validity to what has become a more popular trend in recent years. Being bi-vocational allows you to be invested in those areas you want to while still putting food on the table. Finding “one of those boring desk jobs,” as a friend so lovingly called it, which will ultimately give you the resources and opportunities to do what you really love and feel called to. More and more people in my generation have found bi-vocational the answer to meeting their calling, the deep needs of the world and their own physical needs.
I am thankful that my “desk job” is actually something I really love. And it serves a lot of people, engages in ministry and in people’s lives as well as provides education and resources to ministry leaders around the world. But, it is not my number one heart passion. I love it, and I am thankful for it – but mostly thankful that it provides me an enjoyable and sustainable way to pour into the call God has placed on my life.
My other job is working for an organization called After Hours – a street outreach to men and women who are prostituted. I am thankful to have a paid job that is so flexible that I can get away when I need to go be present with a prostituted woman that is hurting and suffering and needs help and accountability and a listening ear.
When I tell people I work at After Hours they typically ask me “do you get paid?” (Which is a somewhat odd question in the first place) and when I answer no, their response is typically something like, “oh, so really you just volunteer.” For some reason the lack of a paycheck makes people think it is a less valid call to ministry.
I see some real advantages to being bi-vocational:
  1. You have more resources that can be poured back into the ministry and the people you are serving.
  2. More laypersons (by necessity) become involved in the ministry, making it stronger because your talents, resources and passions are expanded.
  3. You find more balance in your life – being able to step away from the darkness of sex trafficking into the world of academia is a nice shift.
  4. You are in contact with many more people allowing for diverse conversations, networking and ministry opportunities.
  5. It frees you up to see ministry as more of a lifestyle than a vocation. We are all called to be ambassadors of Christ wherever we find ourselves.
It has been a struggle for me this past year to not let these comments invalidate my identity and calling. I have at times questioned if the work I do is really valid or if I am “playing the advocate” trying to make myself sound more impressive or hardworking than I actually am. I know this stems from my own insecurities, but God has also been working on humbling me. It does not matter what others think about the validity of my work – it only matters that I am faithful to my call and to the God that called me. It only matters that the women of Los Angeles (and around the world) are being ministered to, resourced and loved.
Don’t let money or having-to-have-it-to-be-a-real-ministry stand in your way. You can get one of those “dumb desk jobs” to pay the bills. That can be a means to an end. Find out what you REALLY want to do – and then find a way to do it. But follow the call God has placed on your life – and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not really doing it just because you are not getting paid.
- This post first appeared on The Salt Collective



i am overwhelmed. and overjoyed. and awe-struck.

God is so good. so so very good.

it is impossible for me to describe how much i love what i do. what god has called me to do. the redemption and grace god allows me to be part of.

this week we’ve worked with a family from the midwest that lost track of their daughter. they were fearful that she had perhaps been trafficked. we networked with lots of other ministries and police departments and eventually FOUND HER!

today we were able to reunite her with her dad and she is on her way home.

sometimes you are able to see God’s grace and mercy in such a tangible way it overwhelms you physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. and that’s what happened today. i can’t BELIEVE that God allows me to be part of bringing reconciliation and restoration to someone he loves SO much.

i wish i could share more of the story with you – more of the unbelievable and impossible details. but the most important details remains that God is good. and God is gracious. and God never ceases to amaze me – that just when i think the burden to rescue someone lays on me alone – God puts me in my place by letting me know that only he alone could orchestrate something so amazing.

i am thankful for the body of Christ that works together in times of stress and need. i am thankful for Jen Cecil who is the most supportive person in the world – and keeps me calm and collected and focused in the midst of high stress situations. and i am thankful that God is bigger than me and bigger than the lost daughter who has now come home.



I have been reading the book of John lately. And something struck me about the commands of Jesus, about the instructions he left his disciples with.

In several places, Jesus referred to the "commandments" which we can assume are the commandments given to Moses. Those who came in contact with him were told that it was good, and even necessary for eternal life, to keep the commandments. Jesus also did much of his teachings through parables and stories, and we can agree that commandments came out of those - although not explicitly stated as commands, they were lessons that the disciples were to take to heart and teach to others.

But what I find fascinating is that the only command Jesus gave, spoke, or deemed necessary to repeat and be explicit about in the book of John was the command to love one another. That's it.

John 13:34: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 15:12: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:17: This is my command: Love each other.

Those times that Jesus explicitly said, "this is my command" were the times he simply said, "love one another."

Often, thinking about being a disciple of Christ can be overwhelming. So many commandments. So many rules. Are you supposed to agree with the conservatives or the liberals? Are you supposed to think charismatics are weird or really tapping into the power of the Spirit? Are you supposed to bad mouth the Westboro Baptists (you know, so people don’t associate YOU with them) or pray for them?

With so many varying opinions about what it means to truly be a “Christian,” it is difficult to discern what actions you should take and beliefs you should have to be the “right” kind of Christ-follower. But when you step back and look at the big picture, being a disciple of Christ does not seem as overwhelming or unattainable. Maybe that is because I have made it too simple, but I don’t think so. When broken down to its most basic level, the call to discipleship involves one major thing. As Jesus taught his followers,  “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” There is no greater mark by which others will know that you are a follower of Christ than by how you love those around you. Christ is seen in how you love and treat those you come in contact with on a daily basis.

It matters less what one does or how they do it, what matter most is living life as an act of worship to God, a love letter from Him to those you find yourself surrounded by. With this in mind, discipleship becomes much more accessible –something everyone can do no matter where they find themselves in the journey of life and faith. We are not all called to one specific form of Christianity, but we are all called to love. And we can follow the example of Jesus as we learn what it looks like to love others and have God’s heart for his Church and his people.

I know we all feel strongly about causes we want to champion. We have strong opinions about homosexuality, abortion, Obama, gun laws, immigration, terrorism, war, unemployment, environmental laws, and the list could go on and on. Those logs in other people’s eyes we want to remove. Sins we see that we feel called to confront. And, perhaps, all of that can be forms of love. But we have to ask ourselves where our motivation comes from.

God can and will bring change through us. Every act we take on behalf of God in a call to discipleship is a call to bring humanity closer to reconciliation with God. No amount of eloquent rhetoric regarding stances on abortion, just war, gay marriage or racism will achieve this, only love will. Christianity is not a stance or a position, it is an action, a call to love and a charge to consider the other more important than yourself. It is a call to see the divine in them, believe in their potential and fight on their behalf to bring reconciliation with an all-loving God.

This post first appeared on The Salt Collective