Intentions

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When I moved to Wichita I began the practice of setting a word or phrase as my intention for the year or a season. This move was hard for me; I had to leave the place where I became an adult and where much of my identity was formed. I moved away from a community I loved and, in all truth, thought I would spend the rest of my life serving. During the packing and purging I found myself constantly repeating “journey onward.” This simple phrase became a mantra, hashtag, and bit of hope. As I arrived in my new apartment and unpacked and explored I found “journey onwardmorph into “smooth landing.”

Ever since these experiences, I found myself setting an intention for the new year. Last year I found that “openness” was to be my word: I was to be open to new people, places and experiences. This openness has led to deeper relationships, exploration, and adventure. Because of the intent to be open, I have felt God move in new ways within me and throughout my community of friends. I have learned a new level of vulnerability that brought tears, strength, and depth. One of the highlights of this past year’s journey through openness is a mentor relationship with Lisa, a co-laborer and friend, that has pushed me past my comfort zone and into hard truths that I might not have ever dealt with.

The push came from the books Lisa had me read and the conversations and prayer that followed. She had me read David Benner’s The Gift of Being Yourself, which is a game changer if the reader is open to the process. That book lead me to Desiring God’s Will also by Benner and Discernmen by Henri Nouwen. These two books came in handy as I led a Bible study at my new home on discerning God’s will. Every other week up to 12 of us gathered, shared food, and prayed together. Setting my intention to be open led to so much!

This past year my community was broadened because of this openness. A local worship leader, Abigail, reached out to me and some other women in our peer group on Facebook to get together. We did, and have every month since. Each month we gather for a meal and time together; there has been laughter, prayer, tears, and overwhelming joy. These gatherings led me to ask Anna to be my roommate. I barely knew Anna, but I was open to the prompting of the Spirit, and it was confirmed by those around me. I want to celebrate this past year of openness and look forward to this being a regular part of my life.

Even my coffee shop encounters are because of openness. Sometimes I leave the headphones off and meet new people, building something new. There is a Friday night Worship service at a local church that I go to, and when I got there God used one of His amazing daughters to speak truth to me. Truth she had no idea how badly I needed, truth that she was obedient to deliver, truth I may have missed if I had ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

All of this is not to brag about how open I have been. I know there are things I have missed and opportunities I have shut down, but I set an intention to be Open and the Lord has been faithful to challenge and encourage this openness. This year I have set a new intention that for the time being I am treasuring in my heart, but it was inspired by Mary and the Advent season. Setting these intentions has changed me, pushed me, and forced me to seek the Lord in new and sometimes uncomfortable ways, but it has been worth it every time.

So here is to setting intentions and sticking to them, even when it leads to tears, even when it leads to pain. In the words of Madeleine L’Engle, “On the other side of pain, there is still love.” Getting through the tough stuff makes the good stuff even better, and by spending last year focused on being open, I have seen love grow in very unlikely places where hurt once took root.

A Liturgy of the Ordinary

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Liturgy means so many things to me- this is the final installment of a four part series on this topic.

Liturgy is an order of worship, an order of life, patterns that repeat, events that occur again and again. Often liturgy is reserved for the sacred, a holy separation of the repetition and litany of the work week and the time intentionally set aside for the Lord. Yet, lately I have seen my lines blur and boundaries that were once clear dissolve as the sacred and secular collide.

Maybe this is what the wholistic spiritual life looks like. The margins get thin and the everyday becomes part of the liturgy that was once lived out only in the pew. The sacred spills into the aisle and out the door into the mundane, creating new beauty in the ordinary.

The coffee shop becomes the foyer where community is greeted, the living room transforms into a sanctuary, a manger is repurposed into a throne for the Baby King. The everyday is seen through the a new lens of potential where nothing is as it seems.

The season of Advent is constantly reminding me of this perfectly imbalanced life. The life where the Savior invades and the Divine demolishes the divides my mind has constructed. Everything is His and the liturgy of the everyday is gently nudging me to see myself as Holy.

As I walk in holiness, Christ walks before me—breaking down walls, speaking truth, preparing good works, and unfurling the hem of His robe, so all that touches it is healed. The ordinary, the everyday becoming other; solely because He is present. That is what Advent is about: Holiness becoming flesh and flesh becoming holy, and the ordinary becoming sacred.

Walk with me in this journey of an everyday liturgy, where the woman at the well is a community changer, the homeless man becomes an Image bearer and where we are holy because He is Holy.

A Liturgy of Advent

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Liturgy means so many things to me- this is the third installment of a four part series on this topic

Advent is the time to anticipate the coming Savior. The Baby King gestating, Mary’s belly growing, and Joseph planning their departure. The drama of Advent is often lost in the beauty of familiarity. The Gospels become rote and the miracle becomes normalized.

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” A shock must have rushed through her. There must have been a fear of the angel, an awe in its overwhelming presence, and anxiety  of the uncertainty to come. And yet she said yes. Mary chose obedience in her obscurity, the Christ child over a carefree engagement, and the gossip of strangers for the good of salvation.

“A virgin will be with child and bear a son.” This was an immaculate conception—something no one could prove. Her fiancé was plagued with questions, but a dream changed everything. The cosmic plan could have fallen apart—Joseph could have departed and  divorced the maiden quietly. And yet he obeyed. When faced with doubt, leaning toward betrayal, he slept and found instructions by morning light.

“While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.” When her water broke, so did four hundred years of silence and waiting. Waiting and anticipation gave way to the promised Messiah from the line of David lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. The tiny human and Holy God was here.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” The multitude of angels sang out in fanfare and celebration This is what the heavens proclaimed and the Prophets promised—a King.

We wait with excitement by lighting the candles, reading the scripture and celebrating each day. May wonder confound the known and the mystery of Advent be ever beautiful. May it never become mundane. May the familiar awaken the mystery and open our eyes to join in obedience with Mary and Joseph, in waiting with the Prophets, and in praise with the angels. The Liturgy of Advent reminds us that no matter our expectations, Christ is coming, and the unexpected will become truth and this Truth incarnate paid the ransom for our freedom.

The songs of Advent- a Spotify playlist

 

A Liturgy of Silence

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Liturgy means so many things to me- this is the second installment of a four part series I am posting on this topic

I used to think that yoga was all the silence I needed. My instructor speaking to us about our next pose, a scripture playing in my mind. This sunset yoga class was my comfortable silence. The class was purposeful silence—or maybe silence is the wrong word. I was quiet, but the instructor was not, the teens leaving basketball were not, the staff cleaning up the pool were not; but I was and I was doing something.  And yet, lately I have been encouraged to seek the Lord in silence—no music, no conversation, no words flowing from my pen—just sitting quietly in the presence of the Lord.

These moments have not been easy, they have been wrought with mental check lists, daydreams, wandering thoughts and self doubt. I have sat in a beautiful cabin, on a hillside overlooking the expanse of Kansas farm land, and on a bench in the midst of the city—and I have heard nothing. Nothing but a buzzing fly trapped by the window, a train bringing grain from the heartland to the rest of the nation, and the hustle of the people and cars going about their busy lives.

I think the quiet and the silence are not the issue, maybe it is the stillness, the feeling that either my body or my mind must be active, that both can not rest at the same time. But that is crazy, I do not think I am wired that way. And yet, those who I seek instruction from say, “Do not force it,” “Be still,” “The Lord wants to speak to you in the quiet,” “Be available to the presence of the Lord.”

I know He is there, and yet in the liturgy of stillness and the sanctuary of nature I feel lost. Maybe because this place is not my home, perhaps the silence makes me uncomfortable, or I just do not know how to listen to the Lord the way I listen to people. I often equate stillness to idleness even though they are not the same thing.

I am learning how to show up in the Divine Presence and just be. I am training my ear to hear, my heart to listen and my mind to seek His truth, especially in the stillness.

A Caffeinated Liturgy

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Every Sunday I head to Reverie Coffee Roasters on Douglas and order a drink from some the best baristas in the country. They know my name, ask how my week has been and make me a mocha or latte that is delicious and beautiful. I take my simple white mug and plate to a table or the counter and spend two hours reading, writing, journaling, or praying. This has become an integral part of my Sunday liturgy. This is an intentional space that is a set aside to meet with the Lord.

These Sundays at Reverie have yielded significant spiritual growth and personal awareness, but beyond that it has led to some unique conversations. One week there were two young men sitting near me talking about the small-mindedness of Christianity. I interjected and we spent almost an hour talking about how Jesus loved people who were different than himself, and that there are followers of Christ in Wichita who love Jesus and people. We departed ways with smiles and Facebook friendships.

There was a Sunday when I was having a hard time staying focused on my reading. I also forgot my headphones and I overheard the girls next to me talking about Drake and Rihanna. One of them could not remember what awards show they had just made appearances, and I offered, “The VMA’s.” After that we spent several shallow moments talking about how we love that Rihanna has finally found a good man. Then we spent many deep moments talking about the book and Bible on my table. Now, most Sundays we wave to each other as Julie* counsels women from her church and circle of influence and I study and pray that truth and wisdom will reign in her conversations.

There was that eavesdropping incident a week ago, and then there was this past Sunday, as I sat at the counter between a man in uniform and a young women journaling. The man in the Air Force was talking about the lack of good Indian food in Wichita with one of the baristas and I agreed as I was pulling books out of my bag, Desiring God’s Will by David Benner, the Bible, and a journal. We chatted for a few minutes about ethnic food and moving here from the east coast—he was a transplant from DC, and I was one from Philly. We talked about Michigan in the fall and he shared that his wife is from there. We realized quite quickly that she is from the town where my parents now live, where I had just been visiting.

He glanced at my books, and asked, “So are you a pastor in town?” My heart swelled with joy. This manly man asked me—the woman with purple hair and a nose ring—if I was a pastor. I answered no, and told him about World Impact and what I do. He wanted to know about my books, because he was going through a study at his church on God’s will. We talked a bit more, then he headed home. And I thought to myself, I love this place.

Over the past year Reverie has become my church. These are my people, these are the stories that matter, these are the people who influence me and who make me think. This Sunday liturgy has become so much more than reading, writing and praying—it has become community and home. Although I am not a pastor today, maybe someday I will be. Listening to and loving people seems to be something I am good at.

*Name changed for privacy.

Eavesdropping

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I am an eavesdropper; I love to listen to the conversations around me. Today, as I sat at my usual coffee shop, I listened to two young women in deep discussion about God’s will and how to pray for direction. I was encouraged.

I was encouraged by their honesty with one another. They asked and answered tough questions about their spiritual lives. I was encouraged as they spoke of their gender. They acknowledged that it would not be easy, but overall they wanted to be obedient to the Lord.

These two had no idea I was typing about them, pausing as they talked about the struggle that is figuring out the future. These two twenty-somethings want to work in the church, they want to be of use to the church, and they have no idea where to begin. I really wanted to butt in, join their conversation, interject where I was not invited—I did not. But I did pray for them.

These are the words I found myself praying-

Lord,
Give them boldness to venture down the paths they are unsure of.
Instill crazy amounts of trust that leans on You, and you alone.
Continue to grow in them hearts of prayer that seek Your face and wait on Your response.
Bring a confidence that can only come from You, a confidence that comes from connectedness to Your Spirit.
Allow peace to wash over them as they long to bring Your truth and love to those who are hurting.
Father, please do not let others extinguish the fire they have for You and Your Bride. Grow this passion and create space for them in Your Church.
Create space for these young ladies to use their gifts to build the Kingdom and edify the Bride.
Lord, please keep them in Your hand, keep them in community, keep them close so that they may draw others to You.
Use these younger ones to bring healing, hope, and equality to Your Body.
Amen

Hearing these two young women talk, my hope for the future of the church was renewed. They will find a way to serve and obey the Lord, no matter what their current leadership says. I will continue to pray this prayer over the girls, young ladies, and women in my life—including myself. May obedient women link arms and advance the Gospel, even while eavesdropping.

Sisters- Be Bold

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I was recently asked by an older gentleman how I became so bold, I blamed my parents. But I also wondered if he would have asked a man this question. I know that I am a passionate woman, and boldness seems to come easily, but I have always viewed this as taking cues from the Biblical women I read about growing up.

When I was introduced to the story of Esther/Hadassah I learned about a strong, intelligent, beautiful and obedient women. Her opinion was valued by her Uncle, she left home, changed her name, stopped speaking her home language and crossed cultures for her people. She was bold.

When I read about Hannah I saw a woman who knew what she wanted, was strong willed, had character and was obedient. Her worship mattered—when she could not have a child she prayed one thing over and over and over, and when God answered she handed her baby over to His service. She was bold.

When I heard about Jochebed and Miriam I learned about two women who loved passionately, thought outside the box and were obedient. When Jochebed had Moses, she kept him silent and Miriam built a basket for her brother and inserted her mother as a wet nurse in the princess’s chambers. They were bold.

When I pored over the story of Mary I read about bravery, joy and obedience. She carried a baby in her belly and was most likely shunned, she birthed him with no midwife and no bed. She was bold.

So to all my sisters- be bold. That is the legacy of the great cloud of witnesses that are watching us, that cloud is filled with biblical heroines and women of faith. Be obedient and bold—that is our heritage. And if a grown man ever asks you how you got that way, blame the Bible.

 

Dear Pastors,

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Dear Pastors,

I want to sing, “It is well with my soul;” I want to sing, “We will not be moved;” I want to be able to sing, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper, it won’t work.” But all I can hear is, “He better be alive because — he better be alive.” All I can hear is, “I can’t breathe.” All I can hear are the pops of bullets from video after video after video of death.

I want to find the melody of the songs that bring comfort, the songs of grandmothers and aunties. I want to find the intoxicating rhythm of the Gospel, but today all I can find are the words and sounds of sorrow and pain.

Today there is no joy in journey, today we mourn with those who mourn—some of whom have been mourning for far too long.

The songs we sing are not enough to bring change, so what are you going to do this Sunday? Pastors, how are you going to speak of justice? How are you going to talk about love? How are we going to prepare spaces for the grieving, hurting, and heartbroken this Sunday? Are you even going to mention their names from your pulpit?

Keith Lamont Scott, Ty’re King, Terence Crutcher, Korryn Gaines, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Charles Kinsey, Donte Hamilton, John Crawford, Sam Dubose, Corey Jones, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Ezell Ford, Akai Gurley, Christian Taylor, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Philip White, Eric Harris, Laquan McDonald, Yvette Smith, Rekia Boyd, Manuel Loggins, Kendra James, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo ….

When you contextualize justice, is it only for your community? Or will it be the type of justice that takes “me” out of the equation, and focuses solely on Christ and others. Are you brave enough to be like Christ and walk with the systemically oppressed? Are you brave enough to broach the subject, knowing there are some in your pews who do not think #BlackLivesMatter. They may not say it, but their FaceBook wall represents it—and does it make you sick? Are you brave enough to not sing, but cry out on behalf of justice, on behalf of innocent lives taken, on behalf of ending racism?

I do not know what you will do this Sunday, but I beg you to do something. Take a knee, shed some tears, repent and listen to those who this affects, so one day we can dance with those who dance and sing with those who sing.

 

My Brothers

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Today my brothers are using words that break my heart.
Today my brothers are using words that sucker punch me in the gut.
Today my brothers are using words that call for action.

When one says, “I am dark skinned, have a beard, large, and ‘somewhat’ imposing, which means that I could be considered a ‘bad dude’ as well. The war that I deal with after seeing another black man killed by law enforcement is the terror that I am fighting each and everyday. I can shave the beard off, lose some weight…but the color of my skin I can not change.”

While another, “What did my black skin do to offend you? What is it about my black maleness that you fear? There is something inherently evil about the way you treat and see ME!”

And still another, “ If you can’t stand and mourn with me about my community and what’s happening to people of color in this country…don’t say nothing!! If you say anything…say his name!!”

These men are fathers, husbands, vets, pastors, reconcilers, prophets, brothers, and sons. And they are black. They encourage, speak truth and today they mourn and are outraged.

Today, my brothers speak for me.
Today my brothers speak for the those who are more than hashtags.
Today my brothers speak for change.