Saturday, November 18, 2017

I've moved...

to here!! Come join me over at my new space, I'd love to see you there!

Coffee is still in hand, so maybe you'd like to curl up with a cup too?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

It's Rare...

These past two months have found me preparing to speak at a local women's conference on the topic of wisdom.

There was nothing about the invitation that I was expecting, but I know now that this past year that has felt so quiet, so still, Jesus was preparing my heart for last weekend and using so much of what I had studied to strengthen and encourage my own heart.

He is so good like that.

That's one part of why this space has been so quiet.

The other, is that a local author, who is also a reader of this blog, approached me about helping him self-publish his first book. As busy as I have been, I said yes after sitting down and reading through it first.

It is a haunting story - hard and broken, yet beautiful and rich in harrowing detail - that finds its setting right here in Yakima, Washington.

Tonight, the website went live, here, and the link for the eBook is up on Amazon.

Come and see Yakima with a fresh new perspective...

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Way That Leads to Light {A Post by Tony}

The woman walks towards us wearing nothing but short shorts and a red bathrobe emblazoned with gold dragons. 

The bathrobe is completely open, her mouth is slack and her eyes are stagnant pools, lifeless.

I catch the eye of the two older kids sitting behind me.  My quick glance sends out the message, “Ignore it, don’t draw attention to her.” 

It’s an eleven passenger van; that leaves 9 little ones that don’t need the shock; they’ve seen enough already I’m sure.

My mind drifts back to earlier in the week; I was driving by myself.  A woman, mid-twenties, in a canary yellow jean romper, riding an old BMX bike, stops next to me. 

Her make-up is beyond done up, and her hair is in little-girl pig tails.   Tracks race up and down her emaciated arms. 

She lifts her eyebrows at me and I imperceptibly shake my head and we both pull away from the stop sign, headed in opposite directions.

While I’m getting a haircut I ask the barber, a local church attendee,  “Hey, is it just me, or are you seeing a lot more prostitutes than usual walking around?”

 He pauses, then nods, “Yeah, definitely.”

If this upsets you then ask yourself the question,  "Are you looking at pornography on your phone, or reading some mainstream erotica novel? If so, what’s the difference?"   

There isn’t one.  You’re just as chained to filthy rags as these.

I tell kids the same message - sin comes from our nature, we desire to accomplish injustice; it looks good to us.

In fact, this excuse is used throughout the Bible,

Genesis 3:6

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Judges 14:3

…But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”

Joshua 7:20

And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them.”

I don’t read Bible stories anymore and think the way I did when I was young, “What’s wrong with these people?” 

I read Bible stories now and think, “I’m what’s wrong with people.  I’m inches, seconds, whatever measurement you prefer, away from making the same mistakes.”

A kid I hired at Starbucks once asked me, “Hey Tony, my dad used to be a really strong Christian but now he’s on trial for rape. What happened?"

So I told him, “The second you put yourself outside of God's will and start to think that you know better - it might be today, or 20 years from now - the downward spiral begins.  Eventually you’re far enough outside of Jesus' will that you end up suffering consequences.  Irreversible consequences by human standards.   You hurt not only yourself, but your whole family.”

I love, as much as it breaks my heart, that Achan clearly articulates his sin. It’s not against Joshua or Isreal, or even his own family, but he says, “I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel.”

I used to run all the time in college. Mostly I was praying and sometimes I would end up doing five miles or more, simply caught up in the process of giving my thoughts over to God and I would forget about the physical pain from the exertion. 

Once in mid-run I was crying out to God about my ‘thorn in the flesh’ and the answer came to me so clearly that I stopped dead in the middle of my run. 

I had been asking God why I had to deal with this reaccuring sin, and the answer went something like this, “This ‘thorn in the flesh’ is not from Me, it’s from you. You’re intentionally sinning because you desire to do what is wrong. You want to sin and you’re making excuses to justify your sins.”

I can’t say working that out was easy, but God’s grace was sufficient.

John Milton, in Paradise Lost says, “Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell, leads up to light.”

Some sins we struggle with are like that. I have no idea how it feels to know I can’t stop stealing.  I have never stolen anything; I have no desire to take other people’s possessions.  In fact, I’m afraid I might get their germs if I do.  However, if coffee was outlawed, like it was by a Pope in Rome in the year 1600, I’d be a first class criminal!  I’d be dealing and making all kinds of excuses to my clients and cops about how, “Government can’t regulate me, man!”

This is humanity - we want our own way, and we’ll be damned if God’s love would EVER send us to hell! That’s just not right!

Look at your sins and ask, “Is this a thorn in the flesh or am I doing it to myself?”

The answer is often so bitter and self-effacing that like the rich young ruler in Luke 18, we become very sad; it’s difficult to look at a situation where we know we’ve been wronged and say, “This is my fault too.”

The only way out is humility, and I must confess that they only time I’ve ever had any, is when I asked God to give it to me.

I’ll sign off with this, my go to, super deep, theological prayer: “Dear Jesus, I am such a despicable mess, I cannot escape who I am without Your love. Please help me.”

If it works for you, feel free to use it. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

For When You are Small and in Need

I drive the roads that connect our two destinations, coffee in hand, while their voices fill the space behind my head.

Two properties wait for us, filled with animal-life that my girls get to care for while the younger two and I sit in the shade with panting dogs and tumbling kittens.

Here, there are no sirens filling the air.

Here, I can close my eyes and breathe deep.

Here, I take advantage of these quiet spaces while my girls walk with purpose to carry out their responsibilities.

Here, I cling to Peace.

I glance over and watch his profile. He is telling me some story while his eyes are on the road.

His hand reaches over occasionally to brush my own, his eyes beckoning me to run my fingers across his sun-kissed neck.

We leave the crush, the heat, of the inner city and wind through mountain roads to beat the bus behind us.

It is filled with children.

I imagine their loud voices filling the air behind the one driving. After meeting him briefly, I can only imagine he is smiling.

There are no sirens out here.

There is Peace.

And we become surrounded by the grins of our campers as they come tumbling out of the bus.

The inner city has the tendency to harden the old, yes, but also the young.

I watch that hardness begin to fall away from some...

The nurse leaves Thursday night, and I take over, her phone number in hand.

I didn't think I would need it,

but I did.

Two girls, so quiet, come to me with their troubles, and I place the call asking what I should do.

I step back into the room and as I kneel down, tears begin to fall down the face of the older one.

We leave for home the next morning and all day the symptoms have been flaring.

They are preparing for the environments they have left and any hardness that was stripped away is being flung back on.

It turns into rebellion, talking back,

sore tummies and hurting heads.

This gift of time is running out and they begin to fight against it.

A counselor comes down and whispers to us:

A small boy in his cabin refuses to come in, curled up on a couch and grabbed onto the  arm rest, burying his face in the cushions. He won't let go.

"He's safe where he is", Tony says, after a moment, "Let him fall asleep there. Let him grieve."

Sometime during the long night, he is covered with a blanket and he rests.

Working here, alongside staff and counselors, has stripped away preconceived notions and ideas of what camp "should" be.

We are a small group, desperately asking for help from those outside of us, praying for each volunteer who would say *yes* to giving of their time to serve those in our community.

The mountains gave way to hills, the forests to sage brush as we turned the van back towards home just before lunch last Friday. I voiced the question I had been mulling over all week,

How are we going to do this?

And Tony, the one who wrestles with God and who has been wounded. Who voices the hard questions and trusts that God will supply every answer, reached over and took my hand.

This morning, I kept thinking of Gideon.

And then he smiled at me.

He knows, I know.

Jesus, He is gracious. He speaks the words we most need to hear, because He is the Word.

He knows that we are in need to order to make the Senior Kids Camp run.

He knows that we are understaffed and tempted to be overwhelmed.

He knows that nearly every phone call has been met with an apologetic, "I'm sorry. We can't".

He knows.

Then the Lord said to Gideon, "There are still too many troops..."

Taking Gideon from twenty-two thousand men, to just three hundred, God defeated the enemy hell-bent on destroying His people.

The enemy looks different here, but it is just as real. There is a war going on around us, our eyes just don't always see it. Drugs, gangs, prostitution, trafficking - these are the weapons that Satan is using to destroy the children we are here to serve.

At times, it all feels too big and we feel too small.

And we are.

However, our God is unfathomably large.

Our last camp of the summer is happening July 31st-August 4th. The group of us feel our smallness. We are praying that the Lord supplies just a few more. Our greatest need is for female counselors, aged 16 & up with a relationship with Jesus, who are fully aware that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces of heaven, willing to stand with us, pray with us, fight along with us knowing that our Jesus will strengthen and equip us for every good work.

Our prayer is that God would be glorified in this camp. That He would move and that these days away from broken environments would cause His Light to be brought back into our communities - both in the areas viewed as good and in the ones that are viewed as beyond repair.

That our eyes would be opened to the truth that we all are in desperate need of Jesus and only He can bring the peace we long for.

Please call Bob Whitney at 509.594.9185 or Tony Baker at 509.480.2102 for more information.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

For When Sorrow Settles

She started hearing voices across the property line just after the chill of Spring lifted and the evenings turned warm enough to open up the windows.

Two voices wafting out from behind boarded up windows and then the sound of muted music coming from some device...

She mentioned it to me at breakfast one morning a couple of days later.

This house that has stood empty for two decades has stood for over a century beside my own, silent and dark and ugly.

While other homes on our street have stood filled with life, this one was grey with rot and age and dirt while rumors swirled of all the evil that happened inside.

Hope feels fleeting and it seems to have flown away. The lift that met me when I woke on my birthday is gone and a heaviness has reappeared.

The bulky frame of that house cast a shadow over my own and I became used to the shadowy dark and this sadness is no different. A noticeable pall over a life surrounded by life.

No one warned me that ministry would be lonely.

So brutally lonely.

There are days I feel as though I can hardly breathe and I sometimes wonder what Jesus is doing.

What we are doing.

Because all I  seem to be doing is flailing and failing.

The house beside mine was boarded up 15 years before we came to Madison House. And I think back to where I was 15 years ago. Married for almost a year and turning to my husband and whispering, We need to go. We can't stay. And the process of slowly beginning to end my time as a citizen of my own country and becoming a stranger in the one of my husband.

The thing is, with that house, with all that was wrong with it and within it, life still grew around it. It wasn't beautiful, it wasn't pretty, but still, life couldn't be stopped.

When we first moved in and I began putting our belongings away, a landscaping company came in and cleared out all the underbrush around that house, anything that could catch fire was carried away and the grass left behind scorched yellow in the heat of the August sun.

But that following Spring, shoots began appearing all up and down the property line and 24 months later, the tallest of the trees reaches past our first story and brushes against the second when the wind blows just right.

Life can't be stopped.

Neither can change.

Late last week, I was called outside onto the front steps of Madison House by the words I received in a text. I stood there and watched as the bucket from a large yellow digger tore into the roof of the house that has stood watch beside my own for over 100 years, and I couldn't keep the tears from coming.

There was joy, because that meant the danger that the house represented would soon be gone.

But there was a deep grief that caught hold and I ran down the street because I didn't want to ever forget what was there before it wasn't anymore.

I don't know when this season of sorrow will be over. I don't know if there will ever come a point again where I think, Here. We all belong.  All six of us belong here.

Because, if I am to be honest, it is easy to focus on times that it is obvious that we don't, and when it begins to affect my little ones, that's when I dare to question the plan and intention of my Heavenly Father.

Why would He call us here to die?

But there is this thought that wraps around my heart and won't let go,

But why wouldn't He?

Didn't Jesus Himself say ( And didn't I even quote this when I stood in front of a church to share about this ministry given to us?),

The one who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me;
the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And
whoever doesn't take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone
who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because
of Me will find it.  Matthew 10:37-39

There is a saying that has become popular in Christian circles, especially in women's ministry that has never sat quite right; it feels more than a tad off. It is this mantra that is repeated in conferences and bible studies and best selling books, as though whispering it enough will convince me it is true:

I am enough.

And I have failed enough in these last few years to know that this is a lie. I am not enough. I will never be enough. 

On my own, I stand broken and rotten and decaying like that house that stands on my street no longer.

On my own, death is not defeated, but it grows in reach and stench and decay.

On my own, I am easily torn down, broken, defeated and completely ruined.

We are never enough.

Only Jesus.

Only Jesus.

The One Who spoke to Moses out of a burning bush, the One who declared His Name to the broken, sandal-less man bowed low before Him, He alone has the authority to say,

I AM enough.

He alone is enough in the season of sorrow,

in the barren desert of loneliness.

He alone is enough when I walk up our front steps feeling defeated and broken.

He alone is enough when He brings me to the end of myself so that I see clearly that He alone brings life in the dead places.

He alone is enough to lead me to 1 Peter 2 when the pain of rejection stings:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and
all slander. Like new born infants, desire the pure milk of the word,
so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord
is good. As you come to Him, a living stone - rejected by people but
chosen and honored by God - you yourselves, as living stones,
a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual
sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a
people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises
of the one who called you out of darkness into His marvelous Light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; you had not
received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The house that stood beside my own, long before I was born now lays in a heap outside my kitchen window, the shadow it cast no longer there.

I walk into my kitchen to pour myself a mug of coffee and I stand completely bathed in light.

I don't know when this season of sadness will end, but I choose to trust in the goodness of my Savior. What weighs heavily on my heart can never separate me from His love.

So I will wait and in the waiting I will fight to proclaim His praise.

For He is good. And His mercy is never ending.

And life continues to grow...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

She Left Me One

It was the chaos of the noise outside that grabbed my attention.

The barking of our dog that lasted too was too shrill. I could hear his body hitting against the chain link, trying to bust out of the run that contains him.

The afternoon sun tilted down and the clouds had begun to gather and I stood there unsure of what I was seeing.

Our gate stood open, unlatched by a woman who had wandered in. Bright pink hair sticking out every which way, her body bent over, almost falling over, into the daffodils planted years before we moved in. Her movements were erratic, grabbing and yanking at the tender plants that had recently broke through.

Barney's barking mixed in with her shouting and I kept standing at the window.

They were just flowers. Flowers I look for at the end of a long winter - their cheery yellow faces brazenly blooming while there is still a chill in the air. They were flowers I couldn't kill even if I tried - evidence of our Good Creator and His faithfulness each day.

They were all gone.

Her head, crowned with pink, was bent over her arms and spilling out of them were all of the daffodils that grace the front yard. She danced and spun across the patch of grass, twirled out the gate all the while looking down at her bounty, gently crooning to the petals that were already beginning to droop.

"Hey Kimberley, a lady just took all your flowers!", one of the kids across the street yelled at me when I finally came out to assess the loss.

"Yeah...I know, Alex",  I called back.

"She took ALL of them!!", came his aggravated response.

"It's okay, Alex. They'll grow again next Spring."

His sweet face showed that he didn't agree with me at all.

We wake up to voices in the street.

Voices I don't recognize and I lay there frustrated.

Who needs to be yelling at another person before 6 in the morning? I roll over and pull the blanket up over my ears.

I'm awoken again to more voices and this time I recognize the names they are calling and I fly up and out of the bed.

Police cars are everywhere, doors open and flak jackets and helmets on, rifles trained on the house 2 doors down from us.

I race down the stairs and stand at the window.

Tony's hand on the small of my back.

I can't keep back the tears.

They come out backwards, one by one, hands raised and kneel down onto the grass. I understand the need for caution, but the faces I see, the names I hear...we love them. Our own children pray for them. I've washed clothes for some of the them. I'm terrified that one wrong move and I'll watch one of them die.

We move out onto the porch slowly, and I can't stop the tears. They need to know that they are seen and loved.

10 minutes stretch into 30 and suddenly everyone is released. Tony leans over and suggests that we head inside the house.

I stand in the kitchen and I hear his voice calling my name,

"Kimberley, we are going to have a few extra for breakfast. Can you get the waffle maker out?"

My table fills up with gang members and we work quickly to get them fed. All I can think is how I want them to know they are loved, not just by us, but by Jesus. As I set the table for them, all I can do is pray, not just that they would be surrounded by Peace, but that this wouldn't be our last opportunity to serve them.

I wandered through Costco later on shaky legs.

Alex was wrong about one thing, and I didn't see it right away.

My pink haired visitor didn't take all of the daffodils.

She left me one, whether she meant to or not.

When she first took my daffodils, it felt like she ushered in a season of darkness...or hopelessness. Joy seemed nowhere to be found.

She came into my yard broken, with a mind that was altered by whatever drug she was on, but she knew she needed beauty. She needed to gather it up and touch it in her hands. It couldn't be abstract for needed to be tangible.

But when she left with my flowers, she seemed to take my hope with her...

I turned 38 yesterday, a new year dawning fresh. I opened my eyes and for the first time in months I felt the faint stirring of hope. It has been a season of questioning, of feeling like a failing, unable to even utter a fully formed prayer.

I pressed in next to the warmth of my husband on the couch in the late quiet after all the small ones were in bed. Laughing at some silly show we were watching online when a knock came at our front door.

I glanced at the time, 11:38pm.

That can't mean anything good.

It's a mama from down the street with her daughter, terrified because the other daughter is missing. Have we seen her, do we know where she went, did we hear anything?

We sit on the front porch with her trying to help in any way we can.

I give her my number and she takes mine, tells me she will let me know when she hears anything.

12:20am, I get a text that the police have been called.

I crawl into bed praying, imagining the worst.

1:30am and my phone lights up.

I glance down,

"We've found her", and I take a deep breath.

I live in a neighborhood with a culture that isn't my own in a country that I wasn't born in. I've made mistakes and messed up and blundered more times than I'm sure I've gotten anything right. The joy that I felt in the beginning of our ministry has turned bleak with the despair I've wrestled with.

But last night after knowing she was found,

Hope found me.

Jesus said that His people were "the light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden." Through Paul's hand, Jesus reminds that we are His workmanship, created in Him to do the good works He has prepared for us beforehand.

It's His will that has been placed there on the corner of 4th Street...not mine. It is Jesus Christ who wondrously chose me when I was so unworthy of Him and placed me where He has so that His light can be seen through all my imperfection.

Grace upon grace upon grace.

So let the flowers be taken, the quiet that I long for, all the outward things I cling to that are not Christ.

Let it all be taken so that others can draw to the beauty and grace and mercy of Jesus.

I keep thinking of her, dancing away from our house, arms filled with flowers, yellow daffodils bouncing in the late spring sun...