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...