As I can I want to offer a fresh word of encouragement sharing from my experience how our Father God meets us in the middle of loving and living out our faith to draw others to freedom. The road to freedom can seem long and hard not unlike the experiences of those living as refugees from war torn nations, those walking out of years of abuse and pain in broken relationships, those facing the reality check that comes with unplanned pregnancy, and the great journey to healing from trauma. I fully believe we are offered so much more than we ever experience as Christ followers. We settle for a life in bondage to the elemental nature of this world and continue to live as Hagar when in fact we are daughters of Sarah.

Galatians 4:31
31 So, brothers [and sisters], we are children not of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

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2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

There have been many times, in moments of self-reflection, when I have realized how inadequate and unprepared I have so often felt concerning the call to love those in front of me. 

I think of my early experiences, namely working with adjudicated youth in an outdoor therapeutic wilderness program, in Alabama only armed with some head knowledge, minimal life experience and a recent broken engagement BUT also with a foundation of the saving knowledge of Jesus and His call and value for me.  As I was fighting on the outside to do my job to lead, care for and guide the young girls in my care, my heart was challenged to be led by love by the Lord's Spirit and not merely through the academic, programmatic and secular lenses that I had been taught.  I think of how much I did not know, how much I did not understand of the trauma I was facing, or how much of the lies of the enemy were keeping me bound from fully entering into the spiritual warfare obstructing the path to hope and healing...YET the Lord had me there then not today He knew me beforehand, the struggle I was in, and the hurt and pain of each girl...I was in the right place at the right time and though I did not have the 20 plus years’ experience and understanding of trauma, healing and the spiritual dynamics; I had a youthful zeal and a heart of compassion that moved me to action, to say yes to where Jesus called me. 

In my reflection I recognize how I was asked to love to the best of my ability through my own layers of emotional struggle, self-protection and ignorance. I learned to love by desiring something better, desiring healing, and desiring hope.  I have since learned and share with others the simple truth that the work of care giving, mothering and fathering, walking alongside...that each woman is an appointment and the right place at the right time for her and for me.  I do not know that my knowledge, skill, or understanding make a differnece but I know that God’s love at work through me was and is making an eterenal difference.  I have continued to face the inadequacy I feel with each challenge but my trust and faith is not in my skill, ability or understanding but truly in Christ alone. 

 

1 Peter 4:10-12 (TPT)

10 Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace.

11 For example, if you have a speaking gift, speak as though God were speaking his words through you. If you have the gift of serving, do it passionately with the strength God gives you, so that in everything God alone will be glorified through Jesus Christ. For to him belong the power and the glory forever throughout all ages! Amen.

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Isaiah 41:9-10 (CJB)

I have taken you from the ends of the earth,
summoned you from its most distant parts
and said to you, ‘You are my servant’ —
I have chosen you, not rejected you.
10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you;
don’t be distressed, for I am your God.
I give you strength, I give you help,
I support you with my victorious right hand.

 

I have come to recognize the value, beauty and sacredness of each woman's story.  In fact, the more dishonoring and riddled with pain and trauma the more I have come to hold that story as sacred and to be guarded with great care.  

Each story is unique and it is tempting to keep them, to hold onto them and to exploit them to elicit a response of support, sympathy or shock from anyone who will listen.  The gift of stepping for a moment or season into their world, their heart, their mind is a gift.  Initially, compassion in response to story moves many of us to action.  We learn the art of receiving the story and holding ourselves as available and willing listeners willing to step into their pain for a moment.  The key then becomes knowing what to do with the story and how to let it go. 

We now have an obligation to not join in the exploitation, dishonoring or glorifying of the evil that threads through her story and brought her to our door.

We need to learn to let her decide and choose when and where that story is shared and used and help build in boundaries and protections for ourselves, each other and each woman.

We have to learn from the moment our heart is captured by the need to save, to fix or to bind up that we too are bound by the line of self and other. The Holy Spirit does not go where we have said no or push us before we are ready.  In the same way we, armed with our sense of self-righteousness and justice, must not go beyond the boundaries set, or it is us accomplishing, us overtaking, or us using her story against her.

Ultimately, when we are given the privilege of entering into another person's story we must hold it loosely and learn to let go because He will not.  For every broken, crushed and forgotten one their is a Savior who is unrelenting, unyielding in His love and will remain on guard to the end of every story.

May you learn the art of letting go!  May you entrust the sacred story to His hands and care! 

May you be freed to receive and to give back, to offer the kind of love you too have been offered!

 

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Luke 5:4-7 (NIV)

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anythingBut because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Much of housing ministry is doing the same thing "expecting" different results.  It seems like the classic "definition of insanity."  We train, we pray, we share our vision, we open our doors, prepare the rooms, we cast our nets on the water... Those out in the deep water do not always want to be caught and though we have done our research, we are getting the calls, we have reworked our programs, revisited our how, who and why...sometimes the rooms stay empty, those coming seem to not want what we have or unable to break out of their cycles of loss and abuse even to take the step through our doors.  Yet day after day, year after year, sometimes working out of ministering to the one we do it again and again.  The stories we share of those we are walking with do not often reflect this arduous process, the seasons when the rooms are full and the seasons when they are empty.  The long journey sometimes from that first phone call...pause...next phone call...pause....interview....pause....move in day....pause.  There have been those who have called and come immediately and left just as quickly, those who have come and stayed and walked through the process that keep the hope and validity of our cause alive...and then those whom you give so much time to sharing with, searching for, waiting for not realizing how much time is passing...and just when you think the net will stay empty, the prayers are unheard, the waiting and indefinites are too much to bear... He asks you to put out in deep water and try again.  

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

We are asked to remain ready, to be in good relationship with others so that when the net is full we can work together to meet the need.  When the net is full it is too big a load to carry alone and the needs and demands require good partnerships, patience and persistance.  We do not need to be discouraged when the rooms stay empty...just expectant for the Master to say ...do it again. He is willing and He is able to move hearts and minds but He is so gracious to allow us each our process, our option to reject help and our propensity to remain in bondage....He knows the heart and ask us to trust Him and to be ready.

 

AdobeStock 214668381transition

noun

  1. Change from one form, state, style, or place to another.
  2. a. Change from one subject to another in discourse.
    b. A word, phrase, sentence, or series of sentences connecting one part of a discourse to another.
  3. Music
    a. Change from one key or tonality to another.
    b. A passage connecting two themes or sections, usually changing to a new key or tonality.
  4. Genetics A point mutation in which a pyrimidine is replaced by another pyrimidine, or a purine is replaced by another purine.
  5. Sports The process of changing from defense to offense or offense to defense without a stoppage in play, as in basketball or hockey.
  6. A period during childbirth that precedes the expulsive phase of labor, characterized by strong uterine contractions and nearly complete cervical dilation.

It seems the more experience I have, and the more self aware I am of my internal state and the corresponding external actions, the more I recoginize how frequently I am reacting to and anticipating change. The actual change seems irrelevant:  a woman moving in, a woman moving out, routine change from school to summer days, work role and responsibilities, co-worker coming or going, a suddenly in someone's life ... the list goes on. My internal markers: heightened frustration, restlessness, irritability, removing opportunities for connection...my protections when I start to "move from defense to offense or offense to defense."  However, the reality is that my responses come from one side yet no one experiences transition and change in isolation. It works best when I take these internal markers of coming change and begin to include others.  Ask the hard questions about what's next. Have a direct conversation about how I feel and what I am anticipating, and really slow down to listen internally and externally. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in me and in the others involved, and choose to trust that change can be experienced as good, positive and life giving.  Choose to believe that transition can be used for building bridges where needed and removing old paths that are no longer fruitful. 

We walk through constant change and transition...internally, externally, phsycially, emotionally and spiritually, and every change, every transition is an opportunity to put trust and faith into action.  It always circles back to what am I willing to put into practice that I promote, champion and teach to othersWill I allow change to move me from one place to another?  Will I stop and listen to the leading of the Spirit for my position in offense or defense?  Will I join into this transition and see it as a connecting point rather than an uncontrollable, unavoidable obstacle?

Daniel 2:20-22 (CJB)

20 in these words:

“Blessed be the name of God
from eternity past to eternity future!
For wisdom and power are his alone;
21 he brings the changes of seasons and times;
he installs and deposes kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those with discernment.
22 He reveals deep and secret things;
he knows what lies in the darkness;
and light dwells with him.

May you trust in the wisdom from God!  May you have discernment when the signs of change are ahead! 

May you be able to be still and quiet in order to receive the deep and secret things!

Misunderstood

Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV)

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It is not always comforting to read about persecution as a cause for joy, nor is it particularly motivating to know that it is not something we can or should even try to avoid, but knowing that we are not alone in it and that, in fact, Jesus walked through the same struggles before us does give us hope.  In my experience the greatest source of misunderstanding often surrounds expressions of love through acts of service, kindness or compassion.  The times I am expressing love in the most genuine, unadulterated form it seems I am met with rejection, anger and sometimes an end to a relationship. [Insert your scenario here...is it a client who walked away...a co-laborer who shut you out...a ministry that denied partnership...a family member who does not accept your work...and the list goes on...]

It can be confusing that expressing God's heart of love can be such a source of conflict.  Yet isn't that truly what Jesus was met with, the one who always at all times was expressing love from an unadulterated, genuine place with no ulterior motive except the benefit of another?  Take heart that you are not alone that true love expressed to us and through us stirs up a struggle and response sometimes even suprising to ourselves.  Reflect on how you react to pure expressions of love, the way you may shrink back, try to hide or sometimes run away...as we grow and learn in this we can be assured that living fully from a place of love is not the wrong way...love forges paths to freedom, tears down walls of resistance and opens prison doors! 

Do not loose heart at the empty places left by those you reached out to in love...it was not in vain, it was not unnecessary and it was not the wrong thing to do.  If Jesus who walked out love perfectly was rejected, despised and shut out by so many...then we can conclude that it is more about what is going on in the exchange, the intention and motive of the heart and what is being stirred and moved that matters.  Love moves so often in the unseen!  May the eyes of our heart be open to see beyond the natural!  May we love no matter the cost!

Be freed to love again, no matter the cost!