Water along the Way

Teaching this past week was hard. Today I spontaneously ended up at a women’s retreat with Rosa Marie that included a 20-minute writing workshop and an afternoon hike. Here’s a window to my soul, and the way I felt the Lord speak to me this morning.

I’ve placed puddles all around you. Walk along in the aftermath of the rain pouring into the holes in your own pores. I’m filling them up. You think you have face planted. You think that you should wallow in a muddy 3 foot circle of stagnant, dirtied water. But I let you fall into that place so that I can pick you back up out of it. So that the next puddle that comes along is not unfamiliar to you.

Continue reading “Water along the Way”

Advertisements

Grateful Journal

 

Through the month of January, I had about fifteen distinct blog topics floating around in my head. Some were life updates, like that Subaru Outback WITH a sunroof that I bought — woot woot! — or weekend trips up to Richmond and Roanoke to visit Abby and Kayla.

img_7740

 

Other blog intentions included evaluations on Trump’s first week in office and podcasts I’ve listened to; some entertaining babysitting anecdotes; the decision to move to and teach in Greenville this fall, and the peace and excitement I’ve felt about it.

Continue reading “Grateful Journal”

Persevere to the Dawn

IJM’s Global Prayer Gathering began over a decade ago with a few dozen people meeting in a room together to pray for the work of justice. Today, it is a full weekend held at the swanky Gaylord Resort, with over 1,200 attendees and room to grow. As an intern, I had the true privilege to serve and participate in GPG this year. These are the reasons this past weekend was awesome.

5. Testimony

All 18 international Field Office Directors pause their work abroad to take part in GPG. There is nothing like hearing a story firsthand from the people actively engaging in the fight to protect poor people from violence.  Christa Sharpe, the FOD in Cambodia, is a force of positive energy and action, and her update was especially exciting. She shared that a decade ago, the Cambodia office faced rampant impunity – acts of violence went unpunished, so perpetrators disregarded the law Christa shared that police are actually protecting underage girls from sexual exploitation. Today, it is difficult to even find cases of underage sexual exploitation anymore, and rehabilitation centers there are some of the best in the world. The Cambodia office’s next long-term goal is to eventually pull out and allow the country to handle sex trafficking crimes independently.
Griselda, a former Guatemalan client who now works at IJM, even came to share her story personally. After such hardship, she still beams with joy and confidence, grateful for the work IJM has done on her behalf.

Both Griselda’s renewed life and the fact that the Cambodia office may be nearing its end after only ten years are incredible – evidence of a mighty God moving forcefully through the world.

4. Hard work

I recently learned that IJM doesn’t do GPG at a more convenient time when more people could come (like the summer) because they so heavily depend on interns to pull this huge event off. That’s alright with me, though; I thrive in long, laborious days in which I am freely serving and contributing to something far greater than myself. It’s great bonding time, and there are even pockets of fun to be found, like riding on hotel dollies at the age of 21. After a week of GPG prep, the interns packed up, played real-life tetris loading everything into one U-Haul, unloaded countless boxes, set up prayer rooms…and then did all of those tasks again in reverse order. Fortunately, the exhaustion didn’t hit until GPG was over, so I had Sunday to recuperate.

Go to all measures – including the floor – for GPG
Show us how you really feel (She’s actually a good sport…I just think this picture is funny)

GPG planning extraordinaire

Preparing journals!

Luggage dollies: Useful for moving: a) luggage b) GPG boxes c) people d) all of the above

Planning a big event takes a lot of organization

3) Community

If you step out of your group, you’re bound to meet some cool people at GPG, and all of them shared stories of great things God is doing in their lives. As I set up the Rwanda prayer room, I met the FOD and was later able to give him a small prophetic word of encouragement. My neighbor during the Thursday evening dinner happened to be the former mayor of Tennessee, who wants to use his retirement years to confront sex trafficking in America.  There is a couple from Texas who were integral in a race benefitting IJM, which, ironically, I had been using to create a toolkit at work. The list goes on. In each interaction, I got the sense that they were, if not ordained, at least affirming the way the Holy spirit moves in other people’s lives.
Post-dinner: Room for a dang lot of people

2) Worship

I love worship because I’m able to glorify God with lyrics far more artistic and full of truth that anything I could come up with in prayer. It’s a good time for processing and personal reflection, too (more to come on revelations and my future plans soon!). Plus, Sara Groveshas an angelic voice, and she was kind enough to take a picture with the interns. As another intern said, I’m “practically famous” since I’m standing right next to her. J

Yes, that is Sara Groves. Yes that is me on the left.

 1) Justice re-calibration

When I’m in the thick of IJM for eight hours a day, it’s easy to miss the bigger picture and lose sight of why I do the work that I do. Or why I care about justice and advocate for it at all. In Gary’s opening talk, he said that we must use God’s light to Shrink the Shadows, Dispel the Darkness, Melt he Mountains and Call Forth Healing. I’m not going to go into the metaphorical details of each of those steps, but GPG is a reminder that God invites us into a monumental challenge that we cannot accomplish by ourselves. Not only does He want us to be a part of it, but He wants us to ask Him for help. We have prayer as a real tool that bears results far greater than what we ask or imagine.
My prayer in the Rwanda room

Even after the work of justice is well underway, Gary discussed a final step: we must Persevere to the Dawn. This applies literally to casework in the field, to keep moving forward in tough cases and convict criminals, but ultimately to press on until all things are made new. Persevering to the dawn is for all of God’s people, too, though. We are to persevere in remaining close to the Father through His word, and persevere in talking to Him about His work. We will rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer. I’m already looking forward to GPG next year!

Unguarded Earnestness

When Jesus says to “let the little children come to me,” He seems to be calling His followers to certain attractive “child-like” qualities – humility, wonder, joy and unguarded earnestness.
In anticipation of the Global Prayer Gathering, IJM staff have corporately been considering the idea of entering next weekend in a posture of Unguarded Earnestness. What does that mean? What does it look like? I think of “earnestness” as utmost sincerity, approaching something with the fullest intention of doing it well or treating someone with lavish kindness. Perhaps you’ll still mess up, but your intentions and efforts reflect a desire to give your all.
For me, “unguarded” is the scarier part. That translates to straight-up vulnerability – being totally open, able to be at best molded into a truer reflection of Christ and at worst trampled upon, left seriously hurt and wounded.
It’s that vulnerable sincerity, though, that turns prayers into true faithfulness. When we approach the Father, our prayers should not only be honest and genuine, but our petitions should be, as we say at IJM, crazy pants prayers – “big, hairy, audacious” ones that only a loving Father far more powerful than ourselves could answer. There is no way we could make that prayer happen without God, so we come to Him fully dependent, with unguarded earnestness, faithfully believing that He not only hears our prayers but answers them also.
I’ve been thinking about the way unguarded earnestness could transform more than our prayers. What about everyday life? Our actions toward others, our work, our after school activities or the strength of our relationships would all be transformed! It looks like having an “all-in” attitude, combining the belief that what you do matters and not allowing anything to hold you back from giving it your full efforts. Giving friends your full attention because they matter more than the task at hand demonstrates your value for them. Not half-assing a project because you believe that your contribution makes a difference. Believing you can break 20 minutes in your next 5K or that you can make a goal at the next game brings more diligence and purpose to your practice. Even in a relationship conflict or marital problem – wholeheartedly devoting yourself to righting wrongs because you believe that the other person is worth it. All of this from a posture of unguarded earnestness.
At the same time, we don’t want to be “childish” – foolish, immature, irresponsible, unstable, silly or naive. If I run a 25 minute 5K, just hoping that it will be 20 minutes next week would be irrational. There are nearly 30 million slaves today. Praying that injustice will be eradicated tomorrow would show a lack of analysis and reason. Just imagine Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey making fun of the Global Prayer Gathering. Right. 1200+ people are going to get together and pray, and as you stand there and worship the sky, people will be brought out of bondage. Ha!
It’s easy to be cold-hearted and have fears of judgment of being naive about very serious, big issues. But the posture changes the approach. If we approach prayer or our everyday life issues with the child-like quality of unguarded earnestness, we come knowing that prayer does work and our interactions with others will shift. We come desperately needing Jesus’ grace and abundant life. We come eager and expectant for His power, attentive to Him and fully devoted; strengthened, refreshed, fully present and utterly grateful for every good gift the Holy Spirit gives. We’re not worshiping the sky. We’re worshiping a God with an unchanging character – One who for all eternity has heard the cries of His children and longs to bring life and freedom. 

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

I’ve made a decision today.

I don’t really do well with beggars and homeless people. You can’t give to all of them, so many people choose not to give to any. Plus, what are they really going to do with that money? Are they going to get food and support their family, or are they going to buy more alcohol.
On my way back from Spoleto today (yes, like the Spoleto Festival in Charleston – we have a sister city!), a greasy-haired gypsy woman came through the train with a picture of her (/a) family and was asking for change.

First time: I saw her out of the corner of my eye and did not turn my head, playing an extra intense game of candy crush. She stood there in a whiny complaining voice for an unnecessarily long amount of time.
Just go away! You are so annoyingly persistent. I don’t know if I should give you anything or not. You’re not supposed to even be on this train. Jesus says I should love you. What does that even mean? Am I rejecting Jesus right now?

She finally walked away. I’ve always told myself that I would give homeless people food if they needed it. Oh crap. I realized the lobbyist at Hotel Charleston I had dropped by to meet had given me an extra slice of pizza. I still had it. I had food I could’ve given that lady, and I was so uncomfortable with her hovering, unwanted presence that I didn’t even think about it. Lord, please bring her back by again.

Second time: Five minutes later, a simple prayer is answered. I gave her the pizza, she took it, and then proceeded to pester for money. I shook my head. She rambles about feeding her children. I point to the pizza and the girl in the photo. Another long, hovering presence. She finally leaves.

I still can’t get her out of my thoughts. Is it right not to give her any money? I don’t know. I felt an innate sense to say no. I realize I also happen to have a pack of crackers on me. I should give those, too.

Third time: She swoops in again. The woman has unashamed persistence, I give her that. I offer her my crackers. She shoos them away; she doesn’t want them, only money. That kind of ticked me off. The phrase “Beggars can’t be choosers” immediately came to mind. Sure, it is only a pack of crackers, but I’m trying to give them to you, and you won’t accept them. So how badly do you really need money after all?

The whole scenario reminded me so much of Peter.
“Peter, do you love me?”
“Lord, you know I love you.”
“Feed my sheep.”

Three times that happened. And later, Peter denies Christ three times also.

It was like God gave me three chances to love that woman. I denied her once, fed her and then was rejected. I’m not certain if my actions were just or if I should be more generous in general. But, like I said, I’ve come to a decision. Beggars are not going away. I’ll be living in D.C. next semester and I’ll face a lot more of them there. They are people, and I will not totally deny their dignity. I won’t give them money, but I will intentionally carry granola bars with me. I will put it in their hands. Accept or reject. I’ll let you be the chooser.

Golden Friends

I only had one prayer while I prepared for Italy.
Lord, I can spend a semester by myself. I’m independent and I would really be able to focus on You, but I’d really like one good friend. I don’t have to connect with anyone else, they can all be wild partiers, but please, give me one companion that I am totally comfortable with. Who will pray and laugh and travel and eat with me.
Jesus loves to give good gifts to His children, and time and again, I have experienced His blessings. This request was no exception.  The very first night, before we even moved into our apartments, I announced I was going on a walk and invited anyone to come along. They declined, having just returned from their own exploration. Very well, then. I can go alone, I thought, and I set off through the parking lot. “Hey wait! I’d like to come with you!” She told me her name, but I couldn’t remember it. As we walked, it didn’t take ten minutes before she began one of my favorite pastimes: the question game – describing our perfect day, as I recall. She casually mentioned she was in a Christian sorority back at Boulder. She didn’t seem to be conforming to any stereotypes, and I liked that. This girl, Alea, became my first friend.
God! Thank you. That was quite prompt. You are so good to me.
He didn’t stop there.
Lugging two massive pieces of luggage into my room on the second day, I met my roommate.  Aside from the horrendous procrastination habits she is successfully teaching me, I love everything else about this girl. We are different; she takes “chilling” to a new level, and I’m a little more extroverted. But as we learned more about each other the first few days, I was astounded by our similarities. What?! You have two sisters and a brother? You like to hike? You listen to the Avett Brothers? Your best friend is from South Carolina? She feels like another sister; with a steady and even-keeled temperament, she is the perfect constant companion. She makes me laugh, her thoughts are insightful, and our cooking is improving together.
I guess I feared making friends because that was difficult for me freshman year of college. Here, it hasn’t been the case. Friendships just keep happening, almost effortlessly.  Mariah identifies and illuminates the beauty in others. Tracey is a hip-hop dancing joy. Kristina, Danielle, Kevin, Joe, Holly.
This past weekend, there was a pasta dinner, a burger night, an American breakfast (we like food, okay?), and a crazy Italian soccer game. It all happened with people I really enjoyed spending time with, people who make me laugh and share similar values. After dinner Friday night, we all sat around the table sharing stories, listening to music, and at times laughing until we were gasping for breath. As we walked back, Abby and I both agreed that it felt like a night with our friends at home. When we day-tripped to overcast Cortona, it wasn’t really about the Under the Tuscan Sun destination or museums at all. Rick Steves still provided great restaurant advice, but I spent the day aimlessly wandering around a charming town with friends I love. It’s true; already, I really do love them.
Abby, Tracey, and Mariah

Chocolate Chip Pancakes an friends. Not much better.
The deeper I dig into my time here the more treasure boxes of friendships I find. I feel more than pirate’s luck at striking this gold; I am greatly blessed by a loving God. He understands good relationships, and He desires them for His children.