The Fish Are Sick

If the fish in a pond, suddenly started to all swim in circles together, around and around we might wonder if they had been hypnotized. If they all started to bloat, their round bellies expand, dropsy set in with the whole school we might wonder what was the matter. Did someone feed them too much? If the entire pond of fish started to behave irresponsibly, jumping out of the water thrashing on the muddy shores would we not be concerned?

If they were dying, all the fish, anxious and depressed, cutting themselves with dull rocks on the bottom of the pond. If they began sipping on noxious chemicals to dull the ache, or if the whole pond started swimming up streams they never spawned in, but waters that would surely kill them…would we not try to intervene?

Would we not wonder if there was something wrong with the water they were swimming in? Would we not be just a little bit concerned that something was wrong with the ENVIRONMENT?

Perhaps…we should start shouting at the fish. HEY YOU FISH, STOP THAT you are hurting yourself don’t you see? Your underside is bleeding, the sharks are circling, PLEASE stop dragging your  bloated belly along the bottom. JUST STOP IT.

Or maybe we treat the sick fish…can we catch every single one, try to give them some antibiotics, push back the decay. Perhaps if we sit them down on a therapists couch we can cure-all that ails them.

But all the fish are doing it, don’t you see? Every. single. one. These waters are killing them, not so softly.

Its time to drop anecdote into this pond. It is time to figure out how to treat this culture. It is time to love these fish enough to do the HARD work of starting from ground zero, of getting into the mud and the mire and showing a better way. It is time friends, to recognize the thief dropping poison in our kids and to STOP him. They have started taking the bait off of a hook meant to kill and destroy.

Youth culture is sick. For the first time at my work at the university we are prescribing more anxiolytics then antibiotics. More antidepressants then birth control. More morning after pills then casts for injuries. Things are not quite right in this fish pond.

We covet your prayers this weekend as we step into the waters, scatter the only cure for a society so sick. The only hope for a situation so hopeless.

Join us? Pray with us this week. Fast with us this week for a work that only God could do. He can make all things new you know.

Even ponds full of toxin and the half dead. Living Water can soothe even the sickest of fish….

 

In the Company of Women

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That morning, the lake stood still, the mist settled in. As I walked onto the dock I watched the ripples run across the water, each of my steps sending tiny waves out. I was suddenly an earthquake disturbing the peace. I stopped, sat down, I didn’t want to ruin anything, had no interest in rocking that blissful boat just sitting there, minding its own business.
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I’ve stepped shyly in other parts of my life too you know. Lightly almost. Not sure where I fit in the land of women, always more comfortable in the company of men. I feel like I send ripples out, change things, and I never know if it is for the better. I am a woman who revels in statements like “you are not like other women though”, I’ve made myself at home in mocking stereotypes and all the ties that bind.  I’ve stayed away from the women’s retreats. I’ve made fun of scrapbooking (and knitting….and…). I have attempted to make myself something else. Something different. A hybrid. I’ve elbowed my way into the circles of men, thinking, perhaps the conversation might be more my speed. That perhaps, I would offend less often. The whole of my life, I have found myself surrounded by many male friends. I played soccer at lunch. I was on the basketball courts playing 21 at camp when the other girls were curling their hair.I speak the language of the dudes easily. The harsher. The sarcastic. The jokes. Lets talk about everything but our feelings ok?

The truth of it is I just never, ever felt like I fit, so I would rather find my place around the outside. I called women who spent too much time on their looks shallow, when maybe I was just envious that I have no concept of how to do my own hair. When maybe both of us are just terribly insecure and perhaps we both could’ve stepped back challenged the assumptions about one another that were binding and walked in a truer version of ourselves instead of just trying to be?

You see the problem is this:

I am a feminist. A raging one if we are honest. My parents left the church partly because they didn’t want their daughters bound and gagged. You hear that? Getting this theology right matters to me.  I want to see women and girls walk in the fullness of their giftings. I want them to live life unafraid…of anything…especially their own skin and the way it feels to live in it. I want them to believe in the power of their voices, the call of their God. I want them to believe they have a place in the Kingdom, that their place is important, necessary. If they are married, I want them to be extraordinary wives and mothers who inspire their men to be better, to fulfill their call too. Do you see that? When a man walks in freedom his woman does too, when a woman releases her gifts in fullness she inspires him to do the same…it isn’t either / or. It is BOTH / AND. When my husband is thriving, so am I. When I am ragged with expectation and a life that doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit him either. I tie him to the ground with my neediness, my dependence. Freedom reigns in our home when we both have voice, when we mutually sacrifice, lay aside our agendas for the dream of the OTHER. Somehow, don’t you see how time expands? Life becomes a passionate adventure into the call of God on our lives…as one…each serving the other, each freeing the other to dream more, dream again.

So how can I, a woman who believes all that, still try to separate herself? Do you see ugliness of that? The way our competition creates false divides, broken bridges, broken hearts? There is something very wrong if you are happy about the fact that you are not like ‘other women’, it means you are actually not a feminist. You are not a freedom fighter. If we are achieving something while breaking another womans back, which direction are we moving? If our life causes another to cower or to feel inadequate in our presence…what are we really accomplished? If I believe that this freedom song is ours to sing, how can I not call other women into it? How can I not actively help them to find their voice? We cannot be a freedom fighters if we are eating our own, pushing other women down so that we can reach higher, gain a false identity.

 
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So I’ve been stepping out, attempting to find my place, and helping others to find theirs. I’ve been building bridges and circling around the women in my life, attempting to find my place among them. I’ve been brave (for me) and I’ve been bold. I hosted a womens retreat. For real. I authentically made confession to other women… things about myself I’ve never breathed out loud. I trusted them with myself and they’ve yet to fail me yet. I am finding my place, a company of women who feel like sisters, who get me, who heal me, who inspire me, who convict me. People I want to build with, dream with, people I believe are changing the world.

 
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I want to be among the brave ones, the women who stand up straight and strong. Who strengthen the backs of each other, who see and break the chains of injustice, who bravely step into our callings, who help others to discover and walk into theirs. I think, I might be ready to rock the boat, stepping out on the water with the God of the universe, inspiring us all to just stand there, waves lapping on our toes.

 

(This post partially inspired by Ann Voskamps breathtaking piece here🙂

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(and this post is dedicated to my friend Sarah Bessey who had a book release this week!

I can hardly wait to read it Sarah! So proud of you and excited about the impact it could have on our beloved church!)

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The Fireball

Still image from video shows the trail of a falling object above a residential apartment block in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk

A meteor fell from the sky yesterday.

Flamed up and burned out with all the power of an atomic bomb.

Crashed into the earth, left destruction in her path.

We had watched you for a long time.

Watched you over and over,

terrifyingly close to plunging into deep waters.

You stayed in the sky while under our watch, despite your best attempts.

Instead you fell, now, a decade later, in the middle of a city.

All the cloud of witnesses are wondering what sort of force field we could have built to protect you from this atmosphere that broke you into fire the moment oxygen struck.

We called the experts when we should have, looked for ways to extinguish the burn.

We did everything the text books say.
But still you burnt.

We prayed until we both shook on your behalf.

And yet still…

The cities are burning. You’ve left a natural disaster in your wake.

Rest In Peace TB. 

Of Blue Hair and Bullets

My boy, he shouts down the hallway, thirty minutes past his bedtime “MOMMMY! Come cuddle me!” and this day of all days I say “YES” and I walk fast down these old plank floors. This day I near run. These days might be short you know, we’ve got no guarantees.

When I arrive in his room he is cuddled under the blankets I think, “Oh no, is he scared? Did he hear the video I just watched?”. I bend, touch his back. Only… Wait. That is a pillow. He has wrapped his body pillow in his favorite blanket and he is hidden in the corner. He bursts out laughing when he hears me make the discovery. So we laugh. I pull this little light into my chest, it seems the only way to honour those that have been snuffed out.  

We had a pack of girls in our home the other night. There was near twenty of  them wearing hoodies all black, their hair swooped across their left eye. They talked about how they barely go to school, how their dad died, how their friends are mean to them. They stood in my house and all the broken felt like cracks in my universe. These babies looking like women, tiny flames to be fanned, extinguished, or ignited. 

I made them hot chocolate and I sat beside them, I looked into their eyes. I hugged a couple as they left. They asked if they could move in. I laughed with them, smoothed her blue-green hair as she threw herself into my arms. I felt the warmth and heat she produced, knew how easily it could shift to raging fire, the kind of flame that burns things down, turns lives into ash.

I thought about them today. And the twenty year old man in Connecticut. I know. I thought about the babies too, and their mammas, but I must confess, I thought most about him.

 

How did our community fail him so? His own brain? The chemicals that keeps it all together…what went so wrong? What accelerant was thrown over his young body that made him a threat to the world instead of a light to it? The thing about this world  is that it is all choked full of beautiful things that can be twisted into horror and we would like to think that if we sit in our warm houses pouring our heat over our own kids that we will keep them safe. I don’t think that is the whole story.

 

 

All I know is, there are kids standing on the edge of raging fires Those who’ve been pushed by a community spinning too fast, being too self obsessed. Those from generation after generation of men who live like infernos. 

We need to find a way to keep them all warm…

Pray with me?

 

 

The whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for what we have already seen. Christian community is the place where we keep the flame alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness. 

That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. We say it together. We affirm it in one another. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment—that is the meaning of marriage, friendship, community, and the Christian life.

-Henri Nouwen in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (quote posted by Suzannah yesterday)

 

A late link up with my friend Emily

 

 

Kick up the dust. Then wash each others feet.

“When kids grow up they face a broken world;

we need to prepare them to contend for the kingdom without fear.” (@JenHatmaker)

They poured out of the bus. Near 60 of them. Junior high boys. High on life and testosterone and each other. I would like to tell you they sat in neat rows and recited scripture to me.

They didn’t.
Instead? There were twenty odd boys in my hot tub, belching the worlds largest, cracking jokes. There were still more playing paintball with the tire rubber slingshots we bought from the roadside vendor in Kenya. Others riding mini bikes or roasting meat around the campfire.

We will send them home to you with dust streaked faces, paintball stained shirts, they will smell like fire.

This ministry we do will never be clean. We serve a God who spits in the dirt to form balm for healing. Who scratches the soil with a stick when the others throw rocks. It was almost like he warned us. Kick up the dust. Then wash each others feet. Use your tears if you must. Get it done. 

I wish life were simple. Cleaner. I wish all the kids in our youth group came from homes like yours. That they didn’t walk in with 100 pound back packs of burdens and pain, wounds gaping wide open in their chests. Sometimes we see it from across the room, those wounds so deep they suck you in.

But. So do you. So do I. Sometimes we are the ones saddling them.

Later in the night I hear a yell from the hot tub, “MAN CHALLENGE”. And a young leader says “this is the year we learn what it means to be men of integrity”. They yell again, change, and start a fire. Start singing worship songs. It was beautiful and in that moment they sparkled.

But.

They are still going to treat you badly some days and still they are going to make big mistakes this year. We will learn about the grace of God together. We will learn that the Grace walk is measured by the forward momentum from two steps back and three forward.

So yes. Expect things to get messy this year.

 

I for one wouldn’t have it any other way.

(today as I prayed for Pursuit, I realized I was thinking more about where YOU are at with Jesus than where I am at with Jesus. Forgive me. Jesus…my life is yours….Make it sparkle if you want to… also? Make me ok with the mess…mine and theirs. I trust you to sculpt it into something that matters, I submit to the potters hands).

 

Who makes you better?

 

My relationship with Mary began about 10 years ago. It was about 10:30 at night and we were the last two people left pricing items for a youth garage sale. Amongst all the boxes and dirty objects we were surrounded by, somehow I knew that I was on consecrated ground. The presence of the Lord felt so heavy that I felt like maybe I should take off my shoes. We told stories that night and we found we had much in common. The way we came to know the Lord, the way that we stumbled into the strange life of being the wife of a pastor (both of us sort of surprised by the idea). That night began one of the most influential relationships in my life. While my time actually spent with Mary wasn’t that extensive, every moment I did taught me something about Jesus chasing and I always felt a very deep kinship and affection for her. And these last few days I have seen clearly that my feelings for her, our relationship, was not unique.

Everyone that Mary encountered felt the same.

I’ve been asked to speak about Marys ministry to the youth of Willow Park Church and that could be a long conversation. I asked around to our team and there were certain themes that every person mentioned.

PRAYER

The first of those was prayer. We trusted Mary to stand in the gap for us. She understood that staking a claim and doing battle for the spiritual lives of kids is not to be taken lightly or unprotected. Mary formed armies around our youth group. We felt she helped us stand when our legs were weak.

Some of the most precious memories of Mary revolve around her prayer ministry. The way she always arrived the day before our conferences started and walked the perimeter and the building praying for the youth that would be attending. The way she was present for every session we held, the names of each registrant in her hand, prayed over. I remember walking the camp property with her, meeting all the people she brought along for the same purpose. She didn’t do this just occasionally. She did this every year.

Rachel Lindsay, our girls ministry director, mentioned how every time she saw Mary, she introduced her to someone else who was praying specifically for her needs. Sue Enns mentioned how even recently (three years after she left our staff) when she saw her she was still praying for her, wondering about her life, keeping track of where she was and what she needed. Each of us felt like we were known intimately, cared for immensely.

DEDICATION

The second thing that all of us noticed about Marys ministry was the way she managed to know not only all the details of our lives, but also all the dates of every event we held. I am the wife of the youth pastor and most of the time I cannot keep up with all the events but somehow Mary knew, exactly when we were departing for missions trips and would always arrive about an hour before we left. Sometimes she brought a verse for each student missionary. Sometimes she brought anointing oil that she sprinkled on the bus. She ensured she had the staff list for our camp, the names of every camper that was registered. She prayed for each of us all summer. Several times we would send messages about challenges we were facing and she would rally the troops, pray intensely for us. Her dedication to the ministry left us overwhelmed at times.

LOVE

Everyone who speaks about Mary, mentions the way she made you feel so very cared for. The way she made you feel like you were the only person in the room, that you might somehow be her very favorite person on earth. Mary who walked grace, talked Jesus chasing, touched gentle. She spoke with lips dripping blessing and each word built on the other and it built you up and you felt stronger in her presence.

The air shifted when she walked into the room and we all swayed closer to her. This was true of Mary in every context I saw her in. Teenagers, women, men, all of us; we were like plants drawn to the light, her radiant Jesus reflecting face.

LEGACY

I think one of the greatest things I learned from Mary is how Jesus can change your legacy. She told me once that she didn’t always pray like she did these last few years. That one January she asked God what he wanted for her and he said I want you to be a woman of prayer.  That really stuck in my mind. It made me realize that at any point in our lives, Jesus can completely alter our legacies. That what we are known for now does not need to dictate what we will always be known for. That as we push into him, we see Him we can become new creations. This church, all of us, every time we described her, we claimed her as our own, our prayer warrior.

My ears always perked when she talked of how she hears and how she walks and how she listens and how she lives this life. This is how one walks redemption and lives love and I wanted to learn every lesson she could teach.

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Country Chronicles: Becoming Switchback Ranch

The ministry season is heating up over here. Our dreams for this land are growing feet and we are so excited about it. This place is not our own, we just get to live here. This place belongs to Royal Bank. I kid….well sort of…it actually does of course BUT more than that it belongs to God.

Seriously though…we moved here to create a space for people to re-engage with nature, to help them meet again the One who made it. We are calling it Switchback Ranch. A place for turning. A place for climbing. The metaphor ends there. Mostly it is named this because we live atop a mountain and you must climb a steep switchback to get here…

We kicked off the season a few weeks ago with a staff prayer night. We invited everyone up for a potluck and prayer walk.


We had our first care group here this week too. We’ve not quite finished all the things we are hoping to get organized, but I think they had fun. The mini bike track is made, though it does need to be packed down a little. Joel installed street lights (thanks Clayton & Cheryl!). We also brought the Ark golf cart home and the young people seem to love safaris as much as our kids. Though…the boys jumping out of the woods making the girls scream may have added to the excitement of the event.

And under construction? A parking lot. Joel has cleared it and now we are waiting on the excavation company to come this week who will flatten it out and also try to deal with our switchback driveway by stretching out the corners etc. Hoping for the best! Also “Abins Cabin” is a chapel/treehouse that Adam is building in the back corner of the property. Joel is lining one of the old sheds with cedar and turning it into a wood fired sauna. 

And me? I’m just all kinds of thankful. Loving this stage of life. Loving my work. My family stage and our ministry here. Excited to see what God can do with it…and us…as we surrender it to Him