Monday, July 21, 2014

For When I Feel Behind

We leave just before the highest point of the heat wave last week. While the chickens are panting and the dog lays lazy on his side and sweat collects at the nape of my neck.

I had thought the mountains would provide relief - that the air would be cooler, but I was wrong.

The heat was a blanket that pressed in close even there.


The baby, she runs this year.  She runs everywhere and anywhere and the sweat drips off of her little nose too.



It didn't matter though, I would lift her up and place her in the Ergo and she and I, in the shade and light of the forest trails, we would walk.


I am behind in everything it feels like - everything that I had placed before me at the start of the new year. Memory verses, books to read, lessons to plan, posts to post...they all have seemed to slow and the heavy mantle of expectation that I've placed on myself pressed in even closer than the furnace of the air around me.


So as I would walk and she would nod off in the pack on my back I opened up my little booklet that holds the words of that Mountain Sermon - dipped way back into the days of February and tried to start up again, realizing with fresh awe that the very Words of Christ were now on my tongue.



They felt familiar, as they should I guess. From the time I was her size I have heard them in some form or another and I wouldn't be surprised if they were imprinted somehow on the grey matter of my brain.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill
cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14
But this time, the words didn't just thoughtlessly tumble out of my mouth because there was just one little word that stopped me still.




I mother four little ones, I am wife to one amazing man. I am a Canadian from wide open prairies who has fallen in love with the inner city and the people here, but there are times that I still feel adrift...as though I am missing out on the details of the plan.

Three little letters though arrested my footsteps and I stood under towering cedars and received the truth of what He was giving.

Set.


The size of this word belies the riches hidden inside of it - and the Greek unfurls the beauty of it even more.

It speaks of things that quietly cover some spot - of a city that is situated on a hill.

As a metaphor, it is to be (by God's intent) set, destined, appointed.




In the center of His will, I am found in the details of His plans for me...for us. In the middle of the mundane and the chaos with time rushing by on either side, I can easily become distracted, convinced that the movement of the moments is what I'm missing, forgetting that His Hand has set me here in place.




Time will always rush by - to be honest, I may always feel one step behind.

But really, behind who?


Phantom expectations that I have allowed myself to be led astray by,

or resting quietly, trusting by faith in the One Who has placed me here, in this time - this space.


It is in Jesus that I live and move and have my being - in Him I can't be behind or missing out on what He has planned for me. There is a security in knowing that I have been purposefully placed, that His grace anchors me to Himself when it feels as though time is swirling out of of control.

The summer heat pressed in close in those days of last week, but it only served to press me in closer to Jesus and lifting a weight that I never needed to carry.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2


I want to run this race, not because I'm trying to chase some illusive plan I'm convinced Jesus is withholding from me, but because I know this right now is His will and each step is bringing me closer to that moment when my eyes will see His beautiful face.








Monday, July 7, 2014

Independence Day...A letter from Tony

On a regular basis, Tony sends out a prayer letter to those who support us in this way and we felt it sums up our first 4th of July in the inner-city quite well.

Here it is in his words...

Hello fellow prayer partners, 


Last night was interesting.  

Fireworks were basically used as a shield to fire guns.  You would hear a loud bang or screecher firework followed by the rapid snapping of .22,  .45 and 9's. 

Once the fireworks at the Sun Dome had been expended and the neighborhood was empty, gun fire broke out up and down the street, all around us with no pretense or attempt to hide any of the intent. 


In some cases it was random firing but in other instances there were clearly firefights block to block with return fire back and forth using higher caliber weapons with rapid fire exchanges including AR 15's and other weapons I couldn't place from just the sounds. 

This continued all through the night until 6:30am and I wondered at one point whether they would run out of ammunition or alcohol first (blame it on the Goose). :)

   My family and I were perfectly safe.  What did concern me was the young man that dropped by around 9:30pm, clearly strapped and needing food and water.  We weren't sure if he was there for our protection or his own. 

He is a great kid that grew up on the eastside and has generational gang roots. 

   He tried to pass it off as just being funny but his questions were veined in serious notes, making sure we were safe and that we should probably arm ourselves, even though he'd, "let his homies know we weren't to be touched, but he can't assure us that his enemies felt the same."

I assured him Jesus was taking care of us. 


Kimberley and I and the kids sat with him on the front porch, feeding him and letting him talk for awhile until it was time for him to leave around 10:30pm. I sent the kids and Kimberley inside and explained to him that Jesus loves him and had a plan for his life. Before he left he asked me to pray for  protection for himself that, "he wouldn't get messed up in anything stupid tonight". I did that but also prayed that "Jesus would show himself to [him] tonight in a way that undeniable, and that he would clearly see Jesus." 

Please pray for us to heed The Spirit's leading and that Jesus would continue to bring these opportunities to witness to our front door. 

Send this to whoever would benefit from it or is interested in praying for our ministry.

Thanks,
Tony Baker
MH director

I've never been in a situation like this before, and yet even though I was overwhelmed, I was also covered in a peace that only Christ can give.

About three weekends before, I was given the opportunity to speak at a weekend camp and the verse that my co-speaker and I focused on was 2 Timothy 1:7:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.

These were the words that were running through my head as we listened to the chaos outside our home.


Jesus is here with us, whether the streets are calm or in turmoil.  He has placed us here with a very specific purpose - to show His glory in the middle of what we don't always understand.


If you would like to be included in our prayer letters, you can contact me at wifeoftony{at}gmail(dot)com. We would love to have you stand beside us.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Short-term missions...and why my kids will probably stay home.

I think I've figured out the frustration I feel as I watch them walk up and down these streets most days. Them in their white button up shirts and straight ties, pressed black pants and backpacks slung nonchalantly over their shoulders.

I've figured out my frustration over their boldness in approaching strangers who carry brown paper bags hiding the liquor inside; approaching the woman strung out on drugs or the kids who are spending long, lazy summer days riding bikes to that corner store and back.


They approach anyone and everyone - it doesn't matter how they look or who they are or the response that they get...their question is always the same: "Can I talk to you about Jesus Christ?".


And I sit there on my porch and I rock in that chair and they are passing out pictures of a false Jesus while I hold the true Christ right there in my soul and shouldn't our places be switched?



Short-term missions.

For years I nodded my head and applauded the people who went. Promised to pray and then never did - watched them come back and wrestle through the transition - ease back into safe and comfort together and lived safe and comfortable until the next summer when buses would load up for Mexico or to some random inner city and the cycle would repeat, over and over.


I don't see it the same way anymore.

I don't think I can.


I'm sad that it took Tony taking the job that he has for me to realize this - that it took until we moved right down into the middle of the inner city for me to realize this:

I'm not going to encourage my children to go on short-term missions trips.



It isn't something that I'm going to even encourage until they learn that missions isn't a short term thing.  That missions is a life-style that all Christians are called to. That it isn't a summer-time event, but an everyday thing.  That when Jesus said, Go out into all the world, His disciples listened...but they started where they were first.

They learned how to love others and speak of Jesus and how to do missions communally before they went out on their own. That they worked together in the cities where they were, reaching out to the people around them before they moved on.


I'm not going to encourage my children to go into another city's inner-city until they have learned to love the people in their own inner-city first.


I'm not going to encourage my children to go and serve the lost and under-privileged in another inner-city until they see the people in their own inner-city have worth. Until they see the way serving those around them here can make a difference.

I'm not going to encourage my kids to do short-term missions until it is more than just the thing to do, or until it's more than a once-a-year event.  Until it is more about God's glory than it is about their own fame.




I look at the streets around me and I look at literally thousands of people who don't know the truth about Jesus. Single moms and fatherless children - people desperate to know the truth about Christ.

Is it any wonder there is crime? Is it any wonder that when there is lack - a void - in a life that humanity grasps for something to fill that wound? Drugs/alcohol - numbs. Gangs - become family. Promiscuity - intimacy that doesn't last.

I live in a city that is considered one of the most dangerous in the US and I look out my window and I smile and wave at my neighbours and all I can think is this: What would happen if instead of sponsoring short-term missions out of the city, each church spent that time and energy down in its own inner city?  

What would happen?



If instead of going out, we stayed in and flooded these broken streets with the love of God.  If we are brave enough to go to another city's inner places, shouldn't we be brave enough to go to our own? 

We are told to go into all the world and I see all the different countries around me that are represented and I can picture how just one person coming to know Jesus can spread the gospel into all the world from this one street in Yakima.

The fields are white for harvest - right here. Right here.

Bullets can fly.

Violence can break out.

Someone can cuss you out and tell you to back off.

We could be laughed at and mocked...


But I am a child of One Who was beaten.

One Who was rejected and scorned.

One Who was mocked and murdered.

One Who conquered death to give life to anyone who believes...

One Who told me to go.




I come after a long line of people who risked safe for His glory.

Of a man named Paul who was stoned and left for dead, but who got back up the next day and told of Jesus to the very same people.


The fields are white - they are full. There are people right where you are who need to hear about Jesus.


Consider it - consider not going out until you have learned to love and serve and live among your own.




Saturday, May 17, 2014

When Writing on Chickens Would be Easier

O beloved, I plead with you, not to treat
God's promises as something to be displayed
in a museum but to use them as everyday sources
of comfort. And whenever you have a time of need, 
TRUST THE LORD.
  ~ C.H. Spurgeon (2 Peter 1:4)

I started out putting down words about chickens.

We have six of them and I'm in love with these babies (though not so much with the smell that accompanies them).

Especially my Fiona. 



But I find myself wrestling with writing about chickens; though a worthy thing to write on, it seems empty and shallow and like I'm just grasping for words to fill a white void instead.

Mother's Day, Tony took our four little ones to church and sent me out to a local coffee shop and told me to just be and I took my journal and I put pen to paper and I began to put down words that seemed jumbled and tangled that in the end left a rabbit trail that had an ending that made sense. It felt then that my soul could breathe...it was good.

This space feels the same way.

There are so many things that I want to write on, but I don't know if I should. We've been in ministry now for almost 2 years but now that we are here, immersed in the culture and differences of inner city life, it feels more real. Not that it wasn't before...but I am trying to find my footing again.  So what can I write on, what do I write on? What is allowed and what should just remain in my heart?

I don't know.

Pigeons line this huge roof above me and I can hear them coo.



There is a lady who walks by our house every day pulling a wagon - she always waves but rarely talks, unless it's to frighten the children who play in our yard. I can't help but smile at her way of reaching out, at the mischief that must twinkle in her eyes at she walks by a hiding place and cackles out, Can I play too?, only to have everyone run away yelling.

I get it.

Sometimes we are so desperate to reach out that our reaching out, though brave, comes across as too much.

Talking about chickens seems so much easier.

And happier.

Keeps everyone else at a distance - I can talk about feather growth and when to leave them outside instead of saying what's really on my heart,

Two months ago I threw away a 15 year old shame, was bathed in grace and forgiveness and mercy by people who didn't have to extend it and I'm lost. I don't know how to move forward in this freedom...
I should have this all together, right?


I want to be brave, but that fear creeps in:

You don't have a right to walk free. Don't you see how you are going to stumble?




Lyla, my cautious and fear-filled eldest, she approaches her daddy in the approaching dusk yesterday,

I want to play soccer. With these kids.

Madison House has a soccer field that is used most nights for a soccer league run by one of local landscaping companies...it's a win-win. They take care of our field and then they get to use it. It's a beautiful partnership and one that is amazing to watch - and every night, on our front porch, we can watch these children play.

And my mama-heart...she's never played in a league, let alone with children who are gifted in the sport. I stand and watch her run the field by herself, dribbling the ball and I can see it. She wants to stretch her wings - those feathers of confidence are coming in and I don't want to clip them. I don't want her to see my fear, or my struggle to push her out just a little bit further.

I don't want to see her hurt...




She begins this Monday.


And she is going to fall, 

she is going to mess up.

She is going to make mistakes,

but she will be supported.

She will be loved.


Walking in freedom, walking in the freedom Jesus gives is rarely easy.


There is the falling and the struggle to let go. The fear of walking in obedience and letting the Holy Spirit move.

There are the impossible places that He points to as He says, Here. I will walk with you through here, and the fight to believe that He really will.


I am going to make mistakes.

Many of them.

There are going to be the impossible places pointed out and the call to walk.

And that will take faith.


But what I can count on, what I can know even when fear tempts me to shut my eyes tight and unbelief threatens to overwhelm my heart, 

His Hesed, His steadfast love and kindness will never leave me.

I am hemmed in behind and before.

Whether it's letting a fear-filled child stretch her wings and grow stronger,

whether it's opening a door to an impossibly broken situation,

whether it's trusting that even in the middle of chaos and fear, the One Who is Peace surrounds each moment.


And God who is holy and glorious, He comes near and in intimate ways and as I sit and watch my 6 new babies, He reminds me that even here He can speak through Fiona's wing...




Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,

    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
    your judgements are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:5-7



Monday, April 28, 2014

The Chair {A Tribute to His Dad...}

It sits on our front porch and rocks gently in the breeze.  As though it has always been here - as though a long lost friend has come home.



Tony's mom and brother came to help with the move - they rolled up sleeves and bent backs to load and clean. They came to walk us through those first few days when I stood overwhelmed in a kitchen larger than I had ever had before.

I mean, seriously...what is supposed to go in all those drawers?


I know the dangers and it crosses my mind every once in a while when I curl up on the cushion and pull my legs in close.  I'm aware of my neighbours and the dealings that some of them deal and I know that guns could be involved at any moment...but I also know that there is nothing more soothing that a slow rock in the sunlight while the birds are singing and a little boy runs his trucks through the flower bed just below.




But his mom, she brings this chair and my only memory of it was of those dark days when we drove away from Canada. When we found refuge in her home in those transition days and Tony would build up that fire and I would curl up in that chair and rock in the firelight with my bible open but unread in my lap.

I didn't realize that there was a longer history that was about to come full circle.


She placed it there in its spot on the front porch and everyone took a turn over the next few days to sink down into its comfort and ease into this new space called "home".

And I think it was in the evening, when we were all exhausted but not ready to go to bed that she shared with me the story of the chair...



Over 40 years ago now, there was a boy and girl who fell madly in love and married faster than anyone could blink - and this groom? He found a perfect little spot for them to make a home in the middle of a not-so-great part in downtown Portland.

He brought his bride there the night of their wedding and in the rain and the mud their car got stuck and there they sat until a police officer showed up and offered them help.

He also offered some wisdom to this starry-eyed couple...

He told them to leave - to find a home in a safer part of town.

But this groom? He told this officer that *this* was going to be their home - that they were going to love Jesus and their neighbours here. That that this was part of their ministry.

And so they stayed.

So did this chair. It sat out in front of their home and rocked in rainy Portland nights and traveled through many miles to each home that they would settle in.

And that groom - his ministry...his legacy lives on in his son.

His son who wraps me up in his arms at night and prays brave prayers over me and loves us all fiercely. 



This chair...it's more than a place to rest. It's a testimony of sorts - that loving doesn't mean just loving the people most like you. It means loving all the people around you.

It's a reminder that failure and brokenness and sin don't have the last word - Jesus does.

This chair sits out on my front porch, not just because it looks right and perfect there, but because my heart needs to be reminded that when he died...no matter how he died...his dad passed the baton of faith on. And we are taking our turn in the race, running with Christ as our goal.

Because maybe one day, when we are gray and aging, this chair will grace the front porch of one of our children, beckoning them to keep running towards Home...


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Letter to My Four

We've been in this house for 21 days and I think I'm the only one who has dealt with any culture shock.

I wasn't expecting it - I think I was more prepared to walk the four of you through the change, but you made up your beds that first day and you snuggled in for the night and I was the one who sat up in the dark with eyes opened wide wondering about this path that God has led us on.




It wasn't fear that kept me up, but this feeling of being caught. Caught in the middle of two very different communities who both think that your daddy and I are slightly crazy for packing up this family of six and moving us "down here".

There's a woman, she's younger then me...I met her that first day we unloaded those boxes. I was in the backyard talking chickens with Valentina when she stopped at the fence and gave me her name.

She's had a few teeth knocked out by the looks of it.

She walked by the next day too and I waved, because that's what I do, and she approached me slowly and then asked,

Ummm...are you from around here?

I never know how to answer, because when you've moved as many times as we have, I'm not really from around anywhere, but your daddy stepped in because he saw where this was going and he told her why we were here and moving on to this street.

You were all running in the front yard with the dog so I'm pretty sure you didn't hear her response, but she looked at me like I was crazy.

Why would your move down here? You have kids! There are gang shootings and drugs all around you! You have kids! 

And then she said even quieter,

I would give anything to move away from this place...




Last night, an article started circulating around Facebook. I didn't read it, but by the gist of the comments I was reading *about* it, the city that we live in is apparently one of the top ten most terrifying cities to live in the United States.

And we moved right down into the thick of it.

We moved *you* right down into the thick of it.


The week before we moved in while Olivia and your daddy were outside in the playground, 7 shots were fired into the street. Right in front of this very house we now live in.

One bullet flies wrong and my world...

I don't have the words.


And yet...


I think of Jesus. How He left the beauty and the purity and the perfection of Heaven. How He gave up all that He had to come down here - to the brokenness and the the depravity of us. He did it because He loved us. Us? The very people who would insult Him and crucify Him - question His sanity and mock and ridicule Him at the end...He left the glory He had to be covered in our dust.



Our house that we left was simple, nothing grand or opulent. Our street was quiet, mostly seniors and maybe 4 other children. But what started out last summer as a quiet pull turned into a determination that could only come from the very Spirit of God. He moved us all out of what is considered safe into a situation that to some appears foolish.

But I want to write this down so that you will see. So that I will see. So that we will know.

Even here, where the world looks and raises eyebrows at our street number, where our sanity is questioned and our motives are scrutinized, even here we are safe.

We are safe, sweet ones, because the Eternal God Who became a man - Who died and rose again, He is our refuge.

Not this house, though at 108 years old, it is solid.

Not the lights I leave on at night, though they give a pretty glow.

Not a dog who growls and barks, because really, he's just a puppy anyways.


Nothing that we surround ourselves with is what keeps us safe.  Our God does that. Because even if a bullet flies wrong and our world is shattered and broken - His Hands surrounds us. He is our shelter. Nothing, nothing can rip us out of His Hands.


Call me crazy - I don't care. We moved because His love has moved in us.

Don't call me brave, because I'm not. I'm just desperate for Jesus, desperate to be in His Will. Desperate for you to see that living for Him is worth it.

You are my treasures, my sweet gifts, and you have been thrown into an adventure that you didn't choose, but the joy, the healing you are finding here in this place is a beautiful gift I didn't expect.

This is all a gift - one I am so grateful to have received.

I love you. So very much.

~Your Mama

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Hand of God

In December, the Hand of God jarred me awake.


I wanted to keep sleeping...sleeping in the dark that I had made with my words and with my own hands, but He wouldn't let me.

It's time, He said.

But I kept begging for Him to leave me alone.


For two and a half months I begged Him to back off. To let sleeping giants lie and to move on.

But He didn't.


His Hand began to press hard and I dreaded the morning, that moment I woke up and He would be there, reminding me that He is God and I am not and that it. was. time.


He began to close doors - that house we were supposed to move into at the beginning of March? Two days before the lease signing a gentlemen walked up the steps of that house and offered to buy it.


And I knew...he came because I wasn't obeying and I had a choice.

So I continued to ignore the God I claimed to love.


Until every word I said burned in my mouth. Until every thought was consumed with all the wrong I had done, until every breath that left my lungs heaved with 15 years worth of regret...

Until I whispered back in complete surrender,

You are right...It's time.

And as I peeled back layers and began to deal with the shame I had hidden, uncovering all the covering up I had done, He was there.

He was there in the forgiveness offered and in the weeping out of the poison I had let in.

He was there in the broken, trembling admittance that I was wrong.




I have been silent - nearly crushed under the weight of my sin.

And then silent again because of undeserved grace.


The God Who names each star and forms each bud has interacted with me - in the most painful and yet beautiful of ways.

His grace carried me when I tried to forget for all those long years and His grace wouldn't let me stay in that dead space and His grace peeled back the curtain and pressed hard against my soul until my heart burned back to life with His words,




Two days after I submitted to the leading of Jesus? The buyer walked away from the house.

Five days after listing our own home? We found a renter.


We move to the inner city April 1st, but I am no fool anymore.


Jesus is living and real and active and my life is His, no questions asked.

His hesed surrounds my days and I am safe here, in the center of His will.