Wednesday, November 19, 2014

For When it Feels like I Can't.

It was before the tempature dipped below freezing that I took the scissors in hand and snipped the branches all fiery red from the leaves still hanging on. I had meant to have it all ready by the time the first of November came, but the death of one of our Madison House kids came first and everything else was pushed aside for a time.

The leaves have begun to let go, drifting lazily onto the table.



Two of the chickens have died - fluffs of feathers and one cracked egg are the only evidence of their existence. A dear friend gives me two of hers - the golden colored one hides in the coop, afraid to come out; displaced and disoriented she calls out for the familiar.

I get it.


We hang the paper leaves on the branches letting go of the last of the season and Lyla, she holds hers in her hands and her voice reads the words above the noise of her brother and sisters, each one, even the baby, wanting a turn to find a place for Life to grace the empty places. 

Tony gets ready to leave for work today, holds me in the doorway and prays strength over my head. The sky is heavy with clouds and he walks out into the grey and I touch his face just a bit longer, trying to hold on to the warmth of him - the fear of how brief life is taking over, pushing out any peace and making my thoughts anxious.

It's while the baby naps and the older three are tucked in to watch a movie that I find a moment to sit and breathe. That I open the pages of His Word and my fingers fumble to 1 Thessalonians 5 and the words of verse 16 grab hold:

Rejoice always.



Rejoice, even in the quiet and obscure - in the mundane and where the only eyes who see me are the four sets who are just children that I too often push too hard to act older than they are.

Rejoice always when I see myself mirrored in the Word of God and my brokenness is displayed and I know - truly know - only He can fix my soul.

Rejoice always, in the uncertainty of what I am called to do, in the questioning and even in the temptation to "bury" the gifts He has placed in me; because the risk of investing them is too frightening.

Rejoice always in the in-between spaces - in the knowing that there is more, but clueless as to what that is.

Rejoice always, turning my whirring, screaming thoughts to prayer. Lifting up these gasping offerings and trusting He will turn them into a sweet and pleasant aroma rising to Him.

Rejoice always, in the middle of daughter/mother wars; when my eyes are opened to the broken places in them and His answer is grace, always grace first, to the heated situation.

Rejoice always, when all I want to do is weep for all the years lost, the memories of this coming season, neglected and hurting children and the never ending temptation to gloss something pretty over it all.

Rejoice always, for God is still in control, His eyes never turn away - and that like Paul, I can say, "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6).

He isn't through with me, so my soul can rejoice. He has plans for my children, so I can rejoice. He will use my broken family for HIs glory - so rejoice. He is far greater than hard memories...so rejoice.



Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks - this is His will for me...for us.

So I will rejoice and boldly give God glory.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Because I Want to Know

I read it to him in the quiet tonight after our four had been tucked in and prayed over. After a long day with a lot of things weighing heavily on our hearts, I opened up the notebook and spoke out the words I had scribbled down.

Because it was a question posed and I had wanted to answer it - how as an individual who loves Jesus and part of a church whose goal is to make and send out mature believers, how do we all go about respecting and preserving life at every level?

There has to be more than just holding up a poster stating everything you don't believe.

There has to be more.


We are all created in the Image of God, whether we recognize it or claim it or even believe it. It's true. Right there, in the core of who we are, a shadow of the Almighty rests on our very souls.

What would happen if we began to view each other as such?

It's not a rhetoric question.

I want to know what would happen if the believers who claim to love the Jesus Who left all the comfort and glory of heaven to slip on dust and walk among sinners - what would happen if we walked in His way?

If we were desperate for those around us to know.

What would happen if instead of fear, we trusted the One Who goes before us. The Psalmist, he saw himself as hemmed in behind and before - surrounded by the presence of the God he adored. He saw himself as safe in unsafe  situations.

We who sing out in worship on Sunday mornings, could we not have the Poet's bravery on a Wednesday too?

You may laugh, but I have a hope - a real live hope that the faces behind the color-claimed streets would come to know this truth, that each one would know they were created with intention and marked with the very Image of God and that there is a Savior Who loves them.

I have hope that instead of seeing the color of a shirt, they would see the Imprint on the soul and they would treat the "enemy" as one having great worth.

And it may be bold to type this out, but sometimes hope strengthens weary souls; I am beginning to wonder if we as a church will ever be able to respect and preserve life at every level well until we are completely in love with and in awe of the God in Whose Image we are created. 

I think of my own children who bear Tony's resemblence - Lyla, her lips and her smile are her daddy's. Olivia's humor that takes me by surprise. Elias's eyes. Zee's love to laugh, so much her father and I am drawn to it, I find myself searching it out in them and delighting when I catch glimpses of him in their faces.

It makes me tender towards them.

So much of that is a result of how much I love their daddy.




How much more will we love well when we see our Heavenly Father in the soul of the person next to us?

Is it a stretch? Maybe. But we aren't asked to live a stretch-free life. Elastic and fluid He invites us in to the movement of life with others and promises to surround us all the while.

He is so good.  Let us trust Him.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When the Air Shifts

Things can happen quickly - much faster then I can process. Give me a pen and paper and some time to process and I can come up with a suitable response fitting for the situation. But in the space of locking my front door and smiling at the strangers walking by, the air can shift and I've placed myself in a dangerous position where a gate is blocked and questions are being asked and I answer automatically because I don't want to appear scared.

But inside I'm terrified.

I'm terrified as they move on and I drive away.

I'm terrified as the barista talks too loudly to the guy at the counter and I try and concentrate on the book in front of me I'm supposed to read.

My hands are still shaking will I type out the message asking for prayer, berating myself in written out text that I have no business living where I do because street smarts are not my strong suit.

Fear can paralyze in the very worst of ways.

All I can imagine is the very worst and it blocks out the very Voice my soul is desperate to hear.



45 minutes and I haven't turned a page and the barista behind me hasn't gotten any quieter and I throw in the towel and walk out to the car,

unlock the door,

get behind the wheel,

and begin to drive

home.

Back towards the inner city where colors claim streets and teenagers patrol them. Where the metallic ring of a gun shot wakes me up at night and my chicken gets eaten by a cat and where I am sure I don't belong. 

I silence the radio at some point and what fills the silence is prayer. Terrified prayer. Prayer I'm sure that moved no mountain, but mountains weren't what needed to be moved. I needed His ear and He tenderly inclined it to the voice of this sin-wrecked, street naive woman.

And as avenues became streets, the sound of the prayers leaving my lips changed somehow - instead of terror at hypothetical what ifs, these words caused a shift in the air around me:

The Lord is my light and my salvation:
whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life:
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

And then these:

In God Whose word I praise,
In the Lord whose word I praise,

in God I trust, I will not be afraid;
what can man do to me?
Psalm 56:10-11

The enemy wants to keep my eyes focused on the horrific evils man has the capability of inflicting on one another, but the truth is, no matter how deep the evil, it has the potential of bringing me into the very presence of God. 

If the very worst is death, then I will stand in front of the very One Who created me and I will see Him clearly.

But even if all the hypothetical ifs don't lead to death, I still have the amazing privilege of allowing them to lead me to His feet in worship - He promises that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. All things - good and bad if I just have the eyes to see.

There is wisdom in being careful, of holding back and depending on the Holy Spirit to guide me in the ways here that I still don't understand, but I wouldn't be living in freedom if I hid behind careful

Faith states boldly that the God of the universe is my light, my salvation, my stronghold - why should I be afraid?

Faith purposefully reaches out a flame of hope into the darkness that presses in and sometimes with a voice quiet and small whispers,

"I trust in You and even though I'm terrified, I will not be afraid. The worst that man can do can actually press me closer into You."

Faith believes that this life was given for a purpose and to be lived out to bring God glory and this is a high and holy privilege - not a safe and quiet one.



Let my trust be bigger than my fear, Jesus. Let my life be laid down before You in trust and with hope.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Written Into Dust and Grime

I hold the smallest one in my arms as she lifts her little shirt to find her small tummy button again. She doesn't seem to lose the wonder over this discovery and she is determined to find the same wonder in my eyes as well.

I repeat it over and over again, as often as she wants until the dog catches her attention, 

Where's your button, Zee? Where's Zee-Zee's button?

She giggles hard and pulls back the cloth and points triumphantly, pride at having caught the hidden again.


Her laughter stands in contrast to my grief.


I think back to that moment when I tried to grip the dark to snuff out my shame - tuck the edges in neat so that the choices I had made would suffocate and rot into forgetfulness.




I wish I could take back the moment and rip back the dark so that His Light could have purified what shame had poisoned.


Instead, I waited. For years I waited for it all to decay into ash so that the winds of time would somehow blow it all away into oblivion and I could breathe deeply again.

There is Grace I don't understand and Mercy that surrounded my days, even as I walked with the stench of death permeating everything I did. 


I want to take back all those years, all those joy-filled years that were touched with the putrid, and redo them all. 


I want to point to the festering wound that marked me and say, Here! Here it is!! Here I am, here is what I have done. Forgive me.


The peeling back came, but not triumphantly. There was no joy in those moments. 

Or was there?


He sits with me on a park bench under a shade tree this morning around 10. His arm surrounded me and we've just come through a weekend marked with the wounds of two people fighting for their marriage - our words clashed strong against each other first before we dropped verbal weapons and our against you stance to stand shoulder to shoulder and protect the other.




I have not been a safe place for his heart these last several weeks - and I see that clearly now. In peeling back what all I had hidden, in those places that felt vulnerable and weak, I started to build walls. Seeing his hurt and knowing that it was me who carved those wounds there was too much. I had set about safe-guarding my soul with those stupid walls while I tried to figure out how to pay him back for all the years I had hidden the truth from him.  Once that was accomplished, I'd take down the walls.


So this morning, as I sat in the circle of his arms, walls down and desperate to be a safe place for his words, he brought his face close to mine and spoke into the hurt,

You can't pay it back. You can't undo what you have done. There is nothing you can do to balance out the scales. But Kimberley, what you can do? You can trust that you are forgiven. You can believe that I forgive and love you. You can believe that Jesus Christ sees you as forgiven and loved and move forward on from this with me. 

In the early hours of this morning, before the park bench with him, I unfolded the pages of Galatians and held that hot coffee in my hands and before the words of my husband ever reached my ears, the Truth of my Father softened the walls I had tried to build between Him and me as well. 




For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.  I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.  You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified[a] by the law; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:1-6

These believers were facing men who were teaching them that in order to be truly saved, they had to be circumcised. These believers knew the truth of the gospel - Paul had preached it clear: Christ paid the penalty in full, they just had to accept it by faith. From that moment on it would be their hearts that bore the marks of Jesus - not their bodies.  But sometimes, we, definitely I, feel the need to do more. To prove that I am worthy and so willing to make up for all the sin that has been done.

But clinging to the law, to the outward actions that I am convinced make me more genuine actually sever me from the grace of Christ. The very Grace that carried me while I was dying inside holds me close to Him when I offer Him nothing else than a life of faith that works out the beauty of love.

And I saw that most clearly in the love of this husband of mine. This husband I wounded. This man who holds fast to the same Jesus we both love and who is being made more and more into the image of Christ - The Ultimate Bridegroom Who chooses to love a Bride marked with grime and failings and secrets hidden and shameful.

As we left to pick up our four, he mentioned that we should take the car through the car wash for our son who loves nothing more than watching the scrubbing and whirring machines, him all smiling at the thought of Elias' joy.

But I stopped first to snap a picture before it was washed away - the message he had written into dust and mud weeks ago for me to see as I followed him home...





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.