Growing Old (Well…Not Really)

I have been reading through a few of the posts that were on our old blog site, Sword of Peace, and I must admit that I am quite embarrassed by some of the content. There was so much misplaced and immature passion which was oftentimes judgmental and condescending. I was entering the beginning stages of my faith journey.

Lately I have been asking myself if I am losing my radical edge. I no longer live in a dungeon style basement for $200 a month, I no longer feel the urge to stand in solidarity with people around the world who don’t have water by showering only once a week, I am in graduate school, my wife and I have a combined income that is high enough to almost push us into the middle class, I am no longer a vegetarian, I haven’t thought about dumpster diving in a long time, and I spend more than $30 a month on groceries.

Am I losing my radical edge?

After a lot of thought and reflection, I don’t believe I am. What is happening is that I am becoming grounded. I think I am beginning to understand my place in the world, beginning to understand my strengths, and beginning to understand what I can do with my passion. I am finding that I do not care for debating and arguing these days. I would rather just join up with people who have a desire to serve and get to it. When I was first discovering my faith, I had a consumer mindset. I wanted to consume as much as I could. It was all about me. I was certainly self-righteous and my energies were so misplaced in reading book after book, that I didn’t have any time to live out my faith. Living in a basement and not taking showers is not going to bring about the transformation that God calls us to.

I guess it wasn’t all about myself. I was seeking for an outlet of service, but had no idea where to devote my time. I tried playing music at a homeless shelter on a monthly basis. I did this for 2 years. The problem was that I lived in Philadelphia and the shelter was in Wilmington, DE. This was not my community. I would drive in once a month to play some music, have a quick chat and leave. I became involved in the prisons connections team at Circle of Hope, but I wouldn’t say I was really involved. I attended meetings. Visited someone a few times and wrote a few letters here and there.

Last year I had an extremely difficult time with my faith journey as I was moving away from my naivety. What had I built in the last four years? Anything? I was spiritually depressed for about 9 months straight. This time was extremely difficult for me. St John of the Cross calls this spiritual time the Dark Night of the Soul. He suggests that it is necessary for Christians to go through if they are to develop a mature faith. The romance of discovery spirituality has gone away, is it time to let go of faith, or move deeper into it?

I am glad that I did not abandon my faith during that period. Now, I feel that God has energized me to really be a part of his world redemption project. Lately, I have been doing a lot of listening and waiting, which has allowed me to uncover my strengths. I now know that I have a gift with working with children and adolescents. I am halfway through my school counseling program at Eastern University.

I got connected with Campaign For Nonviolent Schools, a student-run organization that is fighting violence in schools. We have marched down Broad Street and gone to Harrisburg to fight PA budget cuts. Last week we even took a trip to D.C. to rally for Youth Investment. I feel like I am a part of this movement. I have also decided that I want to become more involved with Shalom House. Shalom House is a proactive peacemaking community connected with Circle of Hope. This year, they initiated a listening tour to discover what people are saying about violence in our schools, neighborhoods, and our views on the war in Afghanistan. I am a part of the listening tour team, and hope to listen to what students have to say in the classrooms that I sub in.

My wife and I are trying to live out our faith practically by co-buying a house with another married couple. This is a large step, but we want to ground ourselves in a community and really get to know people around us. We are buying the house from a couple from Circle of Hope who have been a strong presence in the neighborhood for 12 years. We want to continue what they have started. With this there are many considerations and concerns of gentrification as 2 white couples moving into a historically black neighborhood. I will elaborate on this in the future.

I hope I do not appear to be boasting, as this is not my intention. I just want to say that it finally feels good to have a focus. To begin to listen to God and not to aimlessly and self-righeously pursue my own agenda. I used to be fearful of buying a house, going to graduate school, finding a nice job. To me this was selling out. I am beginning to understand that these things can separate us from God, but that we can use these tools to help build God’s kingdom. Co-buying a house opposes American individualism, becoming a school counselor will allow me to interact with hundreds of students and help get the supports they need, and going to school will give me the tools I need to be successful in my vocation. This isn’t the end of my “radical” years, it’s (hopefully) just the beginning.

You are the Sun that Rises While We Sleep

I have been thinking a lot lately about honest, and sincere worship. I often find myself focusing on words or melodies instead of being overwhelmed by who God is. It is very difficult for me to be vulnerable in church or even in my car (while singing terribly!) about the presence of God. I realize now that I have truly missed the heart of worship for a very long time. There has been hints and moments when everything fades away and I just marvel at Jesus, not just for what he has done for me, but because of who He is.

So I wrote this song. It’s not a worship song like you’d see on a sunday service, but its as honest as ive been lately. Because when I look around I see a world that is so easy to get lost in and I often do. But when I slow down I can see God through that. Through the awkwardness drawing me into His presence.

My idea of great worship is being set aside, called out, living differently. Because I idolize so many aspects of everyday life that separate me from who God is and ultimately who I am in Him. My desire is to cast these things down and look upon Jesus’ face and desire nothing else but to worship.

You are the sun that rises while we sleep

You are the reason we suffer this earth

You are the hope of our second birth

You are the secrets we can never keep

You are the I Am…

Everything around us moves in perverted progression

How long can I depend on our own voice?

When all the praise we see comes from creation.

Our lives will become worship submitting our choice.

Our Father, who art in heaven, circumcise our hearts.

We will wait in fervent yet reverent zeal.

While You take our lives and tear us apart.

Rebuilding our souls revealing what is real.

We walk by faith and not by sight,

but God we can see you all around.

In the loneliest nights you still gave us this light.

We once were blind but by grace we are found.

You are the Potter and we are you clay

You are the love that is calling us in.

You are the grace that forgives all our sin.

You are the light that gives us this day

You are the I Am…Amen

There is nothing that will satisfy our need.

Looking around there’s a awkwardness about this place.

The promises you gave we have made our creed.

We won’t stop until we see your holy face.

Take this life, oh Lord, we have nothing left to bring.

We lay down our flesh to be resurrected with You.

You give us this joy, for you alone we sing.

We find your hand in everything we do.

You are the I Am

 

Even if you can’t see your self worshiping to this song.

Can you see yourself worshiping this God.

Because worship isn’t about a song or lyrics but about adoration for who God is, in every aspect of life.

A Place That Needs Jesus

This post was written by my good friend Carolyn.

It’s Monday morning at 8:00am, I have just unlocked my office door when I hear a girl cough behind me.  I turn around to see a distraught looking woman standing in my doorway, “Ms. Carolyn, can I talk to you?” There are tears in her eyes as I put my backpack down and invite her in to talk about her life.  She slumps down in one of the three office chairs that are cramped in my small closet-like office and just as she sits, she begins to sob.  I always have a box of tissues in arms reach and instinctively reach for them when I see her eyes begin to swell up. She begins, “They can’t find my mother-in-law. She has been missing since Friday night, and this isn’t like her at all, she has never done this before”. I walk her through as many counseling techniques that I can think of without sounding insensitive or dismissive.  She sits in my office for a half hour, going through the events of the weekend, talking about the last thing she said to her and I sit and listen, nodding in a way that communicates “I understand”.   She begins to calm down and collect herself, we have talked through everything we can, knowing the only next step is to go out and look for her ourselves.  I ask if she is going to be able to focus in class with everything going on, she says yes, takes a deep breath and walks out.

Immediately after she leaves, I turn to my computer when I hear a quiet knock on my door.  I look up and see a small girl with fear in her eyes, she quietly asks is she can talk to me, and I close my outlook email and ask her to have a seat. She begins, “Ms. Carolyn, my father beat me this weekend, he doesn’t normally do this, but he was so drunk and I stood in the way of him and my baby cousin. Can I show you the bruises and scratches on my back? There is a knot on my forehead too, but I can cover that with my hair.” I listen and wait for the details to stop.  She looks at me and looks up at the ceiling, exhaling for a brief second before the tears begin to quickly stream down her face, I already have the box of tissues in my hand, she takes two.  I sit and listen and ask if she is going to be able to return to class, if she feels like she can focus today.  She looks at me and says, “of course this is the only thing I have to look forward to.” I say nothing and the petite girl walks out.

The student leaves and I see another student sitting in the lobby, waiting. I ask if she needs to talk to me. She doesn’t say a word, but she comes in and closes the door, choosing the seat furthest away from my chair. Trying to sound upbeat and praying for a happy story, I give her a minute and begin with my routine line of “what’s going on?” the girl starts to cry without saying a word.  She looks at me and begins, “my father gambled away our rent money. I don’t know what we are going to do. My mom is an illegal immigrant and we haven’t had hot water in two years, we boil water and have space heaters. That’s okay, I’m used to that, but I can’t live on the street. I just can’t live on the street. I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Not being known for one who experiences a loss-of-words, being speechless is a new feeling for me. However, it has become a more common feeling over the past few months.  Six months ago, I began my first real job, since getting my masters in school counseling.  I thought of myself as a big shot adding tons prior experience to any company who would hire me.  Previously, I had worked in a homeless shelter, worked resettling refugees, was a kindergarten teacher, and I had even spent time overseas in an orphanage; I thought I was ready for anything.  And then I met my inner city Philadelphian students.

My students are “college-aged” kids who are rough around the edges, vulnerable and honest. They are direct, defensive and at times can be explosive.  In contrast, I am a white girl, raised in suburban America with some short term experiences working with people who have hard lives. I am willing to help and excited about serving others but I normally have nothing to offer.  But by definition, I am who they should turn to for advice, I am their counselor.

When my students tell me stories about murder in their families or their sex lives, I have to work on my poker face.  When they use slang, I have to ask what it means (I’m still trying to figure out some of it, and normally they just laugh at me). But when they cry and stare into my eyes and say those words I hear almost every day, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do” my heart breaks. The school where I work is a secular school with a secular staff full of people who need Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who work there who love Jesus, I’m sure of it; but for the most part their faith takes the form of sending out Christian forwards through email and joking about having “come to Jesus meetings” or the ritual of saying “Jesus make me a fence” referring to protection from our not-so-stable students.

I hear stories of heartbreak and suffering and all I want to do is pray and tell them I have found comfort and solace in the fact that this life will pass away and a new Kingdom is waiting for them. But instead I look up resources and say, “Everything will be okay, things will work out. It may seem hard now but things will get better.” Or I can say nothing at all. I would risk my job if I began to tell them of the loving sacrifice Jesus has made for them. Even if I kept my job, more of the root of my selfishness and sin is that I am scared of what people will think and how the students will react.  I am scared that I will feel even more attacked by my co-workers for being close-minded (a common misconception of a Christian – thanks Joel Olsteen).  I can pray silently for my students when they leave, and I do.  But it seems unfinished. I take too many burdens on myself and I worry about what others think because I am a 20-something who loves Jesus Christ, I am an anomaly in today’s society.  I will never stop praying for my students and their stories, and the longer I have worked at my school, the more I have settled for, and now believe, that God has things under control and I trust He can change hearts and minds.

Being a Christian counselor in a non-Christian environment is hard because you know you have the answer, you are hiding a gem that could solve everyone’s needs, something meant for every single person.  It is like being part of the biggest scam, or the best-kept secret in the whole world, and just sitting on it.  But it’s not just with my students; it’s with my co-workers and my superiors.  I need to tell them too!  Sometimes I wonder if I should be more open about how I pray or tell my students to turn towards God when they come and they shut the door so that no one else will see their tears. I wonder if I should let them in on the fact the God has seen all of their tears, and He feels their pain.  I wonder if I should tell my co-workers that they don’t need to live for their jobs or getting ahead at this company, because in the end it all burns any way.  I pray for answers to these questions but I’ll never know if I’m doing the perfect thing, and I know I don’t always make the right decisions. But I will continue to pray, I will continue to answer questions of faith if and when they are asked. I will continue to cry and scream when I hear about what my students endure.  I will continue to be present in a place that needs Christ.

 

 

 

The Hiddenness of God

this guy is very inspiring to me and my faith.
my friends and i talk about this a lot, thought i’d share quickly.

what do you think?

Awkward Christian Soldier

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ,

the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.

We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war.

This is not a critique. This is a call to arms!

At my Nanas house the other day we were looking through old photo albums and found a letter written in 1924 by her great-grandfather. The letter itself is discouraging my family to move from East Texas to Florida. This letter is the reason why I am a native Texan and the roots to my family tree. It was awesome reading this peace of family history. But in the letter my kin wrote about his faith saying, “O to be a soldier of the cross I wish I were, but I am no soldier, I am a coward.” This stirred me. I began to not only trace in my family the struggles of faith but also in the body of Christ around me.

Follow me on this.

As Christians we are soldiers. Not of the world but of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Bible is filled with warfare imagery. Jesus refers to the church as being an army to storm the gates of hell (Mt 16:18). We have the key over life and death. God has equipped us with power from on high (Lk 23:47-49). That the power of our prayers and God’s love is greater than any strong-hold that is in our way. I say “in our way” not “what comes against us” here  because gates cannot attack. Gates are not a weapon they are fortifications. Jesus is speaking of a spiritual death that will not have victory. This is what as a church we need to hold onto.

Jesus directs His disciples’ to engage in the task that is in front of us. To reach out to the lost world with the urgency of the Holy Spirit. (great commission) As we develop He changes our attention from those of comfort  to a focus on eternity. We must understand that the future of political kingdoms and personal agendas are insignificant compared to Gods purpose in reaching the lost.

With that established I will say this, the reason why we have so much discord in our world is because we as a church are fighting against ourselves. There are people dying and going to hell and we spend our time arguing over what a sin is. I think that is exactly what Satan would have us do. Argue. If we spend our time debating religious doctrines and ideologies that are specifically given to us in His word (pet sins) or the color of the carpets in the foyer then we have missed an opportunity to spend our time with God. We are warriors who have been caught in friendly-fire while the enemy broadcasts his propaganda in our homes, schools, and churches.

If you are comfortable being a casual christian then you do not have the Holy Spirit residing inside of you. You are just a coward. A coward is someone who knows the truth but is to afraid to do something about it. God did not come to this world in the flesh as Jesus Christ (Jn 1: 1-14) to die for your sins so you can be comfortable. He came so you can be free. Be free to mobilize and turn the world upside for a glorious kingdom.

This is a war and we have not been trained because we do not know the Father. As a generation we do not know the word of God (our sword). We are foolish with our weaponry and do not possess our sheild (faith). Take this time to meditate on Eph 6:10-20. Study the imagery. Take in the seriousness of the situation. Pray. Stand. and after you have done all to stand, STAND.

In the beginning of Deuteronomy it tells of The Isrealites going into battle without the presence of the Lord and it does not turn out pretty. This is the direction that the world would encourage our church to move into. Pride and Apostasy. A fake presence of God when in all actuality we have become idolaters worshipping out culture with me as god.

But this is not the path I will take. Will you stand with me like Joshua did in the promised land and proclaim victory among giants. To obey our great God and move when He says move. To obey His commands, and boldly proclaim the gospel of our Lord. A soldier knows no fear just like a christian should know no fear. (1Jn 4-17-19) We will storm the gates of hell and take back what the enemy has stolen from us.

I plead to you today church. Our brothers and sisters are dying all over the world do not sit back and let them suffer eternity from the presence of God. The Holy Spirit is our guide and He will direct us (Jn 14:15-17) we must be willing to move. If you know someone who needs prayer then pray. If you are in the streets and God tells you to talk to a stranger then talk. If you want to see the kingdom then you must be prepared to lose your life in the process (Mk 8:34)

Fear and Loathing in Christianity.

Therefore there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear. For fear has punishment, who ever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18

I was watching television at my wife’s mothers house when on the news there was a program that came on that was titled “Should America fear Islam”. The premise was of a debate between two sides of the argument. On the right evangelical preachers and a father who’s son died in the 9/11 attacks on the WTC and on the other an Imam, a wife of an Imam and a woman who’s daughter also died in 9/11.

Now I don’t know what the final outcome of the debate was because I got annoyed by both sides and off-color comments by my father-in-law. However, I did get the sense that there is an underlying ignorance that is sweeping our nation and our church. Ignorance because we have taken an uneducated view of Christianity and the world around us. How as followers of the Way of Christ can we speak our peace when our identity and doctrines are of selfishness instead of prayer and power from on high.

My ambition is not to address America because I do not believe that America is a Christian. America does not exist. America is just dirt. America does not have a soul or spirit therefore it will not go to heaven. The American spirit rests in the people that reside on this land. My focus is on that; the church in America.

There is no room for fear in our church. The church of Jesus Christ is a body of believers, whether you participate in a fellowship or worship at home you are part of the body of Christ. To have fear or hatred as a Christian is like having a disease in your own body. This is because these things are not of God. Jesus says not to be anxious for anything. (Mt 6:30-34) If God is for us who can be against us. (Rms 8:31) Do a biblical study on fear and you will find a well of hope and strength. Do a biblical study on hate and you will find conviction.

All around us there is debt, death, and debauchery. Half the reason I walked out of the room during the debate is because I cant stand to watch the news or really even television because the mass media thrives on our fear and hatred. A small hand full of rich people tell us what to fear, and we hate those things and the people associated.  But ask yourself, as a Christian am I looking to CNN or FOX to tell me what to hate or am I looking to God.

We do not have to fear Islam. We do not have to fear homosexuality. We do not have to fear our broken economy. We should fear when the church does not show the love of Christ and bring hope and forgiveness to our sinful world. Because when we trade in scriptures for rhetoric and love for fear, then we have become the anti-Christ. (2Jn 1: 6,7)

You Can’t Always Feel It

Right now I feel a huge rift between God and I. I am having trouble experiencing his presence in my life.

This is something that happens to me from time to time. I’m often left feeling terrified, isolated and scornful. Aligning our lives with Christ means that we must abandon all that is worldly in order to pursue God’s kingdom. This is not easy, but is a constant battle in which can lead a person to feel fatigued and like a failure. Often in my pursuit, I become disgruntled and end up loosing touch with the Creator. Rather than using this time to pray and contemplate the cross, I end up filling my time with ways to escape. Whether it be through reading, playing zelda, or spending too much time on the internet, I end up feeling worse and worse.

What I keep reminding myself is that I need to push on into searching for God even during the times when I don’t “feel” it. His grace and love are eternal despite the ebb and flow of our relationship with Him.

Stressful situations for me make it difficult to connect with God. I have been going through a lot as I decided not to be a teacher last year, have been laid off from jobs, am getting married and am going back to grad school. I fail to realize that I am blessed and am privileged to have so much choice in my life when others aren’t left with the same choices that I have.

Please pray for me. This is the longest I’ve been without really feeling God. It’s been about 4 or 5 months. I’ve wrestled with giving up on my journey, agnosticism and cynicism.

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