The Secret Place

When I was a child, there was a field behind our house where the earth had yielded what I called, The Gigantic Rock.

GiganticRock

When the busyness of growing up in a house with seven kids got to be too much, I would wander through the field picking clover , nibbling on the sweet tubular flower until I reached this huge stone. Climbing up, I would just sit, looking out over the fields listening to the breeze rustle in the long grass. Sometimes hours would pass by, just thinking, talking to myself, and imagining what life held in store for this youngest of five girls.

My mom once commented that when she would go to the back door to call me in for dinner, instead of looking for me in the obvious places like the swing set or the garden, she would first look up to the sky and find me perched high upon a branch of the huge maple tree in the back yard.

“What are you doing up there?”

“Nuthin’,” I would truthfully call back. I was doing nothing. I was simply being.

Perhaps my penchant for solitude and contemplation as a child was preparing me for learning to hear from God as an adult. I didn’t have such spiritual awareness at the time, but I can’t help but think now, that the first dreams I had sitting in the trees or on the gigantic rock were really Him whispering purpose and destiny into my young life.

Now, some forty years later, I struggle to justify just being. In a world where our worth and value is determined by what we accomplish and how productive we are, both in the workplace and in the home, it somehow feels self-indulgent to take time for yourself.

But I need that time. It’s not simply time by myself, for myself, but to talk to God and more importantly–hear from Him. I need that one on one time to know His voice so I will recognize it in the busyness of the rest of the day. John 10:27 says:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” (NLT)

I want to be like the sheep. When I don’t know where a situation is headed, or when things aren’t happening in the way or at the speed I anticipated, I want clear direction from the One Who knows the beginning from the end.

The bible speaks of a secret place. In the psalms, it is referred to as more of a spiritual place of rest:

“He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91 KJV).

In that secret place where it’s just Him and me, I can be vulnerable and honest in a way that I cannot with another human being, no matter how close the relationship. There are no efforts to mask the parts that I want hidden from the world. It has been said that if we want God to show up for us in public, we must show up for Him in private and that means being transparent and honest with Him. It’s not like we can hide anything from Him anyway, but He wants us to be able to articulate our truth openly and honestly no matter how messy.

In Matthew 6:6 we are given a more physical example of the secret place:

“But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (CSB)

Although a prayer closet, or a war room as the movie of the same title depicts, is not necessary in order to have time in the secret place with Abba, having a consistent place dedicated for meeting with Him creates an open invitation for Him to show up. That space becomes sanctified and wholly set apart for that one purpose. For the longest time, I seemed to encounter God in my kitchen while listening to worship music as I cooked. As weird as it seemed that He would show up there, it kind of made sense too; all through the bible are accounts of fellowship with Jesus that took place over a meal.

Resting in the Lord is not a passive activity but it’s rather actively tuning into the heartbeat of God. In his book, Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning re-tells the story of an older gentleman nearing the end of life. Manning had gone to visit and pray with him and he noticed a chair already placed beside his bed. Assuming the chair was placed there for his visit, he was surprised when the dying man told him that the chair was actually for Jesus. He told him that he had placed it there so he could envision Jesus sitting there as he poured out his heart to Him. When the man died, his daughter found him with his head resting on the seat of the chair– on Abba’s lap. What a profound image of tenderness and intimacy this story creates.

Recently becoming an empty nester–again (sometimes they come back!) I was faced with the decision of what to do with a newly vacated second bedroom. This was a no-brainer. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and like a teenager giddy with the anticipation of having her own dorm room for the first time, I began moving furniture. Book shelf, recliner, guitar; only those items that would make this space simple and sacred would make the cut .

I am very intentional when it comes to this space. Some might think I’m a little weird, but I don’t see this room as mine, but rather Abba’s. I enter the room like I’m the one being invited in. It is wholly set apart for His purposes– for studying, journaling, reading the Word, and most of all, just being in His Presence. No cell phones allowed. It’s difficult to explain, but when I’m in His space, it truly feels different from the rest of my home. Some days, I go in feeling exhausted and beaten up by the day. I simply curl up in the easy chair and pour out my heart and frustrations. Other times I sit in silence, like the days on the gigantic rock or up in the tree. And I wait. And I listen. It’s an exercise in patience sometimes, but I feel that is what God is really trying to cultivate in His children–the ability to wait and keep a good attitude while doing so. Psalm 37:7 reminds us.

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.” (NLT)

I continue to let Abba have His way in this space. Choosing to submit that little room to His purposes will produce sweet fruit and yield a bountiful harvest; it’s all in the waiting.

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In the meantime, I have borrowed from the story in Abba’s Child. Another chair sits across from mine for Jesus to have a place to sit during our chats.

Yes and amen.

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Under the Wing

Our team huddles around a table at Tim’s, sipping coffee and munching on a breakfast of muffins as we lay out our strategy for the morning’s events. We review formation; what circumstances would warrant the diamond, box or the arch, and where the main exits in and out of the building are located. Our discussion over strategy abruptly comes to a close as the young woman enters the restaurant. Dressed in a modest grey dress, nails newly painted a metallic purple, and her auburn hair pulled back to reveal the bluest of eyes, Meaghan approaches, smiling nervously at our group. We’re all on our feet.

One by one, Meaghan meets her team. In her short life of nineteen years, she probably could never have imagined having an entourage, and certainly not under such circumstances.

Meaghan is neither the kingpin of a bank heist nor a sought after celebrity. She’s a survivor of Human Trafficking and this day marks the first day of the rest of her life. It’s the first day of preliminary hearings to see her trafficker be put behind bars and we, her entourage, are there to make sure she has the support and protection to see it through from beginning to end.

While certainly not veterans, mainly because human trafficking trials are relatively new to Ontario courts, we have had some exposure to the scare tactics used to silence a young survivor .

SilencingTheWitness

Experience has shown us that it’s not always who is in the courtroom that poses the threat, but who’s outside waiting. A simple trip to the bathroom can turn into a confrontation with the pimp’s ‘girlfriend’. Lunch break might find a not-so-inconspicuous articling student for the defense sitting in the booth next to you in an attempt to eavesdrop on the conversation. Running the gauntlet through the parking lot after a day of testimony is no easy feat as the trafficker’s cronies hurl abusive epithets from different posts along the path to the car. While a guilty verdict can be satisfying for a young survivor, the process it takes to get to that point can be traumatizing. Hence learning the different formations. Diamond for close quarters, box for a larger spaces, and the arch for those times when you literally find yourself with your back against the wall.

Initially, the whole prospect of being escorted is exasperating to our young charge; who wants to pee with someone standing outside the stall? Who can pee with someone standing outside the stall? But once in the courtroom seeing the accused escorted to the prisoner’s box in handcuffs, staring menacingly at you changes everything. Suddenly having a few strangers in your corner seems like a pretty good idea after all.

We’re not there to intimidate or threaten the accused or his gang, (although we have some pretty big dudes on our team that could certainly do just that) we are simply a silent barrier and covering to ensure she can do what she has set out to do–put a predator behind bars. Initially, the investigating officers and crown attorney’s office are not thrilled. Convinced that we’ll be more trouble than we’re worth, they try to dissuade the group from following Meaghan into the courtroom. Their arguments are respectfully heard, but the teams resolve remains. What the Crown and the officers witness has them recanting. Now they want the team cloned. They spot the reaction of the accused immediately. The cocky swagger of the accused as he’s escorted into the court room is quickly replaced by a look of confusion which turns to fear, which turns to eyes staring at the floor. ‘Who are these people?’ You can see it playing over in his mind.

So who are we?

We are the brain child of a seasoned street youth worker who saw too many young women fleeing the stand for a feigned bathroom break, never to return. Twenty minutes on the stand with the trafficker’s lawyer trying to shift the blame on her is enough to break a young woman whose painful experience has already broken her into more pieces than a guilty verdict can put back together. Many of these young survivors have no support, whether it’s lack of family, or a supportive family, given the delicate nature of the circumstances. Friends are unheard of; their years in The Game (the term for working in prostitution) has alienated them from developing normal relationships and eroded existing ones. Alone, she sits in the witness stand, staring out at a sea of judging and accusing eyes with a defense lawyer chipping away at her last shred of dignity. Tears and confusion are his/her goal; if they can get her to choke completely on the stand, all the better. The Crown Attorney, while working with the survivor, is ultimately concerned with getting a guilty verdict. There is neither time nor desire for friendship. Likewise with the investigating officer(s) and the VWAP (Victim/Witness Assistance Program) worker. This is business for them, but for her, this is her life.

That’s where we come in. The goal is not to become bosom buddies with Meaghan, but develop a trust and rapport that helps her to feel genuinely cared for and protected. She can look out at the crowd from the witness box and connect with a friendly face, an imperceptible smile that says, ‘You’re doing great; you’ve got this!’ When she’s done in the courtroom, then we are too. In one fluid motion, we drop into formation, surrounding Meaghan like a hen covers her chick with her wing. As a group of Christians, we cover her in prayer too. Meaghan isn’t sure how she feels about God or Christians, and that’s okay; we’d still support her if she announced that she worshipped gummy bears. She accepts the prayers and the protection that comes from us and from above, whatever that looks like to her. Our goal isn’t to make converts, rather our mandate comes from the book of Isaiah 1:17:

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

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Meaghan’s journey is far from over and will continue long after any verdict is handed down. In the meantime, she will be our little chick, safely hidden under the shadow of our wing until justice is served.

Yes and amen.

(‘Meaghan’ is not the witness/survivor’s real name.The author has changed her name to protect her identity)

For the One

Sasha from  Jesus Loves Strippers  is at it again.

“Why are you even wasting your time in that place?  They don’t appreciate what you do; they’re just a bunch of nasty hoes!” she insists.

She’s referring to the other women in the strip club where she works, and the one that I frequent as part of an outreach ministry team.  As I’ve quickly learned, this place, and others like it, are definitely not sororities. The women who work here are not sharing beauty secrets, vacation pictures, or adding one another to their Instagram or Face Book accounts.    They neither trust nor even like one another; they whisper their God-given names to me so the other girls will not know who they really are.

This time Sasha has stood me up because she’s had her money stolen from the change room, been tricked into accepting a ride from one of the other girls “friends” and has been thrown out of his car in the middle of the night, over 30 miles in the opposite direction of the club.  She recounts it matter-of-factly and is more upset because it means that she’s had to cancel plans with me for the second time in as many weeks.  I’m less surprised anymore  by her all in a day’s work attitude and wearying of the frequently cancelled plans.

She says I’m “cute” and “naive”,  for what she believes to be an innocent belief that I’m doing any good in going into the club.  I smile and wait for her to come up for air from her tirade.

“So,” I finally manage to say, “Meeting you was meaningless?  Getting to know you is a waste of my time?”

She pauses ( a first).  “No.  You and I were meant to meet.   I had nobody in that place ’til you walked in that night.  We’re friends, babe.”

 

Maybe she’s the one that’s naive.  I don’t always feel like I’m her friend, and at times I wonder why our paths did cross in the first place. Her mental health issues make it nearly impossible to have a normal conversation and I wonder how we move beyond building relationship to me actually being able to share the gospel with her.   I struggle to remember the admonition of my mentor/friend, John, who told me that it will be brilliant when I see her blossom and come into the fullness of her destiny.

Sometimes God will give you a picture of what things could look like-if you just hang in there and let Him do the heavy lifting.

Today was one of those days where He gave me a wee glimpse.WaterBaptism

One of my fellow team members has, for months, been sowing seeds of love and time into a young woman who works in another club.  This sweet girl was like a sponge, soaking up the Jesus she was seeing in my friend.  Instead of trying to rescue her, my friend just held a safe space for her; listening to her with her heart, slowly showing her another way-The Way.  Today, Resurrection Sunday, she took the plunge. She came to church and was baptised, experiencing the unconditional love and joy from strangers.  They didn’t know her story, but no doubt it would have made their joy even more complete.  It is said that when even one of God’s lost children comes into the kingdom,  heaven explodes with the sound of angels rejoicing.  I can’t imagine them being louder or more ecstatic than we were today as we watched the new Jennifer ( not her real name) emerge from the waters, leaving the former girl deep beneath the waters of an erased past.

As I watched Jennifer  being hugged and congratulated, I was reminded of the story of the lost sheep:

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” If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away.  In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”   (Matthew 18:12-14)    

 

 

Later in the day,  I message Sasha.  I  share the good news of Jennifer’s baptism.  She’s curious for now, happy for me.  Silently I pray that God will lift the confusion from her mind  and one day it will be her taking the plunge.

In the meantime, I will keep my focus on this one precious lamb with whom God has entrusted me, and as Mother Teresa once encouraged:

” Do little things with great love”

Yes and amen.

 

Hell No!

I’ve been really ticked at the devil lately.  Seriously.

For the few months, those closest to me have been plagued by depression, anxiety, fear and helplessness.  Poor decisions made based on these temporary emotions and the confusion that ensues have left me wanting to punch something or somebody.  I know it’s an attack from the pit of hell, yet I struggle to direct my anger towards the real culprit.  For the reader who believes in Jesus but isn’t sure about Satan, let me assure you, he’s as real as Jesus is, but we’ve been downplaying his existence because we’re more concerned that it may make us look fanatical or like we’ve seen too many horror movies.

The book of  1st Peter 5:8-9 assures us that there is a devil.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.

The enemy of our soul does not want us to be content in any and all situations, do good for others, have joy, or be at peace, because those are all indicators that we have Jesus in our lives and he hates that.  He hates Jesus so he will hate us. It’s that simple. But, I hate him more and I’ve had it with him using my loved ones as target practice.

Oh yes, it’s on.

Once of the opinion that you shouldn’t poke at, or even acknowledge the devil or he’d get you,  I was no threat to him.   I’ve since learned that he’s more afraid of me than I am of him.

Once one of the most beautiful angels, Lucifer spent too much time oohing and aahing in front of the mirror, became full of himself, used “I will,” just a little too much for God’s liking, and got himself kicked out of heaven.  Now as believers, WE are seated in  heavenly places. We hold a position that Satan (Lucifer’s new handle) wanted for himself and he’s not a happy camper.

With a fresh revelation of who, and more importantly, Whose I am, I can go into battle with the full confidence that I am not fighting alone.  When I use the word of God, when I apply the blood of Jesus, and do so in faith, I am suited up like a Navy Seal; I’m unstoppable.  FullArmorEphesians 6: 10-17 describes the uniform we are to put on every day whether your battle happens in your home, your workplace, or just walking into Starbucks. I won’t go into a full description; you can read it yourself, but let me just point out that all of the pieces of armor are defensive, except the Word.  Put the letter “s”  in front, and you have Sword– that’s a weapon, my friend.

Recently God gave me revelation of just how powerful we are when we walk in His authority.  He planted a name in my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about this person.  I ended up messaging them to see how they were doing.

“I’m so anxious.  I feel like my life is imploding on me; I’ve never felt so awful and I can’t stand it much longer.”

Satan loves to attack where he thinks people will be too embarrassed or ashamed to speak of their battle; mental health seems to be his weapon of choice lately.

I could have just messaged back with “Keep your chin up,” or offer a benign”I’m praying for you,” but I’d had it.   This roaring lion was about to get de-clawed.

When I talk to God I may be on my knees or even on my face.  But when I’m yelling at the enemy, I’m on my feet.  This is not to say that I’m some super-spiritual wonder woman, but rather that I don’t believe that God responds to a posture of pity, but one of power.  We are His creation and He didn’t create us in fear or timidity.  I’m convinced that  if we could see what happens in the spirit when we are doing battle, it would blow our stinkin’ minds.spiritualBattle

We are told in Luke 10:19:

“Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them.  Nothing will injure you…”

So what was my battle plan?

Well first, I cranked up my worship music because 1.  Worship is warfare in and of itself–the devil hates to see us worship the Lord! And 2.  The neighbours won’t hear me yelling at an invisible foe- not that I really care once I get going.  I began declaring every one of God’s promises that came to my mind: this person was created in a spirit of love, power, and of sound mind ( 1 Timothy 1:7)  No weapon formed against her would prosper (Isaiah 54:17)   and anything not planted by the Heavenly Father would be uprooted. (Matthew 15:13) just to name a few.    Now, I know that I’m not allowed to give commands to angels–they are only permitted to answer only to God, but I can ask Him to send a bunch of kick-butt angels to protect and fight for my friend, so I did.  I pleaded the blood of Jesus from the crown of her head to the souls of her feet. I broke off:  Fear. Confusion.  Anxiety. Depression.   I spoke over her: Life in abundance. Peace. Joy. Clarity.  And I told the enemy to take his filthy, stinking paws off of my friend in the Name of Jesus.  This all sounds like stuff I did, but in reality, it was what I activated.  I activated faith by speaking God’s word. I affirmed the finished work of Christ on the cross when I applied the blood, I acknowledged that there is no name higher in heaven and earth when I asked Him to dispatch His angels.  In all of these steps, I walked in my authority, believing as it says in Philippians 4:13:

“For I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength…”

Even though I broke this down into steps, the beauty of it is that it all happened naturally. I wasn’t holding a cheat sheet “on “How to kick the devil’s butt.” It was a natural response to an attack, my immediate go-to.  When you truly grasp that you have Jesus on the inside of you, nothing seems impossible; you know it’s Christ in you doing the heavy lifting.

Oh, and the best thing?  I checked in on this person just the other day, firing off a message to see how she was doing.  The response was so good and so God:

I’m out of the woods.  Made it to the other side, thank God…. I don’t know what you prayed, but something magical happened. Thanks for going through it with me”

My friend doesn’t have a relationship with God-yet.  But she does know that she was healed by Him, even if she doesn’t understand it yet.  In yielding to the nudging of the Holy Spirit and being willing to suit up and go into battle, a seed was planted.  I have no idea know who will water it, who will help the Son to shine on it.  That’s between her and God, but it will be a beautiful flower to watch grow no matter how long it takes.

God will use us friends, cracked pots and all.  He’s not looking for a perfect person, but a heart turned perfectly towards Him.   He responds to our faith, even if it’s only the size of a mustard seed.  When we partner with Him, He will do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask for.

Yes and amen.

A Servant’s Heart

washingfeetToday was a truly blessed day.

In my workplace, there is a gentleman who works under my supervision. He’s jovial even when he’s exhausted, tells corny jokes, despises paper work, and tolerates working in a female-dominated industry without a single eye-roll.   In the years that I’ve known him, I’ve discovered that he truly believes in honouring women on International Women’s Day.  He grew up in a culture that doesn’t necessarily make big deal out of Mother’s Day, however March 8th is one that he is very intentional about observing.

I was at the end of my workday and he was easing into his shift. After the workday on Thursday afternoons, a few of us hang back to do a boot camp of sorts, congregating in the fitness room to exercise.  I had changed into my workout clothing, and my running shoes were encrusted in the mud from a previous almost-spring- run through the neighbouring park.

I was ready to get down to business, when, motioning to a chair, this gentleman said, “Monica, sit down.”  I had no idea what he was up to, I thought perhaps he was going to give me an exercise to slog through. As our informal in-house fitness instructor, he is generally the one putting us through our paces, but he had other responsibilities to tend to, so I wasn’t sure why he was telling me to sit down.  He donned a pair of disposable gloves and grabbed a tub of antimicrobial wipes.

“Give me your foot.””

Obediently (which is a change for me, being his supervisor, after all) I lifted my foot.  He took my foot in his hand and began wiping the dirt off of my shoes.  First the left foot, and then the right.  In that moment, I began to think of Jesus.  How He had, during the Last Supper, washed each of His disciples feet–even Judas’–knowing that within hours, he would be betrayed by the very one He had humbled Himself before.

I thought about how short-tempered and sometimes downright rude I can be to this gentleman, and there he was, in essence, washing my feet.  As much as it makes me cringe to admit that I don’t always model Christian attributes, I know that I don’t stand alone in this, but I am willing to ‘fess up.  My poor behaviour that I sometimes display, often unwarranted,  was no deterrent to his kindness and that made it all the more difficult for me.  I inwardly squirmed as  I remembered how Peter argued with Jesus, stating, “No, you shall never wash my feet!”   Jesus told him that if He didn’t, he (Peter) would have no part in Him.  Jesus was essentially giving him and the other disciples a template for how to demonstrate a servant’s heart. Unless they learned to serve, they would not be able to carry out the great commission He had in store for them. (Paraphrasing of John 13:16)

So as I allowed my filth to be cleansed, my mind returned again to how Jesus took our filth upon Himself and allowed it to plunge  Him into the grave.  I reflected on how undeserving I am of the grace Jesus showed by taking on my sin, and how undeserving I was to have this man clean my shoes. My inner-witness slowed the proceedings like it was happening in slow motion.  I watched as he modelled humility; it wasn’t a show for those around who witnessed this act, rather it was a humble gesture of kindness and an intentional demonstration of honour and servitude.

Perhaps he meant it simply as a gesture of showing honour to his “boss” on International Women’s Day, but the message I received was so much more than that.  I was reminded that in heavenly realms,  there is no distinction between “boss” and “employee”.   Ultimately, we all have the same Master to Whom we are both accountable . While my shoes still show tell-tale signs of miles trudged through the mud, the rest of me has been cleansed white as snow.   I am eternally grateful that while my filth carried Jesus to the grave, it was His grace and love that brought Him-and me- back out again .

Yes and amen.

Stewardship vs. Ownership

This is a theme I’ve given a lot of thought to lately.

When God gives you a gifting or a talent, and more importantly, a mandate for which to use it, it is called stewardship.  Stewardship, as I understand it, is something that God entrusts us with–our time, talent, anything we have to invest into His Kingdom for His glory. It’s when we move from stewardship to ownership, where we think we are in charge, that there is a problem.

When God puts an idea in your head and your heart, it’s awesome.  I mean, it’s like getting the blue prints from the Big Guy Himself, which essentially it is.  It’s often confirmation for something you’ve had on your mind, your heart,  and when you get the thumbs up from God, it’s like full steam ahead.  But wait.  Any good idea you have, if you really think about it, and know your bible, comes from Him, so it’s really His  idea.  Apply the brakes.  The bible says in Romans 11:36 (NLT)

  “For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory….”

And from John 15:5 (NLT)

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me, you can do nothing.”

This is the very reason I don’t post a blog every day, sometimes not even every week.  Unless I feel God’s gentle nudging; Him telling me that He has something He wants to say or something He feels that I should share about myself, I don’t even crack open the laptop.  This blog is His baby, not mine.  Stewardship-not ownership.

I once heard a stirring story from the pulpit about this very topic.  It wasn’t from a pastor, but rather a former hockey player turned executive movie producer, Troy Buder.  For those that may not have heard of him and his connection with Disney, he was a mediocre hockey player with a  painful past.

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/2016/september/how-making-queen-of-katwe-healed-its-producer-from-his-past

He was originally from Alberta and ended up playing for the L.A. Kings farm team. Once he hung up his skates, he spent much of his time and notoriety as a Christian hockey player doing charity work in a myriad of venues . Within his circle of influence, he had heard of a story about a youth worker who taught chess to under-privileged kids in Uganda, Africa.  The story had been made into a book, and God put it on Troy’s heart to buy the rights and to make it a movie.  In our church a couple of years ago, Troy told us the protracted story of how he came to be the executive producer of the Disney movie, The Queen of KatweQueenof Katwe  It was not a smooth nor easy process; in fact it took seven years to get it off the ground.  In listening to his testimony, I can’t help but think it was akin to a 40 year journey through the wilderness when it should have only taken him eleven days.  You see, Troy had a problem with ownership vs. stewardship.

 

Troy’s testimony left a huge impression on me. That day he talked about his own pride about the movie, how he just had to be the executive producer so the movie would unfold the way he wanted it to-the way he thought God wanted it to- not fully realizing that it already was God’s baby, and it would indeed blossom as the Father had intended.  He admitted that he looked like a fool on the set of the movie, there in the ghetto of Uganda.  He knew nothing about the film industry, and there he was getting in the way, making sure everyone knew who he was and what his role was.  It was in that moment, he said, that God made it clear to  back off .  If Troy insisted on thinking that he owned this project, God would gladly find someone else to steward it in the way He intended.  Ouch.

TugofWar

I love the things that God has put on my heart; the things He has given me a passion for.  But, I have to realize that they are only my passion because God put them there.  On my own, I would have no natural ability to work through, nor the desire for example, to help women caught in the sex trade; it  just wouldn’t occur to me. But God knows my DNA, what He wired me for, so all the skills, talents and giftings were put in me for a divinely ordained purpose.  I had an aha moment, thinking about whether or not I was qualified for a particular job, when I read in Exodus 31:2 where God had blessed Bezalel with supernatural talents where it came to constructing the tabernacle–everything down to gold and silver-smithing, engraving, wood-carving…you name the skill, God gave it to this Israelite.  On his own, Bezalel could not complete this task, and neither can you and I, regardless of our desire- but God.

Recently I have taken a step back from something I love to do,to do a heart-check to make sure I’m BlessingOthersdoing it because it’s something I’m called to do.   I want to be God’s hands and feet, not because of the accolades I receive, but because it’s something I am called to do.  I want to be a good steward of the gifts the Father has given me.  The moment I think I own the gift and the calling, is the moment He will snatch it right out of my hand, and that’s not something I’m prepared for.  I would encourage the reader to also do a heart-check of the call on his or her life.  Is this something you’re doing for God or for your own notoriety?  Think long and hard on this.

Yes and amen.

Jesus Loves Strippers

stripper

Sasha can be a royal pain in the butt. Trying to follow a conversation with her is like trying to catch a fly; you just about get a word in, and she’s onto the next thought. I didn’t go looking for her but she found me, or rather, God brought us together.

In one of the monthly outreaches into the strip clubs where our team goes to love on and support the young women who work there, I met Sasha, although Sasha is not her real name.

“What are you ladies doing here?” she asked as she takes the rose I offer her. “You from a church? I can’t believe anyone from a church would want to come in and hang out with a bunch of sinners like us.”

I laughed at first. Then I told her about the woman who shows up at a party thrown by a bunch of pharisees where Jesus is a guest. I told her how the woman was just like her, someone who made her living selling her body. The woman, I continued, went right up to Jesus and washed His feet with her tears and then used her hair to anoint them with her very best perfume. (Luke 7: 36-50)

“You’re exactly the kind of person who Jesus would like to hang out with,” I told Sasha. “He’d rather spend an hour with you than five minutes with an academic full of himself.”

Sasha was taken in by the story and wanted to know more. She gave me her phone number and e-mail address so I could send her the scripture.

My fellow ministry mama-bear and I continued our evening of handing out the roses and talking to the girls and then the night was over.

The next day, with a reminder of who I was and how we had met, I sent Sasha the scripture, but didn’t think much more of it. A day later my phone rings and I saw her name come up on my screen. Yay! She wants to talk more about the scripture! Or so I thought. Instead I heard a frantic voice saying that she’s in trouble; she needs my help. She’s left an abusive boyfriend and needs a place to live. The mother in me responds without asking some much needed information, and I get her address and hop in my car to meet her.

On my way to the seedy motel where she’s staying, the dialogue in my head begins.

What the heck are you thinking?!?!? You could be heading into an ambush! It wasn’t a smart move to be going into this situation by myself. I didn’t know if she had a pimp who could be lurking around thinking I was taking away his money-maker. I fire off a few quick text messages to my team members to begin praying for me and I continue to do the same.

I pick Sasha up outside the motel and she quickly gets into my car. I can barely follow the conversation (which will continue throughout our friendship, I am to discover)

“Wait, Sasha,” I interrupt. “Before we go any further, do you have a pimp?”

“Would I be with you now if I did? Would I have my own money?” waving a wad of crumpled bills in my face.

“Ok. Fair enough.”

I drive to a restaurant where we can sit and talk in a public place.

“This may seem blunt, but I have to know who I’m dealing with. Are you on any drugs?”

Without hesitation, she responds, ” I smoke medicinal marijuana and I’m on anti-depressants for depression and PTSD. I tried to kill myself a few years ago and I have some brain injury, so the meds help.”

Wow. How’s that for honesty.

I’m relieved for her candor and our conversation continues over rotisserie chicken. I discover that for all of her troubles and mental health issues, she’s actually pretty clever. She wants to transfer her college records from one school to another closer to where she’s now living to study to become a medical assistant. She’d been enrolled in the Registered Nursing Assistant program but had to drop out for reasons I could not completely follow. She assures me that her boyfriend will not try to find her and that he is not her pimp. She wants me to find her a place to live to get her out of the motel, but her biggest concern at the moment is that her cats are with her boyfriend’s sister. Huh?

I am not a cat lover. But I am a lover of the lost and broken, so I get on my phone and start looking up potential places where she can have her cats boarded until she can find a cat friendly home. We come up empty but she is hopeful that I will be able to help her. She’s calmer now and is ready to go back to the motel room, still believing that I will be able to find her a place to live. (Oh, and by the way, she read the scripture about the prostitute and thought it was awesome.)

As I’m driving home, I’m kicking myself. God, I have no idea what I’m doing! I don’t know how to help her; I’m not a crisis worker, a real estate agent, and I don’t like cats! I can’t do this!

In case the reader hasn’t already discovered through his or her own experiences, God has a sense of humour.

Sasha has become a part of my life over the past couple of months and while I still don’t know what the heck I’m doing, I know that God does. He’s not letting me rely on anyone else but Him. Believe me, I’ve tried. In my attempts to gain some education and advice though, I’ve had the blessing of speaking to one of my mentors who shoots straight from the hip.

“You know the craziest thing about being God’s hands and feet, Monica?” John (my mentor) asks. “It means getting your hands dirty. It’s rarely convenient, and there are times when you just don’t want to do it.”

“No kidding.”

“But, it is so awesome when you see that young woman blossom and become the person God created her to be. It’s brilliant.”

dancingwithJesus

The time I have spent thus far with Sasha has been brilliant. Passed out in my car on a road trip (to visit her cats, no less) has afforded me the opportunity to pray over her as she softly snored away in oblivion. She received Jesus in that same dingy motel room amidst beer bottles, half-smoked joints and cigarette butts. We held hands and prayed the sinner’s prayer and I just know that there was a party going on in heaven over one more stripper joining the family of God.

Sasha still has a long way to go, but so do I. In this process I’m learning what James 2:15 truly means.

If I see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing and I say, “Bless you! Stay warm and eat well,” but I don’t do anything tangible to help, my words are worthless.

I am falling in love with this sweet child. We’ve shared meals together, gone shopping in Walmart ( you just gotta know only God could give me the grace for that!), and she’s allowed me to pray with her. When she says, “Thank you for being my friend; you’ve made me believe in something bigger,” I see God’s fingerprint all over this unlikely friendship.

Jesus does indeed love strippers and so do I.

Yes and amen.