Tag Archives: Jesus

transition.

What happens if you wake up crazy one day?

What happens if you’re living comfortably, thinking that you’ve found the place that you love and the little ministry niche that you fit into perfectly, and all of a sudden it hits you that you can’t do it anymore?

What if you’re surrounded by people who tell you that you’re exactly where you need to be, that you’re making a difference despite what you may think, but you can’t find it in yourself to believe the words they’re speaking to you?

Or what if you spend months losing sleep over scenarios that you can’t control and you spend every waking moment going over and over the mistakes that you made in conversations and you can’t figure out why these things are happening, why life is harder for some people and why there’s not a thing you can do about it no matter how hard you try?

I guess if someone were in that place and desperately wanted to remain alone there, they’d probably write safe things that resolved themselves in around 500 words, they’d put off questions with answers that satisfied but weren’t entirely truthful, they would push truth away in order to maintain a semblance of sanity.

And then they’d quit their job–the place they thought they just might stay for the rest of their life–and end relationships and move 227 miles north in the hopes that there might be more clarity somewhere else.

That’s exactly what I did.

I recently read something that a guy named Paul E. Miller wrote, and it said this:  “The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.”

Meaning that we don’t have to have it together to spend time with Jesus.  He wants us to come to him as we are–be that exhausted, overwhelmed, distracted, or a combination of the three.  It’s in those places of feeling less-than that we let him work best; often it isn’t until we’re at the end of our proverbial rope that we even begin to ask for help.  After all, we’ve been taught (subconsciously or not) that we must be self-sufficient–if we’re struggling, it’s because we’re not doing enough.

Here’s the thing, though…that’s just not true.

So what have I been learning these last few months?  Too much to say in this post, but I’ll begin to break it down over these next few weeks and months as I continue to process what my life is now.

Know this, though:  our God is a faithful one.  Within two weeks of moving, I had a new place to live with pretty fantastic roommates, a job working with crazy teenagers, and an overwhelming sense of relative security.

And really, while I’m not “on a mission at the Mission” anymore, I’m still very much on a mission.  My kids here need to know about Jesus just as much as my kids in Yakima did.  And I’m going to keep sharing him with them, and sharing the stories of what that’s like with all of you.

 

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less than.

I’ve realized that I need to think less and write more.

I haven’t written anything for a time because, for a good while there, I had seemingly run out of things to say.  There’s a lot of noise in this world, and I wasn’t sure that my contributions to it were altogether necessary.

I think, too, my last post got me thinking way too much about injustice and the fact that things just aren’t ever going to be fair but no one ever said they would be so how did I ever come to the conclusion that someday I would wake up and feel good about the state of things?

Phew.  Let me just catch my breath after that.

To put it more succinctly:  there are a lot of things I don’t understand, and I’ve always accepted that.  There are people who wander through life not knowing where their next meal is coming from, or where they’re going to try to sleep for the night.  I have just assumed that that’s always going to be the case, that it is an awful but accepted truth.

But now that I’ve been on the front lines, so to speak, it’s become so much more of a reality.  These people that I’ve always known about now have names and faces and personalities.

And who am I to decide that some things should be kept for only me to know about?  By staying silent about the injustices that I see, I give them power. By not sharing them and being open and honest about the fact that they’ve been slowly taking over and consuming who I am, I allow them to do that very thing.

This is what our culture teaches us, though.  I have believed that if I am open about my feelings, if I share that being surrounded by poverty and loneliness and real hurt has changed me and shaken me to the core of who I am, then you will see me as broken and weak and less than.

But I am those things.  We are all those things.

I tell you this so you know that it’s perfectly acceptable to not be perfectly acceptable. It’s okay to fall short, to let the stories of others affect you in such a way that you become a little less of who you were.  Because when we realize we aren’t as strong as we thought, we open ourselves up to the possibility that we can’t fix everything ourselves.

I’m reading through 2 Corinthians right now, and in chapter 12, verse 9, it shows Jesus telling Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  And Paul says that makes him want to boast even more about his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power will rest on him.

That sounds crazy to me, but hey, if it means Jesus is glorified, then I’ll keep talking about those things that mess me up.


fifty-five.

While I enjoy the spontaneity and the day-to-day surprises that this job brings, there are certain things that happen here regularly enough to make me wonder if there’s not some calendar somewhere that I don’t know about that would help clue me into what’s going on.

It would just be extraordinarily helpful, for example, if I knew when certain kids were going to all of a sudden start screaming in the parking lot.  Or dining room.  Or the middle of chapel.  I’m sure there’s some sort of secret schedule that all of them are on, but I can’t quite figure it out.

Also, if I could figure out which days people were going to run out of their medications (or just decide to stop taking them), I could, in theory, be better prepared for those encounters.  I am sometimes accidentally overconfident when it comes to certain conversations; I assume that the responses to my questions will be rational, and then am caught off guard when someone tells me my dad’s just given them a job (he hadn’t) or they’re being seized by the government (they weren’t).

And then there are the people who come back to the Mission near the end of most months because they’ve spent all of their money.  One would think that I would remember this because it happens so often, but I get caught up in other things and then am genuinely surprised to see them back here.  This creates a pretty chaotic environment at the end of the month, and this month is no exception.

Currently, we have also been inundated with people who have come up from camping at the river because the police are doing what are called “sweeps”.  They go through the camps every so often, looking for people who have outstanding warrants and things like that.  Some of the people who come here are hiding from them, but most of them just don’t want to be relentlessly questioned while having their worldly possessions picked through and examined.  Can’t say I blame them.

Rarely do those last two events occur simultaneously; when they do, though, things get hectic.  Currently we’re in a season like that.  I’m being dramatic by using the word ‘season’; at the end, there will really only have been about 10 days of being filled to the brim.  Yesterday a couple, a single woman, and a family of 3 all checked in, bringing our side of the Mission nearly to capacity.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about the fact that there are several nights a week when I’m the only person overseeing all of these women and families.  Last night I sat at dinner and counted 55 different people in our section–that means 55 different life stories that I’m familiar with, 55 different plans that have to be thought out and worked through, and 55 different personalities that I have to figure out how to relate to in a helpful way.

It’s absolutely worth the exhaustion that I feel, however, when they begin to trust me enough to ask me to pray for them or they tell me the truth about something even though they’re not sure what my response will be.

I’m learning to listen both to what is being spoken out loud and to what is actually being said; it’s necessary for all relationships, not just the ones with the people I’m working with.  People can tell when they’re being genuinely cared for, as opposed to simply being dealt with or managed.

So even though there are times when it feels like I can’t even keep track of my own life, let alone the lives of friends/family members/coworkers, I’m reminded of how important it is to even just remember small things–to ask about things that they care about, even when I have no interest in the topic.  If we all listened to others as much as we want to be listened to, I think the world would work a little more efficiently.  And I think Jesus would be pleased by our efforts; after all, he created us to love…so we might as well do it, right?


transformed.

During chapel last week, the speaker told the story of Paul–how he lived his life one way until the Lord grabbed him and turned him completely around.  If you’ve never read about him, check out the book of Acts.  His life is a prime example of the transforming power of the love of Jesus.

On this particular night, I sat in the back of the room with our kids and gave them some coloring pages in the hopes of keeping them relatively quiet.  In an attempt to get them learning about what their parents were hearing about, the pictures were all various scenes involving Paul in some way or another.  About halfway through the service, I looked over to see that several of the boys had used green markers to color in Paul’s face and hands.  I was confused…until I realized that they had crossed out the title of the picture and written in “The Incredible Hulk”.

I had to laugh, knowing that they didn’t really understand what they were coloring.  They had no idea who Paul was or why he’s important, so they turned him into a fictional superhero with some serious anger issues.

It is so interesting to me that that’s something that we begin to do at an early age.  I mean, isn’t it just like us to change something confusing into something we can more easily comprehend?

I find myself doing this often.  If I come across something that I am unfamiliar with, I try to fit it into what I already know.   One thing that is particularly difficult for me to grasp right now is grace.  Because I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, I find myself painting an inaccurate picture of what it means to be forgiven, of what it means to have the mercy of the Lord extended to me.

That’s a misconception that I run into a lot; I talk with women regularly who think that they are beyond redemption.  The concept of being given a clean slate is unfathomable to them.  They can’t understand how that could ever be possible, so they twist Jesus’ words and come to believe that those promises are for someone else more deserving, that there is certainly no way forgiveness would ever be offered to them.

They–rather, we–cheapen his grace and make it into something easier to understand.  Instead of viewing it as a complete restoration, we make grace out to be a quick fix, akin to throwing a fancy sheet over a ripped piece of furniture because company’s coming over.

That’s not what it is at all, though!  As broken as we are, we have to be made completely new. I love to think about how Jesus must delight in knowing that he gets to piece us back together and cover us with his sticky, messy grace.  It makes me think of glue, how it covers and holds together but usually makes it pretty evident to everyone looking on that something was once in need of fixing.

I’ve heard stories from women who have been rescued from years of drug abuse and prostitution, shame and self-loathing, destructive behaviors and thought patterns, and I am always amazed at how open they are about their pasts.  They spare no detail when talking about the things they were once involved in because they want it to be so obvious that they were able to overcome them solely by the grace of God.

Without Him, they would still be trapped.  Really, without Him, we are ALL bound up and enslaved to something.

It is only by His grace that we are freed, and we need to embrace that and continue to learn about what it means to truly be forgiven so we don’t keep living in such a way so as to suggest that we don’t know what the implications of that are.  And then, when we begin to recognize what it truly means to be forgiven, we need to share it with everyone we know.  Because why would we ever want to keep something like that to ourselves?


one year later.

As of late, it’s rare for me to write two posts in a month, let alone in a single week.  But as of yesterday, I’ve been working at the Mission for exactly a year, so I thought it might be fun (maybe not the right word, but the one I’m going to stick with) to look back at how I got where I am now.

Last year, I was a campus missionary in training, trying to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do with my life.  I knew that I wanted to be in a place where I could love people and tell them about Jesus, but I wasn’t sure which people I was supposed to love.  The obvious answer, of course, is “everyone”, but that seemed too broad…

So I prayed for a more focused answer.   Then I talked to my parents, my friends, my roommates, the girls in my Bible study, co-workers, other campus pastors, random people I met on campus, etc.  And then, I prayed some more.

After a few agonizing months of indecision, I realized that it didn’t really matter where I landed.  As long as I was following the Lord and earnestly seeking His will for my life, I was probably going to end up in a good place.  Once I realized that, things became way less stressful.

Around that same time, one of my best friends told me that there was a job opening at a Mission in my hometown.  I laughed at her, because I knew there was NO WAY I was moving back.  I was headed for bigger and better things.

But those bigger and better things kept falling by the wayside, as I was quietly reminded that it wasn’t about what I wanted at all.  The adventures that I wanted to take were, in a strange way, safer and more comfortable than going back home.

Because for me, heading home meant that I would have to fight against people’s perceptions.  I would have to prove to those who knew me that my years away had changed me, that Jesus really had done a good work in me, and that was something that I didn’t feel up to doing.  I wanted to go somewhere new where I could reinvent myself, where I wouldn’t have to deal with silent judgement and the constant questioning about whether or not I was really any different.

I was reminded, though, of 1 Timothy 1:15-17.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

I was shown mercy so that people would see the change in me.  My life is meant to be an example, as are the lives of everyone who is following Jesus.  I was forgiven and changed so that people would look at me and realize that He really does work miracles.  I’m not saying that I’m done being changed, because really, I’m reminded daily (sometimes even hourly!) of how far I have yet to go, of how many things in me still need to be refined.

And so, I came back.  I started spending time with people who’ve found themselves in a tough spot.  And I began to realize just how much Jesus wanted me back here, wanted me to see for myself how much I have changed, wanted me to see how much being here would change me even further.

Because I’ve realized how much I am able to love these people unconditionally.   Even when things are crazy and the shelter is completely full like it has been lately, and so I feel like I can’t give everyone the time and energy they deserve from me, I love them.  Even when they ask me about something that I just spent 20 minutes explaining, or they get gum all over the sidewalks that I then have to scrape, or they for some reason find it impossible to follow even the simplest of rules, I love them.  That is definitely not something I would have been able to say a year ago.

And so, as I head into Year 2 (of many, hopefully), I’m excited for the things that God is going to keep teaching me, and I’m really excited about getting to keep hanging out with and loving on the people here.


faithfulness.

The admission I’m about to make is not for the purpose of trying to gain either your affirmation or your sympathy (really).  It is just something that needs to be written because I think I can often come across as overly confident when I’m talking/writing about what I do at the Mission.

And so, I think it needs to be noted that there are times when I don’t think I’m very good at my job.  For those of you reading for the first time, I should probably explain that I work at a homeless shelter.  Because I work long hours, and because I have the unique privilege of living on-site, I spend a lot of time here.  And because not all of the women who come in have people in their lives to give them solid Godly advice, they often use me as a sounding board for their problems and ideas.

The thing is, though, that a lot of the things that they face on a day-to-day basis are things I have yet to encounter.

For example, I’ve never been married.  I’ve never had a boyfriend who cheats on me or spends all of my money on his drug habit.  I get along–for the most part–with my parents, and I know that I’d always have a place to go back to if things didn’t work out the way I thought they would.

I haven’t ever known what it is like to be hungry because there is just no food to be had and I have nearly always had a bed to sleep in (the exception is on mission trips, where sleeping on cement floors is an adventure).

Because of that, I have to try harder to understand how people at the Mission think.  It’s not easy for me to always recognize the instinct that most of them have in them that causes them to be a little unsure, a little brusque, not always willing to automatically let me into what they’re thinking because they’re afraid of being looked over or looked past again.

I have this sometimes overwhelming desire to try to fix everyone and everything, even though I know there’s no way I can.  I’ve mentioned that before, but I think it’s worth writing again because, despite the fact that I know better, it is still easy for me to get swept up in the unrealistic notion of measuring success in terms of results.

When I can’t immediately find the right words to say to someone, or when I get so tired of having the same conversations with the same people over and over, frustration takes over.  The results aren’t what I want, and so I feel like I’m failing.  Hence my earlier admission of often feeling like I’m not very good at my job.

And so, I’ve had to remind myself that I need to shift my thinking.  I want to share this with you because I think it’s a reminder that we all need:  If we are following the Lord and desiring to do things His way, then success cannot be measured by standards that we make up ourselves.  Neither can it be measured by standards set before us by other people.

For at least two straight years, one of my favorite people in the world beat it into my head that true success has to be measured by faithfulness.  She’s a wise woman, that one.

Success measured by faithfulness is such a freeing concept, when you think about it.  To be faithful means to press ahead in what God has called you to, even when you want to give up day after day after day.  It means sitting and listening even when you know you aren’t going to have a solution to whatever problem is being presented, and trusting that the Holy Spirit will let you know what, if anything, needs to be said.  It means that, if you’re earnestly desiring to serve Christ and to show his love and grace to the people around you, the concept of “being good” at something takes on an entirely new and different meaning.

Is being faithful easy?  No.  Definitely not.  But it is absolutely worth it.


healed.

John 5:1-6 says this:

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'”

Seriously?

Of all the opening lines he could have used, Jesus uses that one?

I’ve read those verses a dozen times, but this time I realized how ridiculous it is that Jesus needs to even ask that question.  As though he needed to make sure that the man did, in fact, want to get well.

But what if the idea of being healed was something the man was uncomfortable with?  After all, he’s lived broken for years.  Being healed would mean relearning how to do everything, it would mean not having a ready answer to why he does things a certain way, it would mean that he would have to learn how to live whole.

I could very easily compare this to the people at the Mission–and I’m going to–but first, I need to make an admission:  there are certain areas of my life that, if Jesus was standing in front of me right now and he asked if I wanted them fixed, I’d hesitate to say yes.  And I’m willing to bet that you could say the same.

Why do we do that?

Why do we insist on staying stuck where we are, knowing that Jesus would change us if we just asked?

I obviously can’t speak for all of us, but I do it because it makes me feel safe.  I don’t want to trade in my insecurities and shortcomings, not having any idea what I’m going to get in return.  I like having something to hide behind, even if that something slowly and systematically tears me up.

The people that I see here are the exact same way.  So many of them can’t comprehend not being homeless because that label has become a sort of safe haven for them.

They are afraid to try to be anything else because they’re afraid of failing.

The name of the pool in the aforementioned verse is “Bethesda”.  The name comes from both the Hebrew and the Aramaic languages, and it has a double meaning.  Get ready for this…it can mean house of mercy and grace OR shame and disgrace.

So we’re given this choice.

We can choose to sit near the pool of healing, knowing that all we have to do is step in, but finding ourselves too afraid to make that move, to let go of our shame.  This shame and disgrace stems from addictions, eating disorders, an unwillingness to forgive, mental illness, a lack of self-worth, and a host of other things.  We can so easily let these things consume us and cause us to live life in hiding, too familiar with and comfortable in our shame and lack of self-worth to do anything about it.

Or! (I love that there’s another choice!)

We can recognize that the pool we’re sitting by is one of mercy and grace.  It’s one that welcomes all, despite background, financial status, or even perceived level of disgrace (because, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself believing that there are just some patterns of thought or behavior that are way worse than others).  When Jesus asks us if we want to be healed, we can say “yes, please change me!” and let him begin to reshape us and make us whole.  And it doesn’t end there…he promises to never leave a work unfinished, and I’m pretty sure that means he’ll give us the resources and community we need to learn how to live in our new skin.

So I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty neat to me.  I’m getting tired of carrying around all this baggage.

Will you join me in beginning to make this change?