We Belong Together

A year ago I was preparing to travel to Nicaragua.  In the last few weeks I've found myself recalling that trip and the people I met there. This is a reflection I wrote soon after returning:

I am at my writing desk, looking out my window at the bougainvillea and geraniums blooming in my yard. I hear toddlers calling my dog and watch her eagerly look for them, their little bodies and voices hidden behind the rose bushes. The kids in this neighborhood love her. She looks a bit wily right now with her summer haircut. They shaved off all her cute fluffy fur and she looks more like a svelte coyote, not so cute.

It reminds me of the dogs I saw in La Chureca, the dump in Managua, Nicaragua. There were dogs everywhere. They were scrawny and limping, ears drooping and noses rummaging through all the trash.  Right now my dog looks like she belongs there, but she doesn’t. I went with a group to visit the school in this dump community.  We took the kids out on a field trip to the zoo. The kids wore old, faded, stained clothes and shoes that were too big for them. They looked like they belong in a dump, but they don’t.  Nobody belongs in a dump among discarded, old, ruined trash. No one belongs there no matter how they look.

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Pacifist Fight Club

Last Saturday I joined a ragtag bunch of Jesus followers for the first Pacifist Fight Club.  What started as a joke between Keith Giles and Chase Andre somehow led to 25 people wrestling about how to follow Jesus, especially when it comes to non violence and poverty.  We brought chili and chips and all our questions to the table.  While we did not figure it all out, we did walk away inspired to keep fighting for peace and comforted that we are not alone in our questions and struggle. 

The invitation to Pacifist Fight Club came at a time in my life when I was battling.  My prayer life felt like the frontlines of a war.   I felt attacked and exhausted, yet empowered and strong. It felt like Jesus and I were getting things done in the spiritual realm.  I hid behind him and fought for my life.  I stood with a shield of faith held up for my friends.  I came out swinging with the Word of God.  My prayers felt productive and mighty.  I ran into the presence of God excited for the fight.  I really like fighting with Jesus in this way.  I saw him working things out in life's circumstances and found I could rest and trust.  So when the invitation to Pacifist Fight Club came I was intrigued.  What does it look like to fight for peace?  How do I stand with a Warrior Savior who has said, "blessed are the peacemakers" and "turn the other cheek"?

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A Lament for My Community

A year ago this month the Lord spoke to me about "Embrace."  I decided to go through my days embracing the people, situations, and opportunities that presented themselves.  It turns out that this posture has led to me having to embrace a lot of pain- my own pain and brokenness, the pain of my friends, and the pain of my city.  In learning to embrace, I have been learning a lot about lament and mourning.  In my attempt to obey the call to embrace, I have found the Scriptures rich with lament and mourning that is raw and open before the Lord.  These passages have become my comfort and guide and my permission to cry out in a world that tempts me to numb, distract, and fake my feelings. 

I share here a lament I wrote for my city:

My Lament:

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A Psalm for My Community

Three years ago, in a very desperate place, our Mika community took a week between summer and fall to pray and seek God together in an intense way.  This has become a precious tradition that has since been part of our rhythm of life together.  This past week we started with a day of praise and thanksgiving, recalling  all that the Lord has done for us.  We ended the day each writing a psalm of praise and reading them out together.  This is the psalm I wrote for our community:

 My Psalm

I praise you God for you are GOOD.  

Your faithfulness is our shield and guide

Your provision has become our song

When we were young and unexperienced, You led us with wise counsel

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What Not To Wear...To Prison

The friend that I have been visiting in jail was moved to state prison recently and I have not driven the three hours to see him yet.  I decided that today was going to be the day.  I read the state prison website several times this week being sure that I knew what I could and could not bring in, when to arrive, where to go etc.  I called the special hotline to make sure that no one was on lockdown and I wouldn’t be turned away after making the drive.

When I got to the dress code in the visitor information I paid special attention.  The rules are very specific.  No blue clothing, including jeans because that’s what the prisoners wear.  No khaki pants or green tops because that’s what the guards wear.  No orange.  Right when I started thinking I’d be safe with a long dress, I read No Mumus- apparently some women prisoners wear mumus.  Dresses can’t be shorter than 2 inches above the knee.  No revealing clothing.  Seems reasonable.  Oh, and don’t forget that it is going to be 80 degrees and creeping upward when you get there.  My clothing options narrowed as I read.

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Book Review- This is My Body: Ekklesia As God Intended by Keith Giles

Recently a great friend asked me to review his latest book.  If you have questioned anything about Church, you will find truth, solace, and guidance in this book.  You can download it for free at This Is My Body

Here's my review:

Keith Giles’ latest gift, This is My Body Ekklesia As God Intended is an invitation to be the family that The Church was meant to be.  In a time when it is hip to be down on church and many of us are sure we can plant the next great congregation, Giles speaks softly, calling us back to the Scriptures and the One who first invited us to partake at the table together. 

 In the last decade we have been barraged with well-intentioned models and plans to get Church right.

Catching Up- an update

So I've been MIA from my blog for a few months. To get back on track I thought I would give an update on some of the stories I've shared in the past.  Here is what has been going on in our neighborhood, I'll give you the good news first:

  • We are celebrating with my friend who I wrote about being simaltaneously detained by ICE and recognized by the City Council for our her community service.      After a two year legal process she was able to obtain a U visa to live and work in the US.  She is studying for her GED and looking for jobs.  She continues to be one of our strongest neighborhood leaders.           
  •  The family who wason the brink of getting their legal documents was not able to get their long term employer to sign the papers and their case fell out of the process.  My neighbor left that job after 21 years with the company that refused to acknowledge his contribution.  It has been hard finding another job and last week his wife called to ask me for help with the rent.   They continue to struggle and have missed their window of opportunity to legalize their status.
  •  While I haven't had any calls from neighbors hiding in closets, I had dinner with a neighbor this week who is renting a closet to live in for $150 a month.  She is working but the hours are sparse and her work is far from her house.  The gas prices are taking a toll.  The other night she told me, "At this point, living here is like how it was in Guatemala- day to day survival."  She is exhausted.
  • Tomorrow I'm heading out to UYWI's Reload LA with a group from Mika CDC.  Roman's sisters will be going with us since they both have joined their mother as leaders in the Neighborhood Action Committee.   Roman was a neighbor was passed away in the desert almost two years ago.  While grieving their brother's death has not been easy, I see a focus and clarity in each of the girls that was not there before.  It is like they want their lives to count for something.  They have both delved into their studies and participation in the community.  I am inspired by how they have harnessed their grief to serve others.  
  • The friend I visit in jail got moved upstate to prison.   I have been approved to visit him but have not made the trip yet.  He has not written in a long time and feel badly that I haven't gone to visit.  I must do that soon.
  • And finally, my dog Layla had an unfortunate mishap at the groomer and was shaved almost completely.  She moped around for a few days completely depressed as if she could tell how ridiculous she looks.    
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Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 7- Compelled

My high school graduation gift was a plane ticket to Florida to visit my cousins.  I loved being with my older cousins who took me out and treated me like a princess.  Everything they did was big: big hugs, big parties, big mistakes, and big faith.  My Uncle Dale is kind of the patriarch of the group and one day when I stopped by his church he sat me down in his office.  He showed me a painting of the prophet Simeon and shared with me how that painting reminds him of his call and inspires his faith.  “What is your call?” he asked, leaning in intently.  “I don’t know. Something about the poor, something about helping people…” I hemmed and hawed.  “What inspires you to do that,” he asked.  “It doesn’t have to be something from the Bible.  Is there a piece of art or a song that compels you?”  It came to me immediately. “The Statue of Liberty,” I blurted out.  The poem on the statue brings me to tears every time I hear it. 

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Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 6

Not all surrenders happen in a moment.  Some surrenders have come over time, as Jesus continues to invite me into a deeper relationship with him.  The notion that God interacts with his people directly has fascinated me since I was little.  I couldn’t understand what adults meant when they talked about God speaking to them.  How did you know it was God and not your own crazy thoughts?  What did you have to do for him to talk to you?  Should you talk back?  I had so many questions about the interaction.  In Junior High School I would lie in bed at night and practice hearing from God.  I would lie on my back and look up at the ceiling and say, “Lord, I want to hear your voice like adults say you speak to them.”  And then I would lie quietly.  I would examine each thought that came into my head, “Nope, that was my thought.” “Nope, that was definitely me.”  And on and on until I fell asleep. 

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Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 5

In the last few posts I wrote about certain times in my life when I made definite decisions to follow Christ.  The moment I asked Jesus into my heart, although I remember it, was not near as hard won as other moments of surrender.  Rather, these defining moments are times when I have been faced with the questions, “Who is lord of my life?  Who do I choose to submit my life to? To me or to Jesus?  Do I trust that God is good?  Will I say “Yes” to his leading, however frightening or boring or wise that may or may not appear to be in the moment?  

And so God’s call on my life has really been the call of Jesus to follow Him.  Responding “Yes” to that call has got me to where I am today.  There was never a moment when God called me to be a community developer, or when He spoke a career of full-time ministry over me.  The call has been to follow Jesus, and in my particular case it led me right back home to a community of people I was mildly curious about before I met them, and to a city I love dearly.  Reflecting back, I can see that God had been planting experiences and seeds in my heart all along that led me to this place, but those experiences were not significant apart from the foundation they built toward me saying “Yes” to the things Jesus was asking of me.

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About
I love our world- the sights, noises, and flavors of it all. I've found the best way for me to make a difference globally is to be rooted and engaged in my community. Every day is 1 more adventure in loving God and loving my neighbor.


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