Leah

flyaWAY

Last night at the jail went well, and the women continued to share their personal experiences with God and ask lots of questions about the Scriptures.  The leaders encouraged me that I facilitated well, and I was grateful so far so good.  There was one woman that got up and left suddenly during the video on Leah, but it was not much of a disruption since she was gone before we even had the chance to call a guard.   The other ladies noted “she can’t do that” and went back to the video as soon as a volunteer got on the phone.

It was a tough topic that touched on abuse and the scripture spoke to me a lot about a relationship where I love on a person who continually rejects me and makes me feel not worth the time.  I don’t think this is the person’s perspective nor does this person mean me any harm, but it a difficult relationship I’ve steeped in prayer. 

What the Spirt reveals in me is disorder, as if this person’s opinion is somehow a reflection of God’s view of me.  I used to think shame on me for allowing it to be more powerful than God in my heart and life, which is a sin of idolatry in relationship I commit, but I also believe my ability to love no matter what happens is God given.  The person is very dear to me.  But I also recognize the hurt gets too important and I can very easily spin off into sinful, self-pitying type thinking.  Whenever I get in a relationship where my needs aren’t met, given my background, it triggers a flurry of thoughts and often, activity.  Working out is the best band-aid for me, but in the end, I will have to take extra time still before Him, to repent, and to start new. Thus far, the Spirit has prompted me that letting go doesn’t mean abrupting cutting off, like I’ve had to do in other sin areas to get free, but rather changing the how much I seek closeness in the relationship.

I don’t live with, nor have I ever lived with, the kind of rejection Leah endured – and had no choice about going through.  In my home, growing up, if an upsetting event occurred, we just acted like it never happened; it didn’t get uglier but it also never got resolved.

Leah, the story in Genesis 29 and 30 we focused on, on the other hand, was steeped in it, living with that struggle daily as well as all the relationships causing rivalry around and in her.

The message was that God saw Leah, that she was the mother of Israel, and in the lineage of the Messiah.  It was a story of perspective and how the true value of things is not what we can see or even what plays out on this earth.

I don’t know if my friend will even be reconciled with me in this life; I pray for with His kingdom coming, but I do know we will one day be reconciled.  Just like aligning myself with what I perceive God to be doing, I will cling to His word that what He plants, He will see fininshed.

I got a “True Spirituality” teaching series today that I hope to bring in to the jail next.  A woman at my work and the Protentant pastor are also interested in the book I can’t seem to put down.  It arrived yesterday, and I got home too late to start it after the jail, so this morning at the gym I read 25 pages.  I can hear him talking like in his podcasts.  I’m hoping also to share it with the guys that run the Friends of the Master house.  I have to bring that all to prayer because I can’t seem to keep up with all He’s giving me!  And yet, so far, He has made time for all I need to do.  He’s good.

Here is the song I called Trust.

v1

It’s like I’m watching you, Pretend to be made new, An actor in a pew, tonight

Your ducks are in a row, You know just where to go, And hey didn’t I know, you’re right

Chorus:

But inside somwhere’s crying, Your true self you’re denying, And oh how hard you’re trying, Trust and let it go

v2

It’d take a change to see, How God could set you free, But you’ve got to believe, in Him

You can’t believe in you, and all the good you do, It’s only Christ that’s true, in the end

Repeat Chorus

Bridge:

You’ll go your own way

Our paths to cross I pray

I’ll see you again someday

I trust and let you go…. (Chorus)

Warning

Blind-Corner-Proceed-Traffic-Sign-K-4409Last night I met with three women. Two are young addicts that have never done a 4th step and the third woman was my age, (40), who was interested in going through the Unbound book keys.

That same woman has a pretty troubled past; she’s an addict, has been a victim of sexual abuse, has been a prostitute, and is in jail for a violent crime. She is estranged from her family and had nowhere to turn but to the church.

I received a letter through the jail ministry, not knowing who she was. He face instantly appeared in my mind when I read it but I was very unsure it was her. There are many women that attend the Wed night class and they rotate out, this woman could have been anyone. None of the volunteers had heard of her and all were skeptical, for good reason. She was asking for money.

This past week, the leaders at the jail showed me the sign-in sheet and sure enough, it was the woman who’s face had appeared in my mind when I read the letter. I told the minisry leaders I would meet with her Friday when I saw the other two I had already planned on visiting.

I decided when I went in that I wasn’t going to give her any money. One of the first thing she did when she came in was ask for it.

In the hallway that previous Wed, I asked the leaders what jail inmates needed money for. The canteen has candy right, I asked, it’s no big deal. They exchanged glances and one said, “It’s a big deal to them.” The other said. “Soap.”

I hate being new at things but I like finding out how not to be an idiot more.

Still, I also didn’t want to be suckered into anything, manipulated, or used by these expert liars. That said, I too am an expert liar. And I’m most effective with myself.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t have told her I was going to give her the money, I woud have just done it after we prayed for it. But I couldn’t sit there and refuse her. I told her I would give her some. She asked how much, I named it and she wept and began to pray.

It occured to me that this could be a show for my benefit, that she does this a lot, this is her MO. It didn’t look like it but I’m as green as they come at this. I have a peace it was right.

The leaders that told me the canteen sold soap warned me not to give her any money. I knew the man who had emailed me the letter had planned on it, if I didn’t. I am glad that I got to.

The Scripture that comes to mind is the story of when Jesus visits the tax collector and tells him a story of the two men with debt. Even if deceiving me was one of the many sins this woman has in her life, it could be that she is earnestly seeking God and is acutely aware of her debt to Him. She was vowing to follow now that He had met her need, that I’m not sure will stick, but I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff with her.

The responsibility of this in daunting. My quiet time with Jesus today, the passage was 2 Samuel 11, when David takes out Uriah for his wife. The line that popped out to me was when Joab was talking. He’s telling the messenger that is going to David, “then, if the king’s anger rises and he says to you, ‘Why did you go so hear to the wall…. then you shall say, ‘your servant Uriah is also dead.'”

It struck me how because David was a king, he had so far to fall, and how many people he took down with him. He entered into adultery with Bathsheeba, killed Uriah, but not only that, he involved Joab as (given a willing) accomplice, exemplified poor leadership, and allowed weak area of one of his strongest warriors to get much worse. Joab winds up going off the deep end but here I can see how David was playing off that, encouraging it. If a man who wrote the Psalms can go that off the rails, I shudder to think of how bad I can blow it.

God is bigger than all that and He has led me here. I go forward with extreme caution and somehow, miraculously, great joy.

Making this Work

convolutedChip Ingrim does this podcast called “Living on the Edge.” He recommends giving God the first fruits of your time by getting up early to hang out just with Him. As soon as I heard this, I knew it was a good idea. I immediately decided not to do it. I need my sleep. I’m too busy. I get sick when I don’t sleep enough. I have to be careful not to make too many commitments. I can carve out the time at any time of the day. I pray all day. I’m not even carving out enough time as it is to get quiet. I can’t get up that early. I have to go to the gym.

The next morning, I work up before the alarm, about 20 minutes before I would have to get up to go to the gym. “Okay God, I get it. Sh’ma Israel, Addonai Eloheinu Addonai Ekhad. Jesus I love You with all my mind, soul and strength. All I have is Yours, Yours I am and Yours I want to be, do with me whatever You will.” My day began.

In my bible plan, I was at Psalm 50. It starts, “The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and does not keep silence,…”

What I meditated on was how much I need to understand what it means that God is soverign not just over my rising, but the sun and every single person, creature, and molecule in this universe. Beyond. Over all that is. That was a piece of goodness I attempted to come back to the rest of the day.

At work, there are two mounts where a beam of light has to hit, going from mount A to mount B. Mount A is on a 1/2 inch pillar post and mount B is on a 3/4 inch pillar post. Since I’ve been making these lasers, I’ve continually had to improvise to get that particular alignment right; using glues, washers, setting things just so. Today the obvious occurred to me to use a 1/2 inch pillar post for both.

I was taught to do this an inefficient way, but it amazed me how something so simple could have tied me up in knots for so long. Determined to make things work, I came up with all kinds of things that made my life more difficult.

Apparently, in Copernicus’s day, there was this theory that, instead of ellipses, the planets travelled on convoluted paths. Scientists thought this because it was the only way they could make the math make sense in the worldview – well, solar system view – they had.

This is the problem with my best efforts, outside the plan God has for me. It’s an exhausting, convoluted rat race. It’s the Jesus’s words coming to life, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”

Thank You, Lord, for waking me up this morning. Tonight, I’m setting the alarm.

People Like Us

confidence

My first visit to the men’s house went great, and after there was a 12 step meeting for the “self-centered”  Before we ate, we met briefly, (I was late), and I got the house rules and a feel for what they thought was needed to run a house.  They were not so concerned about the hows, but were helping me to understand what it would take to run a women’s house.  It’s more than a full time job.

There was a man there, Tom, who was blind who was in charge, among other things, of the food.  The man that runs the house told me that it took awhile for them to get to a place where they could all eat together, but its been a tremendous blessing and help to the community.  I sat at a table where a few tabes had been pushed together so the men in the house across the street could join us too.

They gave me the name to a home for women getting out of prison in Saginaw and the house rules for that place.  I’ve sinced called and am scheduled to visit Saturday.  She thought volunteering would be the best way to understand what it would take to open, run a house. 

When she did it, she had a partner.  She said she couldn’t have done it without a partner.  She said it would be even better if I had a team of 3 women.  I’m praying.

She made the comment in the course in our conversation, when explaining the idea that these women’s background had a lot to do with why they were in their current situation and that when they get their needs met, they don’t commit crimes, “they’re not like us.”

Recently I’ve had the honor and blessing of talking to a lot of religious recently, and I know what she meant.  Most of them I know come from big and stable families.  Maybe not all, but a lot.  I haven’t.  I’m actually more like the women in the jail and, considering my background, could have easily gone to jail a few times and probably didn’t because I got sober before I could legally drink.  I was encouraged to know that the men that run the house also are more like me and less like a religious, but it hit me how holy successful leadership has to be.

At the jail yesterday a leader that has been ministering for the past 10 years gave me a book called “Unbound” by Neal Luzano that I’m reading.  I start one on ones on Friday and he is hoping I so this with the women I am working with. I certainly am going to have it as a tool in my kit but sense I need to pray over and get a sense for where the women are at and ask them what they are looking for spiritually.  I’m going to bring a bible, the Liturgy of the Hours, a big book, the ideas from my spiritual exercises class, and the “keys” from the Unbound book.

The Unbound book scares me a little, but I trust God is bigger than anything I’ve done.  He’s got a hold on me and whenever I start to get freaked out, I remind myself Who already won all battles.

My spiritual director asked me about my prayer life.  I get up praying, pray throughout the day, recite a chapter of James in my head during the week, study biblical Hebrew and am on a Bible in a year reading plan.  He asked me if I had any unproductive prayer time.  Although I take 5 minutes out here and there on my knees, I have not made time for meditation in many months.  That was my homework.  To read Scripture and then just stay with a few verses for no set time.  5 minutes was fine, so was 20 minutes.  Both yesterday and today the Psalms were what I stuck with, in very different places.

This big impossible thing God is doing is still unbelievable in my heart, but joy is here.

2 Corinthians 5:7 “We walk by faith, not by sight…”

imagesCAJIK9BG

Last night at the jail, one of the women turned out to be in some sort of a cult, and things got tense.  It started fine; we watched a brief video, then I handed out some papers with Genesis scriptures on it and she started to protest.  After I asked her a few questions, she professed to believe in other gods. Next, three of the 4 other women participating stood up to leave.  Thankfully, two other volunteer leaders were there and able to calm things down.  Another gift was the woman, who we later found out had done this before, volunteered to leave.

The one woman that did not get up to leave was the one that told us she had disrupted another Christian gathering.  The volunteers told me later that although they’d had people come and be quiet before, that was their first experience with the study being challenged.

I was very grateful we had a study and although I wasn’t shaken, I felt the weight of my lack of experience serving this way and am even more grateful for the hard work and years the servers have invested.  I feel fortunate to be on their team.

After this happened, the experienced leader had us look at what happened as a way to equip us as Christians when challenged.  Why was it they all got up to leave when there was only one person that was causing the disruption.   How had they so quickly surrendered their control?

It seems flight is understandable, but not necessary in that situation.   The fear got the better of the prisoners and myself, and though I didn’t act on it, that hold is one I’m praying He’s break.  What stood out to me most from the experience was the reality of the authority I have contrasted to how I felt in the situation.

It might be because of all the groceries putting out the Valentine’s stuff already, but another story surfaced in my mind when I got home and was praying and reflecting on the evening.

Valentine’s Day of 2011 was the only Valentine’s day that I had with my husband.  At the time I went in several small stores in the neighborhood, a bookshop, a chocolate shop, a coffee shop, and lastly a pizza shop.  I told my husband to invite 3 of his friends, it was a weekday, and I was sending them on a treasure hunt.  They were to meet somewhere and then they got their first clue that led them to the bookshop and there was some gift involved with every stop.

At the pizza shop, I’d gotten them all lunch.

At the time I worried it was too over the top.  It wasn’t.  He loved it.  I also thought I was overreacting when I was thinking we might not get that many together and next year would I be able to think of something as cool.

It was such a shock when things went so downhill, but I know in my mind that we can go at anytime.  But my heart doesn’t get it.

Another thing that I pray will sink deeper into my heart and spirit is the reality of heaven, a real place, where I will be reunited with him.  Similar to the illusion that the deluded woman had something on me, I inwardly feel some kind of chiding for thinking this way, as if its childish or escapist.  The opposite is true.

As I pray for this potential safe house and future discipleship, I also pray He would change our hearts, both on the minsitry team and the prisoners, and renew our minds so that we feel what’s closer to how things really are.

Our king is preparing a magnficent place for us, with many varied places to dwell, where we can be with those we love.   Although He is not safe, He is infinitely trustworthy and always has our best in His mind.  Praise God for His care.  Praise God for His authority.  Praise God for forever.  Amen.

Going public

elanor

When my husband was sick, there were a lot of people who wanted to know what was going on, so one of his sponsees made a Facebook for me to post updates in.  It still has about 150 people in it.  I rarely post in there now, and his friends also don’t much either.

Today, I listened to a podcast by Chip Ingrim, (from Jan 10, 2014 called, “Breakthrough, Courage – The Catalyst to Breakthrough, Part 1”), that referred to the gospel passage where Peter gets out of the boat and then sinks.  He talked about fear and how we aren’t able to do what God is asking because we are afraid of what others will think or because it’s outside the box.  He said traditions block us.

Then I thought, here it comes, a slam on Catholics for traditions.  But it the slam never came.  He told a personal story about marrying his divorced wife.  She was a convert who married before she became Christian.  She had been abadoned due to her husbands infedelity when she was pregnant with twin boys.  Years later they married, but it was outside the box of what he expected was correct and the community they were with at the time told them it was flat out wrong.  But the pastor didn’t see any contradictions in the bible and eventually acted in faith.

I realized my biggest hang ups with all of this is not so much about whether or not God is doing this but more that people won’t approve.  Yeah, I’m a sinner. 😉

Then I posted what was happening in Jimmy’s Facebook group.

 So much of who I am and what I love has been given to me on this amazing adventure I’m on with Jesus.  He’s the one that led me to the a Catholic convent with a hunger to serve with everything I’ve got to the ones that most need it.  He’s the one that prompted me to leave the church when I disagreed with their doctines and failed to see fruit.  He’s the one that brought me back and kept me in the Bible and kept me talking to Him no matter what was going on.  He’s the one that’s taught me through is Word how to live an abundant joyous life and blessed me with sound scriptural teaching from pastors in so many denominations as well as experiences with groups of fellow Christians seeking Him and His kingdom.  I am blessed.  I’m not going to keep it quiet.

However, I read Mother Theresa never did fund raising.   I won’t need to do any for this, but, in that same spirit  – I can write a lot and I can write a lot of junk.  I want to keep blog just for God and allow Him to determine who reads it.

In the case this does take off and the reader is interested in what I wrote to ask for prayer for this jail thing  – it is pasted below this quick thanks. 

Thank You, Hashem, for speaking to me and showing me something else that needs to change for the better.  Thank you for all pastors, including Chip Ingrim and bless them a thousand fold for their efforts.  Thank you for all the people whose service goes unthanked but who step out boldly for you, no matter what people think.   Thank you that you’ve given me so many friends like that.  I love You.  You’ve given me a fantastic life.

Hi All,

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year’s. I’m sorry that I’ve not been able to post much these past few years, but Jim Bruno is still very much alive in my heart and our love is still shaping my adventure with Christ.

God has been doing a lot of stuff, as He is apt to do, and one of the things I’ve been privledged to do is volunteer, through a Catholic orginization, at a local jail where they use a lot of Protestant materials to try and get women to believe J…esus can heal them of their addiction(s). (Most women I’ve met are in jail for drug abuse.) I also attend a Reformed Presbyterian Church I think Jim would like. I teach a “Catechism club” class there.

My pastor mentioned that although Christ Church is a church plant, they might be interested in serving at the jail as well. Meanwhile, it seems to me from the Catholic ministry leadership, (it’s a 501c called Friends of the Master), that there are funds, volunteers, and church support for more help for the women, but a lack of leadership. I also think there are problems within the ministry that have more to do with doctrinal issues than leadership. Or perhaps that’s why leaders have not emerged.

The harvest is ripe. The men have a transitional home that is thriving but the women do not. All the women there I have worked with are addicts. A transitional home is not an answer or cure all, but it would give the gospel more of a chance to take root. It’s working with the men.

The leadership there has asked me to lead and teach on some Saturdays and Wednesdays, and consider this need for a transitional home. Now God has led me to ask about what it would take to start a transitional home for women, a task the Catholics serving there have wanted to do but have not been able to do.

I’ve not felt this excited about something God was doing since I realized He sent me to Jim. I don’t know how this will work out or what to do, but this coming Friday I am going to meet with the director of the men’s home to find out what it would take to get a transitional home started for women.

This post is to ask for your prayers. Please pray for the women who can be freed of their addiction, for the Catholics serving and battle ridden from being on the front lines for the Lord, for the Protestants to develop leadership that can empower both the ministers and the imprisoned, and for me to continue to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and true to what I believe God is calling me to do for His kingdom that honors Jim Bruno and his first love, Jesus Christ.

Thanks for reading and blessings to you all. May peace and joy abound in your hearts.

Unbelievable

orange

Although I had no idea how it could work, it seems that a path is before me.

My spiriutal director let me know to do my homework and information gather about the women’s transitional home and, after talking to the leaders of the men’s house that I normally serve with, the need seems even more pronounced to me. They warned me of a lot of struggles they had getting their ministry started, but encouraged me to continue to pursue it, as long as I didn’t get my hopes up too high.

Since my hope is not my own and I have no idea what could happen and I tend to be a bit too doubtful, knowing full well I shouldn’t doubt, I made another phone call today to the man that bought the men’s house.

Friday I’m going to have dinner at that house and start brainstorming ideas for the ministry for the women and to see what would be involved in buying a house.

God will have to provide the women to join me in this. I’m going to the protestant church tomorrow to teach and will tell them about it and invite a few to the dinner. Only God knows what’s next.

I don’t know if anyone else will read this blog but I’m also kind of writing to myself as well as God with this. Because I wish in my heart that the vision of His kingdom coming here, and the realization and actuality of women given more opportunities to break their addiction, women ministering to women joyfully is one like a lot of dreams that I have that I suspect God planted. I can almost come out and say God put it there, but if that’s true, it’ll happen and I can’t believe it will come true. I’ve seen a lot my dreams come true, multiple times on multiple levels but I still don’t believe it every time something new comes down the pike. Hopefully I will go back and read this and be more encouraged, next time He’s moving and I’m obeying but disbelieving.

And of course with the hopes that someone is like me in this doubt and it helps them believe too.

my wand below 0

leah_-_imagination

It feels like the Arctic in summer outside, not that I’ve ever been there.  Praying for the people without heat, incredibly grateful for my working car, heated house and workplace, membership at the Y.  The colder it gets, maybe it’s some form of cabin fever, my mind is getting hungrier, just like the rest of my body I guess.

Which is when I have found myself in a mess of trouble at times, so I’m looking to the things that don’t get me stagnent or pessimistic – I suppose things that don’t get me frozen too.

My favorite thing about being in relationship with God is that – as fast as you can think of it – maybe even faster? – you can pray.  No matter how cold it gets, what you have, where you are, all you have to do is turn your mind in His direction. 

Albert Einstein said that logic gets you from A to B but imagination can take you everywhere.   What a magnificent gift, that costs nothing, requires no particular talent or skill, or practice, (though practice is always good.)

My workplace practically workships people who can make things work that are expensive yet in a moment in the lab I can be apart from all of that while making a living in it.  I am so far from being like Paul, but I think I am getting a glimpse of what he was driving at when he wrote he has learned to be content in all things.  I’m far from that place too often, running after this and that, influenced by the wind it seems sometimes, but – despite myself, I am learning.

I am happy.  Not a complacent, everything is fine, no crisis happy but an active, alive, wow, this is cool kind of happy.  It helps that I have shelter, friends, a job and all that, but  – all my ducks lined up, I can be a wreck.  He changes that.

 For people with much greater faith than mine, they have this without having to get a bunch of stuff first.  Maybe God has provided all this for me because I might not get the point otherwise.  I got the proverbial Holden’s brass ring and it don’t source my joy.  He does.

Grace is real.

(picture from http://www.dailygood.org/story/207/the-importance-of-imagination/ Poem by Esha Chhabra)

hope

cell

Tomorrow I am going to teach 4 kids more of a simplified version of the Westminster Cathechism, questions 76-83.   

Today I met with my spiritual director, a Jesuit priest, who told me what I was doing was very much like what the Catholic Church did before Vatican 2, only they used the Baltimore Catechism. 

I looked it up and there are identical questions in a lot of it, but a lot of different material and, in some key cases, very different answers.

I know about the doctrinal differences, maybe not all of them but the major ones.  I know where I stand on some of it.  Regardless, I am praying that this somewhat shaky ministry I get to be  a part of at the local jail, through the Catholic church, takes off in a way that frees people to live abundant lives, no matter who is involved, as long as the Holy Spirit is in the lead. 

New Year’s I learned that the reformed church I am teaching Catechism kids club at is interested in maybe being part of a jail ministry. I am hoping both denominations can have an active part.  My pastor at the protestant church is not too keen on the idea, but thinks it’d be good to get a foot in the door.

I don’t have faith that this will work, but I have hope.  I pray for more faith.  There is already love, so God’s in this.  I love them all.   The women broken and unbelieving, the Catholics serving no matter what, the Protestants uncompromising and bold.  I identify with all of them.  Now I’m looking at Him.  I’ll do what’s in front of me, and I’m looking for Him to work.  This is a great thing for Him because if something amazing does happen here, only an act of God would be a sufficient explanation.