standing firm on the unseen

seedling2 of the women that I work with now want to become Roman Catholics, so I’ve taken the materials they use in the jail for RCIA and combined them with the 12 steps in Alcohlics 4 Christ for the first two steps and 3 chapters of the Catholic Identity workbook. Saturday I meet with the man that runs the Friends of the Master men’s transitional home for help to draft up the rest of it.

It feels like building a staircase. It is as if the staircase is invisible and it’s there for me to stand firm on. But it needs me to nail on the wood so that others can see the way.

Meanwhile, on the Reformed front, the pastor has met with the elders who I’ve heard were supportive but have questions on things life insurance. Next week, I’ll meet with him to find out about them coming into the jail and potentially some teaching materials.

It seems like ages have passed since I first asked about this and things are moving so rapidly with the Catholic side. I’ve written my first letter to a judge on behalf of one of my ladies and more talk about the transitional home has led me to consider buying in a mobile home park.

I have too many plates spinning. Earlier I forgot my bank pin and scrambled for change to fill a low tire. There are dozens of little things and the trials that keep popping up I fight back with my James 1 to count it all joy. Still – I am too frazzled… and fragile in these beginnings. God is doing a slow work in me and I am the Taz. Trusting in the unseen, I’m continuing to see, is also trusting that I will be and can be the person I know God wants me to be.

1 John is the next book that we just are starting to read the twenty times.

Father, help me to take time just to be with You. Jesus, thank You for living in flesh and enduring things beyond my imagination. Forgive me when I don’t want to think about the price. Increase my trust. Ground me in Your peace. And thank You for kindling my excitement for what You are about.

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building

cornerstoneThis week, with a lot of grace, I got to see 5 of the 6 women in the jail, one on one. Also attended the Catholic jail ministry meeting yesterday. A woman I have never met before attended. She has been a volunteer for about a year if not more but didn’t quite know what the ministry was about. We got a chance to chat and she’s interested in doing one on ones. She’s a spiritual director and will be great help. A particular woman came to my mind for her. When I saw that particular inmate that evening, she asked me flat out, “What’s a Jesuit?” because I had told her the story of where the bible I was using came from. By the end of our talk she said she wanted to do the Spiritual Exercises. Praise God for bringing the volunteer!!!!

Three of the six, I discovered Wed, are very serious about entering the church. I wanted to take the Alcoholics 4 Christ steps and add in some church teaching, and Wednesday night, a Catholoc leader handed me the RCIA workbook they use, so I got to work, while praying. I get these ideas sometimes and sometimes its the Spirit, sometimes it’s me, or sometimes the timing isn’t right.

Friday, the timing was perfect. I had completed the first one nad talked at length and she seems a very serious candidate. The whole process also brought me back into reading Catholic Catechism. The next night I went back to see the one woman that only got a few minutes, (they shut down the visitations at 10:30pm), and she was eventually in tears with this beautiful desire to change her life and enter the church. “I want to be Catholic” she said plainly.

When I first met with her, I was not convinced that she was in earnest, she seemed to be conning for wahtever she could get. One of these things was that her stuff was in storage and I had this feeling she wanted me to rescue it for her but, unlike other times, I didn’t feel prompted by the Spirit to do that. I’m not good yet at discerning when to give and when not to, but mostly what God has prompted me to give has been smaller immediate needs pertaining to what will help them at the jail, not out in the world. This may change once the transitional house, Lord willing, starts, but God wants me to be faithful with what I got, which is ministering only in the jail right now.

Monday she lost everything she owned from the house, except a dining room table. She told me about pictures, that was the toughtest because it was irreplaceable. Her daughter’s graduation things, dolls. She had started out insisting she couldn’t expect her family to take on this burden she’d place on them, trying to have a more gracious perspective but I could tell she was denying her true feelings as well.

I pointed out that family was intended to bear each other’s burdens. I asked if her children went to church. No. They know the Lord, though, she countered.

We looked at the book of Job and I read to her the final verses, how God restored Job, who refused to curse God, with twice what he had initially. I said, he didn’t curse God, but he did wish he had never been born. Somehow, again, grace abounding, the Spirit got her to open up and cry out to God for the neediness and abandonment she felt.

As I prayed for her transformation and internal restoration, I later reflected on both the sessions where I am leading these candidates into the church. Building on the 10 year presence there of Catholic ministries, I lean into that family as Church, that’s the people, the team, these ladies are joining. The Friends on the Master meeting offered even more support, immediately, today I have two numbers to call.

Meanwhile the Presbyterians are interested. The elders asked my pastor some questions and we will next need to sit down.

I keep reading things on waiting on God. It is so difficult to be in the midst of such great need and not be able to act. Yet, God is in this need all the time. He knows what He’s doing. If I begin to act outside what He’s acting, I could blow the whole thing.

So I will make my two phone calls. I’ll write the 12 step RCIA reflection guides. I’ll teach Wednesday on Mary, and visit as many as I can on Friday.

I read in Jewish Press this morning a Jonathan Sacks article about how all the Israelites did was complain, until they got to work on the Tabernacle. Then Moses had to stop them from giving. He continues later, “Judaism is God’s call to responsibility. He does not want us to rely on miracles. He does not want us to be dependent on others. He wants us to become his partners, recognizing that what we have, we have from Him, but what we make of it is up to us – …”

All this time I’ve been in agnst over, should I partner with Catholics, should I partner with Protestants, can we possibly work together? These may still be questions but that is secondary. As I walk in obedience, I’m watching for Him.

Lord, I want to partner with you. Cooperate with Your Spirit. See Your will be done. You know I have preferences, but You have all our best in mind. Continue to guide me and THANK YOU for showing me so much. Change my heart so that I can trust you more as I walk, without all this unnecessary worry. You are my shepherd, Jesus. There is nothing that I lack.

simple surrender

potter_sOne of the young women I work with one on one at the jail suffers from severe anxiety. She gets attacks that last about an hour. When I met with her, she was very agitated and inconsolable. We kept talking and after a little over an hour, she sat back and said she felt better.

I felt like I was looking in the mirror of someone I could have been. I had anxiety attacks as a child but God removed them during my conversion. Worry is a struggle for me still, but the despair is gone. I recognize it in others and although I know I can’t do a work God can, I wish I could just take some of what He gave me and give it to her. I guess that’s what I try to do.

Joyce Meyer is very popular with the women at the jail so this weekend I listend to part of an audiobook she dictated about what steals joy. She talked about not doing God’s job. Not that you could do it, but stop trying to do it.

That blessed my socks off. Another leader at the jail encouraged me that what I’m supposed to do in life is simple. Love God, love others, serve. He said I’m doing all those things, don’t worry about the rest. He told me not to absorb what I hear but to let it go.

Letting go as you love, what Jesus did perfectly.

Jesus, thank You for Your vision of freedom for each of us. Thank you for wanting to empower us to do things beyond our imagination. Thank You for Your choice to allow God’s love which is bigger bolder broader than what my mind can come up with to be something we can not just count on from time to time, but actually abide in. Thank You that we are Your Spirit’s Temple now. Keep cleaning my house. Make me more like You.

work in progress

abundance

Yesterday a young woman at the jail I recognized from Saturdays months ago asked me how she could sign up to get one on one visits from me.  I told her I’d visit her this Friday, so I’m up to 6.  There’s no way I can keep this up one night a week so I am praying He will make the time.

This morning’s Office of Readings had a commentary about how Hagar is like the Old Covenant and Sarah and like the New and to be content while waiting.  Then, I heard the same preaching an audio book, only Joyce Meyer.  Not only was it confirmation, it was the same message from the Catholic and Protestant voices in my ears.  God is good to me.

Work was a struggle and again I just want to run and pressing on, it seems that there are many levels of my life I need to wait on.  I don’t know what God is doing and sometimes, (it’s getting less frequent), I needlessly vascillate between holding on – as if I need to stay in this job forever- and quitting altogether.  Although I know better than to act on any of this, where these attitudes arise and why I am not content where I am, boils down to the lack of trust.  I don’t have to worry about losing my security because He is providing and all is well, and nothing lasts forever so there’s no need to jump the gun and end something when I’m not released.

He invites me to the still water and I’m hesitating.  And giving in just a little.  Knowing He is always more than enough. 

(picture from Mogul Mindset: http://www.themogulmindset.com/)

Twenty times

girlThere are two women that I’ve been visiting since I started the one on one visits last month, and now I have two more. The third one will only be at the jail a few weeks, but she’s eager to start her step work. The fourth wants to work on her GED.

Even though I’ve joined Christ Church, I still feel Catholic. The peace remains about joining and already an elder and associate pastor are working to get the jail connected with their larger church. I hope and pray still for there to be partnering in ministry but even more I pray for His will and to grant me discernment and understanding of it.

After more prayer and reflection concerning the membership, there was a conversation I had with a meeting with my spiritual director at the Catholic church about an hour before I went to teach the Westminster confession to the kids and then got up to profess my commitment to their church. He explained to me why a priest wouldn’t see disordered desires starting in the mind and not acted upon as necessary for confession. In the eyes of the priest, they weren’t sin. He called them nuances. My previous parish priest may have felt the same way, but if so, he kept it to himself. Whether I correctly or incorrectly assumed we both viewed them as sins, I was confessing as such and God honored that. Though I sometimes wonder now how much was real during that period and how much was just my wishful thinking. Without the kind of relationship that encourages an interchange as peers, I can never know. It is sad.

These weeks, as joy filled as I am about all of this at the jail, there’s grief that’s popped up now and then. And in a weird way, it’s a grief about letting go of something that can’t be and isn’t so not what He is doing. I suppose that’s part of love. It never stops. It has to change direction sometimes but it never stops.

This past Wed when I asked the two Catholic leaders what they thought about going to a priest for confession who didn’t think your sins were sins, they both said, find a different priest.

There’s no need for me to go looking for anything. God has given me so much right where I’m at it only makes sense to simply join the family I love. I stuck with the parish and ministry for love in Boston. Now the ministry I love is pulling from a host of churches and none of them are home and the leadership struggles.

One of the leaders told me that he thought all the best ministries were the ones that were hurting. I am familiar with this mentality and its not Scriptural. God is abundant and gives much to those he expects a lot out of. It is true those fully dependent on God are blessed and perhaps the ones that live off a shoestring are better due to that dependence, but – I cannot believe, from what I know of my Lord, this pinched place is where He always wants to keep a ministry. I guess the biggest problem I have with it is the always. There is nothing static about relationships or growth and a ministry barely getting by has to constantly focus on income.

I continue to pray and wait and pray especially for the class on Wed nights and the women I meet with individually. I tell them to be faithful with the smallest things and I need to do the same so much. I’m overwhelmed with the gifts He has blessed me with. Thers is a woman at my church, (which I can now finally call my church) that is trying a Scripture reading method I’d never heard of where you read each book of the bible 20 times before you read the next book. I’m joining her. She’s the same one interested in the jail ministry and had a dream about a place called “Promise Home” for women.

I look forward to what He’s doing and what He will do. Every day I have now is a gift. That’s always the case, but rarely has my heart been able to agree for very long. I sometimes catch my breath because I can’t believe this is really my life. I have momentary fears He’ll take me home sooner than I’d like. This is totally new and a wonderful fear to dismiss. My thank You can never be big enough.

(picture from confidenceandjoy.com)

Commitment

wait12

After my husband died, I realized the power of commitment to transform a heart for the better.  God had worked in both our hearts to love Him and love each other, but I also longed to continue to belong in a way that I had suddenly and abruptly lost.  It was like my worst fear had happened, but instead of being in despair, I was fulfilled.  I had an underlying peace.  At the same time, I was  lost in grief and had no control over how and when it overtook me.

God and others carried me a lot and still do.  This work with the women at the jail has proved to be a place where, for reasons I don’t yet fully understand, but do in part, I am not lost.

A long time ago, when I was going to Baptist church at night and Catholic services during the day, God asked me to pick one.  Immerse myself and join one community.  I did, but recently have found myself in two communities again.  My church family is a small protestant church plant with 29 members and my ministry is with the Catholics in the jail.

The material the Catholics gave me to teach is on the women in the bible.  Next week I am supposed to teach about Hannah.  As I made the handout her story haunted me.  She waited to have a child like I waited to marry a man sold out for God like me.  Then once she did have the child, she got to be with him briefly and then had to let go of his care completely so he could serve God.

Today’s mass reading was on Jesus’s Brit Milah.  The character that always stands out to me, and this was long before I was a widow, is Ana.  I wanted to be like her.  I wanted that kind of faithfulness.

I thought I could just not join the Protestant church and fulfill the Catholic church’s obligations and that would be a way to funcitonally make sure that this transitional house happened. The Holy Spirit had other plans.

I joined the Protestant church today because they are my family. It isn’t about doctrine, though I might talk about it like that and there are aspects to that, but that’s not really why I joined. The answers I want to give these women, the stuff I believe and I am excited about and at the end of the day when I examine my conscience I know I’ve served God to the best of my ability lie in me seeking counsel from the leadership there and drawing strength from the budding friendships there. If I wasn’t geographically where I am, maybe that would be different. But I am here. And that is what God is doing.

I very much hope my Catholic friends will still allow me to do the minsitry there as I have been, but I guess that remains to be seen. I have a meeting with the head of the jail ministry and I am going to tell him where my membership is now. I also want to assure him that I want to do nothing that would tear down their work. I won’t contradict their church teaching. It all has to do with, when I lead, I want to feel good about what I am leading with. So far this hasn’t been a conflict on Wednesday night because I am using Protestant materials. Down the road though, I don’t know if I could teach RCIA. I can take the class, I can come alongside those in it, I think I could even sponser someone in it feeling called to be Catholic, but I can’t teach it.

Now that I am all in with the Presbyterians, I fear being like a Pharisee. I fear believing in a narrow path that is not the true path, but one that makes me feel like I am taking right steps.

Yet – peace flooded me today when I stood with my brothers and sisters and joined Christ Church. I pray that this will in no way hinder my work at the jail, His work in my heart, and the home He’s given me vision for. I pray this will be the best thing for the invisible church and that I can still work in an interfaith setting. He made us diverse. I hope I am suiting up in what He’s designed me for. His will be done.

With fear and trembling – I step boldly forward. He’s moving.