snatch

rose

I hate it when I am judgemental.

This is the next thing I am committing to memory.

“And if you should see something that is clearly a sin or fault, snatch the rose from that thorn.”

St Catherine of Siena goes on to say that you should offer the things you see to God and have compassion. Later she writes, “And when you think you discern vice in others, put on your own back as well as theirs, acting always with true humility. Then if the vice is truly there, such people will change their ways all the sooner, seeing themselves, gently understood.”

I had to edit yesterday’s post and will continue to pray about a situation at the jail.

God has been answering really specific prayers I’ve had lately, and I can’t help but think that reading this this morning – these wise words are also an answer to an unasked prayer. Something needed but not sought after.

Today I laughed out loud reading cowboylawyer’s post about his barn cat that ran away, (despite the best of care by he and Sugar(!)) My cat, Ari, recently adopted, is taking a lot of time to warm up to me. An outdoor cat I owned before Ari, Brakha, was killed by a car and she was a Maine Coon. I was beside myself about it, not just because she was affectionate and wonderful, but she was an amazing companion in the worst of my grief after Jim died. Loved to be held, slept on my stomach.

(Brakha)
054

Pretty soon after she was gone, haunted by her absence, I found another Maine Coon at the shelter – the only one-this past November. She was 10, riddled with problems, (UTI, runny nose, inflamed glands, closed tear duct, underweight), and about to be put down. It felt good to save her and she’s come a long way, but she still hates to be picked up. She doesn’t run like I’m on fire anymore, but keeps a healthy distance. She does let me hug her now and pet her so long as I don’t try to lift her or put her on anything. She prefers a cardboard box to the warm fuzzy bed the shelter generously gave me.

(Ari)
ari5

Living with an animal that is not sure you are to be trusted does mess with you. It also though, has this unintended gift. Like an answered prayer I didn’t ask for but somewhere deep inside needed it. It speaks to me of what agape love is. I can run from God usually because of the fire, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change His love, nothing can or ever will. He snatched me. And I am forever grateful.

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maps

treasure mapJohn 14:13-14 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”

Work, an illness, and even the weather took a turn for the better this week. A long awaited doctor’s appointment sent me home with medicine healing an infection I didn’t know I had. Then at my job, a part of the equipment I put together turned out to be faulty, (removing doubt cast on my efforts). I heard a woodpecker one morning and the sun’s been making more appearances. God went all out. Circumstances may shift again, but for now, joy surfaced in the everyday – even when I’m not in the jail.

Wednesday the other leaders taught on forgiveness and, when I went to check in with one woman after, she and her fellow inmate thought God spoke to a situation they struggled with from the first word that came out of the volunteer’s mouth that affected the block. By the end of our three hours, two inmates that might have gotten into a fight, hugged. It was a powerful night.

Before I went to that class, I was chasing down some glasses for another woman who is nearly legally blind. I found out I needed more than her perscription. Because it was so severe, I also needed her pupil distance. The jail chaplain had mentioned they got glasses for the inmates at the orientation, so before – at the front part where they screen you before entering, I asked the guard about it, hoping to find out how to get an eye doctor to visit and measure her pupil distance. The guard said that the glasses the jail gave out were the cheap kind – like reading glasses. Plastic things that you can find at a drug store.

After some sleuthing, I got it. Tomorrow I am hoping with that PD number and the script, they’ll fill it. The woman suffers from bad headaches, undestandably. She didn’t ask me to do this, I was working with her and noticed she squinted a lot. She would leave a session early and apologize about the headaches and finally told me what it was.

When I called one of the eye doctors about the PD, they asked me for her birthday, so I called her mom, who, (to her credit), gave me the perscription, for it – that is her daughter’s birthday. The mother didn’t quite remember at first – but then told me, (correctly), explaining she was thinking of her other daughter, (a younger one.)

I hung up the phone and sat quiet for a minute.

The mentality towards the inmates, and this they earned, is that they are all cons. A lot are. It looks obvious to me when that starts to happen though and it is easier for me to dismiss because it is always coupled with self-pity, (which I am prone to and hate in myself.)

There’s something else though that people don’t usually see but anyone who has done this kind of work knows. They are spiritually starving and long to confess their faults, which are more acute because they can’t be hidden. The life story the inmate who needed the glasses told me rang very true in the pause her mother made and the comment that followed.

God’s treasure map to joy has all these little stops to pay attention to. I have to press on finding the pupil distance, writing out the 8th step lists and Sunday School ideas at home, rebuilding a module at work until its right and somewhere in between, this marvelous God full of surprises reveals love, a message from several directions so I can’t deny it is Him. Rejection and disappointment in my own heart got healed when I hung up that phone.

It makes me wonder what new next thing He’s about.

high places

eggKevin Chen preached today at my church, Christ Church Ann Arbor. I always look forward to his refreshing sermons; honest, insightful, wise, Spirit inspired, rooted in the Word, and as serious as they are funny.

Today he preached on Matthew 13:44-46 on the what the kingdom in heaven is like. Treasure that you give everything for. He said that, unlike an existential worldwiew that tells us we are the ones to give meaning to our lives, the treasure is an objective reality we come across without trying and can’t help but be drawn to, logically. He described an experience with God as 1) unexpected, 2)joyful, and 3)logical.

Before church, I taught Catechism- we’re on the 10th commandment. It stung because I’m in a coveting season and am praying God will change my heart. I’m drawn to beauty that is not mine to have and I want desperately not to. I get I just have to accept myself as broken but I just want to feel like I do in the jail all the time.

Serving the women there, I feel like where I am is where I want to be. Not so in all areas of my life. Sickness is no excuse. I’m growing and changing but fighting Him on it.

Listening to the sermon I thought again of some times I got with my husband and also healing times after that. When Kevin, who was not born in a country that sold Nutella, described eating it for the first time (recently), he said, “it was as if I had known it before. As if it had always been a part of me and somehow I forgot.” He had a feeling that he found it, but it wasn’t that way at all.

I know feelings are fickle but I do believe God uses our emotions, as he does the lack of feeling, to guide us and teach us and test us.

I love food too and laughed but I also thought of how it felt to be with those I love deeply, not just romantically. Believers I know and I’m home with them. I felt that way with my husband in a way I’d never felt before and even though ministering at the jail is not the same, the reality of living in the Kingdom of God right now, is the same. It’s unexpected, it’s joyful, and it makes no sense to be anywhere else.

1 John 5 ends with a warning against false Gods. Sometimes I stop myself from enjoying life as is because I settle for less than that feeling of being at home for the sake of trying to be content in all things. The irony is, the only time I am able to be content in all things is when I don’t settle and suffer through lonliness, hunger, sickness, trials, and hold out for that precious unexpected joy that I cannot bring about by my own strength or even my own faithfulness. It is a gift for Him to give when and where He gives. Obedience is a must for me to recieve it, but the timing is totally out of my hands.

I don’t know if Framingham is just a high place or if God is asking me to hold out until He releases me. Maybe He will transform things here. I do know He is with me and speaking to me daily and I’m still weary.

Father you have my heart. Make it more fully what You want. I love You.

muddy eyes

IMG_0008Today was the orientation. I got a chance to meet several female volunteers and the two sisters that are interested in helping me with the one on ones.

I also found out a rule that the jail doesn’t let you see inmates 6 months after they get out, (unless you happen to run into them.) This clears things up for me a lot, because I have to choose to work in the jail over the transitional home, I can’t do both. God is clearly using me in this one on one time.

It also makes clear that Framingham can be in my future, (not that it is for sure), it’s well worth the time to keep in prayer. There is also a class I can take to get ordained for what I do, but I want to pursue that through the Catholic church before the jail.

I get that some healings happened right away, but I most identify with the man that saw partially when he was first touched, then saw clearly. These days I’m seeing trees.

After the orientation I got to see 4 of the six ladies, and did a 5th with one of them and was home at 7 tonight. A good and full day, lots of work ahead.

Father God, thank you for direction, for clarity, for being able to bring light into such deep darkness. Your word says to trust You to make our paths, and I want to trust You more with that. Abraham and Sarah didn’t know where they were going, but stepped out knowing You would only lead them to good. Increase my faith. Thank You that we get to walk together. I love You.

thinking of Framingham

Framingham

Wed night it was just me and one of the guys, the one in charge of the men’s ministry sat in to be a second body in the room.

We studied Habakkuk and it went really well.  All the women, except one, participated – we had about 10 or 12.    Even the quiet one still read and was listening.

One of the newer women approached me about a book and wound up as a one on one for this weekend.

I haven’t felt this good since I taught high school.

I miss my husband and wish I could tell him about it. I guess I can.

Praying about moving back to Boston.  I’d find work and a place to live near the jail.   Maybe God wants me rooted here but the weird thing is, after I left, all I could think about was not where I was, but where I had come from.  And how God was using it.  This is my beauty from ashes.  Now I want to go back to the grave.  I hope that is of God.  It suddenly seems very important to get back there. Time will tell if that is Him.

I’ve got some bug or something, called in sick for work today.  But I have no free time to take.

Orientation is this weekend and there are 19 new voluneteers.   Hoping one on one women volunteers will happen.  I’m back up to 6 again.   A fifth step this weekend and something very similar using a book called Unbound. I’ll post again after that.

Jesus, you continually stopped and ministered and stole away to be with Your Father when You could.  Strengthen me this weekend and go before me to make a path for me to steal away and rest in Him.  Guide me and if this Boston thing is not of You, close the door or make it clear.  Be all that motivates me.  Take all of my heart and desires.  They’re all for You.

mercy

way1 Corinthians 10:13 “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

Turns out I can keep my word both to the man I minister with and to the inmate.

Tonight I talked with the woman with a violent history about how I wanted to start a house but hadn’t got it going yet. Because of this I visited someone doing what I wanted to do last Saturday, an hour away. I also told her how I had thought she might do better, with her things, if I didn’t have to bring her back and forth to the shelter. I asked if she was open to staying at this house, if I made inquiries for her. She was. She told me about some physical limitations she had and she saw this as possibly a better option for her too.

God made a way for me when my idea was too narrow and black and white.

Now I have to trust Him to do that with something even dearer to my heart. It’s the same type thing. I look at it and it’s seems black and white – one way or the other. His way happens where no way is. He makes it.

The woman that did her 5th step with me last week was very peaceful.

That same jail minister that I promised I wouldn’t take a woman into my home gave me Sr Faustina’s journal. It in he marked a passage she wrote about taking on other’s suffering and in other places too – she would lighten the burden of someone.

At the time I remember thinking that Christ is the only one that pay for our sins, and that couldn’t be. But now it’s different to me… if we are crucified with Him, then I suppose that is what we do in Him.

It was a rough week for me as I grappled turning her 4th into an 8th. I felt like I was showing up after going through some sort of spiritual skirmish and she was relieved for awhile.

I’ve been told that it has to be like water off a duck, but I am a sponge, not a duck. I want to be a duck. But I don’t waddle and quack.

Lord Jesus I thank You for dying for me, for all of us. I am carrying the cross You want me to and doing just what You put before me. Forgive me that I dive into things too easy, keeping me from this kind of joy and service that I love. The best You long to give me always. Thank You for keeping after me. Help me to continually give all their burdens to You and point to You. Grant that I take good care of this temple You are living in so we can continue on this amazing journey together. Keep me close, Lord. Help me to trust You with all that is in me.

listening

siver

Tonight I stayed home because of all the snow.  Wrote a letter to a friend inviting her to stay with me and help with the tranistional home but am going to pray awhile before I mail it.

I promised one of the jail ministers I wouldn’t take the violent woman in when she gets out.  He argued it was for the sake of my self-care, that I have to do this so I can benefit others.  I’m not sure if it is being told I can’t do it that makes me want to do it more, or if it’s something else.  And it’s the what ifs – the whispering whatifs as Silverstein called them – that can come in.

There is the experience people have of enabling, we are not called to be doormats.

But God put me there.  God gave me love for this woman and everything in me that wants to say no, – it’s not about self-care, it’s about comfort.

What if the idea of actually taking one in is a threat to the security of other people, and not so much me.  I’ve taken in people before, homeless, a few street kids, I’ve been fine.  I have to be shrewd and this woman could do damage to me but I’m fast.  I want David’s heart.  And what if – just like people have taken me in over the years, all she needs is not just any chance, but this chance. 

Either way I have to break my word.  Either I tell her I changed my mind about her staying or I break my promise to my well-meaning and protective, wise friend.  My prayer continues.

Gilead

cloakThis past week was an intense one.

One of the women I minister to has a very violent history and is in for that kind of crime and another one has very extended abuse in her past. Both of them suffer from victimization at a very young age. Both have incredibly tender hearts toward God.

The violent one threatened another inmate and is having to face a more gradual healing from the Lord. She is shocked at her own sin, expecting God to remove it totally, (as He can and does with some things but not with all.) I urged her to continue to trust Him and allow Him to have the control. She was not honest with the jail leadership about how serious she was about following through with her threat, but she was with me. The gravity of what I am doing is very much on my heart and mind.

The other woman and I are working with the Bible, an AA Big Book, and some material from Alcoholics for Christ, and she did a 5th step with me Friday which I am now sorting out and praying over, to bring her the 8th this Friday.

Yesterday, a friend of mine and I visited a transitional home and learned a lot from this amazing nun, Sr Marietta, that runs Emmaus House. As we were leaving one of her house managers also talked with us about it. She asked if we were going to open one, and I said, Lord willing. She said, “Lord willing?” with a tone of – what kind of silly answer is that? I smiled and said, “well, yes I hope to.” She then switched to, “well I guess you have a grip on what you are doing then…” as if she didn’t belive it.

So I responded, “No, I don’t have a grip on what God is doing, but I very much want to start the house, the need is huge.” She encouraged me not to doubt and then started to reference a James scripture which I recited a longer part of, (because a person who doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea by the buffeting of the wind. That sort of person, in two minds, inconsistent in every activity…” and paused and she finished it with “shouldn’t nothin’ from God!” I said Amen and she smiled. “What’s your name again?” was what she said next.

I found it interesting that saying Lord willing also comes from the book of James too. (“Insted of this you should say, if it is the Lord’s will we shall be alive to do this or that, but as it is how boastful and loudmouthed you are…”) Still, I felt very encouraged to be bold, to trust God’s hand in this, despite any discouragement and opposition.

The practice is never to make an amends that could be damaging, so as I continue to work on this 8th list, I’ve put many people into groups, that are connected with the patterns of behavior. She’s to pray for the names in the group individually for a few weeks, do three things that will make her feel good about giving back and connected to the disservice she did herself and that was done to her and then she is to destroy that group list and move to the next one.

Before I go into all this, I will have to explain it’s not formulaic, it’s not about earning, it’s about developing discipline and acting in different ways. She asked for my suggestions and I get when someone doesn’t have practice they need structure, but I also pray the Spirit will give her ideas too.

I suggested to her to, when a person on the list popped into her mind, if she’d not done the good action yet, begin to think about doing it in connection with that person. The actions won’t heal her, but rather are an invite to the Holy Spirit to dwell in that wounded area of her heart.

I’m really praying the amends connected to the rapes. After some scripture reflections, I think I am going to put donating to a group working agaist human trafficking, watching the movie “Furious Love,” and giving a woman she knows a compliment unrelated to how she looks, something about her strength of character.

Father God I thank You for Your Son. I thank You that He paid the price, won the battle. Help me to shine light into the darkness. Help the women to grab onto You as you light up the deepest hurts in their lives. Grant that Your healing, transforming balm works miracles. Grant that the words I say are from Your Spirit alone. Grant that these women look to You as the answer for all their longings. Thank you for spiritual hunger. Thank you for spiritual food

seed death

cast

Neither of the women have called and, as I continue to pray for them, I realize how tiny my troubles are compared to the world of hurt they may be in. 

The Catholics are wanting to meet in committees and wait.

Yesterday, I met at a coffee shop with my (Reformed), pastor to discuss next steps to connect that church with the jail.  Something in the bulliten, a few announcements.  Once I connect them with the jail chaplain, a new class may form and my pastor was excited about the materials available for such a class.  I pray it will go over well with the jail chaplain whom I should see tomorrow.

There is a 5 bedroom house 20 minutes from my work for sale.  I can afford it just barely and my friend at the (Reformed) church who is going to the voluteer orientation in a few weeks is open to renting from me/with me.  I mentioned it to a Catholic volunteer I trust most and he said to keep it quiet but I could tell he thought it looked good.  The one drawback is it is so far from the bus lines.  I look at it next weekend.

Whenever there is a beginning in the bible, there is also death to establish good order. Aaron’s sons, Moses’s death before entering the Promised Land, Annanias and Sapphira, the untimely death of all the apostles, save John. Even small starts require the a death of old ways. To start any new habit, carving out time for reading or prayer, requires the space to be made for it and the end of the things in it. It is loss as gain. I want to be a person that is able to take this attitude like I love reading my bible or praying. There were starter seasons where it was a chore, now it is a joy. I am not that way with too much. Instead of being anxious about what He is doing, since He is moving, I should have peace. Lord, change me.

Lord Jesus I throw all this stuff in my mind and heart at Your feet and I pray You keep me from picking it up again.  Thank You for Your vision, for Your trust, for Your guidance.  Grant me discernment to respond to what You are about and not rush or settle.  Grant that I always move when You ask and as You do.

faithlessly faithful

handsoverface

It’s possible I could inadvertently adopt a felon.

 In 1 John 3 somewhere my New Jerusalem bible says, “if our own feelings do not condemn us, we can be fearless before God.”

 Prior to that are verses that resonate with his brother’s writings about putting faith into action.

 Let me back up a little.

 This past week, one of my one on one’s got out and went to her old stomping grounds to live with her mother.  She was going to call me the night she got out so I could take her to the Salvation Army to get clothes, but she never did.  When I prayed about it I was very uneasy – and sensed God asking me to offer her a place to stay.  I have a guest room that my landlord is okay with it being occupied for longer periods, and, so far this year I had a friend stay there and then an international student working on her thesis.

 Already the team has been cautioning me concerning boundaries and I am well aware it’s not my strong suit.  However, I’ve met needs that are all in line with the rules.  I decided that when this young woman called me to have me to take her to get the clothes, I’d offer her a place to stay while she got on her feet.

 She never called.  I also learned from her friend that her mother is back on Vicodin, which she added is a gateway to this woman that got out’s drug of choice.  I can’t help but think that she’s already using. 

 This next woman gets out Monday and also has my number.  She’s my age, all her family are addicts and she has no support yet sober.  She told me she was going to try to get into a shelter.  She also told me, in the past, when she couldn’t get shelter, she prostituted herself for drugs.

 I told her that if she wants to use to call me.  That if she can’t find shelter she can sleep on my couch.  (I didn’t tell her the couch folds out into a bed and is in the master bedroom.)  I know, reading that John, that I won’t be able to deny her shelter without feeling I am sinning.  I also know that an unhealthy relationship could develop that jeopardizes all He has given me vision for.  On the other hand, this could be the beginning of the house.  My lease is up this month. 

 Saturday I met with the man that responded to God’s call and maybe one of the few people He used that made Friends of the Master’s men’s house come to be. I told him about it, and I had also met with my spiritual director. Surprisingly, the Jesuit was more discouraging that the Friends of the Master guy.

 My priest, though, knows me better and knows my recent trials and doesn’t want to see me overloaded.  The Friends of the Master leader helped me with what I thought was a reasonable game plan.

 When it comes to boundaries, I live by “helping is doing something for someone they cannot do for themselves.   Enabling is doing something for someone they can do for themselves.”  How that plays out, I fall at God’s feet with. Or at least, I know I should and like to think that I do. Perhaps the reality right now is that I do when I get in enough pain, but that is shifting to the Spirit guiding me to fall at His feet prior to pain, but I’m a work in progress on that point.

 I told The Friends of the Master man I wouldn’t give her keys. She can be there when I am home, of if she comes over when I get home from work and I go to the jail, she can be there for dinner, (and stay while I’m gone?), but she has to be out of the house when I leave for work in the morning.  He thought that would be okay, but he cautioned me that I was opening myself up to get robbed, (shrewd as a serpant and gentle as a dove, he is.)  He said there was a sober house or shelter nearby, on the road that I take to work.  I looked it up and it would be a extra few minutes of drive time and very easy. Very doable. 

 My spiritual director gave me two warnings. One is to stress it is temporary and give her a deadline for when she can no longer stay. Two is to expect that neither boundary will be respected and it will be a continual negotiation process.

Keeping in mind I have to tell her the rules and tell her it’s for the protection of what God is doing in my life, she can stay and that’s the plan if she calls.  I have a feeling she will.

 Today at church my (Protestant) pastor was preaching on this very topic.  He preached on Acts 4, mirroring Acts 2, where it describes communal life.  He said some people interpret it to be a model for all Christians and they run off and start or join communes.  He also talked about the social gospel.  He thought both interpretations we incorrect.  After all, when Paul writes that if Christ didn’t resurrect, he didn’t then say, “at least good works were done.”  He said if that were true, we Christians are pathetic.

 He didn’t criticize communal life, but he said that he thought there was a much deeper message Luke was conveying, since he essentially wrote it twice.  He said Luke was describing what he saw as God’s confirmation that this is what His kingdom is like.  It’s a fulfillment of what was promised in Deuteronomy 15.

 If Christ didn’t die for my sins, I am pathetic for letting this woman stay at my place.  I don’t own anything very valuable, but it’s all God’s anyways, so if I do get robbed, then I just would have to see it as taking one for the kingdom.  I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in this woman.  If I fail to do something I know to be the right thing, according to James, I sin.  I have to do something.  I know she is going to be looking for shelter.  I have it.  I can’t withhold it.

 Father God, Your word says if a man asks for a mile to go two.  Your Son said to sell everything and follow Him.  You have blessed me with so much.  Please use me, what I have and this time with this woman, to build up the vision and create another Christian community obedient to Your will, expanding Your kingdom, and encouraging your saints.  If this is not Your will, shut the door with as little damage as possible, be that Your will because you know I am a wimp who has no desire to be very high in Your kingdom.  Ghetto heaven would suit me just fine, give the mansions to other people.  Give one of them to this precious soul seeking you and give her the courage to step out in faith as she is given the freedom of life outside the jail.  Grant she never assumes she has to be who she was, but dress her in the New woman.  The second one.  In Your son.  In Jesus name. Amen.