What We Need

May 20, 2012 at 3:53 am (Uncategorized)

On my way home tonight I swung by Riverside. As I drove up Governor Printz I saw the million flashing red, blue, and white lights. There were too many cop cars and ambulances to to count and I think there was even a fire engine as well. It was on the corner where we used to play every Tuesday, before it got too violent for it to be safe for the kids or us. I have no clue what happened tonight, but it was big enough to block off a few streets and create a crowd of observers, even after 9:30. I drove up two more blocks and then turned into the community. I stopped at a friends house for only a few moments before I was on my way and coming up to the glowing scene from another angle.

As I pulled back out on to Governor Printz I just prayed for life. I don’t know if someone was shot tonight, though it does look highly likely. I don’t know if someone was killed. I do know that it’s highly likely we know most of the observers and possibly even those who created the need for the cops to show up.

There are a lot of times when I’m in the city and I just see the people I know. Just one kid or one amazing woman and I sow into their lives because they have such great value and I want them to know how they are loved. I think honestly that most of the time I need to ‘see’ like that because otherwise it may get so overwhelming that it would almost become debilitating. But then there are moments like tonight when I realize how many people were shot this year on that one corner. And how it’s only one corner, one corner out of hundreds in this city. We’ve spent years on that one corner and still there is so much more life that is needed there. It’s those moments when you just ask God to show up because you don’t even know what else to ask for. Those moments when you know that though your part is important, you just need the God who calls Himself, ‘I AM’ to show up and to be. To be everything that is needed cause that is really what we need.

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Give Me A Kiss!

April 16, 2012 at 12:17 am (Uncategorized)

 

It’s been way too long since I’ve written last. I have no amazing reason why it hasn’t happened in such a long while, but I’ll endeavor to be more consistent again. 🙂

Yesterday we had a party for a bunch of the kids that we know at the church. It was an Easter egg hunt, and yes it was a week after Easter. But see if you wait till after the holiday then the candy and eggs are so much cheaper to buy. As usual, the week before the party I spend several afternoons driving around the city of Wilmington to all of the family’s houses letting them know the details and getting their permission slips signed so that they’ll be able to come to the party.

On Wednesday afternoon I was driving around and stopped at the home of a family I know well. Their mom wasn’t home and a family friend was watching the four young kids. I brought the permission slip inside and explained all of the details to the oldest child emphasizing the part about having their mom call me so that I knew for sure the date and time worked for them. I said goodbye to the older three girls and gave them each a hug before stepping out the door. I had made it off the porch and part way up the block to my car when the 5 year old came flying out the front door yelling my name.

I stopped in my tracks and turned around as she ran up to me. In her rather deep voice, at least for a young girl, she demanded of me, “Give me a kiss!” I bent down and kissed her and as soon as I had she turned and was running back up the front steps into her house. She’s been like that since she was so young. I met her the day after she was born and even drove her home from the hospital. I’ve had the honor of being a part of her life since the very beginning and I’m so glad for that honor. I also love that for as far as she is concerned a hug is just not enough, she has to have a kiss.

I love that she has that expectation of love from me. I love that she knows she’s lives in a place close enough to my heart that she demands that of me. I think also about how God is so much better at loving us than I am at loving her and how often we forget that we can come to Him like that. That we can have an expectation of His love like that. That never will He turn us away and never do we have to come with shame. That we can just run right up to our Daddy who loves us and ask Him for a kiss. We can know that even in that request, no matter where we are in life, we bring joy to His heart.

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Three Sides

March 15, 2012 at 12:04 am (Uncategorized)

 

I spent most of today with a good friend of mine and her daughter. I really enjoyed spending time with them and some of the conversations that we had. One of those conversations had to do with a disagreement between my friend and someone who used to be her friend.

At one point in time my friend stepped away for a few minutes and I was talking with her daughter.  I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, probably about her school, or something that was pertinent to her life. Out of no where she says to me, “There are always three sides to a story.” I looked at her slightly confused and questioned her, “Three sides?” She nodded her head yes, stuck up three fingers, and then as she pointed to each one she said, “My mom’s, her friend, and the truth.” I just smiled and agreed with her, there are probably often times when a story has three sides.

I loved it, and by the tone in her voice she was in no way accusing her mom’s story of being inaccurate. I think she just may know that people perceive things in very different ways, and that in some instances none of us have perceived it completely accurately. It was a good reminder though. Cause in people’s efforts to relay a story accurately, who they are gets put into the telling of it. If we listen well enough and if we let God open our eyes to see, then not only do we get to hear a story, but we get to hear a heart as well. We get to hear who people are and how they are hurt and that then opens up the door to speak not only truth, but life into circumstances and hearts.

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“I Love God!”

March 7, 2012 at 3:12 am (Uncategorized)

I was driving home from church on Sunday with the girls. Pretty much as soon as we left the driveway of the church the five and eight year old in the back seat started complaining about each other. You know, those moments when they are whining that their sister is touching their hair. So you remind the 8 year old to just ask her sister to stop touching her hair. The request gets made, in a not very kind voice and for the moment that touching stops. Of course it’s only a matter of seconds before the new form of annoying one another begins.

We endured at least five minutes of the ongoing one child annoying the other and then the other complaining about how the one was annoying them and then there was new whining. In the midst of all of it the quietly sitting three year old squeaks at the top of her lungs, “I love God!” It was completely out of the blue and one of those moments when you just remind yourself that God is doing something good. Even in the midst of just settling the silly fights that end up lasting forever God is changing lives. And I think sometimes He just sends those three year olds into those moments to remind me that what has happened so far has been worth it. That it’s okay that sometimes we still spend an entire drive to the city fighting over the same small issue and what matters is that even in those places we are learning to be patient and to be kind and to speak the truth in love. That in the midst of living life we can instill in others the knowledge of a God who loves them, and that they can love in return.

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It’s The Small Things

March 1, 2012 at 4:05 am (Uncategorized)

A few nights ago four of the boys I know spent the night at my house. To say that things didn’t go anything like I planned would be an understatement. 🙂 The original plan was that three boys between the ages of 12-14 were spending the night at my parent’s house and we were supposed to be there around 7:30. Through a ridiculous string of events which are too complicated to explain I pulled into my parent’s house just after 10pm with four boys. Two of which were 7. Now don’t get me wrong I was glad to have the four of them, a bit exhausted from the crazy evening but I knew it would be fun.

We all ate dinner, which my sister had so kindly prepared before we even got there, and then hung out for several hours. By the time it was 12:30 they were headed off to bed and I had solved a couple of problems and answered a million questions and had a much more insane night than I was planning on. When I finally went to bed around 1:30 I was so worn out. Right around 8am the next morning one of the younger boys got up and I knew that the day had started.

A few minutes later both of the little boys went down the stairs with me and we started breakfast. One of them ate cereal and the other wanted oatmeal. I don’t think he’d ever eaten any other kind but instant oatmeal, and we didn’t have that so I made him real oatmeal hoping that if I put enough sugar in it he could be tricked into eating it. It worked. As soon as I was finishing up cleaning the first round of breakfast the older two came down and requested pancakes. Oh and the cereal eater decided he needed some eggs too. Since they knew the pancakes would take a few minutes the four of them drifted into the living room to play a game. As they played they ran back and forth after every turn and told me how they did. They asked me questions and gave me a play-by-play of all of it. They were so cute.

They eventually came in and ate and then returned to their game, including the frequent trips back into the kitchen to give me the updated report. I stood there washing all their dishes and after a while the oldest boy came into the kitchen and said, “Miss Mary…” I assumed that the next bit he’d have to say was about how amazing his last turn was, or to ask me again to take him the phone store on the way home. Then he surprised me, he said, “Miss Mary, You are the best.” I almost started crying while washing the dishes. I smiled instead and thanked him.

So obviously I am not trying to claim on here that I am the best at anything. I just know this, that in the midst of all of the craziness of life and ministry and just loving people in real ways sometimes we just need to know that the love we have shown someone is enough. That they see the ways we love them, even if all we are doing is making them pancakes and washing their dishes. So remember to tell the people in your life that you see and know the ways that they love you in the small things. Cause sometimes we all need to be reminded, and we need to know it was enough.

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The Stories Of God

February 17, 2012 at 2:31 am (Uncategorized)

We were only driving the short distance across town on our way home from a basketball game. But it’s amazing the conversations you can have in those few moments. Amazing how much you can see the defining lines that a person’s circumstances draw around their understanding of this crazy world we live in. Amazing how they can show the ways we dream and what we see in people.

Driving south in the city we talked about a teenager who had just been shot and killed a few minutes from where we were. To my friend’s knowledge it had been about a fight the two boys had had over a girl. Both were too young. One is now gone and the other may spend much of his life in prison.

As we hit the center of town my young friend told me with great satisfaction in his voice that his mom’s boyfriend has bought her a present for Valentine’s Day. I asked the blunt question of if he liked the boyfriend or not. He said the guy was cool and that his mom was happy. Then he declared, “If my mom is happy, then I’m happy.” In his voice I heard the responsibility that he carries for her. I know some of his past experiences and having to watch his mom struggle through some really rough relationships. He was glad for the relief of a few happy moments.

We drove up a few blocks and past the town houses his cousins used to live in. He explained how his cousins and their neighbors had all moved suddenly after these two shootings that had taken place within two days of each other. In one shooting the boy lived and in the other one the young man who had just gotten out of jail two days before was shot and killed. My friend expressed what a shame it was that he only had two days free before dying. He told me that no one wanted to live over there anymore because of the violence in that one week.

Further into the Westside we passed a corner that reminded him of one last story. “My friend’s mom is going to jail for the next 23 years,” he said. She was the lady that killed those two kids on that corner. I remembered the story vaguely, but asked for more details. She had been driving high and caused an accident. The two children in the other car were not buckled in and both died. He seemed to think that it wasn’t all her fault. He then told me of his eleven year old friend who now had to grow up without his mom.

My friend will be 14 next week and the honest truth is that the circumstances that surround his life could easily tell him that there is nothing better. That murder and violence should be accepted as normal. That broken relationships are a guarantee. That love is only about survival and not about abundance. But I suppose that is why we are all here. That we also can add our voices. To live out truth so that it’s louder than the lies. To love so extravagantly that it silences the circumstances that scream in our faces. To speak light so that the darkness disappears. I refuse to let the truth remain silent while the lies create blindness. Let us listen to the stories of the lives of those around us, but may they not discourage us from speaking the truth in love. May we never accept them as final. May we never stop living for the day when these stories are replaced with the stories of the faithfulness of God.

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Forever Free

February 4, 2012 at 1:41 am (Uncategorized)

My friend and I were walking up the street towards one of the smaller court houses in Wilmington one morning this week. She is a grandmother of a bunch of the kids that I have known for years, and was returning to court for her second appearance in a very short period of time. We made our way up the small hill and quickly started gaining on a gentleman who was probably in his fifties. He firmly grasped his brown paper bag that he was drinking out of in his left hand. As we walked past him, he smiled and said, “Young ladies, don’t drink this, it’s not good.” Then he laughed and as we made conversation for the next few steps we learned he was on his way to finish his laundry up the street. He had put it in the washer, but while waiting to move it along he had to get a drink because he just couldn’t wake up without it. Then he walked away…

It is crazy because in just a few short moments he described what our lives are condemned to be without Jesus, and he didn’t even know he was being profound. We see what we do not like in ourselves. We know it hurts us and destroys us. We can look at our own habits and our own vices and we can warn others, even the random strangers that pass through our lives, not to dare to walk down the path we are on. We can share of the brokenness and pain and captivity that our sin has brought into and yell as loudly as we want to not be followed. Then one breath later we declare over our own lives that we ourselves are condemned to live in that place forever. And maybe, just maybe our brokenness might not be as obvious to everyone else as this gentleman’s was, but that is irrelevant. The point is, we don’t have to carry it around anymore.

Don’t let yourself be condemned. You have Jesus. He boldly proclaims freedom for everyone who lives in bondage. He says that He has come to give us life and to give us life abundantly.  Hold onto the promise that He is who He says He is and He is more than able to deliver. To take hold of your hand exactly where you are, to bring forgiveness, to walk you into fullness of life.

So don’t listen to the man on the street, or the voice inside your head that whispers you are forever bound. That is no longer true.

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Only His Compassion

January 31, 2012 at 2:04 am (Uncategorized)

Part of what I did today was go to court with a friend of mine. As is true for most people, she hates being in court. Just sitting in that court house scares her so much. For those of you who have never gone to court for a misdemeanor or relatively minor offense then I’ll explain a bit of how it works. You receive a letter setting your court date with a bunch of other people who have done something of a similar level of offense. They have you all show up at one time and as you show up you check in to the court room, take a seat, wait till your defense lawyer shows up, and then they talk with you for a few moments. Sometimes it’s only for a case review and once you speak with your defense lawyer you are free to go for the day. But if it is the day of your actual hearing then you have to wait. The judge usually shows up anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour after the defendants are supposed to arrive. Once a few court matters are taken care of each person stands up one by one before the judge to present their case. Most matters can be resolved quickly, unless they go to trial, then you pretty much spend the entire day in court.

My friend and I showed up around fifteen minutes early, signed in, and then just waited. One by one the other defendants made their way into the room and found a spot to sit on the hard, wooden benches. They all sat as far away from one another as possible. On our side of the courtroom people barely dared to whisper to one another. There is just this great sense of fear and insecurity about what they should and should not be doing. My friend and I whispered to each other while the bailiff kept staring at us like there was something wrong with us. We weren’t doing anything we weren’t allowed to do. As time passed several other bailiffs entered the room followed by this ongoing stream of people who were somehow associated with the court. They would happily greet one another, chat for a few minutes, and then tell a few jokes about other people in the room. It’s so strange to sit in a court room and just watch. To not be nervous because you are only an observer and to know enough about the system to have at least a small idea what is going on.

Two totally different worlds existed on the different sides of that room. But that isn’t what bothers me. What really bothers me is when I hear the security guards and the bailiffs making jokes about the people who are coming in that day for trial. About how, “Isn’t number 40 a perfect candidate for a level 4 probation?” and then cracking up laughing. There was no compassion in them in that moment. Then other people talk about how they had to go to one of the prisons to see someone and how they hate going there cause it just smells like feet, well at least that’s what it smells like on a good day. Then the laughing starts again… I don’t want what I’m saying to be misunderstood. I have no intention of bashing the justice system, or of demeaning the courts, or even judging some of the people that work there. I am confident that in their years of service that they have seen and heard more crazy things than I can even imagine.

However I did realize something. If we are serving people, any group of people. If we’re going to work with them, and love them, and seek justice for them the only way we can do it is through Jesus. I will give every one of the people whose conversations I overheard today the benefit of believing that they are working in the field they are working in right now because they care about seeing justice for people. But if we only ever seek justice out of our own understanding and our own power and our own hearts there will come a day when our justice is jaded. When our compassion loses it’s edge and our words are meant only to impress those around us rather than to love those who cannot hear what we say about them.

Every day I need Jesus to renew compassion and justice in me. I never want to live out of the compassion that I can muster up on my own, but rather out of His compassion. Because that compassion will never fade and it will never be tainted and it will always be filled with love and grace. That is the kind of compassion I want to live out of.

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I Am Cute!

January 23, 2012 at 1:52 am (Uncategorized)

Today on the way home from church the most prized item in my car was my coat. One sister asked to use it to cover up her legs and I quickly handed it to her. Of course as soon as it happened all three of them wanted my coat and it became the conversation we had pretty much the entire way back to Wilmington…. As we were just getting off the highway Nevaeh said, in her well practiced whining voice, “Lay just told me that I’m ugly.” It was one of those moments when you really just hoped that the long, drawn out fight over the silly thing would finally end. I looked back in my rear view mirror and let Lay know that she may not talk to her sister like that. In an attempt to save herself she said, “I wasn’t calling her ugly I was calling myself ugly.” Of course I knew that wasn’t true in the current situation, but just to back up her story she started telling herself over and over again that she was ugly.

That opened up a whole other conversation. I let her know that she shouldn’t call herself ugly either because she wasn’t ugly. I talked to them about knowing that we are beautiful and telling ourselves that we are beautiful. I realized right then though how often we all tell ourselves things that are not true of ourselves. We do tell ourselves that we are ugly, that we are inadequate and incapable, that we are unworthy of love, that we don’t deserve any good things, that we are flawed beyond repair. And maybe we don’t say them out loud to ourselves, but maybe we do. Whatever method we use to tell ourselves is irrelevant, what matters is that as we tell ourselves we learn to believe the lies that the enemy tells us about our lives instead of realizing and walking in the beautiful truth of who Jesus says we are.

We drove two more blocks and then I hear Nevaeh talking to herself in the back seat. She said, “I am Nevaeh, and I am cute!” So today when you are talking to yourself remember to tell yourself that you are cute. That you are beautiful, that you have great value, that you are loved, that you are irreplaceable, and you are the beloved of God. What more amazing reality could there possibly be?

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You Are My Sister

January 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm (Uncategorized)

I pulled up to the house of my friend on the Westside and carefully picked up the birthday cake I had made for her son. I knocked on the door several times and was about to turn around and leave when she answered with a smile on her face. She was so excited to see me. After putting the cake down she gave me a huge hug and began telling me how each of her four kids were doing, and how they would be sad that they had missed seeing me.

I am always blown away by how much she loves me. At least how much she loves me now. In the beginning it honestly took her a long time to warm up to me. When we first met she lived in Riverside right where we play every Tuesday afternoon. Her oldest daughter would often find herself jumping rope with us, but it took months, and months for her to even stop and talk for a moment. Eventually she became comfortable enough with me to let her nine year old go with me to play in a creek. Of course, of all of the kids who went with me that day, she would manage to fall the whole way in and be completely soaked up to her neck. When I dropped her off at home that night, there was a huge fight outside her house, but there was no way that I could just pull off without explaining to her mom what had happened. Thankfully it did not seem to damage the trust that she had finally placed in us. After two years of playing jump rope, birthday cakes, field trips, and Christmas presents I have a friend for life. One whom I dearly love.

As she walked me to the door after my short visit this afternoon she hugged me several times. She told me how much she loved what I did for the kids and how I was definitely going to be blessed for what I have done. I assured her that I was already blessed well beyond what I could even hope for. Then she said. “I am always talking about you. People ask me all of the time, ‘who is Miss Mary?’ I tell them that you are my sister.” I love it.

Mark 10 tells us that anyone who leaves their home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or fields for Jesus’ sake or the sake of the gospel will receive one hundred times more in this life…

My friend thinks that one day I’ll get blessed for the sacrifices that she sees in my life. What she doesn’t know is that she is the blessing. That she is the gift in this life and because I left what I had at first the second can exist. Without the willingness to lay down the first the second is impossible. But if we will lay down our rights to the first then we will receive it back one hundred times more than we had to begin with.

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