26 July 2011

Hope for Louisville: Come on. Lose your life...

With four weeks left, I am struggling to remember the reason I am serving in Louisville. Oh, I know the words. I could verbalize the reason—“I am here to serve the homeless and hurting, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them…” But where do I run to find passion again? What is my sustenance in the desert? (Even as I type, I am grinning. I know the answer, and am eager to get to it.)

“Come on. Lose your life, just so you can find it” True Love, Phil Wickham

There is a point at which one becomes accustomed to eccentricities, abnormalities, or just plain craziness. One—living with six women in inner city Louisville as an urban missionary. Two—daily disappointments when people whom we serve do not exhibit the growth we thought we saw. Three—the Gospel of our Savior.

Let me explain. I have heard it said that familiarity brings contempt. I am not so sure, for in my own life, I have seen familiarity bring comfort and subtle apathy. Living in community with six women was an absurd reality at first. I knew it would take intentional choice each morning, afternoon, and evening to love one another in where we put our shoes, when we wash our dishes, what we choose to speak to each other, and how we exhort one another to love and good works. You know how it goes—we now know each other, and it is no longer the priority it once was to be intentional about loving others. My shoes can stay where they are. My housemates should be used to it by now.

Familiarity with daily disappointments. In a person completely given to Christ in his or her every action, this would bring patience and long suffering. In me, it brings cynicism and ever-decreasing enthusiasm.

The Gospel. (It is for this I have been waiting, even as I type. Be here with me, and taste and see what has been and what will be.) I can forget the Gospel while remembering it. The miraculous birth, perfect life, atoning death, conquering resurrection, and glorious ascension of our Christ pretty much encompasses the Gospel. Okay, but listen. Why does this drive us?

Have you heard of the Garden? Have you heard how our ancestors rebelled, how we have rebelled? “And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’...And one of the seraphim touched my mouth (with a burning coal) and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’”(Isaiah 6:5-6)

Have you known this? That we who were once dead in our sins have been made alive to God in Christ? That it was while we were sinners Christ died? There is nothing in ourselves, no cause or room for boasting. What joy this brings! “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). This is why we serve. This is why we must not fall into comfort with our sin. This is why we press on. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, a Good News that takes rebels such as I and allows us to be instruments of grace.

“To the one who's dreams are falling all apart
And all you're left with is a tired and broken heart
I can tell by your eyes you think your on your own
…Have you heard of the One who can calm the raging seas
Give sight to the blind, pull the lame up to their feet
With a love so strong he'll never let you go?”

Safe, Phil Wickham


Growing comfortable with one another in ways that allow our sin leniency is not part of sanctification. It may be easy, but it is not good. Becoming cynical because I am weary of bearing with people is ‘straight up’ sin. And being bored by the Gospel means I have not taken time to remember what God has done and is doing. I remember these things, and four weeks seems not long enough.

Pray, my friends. Because we all need it. And consider donating once again to Hope for Louisville on my behalf. My time here is coming to a close, but I am planning to finish out my social work degree next spring in Louisville. My heart is with this people and this city, and it seems the Lord may allow me to be here awhile. Myself and three other women who have gone through the Hope program are doing the research and financial planning required to begin a women’s shelter within the next couple of years. (Jeff St is a men and women’s day shelter, but only an addiction recovery facility for men).

You can give your tax-deductible gift by mail at the address below or online by visiting my support page at http://www.razoo.com/story/Bri. Or send your contributions made payable to Jefferson Street Baptist Center attn: HOPE, 733 Jefferson Street, Louisville, KY 40202. Please make sure to designate your check towards my support by writing my account fund ID# (HOPE-S10-BH1) on the memo line of the check. Join us!


12 July 2011

Everything Sad is Coming Untrue

There is just something about the rain when I am weary. It is as if God is showing that the world, too, is weary. The world, too, has been groaning and the rain is a moment of respite. “Rest,” says God.

“Rest.” And behold My glory in the face of a man who becomes excited at church and says, “I bet you’re surprised to see me here, Bri!”

“Rest.” And know that afflictions are for your good and My glory. Even when that heartbreak comes in the form of a homeless man telling you and the team that he is too evil to come to church with you, and that you all are out of his league.

“Rest.” Because your pride is being broken and your sin being dealt with, and rejoice.

“Rest.” Because it is not your love that your neighbors need, it’s Mine.

“Rest.” Because in the words of Jason Gray, “Everything sad is coming untrue.”

I will never grow out of my severe enjoyment of the rain. It shows me love. I would say ‘reminds me,’ but no, it shows me. It is quite the miracle, inescapable. We can forget our own wonderful, individual intricacies, in the ‘commonness’ of ourselves, but we cannot forget the rain which comes as if to say, “I, too, am a promise. All will be made new, though for a little while creation groans. Let me show you grace.”

Grace has come as I and my team serve in Louisville. It has been difficult and rewarding, there is no question. But God is gracious and faithful, for He is not like us.

A longer update is on the way, but for now, this will suffice:

The team is bonding and getting along well, even after the shelter (Jeff St.) flooding twice. The second time, the team was up until 1:30 AM mopping and bleaching the floors, which had had sewage wash up onto them.

The neighbors with whom we come in contact are opening up to us, even feeding the womens’ team one evening last week.

We have had a couple new guys join the addiction recovery program (called Advance Louisville), and we have had seven men graduate from this past 12 week program. And though growth is often so slow, it seems it cannot be measured, we wait. His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness!

06 June 2011

Fiction and Faith

I have realized that I am quite drawn to book titles with words like "remnant," "return," "last," and "only." Or phrases like "once and future." I know these words may not seem to have much in common. However, I really think that these words convey a nuance that I always hope to find in a good book--that of a recognition of the author of a broken human nature and a future hope.

One man comes into Jeff. Street nearly every day repeating, "God is good, God is good." You ask him how his day is, and he says, "God is good." This same man was passed out at the shelter's front door yesterday, severely intoxicated. Discrepancy in what we say and what we do...broken human nature.

Jeff. Street is undergoing a renovation in ministry, pushing for the best use of resources for the greatest impact in Louisville and individual lives. Currently, we are in an emergency state due to lack of funding (See our Executive Director's post http://www.jeffersonstreet.org/news/urgent-appeal/) However, there is future hope.

G.K. Chesterton often mentions the value of fairy tales in how they point to the greatest tale of all--that of humanity's fall, our individual guilt and rebellion in the face of a righteous and holy God and Creator, and our subsequent redemption through the slaying of God's own son and his substitution on our behalf. If we forfeit our hold on our lives and claim Christ as our own, if we recognize our guilt and hopelessness...there is restoration in this crazy story of our lives.

Saturdays are outreach days for the Hope team women. A neighbor was invited over for dinner who, in the past, had been very hesitant to participate in life with us. Yet she came, ate, and discussed life. Restoration before God? Not yet...but we pray and press on.

I think that if one were to read a story like the ones whose titles I praise, and not know the reality of genuine redemption, one would fall into despair. There would be human suffering painted in its many-colored tales of sorrow and the fictional promise of healing and hope, yet one's longing for that hope would become stronger than reality could offer. Truth is, I do believe in humanity's sin and rebellion, God's grace, and redemption with restoration. Thus, when I pick up a book, I see a truth that runs more deeply than, perhaps, the author intended. If we don't give praise, the rocks will cry out; maybe too with narrative.

26 May 2011

Hope for Louisville: Unplanned Return

The fourth day of my second summer as a member of the Hope for Louisville team...I did not think, a year ago, that I would once again participate in training and be preparing to serve in Louisville. Truth is, God always knew. When I take time to consider how He prepared me for last summer, and will not leave me unprepared this summer, I am amazed. Unplanned by human eyes does not mean unprepared. I recognize that this summer will be difficult. At times, I will be in tears due to exhaustion, frustration, or sorrow. At other times, it will be more evident that the team's toil is not in vain. I trust that our Lord knows what He is doing, and that He will sustain.

The formal training for the ‘new’ Hope team is nearly complete–with training has come many moments of questioning my reasons for being in Louisville. At first, I was struck once again by the commitment required for this summer. And the Louisville heat. And the stretching of resources. And the struggles of living in community. And the apparent lack of women to whom the women’s team can minister. But let me tell you what God is showing me….

I am in Louisville because of God’s love for me, and His love for the people of Louisville. The brokenness I see around me is the human condition without Christ. I, too, am part of this brokenness (this is part of the ‘already but not yet’ of the Apostle Paul). My neighbor here in Louisville needs to know Christ’s love. How better to show her but by being here, again, for the second summer in a row, and explaining why I do so? And if there are no women to whom we can minister at the shelter…perhaps our purpose lies in finding women in the community and telling them of what JSBC has to offer. Perhaps our purpose lies in supporting the men’s team. Perhaps our purpose lies in exhorting one another to love and good works, knowing that although this summer may be more planning and less action (in a sense), we are where God would have us. Let us keep diligently seeking His counsel and revealed will in Scripture, that we may press on to know the Lord.

I am in Louisville because, as of yet, not everyone is a worshiper of the Creator of the universe. I am in Louisville because, in the days of Adam and Eve, the human race began to rebel against a holy God. Our foolish hearts were darkened, and yet, God demonstrates his own love toward us in this–in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. In His death, taking the penalty of our sin upon Himself for everyone who believes, we are made dead to our sin. And in His resurrection, we too are raised to newness of life, that we may live for Him. Glory be to our great God! This is why I am in Louisville.

24 April 2011

truth

A man pointed to a robin saying 'look
at that fat one.'
I kept a smile in my head wondering
if he knew all robins are that size.

10 April 2011

Don't Give Up

"Your restless heart won't win, 'cause you take but you don't give/
and you'll keep moving on until you learn what love is" Sanctus Real, Don't Give Up


hm. I need rest.

09 April 2011

For your Easter.

Sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, body of Christ, this is for you. That you remember what our brother, Savior, Lord has done, and that death has no victory.

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

—John Updike, “Seven Stanzas At Easter,” 1964

29 March 2011

Rough

Jacob wrestling with God.
Common concept.
But maybe we get it wrong.
Do we see the trembling fiber, in arm and thigh,
as in one who has too long held
a heavy child?
The sweat drip, the unending night.
No sleep.
I do not try to conjure thought of sport.
Think of the man who sold all possessions
for a field and pearl.
He would have wrestled the man of God for blessing.

We have chosen ease.
Faith-become-ultimatum,
If the dollars do not sum
the difference between have and need,
do not call me your messenger.

Too costly.
A forever drooping limb would be too much reminder
of my weakness.

21 March 2011

The 2010 Homicide-Loss Survivors' Walk

The other night, I was told to remember. To pull as one would a tooth the memories of good in a loved one’s eyes, Christmas morning, Saturday’s yard work, hands.

Pulling a tooth. You are one of two kinds of people.

Yank it, or wriggle for a week.

I yank. Give me sharp pain, fierce tears, hard grief. For the time it takes tos ay

One Mississippi.

This week, I could not avoid. This was the longest Mississippi I’ve ever said.

Remember your loved one. Not the courtroom. Not the faces of the jury. Not the day it happened.

I am not a homicide-loss survivor, but I am a victim of memories.

One

I was sitting in the wooden desk with the little groove for a pencil worn into it. That orange-flower scented candle on the computer desk to my right, school book in front of me. The phone rang. I was eleven and home alone. My neighbor cried into the phone not to leave the house.

…I still don’t understand why men would kill themselves to kill thousands in a tower, city far from home and that it should put fear in an eleven-year-old.

Miss

I was waking to my phone ringing before the sun had risen. A friend I’ve never seen cry was crying in the dark on the other side of the phone line. His dad had, not hours before, died of a heart attack.

iss

I was working on a paper about “Good Love” and how weak we are to portray it rightly. I received a text from a friend I’d not seen in four years.

“I’ve changed,” he said.

“I smoke everything, now. I do acid. I drink like it was nothing”

ippi

How strong, these people-survivors- are.

To see the moment framed by horror and yet choose the room, that’s full of good. Maybe if you were to wriggle a tooth, you would begin to appreciate all teeth a bit more. Appreciate its tenacity. Understand its reluctance.

from "Letters to Malcolm" by C.S. Lewis

"If the imagination were obedient, the appetites would give us very little trouble."

Unintelligible

"I know my blessings by their cost"-W. Berry

What does he mean?


   II

(Old Man Jayber Crow)

Many I loved as man and boy
Are gone beyond all that I know,
Fallen leaves under falling rain,
Except Christ raise them up again.
I know my blessings by their cost,
Thus is the pride of man made low.
To ease the sorrow of my thought
Though I'm too weary now and slow,
I'd need to dance all night for joy.


I do not know what the poet says. It seems an Ecclesiastes thought,
that our blessings
have such costs that cause us to know them.
But perhaps the cost is needed to point us

to the blessing. Hm.

28 February 2011

I miss Louisville and her people like there is nothing else to miss in this world. I miss community. Eh. soon. soon. May God be merciful, this semester and always.

02 January 2011

I will wrestle for the blessing though you render me this wound, still I won't let go of You... John Mark McMillan


Yep. It's true. There are two strange collisions my mind and heart create. One is what some term a 'car crash.' These are unexplainable collisions of four or five different thoughts and ideas in my mind; they converge and leave me with only a feeling and little logic. The other, well, I have come to understand the other convergence of thoughts and ideas as 'wrestling.' For I wrestle either with the flesh or with my understanding of God.

Rescue is Coming, David Crowder

There’s a darkness in my skin
My cover’s wearing thin, I believe
I’d love to start again, go back to innocent
And never leave

Don’t give up now
A break in the clouds
We could be found
And there’s nothing wrong with me
It’s just that I believe things could get better
And there’s nothing wrong with love
I think it’s just enough to believe

Rescue is coming
Rescue is coming
Rescue is coming
Rescue is coming

And there’s nothing wrong with you
And nothing left to do
But believe something bigger
And there’s nothing wrong with love
I know it’s just enough to believe

Don’t give up now
A break in the clouds
We will be found
Rescue is coming now