Category Archives: On Faith

3 Non-Profits That Champion Women & Families

P_20180513_170950_vHDR_OnYesterday in my daughter’s backyard we celebrated Mother’s Day. Hanging out under her hawthorn tree, iced drink in hand, listening to jazz tunes in the background, I felt richly blessed and grateful.

Not all women have children and therefore not technically mothers, and may not have their own family. For that reason, Mother’s Day is awkward and sometimes a sad day. But mothers or not, a l l women should be valued, for they are all made in God’s image.

That image of God’s likeness in the beauty of women is often lost in the chaos and destruction of life. Sin and disease, heartbreaking poverty and inadequate care all play a part in that loss. But there is hope to be found in the work of three non-profits championing the worth of women and families.

  1. Lulu Tree–Founder Emily W.–Uganda and Sierra Leone, AfricaMother with baby Uganda

The Lulu Tree’s mission is to prevent tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s families through the local church.  This is accomplished by partnering with pastors so that they can care for their own families and their church families.

The church can then equip villages by providing community training including soap-making lessons, prayer clinics and community clean-ups, and health, hygiene and nutrition classes. Individual families can then be helped through micro loans, business training, and educational assistance.

The most vulnerable are protected when communities are equipped to care for their own, in the name of Christ. Strong families with roots in the local church form the foundation for thriving, happy children.

  • To learn more about Lulu Tree, click HERE. Donating to Lulu Tree includes support for teen moms to attend school, mama kits for pregnant teens and microloans for vulnerable women in the church.
  • To learn more about the origin of the Lulu Tree name, here is a short video with Emily. 

2. Mary’s Song Restoration Center for Women–New Orleans (founder Parris Bailey)

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Mary’s Song Restoration Center for Women is a rehabilitation program that offers an opportunity for women to permanently change lives by Power of God. Mary’s Song is located in Metairie, Louisiana and is an exclusive faith based drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

From their website: We specialize in the treatment of women ages 18 to 55 that struggle with substance abuse, alcohol addictions, and/or with other life controlling problems.

Mary’s Song provides a multi-faceted and personal alternative to standard free drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Housing 12 women during the first four phases of the program and only 4 in the fifth phase enables us to provide a home-like atmosphere with ample access to Pastoral counselors.

Mary’s Song is focused on individual attention, personal relationships, and the care of the whole woman, including:

    • Abstinence-based treatment
    • A total-wellness focus that includes nutrition and fitness
    • Celebrate recovery 12-step faith based program
    • Weekly individual therapy sessions
    • Weekly group therapy sessions
    • Completion of GED
    • Exercise and Nutrition Classes

For more information about supporting Mary’s Song through purchasing their organic skin care products, click HERE.

3) Sew Powerful- Seattle, WA (founders  Jason and Cinnamon Miles)

Sew Powerful started by my friends Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It has been a privilege and a joy to partner with them in their work. If you are a seamstress and want to contribute to their purse making program, click HERE.

Sew Powerful’s mission (from their website):

We exist to combat extreme poverty in a very challenging place called Ngombe Compound in Lusaka Zambia. We do that by equipping community members with jobs as well as training, tools, and technical skills to make what we call “Purposeful Products”. Products that can bless local children and empower their academic success. Our current Purposeful Products include school uniformsreusable feminine hygiene padsfood, and soap. Our overhead rate in 2017 was 1.35% and in 2016, it was less than 4%. When you give financially – you are helping create jobs and empower academic achievement – two powerful ingredients for combating extreme poverty. Learn more about our mission.”

There is so much joy in the world and beautiful work being done to help

women and children all over the world.

I hope you’ll consider what y o u might do to help–and now you’ll know where to start. 

Worry & Wonder–Holy Week

“Only in those moments of vivid experience that made her come alive was she at home in her own country.”    –Marianne in Green Dolphin Country, Elizabeth Goudge, Hodder & Stoughton, 1944

Friend T and I were chatting on Instagram the other day about my favorite author (see above). There’s no writer I can recall whose stories have deepened my vision of the Gospel and my appreciation for the beauty of language quite like Elizabeth Goudge.

But my heart is also quieted today, a heaviness at the back of my bones, weighted down by worry for the world and the myriad of ways we are messing it up. I’m afraid to read the headlines (we’ve canceled our daily paper) and when the news scrolls across my computer screen I click through to a different page. There is it the present reality of war and famine afar and the deranged antics and societal injustice at home. Big heavy sigh.

It seems foolish and insensitive to trivialize the trials of this day and age by attending to other simple joys: the gentle breezes waving fir branches outside my window or the way a chickadee alights on a bird feeder, the bright burst of daffodils against the grey. But the mundane holds a bit of miracle this week before Easter. Indeed, the miracles are there in all our days if we but look.

Attending to the richness of words in a good story is another way to pushback the unseen edges of this cool, gray day, much like reveling in the bright color of the salmon-y pink blossoms of quince bush in my back yard. (this is a friend’s clematis by the way, not my quince.)

Remarking on such simple joys may seem frivolous to some. Blossoms, books, birds.

But it’s not frivolous, no. For one, noticing the glorious passages in a good book can call us to remember that beyond the bleak and gray of the day in front of us there is Easter on the other side. For, if an author does it correctly, resurrection will show up in the language and in-between the lines of a good story.

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“All good stories lead to God,” my friend Laura opines. I’m inclined to agree.

But really, why discuss the finer merits of a passage of literature when these are such somber, serious times? Shouldn’t we be d o i n g something?” Well, yes these are somber, serious times. It is Holy Week after all, the days we dwell on Christ’s passion prior to His resurrection.

But often the wisest recourse we have is to remember to fill up our own souls with the staying power of beauty and truth.

So, I give you this, in addition to the joy of remarkable, inspirational language, there are also the right-in-front-of-us gifts: days of new sunrises, friends and family nearby to laugh and pray with, the morning’s hot coffee in a special mug, a favorite book on my lap.

These are also days when the word of God holds out hope, our very breath and life. The one and only Good Book.

When we have the companionship of others on this journey–always with its terrors and triumphs–we can often find a common denominator to lift us up and keep us in place with the anchor of a well-loved book. A favorite line or passage in a poem or paragraph, the sing-song of dialogue that makes us laugh, an author’s way with language as she paints a picture of a season’s wonder and discovery. Together we remember there is beauty above the here and now. We remind each other, “Let me tell you about something I read….you’ve got to hear this.”

When we share the good news of a great story, lines that comfort, encourage and inspire we are partners of a piece of small joy, if even for a moment.

My prayer this week and in the weeks ahead is that you would find a good story to sink yourself into (alongside the Source of all good stories, The Book of Books, of course.)

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The promise of Easter is the power to change how we see the world through God’s eyes. There is victory on the horizon, whether it’s right now or in the not yet.

May you find a good story to anchor your life, not because you want to escape this world but because in its pages you might find what you’ve been missing.

And if you need a place to start for recommendations–good fiction and Christian non-fiction, Sarah Clarkson (aka ‘BookGirl’) has her recommendations here.


Tell me what you’ve been reading~I’d love to hear in the Comments. Maybe I could read over your shoulder?

 

 

Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People? Is That the Right Question?

“Harbor me in the eye of the storm
I’m holding on to the love you swore.” 

-John Mark McMillan, Love You Swore

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The other day on Instagram I asked: “How come we never wonder why good things happen to good people? Or why good things happen to bad people?”

My thoughts were a version of that all-too-common question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” As if there was some chart in the sky where God is tallying checkmarks, balancing our actions with our consequences. This also begs the question–who decides what makes someone ‘bad’ or ‘good?’ 

Barbara Brown Taylor deals with a variation of this exact same question in a selection in her book, “Home by Another Way.” Taylor, an Episcopal priest, recounts a time when she sat in the hospital with a distraught mother during surgery for her 5-year-old daughter’s brain tumor. The mother lamented that she hadn’t quit smoking and therefore God was trying to punish her. “That’s why my daughter has a tumor,” the mom said. Taylor shared a bit of her theology about the way God thinks about hard times and tragedies.

“Calamity strikes and we wonder what we did wrong. We scrutinize our behavior, our relationships, our diets, our beliefs. We hunt for some cause to explain the effect, in hopes that we can stop causing it.

“What this tells us is that we are less interested in truth than in consequences. What we crave above all is control over the chaos of our lives.”

Taylor cites Luke Chapter 13 where the Galileans are arguing with Jesus about who deserves what because of their sin. Jesus will have none of it; people who die (or have tragedy strike) don’t “deserve what they get,” He tells them.  

(This) is a tempting equation that solves a lot of problems,” Taylor explains.  

1) It answers the riddle of why bad things happen to good people: they don’t. Bad             things only happen to bad people.

2) It punishes the sinners right out in the open as a warning to everyone.

3) It gives us a God who obeys the laws of physics. For every action, there is an                   opposite and equal reaction. Any questions?

“…but Jesus won’t go there. No, Jesus says, there is no connection between the suffering and the sin. Whew. There is no sense spending too much time trying to decipher this piece of good news,” she continues. “…it is not meant to aid reason but to disarm it…Jesus touches the panic (the Galileans) have inside of them… but (He) does not honor their illusion that they can protect themselves in this way, (but seems) to honor the vulnerability that their fright has opened up in them. It is not a bad thing for them to feel the full fragility of their lives.”

We would much rather fix things, understand circumstances, find a reason for the tragedy or hard time. The truth is, we are uncomfortable sitting with hard questions in our lives, especially as believers. We think very bad things shouldn’t happen to good people, but they do.

Instead of surrendering because we have no control, we look for reasons or answers. Sometimes there is no answer. And we certainly don’t have control. When things go well, it is all grace, and we should lift our hands to the Heavens and praise God for it. And when things are difficult, terrible, tragic, just because God is in the middle of our lives doesn’t mean it will magically go away. It just means that He is there in the middle of it.

My daughter Leah first introduced me to the music of John Mark MacMillan, whose song lyrics open this essay. (She also took the seaside photo.) Leah has had five miscarriages. (update below.) The loss has been mind-numbing, the pain too deep to ponder and sometimes God feels very far away. As her mom, it has been a heartbreaking journey. For my daughter, well, it’s been hard to face one loss after another, to say the least.

Music is an anchor for her and she recently told me, “Mom, one song has been my anthem during this time–Love You Swore. I keep repeating the lines, Harbor me in the eye of the storm, I’m holding on to the love you swore. I know Jesus is faithful and has my best interests in mind for my life. But it’s just hard and all I can do is hang on.”

Some helpful, life-changing occurrences have taken place on this journey for my daughter and her husband. But some gut-wrenching experiences have been part of that journey. If I used the good people/bad people, blessings/hardships equation, there might be some sense in all of it. But sometimes life doesn’t make sense. Instead of looking for a reason or shifting the blame or finding an answer we need to sit with the pain and the grief and realize that Jesus is right there with us.

Taylor’s essay continues, “When panic sets in and we’re searching for answers (realize) that torn place your fear has opened up inside of you is a holy place. Look around while you are there. Pay attention to what you feel. It may hurt you to stay there and it may hurt you to see, but it is not the kind of hurt that leads to death. It is the kind that leads to life. Depending on what you want from God, this may not sound like good news to you. But for those of us who have discovered that we cannot make life safe nor God tame, it is Gospel enough. What we can do is turn our faces to the light. That way, whatever befalls us, we will fall the right way.”  (from ‘Life-Giving Fear’, Home by Another Way)

We can’t stop the storms in our lives but we can rejoice that our Savior sits with us in the midst of them. And we can also lift our hands to thank Him in the good things. He’s right there in storm and the calm seas, with all people. 

**June 2019 Leah and her husband will be welcoming a baby girl at the end of August. We rejoice in God’s goodness and grace.

———

You can listen to “Love You Swore” by John Mark here

“Home by Another Way” by Barbara Brown Taylor is available here.

 

Jigsaw Puzzles as a Prayer

Every year at Christmas our kids get my husband and I a jigsaw puzzle. This year Santa pitched in and we actually ended up with three puzzles–birds, the beach and kites–our three favorite things.

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Actually, this is the beach AND kites

A great Friday night date for my husband and I is to build a fire, turn on the music and puzzle away….a simple, quiet joy for us. (You 30 somethings are wondering which planet we’re on, I’m sure…).

The joke around here is if the puzzle goes on the card table on the day after Christmas, we can usually finish it by the first or so of June, when the ‘kids’ show up again for Father’s Day. Alas, we got a late start–one week into this new year. But, praise be, it’s a 300-piece small one this time–easy peasy.

Working on jigsaw puzzles got me thinking about tying up the ‘loose ends’ of this year and looking at the new one ahead.  How can I focus on what God wants?–there are just TOO MANY PIECES–the shapes! the colors! They all look exactly alike–how will I tell which is which? And I’m not sure what the border even looks like. Where are my boundaries?

I began to think of you, dear friends, some of who’ve typed me personal notes, those I’ve exchanged emails with sharing prayer requests, joys and some not so joyful times. I thought of the challenges we face, the aspirations, the daily-ness of our walk with Jesus.

Hence, this prayer about puzzles, a metaphor for our lives:

“Father, we give you all the pieces of our lives, rounded, jagged, ill-fitting.
We place the ideas, dreams and desires,
the want-to’s and the need-to’s,
the prayers for family and friends,
the cries of our heart to follow you, into your hands.
 
Show us the puzzle frame, Father.  And remind us that YOU are the designer. 
 
Help us to pick up one piece at a time, one day at a time.
 
Show us how to consider each one well, notice the round edges,
observe the ways it could work–‘maybe over here?’ ‘maybe over there?’
 
Remind us that it takes time to make something beautiful, so that everything fits in place.
 
Whisper whenever we need it, the words telling us we will not be finished with x y z in a week, or a month. Maybe not even this year.
For we may need to ponder and puzzle over the fragments more than once,
laying them down and picking them up with a fresh look the next day.
 
Remind us Father, that when we surrender everything
lay it all out on the table
that YOU can take it and make it into
something beautiful in your time.
Amen.”
Philippians 3:13,14
“(this) one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,   
    I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is an edited version of a post originally written in January 2013. HT Jennifer Ferguson and The Knot Project, talking about puzzles. Some truths are still so very truthy.

Christmas: Mystery, Miracle or Magic?

“Did not a great grey servant

Of all my sires and me,

Build this pavilion of the pines,

And herd the fowls and fill the vines,

And labour and pass and leave no signs

Save mercy and mystery?”

                                                –G.K. Chesterton, from the Ballad of the White Horse, Book IV

The holiday weeks are often heralded as the most wonderful time of the year; God knows we also W O R K to make it the most wonderful time of the year.  Unspoken pressures and unrealistic expectations—whether from others outside or inside ourselves—can back us into a corner and leave us, if not defeated, a little discouraged.

We want magic to last forever, especially during the Christmas season.

Whether you’re a grandparent, an auntie or uncle or mom and dad, everyone does their best to manage the tricky equation. There’s the balance of dealing with the pressure to provide nonstop happiness with that elusive, endless magic we’re sure is just around the corner. All the while we try to hold to the heart of Christmas—remembering Jesus.  Most often though, all that fun, excitement and magic-making leaves us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed while the joy and peace we crave are lost.

What we really want at Christmas is a way to remember what matters, and maybe a new attitude about it all. (Lord knows, changing my head AND my heart is no small miracle.)  So, how do we manage the magic? If it doesn’t last through Christmas, how do we hold on to the wonder?

Two ways: We enter into God’s mystery by mining His word and leaning into the miracles in our own hearts.

In this season of Advent, we’re encouraged to light our wintry way with God’s Word.

Reading on the first Sunday of Advent, there’s the explosive promise of Hope in Isaiah 64 to wait for our coming Savior,
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,  so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down,
the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.”

The Advent readings for the month continue.

Second Sunday’s Prepare rings out in Isaiah 40, the Third Sunday’s Rejoice pours forth in Luke 1 as we read of Mary singing and rejoicing in Christ’s birth. And on the fourth Sunday we light the final candle to celebrate Love, God’s gift to us in the form of Jesus.

These passages contain much to meditate on; guided by the Scripture we are provided a place to pause over the mystery of God made flesh.

The reality of God’s word is as long-lasting as eternity. There is nothing temporary about it.

Another sure thing that will never fade? The personal miracles God has done in our lives. Whether it’s a change in our thinking or our attitudes, a new way of relating, a bigger heart for giving (and forgiving), those are all Godmade gifts that last when we receive His work in our hearts.

Christmastime contains the opportunity for mystery, miracles and magic.

But magic like the flicker of a firefly’s light is momentary. I want memories of a forever light that has not only come into the world, but will never fade away.

The mystery and miracle of Christmas.

*****

This post is taken from a message I gave at Lake Tapps Christian Center in Bonney Lake, WA, sharing about my book “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas”P_20181114_114840-3663114983-1542741044454.jpg

 

You can order signed copies of LTSW for $10 by clicking HERE with your request and I’ll be in touch.


 

Living the Season Well Goes Viral {sorta}

Dear friends,

I have been so grateful for the response to my book Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas.** It’s a little bit amazing to me and exciting as well. All the readers that are finding the message about slowing down and simplifying Christmas have a way to more peace and joy this year and that makes me happy.

Getting free of the “shoulds” always helps.

A slow, small start to Christmas begins with Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which was December 3rd. It’s not too late to mark the days by slowing down your Sundays and your celebrations.

While you’re preparing your hearts, your heads and your homes here are the places I’ve had a chance to talk about Living the Season Well–and every one of them goes live the same day–December 5th.  When it snows, it pours, eh?

Little bits of joy in different places–read and listen at your leisure.

Merry Christmastide, friends.

**$4.99 for the Kindle this week on Amazon. Yay!

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