life, Light

Wisdom to the Mighty, Succor to the Brave

My playlist was quiet this uneventful week.  Except for yesterday.  Yesterday my daughter and I went to the early matinee to see Selma.  Heart wrenching Selma.  I have something to say about it.  Tomorrow.

Then last night we went to her church and listened to three called and courageous individuals tell stories of their fights for freedom. Stories of the long, slow, committed, two-steps-forward-one-step-back fight to end sex trafficking as they rescue one precious, exploited child at a time.  Stories of relief brought to Syrian refugees and healing brought to Sudanese boys inducted, brutally, into brutal armies.

One speaker said something like this:

We look at all the suffering in the world and we ask, “Where are you God?”

And God says, “I’m in the Congo; I’m in the Philippines, on the streets with the children.  Where are you?

Another speaker said that the world is overwhelmingly ugly.  But it is also overwhelmingly beautiful.  God told her to fight for the beauty.

Isn’t that exactly what God told all of us to do when He first created us in the garden?

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Genesis 1:28

Subdue = kabash = “to bring into bondage, tread down”

Lots of people think Genesis 1:28 means that we are supposed to dominate other creatures, be kings of the forest.  But if everything God created was good up to that point, then the only thing lurking that needed to be bound and trampled was His enemy.

“Subdue evil,”  He said, “Fight for the beauty.”

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.  Genesis 2:15

Cultivate = ‘abad = “to do work, to serve God”

Keep = shaman = “to guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life”

“Keep watch over this world,” He said. “Protect it from the evil one.”

That is our purpose.  And this is our song:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence in the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel
writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Our God is marching on.

© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist

http://www.love146.org

http://www.worldrelief.org

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Playlist of the Week.”

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church nonsense, faith, Stories from the Island

Misfits

I may have said this before, but I often feel like I am stuck in kindergarten.  I sit in the audience and learn the same elementary lessons over and over, week after week with no hope of graduation, because women aren’t allowed to graduate.

I don’t belong in the audience listening to the laughter at the opening joke and receiving a weekly dose of shallow truth.  So some weeks I stay home and do my own Bible study.  Dig deeper than my pastor dares to go.  Like this week.  I stayed home on Sunday and my hubby went without me.   “Sorry, Honey,” he said, “but your husband is in leadership.”

“Yeah, see if you can do anything about that sinful misogyny, wouldya’?”

I didn’t skip church altogether, though.  I went Saturday night.  To a different church.  Donna called and said the women from the island were going to have a little reunion at her church for the Saturday evening service.  She invited me to join them.

When I got there I discovered only a few of the island women.  Instead, there were three rows of her friends, there to celebrate her birthday.

I sat next to Ronald.  He asked me if we were in a church because it sure didn’t look like one.  It looked like an auditorium.  He asked me why he wasn’t invited to the island.  I told him he wasn’t pretty enough.  He sang along and leaned over to say, “I bet you didn’t know I could sing like that.”

Afterward I was invited to join the group at a nearby restaurant for dinner.  Twenty five of us.  I sat next to Donna and asked how she had met each person at the table.  They were a varied group, collected over many years of street ministry.  Many of them were part of a newly formed Bible study that was meeting at Brenda’s house.

As I said my good-byes, Ronald asked, “Will we see you again?”

“I hope so.”

“Why don’t you come to our Bible study (which meets clear, clear, clear across town)?”

“Maybe I will sometime, if I am invited.”

Brenda spoke up and said, “Yes, come.  Everyone talks and shares.  We’ve become very close.  We pray for one another, anoint one another.”

I sighed, “I wish church were like that.”

Ronald said, “Yes, come hang out with the misfits.”

I smiled, “We’re all misfits in one way or another.”

Jesus was a misfit.  He wanted to talk about His Father; the Pharisees wanted to talk about the Law, more specifically all the tedious man-made things they had added to the Law.  I’m not saying that I am like Jesus.  I’m not saying the leaders in my church are like the Pharisees… well, maybe I am.  A little.

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bluesbby, Creative Commons

This is Brenda’s story, told in a quiet, halting voice:

Hi my name is Brenda.  I came from a rough life that was …um… but God has changed me.  I was gang raped at the age of fourteen and I ran away from home.  My life went down from that point.  I became a prostitute and I started using crack cocaine.

I wound up going to penitentiary… several times, I stayed in somebody’s institution – mental institution – rehab, mostly prison, so locked up.  In the process, when I was in those places, God was still speaking to me.  Every time I went back to the institution, He was speaking to my soul each time.

Whoever this is helping today, God is a deliverer.  No matter what you’ve been through or whatever challenges you’ve ever had in your life, it will be easy when you turn your life over to Him.  Well, my walking hasn’t been that easy, I still struggle in a lot of areas, trying to get myself together.  When you’ve been in bondage so long, and caught up in yourself and the things of the world, you lose sight of what is real and what’s not.   But today I am saved by grace, and I’m loving my new life, there’s nothing compared to it.  I’ve found so much joy now.

Where I really want to help someone is, I’ve been in a lot of abusive relationships, too.  Be always careful about who you let in your personal space.  Men will deceive you and lead you to the bedroom so quickly.  And you lose sight of yourself and they start taking control of you and tell you stuff that you don’t believe that you are…. um… what I’m really saying is, they start working on your self-esteem and breaking you down.  And when you start thinking less of yourself you don’t care what you do.  But I’ve been delivered from that, too.  I’m just grateful to God today that I am here, where I’m at, just praising Him, just thanking Him for the change that He has given me in my life.  I’m just grateful to be alive.  I put myself in a lot of dangerous situations and I’m grateful that I didn’t die out there in the streets.  I know I was covered by the blood of Jesus.  Thank you.

Afterward, Brenda shared that her boyfriend – her very first boyfriend – was among the gang that raped her.  He set her up.  How do you recover from that kind of betrayal?

Seeing Brenda Saturday night so full of joy, inviting me to the Bible study at her house, only God can do that.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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Jesus, Light, love, restoration, Stories from the Island

Dancing With Grace

geraniums

To set the mood for our storytelling on that final night, I showed Glennon Doyle Melton’s “From My Cold Dead Hands.”  None of the women had seen it before.  Watching their faces in the soft light of the projector, I felt like I was on holy ground:  These beautiful former prisoners were about to drop some keys.

P.S. If you are new to my blog and you have no idea what I am talking about, you can catch up herehere and here.

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church nonsense, life, Light, Stories from the Island, war on women

A Tale of Two Meetings

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I was going to start with something light – perhaps an exposé of our deaconess duties being merely busy work for church ladies.  But that will have to wait.  Something has transpired that forces me to jump right in to the deep end.

Two weeks ago I met with a middle-aged, non-denominational woman who heads up a ministry to street women.  I invited her and her team, along with several of the women to whom they minister, to a fabulous all-expense-paid retreat.  The meeting was a delight.

The other day I met with a young Baptist woman who also heads up an outreach to street women.  The purpose of the meeting was to invite her and her team of volunteers to the same all-expense-paid retreat.  The meeting, I am sorry to say, was a disaster.

I had not met either of the women prior to my coffee dates with them.  What made one a delight and the other a disaster?  Being Baptist.

The older, non-Baptist woman brought her granddaughter – a precocious and confident five-year-old – to our meeting.

The young Baptist brought the vice president of her board – a sour-faced gentleman probably in his sixties or seventies.

When I explained the purpose of the retreat and extended the invitation to the older woman she said, “I don’t know how to respond without crying.”  She then started to tell me about the women she would invite and ended by saying, once again, that the invitation was an answer to prayer.  She was eager for the women of her ministry to hear what God had laid on my heart to share with them.  I left that meeting with a jubilant spirit.  I had met a new friend and I could hardly wait to get to know her.

When I explained the purpose of the retreat to the young Baptist, she expressed gratitude over the invitation for a time of refreshment but said she would need to see a written copy of the teaching I planned to share before giving me a final answer.  She had to protect the grown women on her team from possible heresy after all.  Because Baptist women apparently have no discernment of their own. That’s when I became nauseous.  I was cordial to the young Baptist but I left that meeting offended and a little ticked.  I composed a snarly but amusing mental tweet under the hashtag #ihatemychurch.

Fortunately, after it was all said and done, the dates didn’t work for the young Baptist and her team.  They had a fundraising event planned for the weekend of the retreat.  Thank you Lord.

I invited them because I wanted to hear what they had to say;  I wanted to give them the opportunity to hear what women who had escaped life on the streets had to say; and I wanted to give them the opportunity to hear what God has to say.  God, however, knew better and He spared me a bundle of wasted money.

Here’s what He told me that night as I was doing the dinner dishes:

1. Young Baptist women do not have a voice.

2. The sour-faced henchman was there to make sure it stays that way.

I could expound a whole lot on #2.  In fact, I have.  I’ll let you know when the book comes out.

With the non-denominational woman there was freedom.  Freedom to let women speak their minds, share their experiences, learn from one another and hear a fresh word from God.  With the Baptist woman there was oppression.  Palpable oppression.  She couldn’t even meet with me without a man there to supervise.  And that is when I knew I had to start my blog with this post, and with this question:  Should Baptists be rescuing women from the sex industry?  From human trafficking?  Will those women escape one form of bondage only to find themselves in a bondage that is far more insidious.  One that disguises itself as holy?

Shudder to think.

We’ve got a lot to talk about.

 

 

 

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