In May this year, the Church celebrates “Pentecost Sunday”. It’s the time each year we specifically give thanks for and recognize the work of – the Holy Spirit of God. It’s an area of faith that many of us feel unprepared or unsure how to talk about. But most of us would quickly admit – we desire His Spirit…
Today I took a walk with Jesus. I went with the perspective of being His child, and walking together the way I would walk with my daughters. When we walk together, I take opportunities to point things out. I connect things to larger pictures. I’m slowed by their pace. I smile at other people walking by. Here are a few things Jesus grabbed me by the hand, and pointed out along our walk…(one of the ways I process things is by writing…so this is also a bit of me figuring out what God was saying as I spend time putting each into words)
“Chadwick, quick…come here. See how this leaf is holding onto a last drop of water? (I nod with a smile.) I want to fill your life with love so much, that these drips never have time to form. My love fills you, and drenches you to the point to where there is a neverending stream of outpouring.”
“I’d like that, because honestly sometimes I feel like this leaf…just a drip left…and holding onto it with all I can.”
“I know…(and He gives me a hug.)”
“What is it? Some awesome formation of nature??”
“Nope…just some grasses. Different levels of growth – small, tall grasses, and trees behind. Pretty cool, huh?”
“Reminds me of the 3-2-1 JELLO from when I was a kid.”
“That was good stuff, eh?”
“Hey Chadwick, you wore the wrong shoes for a hike, didn’t you?”
(looking down at my leather shoes) “Oooops. Yeah.”
“Just take your shoes and socks off, and hide them behind that bush over there. This walk will be better if you do.”
“Well….if God says so….”
“Wow God….it’s pretty cool that all lof this exists in the midst of what we would call an ‘Urban’ area. It’s nice to just breathe slow, walk slow, and not have any purpose to this walk than to be with you.”
“I agree. I just wish you saw it more often.”
“Zing. Okay, I get it…..thanks for inviting me out today.”
“No problem…thanks for finally coming.”
“Um God….it’s dirt. Didn’t you see the flowers I took a picture of over there?”
“Well yes…I’ve noticed you really enjoy taking pictures of the flowers and plants. But without this rich soil, you’d never get those amazing greens, yellows, and violets. I think you’ve often had that same tendency in life as well. You celebrate the high and beautiful moments, and then are so quick to pray for relief from the situations that lead to incredibly colorful life. What parts of your life right now are you experiencing, that could simply be rich soil that I intend to grow beautiful new life from??”
“Well…a few at least. There’s this reeeealllllyyyy long wait we’ve been going through to bring home our daughter from Africa.”
(smiles) “That’s definitely rich soil, and I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve already begun to grow some pretty beautiful things from within that wait. You’re wrapping your family around something much larger, and talking to your kids and even other people about my heart for my children in Africa. That’s something I’d snap a picture of.”
At this point, a man rides by on a bike the opposite direction. In a brief moment, we share eye contact, and he speaks….”Hey, how’s it going?” I instinctively try to respond to his conversation starter, but by the time sound crosses my lips he is long gone. I look down and see this snail crossing the path.
“We sure are in a hurry sometimes, eh?”
“You are. It’s sad to see how much you miss out on sometimes, simply because you prioritize ‘moving on to the next thing’ more than having an actual conversation with someone…..or me.”
“God, I’ll confess, I do that. I don’t always have the strength or memory to slow down when I need to. Can you help me to remember, and sometimes just mess up my schedule so that I’m required to connect with others and you on a healthier level?”
“I’ve already begun….”
“Well, you told a parable about the seed that fell among the rocky ground, and the plants withered because they had no moisture.” (Luke 8:6)
“Right, but look at what’s happening here. It’s not a deep rocky bed. It’s just a few surface rocks, with incredible soil underneath. So many times, humanity feels like the current challenges and hardships, or evil on the surface of a situation means nothing can grow there. But they don’t see what I see. There is incredible depth of rich soil, even where many would think a seed would never grow. Never forget the Hope of what I can see…”
At this point, I began to regret the idea of taking off my shoes and turn to start walking back. You see, around 9am it had rained quite a bit. Everything began cool and wet. But now it was about noon and the sun had been shining on the black paved walking path for quite a while. My feet were feeling the burn…
“Hey Chadwick, remember learning when you were a kid that white reflects sunshine, and black absorbs it? Why not try walking on this center dividing line?”
(I begin to walk on the line, and immediately my feet are cooled. Like, almost abnormally cooled, as if I were walking on a large cold water pipe.) “Wow, thanks for that reminder, this is much better.”
(God smiles, obviously bursting at the seems to make the cheesy illustration I assume He’s about to make.)
“I know, I know….you want to remind me that whenever life seems to be getting uncomfortable, it may just be a case of me needing to re-center my life on you….and walking the narrow path…..right?
“Um…actually, I was just about to crack up laughing. You look funny walking like a tightrope walker in the middle of a giant forest.” (He proceeds to belly laugh, as the trees shake in the wind…I smile, and continue walking my tight-rope until I find my shoes again. It was a good walk….)
A few words to help us prepare for a week in which our worship
reflects on the Spirit that does more than quench…
(a post from May of 2008, in honor of Mother’s Day yesterday! Wow….they definitely grow fast…we had a ballet recital for the older two just this past weekend)
Addison will be 2 in August. The “terrible two’s” as some refer to them, began a while ago, and will probably last well beyond the age of 2. But it’s not so terrible so far. In fact, even at her worst, she’s still pretty easy to love.
For a long time, her vocabulary was limited to pretty much the word “no”. Probably because she heard it so much, and eventually learned it’s meaning. It’s still there.
Over the past year, she’s learned more words. Words like “Amen”, “Thank you”, “Please”, “Hockey”, “Nemo” and the names of several TV characters, and her friends and family members. She’s even begun to put sentences together: “Where mommy go?”, “Thank you daddy!”, etc. Of course, most of these are said sounding like she has a mouth full of cereal…and doesn’t have the greatest oration, but we’ll get there.
One word we’ve noticed evolving over the past few months is the word “Yes”. It began just like mommy and daddy would say it, “yes”. Over time, she learned the very similar “uh-huh” (accompanied at times by a nod). Then about a month ago came the “okay”, and sometimes “yeah, okay”, or simply just “Kay!”. We laughed, and thought it was cute.
But now, as you can see here…”yes” has become “Oh”. Hoping we can guide her back to the “yes”, as a more concrete positive response. (watch to the end, it’s worth it.)
Recently I invited teenagers and parents to come together for a time of discussing the importance of “Unplugging”. In the weeks preparing for the lesson, I was reminded over and over again that this is something I struggle with as well. As a young parent with 3 daughters aged 6 and under, our life is increasingly busy. So far we’ve kept them all in the same extracurricular activity (ballet), but someday even that might change.
So how do we continue to thrive and grow in a world that moves at such a frantic pace, while still retaining our ability to “Sabbath” and spend time quieting ourselves in the presence of God?
Today I’m continuing this post over at the “World Methodist Council Young Adults” site! Go check it out, I promise it’ll be worth your while, or you’ll get free candy….or….something….:)
Once upon a time, God had created a large, beautiful field. Flowers grew, animals played and raised their young, and beneath the surface lay untold mineral value. Kingdoms all around this field would admire its’ beauty from a distance. But each was secretly worried that others would come and take its’ beauty for their very own. Slowly and quietly, the citizens of the surrounding Kingdoms began to find their way onto this field. They would take away the beautiful flowers. They would poach the rare and unique animals. They would claim private access to mining locations all over it’s surface. The only thing left was it’s rich, tall, grass. But even this grass was slowly withering, having it’s life choked out one blade at a time.
One day, an elephant appeared on the field….violently claiming ownership. Offering it’s protection, but trampling down the field from every angle. No one agreed this elephant was just, as the field had always been the one to take care of it’s incredible grasses. And so, it was decided by the surrounding Kingdoms, a second elephant would be sent into the field to combat the first. They nodded their heads in agreement, this was a great idea.
As the elephants began their dramatic battle over the future of the field – sacrifices had to be made. At first it began as a small patch of grass. Eventually, it would grow back and so it was decided this bit of beautiful grass was worth losing, temporarily.
But as the conflict continued, the surrounding Kingdoms began to realize their error. As blades of grass were being stamped out left and right, there was hardly time to mourn such loss – let alone know what to do next. The elephants could not be contained or reigned in once the fight had begun.
Meanwhile, tucked away in a quiet corner of this field, a conversation was happening. What kind of fertilizer was right for this field? What would keep the grass growing green, and how much of it needed to be “brought in”? These were also important conversations and prayers – yet in the midst of them happening – the elephants continued to duel.
As God watched what was happening to the field He’d created, tears rolled down His cheeks…
I don’t believe God is causing us to wait on purpose, forcing us to endure a trial of patience in our journey to bring home our daughter. But I do believe God is redeeming these moments, by allowing a deepened connection to the people and land of the DRC. We pray – not only for Phoebe; but for international adoptions, for her country, her extended family, and the suffering down-trodden and voiceless many who continue to dodge the feet of the elephants fighting over them…
(inspired/stolen from a quote from this article)
I am a modern-day abolitionist. I know, cool title, right?! While I love my job, I still find myself shocked at the reality that there is a need in the world for people like me. There is a need for thousands, maybe millions of modern-day abolitionists. Modern day slavery is rampant in our world…our 21st-century slavery-illegal-in-every-country world…the best known number of slaves counts there are more slaves today than at any other point in human history: 30 million. That is 30 million individuals who are living and breathing, who have the image of God stamped on their souls, and who have (or had) hopes and dreams for their lives. Instead of experiencing freedom in all of those things, they are in bondage and forced to work for someone else’s gain.
Why am I shocked? Don’t we become numb to terrible realities that are put before us everyday? Yes, we do usually, but I am regularly made aware of new terrible realities. Here are a few: Law enforcement in St. Louis reports they could rescue at least 4 girls everyday from being pimped out but they don’t have anywhere safe and equipped to send them. In a neighboring town a mother is pimping out her son and her daughter so she can buy drugs. Young people are wrapped up in pornography and deceived into thinking they are loved by a guy, when in actuality they are being set up to be pimped out. A restaurant in a neighboring town is moving young Hispanics from work site to work site giving them no freedom and extremely little pay. All the major clothing brands I could buy for my young son (Oshkosh, Carters, Garanimals, Just One You, etc) have known slave labor in their supply chains. My shock, and perhaps better described as my heartache, continues and grows with each new reality I encounter.
The US Department defines human trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age–OR–
The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. Human traffickers are garnering $32 billion each year off the individuals who meet this definition in their everyday life. When I began working and ministering in this field, human trafficking was ranked 3rd among top grossing international organized crime; recently it has been moved up to the 2nd place position. Why? Because drug traffickers are using their incredibly networked system to move people instead, after all, people are a renewable resource whereas drugs, once used, are gone.
The Set Free Movement is committed to collaborating with first responders and key stakeholders to ensure communities are ready to help victims when their terrible reality is made aware to us. We are moving toward being a Zero Tolerance (for slavery, for injustice) Community. YOU are a key stakeholder in this community, in your community, and in our world.
This Friday, May 10, 2013, The Set Free Movement is hosting a training session where we will learn about slavery’s realities. From Assistant US Attorney, Monica Stump, we will be equipped to recognize the signs and indicators as well as be provided explanations of the laws that surround human trafficking in America today. Jeff Othic is a special investigator for Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement Division, and he will review the process of investigations within human trafficking cases. We will also hear from CleoTerry, Coordinator of the Rescue and Restore Coalition of Southwestern Illinois, who will be giving in-depth explanations on how to work with victims of human trafficking.
I recently found myself amidst a group of college students committed to pray around this issue. The prayer that came from my own lips was about Moses. Moses, the first abolitionist of our faith, was terrified to do what God called him to – he was called to free his community. And with that first call, I believe God put abolition in our spiritual DNA. The rest of my prayer was for the traffickers, that they would find plagues heaped upon them and be destroyed. There is a way to end modern day slavery, but it will only be accomplished by thousands, maybe millions, of abolitionists. We must be willing to heed the call, one that will break our hearts and shock our “safe and quaint” communities. We must be willing to change the way me make purchases (start with www.free2work.org) and buy ethically sourced goods. We must educate ourselves (find out more about the Set Free training event here) as much as possible. We must move in three directions: Prevention, Rescue, and Restoration (check out the Set Free Primer).
I will end with the prayer of five year old Mariah: “Dear Jesus, Thank you that we are free to walk and run and ride our bikes. We are sad because you are sad that there are kids that are not free. Please help those kids to know that you are near to them and you can be in their hearts. Help them to not be too sad and help them to be free too.”
If you have further questions or want to join Ginger & the ranks of abolitionists around the world, feel free to email her by clicking here.