Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stop and soak

Today, I want to appreciate my life, as it is, right now.
There are many aspects of my world that will one day change, and I will never be able to go back.

1. Living alone.  I've been living in an apartment, by myself, since 2009. Before you know it I'll be married and someday have children and I'm sure I will long for a quiet place all by myself, cleaned and decorated to my own liking.
God, help me to soak up and appreciate the solitude, even when I feel it's too much.

2. NYC life. New York City is loud and busy and hectic and sometimes rough, but when I leave here I will miss it! As a teenager in Maine all I wanted was to be in a city. Today, sometimes I want to run away to a big house with a big yard.
God, help me to soak up and appreciate Manhattan, even when the cabbies literally deserve to be punched.

3. The Corps. Someday I will move away, and I will miss the people from NY Temple as well as the things that make this corps great! I'm sure I will have new struggles in a new place and this corps will seem like a wonderful past life. NY Temple isn't perfect yet, but I've got to appreciate the beauty it definitely has.
The other side of this is that one day I might not even be a Corps Officer (God forbid!). I hear HQ officers who miss corps life desperately, and I can see why.
God, help me to soak up and appreciate the Corps I am in today, even though it's hard work.

4. My youth. I'm only 26, I'm healthy and energetic, full of optimism and zeal. I have seen enough to know that many people miss being young. I look forward to maturing and growing. But I don't want to miss this fun season either!
God, help me to soak up and appreciate my youth, and not rush it along.

5. The people around me. My co-workers and employees, my neighbors, church family, friends, relatives... some of them will be in my life forever, but life has taught me that some of them won't.
God, help me to soak up and appreciate my relationships, even when people are hard to love.

Thank You for every blessing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

curly girl

Gabriella has the world's brightest smile, and the world's curliest hair.

I met her in the lobby of the corps, and she was a twelve-year-old spitfire.
She was full of energy. "HI!" as she thrust her hand towards me.
Even though I was twice her age, I really appreciated the warm welcome, as I was still feeling new and shy. I admired her exuberance.

I went to see her perform at Music Camp.
Her role in the skit was to hold up a sign.
I knew that she had a lot more in her. We had just met, but I felt irritated that she was given such a small part. Isn't it obvious to everyone that this girl is special?

I'm always biased towards people that I know, even if I don't really know them.

She sat in my windowless office and told me, "yeah, I believe in God, but I'm just not really into Him, you know?  Like I am a Christian but I'm not really passionate about it." Listened.

Gabriella went to TAM Conservatory a year later.
I dropped her off in her Rader Court bedroom, and she commented on the freedom and nerves she was experiencing from the thrill of holding a house key.
We realized that she forgot to bring a pillow.  I went to the awful Suffern Wal-Mart and got her a new one.
When I hugged her goodbye, she didn't want to let go.
I assured her as strongly as I could that she would have a fantastic week.
I knew she would.
I have faith for TAM, and for exuberant 13 year old curly-girls.

When I picked her up, she was all bubbles and stories and songs. As I expected.
I asked her if she grew closer to God that week.
The bubbles stopped and she told me that she wanted to give her testimony the following day in Sunday School. Not in Holiness Meeting, but in Sunday School. I said "of course".

That week she experienced the breaking down of walls that I never knew she had.
She heard the voice of God, and He spoke to her about the things that troubled her more deeply than any of us would have guessed.
"God went from an idea in my head to a real relationship, you know? I hope I don't sound dumb right now, I probably don't make any sense."
NO, Gabby, you make perfect sense. We love it. Keep talking this is beautiful.

She's been smiling less often, but when she does it is still the brightest.

Still believing for Gabriella.
I have faith for the church, and for complicated 14 year old curly-girls.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Off to work

Glen was carrying a briefcase. He walked past me quickly from the chapel into the hallway. The briefcase somehow blinded me, and I assumed he was there on business.
He looked like he was off to work.

Then I remembered that our chapel was locked, and the day was done.

Then I noticed the smell.  I started to wonder what was in the briefcase.

Glen joined us for prayer meeting tonight.
He sat there very politely.
I was just about to say the benediction, when Glen said, "when you are done, can I tell you what God has done for me?"

You can't say no to that!

He proceeded to tell us a lengthy story about his landlord and welfare.
Every single piece of paper that he pulled out of his briefcase was evidence of the tale he told.
He would pull out a rent receipt, hold it up, and slowly rotate so that each person in the circle could clearly see. SLOWLY.

At some point I interrupted. "Okay, thank you for sharing, but we have to go. It's time for Bible study." Off to work!


Rodger is fairly new to the church. He thinks deeply about the Word, but isn't completely convinced that he believes it. He has a lot of questions.
We allow space for questions.

Rodger is only 25, trendy, and urban-slick.

Today was his birthday, and he came to prayer meeting with us, and Glen.


Rodger showed me up tonight.

After I cut Glen off, I quickly switched gears.

Rodger went up to Glen, extended his hand, and pulled him in for a hug.
"You got keys now, man! God's got your back!"

Meanwhile, I'm already halfway out of the room.


Teach me, Lord, to be patient, kind, and gentle.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Open Chapel Doors

Today the beautiful Salvationists from 14th street went outside to offer prayer to anyone who wanted it. Ages 13 - 75, we gathered together and made a plan:

1) loud music blasting from the open chapel doors
2) a table covered with Bibles, War Crys, pamphlets, pens, and paper
3) 4 large signs: 2 said, "Can we pray 4 u?!" and 2 said, "FREE PRAYER"

While still taping the signs up, a young man named Charlie approaches us and asks, "how long does the prayer take?"
As long as you need it to.
He told us that he didn't know how to pray, but he did say that he thinks his request shouldn't be materialistic. So he asked us to pray for the missing airplane.
I think he's starting prayer from the right place.

Then I met Rain. Rain just came from a job interview, having been out of work for 8 months.
"I need to know God cares about me - not just someone telling me that He does. I need to see it."

Antonio walked up to me in silence, waiting to be invited to speak.
He asked us to pray for his friend's health.
We did.

4 anointed women walked past, on their way to a Heidi Baker event down the block.  They turned the tables on us, of course, and prayed for us.
Words from God.

Carmen and Pilar from Argentina.
They only wanted us to pray for their families in Argentina.

Nameless passerby told us NOT to pray for Republicans or Putin, because they are causing most of the world's problems. 

Jose couldn't speak English, but he wrote his name on a piece of paper for me.
God knows the rest of Jose's story!

Wayne could barely express his request, because it was so heartfelt that I think it physically pained him to speak it out loud.  His mother, Silvia, is suffering from Alzheimer's. My heart burned with him.
Believing with Wayne.

Then I saw Lieutenant Maria Larsen from Denmark, and her father, Ans.

The rest of the stories you will have to ask the other evangelists about.
1 hour and done.

It's amazing what can happen beyond open chapel doors.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

You pick

"What do you want to eat?"

     "Oh, I don't know. You pick the restaurant."

"Well is there anything you don't like to eat?"

     "Meat. I decided today that I am vegetarian."

So we went to an organic, vegan, paleo, macrobiotic, gluten-free restaurant on the block that I have always wanted to go to, but never dared. Cucumber lemon juice and avocado quinoa.

She's 18, sarcastic, and yet still somehow bubbly.
She's a pre-med student who "knows" that she "thinks" that she wants to be a doctor.
An ESFP with the spiritual gifts of discernment and leadership.
The future is a complete mystery to her.
She takes each day by the horns and runs with it.

I started asking her basic questions about college, work, friends.
Then I started asking her tough ones:

"What do you feel God has called you to do? Do you feel a sense of fulfillment? Do you feel that you are using your gifts to the fullest potential? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?"

Many I-don't-knows.

She started asking me about the path that led me where I am today.
When I was 18, I had some I-don't-knows, but a pretty long list of certainties.
And most of the things that I was certain would happen in my life did not happen.
Many things that I never would have dreamed of happening actually did instead.

So, I chewed my quinoa and remembered, and recognized this woman's wisdom.

"Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


It's so important to be okay with yourself.

Today I spent most of my day in meetings, answering emails, and organizing files.
By dinnertime I was irritable, tired, and my back hurt.

If I had spent the day dancing, preaching, and singing...
by dinnertime I would be exuberant, tired, and my back might still hurt.

The Holy Spirit is the One who gave me the desire and the ability to dance, preach, and sing.
The Holy Spirit is also the One who told me that I should become a Salvation Army officer.

Salvation Army officers dance, preach, and sing.
And sit in meetings, answer emails, and organize files.

Do you ever just FEEL like you should only spend all your time doing only what fulfills you?
You know life doesn't work like that, but maybe wonder if it should.

My mother used to ask me: 1) what drains you? 2) what fills you?
Easy! 1) administration, 2) creativity

Some days a calling isn't about personal fulfillment, but about the bigger picture.
Most days I am just unbelievably thankful that God has led me to a vocation that so perfectly aligns with my passions. Today is not my experience most days, but it did make me think.

My calling is to worship Jesus.
Today my worship was in my obedience to the place He has called me to be.

But I doubt I'm ever going to enjoy filing.

Monday, March 10, 2014


June 2012
When I first met Fernando, he was the boyfriend of a church girl.
I met him with a look of distrust, as if to silently say, "If you hurt her, I'll kill you."

Fernando wasn't the kind of boyfriend that a church girl's dad wants to see on his daughter's arm.
He had half-dyed hair hanging down into his eyes.
He had a 15 year old effort at a beard.
He wore all black, and his arms were covered in bracelets up to his wrists.
Those bracelets had words on them that I'd rather not repeat, because I'm a church girl too.

Fernando was Heidi's boyfriend, and that was the extent of his identity to us.

July 2012
He kept showing up and sticking around.

August 2012
It didn't take long for me to see Fernando for who he is, not for who he is dating.
He is a sweetheart.
He is a sensitive soul.
He is a fast learner, working on guitar, voice, cooking, Mexican dance, and the Japanese language.
He has a protective mother.
He has about a million little brothers and sisters.
He is the son of an alcoholic catholic.
He will do anything to be helpful to others.

September 2012
We were at the Welcome of Cadets at the Centennial Memorial Temple - an energetic, theatrical, brass-band-infused Salvation Army event, surrounded by flags and uniforms.

I was quietly aching for the gospel to be proclaimed.

"Tell 'em about Jesus!"

It was proclaimed.  Commissioner Israel Gaither preached about the grace we see on the cross of Christ.  He said that our response to the cross is to follow Christ.

That evening, Fernando knelt at the altar to pray.
He was joined by a young Christian man.

As Fernando put it, that night he "sealed the deal" with God.

March 2014
I cannot believe the beautiful work of the Holy Spirit that I get to witness in this guy.

Fernando is a true soldier.
He's fighting a spiritual battle, like the rest of us, but he's actually engaging in the fight.
Every time I see Fernando, he is serving somebody else.
He is the errand runner, the mopper, the box-carrier extraordinaire.
He's fasting and praying for the victims of human trafficking.
The hair is still there, but the bracelets are long gone.

He's following Christ. He's taking up his cross.

Thank You, God, for the chance to witness Your miracles.

Friday, March 07, 2014

the dignity of skin

Humans are so beautiful!

I love that there is a Human in heaven who is advocating for me.

I love that on the throne there is a Man, in the center of the universe, being worshiped forever.

I love that all of humanity was rescued by this one Human.

He dignified Humanity by condescending to become a part of it.

If flesh and bones are honorable enough for Jesus to live in, then they are highly honored - beautiful temples for a beautiful God.

Muscles and blood and hair and skin and sweat and emotions and hormones and sleep and toes...
Jesus had them.
He therefore brought holiness incarnate into each of those places,
like the breath entering the dust in Eden.

My humanity is not longer an excuse for sin. My body is not an unholy burden, but a home for the Living God, to be cared for and fully mobilized.

The dust is now glorious dust.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


I have this organic love for homeless alcoholics. See yesterday's post for more on that.

I think a lot of Salvationists have an organic love for homeless alcoholics. We are known for our good deeds for the poor, and we welcome the marginalized into our congregations. We are more comfortable around depravity than your average Christian.

A lot of Salvationists are called to the prodigal sons of the world. We rejoice when we read that Jesus hung out with prostitutes and drunkards, because we do too! Yup, we're like Jesus. We want to reach out to the rebels and the sinners.

I guess there are sinners all around us though, too. What about the big brother of the prodigal son? He lived in his father's house the whole time, but he didn't appreciate the house or the father. The older brother was just as lost as the younger.

The older brother represents the religious people who think they are fine, who think they deserve special treatment, but who don't know the Father.

Sometimes those older brothers can feel like our enemies. They are like "the man" or "the system" that we are trying to be free from.

"Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”" (Joshua 5:13-14)

So the older brother is just as lost as the younger brother,
and the Lord is on neither our side, nor our enemies' side?

Then we all need grace.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

For Alison's Sake

As the sun set on Monday, freezing and orange, I was thankful that the day was nearly done, for Alison's sake. Some days need to end quickly, and as the sun sets a sense of relief arises.

The Monday sun really couldn't set fast enough for Alison's sake.

We were driving from Manhattan to Camden, NJ, my birthplace. "Can anything good come from Camden?" From the best city on earth to perhaps the worst.

The sun was setting on her Manhattan season. Tomorrow the sun would shine on her again, but in Camden. Good things are happening there, against all common sense.

I met Alison on my first Sunday as assistant pastor on 14th st. She was asleep on the front row with a Target bag full of empty beer cans.

Man, she's seen a lot of sunsets.
I've seen a lot of sunsets with her.
Sleeping on the steps of the church, detoxing on the couch, Bible studies, deaths, jobs, tutoring children, boyfriends, girlfriends.  Some days that she would yearn to end quickly, and other days when we wish we could hold the sun on the horizon and not let it drop.

But Monday's sun lingered a little too long. For Alison's sake I literally prayed along I-78 that the sky would turn dark and the day be done.

She made it though! Many tears scattered from 7th avenue, through the Holland Tunnel, and all the way down the NJ coast. She was leaving behind many familiar things.

I knew the house from a block away. Large, lit up, rocking chairs on the porch. Got close enough to read the house number and a tiny, tasteful Salvation Army shield stood next to #2804.

A motherly figure emerged, along with two golden dogs, and embraced Alison. Now we could smell the homemade lasagna and the multiple Yankee candles.

I could almost see the junk of Manhattan fall off Alison. Even though it was late now, a new sun was already beginning to dawn for her.

Her room was so thoughtfully set up - bed made, chocolates on her pillow, shampoos on the dresser, a stack of books nearby, and a big sign that said "HOME".

Good morning, Alison!