Friday, February 29, 2008

Mission Accomplished

No, I haven’t fallen off the planet. Just off to mysterious parts unknown helping lend a cup of water to abused girls. Yes, for friends keeping up with the Hickman’s adventures, we have officially helped launch a safe place for girls abused by some very evil people. Not only are the girls victimized for the benefit of the porn industry including snuff films, (as in “snuffed out” on video for weirdos who get their kicks watching), but some very corrupt politics help keep these guys in business. In short, the girls can’t exactly call 911 for help. The thing you have to realize—all you guys out there—is that porn is porn to these sub-humans. So what you have to do is STOP WATCHING IT! If they couldn’t make money off it, they wouldn’t do it. And it’s the same people who make money off selling illegal drugs.

But our job was not to try and abolish this evil system, although that’s what is needed. We’re all about offering a refuge to girls who are being targeted and need a safe place to hide, mend, learn new skills and get the heck away from these weirdos.

We didn’t quite finish building these absolutely fabulous beds that any teenage girl would salivate to own. But we got the first set of beds finished. Our highly expert team members would like to go back really soon to finish the project. The money is already available for the construction supplies, linens, etc. So if you could help with a little scratch for airfare, we can get these guys back with hammers and saws in hand and finish our wonderful place of refuge for some needy young women.

Thank you, friends, for making this safe place a reality!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In a Tender Waking Hour

I’ve prayed rushing off to somewhere else. I’ve prayed with my hand on the fevered head of my child. I’ve prayed while my husband slept. I’ve prayed beside my child’s crib. I’ve prayed by candlelight but also bright stadium light. I’ve prayed in the massive roar of a conference. I’ve prayed in traffic. I’ve prayed on the floor of my office. I’ve prayed in a rose garden, beneath a cherry tree, in a strawberry patch, under a clothesline, on the side of a mountain, a pond, a rushing stream, a placid lake, and a roaring ocean’s tide. I’ve prayed flying through the troposphere, in a storm, even in a hurricane. I’ve prayed while at the end of my faith when God was quiet, even cruelly silent. I’ve prayed when told, “Stop praying! What’s the use?” I’ve prayed when the last thing I wanted to do was pray. Yet in all the roar of worry, complaints, trials, and terrors that have brought me to my knees, it is in the tender waking hour of first light, when there is only a trace of heaven in the sky, when the stars emote a final pulse, that I hear the Quiet Whisper, like a gong going off in my soul, “Be still and know I AM.”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Prayers for Amy Stockstill

This week we got some news about a young youth pastor’s wife in Baton Rouge who has terminal cancer, Amy Stockstill. Her father-in-law is the senior pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center. She was not supposed to make it through the week. I just received a link to another pastor friend’s blog with a report that Amy Stockstill is “hanging in there.” But what made me weepy was the photograph of the 1500 teenagers standing outside her hospital praying, Baton Rouge General Hospital.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Power Wrench--More Reflections for the Week of Lent

Meditation has gotten a bad rap among some believers. They equate it with eastern mysticism even though meditation was a daily occupation of the patriarchs. The Psalms are full of meditation practices: I will meditate on God’s precepts, God’s law, God’s way, His testimonies (or the great things He has done.) Throughout the Bible we find that the practice of meditating on scriptures and also what God has done on our behalf is of great benefit. David extolled meditation as the thing that made him wiser than his enemies. He declared his time of meditation on God’s law (his expectations of us) his delight. That was partly because it provided him his strategies to overtake his enemies but also because he simply took delight in practicing the presence of God.

But meditation is probably one of the most difficult practices because of the distractions that fill up our lives. I have tried to imagine sitting and writing down all of the things that occupy my mind in a day. The one thing, I confess, that occupies too much of my time is worry. I do that too much. But my mind can’t do more than one task at a time. So when I lay down one practice—worrying—and pick up another—meditation, then my thoughts are refreshed. My mind is renewed and that is the purposeful life of a believer anyway. Imagine how much our faith, influence, productivity, and peace of mind will increase if we will simply lay down the things that bog us down and pick up the lighter things that help us out.

Give yourself a mental break and try it:
Here's a meditation for Ash Wednesday:
Is. 53:4-9

If someone has hurt you, look up:
Ps. 37 and just jot down what you are to do.

If you need hope, try:
Psalm 33, then if you’d like, jot down what happened when you set your meditation on praise

If you are in the throes of deep sorrow, my friend, here are some promises from my personal list:
2 Cor 1:3-6 (I could never imagine this being true, but only through Christ and his grace is it possible)
Ps. 34:18
Ps. 147:3
Is. 61:1
Ps. 56:8
For your travail Ps. 31:9-10

Meditation is God’s gentle wrench. It wrenches your thoughts out of the problems and prepares your heart for the solutions. It’s a tool you can grab any time you choose.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Inwardly I Struggle--Reflections for the Week of Lent

Suffering loss led me to include as a Christian the practice of solitude and contemplation. I don’t want to say what this means to anyone but me; but a film director produced a one year documentary on the life of solitude practiced by the Carthusian Monks of the Grand Chartreuse monastery in France, a film entitled Into Great Silence. So if you’d like to try out a day of solitude, perhaps you could start by watching this film as a meter for the practice. Or for a review, visit Christianity Today.

If you’ve ever attempted contemplation or meditation or any of the worship practices that can only happen in solitude, you might find it’s not readily embraced. We’re accustomed to noise and activity. The first time I went away on a retreat to practice solitude, I couldn’t wait for the time to be alone and not be needed by anyone. But what awaited me was a surprise.

When I was alone for the first day, I did what I imagined. I knelt in a quiet room overlooking a rose garden. I had taken prayer retreats with my church, so I was acquainted with practicing God’s presence or seeking God in a waiting posture, not asking for anything. So I did that for a bit and then the silence became nearly deafening. Restlessness caused me to pace. After two days of solitude, I moved out to the rose gardens where I journaled. By the third day, though, I was finally beginning to relax and become accustomed to the silence. That is when I first noticed God speaking to me. Had he been doing that all along? When I leave behind the noise of everyday life, I find out things like that, that God has been talking, but the place where I live prevents me from hearing him.

The first thing that God showed me was the condition of my own soul. I don’t feel that God does this to make us feel condemned. Women are already innately racked with guilt, so understand that when God does this for me, I sense a benevolent soul hovering over me, guiding me, and helping me to understand why I stumble or why I keep taking the same hills. Then as I begin to repent of said sin, there is a deep sense of sorrow, especially if my sin has hurt another human. When I’m home and allowing my life to spin out of the busyness of activities, then I also adopt a pseudo-spirituality. I justify my actions, anger, judgmental attitudes by measuring my life by the life of other flawed humans. I might tell myself I had a right to say what I said or think what I thought because that person was in error and as a result, their error was hurting me or someone else. But when I go away for a time of contemplation, then I no longer have those people around me as my measuring stick, just the measure of my own sin-sick life against the radiance of Christ. That is why I think such deep sorrow accompanies the first day or so of contemplation.

I plan this Holy Week to discuss some practices that have been left by the wayside in the wake of popular evangelical faith while embraced wholeheartedly by ecumenicals. Some of what we do is beneficial, but others not. I’d like to open a dialogue about the things to which we need to return. If you practice Lenten traditions, please feel free to post your own observations

"The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper … " (1 Kings 19: 11-13)