Friday, March 1, 2013

The Times They Are A-Changin'


My new home
It's funny how the Lord gives us previews of when a change is going to take place. For me it was 7 months ago in June when he convicted me of turning Hollywood into an idol and that contrary to my own opinion, I may not actually be called there forever. You may remember this from my June newsletter:

"The bottom line is I've got to be open to go wherever the Lord wants me and it might not always be Hollywood. And frankly, my call to write is an extremely portable calling and can be done from anywhere."


Over the following months, I came extremely close to moving out of Hollywood once in October, but it just wasn't time yet. Come December however, I knew. By January 31st, after finally understanding how badly I needed to start taking care of myself and after months of prayer, I moved an hour south to Huntington Beach.


Greg & Veronica
The doors the Lord flung open - at the last minute, as always, thank you - were undeniable. The extremely short story is that I really didn't know where I was going, but didn't much care because I just knew I was supposed to go. I thought I was going to stay with my friends, mentors, and Pink Cross team members Greg and Veronica, but the Lord had other plans. When does he not, right?

One night, 2 weeks out from moving and after having potential leads from multiple friends fall flat, I decided to email a bunch of churches in the OC asking if anyone had a room in their home they'd be willing to open or rent out. 42 churches later - yes, really - and multiple visits to potential homes, I got an email from a woman at Saddleback church.

Lani

She told me her name was Lani, that her circumstances had very recently changed, and that she wanted to meet me. We met that  afternoon - now 1 week out from my move date - and hit it off immediately. After about 30 minutes of chatting she told me that if I wanted it, the room was mine.

It was only later that I realized her home was 2 short miles from Greg & Veronica's place, 2 miles from the ocean, and 5 miles from my friend Brandt
who's also seen
Brandt
his fair share of hard crap in the arena of loving and serving people.

A week later and here I was, renting a room from a woman I'd just met and not having a clue what taking care of myself was supposed to look like.

Now that I've been here for a month, I've gotten a chance to reflect on the last 7 years of serving and have slowly realized just how hard a run it's really been. The following is a list of what my last 7 years of walking alongside of folks has looked like:

Cancer, Lou Gehrig's Disease, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Schizophrenia, Anorexia, Bulimia, Narcissism, Cutting, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Pedophilia, Rape, PTSD, Secondary PTSD, Pornography, Pornographers, Porn Stars, Pimps, Prostitution, Stripping, Pornography Addiction, Compulsive Masturbation Addiction, Sadomasicism, STDs, Prescription Pill Addiction, Heroin Addiction, Alcohol Addiction, Adultery, Homelessness, Burn Out, Suicide Attempts, Mental Hospitals, Death Threats, Witchcraft, Curses, Demons

At 3 months shy of turning 30 and reflecting on the extreme zeal of my 20s, I'm realizing that when it comes right down to it, it's not about anything I've had the simultaneous privilege and difficulty of being involved with in vocational ministry. It's not about Hollywood. It's never been about Hollywood - or any other location the Lord has or will ever plant me - it's about Jesus. Plain and simple.

It's also about running the race well and being able to be in the game for the long haul. And truthfully, if I want to have even a shot in the dark of that happening, I need to allow myself the time, attention, and care that I bend over backwards for everyone else to experience to manifest in my own life - or as Veronica so aptly put it one afternoon after church, "It's your turn to be on the operating table."

So what will living in the OC look like?

Gracie and my healthy breakfast of diced salmon, garlic, onions, stewed tomatoes, and couscous blended with scrambled eggs and a side of blueberries

First and foremost, it will look like pursuing health. In all areas. Mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. I've found a Christian therapist that I'm going to begin seeing twice a month to help me tend to my mental and emotional health. I've also found a Christian naturopath doctor to help me tend to my physical health, and I'll be relying on a whole lot of Jesus and a pretty good dose of Veronica, Wendy (a new friend and pastor's wife in the area) and 2 local church families to help me tend to my spiritual health.

It will also look like a whole lot of writing - you know, the calling I've been talking about stepping into but not making any time for because of the tyranny of the urgent for well over a
Happening. Intentionally. Finally.
year now. Yeah. That's about to happen in full force.

I'm also not going to chase down ministry opportunities out of a hardcore desire to people-please and prove myself anymore. To be totally transparent, I have felt like I've needed to exponentially produce some kind of super-holy-awesome Jesus thing every single month for the last 7 years with these dang newsletters so all of the amazing people who financially support me think I'm worthwhile and worth my keep. I cannot even begin to explain the kind of stress-induced life I've allowed myself to live because of this. The fact is, it's all Jesus' ministry, not mine, and if the team is on board with it, even when it's not booming, great. If not, it's not my problem. That's for the Lord to sort out. Not me. Lord knows I throw myself into hell for the sake of rescue every single chance I get. At least I used to. I'm going to be much choosier and more prayerful from here on out concerning who and what I involve myself in. I think at this point I have to be.

In as far as the here and now, the on-call-edness of my life and ministry is as demanding and robust as ever. I never really know what issue to expect next or who will show up lugging it around, but that's just the cut and dry way of Kingdom living that I'm learning not to mind. This season for me is one of transition, as I

Oil pulling with coconut oil is another healthy practice I'm incorporating into my life. Look it up and give it a try!
don't see myself settling in Huntington Beach for longer than necessary, and will be a time to regain health and strength, legitimately pursue writing (because my-oh-my have the last 7 years given me a lot to write about), seek the Lord for my eventual next steps, and continue serving Jesus and people along the way. Oh, and I'm going to do fun stuff I've always wanted to make time for but never have - like learning to cook for example. And probably dancing. Because stepping into healthy living should probably be the opposite of a suck fest and actually be awesome and worth my time and effort.

All of this to say, I am very excited to be in the season I'm in and though it's pretty big-time out of my comfort zone, it's totally necessary and is going to be amazing. I want to encourage you as well to be kind to yourself and take care of yourself. You get to steward your life, so listen to and trust the Lord, even when like me, you pretty much have no idea how to do any of it right. It doesn't really matter. Jesus is ridiculously kind and gracious and will guide you to places of wholeness, peace, joy, and anything else you deeply need. All you have to do is take one step at a time, one day at a time. And like David wrote so many years ago, you can remain confident of this: that you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the LIVING.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Strip Club Outreach

Packing and shrink wrapping gift baskets
for the girls at the club!
Finally.

After ministering at over a dozen porn conventions over the years, my dear friends from Pink Cross and I finally got an opportunity as a team to shower Jesus' love over precious and amazing women behind the doors of a strip club.

Personally, I've been wanting to do this for forever, so when I got the email that the Lubbens were having everyone over to their home in Bakersfield to both put together gift boxes for our annual porn star Christmas outreach AND put together gift baskets to take to the women at the club later that night, I was ALL IN.

Needless to say, walking into a strip club is an interesting experience.

Maybe it's just in my blood to notice music, or maybe that's just the way the Lord always speaks to me, but I couldn't help but notice that as we made our way from the parking lot into the club, gift baskets in hand, we were greeted by Axl Rose wail-cry-scream-singing Knockin' On Heaven's Door.

This of course cracked me up because I love when the Lord gives us little winks like that. And hello, talk about a really weird, but really beautiful picture of ushering a little piece of heaven into a whole bunch of personal hells.

The lighting in the club was extremely dim, the music was blaring, and young girls were walking around in bright bikinis and skimpy lingerie. Some were taking drink orders, some were talking with customers trying to get them to follow them into the back for a $20 lap dance, some were already in the private back rooms, and others, one by one, were dancing fully nude on stage, their blank eyes refusing to make eye contact with anyone. Men ranging anywhere from 21-80+ were staggered all over the giant open room sitting in cushy chairs, standing against the bar and back wall, silent and zeroed in on each girl as she took her turn on stage. At one point, about 15 girls got up on the stage at once and stood in a line, clapping to the music, I assume so the men could get a good look at them all and decide if they wanted to spend some one-on-one time with any of them. That sight in particular looked like something straight out of a sex-trafficking documentary.

It was heavy to say the least. But to tell the truth, for me, it felt like home.

Our motley crew that night included two ex porn stars, a microbiologist, and a missionary. Shelley has been building a relationship with the club owner for the last 4 years, so by the time we rolled in, they basically rolled out the red carpet for us. No joke. Despite the dismal atmosphere, the favor and kindness were through the roof.

As we hung out on the club
Jennah, Shelley, and me snapping a quick shot in the bathroom between praying for women
floor talking with the girls, giving them gift baskets, wishing them a Merry Christmas, and hearing their stories, it dawned on me how present the Holy Spirit was both in the club and in many of the girls. We prayed with women out in the open, directly on the club floor and hidden away in the bathroom, and were received with overwhelming thankfulness.

There were many tears and much pain revealed, particularly with one absolutely beautiful, kind, broken-hearted young African American woman who shared with us that her father was recently committed to a psych ward for attempting suicide. We gathered around her in the bathroom, laid hands on her, prayed, and held her as she wept.

Other young women shared stories of trying to put themselves through school and told us about their precious children. One woman marched right up to us after she got off the stage, apologized, and said that she wished she didn't have to dance while we were there because it felt awkward
Veronica and an awesome girl in the bathroom of the club
knowing we were there to give them presents and love them and she didn't want us to see her like that.

Every single woman in the place wanted a gift basket and many who were in the dressing room when we were on the floor came and tracked us down in the bathroom when they saw all the other girls with baskets. We actually ran out, had to go home to make more, and come back!

Coming back was an altogether different experience. The second go-round was just me and Veronica. The girls were completely stunned that we showed back up like we said we would. By that time there was a new wave of girls on shift and we got to meet and talk with all new women. Veronica ended up getting hit on by a much older gentleman who was stunned into silence after asking her what she did for a living, expecting a sex-work related answer, and hearing a sweet, but make-my-day-esque Chilean-accented "I'm a microbiologist."

I think the thing that struck me the most about meeting these women and listening to their stories, hearing their laughter, and holding them through their tears was how unbelievably easy it was to love them and how willing they were to receive that love. I know all of this already like the back of my hand from volunteering with Pink Cross in porn ministry for the last 4 years, but there was just something different about this experience. We were on their turf, in their town, at their place of employment, taking up their time, invited but sticking out like sore thumbs with gift baskets and smiles, and they welcomed every minute of it.

At the conventions, the women are much more difficult to connect with. There are literally thousands of porn fans swarming all over the place, surrounding them at all times. The only real chance we have of having time with a woman is in the bathroom. And typically, porn stars can be much harder and more jaded on the front end of trying to connect. Understandably. But in a strip club, at least in this one, we could walk right up to a girl and talk with her for 20 minutes. I'm not naive enough to think that this is the case at all clubs because it surely is not. But this particular night was incredible.
 
Greg, Veronica's husband, praying for us and quietly singing worship
songs in the club parking lot
while we were inside 
All I know is that the setting for love, and Love himself incarnate, is all around us, perhaps especially in places that seem daunting or even straight up scary. But if the Lord promises in 1 Corinthians 13 that love never fails, 1 John 4 proclaims that God himself is love, and Romans 8 begs the question that if God is for us who can be against us, what have we really got to lose? As the bride of Christ, we are called to usher holy, radical, selfless love into every place we go and over every beating heart we encounter.  

Paul writes in Romans 13:8-10 "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not covet,' and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

I want to encourage you to take a chance on loving people extravagantly. Do this for everyone, but dare to go out of your way for whoever the Lord shows you is outcast or downtrodden in any way, shape, or form. This can be someone you personally know or someone you haven't even met yet. Keep your ears tuned up and your eyes open. We are all dying to be loved extravagantly and unconditionally, and if we as the hands and feet of Christ will focus ourselves long enough to sit up and take note of the needs around us, which may include walking into our local strip club, homeless shelter, after school program, crisis pregnancy center, to our next door neighbor's front door, our shy co-worker's desk, or even to our very own church, then we need to do it.

I promise you, you will encounter the living Christ in ways you never imagined. You will see him staring back at you through the eyes of those you stop to love. And I want to hear about it. I want to hear your stories. We are all in this together. So write me. Or write a blog. Or call your mom and tell her what happened. Do something. Whatever you do, be intentional. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Choose to be a light and inspiration to others, both to the ones you are loving extravagantly and to the ones hearing your stories of the Spirit of the living God working through you. We need each other. We need to know each others stories. We need to intervene in each others lives.

Hebrews 10:24 encourages us to consider how we can spur each other toward love and good deeds. So go ahead. Go for it. Love for the sake of Jesus and the beating hearts before you. Share for the sake of encouraging (read: placing courage into) your brothers and sisters to go out and do the same.

You have it in you. We all do. I can't wait to hear your stories!
The Pink Cross Christmas & strip club outreach team:
Abby, Jennah, Heather, Veronica, Shelley, Teresa, Robert, Greg, Scott, Garrett

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Confessions.... Honestly, What Have We Got to Lose?

It's come to my attention that I'm really dishonest.

It's also come to my attention that everyone is really dishonest and the reason for this is because we are all desperate to be loved and accepted for who we are and will edit who we are based on what we think will gain us the most love and acceptance.

This is so messed up. I'm done with it. At least, I'm working on being done with it. So as always, for the sake of transparency, I'll forgo whatever sense of dignity I have - no matter how edited it may be - and just be honest because where there is confession, there is healing.


Here it goes:

I'm REALLY opinionated. But I've learned how to suppress my opinions for the sake of peace - even if it's a false peace. This is only wise half of the time.

I listen to a lot of Calvinist teachers. But if I have to pick a side that I most biblically agree with, I'm with the Arminians.

I find labels damning and demeaning.

I swear in my personal life. Not a ton, but enough. This apparently is a huge deal to a lot folks in the church, especially the older generation. I won't $&%*#@! swear in front of you, don't worry.

I live in constant fear that if I'm totally honest about who I am and what I think, I'll become homeless and destitute because all my missionary supporters will think I'm nuts/godless/evil and stop supporting my missionary efforts.

I fully support breaking rules.

I also fully support not breaking commandments.

I judge people. A lot. My unholy trinity of sin is pride, accusation, and judgment. It's all silent. It's all completely horrifying. I am constantly aware of it.

I am religious. As unreligious as I am, that's how religious I am. I hate this about myself.

I think way more people are complete jack asses than I will ever let on - especially folks who say they are Christians. This includes me.

I'm really undisciplined, have always needed to be pushed to be excellent, and have absolutely no idea how to do it on my own. Subsequently, I'm awful at doing things by myself.

I often question if any of the good things I do for the Lord will even "count" in the Kingdom because I talk about them in order to keep people informed on what's going on in my life and why they're supporting me. To me this translates as NOT being done in secret, as the Father honors. This causes GREAT unrest in me and I have no idea what to do about it.

I'm in the middle of getting my first tattoo and I will very likely get more at some point in my life. I know this is a controversial topic among Christians, but don't understand how tattoos are any different from braces or hair dye. I have actually received pointed, curse-laden hate mail from a brother in Christ for my decision to get a tattoo. I promptly removed him from my life.

I'm sensitive.

For better or worse, words effect me deeply.

I avoid conflict. Like, at all costs.

However, if you make a rape joke, or in any other way, shape, or form, joke about porn culture, you will hear from me. With gusto.

I voted for Obama. And I may just vote for him again. Get over it.

I'm also pro-life. This does not just mean that I'm only against abortion, it also means that I'm against war and capital punishment.

I have the gift of faith, but am often appalled by my inability to trust God for the things nearest to my heart.

Though I never invite it, I like spiritual warfare. It makes me feel like I'm alive and doing something right.

I've said mean things about Rob Bell. I was wrong in doing so. I publicly apologize.

I love Carly Rae Jepsen's hit single Call Me Maybe and will intentionally sing it just to get it stuck in your head.

I'm pretty sure I'm addicted to Chapstick. I guess it could be worse.

I can't stand being comfortable or staying in one place for too long. My sojourner spirit throws a complete fit. I am most at rest when things are in an uproar.

I love LA. But I often feel like I am in limbo here and am not totally sure why.

I struggle daily with loving, accepting, and celebrating the shape of my nose, the protrusion of my left ear, the size of my chest, and my teeth ever so slowly becoming crooked again. Living in LA does not help with any of this.

I have absolutely no idea why the Lord has called me to use my voice when I'd much rather just sit and listen to people.

I am a virgin, but I have a plethora of sexual sin in my background that includes "everything but." I'm simultaneously uncomfortable with the title because of this, but am also thankful for it because somehow, it still rings true.

I have taken the morning after pill. Not because I had sex, but because I was young and terrified and had no idea if I could get pregnant doing what I was doing.

I thought I was a whore for years.

I've never been drunk, done drugs, or even smoked cigarettes. I'm often annoyed to have none of these things in my background considering the people I tend to love the most are the ones who have all and more in their pasts and presents. I know and acknowledge that this is silly, but it still annoys me.

I'm formerly bisexual and Wiccan.

I've kissed a girl.

I don't masturbate. But I do pick my nose. I have a nose piercing, gimme a break.

I am profoundly lonely and always have been. I manage it well with the Lord's help, but I cannot pretend it isn't a part of me.

I talk to myself a lot.

I just stopped sleeping with a teddy bear last year.

I'm still really new to being a part of the church and community - and even wanting to be for that matter.

I was way more honest about who I am and what I think before I became a Christian. This breaks my heart daily. It should not and does not have to be this way. I know this and am working through it.

I'm more afraid of being judged and condemned by brothers and sisters in Christ than is even close to being healthy. This makes my heart for those outside the faith burst at the seams even more.

I get annoyed easily. I've learned how to control my mouth. I have not learned how to control my facial expressions. You'll often see an opinion come across my face before you'll ever hear it come out of my mouth.

I'm open to birthing a child, but I'm not stoked about it. At all. At ALL, at all. I really, really like my little bod and I would really like to keep my holy bits in tact, thank you. So many children need to be adopted, right? That's what I thought.

I want to fall in love and get married and it pisses me off when anybody tells me to cool it. I'm pushing 30, have got the heart of a lion to do insane things for Jesus, am tired of running off to do crazy crap by myself, and would really love a fella to covenantally do them with. YOU cool it.

I'm terrified to marry a man who has porn addiction in his background and what that will mean for that part of our marriage because I'm already hyper sensitive to all things porn related. I am also pretty convinced that this will be a definite part of my future, because hello, look at our culture. And though I'm terrified on one level, I'm blessed to have the background I do on another level and am looking forward to loving and continuously pointing him toward Christ in this area.

I plan on having a lot of relations with the hus. This shiz has been on lock for far too long.

Every dude I've ever had serious feelings for, whether we were dating or not, I seriously thought I'd marry. This has proven to be heartbreaking on many levels and on every occasion.

I always feel like an outsider. Always.

I am a no nonsense girl and like it that way.

I am rebellious. I've learned and am continuously learning how to submit this rebellion to Jesus and harness it for his purposes and his glory. He told me over two years ago that part of my calling is to be "a rebel for the rebels." This still makes me smile.

I really, really, REALLY love Jesus. I will worship him and follow him as best I know how for the rest of my life. This is the one and only thing I am sure of.


For the record, I am semi-terrified to share all of this. To me it feels like airing a ton of dirty laundry. But if the Kingdom is a holy laundromat and Jesus runs the biz, I suppose we all have the opportunity to wash and come clean.

Let us be a people who practice confession and are healed. I need healing from thinking I'm going to be ripped to pieces for being who I am and being honest about it. Now that I've gone first, will you follow suit?

Comment and confess here, my friends.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Love Songs

One day I will sing you love songs. Tonight I sing alone and pray that when you hear my voice, you will know it. And as if from some long ago dream, you will know me. And you will find me.

I will never stop singing you love songs. From here to Kingdom come, my love. From here to Kingdom come...




Saturday, March 31, 2012

To Live Is Christ...

I like doing things that I should usually think twice about. Case in point: last Thursday night.

Sarah and I host a prayer night in our home every other Thursday evening and after this particular prayer sesh, all I could think about was getting an M&M McFlurry from McDonald's.

So she and I and two other girlfriends, Jessie and Stephanie, took a short drive to the golden arches on Sunset & Western. If you've ever been there, you know that this particular location isn't the most savory, but it's the closest one we've got, so we make it work. Also, every single time we ignore the drive-thru and actually venture out of the car here to receive our death-in-a-bag yummies, something nuts happens. Always.

On this particular evening and for the majority of the time we were inside sitting, eating, and talking, it seemed like the only notable thing that would occur is that we ran into and introduced ourselves to a homeless man named Luke who Sarah and I recognized from his position on the board of the neighborhood council.

It was only right before we were getting ready to leave that Sunset & Western reminded us that it always delivers.

That's when we heard the screaming.

Sarah had a clear view of him the entire time we were inside. The only words she could make out through the thick glass windows were desperate, shrieked "Help me!" "HELP ME!" cries as cars cautiously crawled through the drive-thru, quickly rolling up their windows as they passed him.

The four of us sat in silence, listening, watching, and wondering what exactly was going on and what would happen next. He began shaking and violently staggered toward the window. It was in that moment that we saw his eyes and collectively realized that what we were witnessing was not just some unhinged hobo screaming about loose change outside our local fast food joint, but a man with a name, a story, and a face contorted to convey the reality that he was dealing with spiritual forces far greater than what we were even seeing manifest right before our eyes.

We looked at each other slowly, again collectively realizing that he was standing in front of the doors we needed to walk through in order to get back out to our car, that there was no way we could leave without walking right passed him, and that he wasn't going anywhere.

Sarah leaned in, her wide open eyes drilling holes into the table, and began to pray. "Lord Jesus, be with us. Holy Spirit, surround us. As you command your angels concerning us, send your warring angels to battle so that we do not have to. Lord, be our shield. Go before us as our forerunner and as our rear guard. Bring us peace. In Jesus name, we rebuke the spirit of fear and we go out knowing we have victory in you. Lord, be glorified. Amen."

With that, we scooted our chairs back and stood. I turned to Sarah and said "I don't want you to walk out first. Let me go first." ...You know, because I weigh a buck five and am so menacing and strong.

Actually, the real reason is because Sarah tends to get attacked by crazy people on the street. Seriously. There's a pattern. But that's another story for another time.

We threw our trash away, I looked back at the girls and said, "Ok, here we go."

Immediately upon pushing the glass door open, the man was in my face. "Hey. Hi. Hey. You got change? I'm hungry. You got change?"

My porn show training kicked in instinctively. I planted my feet, threw my shoulders back, and met his invasive posture with gentle confidence. "No man, I don't. I'm sorry. I only have a card."

He brushed passed me and asked each girl the same question. Jessie held her change purse up close to her chest, eyeing him, but ready to give him some money.

He questioned her a second time when he noticed the purse and then without waiting for an answer, looked us all over and said "Yo, I'm Terry. You wanna hear me rap? I rap, ya know. I'm gonna be the next big thing, soon as I get off the street. You wanna hear me rap?"

I looked him in the eye and smiled. "Yeah man, let's hear it." I glanced at the other girls. They all chimed in, smiling and encouraging him. "Yeah! Yeah, go for it!"

For the next 20 minutes, we stood around him in a semi circle listening to rap after rap after rap, clapping after each verse and hook. Though we were all completely engaged in listening to his words, I couldn't help but laugh to myself about how the simple presence of four young women paying attention to him was an unmatched ministry in and of itself. I also found myself wondering why the man swaying to his own beat before us was not the same man we saw moments earlier staggering under the weight of demonic oppression.

As we listened, clapped, and laughed to lines like "Hey love/ I really love you a lot/ We go together like tissues and snot" I found myself looking for an in to ask him how we could pray for him. The only problem was that he was so visibly excited to share his raps that he didn't allow for any time to interject anything other than adoring accolades.

"Ok, ok. Last one." This was the fourth time he said "last one." As if on cue with my thoughts, he launched into a rap about heaven and hell, angels and demons, and a hook about prayer.

I smiled to myself, waited for him to finished and said "Ok, ok so you're rapping about prayer. Do you pray? What do you think about God?"

His eyes shot down to the pavement and then back up at me. "Yeah, you know. I pray, I pray. I pray to get off the street and make it with my music, you know. Those rappers out there ain't seen nothin' like me yet."

"Cool, so how can we pray for you?"

He looked at us, shock registering in his eyes, if only for a moment. Then, he launched into a rant about how he doesn't care about money and even if he had a ton of it, he just didn't ever want God to take away his music - and that he was afraid he would.

"God's not going to take away your music. That was a gift from him! You don't need to worry about that, ok? So we're gonna pray for an anointing over your music. What else?"

"I want a woman. You know, it's lonely. And I don't want no bitch who don't understand my music. I need somebody who's gonna support me and my music. I want a wife."

I raised my eyebrows, laughed, and said, "Honestly, I think that's a really fair request."

We gathered around him and prayed. First Sarah, then me, then Jessie, then Stephanie. As each girl took her turn, Terry either howled out "YES, Lord!"s or tried unsuccessfully to interrupt our prayers.

Soon after we were finished, another homeless man on a red bicycle rolled up. His name was Darnell, and unlike Terry, was a very quiet man, with a very sweet and broken spirit.

Terry and Darnell had known each other for a few days and did some panhandling together. At one point, Terry asked me if I knew that Darnell was a bartender. I didn't realize he was joking, but when we saw the sad look in Darnell's eyes, we realized something was amiss.

It turned out that Darnell was a serious alcoholic and was trying and continuously failing to quit. Sarah talked with him for a long time while the other girls and I engaged Terry. Regardless of Terry's boisterous disposition, I had one ear on the other conversation the entire time and when I heard Sarah say, "Well, how about we pray for you? We just prayed for Terry." I interrupted Terry, looked at Darnell, and said "Yeah, man. Let us pray for you. Would that be ok?"

Terry immediately chimed in. "Man, they just prayed for me! They prayed for my music. They just prayed for me."

So we gathered around Darnell, following the same order we prayed in before. This time though, Terry had joined the circle and was standing between me and Sarah.

As Sarah prayed and asked Jesus for complete deliverance and healing from alcoholism, I heard her voice rise and get louder about halfway through. I know her well enough to know that this is never an accident and something was going on. I didn't find out until after we got home that as she was praying, Terry started whispering under his breath and into her ear "It's ok. You don't gotta pray that. He's fine. You don't gotta pray for healing."

Meanwhile, Darnell sat perched on his bike, head tilted upward and arms and hands raised all the way up to heaven.

Even though I didn't know about Terry's under breath comments to Sarah yet, my spirit somehow knew exactly what was going on as I realized that whatever had a hold of him was manifesting as we prayed for Darnell. As soon as I started praying, he began whispering and coming onto me.

"Oh Heather, I love when you pray. I love hearin' your voice. Girl, you so beautiful. You more beautiful than the Virgin Mary."

I couldn't concentrate. Without even thinking, I just reacted.

Slap

I back-handed him in the gut. "LISTEN!"

He let out a soft "Uhh" and straightened up. I kept praying. I even saw him turn his palms that were previously hanging down by his side upward for a couple seconds.

After Jessie and Stephanie prayed, Darnell wiped tears from his eyes and thanked us. Sarah turned to him and very softly said "Ok, now, we've prayed for you. But you have to take the first step. How about you give me that bottle I see in your back pocket?"

His dark skin, worn from a near constant exposure to the elements, seemed to redden. He looked at her sheepishly.

Terry chimed in laughing and said "Yo man! You got some booze on you right now? What is it?"

Darnell pulled the bagged bottle out of his back pocket and quietly said "Beer" to which Terry replied, "Oh, that's not booze. That's ok. Give it to me and I'll finish it for you! I don't got a problem with drinkin'!" Darnell handed it over and Terry drank whatever was left.

We spent two hours on that pavement talking with Terry and Darnell. The remainder of the time, Terry asked questions about the bible and theology, while Sarah and her bible school degree listened, engaged, and answered him like a boss.

He eventually ended up telling us that we wouldn't believe the kinds of things people on the street believe about religion and that he believed that when Jesus comes back, it's going to be with tons of chariots and UFOs.

We invited both of them to church - multiple times - and about 15 minutes before we left, a young, white, baby-faced parking lot security guard who knew both men drove up to us, came and stood with us, and smiled and laughed with us as our conversations wound down.

We said our goodbyes and while our new friends both shook the other girls hands, Terry turned to me and gave me a giant bear hug. I went with it, laughed, and told him not to forget to come to church on Sunday.

I asked Sarah later that night why she thought Terry was so different when we were with him compared to when we were just watching him through the window. She looked at me and said very plainly, "We prayed. I guarantee if we wouldn't have prayed first, tonight would have gone down much differently."

It's now more than a week later and I still can't shake the fact that this encounter was both a game changer and a sharp reminder to take a chance on loving people - even and especially when our first reaction is to not want to - and hello, our guy was dealing with demons.

Terry is like many of Hollywood's homeless. He came to this city with big dreams and stars in his eyes only to see them - along with his very life - unfulfilled and swept into poverty.

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more he teaches me that ministry is a series of interruptions. So take the time to be interrupted. Allow your life to be an outpouring of holy pauses. In the face of all your agendas, whether longterm or in the here and now, consider the way of Jesus. Even when he had a specific destination in mind, he wasn't too busy to stop, love, teach, speak the truth, pray, heal, and engage.

My prayer is that we all learn to truly live by living and loving outside ourselves. Let us live for God first and others as a close second. Let us know that no matter the cost, it is worth it. Let us take chances and risks for the sake of showing a very real Christ to a very broken world. And let our mantra be as the apostle Paul wrote from his prison cell, "To live is Christ, to die is gain."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Prayers From Your Missing Rib On Valentine's Day

I have a journal that I've written in for the last 7 1/2 years that I will give my husband one day. Each entry is to him and for him - some funny, some vulnerable, most prayerful.

By publicly sharing tonight's journal entry, my hope is that it encourages you to pray - either for the spouse you already have, or like me, the boy or girl wonder partner-in-crime you pray to one day have.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Let us love one another well. Let us love one another in advance. Let us love one another as Jesus first loved us.


02.14.12
10:02pm

It's Valentine's Day. I fasted for you today. And I'm praying for you now.

Sweet Jesus,

Thank you for this man, though I don't see or know him yet. Thank you that you have custom designed and built in him a love for you that runs so deep, a courage that outshines his wildest dreams, and a strength that honors your name and your name alone.

I pray you teach him the depths of your heart. Reveal the secret things of heaven to him, Lord. Encourage your son, Father. Speak love over him right now. Rejoice over him with your singing and let him hear you! Give him dreams and visions, Lord. Increase his faith. Bring life-long brothers alongside of him, teachers, mentors, friends.

I pray your word would be his heartbeat and that your thoughts would be the rhythms of his mind. Bring clarity to him right now, Holy Spirit. Put wisdom on his tongue. Whatever he is asking you for in this moment on this day, I pray that it would line up with your will and you would graciously and joyfully give it to him.

Grow him, Lord. In the places where he is weak, in the tender spots that he wants no one to see, let him know that he is loved beyond belief. Father, I pray his dad would tell him that he is proud of him - and that he loves him.

Shield your son from evil, Lord. Guard him from deception and lies. I pray that truth would be branded on his heart and pounding through his veins. Holy Spirit, fill him daily. Continue teaching him to take every thought captive unto the obedience of Christ. Guard him in all purity, Lord. I pray for a heart and mind that turns from sexual perversion and falls at your feet.

Lift up your son, Father. I pray humility over him. I pray he'd be honored in your sight. Put inside of him purpose and a passion for your purposes - an untamed desire for your will. I pray you'd use this man to set hearts on fire for the sake of our King.

I pray, Lord, that you place vision inside of each of us that lines up flawlessly and fantastically. And I pray that when we see it, you remind me of this prayer, Jesus. Mold me to fit him. The things that he most needs in a life partner and helpmate, teach me in advance. Put these things on my heart - even if they seem totally random, Lord. I pray that I would bless him, Lord. And I ask all of these things for him to me.

I pray, Father, for honor and respect from other men. I pray women would see him and feel safe and protected in his presence without even knowing why.

I pray we'd love each other well, Lord. I pray we would steward each others lives so completely and rightly that it would make you laugh with joy. Lord, I pray that we would bless your heart. I pray for Spirit-filled communication in all areas of life. I pray we'd naturally bring out the best in one another and that we would be iron to each other, constantly sharpening one another. Lord, I pray you would use our weaknesses to show off your strength. Let the world see through two crazy little ones of the King that Jesus is exactly who he said he was.

Lord, route out arrogance in each of us. Teach us to forgive quickly. Use us, Lord. And let him know that he'll be able to lead me just fine. Route out any anxiety he may have pop up in this area. Lord, I pray peace over him. Teach him how to steward his life well. Protect his sleep. Protect his family.

I pray he'd be a man of continuous upstanding character. And Lord, I pray he'd recognize me when he sees me. I pray you tell him about me. I understand we get to choose each other, but you already know who the choice is. So set it off in his heart, Lord. Let it be right. Let it be holy. Let it be unmistakably divine. Cross our paths.

I love you. I know he adores you. Thank you for the unseen. Thank you for the privilege of giving me years to pray for him in advance. Thank you for him - whoever he is and where ever he is, thank you.

10:54pm