"And I said to the one who stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than the known way.'" (Minnie Haskins)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mercy Ministries Conference Reflections #1: Shalom

After a long hard week of sitting by my fragile grandmother in a hospital, I sat surrounded by church leaders and lay members all eager to learn and reflect at the 2012 PCA Mercy Ministries Conference. Thurmond Williams, a pastor of an inner city church in Baltimore, kicked off the night with a talk entitled “In the City’s Shalom is Your Shalom.” The title came from the familiar passage of Jeremiah 29:7.

“Also seek the welfare (Shalom) of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare (Shalom) you will find your welfare(Shalom).” Jeremiah 29:7

The text for the talk though was based on Isaiah 58, as he challenged our familiarity with the Jeremiah verse and the word Shalom. In the world of mercy ministries and community develop, Shalom is a stable vocabulary word tossed around in books, lectures, and sermons, but do we really know what it means or are we just using it because it’s something everyone else uses?

So what is the definition of Shalom?
I thought the answer was easy – peace, but then was quickly humbled as Thurmond explained that the Hebrew word Shalomis much more comprehensive than our English word for peace. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines peace as a state of tranquility or quiet, as freedom from disquieting thoughts or emotions, or as harmony in relationships. The Hebrew word Shalom goes beyond this definition. It is a complete peace – in Hebrew it actually means ‘nothing missing, nothing broken.’ And according to Strong’s Concordance Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord.

Wow. When we sit around talking about the Shalom of community, we must not keep our talks merely to bringing peace – as we know it today – to a neighborhood. That is only one piece of the puzzle. Let’s talk about a community that is described as “nothing missing, nothing broken” and thus what it would look like to bring a foretaste of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." And He who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also He said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."” Revelations 21:1-5

Why should I care about the Shalom of the community in which I live?

Isaiah 58 reveals God’s people to be worshiping God according to how they had been instructed – instructions that had been designed to help them draw near to God. Their treatment towards others – especially those on the bottom of society –exposed though that they were worshiping with their lips but not their hearts. It revealed that they did not know the God they worshiped (Jeremiah 22:15-16).

Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the LORD.” Jeremiah 22:15-16

If I desire to worship God, I ought to be reflecting God and being transformed into His image. Our Lord loves justice (Isaiah 61:8). Do I love and seek justice? It is not a choice. It is a command. What does God require of His people? But to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). How we respond to the poor and the oppressed disclose what we think and feel about God. If we truly love God, it will be expressed in how our actions towards others.

“Neutrality and silence [on issues of injustices] always helps the oppressor and NOT the victim… worship of God is NOT complicity with a system that treats others as less than the image of God!”Diane Langberg

How can we say the love of God exists within us when we close our hearts to the oppressed? As we see who we really are and what Christ has did for us, then we will love God and love our neighbor (Isaiah 6, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Colossians 3:12-17). We are not saved by what we do, but what we do reveals whether we know and love God.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Darkness I Fear

Apparently there's this little hormone that can mess with the chemicals in some women's brains right before their periods and cause them to be depressed. I remember this starting to happen to me in college. I remember finding some place I could be alone and just sobbing. Took a few of these moments before I connected them to my period. Making that connection helped a ton. In the midst of the depression I would tell myself it wasn't real. Still hurt, but lost its power.

It has been a few years since I have experienced that depression... guess that's why when I started taking the pill which apparently has a nice strong dose of this said hormone... it rocked my world and took me awhile to understand that it was back. And while my body set to regulate to the pill it just kept happening over and over again.

Can't believe I'm writing this down for ALL to see. I've come along way these last few years...

Been mulling it over in my head trying to figure out how to express it to others. Here's what I wrote. Didn't intend to write a poem. Just sort of happened. And of course since it's me... it is an unconventional sort of poem following its own rules.

The Darkness I Fear

Brought to the edge of the cliff
By one little hormone messing with my head.
Innocent comments or actions
Send me spiraling downward.
Everything I see
Everything I hear
Seem to prove my greatest fears.
A hollow aching in my chest.
Large unstoppable tears.
Pushing away the people I most want.
How do you explain it to others
When it is all in your head
And yet feels so real?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Building my house.

As  new wife, I thought going a little deeper into Proverbs 14:1 wouldn't be a bad idea. Doing studies like these, I don't like to think I just know what a word is. I try and define key words and go deeper into everything. Doing that with 'joy' really did a lot for my heart and gave me a greater appreciation for that word. I thought I had known what it meant to be joyful... so anyways... here's the beginning part of my study. None of this is earth shattering. Just a good reminder for me.

"The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down." Proverbs 14:1
"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." Proverbs 24:3-4
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (synonym of understanding)." Proverbs 9:10

Wisdom builds a house. So how do you get wisdom? The fear of the LORD is the beginning of the wisdom. What is the fear of the LORD? The Fear of the LORD is reverance of God's majesty and a dread of His wrath. (Matthew Henry Commentary). [Side study - LORD: Yahweh (Hebrew): He who is. I am who I am.]

Insight/understanding establishes a house. According to the Matthew Henry Commentary this references the foundation on which the house is built. What am I understanding? The knowledge of the Holy One. Makes sense. Without a foundation of knowing who my God is, how can I fear Him? How can I stand in awe of Him?

"Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart." Psalm 119:34
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5
"Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly." Proverbs 14:29

Obedience flowing out of moral obligation doesn't work. All the things that will build my house - make me a better wife and mother - flow out of my understanding of who God is and my fear of my LORD. A gentle & quiet heart. Being fast to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Seflessness. Forgiveness and reconciliation. Taking up my cross.
O LORD, more love for Thee! More love for Thee! Marriage and relationships in general reveal my heart and how little I must know and fear Thee! More love for Thee is my prayer!

"Lord, Dissolve My Frozen Heart."
Lord, dissolve my frozen heart
By the beams of Love Divine;
This alone can warmth impart
To dissolve a heart like mine.

O that love, how vast it is!
Vast, it seems, though known in part;
Strange indeed, if love like this
Should not melt the frozen heart.

The love of Christ passes knowledge.
The Love of Christ eases fear.
The love of Christ hits a man’s heart;
It pierces him like a spear.

Savior, let thy love be felt,
Let it’s power be felt by me,
Then my frozen heart shall melt,
Melt in love, o Lord to thee.

Monday, December 12, 2011

update in pictures

I am so far behind blogging... so what do I do when I am on hold with the Fulton County Tax Office FOREVER waiting to uncover a mystery... sign Christmas cards and update my blog.
Shannon came down for wedding dress shopping.
Meant the world to me!
My adopted, beloved niece - Celeste - just LOVED Shannon!

Drove up with Joy to get a load from Oma's storage unit.
Oma here is telling me to say 'yes, and then go and do whatever I want to do.'

Jeremy & I in Charleston, NC.
Loved getting to just walk around the cities with him and just be together.

We surprised Jeremy's grandma for her 86th birthday.
Here is sweet Grandma Taylor with her 4 boys.

Jeremy and I outside Grandma Taylor's home in Nashville, TN.
Jeremy & I at Sun in My Belly for Angie's big meeting.
I think I may be a bad influence on him. :)
He makes me laugh and smile so much!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Safer than a Known Way: August Letter

It amazes me how while God continues to keep me in Atlanta – and I am fast approaching 8 years here – He still finds ways to dramatically change my world. The newest change in my life was brought by a small present given to me a couple of weeks ago. And while this present may have been the smallest one I have received to date, it brings the biggest change.

Three little diamonds on my finger and suddenly my world has been filled to the brim with phone calls, endless details, and sweet visits. That’s right, people, God brought into my life an amazing man who has so gently and patiently pursued my heart.

I met Jeremy – yes, he has the same name as my brother – Taylor at East Point Church two years ago. He proposed late June 23rd in the sanctuary of our church. He told me he had forgotten his Sunday school book at church and wanted to go and get it. I almost gave him a hard time about abusing his deacon privileges, but when I saw the Bible on our normal pew with ‘Christy Anne Taylor’ inscribed on the cover I was thankful I hadn’t. We plan on marrying at East Point Church on November 12.

The upcoming wedding also means an upcoming move, as a year ago Jeremy bought his first house in the one of the neighborhoods surrounding our church. One of the things I love about East Point Church is its parish type mentality and desire to encourage its members to move into the neighborhood. I LOVE this, but am a little sad that it will mean saying goodbye to my home in South Atlanta. I know the relationships I have developed over the past 6 years though will continue… and I always knew when it was time for my ministry to partner with a new neighborhood I probably would be leaving to set up residency there. Selfishly I am praying that neighborhood is in East Point. I would love to have my church become a direct partner with my work. But even it if it is not… I trust God to make a way for me to build relationships in the new community, and thankfully Jeremy is very open to living in inner city some day.

Other personal happenings:
·         I chopped at least 5 inches off my hair – shortest it has been in 5 or 6 years. Loving it. Enjoying the ease of wearing it waving. Feels good in the hot summer months.
·         Drove up to Chattanooga to help my grandmother move her collection of holiday decorations out of a 10 by 10 storage unit. Drove back to Atlanta with a car load of decorations for a friend at church. My grandmother kept me laughing the whole entire time.
·         My beloved big sis drove all the way from Nashville with her friend – Melba Anne – to do a little shopping with me. I hate shopping, so it was really nice to have her with me and meant the world to me.
·         In July I wore one dress for a month, so that I might spend some intentional time learning about sex trafficking in Atlanta. A co-worker and I started a blog to share what we learned - http://one-dress.blogspot.com. A friend of my mine in North Carolina has taken the blog over for the month of August. We hope to keep passing it along and might even have an Atlanta charter school taking it on for a month.

Safer than the Known Way: September Letter

One of the favorite parts of my job is walking the streets. Around here I get one or two raised eyebrows when I say that, as well as an occasional crack about ‘my other job.’
Generally everyone knows what I mean, though in the neighborhood there occasionally arises some slight confusion, such as this morning when the man in the black sedan with Pennsylvania tags asked me – with the sun beaming and birds chirping – if I needed a ride. When I said, ‘No, I live here,’ he in turn said, ‘I can still give you a ride if you know what I mean.’
Yes, I knew what he meant. And no, I am not looking for a way to earn a few extra dollars to support my drug habit. Are my eyes yellow and blood shot? No. Drug free thank you very much.
Despite occasional run-in’s like that, I do enjoy walking the streets.
I love walking the hilly streets lined with historic bungalows. I love soaking in the sun and listening to the hum of birds singing. I love not sitting behind a desk on a beautiful day.
But walking the streets is not my way of escaping from work. Walking the streets enables me to know my neighborhood. I walk with a folded 8 by 10 map of South Atlanta, pen and small notebook. I jot down changes to the infrastructure, mark code issues, and note the presence of new neighbors. By walking the streets I can tell you which areas have neighbors looking after neighbors and which are so marred by vacancies that the few remaining residents are vulnerable to break-ins and other criminal activity. And I can tell you where the drug dealers have set up shop.
Probably what I love most about walking the streets are all the random, unplanned opportunities it provides to interact with my neighbors – from the older man sitting on the front porch eating Ritz Crackers to Ms. Mary who keeps a bird like eye on her street. I love old Eddie Simons calling me up to his porch to tell me he is keeping watch over me. And lately I have loved all the concerned inquiries about the rumors they hear of me moving now that I am engaged; and I love the sighs of relief when they learn my new home is just a short 3 miles outside of the community. I love all these little interruptions – the moments of listening, laughing, encouraging and praying.
And by walking the neighborhood I am known. If people in South Atlanta do not recognize my name, I have been told that all one has to do is say ‘she’s the short white girl with the camera’ and folks will nod that they do indeed know me.
It is good to be known.

blast from the past