dedication

this morning, with our wonderful little church family and some of my natural family, too, tim and i dedicated hazel to God. hazel’s little buddy lilia was dedicated, too, by hear parents ryan and alicia. (alicia and i get together each week with our girls. they are three months apart in age. so this was very special to do together).

tony and jeremy lead us through the event, charging us to take seriously the priviledge and weight of shepherding our girls’ hearts. remember always and most of all to pray for them, jeremy said, especially when we see God doing things in their lives that we might not understand. and tony exhorted our families (spiritual and natural) to love God before these girls, as that is what makes the biggest difference in terms of making Jesus desirable to children. tony and jeremy know us and they know hazel. and i could feel their affection toward us and commitment to us as they led us through this moment of dedication.

we shared some of our kingdom hopes for hazel, along with some scriptures we have on our hearts for her. i’m going to record here what we said, so that we can remember. and so that our Collier family who lives so far away and could not be present can also know. 🙂

Kingdom Hopes

Tim:

  • that she would know Father’s love for her personally and intimately
  • that she would not carry burdens the world wants to put on her, but that she would dream far and wide, seeking Jesus’ kingdom as an outflow of that intimate relationship with Him.

Brooke:

  • that she be filled with supernatural joy and lead with that foot (water) and have a clear and bold voice of truth and discernment (fire)
  • that she learn to hear and obey her Shepherd’s voice from an early age, and walk by the Spirit her whole life

Scriptures

  •  “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:30-32 NLT)
  •  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
  • “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27)

We presented the girls with hand-made bible covers for their Jesus Storybook Bibles, crafted by me and alicia. And then everyone clustered around us and prayed over our families. The prayers of our friends and family over hazel are so precious to me, not mention powerful and effective, i am sure.

And now, here is a little slideshow of some of the photos from this very special morning. It was really a beautiful time.

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until faith becomes sight

i want to hold out hope for the transformation of broken and addicted friends to become free and whole followers of Jesus. and sometimes, like last week, there are lots of signs of life that feed that hope and fuel my fervent prayers. last week dave asked to be sent to mission bible institute to recover once and for all (miracle). last week we saw joe for the first time in weeks and discovered that during his absence he had weaned himself off all but one beer per day and wasn’t suffering with any of his usual shakes or hallucinations as a consequence. last week i had coffee with marie and she was tender and motivated, so we talked about maybe getting her into her own place so that she could stand on her own two feet and eventually get visitation rights with her little daughter. last week i felt so hopeful for all of them, praying for and with them with conviction and confidence.

but this week faith and sight are not lining up. this week dave is still around here, mostly sober and sheltered, but no longer interested in going to mission bible where he might have gotten some deeper and more lasting change. this week when i called marie to ask her on another coffee date, she hurriedly told me that she wasn’t doing good, had relapsed, and then hung up the phone. this week i ran into joe in a pile in the alley behind my house, his face covered with shame and his body saturated once more with alcohol, unable to walk or to remember how long he’d been in this state.

over and over, again and one more time, our friends choose death. it is SO hard to watch. cynicism and discouragement come knocking at the door of my heart.

over and over, again and one more time, i recall the goodness of my God, that He sits enthroned above the flood, faithful even here. i choose praise.

so there’s a small group of us who are devoting ourselves for the next six weeks to study and pursue of the gift of healing by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. we’ve come to believe that He is inviting us to participate in His ministry of healing as part of gospel proclamation to the west side. and even though i know that walking through inner healing prayer with a 50-something person who is addicted, homeless, institutionalized, and a victim of past/current abuse is a great deal more complicated than walking through inner healing prayer with a church-born-and-raised 20-something person who’s had more going for them than not… i have to believe that the Holy Spirit is sufficient to the task in both situations. i just don’t know how, which means it’ll be all glory to Him when we begin to see Him move.

we’re knocking and asking for this anointing to heal. we hunger for this so because we want wholeness among ourselves, but also for dave and joe and marie and others like them.

pray with us.

remembering why prayer rooms matter

my dear friend heather and her husband david are following a nudge from the holy spirit to plant a prayer room in for their community in Cascade, which will be located in their basement! i love the radical, counter-cultural move they are making by doing this. and it has the finger-prints of papa all over it.

heather has written a blog to chronicle it’s unfolding and invite her community into this new thing. you can check it out here. and, if you live in Cascade or Ada (hey, i never know who might be reading these… maybe some of you are in that area!), i hope you’ll sign up for a slot (or two, or five).

heather asked me if i’d write a little “guest post” for her about my personal experience with the sacred space afforded by prayer rooms like this. here is what i wrote:

heather, dear old friend of mine, asked me if i’d be a guest blogger in this space, to share a little bit of testimony about how Papa has used prayer rooms (like your Cascade Prayer Room) in my life. and i’m so happy to do this because i am so hungry for others to have similar experiences.

for a year i lived in an intentional, missional community on the west side of the city, and there we had a 3-stall garage behind our house which was converted into a prayer room. for at least two hours each day, i was in that space, usually with others, and often alone, practicing prayer. over the course of that year, and since, the intentional seeking of God’s face in prayer rooms has been my means of “abiding” in Jesus and staying attached to the Vine.

here is what i am certain of: that God wants to know us and to be known by us. he is more jealous for my heart quieted before Him than He is for 50 years of my Christian service. yet all of life seems to be an enemy to that intimacy. there is so much to do. in fact, as i write this post, i am in the middle of more transitions and massive projects than i have been in a long time and everything in me rebels against taking the time to get quiet before my Father.

but prayer rooms help. “the righteous run to God and are saved” (prov 18:11). so many times when my heart was overwhelmed or i was in desperate need, it has been sweet relief to run to Him and be saved. of course, we run to Him in our hearts first, but the physical space to which I could run, as a symbol of the inward turning of my heart, has been important. in prayer rooms, i can unravel, pull off layers of defenses, shed burdens, and pour out my heart to the God who commands me to do just that (lam 2:19).

in my prayer room, i have heard His voice, cried out to Him, received His guidance, felt His love, allowed Him to rearrange my insides, interceded for others, worshiped deeply, and affirmed my commitment to Him. He has always met me there. and so even now, whenever i enter that space, i am met with a rushing waterfall of memories of His goodness to me in that place. it’s a place where i remember who my God is, and who I am. i don’t mean to make this sound as if the prayer room is magical or some necessary medium through which we must pass to meet with God. but i do believe that prayer rooms offer us something qualitatively different from the hurried prayers we pray on the way to work, or the “quiet time” we attempt to have at the kitchen table. and because so many other brothers and sisters have likewise met with God in that space, and the Spirit of God fills such places where His people seek Him, encounters with God in the prayer room include a certain thickness of His presence that I can’t quite find words for.

this matters. and it matters because He wants our hearts. our husband is inviting His bride to come and sit with Him a while, far from where to-do lists and piles of laundry distract. He wants to give Himself and His kingdom to us! maybe a few hours in a prayer room is a way of positioning ourselves to receive from Him the good gifts He stands poised to give to us.

oh, man was it ever good for me to take the time to write that out, though the result is bumbling and insufficient, i fear. good because i haven’t had a good chunk of time alone with Jesus in longer than i care to admit. and when i took the time to sit down and remember times when my intimacy with Him has been flourishing, it makes me a little thirsty again. it’s  a nudge to return to what i know to be true.

the myth of a nice little life

i’ve been chewing on this passage from Walking With God by john eldredge and wanted to share a bit of it here:

i want two things that are mutually opposed — i want to live a nice little life, and i want to play an important role in God’s kingdom. and it’s in those times that i am trying to live a nice little life that i make decisions and choices that cause me in small and subtle ways to live outside jesus. the shepherd it headed one direction and i am headed another. not to some flagrant sin — that’s too easy to recognize. instead, i’m simply wandering off looking for the pasture i deem best. i don’t even think to ask God about it…

[there are times when to remain in Him] we need to pray some more. do it again. seven times if necessary. but sometimes i don’t want to pray anymore. i just want to get on with things. i just want to [live] like a normal person.

a very dangerous way of thinking.

as christians we don’t get to live a “normal” life, and accepting that fact in all the details of our lives is what allows us to remain in jesus. i remember a friend admitting something like this about his family vacation, “i don’t want to ask God if we’re supposed to go to Hawaii this year. i just want to go.” and so you can see how the collision of our desire to live a nice little life and our need to reamin in jesus can bring about a sanctification of our will, where all things are truly subjected to Christ.

but there’s something we need to be honest about: part of us doesn’t really want to hear what God has to say.

really. even after years of God’s rescues and surprises and blessing upon blessing, there’s a part of me that gets irritated when someone says, “let’s ask God.” the act itself is a disruption. sometimes it feels like grinding the gears. stop? now? ask God? i’m bugged. that’s part of it. and the other part is, if we do hear something, we’ll have to obey…

i know something of this. i don’t ask because i don’t want to know. if i know what God thinks, then i’m faced with the decision of whether to follow His counsel or not. what was initially just a quandary or a moment of confusion because an issue of obedience. i don’t want that sort of clarity. furthermore, i don’t want God messing with my approach to life.

and so we come back to holiness. to ask is an act of holiness, because we are seeking to follow our shepherd. to live by faith in him. then we are faced with the choice to obey what we hear, and our holiness is deepened.

this “nice little life” thing is really in the way. (pp 89-91)

church is everywhere (and other small thoughts)

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my coffee was particularly good today, i must say. i spiked it with cinnamon and allspice and drank it with soy milk and agave. i ate a grapefruit, peeling away the membranes to eat those sweet little juice pods in their purest form. and also two fried eggs and gluten-free toast. consumed more slowly than my usual, whilst listening to some teaching from my home church.

t was at “dude church” this morning, eating breakfast with his guys and praying with them, as they do every sunday morning at 8 am in jake’s apartment. i enjoyed the stillness of the morning hour alone. i have been considering inviting a few women here who are becoming friends to start a “chick church” at the same time on sunday mornings, at my place.

i’m falling in love fast with “hobo church.” kiersty went with me today. pastor bill (who, as it turns out, has a day job as an art critic for a local television station and a long career as a journalist) preached about comforting the afflicted and reflected on the fact that in the church were he’s been put down to preach for 33 years, there aren’t a lot of comfortable folks needing afflicting, but rather lots of afflicted ones needing some comfort. in the basement afterwards, with our plates full of instant mashed potatoes, baked chicken, and over-cooked veggies, we found some seats , and we gathered some stories from the people seated at our table (this morning we ate with jean and george and kim and shirley and robert). if there’s one thing a person who is homeless and/or an alcoholic has a lot of, it is stories, and usually if you can pull on one thread of story, a whole spool will come tumbling out. this openness is so beautiful to me. on the way out, i saw our neighbors from the “chiropractic office” and introduced myself. they remembered t from the time a couple of weeks ago when he helped them carry some things upstairs. their names are dave and dorothy. i  want to bake muffins for them. i want to help them find a car, since theirs was totaled this week in a hit-and-run.

maybe we’ll go to africa one day sooner than we thought. not in an ultimate sense, as in picking up our life and moving it across an ocean, but in a shorter-term sense. there’s an invitation on the table to perhaps lead a team on a trip to algeria and/or uganda next year. though we’ve lots yet to find out about it before we can make a decision, i think our hearts are inclined toward yes.

this week t and i have been co-leading our first attempt at daily, corporate evening prayer in the boiler room community here. we’ve been trying just to have our ears open to the holy spirit and then to gently nudge the course of the hour in the direction we sense He’s taking us. i feel a synchronicity we have not worked at, but which is naturally present when we lead together in almost any context. i have also felt it when we’ve co-lead book discussions with the Transit students from last year, or when we spontaneously have opportunity to love on someone who is hurting. together, we find our way through and something rich and meaningful is given. so, the idea of also co-leading a trip to africa with him feels like a marvelous adventure, another opportunity to grow in our ability to partner in leadership, as well as to experience together a continent that we individually have concern for and history with. i need t. i’m better with him beside me.

evening prayer has been so very good. it’s like something broke and there is this release and this joy in seeking His face together. i am deeply certain of His presence with us and anointing over it. prayer this week has been the book end of each day. corporate prayer builds intimacy at rapid-fire rates, and i’m finding that my heart is opening up in deeper love for each person who shares that space with me each night. i feel this might be part of how He makes us into family.we are praying about whether or how to continue with this after the initially set two weeks. the Shepherd will direct us sheep into rhythms that are life-giving, but i have to admit that i hope He’ll lead us to continue on in much the same manner, only perhaps with one or two days of rest from it each week.

i get to go to Michigan this week. i get to hold claire and support her mom and dad. i’m a little scared to go. because i know it’ll rip the still-fresh scab off the wound of my homesickness. just when it starts to heal…

some smaller things:

  • the way the light comes through the south-east windows of our apartment on clear-skied mornings makes me feel beautifully melancholic.
  • i’m going to create a cookbook. it’s going to be gorgeous. wait and see.
  • a woman named Momma Ginger, whom i found on etsy.com, is making slippers for me out of orange corduroy and ivory-plaid flannel. they are so stinkin’ adorable.
  • i got a new cookbook for the day care, which means that this week the kiddos get to eat some new things like a risotto with greens and buckwheat crepes and carrot-parsnip soup with rye toast. yes, they eat this stuff!
  • t got an award from REM Wisconsin for his “spirit of support” with the developmentally disabled adults he works with every day. afterward, his supervisors went on and on to me about what a gift he is to them. i’m a proud wife.
  • still doing my morning photos quite faithfully (though today i missed my window of opportunity)
  • we got a trial membership to Netflix because we wanted to watch The Business of Being Born through it’s streaming option, but now i fear we may become hooked because we realized how many great documentaries and unique films we can get access to through it.
  • t scored a great hard-case guitar case through craigslist this week for pretty cheap, which we were able to pay for with an unexpected and late-coming wedding gift check. he’s thrilled with it and keeps saying so.

campus angel

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i think that tim is becoming a campus angel. sometimes this is what being a state coordinator for Campus America ends up looking like. sure, he does some recruiting of students to get prayer started on their campuses, but mostly he unearths students who are already doing it, or on the brink of doing it. and then, once they’ve been discovered, he (and some of his friends) get to alight on their campuses for an evening to encourage them and pray with them and resource them to press on.

tim has been making campus visits for months now. he makes the drives out to various cities like Eu Claire, Platteville, Milwaukee, Green Bay and sets up appointments to sit down with the prayer-room-planing students at each one. he comes home excited by what God is already doing in each place. maybe he’s only being humble, but he always makes it sound like all he did for them was give them a yes and an amen.

last week, i got to tag along with him on two campus visits, each to schools where 24-7 Prayer rooms were up and running.

first, we went to UW-Oshkosh on a Tuesday evening, along with 6 other friends from the Madison Boiler Room. about 100 students from every student ministry group represented on campus came together in a university building for a worship time, followed by testimonies about prayer, and then a noisy but well-organized sign-up session that resulted in 2 weeks worth of hour-long prayer slots being filled in under 20 minutes. then we all walked the short few blocks to the house where the prayer room had been installed, to dedicate it and kick off with the first prayer slot. these students are PASSIONATE and they are oozing with  joy because they are seeing the fruit of their wildest prayers coming together in this unified call to prayer. they prayed Big Prayers. the time with these students was mutually encouraging, leaving them with recognition and affirmation that they are on the right track, and leaving us with a desire to have a bit more of that kind of faith we saw operating in them.

on thursday, tim and i headed to UW-Whitewater, which is tim’s alma mater. some of his old buddies from Campus Crusade were doing two days of unbroken prayer in the basement of their “Man House.” we didn’t have any predetermined appointments with anyone there, so we simply showed up, and let ourselves into the prayer room. the writing on the walls gave me the sense that they might be a bit tired, but plugging along faithfully in spite of it. we walked around and surveyed the messages and prayers already poured out on the walls of the space, interceding in prayer for their lives and their campus accordingly. i received a few words in my spirit to leave for their crew, so i scribbled them down on a page from my journal and left it there for them.

and this weekend i’ll send tim off on another angel visit, this time into campuses where there are not yet any known student groups praying. he’ll go in blind, along with some friends, and prayer walk for each campus and those they meet while walking there, as part of what is known as the Wilder Project.

i love that this is part of our lives… this privilege of coming alongside students with holy fires in their bellies to see their worlds rearranged in this crazy Kingdom. we get to be there with them. we get to let their incredible faith rub off on us. we get to hear the stories first, and then tell them to a watching world. we get to see, in so many disconnected places, the One Thing that God is doing in this generation. and we get to marvel at His work.

hobo church and the return of evening prayer

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last night, snuggling into the plush down and bamboo heaven that is our bed, where tim was folding laundry on the other half of it, i said to him, through a sigh, “honey, i feel hopeful.”

yes, to use an over-used but apt phrase, hope is dawning in my heart. and so much in one day!

1. hobo church

the church was one that we found last week on a walk around our neighborhood. a walk tim made me take because i was in a melancholic mood and he figured it’d be good to get me outside of the house and outside of myself. it’s a small white, wood-sided church with its main sanctuary doors sealed shut and a no trespassing sign for good measure. but the side door has a hand-scrawled note in permanent marker on poster board, that says, “no alcohol or alcohol drinking allowed inside.” followed by a short description of when the building was open. i told tim that the nature of this sign indicates that there are probably a goodly number of hobos to be found around the place. we resolved we’d visit for Sunday morning service the upcoming weekend.

we put on something a little more nice than we normally wear to the modern, contemporary services we normally attend in madison, and walked the two blocks to the tiny church. we went in that side door with the sign advising us that alcoholic beverages aren’t permitted and followed our ears down to the basement. as we rounded the corner, we saw several folding tables at which sat probably 20-25 hobos! and there was a counter opposite with three middle-aged men serving up spaghetti, cole slaw, and garlic bread. though we were pleasantly surprised, we DID want to go to service, so we inquired of the servers, who directed us upstairs, and told us to be sure to come back down afterwards and have something to eat.

the sanctuary is very small, with only a couple dozen pews, and on them sat approximately 8 people. the preacher, a 70-something gentleman holding a methodist song book, waved at us when we came in and then continued on with the litany, which was periodically punctuated with commentary from another 70-something man whose name we gathered to be Eugene, and who appeared to have some axes to grind with The World, which was going to hell in a handbasket. every time Eugene interrupted he was kindly patted on the arm by the woman in the pew in front of him, and asked to shush. the preacher made lots of jokes, a behavior that seemed congruent with the smile lines and general joy that covered his countenance. he spoke about All Saints Day (which was yesterday, didn’t you know?) and the fact that each of us has a place in the creation of God, before, during, and after life as we know it. the singing was off-key and off rhythm, but it was hearty.

a woman named shirley introduced herself to us after the service. she was the one who’d been patting eugene’s arm and shushing him during the sermon. now she wanted to tell us a bit about her family — the best place ever, she said. she’s been a part of the clan since 1962, back before they had a building. the first minister of the church was a recovering alcoholic and he had desired to create a mission in which others like him could have support and encouragement to recover as well. so for many years they centered their communal life around that purpose, even having up to 10 homeless, recovering alcoholics at a time sleeping in various rooms of the church (everywhere but the sanctuary). they kept the doors open all the time and folks could come in to shelter from the weather, get a bite to eat, or doze. shirley shone with pride as she gave us this tour guide through the church’s past. then she gave us a tour, and every time we would pass a lock or a sign that instructed people about Dos and Don’ts, she would scoff and remark about what nonsense it was.

t got a plate of food and we found a seat at a table next to a guy our age, named ryan. his story of homeless had to do with currency trading failures and credit card debt combined with a fierce stubbornness and refusal to admit defeat. for a year he’s been staying in shelters and taking his meals at places like this church, all the while scheming how to get a Big Break if he could only find some cash to reinvest in the markets. all around us as we talked, men sat at nearby tables, mostly quietly. i was itchy to be able to do the rounds, to learn more faces, to hear more stories.

finally when the lunch line closed at noon, t and i gathered ourselves and our jackets and walked out the door. we saw the car belonging to our neighbors at the “Chiropractic Office” parked outside, and the older couple it belonged to, and whom t had recently helped carry some things inside, getting inside of it. we walked home, hand in hand, and i waited for t to say what i thought (and prayed) that he would. he said, “i really liked being there.” i said, “me too.” we decided we’d like to come around again. and again. and see what God does.

but, you see, it felt like God saying, “i see you, sweetheart. i see those longings not yet dead for living in my kingdom among the poor and the addicted. i like that you want in on that and i’ve put that in your heart.” so here, a mere two blocks from our house, lies a community of people who my heart is drawn to on multiple levels. and, gratefully, t’s heart is also bending that way.

2. evening prayer

(here i will cut and paste some of what i wrote to my fellow boiler room leaders about the topic)

on tuesday night  jake and tim and i took the Transit girls to Oshkosh for the launch of their 24-7 prayer room and two weeks of unending prayer. there was LIFE over that place and over those students…. a vibrancy and expectancy of God’s ability and desire to radically change their hearts and their campus. i started remembering all the times that i have tasted that fullness, the sort of vibrancy of spirit-drenched prayer and radical obedience that makes worship songs make sense, and i nearly wept for missing it. late that night when we got home, tim and i were laying in bed processing the evening and i shared my heart with him about this, my longing for MORE. and, to my surprise, he agreed with me and prayed out that something is off, that he’s at the end of himself and wants to repent of smoothing things over and being content with things staying as they are. we kept praying together for quite a while and the Lord gave us a couple of specific things to request in prayer for our community, then tim also felt this nudge to begin a short season of more intensely seeking God in prayer… making the sacrifices of sleep and schedule if we have to, because we’re convinced that God has more for us and we want to lay hold of it. and in that moment, i realized that i was no longer willing to try to talk myself out of my longing for more. I don’t buy that because we’re not in a certain phase of life (college) we cannot have the singleness of passion, that quality of whole-heartedness. I want to see the life of the Spirit of God over us; i want to see us praying with expectancy and experiencing more fruit of the kingdom in our individual and corporate lives. and i’m ready to wrestle God for it. we both are. i see now that there are lots of folks in our community also ready.

SO tim sat on this all week, each of us praying into it in our own prayer times. this weekend we checked in with one another about what we were sensing and we felt nudged to initiate a season of whole-hearted seeking in the form of nightly gathering in the upstairs prayer room from 9 to 10 pm from now until the 13th (when we head to Stockbridge on a pilgrimage). after that, we’ll discern what God might be saying about whether to keep it going, alter it, or be done. we just wonder what God might have in store for us when we give Him plenty of space to speak into our lives.

through all of this, my spirit is quickened again, and i feel strength returning to me at the mere thought of doing this… of being unabashedly desperate for Him and open-hearted for Him to rock our worlds. i keep thinking of one of Tony’s favorite sayings, “we order our lives around prayer, rather than ordering prayer around our lives.” that’s how i’m thinking of this endeavor.

so, there it is: hope dawning.

thank you and come, Lord Jesus, come.