Friday, November 09, 2012

A Dios sea la gloria!

That's what my Nicaraguan granma would say if she was alive, "To God be the glory, mi'hijita", if she were to read the incredible humbling honor my brother Rudy Carrasco gave me in graciously including me in his list of 14 Latina Christians in America to Know. When I read this story & all that lives between the lines, I stopped & meditated on 2 things:

I humbly think back to how God spared me and my brother from getting on the Tan Sahsa Airlines Boeing 727 plane, on that ill-fated Saturday morning, October 21, 1989. The plane going from Managua, Nicaragua to the USA, was supposed to stop in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The fact that God, who is great in mercy, stopped us from getting on that flight that my mother got on, is just as miraculous as the fact that you are reading my words and you have air to breathe. JUST. AS. MIRACULOUS. My mother immediately went to heaven when that plane crashed, and according to survivor, Vivian Pellas, who told me face to face, "The last thing your mother thought about was you." I believe her now that I'm a mother to a son. I believe I was the last thought in her mind.

The second thing I think back to, is what I wrote Rudy as a thank-you for thinking of ordinary Latina women who are trying to make a difference in the Kingdom of God. Twice a minority can be something to overcome. This is what I wrote to him. Raw. When I hit send, I thought, "Now, why did I just do that? This guy is going to think I'm crazy!" But it's my story. Where I come from, we're story-tellers. We tell stories that are testimonial in nature. We tell stories to remember what God has done. We gain strength from what we've had to overcome.

Dear brother--
Reading your e-mail that my husband Rob forwarded to me brings tears to my eyes. To have a brother like you stand with, alongside, affirm, and empower us Latinas followers of Jesus doing normal, routine, daily life, as well as advancing God's Kingdom on earth, is like a warm fire on a cold day.

I know how hard it is to be twice a minority - Latina and woman in the USA. Yet thankfully, I had a very strong Nicaraguan father who always told me I should care less about what men/women thought about me, and tremble more at disobeying God. That it didn't matter that I had a uterus, the command to "go and make disciples" is for ALL. So he told me, "Woman, speak!" Speak of God of course, not my own thoughts. But the walls have always been there, whether in Nicaragua, Texas, or Arkansas where I have lived & served in ministry. The first time I translated a sermon for a Southern Baptist missionary in Managua, Nicaragua, I was 14 yrs old, and you can imagine this pastor did NOT want me, a woman and teenager, to interpret for him. But my dad said, "She's the best we got, she knows better English than me, you're just going to have to deal with it." And 20 people came to Christ that hot morning inside a Nicaraguan wooden church with no air conditioner, and no fans, and the little abuelitas were saying "amen, gloria, aleluya" at the teaching from Philippians "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death." That was the first time I understood Holy Spirit power, because I was throwing up in the bathroom 15 mins before I went up to the pulpit, where God forbid a woman stood with pants on and not a skirt.....
do you smell what I'm stepping in?
A Dios sea la gloria,
~Ines Velasquez-McBryde

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

True freedom...on #election2012 day

This past weekend 33 women (and one guy, the worship leader) retreated to a beautiful camp to seek God's voice in quietness, solitude, silence in the middle of orange, red, yellow fall leaves in Central Arkansas. I've lost count of how many Silent Prayer Retreats I've led in the past several years. All because one day I was looking for a movie to entertain me on a Friday night, and while scanning the blockbuster aisle, I stumbled on a documentary about Being Still & Silence. I had no idea God's voice in silence could leave me speechless.

On Friday night (Nov.2) I shared my struggle with the woman caught in adultery from John 8:1-11. Struggle. Mental block. Numbness is what I felt a few days before as I read, again...that passage that was making me uncomfortable. It wasn't the nicely-packaged-story, with the nicely-packaged-lesson, and a nicely-packaged-encounter between Jesus and a woman. It was controversial. Scandalous. Naked. Shame. Guilt. Violent. Stoning of  a woman. Blood-thirsty. Legalistic. I didn't want to enter the story...I didn't want to be that woman...I didn't want to be the blood-thirsty Pharisee either, picking up the stone. Savage. I wanted to be the merciful-Jesus. But I wasn't. A friend prayed for me. A pastor. A brother. Spirit anointed prayer. Broke me. Pierced me. Tears. Snot. Shame. Swimming in the sludge of my sin for a minute was quite enough. Quite. Enough. To ask for Forgiveness. Who was I kidding? How could I speak before these women? teach what? hypocrisy? Damn it. Thank you for making me enter the story. I had been walking around it. But I entered it. Found my place. Sat down. Found my view. My spot. Watched it all unfold. Colorfully. Heart beating. My face in a mirror. My shame. My guilt. My wounds. Redemption.

Saturday we woke up in silence. Got ready without saying a word. Ate breakfast slowly. Ahhh! the dream of a mother to eat in silence & uninterrupted. Coffee in a cup. Hot coffee that didn't grow cold as you multi-tasked on a normal morning trying to rush out the door to work/daycare! Heart slowing down. Mind starting to let go of busy-ness. Heart anticipating a rhema Word from God. Discerning the Lies of the enemy. Replacing the holes with Truth.

I do not condemn you, either. 
The one with the authority to condemn, didn't. The ones with the desire to stone: walked away one by one.

Go. Be free. Nah'. Don't worry about it. A beating will take place. But I WILL take it for you. Mercy.

...and sin no more.
Jesus wasn't clueless. He knew her sin. But he said it like it is. SIN. NO. MORE. You can't get any better until someone tells you the Truth, right? preach it bro, preach it, with mercy. grace. forgiveness.

The prayer rooms we entered were intimate:
Abiding Room - with a list of the Verbs of God from The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg.

Forgiveness Room- keep wanting to delete it from the prayer guide, but I can't, women always get stuck there for hours...hard to let go of a hurt, so used to it, where would we be without it?

Renaming Room - intimate. God giving us a new name. New identity. Seeing ourselves how God sees us. I was disappointed I didn't get a name, but He gave me 2 words: "Speak. Stand Upright." Intimate...too much to say.

Contemplation Room - yep. Don't think. Don't ask. Don't read. Relax. Be still. Walk. Nap. Sit. Take in the silence. It's like a Q-tip that unclogs the crap.

Sharing time....too intimate. No room for details here. But nevertheless my friend & sister, Caffhanie Calloway captured it all. She started listening from God and writing a poem about our time. She listened to God. She listened attentively to her sisters. She listened to the tears, the unfinished words, the pain coming out of our throats closing up, afraid to speak the truth of the lies we've believed. She kept writing. Talented. Creative. Rhythmic. Poetic. Raw. Honest. Soulful. She wrote not only for the page. She also wrote for the voice. When she read it with her expressive cadence,accentuating those important words, my mouth dropped. I wanted that voice recorded. That voice. God's pleasant voice. Smiling voice. Voice pleased. Delighting in His daughters. No condemnation.

Funny. Today is Election day in the United States. But true freedom is captured in this poem.

(shared with permission by Caffhanie Calloway - all rights reserved).

She Free

She free
She wit da broken heart—mended
She wit da battered soul—tended
            Her tattered cape flapp’n
            Holey and dirty
                        Yet da King—He clapp’n
She free
She wit da bruised body—heal’n
She wit da heated stare—chill’n
            She swimm’n like dem dolphins
            Her mangled arms gettin stronger
            Needle points and razor cuts
                        The Spirit accepts hah every touch
She free
She wit da untreatable disease—surviva
She wit da unplanned baby—momma
            She smil’n thru hah tears
            She won’t give up cuz dem fears
                        Hands callused and covered in sores
                        But the Son, He love hah even more
She free
She wit da dark eyes—lighten
She wit da weakened mind—fightin’
She covered in mud
She froth wit fatigue
She crawling thru the anger, violence, and deceit
She plummets thru the ravage, the danger, and the wraith
She naked and unguarded
            All she got wit hah is faith
She hit from all angles—chest, arms, and legs
            Bleed’n from self-deception, pride, and dread
She wit da damaged armor haphazardly hang’n on
            Took that seed thru the field wit hah
Body dragg’n low—pull’n, strugglin’—strugglin’
Strength gain’n, gain’n
Love grow’n. grow’n
 She wit da exhausted state—enliven—layin flat to the dirt
            dredging to the line where love comes first
She wit hah crusted fingers—grasp’n
            Wit renewed force abound—
Securely wit’n the Hand she found
She free

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

~leaves fall in the Fall~

So I was trying to be all "spiritual and stuff" in this monastic, silent room at the Arkansas House of Prayer, last October of 2011. Starting slow & tapering down my breathing. Quiet enough to hear my heart beating. Beating for a rhema word from God. Revelation that there's still hope for this struggling heart. I thumb through my Bible. Slowly. Don't want the pages to turn too loud lest I'm not quiet enough & I miss His Voice. Don't wanna miss His voice. So He voices...

Why do leaves fall?

Huh? Wait. I'm in Ephesians. What does that have to do with anything? I'm trying to read the Word but missing some words hanging on a branch. Again He voices...

Why do leaves fall?

I look out the window at the turning leaves. Never grew up with this in Nicaragua. Was always fascinated that in the USA leaves changed to fiery red, bright orange, lightning yellow...and then they fell. Well DUH. Leaves fall because they fall! That's why it's called Fall, remember? I tell the Voice.

Go home & do a search on why leaves fall.

Fast forward to a search at a website called "science made simple". Because Lord knows I need simple. The rhema came alright. It came after digging through some scientific mumbo jumbo about the intricate processes between summer & winter, between the tree, the sun, water, roots, food, leaves... Simple. Yet hard. Yet common. Yet I had never paid attention. I was looking down & not looking up at the trees. 

During the winter there's not enough light nor water to produce food for the tree, so the trees rest and live off of the food they have stored up in the summer. Then the brown got me. The brown color in the leaves that fall is made from wastes left in the leaves. Leaves fall. Let go of this unnecessary waste. If they don't fall, they weigh down the tree inside and out. They stunt the tree's growth. There's no room for new growth come Spring around the corner.

So...moral of my story is... did you know trees poop thru their leaves when they fall?!

Deep sigh. Maybe I'm in the winter of my soul. In need to throw off unnecessary weight, waste. Store up Truth in my heart. Make room for growth. Don't stop my growth. Some things have GOT to go if I'm going to see some Spring in my future. In the wise words of one unnamed brotha' when I shared this story for 3rd time, at Castle Bluff, "I think I've been constipated for a long time".

So this happened last year. And today I found a letter that I wrote myself last year to remember what God taught me thru the Fall leaves. I opened the card and a brown dried up leaf fell off onto my lap. My heart leapt. My rhema came again. At just the right moment. Just when the heater broke down, the car broke down, my heart broke down at the fees associated with said heater, the other car is making strange sounds, hard conversations, hard repentance, hard waiting, hard-to-receive-Grace, choosing not to worry, rebuking the Lies. Just when I needed Him. He walked by me & called my name. Last year's faith was stored up in the mail & I'm living off of it today.

Encounter the person of Jesus in this story: Read Mark 10:46-52.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent Conspiracy Week 1: GIVE MORE

In college I read a challenging, life-changing book about world missions. I read about a Chinese pastor of a large underground church who wrote a letter to another pastor and friend of his in the United States. He wrote to his friend something paraphrased like this, “We’re praying for the American church and for our brothers and sisters in Christ there. It seems that we’re handling our persecution here better than you are handling your prosperity.” I have seen this personally played out in my own life. It seems that I grow desperately closer to the Lord during trials and problems, but it’s easier to coast through life independent of God when things are going well.

When I read the title of this week’s challenge during the Advent Conspiracy, Give More, my mind drifted to what that really meant to me in light of the lesson I learned from that Chinese pastor. How do I handle prosperity? How do I handle consumerism during a season where we’re supposed to “stop and look at Christ” like my friend Sarabeth prayed this morning in church? If God owns everything in my life, how do I give of Himself to others through what He has entrusted me with (all year long, really)? Note to self: whether you have $1000 or $10, the responsibility to manage well what God has given us and for His glory is the same.

To simplify the thought in my mind I came up with this: Give More = Give Differently. The challenge is not to stop giving, right? God is a Giver. But how and what to give? Below I will share 2 ways of giving that I challenge myself with. Perhaps it’ll change how you give the rest of the year.


My 2 year old toddler has the same love language as me: Quality Time. If you want to make him (or me) happy, just sit on the couch with him watching Dora the Explorer or Elmo, or sit next to him while he plays cars. I recently read a blog about an NBA player who is a single dad of two boys. He travels a lot and said the bottom line with his boys is that they need “attention and affection.” That struck a chord in my heart. Even when I think I’m giving my time away, I’m doing so hurriedly, half-heartedly, distracted, with a mental list of what more productive things I could be doing during this time of just “being” with another person. So how about giving your full attention, full affection to those you are spending time with? Wherever you are, be all there!

Give homemade gift certificates to family members and/or friends to have lunch, coffee or some other activity together. My younger sisters love our tradition of “sister time.” Sometimes they ask me, “can we have some sister time this week?” I know it’s time to just spend one-on-one & away from the rest of the family so they can be known and be heard without interruptions. Do you have children? I only have one, but in the course of writing this blog I have been “interrupted” five times because he knows I’m not paying attention to him. He says to me “Mommy, sit here with me, Mommy!” And I stop. And I do sit & look at his eyes when he speaks. And I give him my full attention and all my affection. Laundry can wait. Life can’t.

I have a pet peeve that I may have alluded to earlier. If you didn’t catch it it’s this: I absolutely hate “seasonal giving” and then being stingy with our money the rest of the year. Thankfully, I have been a part of churches that encourage both: to live a surrendered financial life to God during Christmas, as well as every other time of the year.

I have another pet peeve. I prefer gifts that keep on giving. This is partly because I grew up 18 years of my life in a third world country, and being practical is engrained in me. Or maybe it’s also that thing about “don’t give a man a fish…teach him to fish.” I come from a large family being the eldest of seven children. One year I was overwhelmed with the “consumerism” of trying to buy gifts for all of them (and also overwhelmed with a three month old newborn). I realized I wanted to give something different. I didn’t want them to come to expect things-things-things all the time. So they each got $20 and a Heifer Gift Catalog where they could choose to buy chickens or a goat for a family in a developing country. I gave them the gift of having the ability to give. Maybe when they make their first $20, they’ll do the same.

I realize there are a gazillion ways to get involved in our communities locally & abroad. The following life-giving, long-term sustainable avenues are dear to me simply because I have been personally involved in them & they’ve captured my heart.

Living Water International (
I grew up in Nicaragua and know first hand how we had to boil our drinking water to kill germs, bacteria and/or parasites so we wouldn’t get sick. In other countries worse off than my own, women & children walk for hours & miles a day to go fetch water, and dirty at that. Clean water is life-giving, life-changing, improves quality & longevity of life. It costs an average of $1 for 1 person to have clean water for 1 year. Got any change in your pocket?

Gardens in the Desert – (
In 2008 I spent 10 days in a Saharawi refugee camp in the middle of the Sahara Desert in Algeria. In the desert, there isn’t even water underground for wells to be dug. Water is brought in by trucks via the United Nations. I didn’t see anything that grew in the sand. But with $50 you can provide a bag of specially-engineered soil that needs low-water & seeds to help a Saharawi family grow food in the desert (desert that gets to be as hot as 130 degrees Fahrenheit)!

God promises that not even a glass of water given out in His name will come without reward & He challenges us to build treasures in heaven not on earth. So this Christmas (and the rest of the year…), may it be on earth as it is in heaven.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

~i'm afraid of the yeast in my freezer~

So I love my small town and the fact that they have a locally-grown farmers market in the Argenta district. Saturday I woke up and hauled my hubby & toddler promising them to stroll around and breathe better just by going to the outside market rather than a retail convenience store. I'm smiling from ear to ear with my cute recyclable shopping bag. I only came for blueberries really and as I'm tasting a couple that the farmer offered me to taste, before my purchase, I glance over... "OH! and can I get one of those cucumbers you have there?!" The farmer, poor thing, looks at me, baffled, and respectfully responds, "Ma'am, those are zucchinis." SHOOT! I think. Dang it. I've done it again. Hiding my ignorance I blurt out, "Well, I'd like one of those anyways..." Farmer grabs a couple and says, "Here. Take two." I smile, embarrassed, and pay him cash the price of 1, while placing my ZUCCHINI's and quart of freshly picked blueberries in my plastic bag. Stroll away laughing at myself...cuz it's better to laugh than to cry! Here I've been looking for zucchini's a whole year to make this delicious zucchini bread recipe I have, and kept thinking, "gosh, this store never carries zucchini!!" Come to find out...I don't carry the right mental image of what one looks like!

Later that same sunny, breezy Saturday, I'm feeling even more hippy/organic and I'm reading the instructions for this bread I've never made. I like to follow instructions. I'm a little bit of a perfectionist with a side of procrastination. Is it my Biology/Pre-Med background that does this? You gotta be exact when you're in the Chemistry lab. You can't just miss a decimal point or something in there might explode. So when the recipe says "squeeze the extra moisture from the zucchini..." Dang, I think. I wash my hands again and grab bunches of those freshly shredded green things and *squeeze* I go.... SQUEEZE in between my hands and trying to just let the juice out and not let the zuch slip down my arm.... I'm telling my friend, who gave me the recipe, "hey, do you really squeeze the zucchini in that recipe to get the extra juice out? or do you just shred it?" My friend says, "Did you SQUEEZE it?" and I felt that warmness in my cheeks, yet again, when I looked into her eyes....DANG. I've done it again. Who would've thought using a STRAINER is the next best thing to using your hands to *squeeze* things?...

Earlier I said I'd rather laugh at myself. It really is better. Just join the fun and laugh WITH yourself. When I used to take Spanish flamenco classes growing up, my teacher always threatened us that if we made a mistake, we never EVER ought to make a face showing our horror, nor stopping and losing track of our steps in the dance. She said we just had to look down at whatever we had dropped, if anything, and laugh at it, and keep going. So that's what I do when it comes to cooking and I make a *blurb*.

Deep inside you don't know what I've had to overcome to get myself to not care about this issue. It used to give me a lump in my throat if someone teased me. You see, I grew up without a mom my formative years. Then my widowed father hired a maid to cook and clean for us because we couldn't deal with our grief, among other things and he needed help. I wasn't really allowed in the kitchen. My one duty in life, per my dad, was to 1. Study, 2. Study, 3. Study, and lastly, if there was any time left over, 4. STUDY. So cooking? out of my orbit. I didn't have a need nor desire to learn about it. I had to learn English and get straight A's to get into a good university in the USA because I wanted to be a doctor. *phew* Later in life, once in college, I started feeling insecure about the fact that I had never boiled an egg, and everyone here seemed to have a fetish with those darn (yet delicious) chocolate chip cookies and I had never made them....ever....never boiled an egg. Remember?

So you know. Insecure. Me? a Latina woman who doesn't know how to cook? What? AND you don't cook spicy food? (that's a whole other blog post about the difference between spicy Mexican food and our bland, but still flavorful Central American food...) So I used to feel insecure but now I just laugh WITH myself. I made it thru college eating who knows how much cereal and other potluck leftovers and oh, the blessed Cafeteria food. When I got married, GEESH, now I had to feed him? Uh.OH.

I've made great strides and I now make some mean Black Bean Soup, chicken tacos a la Nicaraguan with my own twist, and have even learned some American recipes. I had to write about this more than anything to allow the humor to crush any insecurity that may creep up about my cooking. And who knows...maybe you "gentle reader", could relate with how I'm scared to death about this yeast package that's sitting in my freezer that my friend Rachel gave me to make honey oatmeal bread....Does that yeast have teeth? I'd rather keep it frozen. Just in case.

~I ain't no Rachael Ray

Monday, June 13, 2011

~2 alka seltzer's~

You know when you wake up moaning and something in your insides just doesn't feel right? like, you know it's not hunger pain? I hate to wake up on a Monday when my dear hubby is still out of town thinking I have to juggle the day with a toddler on my own...AND get Montezuma's revenge on top of that. Was it last night's hotdog? or yesterday's lunch burger? You guessed it. Probably both!

So I grunt and moan in silence so as not to wake up the baby, hoping that this buys me some time. I remember my father saying one last thing before they left last night, "if you need us, just call us, we're here to help." And I remember feeling that nudge in the heart that I usually feel when God tells me, "something's about to happen". And it's as if time slows down for 2 seconds. I can't explain it. This has happened to me since I was a little girl. That I know things are going to happen, but I don't know how they're going to happen.

So I remember what my dad says and I grunt, "Grrr. This is why he said that." And sure enough. I don't want to bother anyone. But he said it to remind me I can count on him. And he says it to remind me that I can count on HIM. That God I tell you...finding every possible way to remind me of His presence.

So I text and say, "bad. stomach. can you come? please pick up kid. take him to daycare." My stepmom responds, the angel that she is, "will be there ASAP."

My dad cracks me up. He comes with his home remedy, tried and true for years. I make a face. But first he's sure to ask me, "you sure you're not pregnant?!" I make another face as if to say, "whatever, hand me the alka seltzer." He chuckles and continues to give me a hard time about I have to swallow the medicine water fast and in his presence or I just won't do it. Why are you taking your time? Gotta be brave! Forget the bitter taste! Come on! He's messing with me and makes me laugh. Which also makes my stomach muscles grunt in more pain.

I managed to have the kid ready to jump in the carseat and my angel-step-mom takes him to daycare. Meanwhile, I had not idea 2 hours of storytelling with my dad ensued. The first thing I noticed was that the house was quiet. (of course, the toddler-kid is gone). The 2nd thing I noticed: I hadn't talked with my dad this long since before I gave birth. Always a kid crying or needing attention, you know?

I love listening to my dad. How we ended up talking about the time war broke out in Nicaragua in 1978, the year I was born, when we started talking about my stomach pains...I don't know. OH yes! I know. He told me how he almost *died* of indigestion one time in Nicaragua for not watching what he was eating (pork, chicken, and shrimp all in one day). When the doctor at the hospital asked him what he had eaten that day and my dad told him, the doc asked, "really? and a bag of nails you didn't want to eat as a side?" He made me laugh again. And the Alka-Seltzer's were starting to work.

I've always told my dad he needs to write a book. He's always wanted to. This year I think he's finally going to sit down and record himself telling us stories, in order to start figuring out timelines, dates, events, and put them in order. Today I was captivated as he started telling me details of events I've always heard about... were a few months old when you came home from Spain...Nicaragua was in chaos... I used to be the assistant to the Vice-Minister of Urban Planification... great job, big bucks, I thought I had it made...

...few days before the dictator, Somoza, decided to flee the country because the Sandinista Liberation Front was taking control neighborhood by boss came and offered me an escape route...the promise of a job and safety in Miami, Florida, if I left with all of *them*. My dad said, "no thanks. I'm staying here. I'm not leaving my country. I'm not leaving my family." and the promise to keep his mouth shut about "The General" leaving in his military plane with all his monies and all his peoples...

...then I was at church one Sunday and got a radio-call from someone saying I shouldn't attempt to drive home because the Sandinistas were taking over my neighborhood and killing all young dad said, "should I follow my heart or should I follow this warning?" I wasn't able to return home that day and had to flee elsewhere. then about 20 members of our family were hunkered down in our other house and hearing bombs drop...every morning your aunt Cloty would say, "let us pray for guidance about what to do today." and every morning the prayers and the decisions were life or death...

Life. or. Death.

My mother, Marivalle, with a 1 year old to care for, took the bold decision to disguise herself and get in her friend's Volkswagon, and drove/walked 20 kms to reach my aunt's house and try to get them out...cuz she had kids...cuz 500lbs bombs were being dropped in that neighborhood and they didn't stand a chance.

HOLD IT. I have diarrhea today and I couldn't even make it to the restroom without thinking how hard it is to care for a needy toddler while you got tha' runs. And I had to call my family to come help me....But you're saying that my mother did WHAT??!! and YOU LET HER??!! Dad responded. She was brave. We decided this together. If I went, they would kill me. I worked for the government. But a woman, a woman stood a *better* chance. my mom and her friend, Mercedes, get all the way there amidst gunfire, trenches, and such, to find a stubborn sister in law with her 3 kids who didn't want to leave her husband. Why husband staying? If I told you I would have to kill you. Anyways. Off they go AGAIN, thru all the crap to return home to her mother in law going, "where's Zela? how come she's not with you??!!"

All I asked was for help. I got 2 Alka Seltzers and a history lesson. I need to start the recorder next time my dad begins speaking. He's getting old and sometimes the dates jumble in his head and we have to figure this out. It's good to remember where you've come from. I grow strength out of it when I feel weak. I remember the lessons that others have learned in their own skin, and try to not make the same mistakes. I would like to say I'm a brave and bold woman. But I'm still thinking that I act like a wimp sometimes and the things that make me fear are nothing like 500lbs bombs falling around you. And am reminded that the enemy has always tried to instill fear in my little soul.

So today I'm thankful for the diarrhea and staying home from work in my cozy house with my cozy bed and my delicious Ritz crackers. Time alone with my dad. Precious time listening to courageous stories. Need to write them down, for the record, so I don't forget the big God we have always served. Once I heard of Him. Now my eyes have seen Him.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

~we found our way, on the way~

I forgot to share this blogpost that Donna invited me to contribute to at our Fellowship North blog. About 40 of us women from Central Arkansas went on a 24-hour Silent Prayer Retreat near Hot Springs. Here is a nugget of what happened on the way. I'd also like to share another account of that beautiful weekend together. My sister-friend Alison Chino wrote on her own blog with pictures that I didn't capture. She will bless your soul as well.

We stood in a circle on Saturday afternoon, about 40 us, before the Communion Table and I noticed that the table beautifully summarized the beginning and end of our retreat time together:

At one end of the table was a broken, red heart made out of metal.
The night before we had immersed ourselves into Luke 24 and joined the saddened, downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus. The journey started marked with loss and grief. Hope deferred. Wounds. Pain. Regrets. Confusion. Emptiness. Clenched fists. We all came with the same cry of our hearts “search me Lord”.

Then after the broken heart was a small trail of rocks and candles in the shape of hearts.
These symbolizing how the hearts of the disciples were burning when Jesus spoke words to them on the road. This path of rocks and candles reminded me of the journey we began Saturday morning. We woke up in silence, got ready, had a delicious breakfast without speaking to anyone, and then took off by ourselves for hours. We were on our own solitary path of silence, listening to the words of Jesus. Some sat by the lake, some under the gazebos or benches, some brought lawn chairs, some entered the peaceful prayer garden (more like a forest with trails!). During our silent journey we followed a prayer guide that started with the Cleansing Room, then the Abiding and Comfort Room, Identity Room, and finally, the Thanksgiving Room. We allowed the Spirit to speak. Some even chose their own path as the Spirit led them.

The path of rocks and burning candles led up to the Bread & Juice of Thanksgiving at the other end of the Communion Table.

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we looked back at our hardships, situations, wounds, pain, loss, hopes, questions, doubts, and realized that Jesus had been there all along, we just hadn’t seen Him. The grief sometimes is too much to bear. But as we stopped, stood still and listened to His voice for about 5hrs, we couldn’t help but notice that He was present. He illumined our minds and our hearts. It was in the breaking of bread and thanksgiving time that He was most recognized as being with those disciples. Yet, He had been there all along. The journey that had started with loss and grief had ended in praise & thanksgiving. By the time we broke the silence at noon, we had bumped head on with the Grace of the Resurrection, Redemption, and Communion. All of which we already possessed, just hadn’t remembered, because we are forgetful daughters sometimes.

The sharing time after lunch & breaking the silence is one of my favorite parts of the Silent Prayer Retreat. The intimate things that were shared cannot even be uttered because they were so deep. Some women wrote poems. Some said even the trees, rocks, and clouds spoke to them. All read Scripture. We did some sacred journaling. But all women listened. Spent time with the Master. Slowed down our hearts.

We finished praying around the Communion table. One-word prayers. Love those. We just spoke one word that God had burned deep in our hearts, out loud, as well as writing the word on one of the rocks on the table. We left joyful and changed back to our community.

I’d like to end with this joyful invitation taken from a Mennonite Songbook that we read before taking communion:

This is the Welcome Table of our Redeemer, and you are invited
Make no excuses, saying you cannot attend; simply come,
for around this table you will find your family
Come not because you have to, but because you need to.
Come not to prove you are saved,but to seek the courage to follow wherever Christ leads.
Come not to speak but to listen, not to hear what’s expected, but to be open to the ways the Spirit moves among you.
So be joyful, not somber, for this is the feast of the reign of God,
where the broken are molded into a Beloved Community,
and where the celebration over evil’s defeat has already begun.