A True Story in a Parking Garage

God meets us in the dark places

Gather round. Pull up a chair. I’d like to tell you a true story about a woman we’ll call Shari.

Shari was a cash collector in a parking garage near a very large event center. She was in her 40’s, although she looked ten years older because of the life she had been dealt.

Shari had had a tumultuous relationship with her mother over the years. Shari was a mother too. She had a teenage daughter who brought her joy and pain. When Shari found out her 16-year-old was pregnant, she was devastated.

You see, Shari was homeless. She and her daughter lived in her car, the gas and insurance costs eating up most of the money from her part time work at the garage. After news of the pregnancy, she had knocked on her mother’s door to ask for shelter. Her mother refused even to let her take a shower.

It was at this point in her life that I met Shari. On the weekend of our encounter, I had been attending a large Christian conference in a city that was not my own. When I pulled into the parking garage, she handed me a ticket and I felt a voice inside say, “Her.”

I didn’t know what that meant. I just knew that this woman was special. So, I listened to that voice and when I exited the garage, I introduced myself. We talked and laughed for a while and went our separate ways.

Over the course of the weekend, I stopped to say hello to Shari every chance I got. At one point I threw her a clementine from across the garage. She looked at the orange treasure and smiled. “Let’s swap stories sometime,” I said to her. “Lets,” she responded, and I went into the event center.

That night was the final session of the conference. It was what everyone had been waiting for, but just as the musicians launched into worship, I heard that voice in my head say, “Go talk to Shari.” So I did.

She was in the garage, alone, everything still and silent because no one wanted to miss the final hurrah. “I am just as present here as I am in that arena,” the voice said. And I listened and felt for Him and agreed.

I sidled up to the cash collecting booth and she let me in. “What’s your story, Shari?” I asked her and she took a breath as she bravely told me her history, her pain.

“You don’t know what it’s like to be homeless,” she wept. “People look away. They don’t even treat you like you’re a human!” She covered her face.

“My daughter is pregnant and I feel hopeless. My own mother won’t even let us into her home and a car is no place to raise a teenager, let alone a baby,” she agonized.

I listened. And I cried too. Then I looked her in the eyes and told her of a man I know who loves her. I told her how this man was rejected by his family, his friends and who died to remove our shame. I told her of His church who, although they aren’t perfect, desire to listen to His call for love and can help her. I told her more, but those words were only for her ears.

The tears continued to fall and we paused as a car drove up to pay for the garage. She exchanged money and turned to me.

“Do you want to know Him?” I asked. She shook her head and in the middle of a filthy, cold, and dark parking garage Shari asked Jesus to be with her. She told Him she needed Him. She said more words that were meant only for Him.

And after she prayed, she beamed through salt encrusted cheeks, “I’ve never felt so free.”

I found the names of churches and resources for her in that particular city and when we said our goodbyes, it wasn’t really a goodbye.

For the next two years, Shari sent me regular text messages with updates on her life. She shared pictures of her new grandbaby and told me of her struggles and her wins.

I don’t know what happened, but the texts stopped abruptly. She may have bought a new phone, or just didn’t need to connect anymore, but I haven’t heard from Shari in quite some time.

I still think of this strong woman and the gift she gave to me; a reminder that God is the God who sees. He’s present with us in our shame, holding us in our pain, and no person is invisible to him, not even a homeless woman in a dirty parking garage in the middle of a bustling city.

An Artist in a Manger

 

Jesus and Christmas

When I think about Christmas and the miracle of God arriving as a child, I can’t help but look up at the night sky.

This universe is massive. There are billions of galaxies, and within each one, billions of stars.

It is ever expanding, creation still being created, not a dormant thing. God formed it all, putting into motion processes and cycles-order in the chaos.

And when he inserted himself as a child into his creation, he revealed his true artistry.

Because who, other than an artist would see the importance of showing himself in his work?

It was always God’s intention to be with us, from the first moment of human’s existence to the end of all things. And when whole things became broken, He did what all skilled artists do. He joined us in the chaos.

The miracle of Christmas is that the creator of galaxies and stars and planets and oceans and land and living creatures and you and me, was so moved by love, that he became a baby in a feed trough.

Christmas is a celebration of the story of this daring act of artistry- that The Creator joined with the created and under a star-speckled sky, became God-with-us.

#LiveLoved

What would happen if we would #liveloved?

We’d focus on the beauty in ourselves, in our family, and in the world around us, not on what’s lacking.

If we #livedloved, it would be easier to live thankfully and without worry because we’d know we are cared for.

If we #livedloved, unnecessary comparisons would cease. We’d understand our value.

If we #livedloved, we’d play and work with confidence because there is no fear in love.

If we #livedloved, we’d love better because when we’re overflowing with love, there’s more love to give away.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love… (Ephesians 5:1-2a)”

In Response to John MacArthur

I had to gather my thoughts after I listened to John MacArthur’s remarks on Beth Moore. My initial response was nausea, then anger, then sadness, then fire.

This type of exchange was common where I grew up, so it didn’t surprise me that there are pastors who believe these things. I have been removed from this type of dialogue for awhile now, so when I heard it again after over a decade, I was shocked and saddened. This is sin, through and through.

Let’s be real here, JMac’s remarks were not just shaming Moore. His words showed the state of his heart and was a slam against every woman who steps foot in a church.

I know that God can and wants to work in John MacArthurs heart and in the hearts of every pastor in that room who laughed at the expense of a godly woman. I also know that God is a God of justice and we must call out lies when we see them for the sake of our friends, mothers, and daughters.

When it comes down to it, I care about the opinion of one person; Jesus. What did he do?

Scripture shows us that he engaged with women in theological discussions, taught women as his disciples, in His parables he included women (which was unheard of in his time), and he called out the voice of women.

Women stayed with Jesus at the cross.

Women were the first to share the good news of the gospel.

In the Bible women were military leaders, apostles, prophets, disciples, helped fund the ministry of the local church, and more.

It is time for women in the church to be allowed to freely use their gifts.

It’s time for women who feel called to lead in the church to be allowed to be who God made them to be. Let’s stop forcing these gifted women to look outside of the local church for ministry.

When half of the church is told that who they are and what they have to offer has little value, the enemy applauds. The church needs women too. Full stop.

Let’s pray for men like MacArthur and the pastors in that room, and in the next breath lift up the woman next to us.

Women, let’s direct our gaze to Christ and do the opposite of what MacArthur said. Let’s SHOW UP.

*If you missed the clip, watch it below.

The Good News

The Gospel

The gospel is not and cannot be synonymous with any particular political ideology.

If we reduce the gospel to a mere list of good ideas, then we become dogmatic fools, living with our heads in the clouds of idealism. A list of rules will never hold real power and no hope of lasting joy and will only divide.

When we realize that the gospel is a proclamation of good news, then we become heralds who interact face-to-face with those to whom the message relates. The gospel UNITES us in our humanity because the good news is for all humankind.

Political ideologies will perish, but the good news, which is the Gospel, is an infinite gift for all.

The Beginning of It All

Have Mercy
The beginning of it all

Gosh, guys. Some days I feel on top of the world. I can easily see the beautiful things. I recall the hope I have and remember who I am.

Other days, like today, I feel my brokenness with an overwhelming clarity. I want to hide. I want to cry.

These are the days when I practice talking back to the ugly voices in my head. I remind myself that I was made from love and am loved.

My brokenness is not so great that it can’t be redeemed.

That I was made as an image-bearer of God.

But even then, even then some days, like today, I have no more words and all I can whisper on repeat is, “God, have mercy.” And I must believe that it’s when I reach the end of myself, I find the beginning of it all.

Be Stronger

Remembering

About a year ago Ellis was situating her frames on her face and said, “Mommy, I remember what it was like before I had glasses.”

My ears perked up at this new information. She’s been wearing glasses since she was three-years old. “Really?” I said. “What was it like?”

“There was always two of you and everything was blurry.”

My heart hurt a little bit and I asked her, “How did you know what was in front of you?”

She answered, “I held your hand and let you lead me.”

There is a part of me that is sad that she missed out on really seeing the world those first few years, but I believe it spurred her on to ask more questions. It helped her to grow.

She’s now wearing a patch 4 hours a day, and from the very beginning we’ve talked about this as an opportunity…

…an opportunity to get stronger…

…A chance to become a better artist (which is her dream), and to take in the world.

And that’s how she is describing the patch to the many strangers (😏) who ask her about it. “I’m exercising my eye,” she says.

Staring Down Your Weakness

Weakness/Strength

It’s hard to show up when you’re the weakest in the room. It’s humbling to bumble through when others seem to get it right away.

I’ve decided to stare at my weakness and say, “That. That is the place where I will focus my energy.”

And for me that’s been working out in a gym with dozens of other women. In the past when I’ve wanted to crawl in a hole to hide from people around me (because of paralyzing body shame), God’s been gracious enough to change my perception of vulnerability. Being vulnerable is a way to show what you value.

So every lunge, every sit-up, every weight lifted, every inhale and exhale is an act of love- for the God who made my body, for the strength in my weakness, for the person God made me to be, and for the family he placed in my care.