An Advent Liturgy for you from the lovely community at Jacob's Well.


Impoverished Jesus, we wait for you; we watch for you. You came as a helpless newborn, powerless to survive on your own. Your parents could only afford two doves as a temple sacrifice. Even as an adult, you relied on friends and strangers for food and shelter.

Impoverished Jesus, come be with us.


Scandalous Jesus, we wait for you; we watch for you. You were conceived in the womb of an unwed mother. Your parents did not have a good reputation, nor did you. Even as an adult, you turned the tables on the status quo. 

Scandalous Jesus, come be with us.


Homeless Jesus, we wait for you; we watch for you. You spent your first night on earth in a filthy stable. Your parents searched all over, but could not find a room. Even as an adult, your home was wherever you laid your head. 

Homeless Jesus, come be with us.

Refugee Jesus, we wait for you; we watch for you. You were born displaced, to a family wandering far from home. Your parents fled their country to prevent your politically-motivated murder. Even as an adult, you were persecuted by the people in power. 

Refugee Jesus, come be with us.

God who moves into our neighbourhood, Jesus the humble King, Spirit who speaks in the mouths of the meek, We wait for you; we watch for you. Emmanuel, come be with us. 



I stood in the white snow, peering down a forest trail that was decorated with fairy lights and candles in mason jars. I had been brought to this place, just off of Fox Drive, under the impression that I would be looking at Christmas lights with my lovely girlfriends.

In the dim light, I made out the figures of two people standing on the path ahead. As I walked closer I realized I knew them, my dear friends Nova and Nathan. I walked closer to them and they began to single me out, they had chosen the word “wild” to describe me and this word was cast in shadows upon the tree behind them. They spoke to me of lovely things, about our friendship and about things they saw God doing in me. They prayed for me and I walked on, down the path, enchanted by the forest. At the next stop, Paige and Christine spoke to me, the word “unique” cast upon the tree behind them. As I traveled on down the path, they stayed behind. Next was Hannah with a note from my lovely LeeAnna, the word “admirable” appeared on a tree there. And still, I walked on. Just my Jacki, my lifetime best friend, and I left. As we followed the candles, the sound of Old Pine danced upon our ears. Jacki stopped me before we turned a corner. She read me notes from my loved ones which brought me to tears: Jayme and my brother, James. This tree said “in my heart”, a quote from my brother’s letter to me, which naturally brought me to tears. Last, Jacki spoke to me softly about the lives we had shared together and about Christ, He who we had found together and who had kept us walking together all these years. We walked further, our feet crunching in the snow. There was Andrew, underneath a tree that was lit up by fairy lights. Jacki hugged me, and she let me go.

I walked to Andrew, alone now. We stood under the tree. He began to speak to me about God and about our relationship. He spoke of our future and of our mission to glorify God—and how he wanted to live his life with me, doing radical things for the Kingdom of God.

He got down on one knee and opened a small box. Inside was a small wooden fox that he had carved. On it, it said “marry me?” Foxes have always been one of Andrew’s favorite animals. When he was a young boy, about five, he had a dream that he still remembers vividly to this day. In the dream he was following a fox through the forest with a girl, a girl that he always said was the girl he was going to marry. He told me, “I want you to be the girl I was following foxes with in my dreams. I want you to be the woman I follow God with for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?”

I said yes. He took a ring out of his pocket and told me that he had gotten a friend to gather twigs from my trees at home and he had gotten his brother and sister-in-law to gather a few twigs from his farm. He had them cast into gold, intertwined, with a diamond to make my ring. He slipped it on my finger. He told me that he wanted to use twigs from our homes because he knew our roots were important and no matter where we went, we would always have our deep roots.

We walked out of the forest, through the snow. All our friends were at the bottom of the bridge and began clapping as we came. I love my friends dearly and am so thankful they were there to be a part of this night and a part of the this new chapter of life that Andrew and I are walking into together.

**********

The time had finally come. After days of preparation and weeks of thought and 10 pocket checks during the Christmas banquet to make sure the ring was still safely snugged deep in my inner coat, it was nearly time to propose to my Abby.

She was being held up in Remedy with a few of her girlfriends while myself and several other amazing people, Calvin, Matt, Chris, Tori, Nathanial, Nova and Nathan, frantically hung lights down a forest trail, cast words upon trees, packed down snow, prepared music, and powered fairy lights around and in the tree that would stand over the place of proposal.

My hands were cold, but I hardly noticed this as I walked up and down the forest trail to make sure things were ready. After about forty minutes of setup I thought I heard the sound of other voices and my heart jumped at what was confirmed by Nova to be the arrival of Abby and the other girls. Matt hurried down the trail to alert the others that “the bird had landed!” and I made my way the lit up tree. There I waited with Nathanial, who was hiding amidst trees nearby ready to take photos. I stood thinking about what was finally happening and how much it felt like a dream, the very best kind of dream. And there I stood as I began to hear voices talking to Abby and the beginning of guitar strings reverberating through the forest as Old Pine, a song by Ben Howard that Abby and I had chosen as our own, starting playing. Then, with a sudden realization there was a moment of panic as I realized that the song would end before Abby would reach me, and I did not know whether it was on repeat or if the sound of Katie Perry’s Hear me Roar, or some other artist would soon interrupt and break the serene moment. I quietly voiced my concerns to Nathaniel nearby by and he carefully slipped over to the player and confirmed that it was on repeat. Thank you Calvin for thinking to do that.

Calm again, I listened to the sounds of friends sharing their love for Abby and of how incredible she is. Now and again there was a faint sob amidst the words. Then before too long there were two girls, Jacki and Abby, walking up the trail to place I stood. They hugged and then Jacki turned around and walked away.

Then, the most beautiful girl I know stepped towards me and we just hugged for about as long as moment like this would require of an embrace. By then, every word I had thought of had all but completely faded away. I was left looking at this woman, smiling in my heart but probably having the most idiotic expression on my face, holding her hands. I could not think of anything to say that would do any justice to this moment. However, there were things that had to be said, and there was a question I had to ask. I told her how I could not describe how much worth she has to me and to our friends, not with a thousand words on a thousand trees. I told her how much I loved how she values her friendships and that I knew that they had to be a part of this event. I told her how she reminds me to be a writer, a poet, and an artist and that she makes me want to make this life a story worth telling. I reminded her of the dream I had when I was five years old where I chased a fox through the woods with a girl I did not know at the time, and how I always thought to myself that that girl must be the one I was going to marry, and that I wanted her, Abby, to be the girl I followed the fox with in my dreams, and to be the woman I followed God with for the rest of my life. I asked her if she would marry me, and she said yes. 






I think that, in my experience, I witnessed many great followers of God working toward bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. Many times, this mission was through involvement at a para-church or even completely alone, with little involvement in a home church at all. Perplexing, to say the least, was my experience, while I questioned whether the para-church model is even a Biblical one… or struggled with “why is this person doing this ministry without a local church backing her, or a church to even call her home?” I think that my Urban Ministry experience that was the Vancouver trip provided me with more questions than answers.
            I respect that these people working for the Kingdom on the Downtown Eastside or on Parker Street, and beyond, are pulling away from what Church has become or what it represents to the world. Even still, I question whether this is truly God’s desire—for Church and mission to be separated. At Vanguard, I have been taught that one should stick with a local church even through their times of struggle and in their flaws, and with that I agree. But, I also agree with the mindsets of Jacob’s Well and Karen Reed of trying to make amends for what the Church has done in the past to harm others. These radical people must not just separate from the local church but strive to change it; to, in turn, make all those church-goers into radical followers. I know this is a task far more daunting than writing the words on this page. At the same time, I know there must be a way because I know God desires this radicalism for His people. So, this topic leads me to a crossroads and leaves me feeling more helpless than ever. I can only cry out to God in hopes that He hears me. I pray that I, along with others, can slowly make an impact on these local churches, to show them that loving the poor and the marginalized (which every society has, not just in urban centers) is not only for those on the DTES, but in suburbia and in the comfort of their own homes as well.  

Now, I did see local churches striving to rise up. I saw churches like Broadway doing programming for families to be able to get food and clothing--but is that really what people need? I think that there needs to be a holistic provision for those we are loving but we also cannot just stop at the physical or just the spiritual. We must make ourselves available for the messy, time consuming, sacrificial love of true friendship. Not the friendship that is forced and fake and feeds into our messiah complexes of giving another person a hand up, but true “I need you, you need me” friendship. There must be a need in each party. Jesus demonstrates this to us so well in the story of Jacob’s Well. The first thing He does is ask the woman for a drink, putting Himself in need, making their relationship potentially mutually beneficial. Perhaps, through all this disconnect between the Local Church and local mission to serve “the least of these,” is one true universal need that we can all give to one another: friendship. There is a certain perplexing beauty in the fact that we all belong to one another. And perhaps, that is my conclusion of Urban Ministry and the Local Church, there is a deep need in every human being to be known and to have mutually beneficial relationships with others… ones that maybe cross socio-economic or cultural boarders… relationships that display radical hospitality, hospitality to the stranger. This is what the universal Church must provide. We must act out the true Biblical concept of justice, spoken of in Micah 6:8, and smooth out the mountains and the valleys through true friendship.



Dear Nineteen-Year-Old Me,

Look at how far you have come.

You are no longer that girl who hates her body. You are no longer that girl walking around Brooklyn barefoot after a night of parties. You are no longer given worth solely by the people around you.

Darling,

You are now free.

You are loved.

You have identity.

Nineteen-year-old me, I think about you a lot. I think about how I wish I could have told you so many things… how I wish I could hold you when you had no one there to direct your eyes to your Purpose.

But amidst the wishing, there is knowing--knowing that God is using your story, knowing that though there was pain in the night… joy came.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for always knowing me.

Thank you for always being there with me, even in the purge.

Thank you for using my mistakes to bring you most glory.



I write from a place of brokenness before the Lord. 
A little girl who I blogged about here has gone to be with Jesus. 
She was a Ugandan child living in the slums, attending the local church where I got to encounter her. 
Sicle Cell Anemia took her. 

I think, now, of her sister, Briscla, who is so bright and cares so much for little Mercy. 
God, may you keep her all the rest of her days. May she not look on you with hate and confusion but with love and with knowing that you have a plan for her and for her family. 

Pray for this family who has just lost their little daughter. 

I am walking through the police barracks on my last day in Kampala. The sun is hot on my shoulders and everything around me is a shade of brown--the dirt, the huts, the people. 
Both, children and adults are everywhere. The whole of the barracks, it seems, comes to greet me.
 I see kids darting through passages between huts that were not plain to my eye and adults doing laundry and waving as I walk by. 
Community. 

I look into an alley on my right and I see her, a face that I know. Little Mercy. She is squatting in the dirt. I rush to avert my eyes, to give her a little privacy as she relieved herself but she was not phased by my presence. A different culture, thats for sure. She grinned up at me and said "hi teachaaa!" It had taken me a whole week to earn that love with Mercy. She was a shy girl, reserved, with searching eyes. 

Each day at church I saw her dancing in worship. A smile plastered on her face.

Now in my mind's eye I see her dancing. She is not alone. She is holding hands with our King, the same hand that I held so many times is holding the hand of the King. They are dancing the hip-shaking dance of her African culture. Her smile is big and oh so beautiful. 

And His eyes are filled with joy and they stay fixed on her as they dance. 
Together at last. 




The other day a woman came to pick up her check. This is the first person that I have followed all the way from the pre screen to the actual rent check. She came in and I had her fill out certain forms etc. Then at the end of our meeting I asked if I could pray with her. She said yes. I prayed for God to keep her and for her family to experience joy that they have never known. Oh God, to keep them safe and near to Your heart. Amen. I looked up to see her face covered in tears. She wept. I put my hand on her shoulder. We sat there, together.

The next day my supervisor, Ashley, told me that the woman had called looking for her. Kelly told her how special I was and that I had the best heart she had seen in a while.

God knew I needed a moment like that. I have been discouraged lately with the desk-joby-ness of my position. Now, I feel encouraged.

You hold my being. You wrap yourself around every detail of my life. You place everything into motion. And all I have to do is stand in the palm of your hand. 


She was a girl my age. My age, with three small children and she was living on the streets or in a friend’s house. We connected, oh did we connect. It was like she could have been me. Just a few bad decisions had decided her future. I could be a mom of three, that was a shock to me. She was beautiful and kind and nervous. I tried to put her at ease... to love her effectively, like Jesus would have… to let her into my life and show her that I am the same as her, that I am broken too. 



A woman applied for our program a while ago. She was a very frail old woman down on her luck, living in a homeless shelter. She was kind and gentle and I felt myself lowering my voice and adding sweetness to it as to not offend. I have had practice speaking slowly to those who know little English, I spoke with such a demeanor here. She had a history with drugs, she told me. 

As our session closed she asked me what a mentor was and who they would be. I told her it was a group of 2-6 people who were just going to meet with her and help with her needs as she transitioned back into society… I told her that most of all they were going to love on her. As she walked away she spoke softly to me and said “that is just what I need…” Lord, keep her. Show her Your mercy and your love for her. 



Today we ventured to Boulder to do some hiking! 
The hike was absolutely beautiful, full of summer sounds. At one point it started thundering and sprinkling and it was such an amazing time to be in such beauty and in such an amazing atmosphere. I cannot explain nor capture such things. 

God really reveals Himself to me in nature, I feel His presence all around me. I treasure moments where I can just sit in nature and reflect on life and be close to the beauty of this earth. So, I told my hiking group to go ahead of me and I got to sit out in the trees for three hours. I got to take my shoes off and lie among giant rocks nearly drifting to sleep with the sweet sounds of summer ringing in my ears. 



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