On Love Dinner & Wolfpacks.

Love DinnerI host this little gathering at my house once a month, called Love Dinner. And while I’m a big fan of candlelight, girlfriends, red wine and chocolate, I really have no idea why I am doing it.

Except, I think God wants me to.

It’s like he’s teaching me something about intimacy and trust, building a cozy shelter out of women who also like Milano cookies, root beer floats and Love with a capital L. Ladies, we need this more than we care to admit.

Love Dinner is a haven for women, especially those with wide-eyed panic stares and glazy smiles, whose overwrought, type-A behavior says “I’m fine,” in the same way Sally Field said it in Steel Magnolias.

Uh, clearly not fine, but unless you’re from some warm-climate culture, you’re going to say “Ok good to see you, take care” and move on, thrilled to have dodged some colleague’s weepy elevator meltdown.

Not at Love Dinner. We go there – together – and we ask Jesus along, because a few months ago in Zambia, we realized women who get on their knees together to sort through a mess of broken glass are pretty good at cleaning it up.

That’s what happened in my snug, little living room last night. It was easy to see who was Sally Field, white-knuckling dinner, impatient for us to shut our eyes and pray so they could finally LET IT ALL OUT. My question is: Why wait?

hangover-alan-wolf-pack-speech-movie-poster-GLflm90036

Jesus & Alan in the same post? Sweet.

I’ve decided being a lone wolf is a spectacular waste of time. My wolfpack has grown by a dozen or so, and I realize how lucky am I to have a cadre of women who want to hang out at my house and do battle for me when I’m too far down to do it myself.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25

Another funny thing about Love Dinner is this:

The people I invite are rarely the ones who show. Last night two women I didn’t invite and one I’d never met before settled right in with everybody else. Perfect!

One woman showed up four hours late and didn’t leave until one in the morning. Another brought her new, deaf, rescue dog. One is so in love and hopelessly twitterpated she can’t speak without giggling. And the baby of our group is sprinting after Jesus in such exuberant and hilarious ways it’s easy to forget she’s only 19.

Last month’s assignment was based on Matthew 22:37-41 wherein Jesus said the two greatest commandments are Love God and Love others. I nearly peed my pants when Baby K told us how she interpreted that – paying for some grown man’s gas with the last $20 of her financial aid.

“I’m sure he thought I was hitting on him,” she said. “And I’m like no way honey, I don’t love you. I love Jesus.”Love Dinner

Team Dallas, who couldn’t come last night, shared this story via email.

Paula and I were driving to Burlington to look for purses when we passed a young lady pushing a stroller on a street without sidewalks. After I passed her I realize how easy it would be for someone to hit her because it was night time.   We circled back and pulled up to her and asked if she needed a ride. She was crying.  We stopped in the middle on the lane and got out and helped her into the car stroller and all – she had a baby – 4 months and a young child 14 months in the stroller.  She said that the boyfriend she was living with would not go get her some milk and food for the baby and the little boy and told her to get it herself, so she was walking to the store that was a good distance away.

We had the privilege of taking her to the store. She would not let us buy the food and milk but we held the babies while she shopped and we took them home. Before they got out we prayed with her and she cried and we believe that God did something special that night in all of us. We prayed for the boyfriend whose parents she said were big in the church.  God is going to do something good for that family.

Do you see? Do you get it? This is what Christians are supposed to be doing. “By their fruit you will recognize them,” Jesus said.

So it’s not entirely about us hanging out and having fun together, although that’s important. It’s about filling up on the love of God, so we can spill it out on other people, releasing, as the Apostle Paul said, the fragrance of God everywhere we go.

This month’s assignment is called Loving The Father. We’re using Psalm 145 as a springboard, reading it daily out loud, to remember just who we’re dealing with and what he promises to do.

But we’re still going to buy grocery gift cards for homeless people and gas up cars because that’s where some holy magic happens and we don’t want to miss it.

Want to join us? Comment below to join us online, where you can test out what we’re doing in your own community and report back.

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On Yosemite, Zambia and Smog

Years ago, I spent a whole summer high in the Yosemite back country, eight miles from the nearest road, at a place called Sunrise High Sierra Camp. Watching these crazy wildfires threaten that place breaks my heart. Prayers for you brave firefighters!

My God I love this place.

Cloud’s Rest. Yosemite. Circa 1999.

Back then, when I wasn’t working as an employee of the park, I played frisbee golf with my co-workers, using ancient Sequoia trees for holes. We ran everywhere, swam in sapphire glacial lakes and camped out at night. Flanked by mountains in every direction, we climbed them in the dark, just to watch the stars come out and the moon rise over them.

Here's what I mean.

View from Sunrise High Sierra Camp.

But then the earth tilted. The meadow grass gave way and what leaves there were, turned red and fell, and we knew we couldn’t stay.

Driving home along the Merced River, high above the Sacramento Valley, I saw the smog and bustle below and sighed. Life in the manifest presence of God, unspoiled by the tyranny of civilization, was over.

I wasn’t thinking in those terms at the time though, because I was mostly ignoring God. I just had grief I couldn’t explain.

I didn’t know I was leaving Eden.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification]. Romans 1:20 AMP

See?

Upper Cathedral Lake.

Coming back from Zambia has been like that.

When you throw followers of Jesus into a foreign country and ask them to do difficult things, they cling to Jesus like a needy kid clutching his father’s leg. In Zambia, my regular boundaries between sacred and secular disappeared. We hugged, wept, sang, laughed and prayed like our lives depended on it – every day.

Then we came home, to the smog.

Here, in our workaday lives, our radical dependence fades and we forget how sweet the unbroken presence of God is. Here, naked vulnerability before God is a little too “out there” “too wacky” for an increasingly post-Christian culture.

So we cover it up and grieve.

Love DinnerThat’s why Christians love conferences. Thousands of people worshiping God, changes the environment in a football stadium so thoroughly, you never want to leave. It’s a reprieve from the daily catastrophe of Syria and climate change and incessant global poverty. It feels like hope.

And that’s why I’m starting Love Dinner.

I want to remember that God is the same in Texas, in Zambia and Yosemite. He invites us to erase the boundaries between sacred and secular and recognize it’s all His. But I think that takes practice, especially for those of us who grew up in secular America.

At Love Dinner, eight of us will create a mini-kingdom, practicing God presence so we can live as beacons in the smog, just like Jesus said to, and invite others to light up as well.

Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” – Jesus. John 12:36

If you want to join Love Dinner Online, follow this blog or Erin Kirk-Writer on Facebook.

On Angels and Demons.

Disclaimer: I planned to disclaim this story, but I changed my mind. You are a discerning bunch, blessed with big, juicy brains and curious hearts. Use them and decide for yourself.

 

At the SCRUBS community medical clinic in Chongwe, Zambia last week, an older couple, maybe in their late 50’s, waited in a long line for medical attention. He wore an ill-fitting suit and tie, she wore a bright blue and yellow dress, with a scarf on her head. Her shoulders slumped and her eyes were flat and sad, so I figured she was pretty sick.

Charity and I had taken up our post on the bench outside the clinic, where people who’d just had worms pulled from their ears, abscesses drained, and HIV counseling, waited their turn to receive prayer from the 24 year-old preacher girl and her Muzungu friends.

Prayer Team.

Prayer Team.

SCRUBS director Holly interrupted us and told us the couple in their Sunday best were a special case.

“She has demons,” Holly said. “You guys better get ready.”

The ancient Irish had a name for places where the supernatural grazes the natural world. They called them “thin places.” But I dwell in a post-modern culture that dismisses such nonsense, pooh-poohing angels and demons as superstitious mumbo jumbo, the mark of primitive, uneducated minds.

Although I’m a bible believing Christian and the words angel and demon are used 70 times in the Bible, even by Jesus, I ignored them like a faraway relative.

Then I went to Zambia, home of desperately thin places.

For example, in Zambia and elsewhere, women believe they are used sexually by demons, who then take up residence, wreaking havoc in their marriages and mental and physical health. It’s called having a “spiritual husband.” The woman in the blue and yellow dress, whom we’ll call Sarah, brought hers to us, saying she wanted him gone.

I want to show you pictures of Sarah, but I won't.

I want to show you pictures of Sarah, but I won’t.

So, five of us walked out into the woods and surrounded Sarah and her actual husband. Charity spent a few minutes establishing who Sarah prays to, careful not to assume.

Then we prayed with nothing but the authority Jesus gave us.

Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. – Jesus. Luke 10:19 NLT

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues. – Jesus. Mark 16:17

Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. Eph 6:11 AMP

She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. Acts 16:16-17

Want to start a fight at church? Start acting like you believe these scriptures. Believe they were not just for the 12 apostles and the early church but for skinny, white girls with shaky knees praying in the Zambian bush. Oh, I can hear the hollerin’ already.

Then, Sarah joined Charity in commanding the spirit to flee in the name of Jesus, and her eyes rolled back. She started talking to us in a different voice – deeper, crazier. Holly knelt, holding onto Sarah’s feet and cried into the dirt. Jess stood behind Sarah, Shelby behind me – all of us praying in the name of Jesus.

“Goodbye to you. Goodbye to you. Goodbye to you,” Sarah shouted. Then everybody got quiet. Sarah looked at Charity and said “ok it’s gone.”

“You’re a liar,” Charity shouted and Sarah jumped up and tried to run away. Charity grabbed her arm and dragged her back to the bench.

“It’s the demon, he’s trying to trick us,” Charity said. “In the name of Jesus, and the God of Elijah and Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, I command you to flee….”

More praying. More hollering. Then silence.

“It’s finished,” Charity said. “They’re gone.” Turns out it wasn’t one. It was three.

Sarah looked up with tears streaming down her face and started to laugh. Her husband joined her, clapping, I stared at Jessica, wide-eyed at the palpable energy change in the woods. Holly wiped the tears and dirt off her face and Charity checked her nails.

“Praise God. Praise God,” Sarah said, thanking us as we walked out of the woods. Then she rejoined her friends waiting on the benches outside the clinic. Her husband asked us for a bible, so we gave him one, then we went back to work.

I don’t know about you, but this story helps me make sense of Sandy Hook, Columbine, Ft. Hood, Aurora and Virgina Tech. At those heinous times, even Christians say, “how could somebody do such a thing?”

Really? Is it that big a mystery?

Jesus said, “the enemy comes only to kill, steal and destroy, but I came so you might have life, have it in abundance to the full, until it overflows.” (John 10:10 AMP)

Or have we just gotten too smart for all that? Too post-modern?

Remember what the Apostle Paul said:

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”I Cor 1:19

Teresa's in white.

Teresa’s in white.

Teresa, a SCRUBS Nurse, put it like this, “We can’t look at the person, we’ve got to look who’s standing behind him.” So maybe that’s why, when the school shooter gets the chair, it feels anticlimactic and unsatisfying – like we got the wrong guy.

You can believe what you want to, I’m just telling you what I saw. Now, more than ever, I believe the Apostle Paul when he said, THIS IS WAR:

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.

Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place] Ephesians 6:12-13 AMP