Owwies Make You Stronger

This summer I made a new friend.

Three-year old Titus.

His father, Daniel, is one of the pastors leading the Urban Youth Outreach in Englewood – a gang-plagued, violence ridden neighborhood of Chicago.

A gregarious little guy, Titus loves to talk and play with his older sister Arielle and all of the other neighborhood children who flock to the outreach play yard. With his charismatic personality and gift for gab, Titus is surely an evangelist-in-training.

One morning as he mingled with our mission team he showed off his finger with a dangling bandage. He bravely peeled back the adhesive strip to show each person his “owwie” long enough for each one to commiserate with him.

After several people had gotten a good look at his wound he smiled confidently. “That’s O.K. because owwies make you stronger.”

Suddenly, innocence deafened the world’s cacophony that had dulled my ears.

Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Are you listening? I am speaking.”

A truth renewed.

Trials make you stronger.

Pain can be a stimulus for growth.

And when rooted in the Word and will of God, perseverance in trial brings hope.

And perhaps most importantly, as children of God, we are never alone in our sufferings.

Years ago, I endured a season of brokenness. I felt completely worn. As my young daughter lay in the hospital, critically ill with a failing heart I searched the scriptures for a word to sustain me. God did not disappoint. He led me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; (just breath, child, He whispers)

perplexed, but not in despair; (don’t over analyzeinhale my peace)

persecuted, but not abandoned (relax in my love, I am right beside you)

struck down, but not destroyed (my hand will lift you up, I will protect you).”

The word of truth forever sealed in my heart.

Trials hurt.

But Love heals.

Love is waiting. Embrace the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

Pooh Man and Baby J

Immersed in the task of scraping filth from the kitchen floor, an audience of two suddenly appeared. As I looked up, two pairs of inquiring eyes peered in from the open door.

Pooh Man and Baby J

It was Englewood and here in the ‘hood nobody used their given names.

The two brothers lived downstairs from the apartment we were cleaning and painting for the Chicago Urban Youth Ministry. They had heard the racket we were causing and had come upstairs to investigate.

After inviting them in, I learned that Pooh Man was ten and brother Baby J was six. They were very curious about what I was doing on the kitchen floor with a putty knife. After explaining that I was scraping up the grease and dirt left behind so somebody else could move in they were eager to help me.

We became fast friends in the fight against grime.

I showed Baby J how to position the scraper against the floor and with my hand over his we applied steady pressure to plow up the layers of grease. Each time we managed to move some of the sludge I would say, “That’s so disgusting!”  Baby J would gleefully echo, “Disgusting!” in the way that all little boys do when they revel in getting dirty.

As we worked, we played games and told riddles. Practiced spelling words and addition facts. Every answer, correct or incorrect, received praise and encouragement. That morning I knew I was there to work on the apartment, but recognized that my divine assignment was to lavish love and encouragement on those two beautiful little boys.

As our rapport grew, Pooh Man told me about his family. One of his brothers had passed as a result of the violence in the neighborhood. Another was in jail. He spoke about it without emotion as if it was another ordinary fact of life.

The following day we returned to the apartment to bless it. Pooh Man and Baby J tore up the stairs to join our prayer circle. As we held hands and prayed aloud the Spirit of God descended upon us like a cloud. When I opened my eyes, Pooh Man’s tear-filled eyes were locked onto mine.

And I can’t get them out of my mind.

That little one, hair full of dreads, pants hung low, will never know how deep a place has been burrowed into my heart for him.

But God knows.

So I will continue to lift up prayers of intercession that the God of this city will rescue him.

And I am confident.

Confident that God who loves this child and every other child with an all-consuming love will hear my cries and answer.

Love is on the way

As soon as it was mentioned last winter, I knew I would be going.

This year instead of spending my final week of summer break preparing for the coming school year I would be heading to the south side of Chicago to do some inner city mission work. I would have to spend some time organizing my classroom a bit earlier than usual, but I thought I would be up to the challenge. After all, it was months away.

Fast forward to this past Sunday.

My daughter’s sweet family had just left on Friday after spending three wonderful weeks with us. Putting school work as far out of my mind as possible, I enjoyed every minute of their stay. I did manage to squeeze in a morning or two at school, but for the majority of the last month I chose to soak up family time like a thirsty sponge.

Now it was Sunday afternoon and the reality of what I had to get done in a week’s time began to bear down on me.

What had I been thinking?

I would not return home from Chicago until the Saturday before school began on Monday. Although Monday was a designated teacher day I knew it would be filled with meetings from the beginning and end with an introduction to my new students and their families at our Back to School Night. There would be no time on Monday for lesson planning or preparing materials for the open house.

Panic-stricken I began to melt like a sugar cube dropped in a tea cup. A few hours of work at school on Sunday afternoon had only intensified the pressure. I’d begun to realize there was NO WAY I was going to get everything ready for school and the mission trip. So I did what I always do when I am feeling completely overwhelmed.

I sat on the floor and cried.

And then I prayed.

Slowly, peace came.

Determination followed.

So now the words of Jude 1:2 from the Message Bible are resonating in my heart. “Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way.”

Joy fills my heart. The cavalry is coming! Love is on the way.

As the school year begins I will enter encouraged and prepared.

The mission work accomplished on the streets of Chicago will be a blessing.

No longer is there fear or worry in my heart.

His grace is sufficient.

Love is on the way.