CONTEND AGAINST THEM!

Ever have one of those days when you’d like to BLOW SOME $&!+ up??  I’m praying for Wisdom as James 1 has instructed me.

My prayer:

“Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. 2 Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. 3 Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, “I am your salvation.”

4 May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. 5 May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away; 6 may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

7 Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, 8 may ruin overtake them by surprise— may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. 9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. 10 My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you,Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

11 Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about. 12 They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved. 13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, 14 I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. 15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing. 16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;they gnashed their teeth at me.

17 How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. 18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you. 19 Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye. 20 They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land. 21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.”

22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. 23 Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. 24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me. 25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” or say, “We have swallowed him up.”

26 May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. 27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.”

Psalm 35.  Of David.  And tonight, of Bushlings.

Now it is just for me to sit tight and wait.  The resolution will come, perfectly complete, brutally just, and at the right time.

Weekend of the {RED}EEMER

The weekend was much anticipated.  Volunteers met, paid for their T-shirts, were trained in their tasks, and were told what time to be there on what day.  The YAG was fully engaged and many of us left work to be on time to work together with over 100 volunteers who put their names down to be part of this event.  We were bringing Nicole C. Mullen to town.

The Cayman Islands Baptist Church is quite new – just over 5 years old.  We’ve only been in our building for about 3 years.  Our YAG is only three months old.  But our mission, to be a Community of Love, is what led the missions committee to bring Dove Award winning artist Nicole C. Mullen to our island and invite every human being within the water borders of our islands to come FREE to listen to her and share in her worship.

Hearts were touched.  Lives were changed.  And pictures were taken.  This is the story they tell.

A volunteer designed this flyer. It was put in every mailbox, hung on every door, and used as the profile picture on facebook, bbm and twitter by volunteers for weeks leading up to the concerts.

Finally the day came and our Pastor and the Missions Team greeted Nicole on the tarmac at the Owen Roberts International Airport

The event organizer, Pastor Randy, and Nicole at the Airport with the Cayman Islands flag

Nicole took to the stage in our church with Andrew Thompson, her backup singer. The church was full to capacity but we had two massive screens set up with bleachers across the street in the park and more than 1200 people came the first night with a similar turnout on the second. The park was a truly festive place to be with a jerk chicken stand, hot dogs, cupcakes and ice cream on sale - as well as Nicole's CDs and {RED}EEMER T-Shirts

The YAG came out in force - several of us volunteered as greeters, parking lot attendants, merchandise volunteers, garbage collectors, a part of the prayer team that was praying through each concert upstairs in the church. I'm somewhere in here but the only thing you can see is curls 🙂

This gracious lady and her team members (one of them on the far left) signed autographs until everyone was gone. EVERYONE. Not one person who wanted a photo or an autograph was turned away.

On the second night (there were TWO free concerts) Nicole did things differently, going acoustic on a few songs and telling more of her story. The two nights were very different and both were amazing!

At the last song the backing track failed. We've had some trouble with our sound board for some time now but... right in the middle of "I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES"? Nicole didn't miss a beat. She sang that powerful song acapella and sent goosebumps up every spine within the sound of her voice!

We are so grateful that Nicole and her team were willing to come and share with us. The event brought our church family together even closer than we were before (which was pretty close!) and you have given our community a gift that will never be forgotten

These two ladies, one of them a YAG leader, worked TIRELESSLY to make this thing happen and pulled it off without a single hitch (sound board excepted but God knew what He was doing with that!) They are a blessing to us.

THE YAG (Mysterious Happening #2)

It was the same weekend as Mysterious Happening #1 and it was a miracle explosion.

In 2011 two young women from my church began a discussion about starting a Bible study for young adults.  They met a few times, talked around the subject with the pastor, but it didn’t quite take off.  In November they invited myself and another young woman into the conversation and now there were four of us.  We looked up a Bible study, selected one on relationships, met once, and still it didn’t take.  A little bit disheartened, we prepared to launch in January.  In our preparation we ordered books, selected a venue, worked out a menu, and launched the CIBC Young Adults page (Now called The YAG) on Facebook.  All of a sudden we were official!  Now to see if there were others out there like us who were wanting to study as well.

The Sunday before our first meeting we met with our pastor and prayed for guidance, for attendance, for the Spirit to prepare our group.  We expected five people at our launch of RELATE.

Twenty-five showed up.  The seats in my living room were all taken and some of us took the floor.  All our books were gone at meeting one and we made another order.  At meeting two there were even more people!  It was called AFTERGLOW, and we were blessed with music from Jordan and Heather Richmond, and there were no less than 40 people there.  And now we need to order MORE books!  Almost immediately it was too big for my living room and a couple from our church kindly donated the use of a warehouse that they have refurbished – wooden flooring, air conditioning, plush rugs and cozy seating.  Our Friday night (to Saturday morning) meetings continued to grow as we got deeper into the makings of good relationships.  It is the Happiest Happy Hour I’ve ever been to!

Our study is one of the Threads collection, called RELATE.  In our first meeting a visiting theologian gave us an introduction to the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was quoted in our study and was, coincidentally (nah no coincidence) the subject of his own thesis.  The first topic was Understanding Relationships.  We came to understand there is one fundamental need every human being has in their relationships – either Security or Significance.  With this foundation we came to understand more about ourselves.  We discussed the revolutionary idea that relationships are NOT ABOUT US but about the purpose we were created to fulfill.  The six “one anothers” of the New Testament were broken out for our exploration and the relationship armour of Colossians 3:12-14 were also chewed on for a good amount of time.  We are now half-way into session two – Developing Relationships, what our stumbling blocks are and what we should aim to bring to the table.

“Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community.  What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ.  Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to the both of us.”  ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

In the short space of a month this has snowballed into much more than a Bible study.  It has become a whole new community, a social circle, a support system.  Young adults are coming from other churches – Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Church of God, no church at all – we are coming from all walks of life – teachers, civil servants, lawyers, students, unemployment – and we find belonging with each other.  Friendships are being formed, relationships are being rescued, issues are coming to a head, characters are being strengthened, and each of us is making the journey of the others rich in love and support, companionship and prayer.  It seems as though 2011 was a dark year for many of us – breakups, divorces, affairs, family drama, unplanned pregnancies, unemployment, alcohol-soaked violence, baby mama/daddy drama – things that make my haircuts seem trivial.  Our members have each walked out of their own individual pool of pain and into the arms of the others.  Our Facebook group has over 100 members – for an island of 50,000 people that’s pretty revolutionary!  In the space of a month our lives have begun to change – we have had a Bitterness Burning, a Baptism, a Birthday party, Valentines Cupcakes, we watched Courageous together and we have members calling in from other parts of the world on Skype.  It is our deep-seated conviction that no one should go without encouragement.  And now we are launching our missions!  We are working with our church to host Nicole Mullens in two free concerts at the end of March and we are planning our first international mission as I type!  Perhaps it will involve cupcakes… who knows?

THE YAG - heart in hand

None of us could have predicted how far this would go.  None of us could have planned for any of the growth we have made!  The mystery is in the peace that comes with being together.  Now we long for Friday night and call out encouragement and help and meet with one another throughout the week.  We are so blessed to have each other and to rest in our Father’s arms together.  And as we are salt and light during our work weeks and in our communities, we take comfort in knowing there is salt and there is light just a street over, around the corner, at another desk, in another place, and that that person is also keeping us in prayer before our God.  At the beginning and in the middle and at the end of the day it’s all about Him.

And then I had this dream… handing out cupcakes in La Ceiba.  It could happen!  In fact, before the end of the year I am sure it will.

Another time I will describe my own path to YAG and through YAG and how it has changed everything.  If you are interested in sitting in on one of our sessions, or even joining our group study, please drop a comment and I will send you material and arrange your link into our meetings.  We are setting the world on fire!  I invite you to be the spark that lights the flame where you are.

Walter – (Mysterious Happening #1) – A tale of YAG

 Family secrets and secret family – all revealed in God’s time!

OK so this didn’t begin as a YAG story.  It began on the same day of the YAG and was one of the two mysterious happenings that changed the faces of my present and of my future.  I invite you to pray for me that it be a change that stays with me forever.

This first mysterious happening began with an invitation.  Our church, the Cayman Islands Baptist Church, hosted over 30 pastors from Honduras and Cuba for a weekend of continued education and training.  It was a retreat and the visitors were hosted by church families and went to full days of training by American and Caymanian pastors (translated to Spanish) and the pastor of our sister church in Cuba (translated into English).  Two of these gentlemen were hosted by my parents and I shared a few memorable meals with them, sharpening iron with iron and refining my own language skills.  In church on Sunday the whole contingent treated us to a heavy baritone rendition of a well-known praise song in spanish and Pastor Randy introduced a few of them by name.

Enter Walter.  Or should I say, THE WalterS.  Walter Bush Snr. and Walter Bush Jr. from the First Baptist Church of La Ceiba.  The name Bush hit me like a cold water drop from an a/c unit and I turned with eyes lit up to my mom.  She was smiling and wiggled her eyebrows at me.  After service ended and our church family gathered together to catch up I walked up to a YAGgie girlfriend of mine speaking to two vaguely familiar men.  As I came into earshot I heard one of them say to her “Our roots are in Cayman but we wouldn’t have a clue as to where to look to find our family here”.  On approach the older man lifted eyes identical to mine – a rare mix of hazel and green – and I said “You must be the Bushes”.

Thus began an animated conversation with my cousins.  Mr. Walter Snr. is the image of what I have always imagined my grandfather to look like.  My mom confirmed it to me – his height, his eyes, his aura of calm is much like her father.  Walter Jr. and I spoke at length of what it is to be a Bush – the satellite ears, our unique battle as a family with compulsiveness, the addictions that our compulsiveness can drag us into, our family attachment to mutton peppers, our family recipe for our famous pepper sauce (IMAGINE!), the power of our personalities.  We were invited to visit them and exchanged email addresses and parted ways with smiles deep down in our hearts.

And now the Walters have called… on the day that I dream of handing out cupcakes in La Ceiba.

BITTERNESS BURNING

This week I was given the opportunity to share with someone as she slayed her bitterness.  We had a Bitterness Burning. 

My girlfriend had a wake-up call in her life to the fact that she was harboring hurt and “drinking the poison expecting the other person to die”.  Truth is, many of us have been bitter.  I raise my hand – I know what bitter tastes like.  It’s been a while but I am not immune.  Many of us are still in the White Witch’s bitterly frozen Narnia with no idea how to get out.  But Bitterness is not a closed-border state!  There is a way out!

THE BITTERNESS BURNING

Write every emotion down.  Write like a victim.  Write like an accuser.  Write like an executioner.  Write every hurt and harm, every angry thought.  Let there be nothing left in you to wring out.  This took me several days and several sheets of paper to vomit out all my anger, hurt and bitterness into black ink on white paper. 

Let the amount you have written in itself be a wake-up call for you.  I remember thinking Oh My Goodness, where did all these words come from?  I could just visualize the space that they left behind inside me waiting to be filled with something different.  What a huge amount of space these words must have filled inside!

Then burn it.

Now my girlfriend and I are quite creative people.  We see the world in colour and, although I hate to use the word, drama.  Her bitterness took on the largeness of her personality and it took some ceremony to get the deed done.  She invited a few of us girlfriends over to dinner, and after the lovely meal we prayed for her future of bitter-free living in a circle of friends outside on the grass on her lawn.  Then we made that baby burn.  As the paper curled and blackened we lit hand sparklers and twirled like fairies, using them in turn to light roman candles and even bigger fireworks.  The loud booms and bright colours lit up the sky!  A real celebration!  It was beautiful.  No one got hurt (and yes, we are all amazed – these women and gunpowder and no accidents). I’m sure the neighbours thought we’d lost our minds in the middle of a normal week in February with dew on the grass and us out there with fireworks!  But one thing was missing.

BITTERNESS.

He didn’t even show up.  She had a bitter-free night.

Of course this is just the beginning.  If you wake up the next day and do exactly what you’d done the day before nothing will change.  Bitterness, like every other bad habit, takes practice to remove.  It will slide right back in if you let it.  Habits are easy to form and hard to let go BUT we didn’t burn bitterness for nothing.  Oh no! 

It was a celebration of a new commitment, a new future and making space inside her soul for something different to happen.  My friend stepped out of her comfort zone and began to take responsibility for her future.  She enlisted the help of women she trusted to hold her accountable and help her create that future.  Today I am sure my friend, as I did, woke up with a natural tendency to slip into bad habits.  But she has a lovely memory to help her in her commitment to fill the hole left behind by those words now released with something new – something beautiful.  The love of her God, the love of her family, and the support of her friends will envelop her in her new journey.  She will busy her hands with new projects – baking is one of her many talents and she enjoys it so much.  With her God, her little family and her friends surrounding her with love, she is committing herself to a journey that will lead to a destination that bares absolutely no resemblance to Bitterness.

Trust the Glue

Each one of us over millenia have reflected a distinct and unique part of the Light.  We are each created in God’s image and yet we are unique.  Every one of us is a mirror created to reflect His identity, his Light, in flashes of lightning, mellow sunrises and passionate sunsets.  He is like the sky and each of us a tiny sequin.  No two sequins reflect the same picture and the sky is so massive that there will never be enough sequins to reflect it all.  This is the basis of a Christian’s identity.  Whether or not we believe God called us into being or that there was a Big Bang, or, like me, believe that God’s enormous voice called out a Big Bang, it is not how it happened but what happened that ties us together.  We found ourselves here.  Reflectors of His image.

Then came imperfection.  Like a hammer it shattered the mirrors into shards and pieces.  Now there are little bits of the image cracked apart by black emptiness of holes, scars and craters.  Some have fewer or smaller pieces than others.  But all are cracked.  Each crack hurts – the edges are sharp and jagged.  The pieces come into conflict with each other and the pieces of one slice into the creatures around.  This is the brokenness that is the basis of Christian sorrow.  The horror that salvation saves us from.

Grace was born.  The glue born of the Light that stuck the pieces together.  The stem cell that generated new pieces of mirror in gaping cracks.  The solvent that rinsed the tarnish off the pieces and let them better catch the Light.  The healing balm that erased the pain of jagged edges.  This is the Christian salvation.

We are mirrored beings cracked and broken, reflecting light in places of darkness.  Some consciously choose to shed their pieces, succumbing to the will of the deep, moving like the demons and tearing off the pieces of others’ images.  Putting out their light.  Their reflection.  But never ever destroying the Light.

Then there are others, torn between light and dark or simply oblivious to the battle of the two.  Blinking and turning they now reflect and then they don’t.  They are unaware or reckless to the knowledge that they are a mirror designed to catch and explode in beauty, in the Light.  Their pieces are neglected, tarnished, and dangling by an edge to the image.  Some yearn to be beautiful and pure without knowing how.  Others have no idea that they aren’t.

So fragile are we and so beautiful our pieces that we cannot begin to comprehend our own complexity.

And then there are the Children of the Light.  Caught up by and addicted to God’s love.  Coming out of the dark, some are drawn out by a glimpse of a sunbeam, others by a lightning storm, others still by simply opening their eyes to dazzling brilliance all around them.  All are cracked.  All are in some state, each a unique state, of disrepair.  In the Light the glue goes to work, the solvent begins to rinse, and the stem cell is planted in the heart.  There is healing and pain is attacked and prevented.  The pieces no longer hurt as they did and the sharp edges of others cannot cut through the glue.  The process is intense, life changing, image changing, but first and foremost it is heart changing.

So fragile are we and so beautiful our pieces that we cannot begin to comprehend our own complexity.  Much less so is our ability to grasp the complexity of our God and our Light, bigger than the sky that two eyes alone are unable to fully see.  So unique was each original purpose and destiny and so unique is our damage that we cannot begin to understand the extent to which we are broken.  Our own brokenness is a mystery to us… how then can we expect to understand, decide on, and judge the brokenness of others?

But even more mysterious is our gift of Grace.  The one thing that is never changing, never tarnished, never dark.

We are but pieces of glass yearning for the Light.  Our wholeness depends wholly on the glue.