When Tragedy Strikes Too Close To Home

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Our girlish chatter stopped mid sentence as the car turned the corner revealing two blocks of emergency vehicles blocking our turn onto my street. I muttered something unintelligible to my friend as I hopped out of the car still rolling to a stop. “Excuse me ma’am, who are you?” A police officer stopped me before I could step foot on my block, “I live on that block,” I didn’t wait for a response and pushed past the police office and into the street.

My son had been home while I was at a women’s ministry dinner, and the iPhone he keeps telling me is ancient had batteries long ago dead. My heart pounded in my ears…was it my house causing all of that smoke? Had my son been calling desperate for comfort or even worse help? Turning the corner I saw ghostly grey plumes of smoke rolling in my direction. I sighed with relief. It was not my home. My son was in the front yard, camera in hand, waiting for my return.

On the way to my house, I must have still looked ashen as a neighbor grabbed me and held me saying, “No, it’s not your house, thank God.” And my son greeted me with the irritation that only comes when worry builds and communication fails, “When are you going to get a new phone Mom? I’ve been trying to call you for an hour!” His arm wrapped around my shoulders.

Two of my old Home Bible study members ran onto the block with admonishments similar to my son’s as they had tried to reach me to see if I was alright but to no avail. Arms all tangled in tearful hugs of relief, our eyes could not peel from the glowing embers of what was once home to a single mom and her two young adult children.

It was difficult to sleep that night as blue and red flickered on my ceiling past four a.m. There were sounds of hammering and staple guns as they boarded up what was left of the house. And then I remembered, in the midst of my relief, that it is still my neighbor’s house destroyed. The one I had invited repeatedly to my ladies’ Bible study on Wednesday mornings, but who had never come. My relief meant that someone else was suffering.

It was real to them. It was their two dogs killed by inhaling that ghostly vapor. It was their baby pictures and favorite sweaters and grandma’s afghans that had been roasted and then soaked. It was their life that had gone up in smoke. I went to sleep relieved but I woke up ashamed. I was relieved to be untouched while my neighbors had been devastated.

Sometimes, when tragedy hits closest to home, in our gratitude we forget to be sympathetic. Sometimes it’s easier to sympathize with the Christians on the other side of the world than it is with our next door neighbors. I wonder why?

Could it be that in our love for what belongs to us we grasp too tightly unable to see anything beyond ourselves? Could it be that our own neighborhood sees when our lawn needs to be mowed and hears our teenager shout angry things through the summer open windows? Could it be that placing ourselves in our neighbors shoes demands hand to hand interaction in a social media world, and we just don’t want to get involved? Could it be that we don’t know how to answer the awkward questions of why, and so we avoid putting ourselves in the position of being asked to begin with?

It is true. I am grateful for angels protecting my home. But in publicly acknowledging their presence in my home am I telling my neighbor that they were absent from hers?

Human nature hates the messiness of these questions. We default to what is easy, and sometimes what is easy is to turn away. But this is when I want His nature to overcome mine. His nature stands with us in the middle of crisis, never leaving us. His nature doesn’t run from unhappy endings and headlines, but runs to the rescue, sits beside those who have lost. Prays for those who are hurting.

The house is boarded up now. An empty container of what once was a home. And though I’ve since reached out to them, they have not responded. I can only pray that they have found the Source of all comfort. And yes, I pray for the persecuted on the other sie of the world because what they are experiencing is unthinkable. But sometimes my neighbor’s tragedies are forced on my realities and I would rather shove the pain of it aside than make it thinkable. Maybe the truth is that I am afraid to feel their pain.

It’s easier to send a nice check to the starving and hurting than to sit quietly with my neighbor as she sorts through charred memories. Maybe when tragedy hits too close to home it hits too close to home.

…and I chronicle His grace here

Caring for Yourself Is Really Caring For Others

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Constantly spending energy without replenishing leads to a definite breakdown. It’s rather a matter of math. Cars can’t drive great distances without refueling. Bank accounts can’t sustain repeated withdrawals without deposits. The same is true for you. The demands for your time and care will leave you on empty, unable to keep caring. It was a dark day for me when I realized that I had used up all of my strength on others and hadn’t taken care of myself. Ongoing care for yourself is the only way to prevent a breakdown and keep caring for others.

Would you care to join me at Family Fire?

When You’re Between A Rock And A Hard Place

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What do you do when you must stop your testimony mid sentence because in order to tell what God has done, you must tell what someone else has done, and love keeps you from just that?

What do you do when most of what you have to offer through life experience must be kept silent in order to keep from slander or harming your cause?

What do you say when you must risk any semblance of success you’ve attained in order to declare, “It is written!” and the masses watch while mocking and ask, “After all, are you afraid of success?”

It is lonely in this hard place. So few know what I am about. The details of the “why” in my life are hidden from plain sight. Without the “why” my actions look unkind…even unChristian.

I find myself in a place all-too-familiar; a place with a few sentinels standing guard amid a surrounding mob of accusers, and even worse, those who just curiously wonder and don’t know what to say.

I’ve been that person. The one who stands back at a distance, wondering how to approach someone walking through the Valley. Wondering whether or not they even want to be approached. It’s not easy being the Valley traveller or the onlooker. It’s awkward, and like most Americans we run from awkward and discomfort.

What do I do when I find myself in this place? The place where others out of discomfort look away? I run; run from the pain, the accusers, the curious, the awkward. I run to the one place that has sure footing amidst the slippery slopes. I run to the Rock that is higher, to the High Tower, to the Shadow that shields from the scalding heat of pressure. And I pray, “Lord, may You be glorified, even in my silence! May You be glorified even when standing for You looks like a defeat. Lord, not my will, but Yours be done in the broken pieces of my life.”

You see,

When you find yourself between a Rock and a hard place, the safest place is the Rock.

And I cleave to the only Foundation that never moves, my well worn, leather security blanket. For while I lay with this Book, cozy on my chest, it feels like some of my bleeding heart is mended. I remember that this life isn’t about my popularity, my expression or my opinions, but rather the laying down of these things that I might lift Jesus higher than my name, that I might express His feelings to this sad world, that I might hold closer to His opinions even than to my own.

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It is in the cleft of this Rock where I watch the Presence fill up the Valley with Himself. He has given me a choice seat to watch His wonder, His glory fill my frightening Valley with light and splendor, and I peak from around the Peak like a child who peers from behind his mother’s skirts while she confronts her child’s bully.

Once again, “The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Ex. 14:14

All that I have ever wanted is a chance to stand. Now that I have that chance, I want nothing more than to run. And this is fine, as long as I run toward His protection, behind the hem of His garment and let Him fight for me. I can run to the High Tower and then stand in the cleft of His Rock to watch Him do the fighting for me. Even when I want to be oh so strong, I am weak. In my weakness, I cleave to His un changing, everlasting words and I am made stronger than before.

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…and I chronicle His grace here

Cultivating An Adventurous Faith

imageYoung people are looking to live for something worth dying for. When we walk out our Christianity, we model a way of life to which they can aspire.

However, familiarity can breed contempt. What seems familiar to them may not seem exciting or worth their full attention.

How do we keep them on the course when they are restless for adventure?

Can we help them to see the Christian faith for the risky, radical, and revolutionary adventure that it is?

Friends, I am over at Family Fire today…will you join me?

Read more…

Exchanging Our Plans for God’s

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For months the Special Events and Fundraising Team and I had carefully planned every detail of the Taste of Love INC fundraiser. There would be a pie tasting, a pie auction complete with pastries baked by local pastors, a silent auction, a classic car show and outdoor games. Tents were borrowed, a restaurant sized mobile refrigerator ordered; the only thing we hadn’t planned on was three inches of rain.

Looking out my office window that morning, my eyes threatened to pool over like the parking lot down below. Basements had flooded. Streets were impassable. It looked like our outdoor event was a washout. The board president and I had a decision to make, should we cancel? Thirteen churches had joined efforts to bake pies, collect silent auction items and plan this event. Our annual budget depended on its success.

Luckily, the church who had originally offered their parking lot, offered their building (despite the fact that their basement was flooding). A new plan was formulating. Because when the enemy comes in like a flood, God raises a standard. An army of volunteers appeared and began moving tables, setting up chairs and working together. Someone got word that the nearby “Taste of Chicago” event had been cancelled that day, but the show would go on in suburban Tinley Park!

A few minutes before the event officially started, the troops gathered to thank God and pray. Somehow we did it! We set up inside for an event intended for outdoors, and in a fraction of the time we had originally planned. But would anyone come? Sewers were overflowing and backyards had become lakes.

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Visitors began to trickle into the church until the entire Fellowship Hall was filled with smiling faces. Guests were tasting pies and exchanging narratives about sub pumps and downed power lines. Over the past six months there had been struggles. Disagreements and disappointments had seeped in here and there. Yet on this day, the Body of Christ worked together, looking past denominational differences and beyond differences of opinion. In fact, at our followup meeting we all agreed that God had a greater plan. His had been far more successful than anything we could have thrown together.

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Looking back, I realize that the whole experience captures the core of what Love In The Name of Christ is all about. As a nonprofit organization Love INC strives to mobilize the local church in order to transform lives and communities in the Name of Christ. We empower our volunteers who are predominately from our participating churches with opportunities to reach out to those who are hurting in our community. In order to accomplish this, we listen to the agencies that we partner with to determine what needs are not being sufficiently met. After we decipher these “gaps” in service, we rally our churches by collecting product and training volunteers to fill in those voids. Thus far, our affiliate has started four gap ministries: an adult coat closet, a personal care pantry, a bunk bed and bedding ministry and finally a fresh start kit for those in need of household items.

Just like our fundraising event, there are daily struggles. Working interdenominationally can be a challenge at times. We often misunderstand and miscommunicate with one another. Many times the enemy tries to divide and conquer us. He knows that a house divided against itself can not stand. However, when we are united under the common cause of showing Christ’s love in practical ways the Body of Christ is a force to be reckoned with. This work of administering the Father’s love is common to every Christian and in the end is the one thing that matters more than anything. What a privilege it is to be entrusted with the job of provoking others to love and good works in this way.

Kim Sullivan is the executive director of Love INC of Tinley Park, IL, a non-profit service organization that brings together local churches, volunteers, and community agencies to help people in need. Kim began this new career in 2012 after “retiring” from home educating her three children. Kim’s passion for writing began as a child with her love of reading, and her first manuscript was a children’s picture book. She blogs at Journey to Epiphany. Kim has been married to Steve, her best friend and biggest supporter, since 2000 and together they have reared a happy blended household of five. As a Christian, Kim believes that her relationship with Christ is the most important thing in her life. He is all that matters and she is very grateful to be His girl. Kim loves finding the extraordinary in the ordinary and finding lessons in unexpected places.

Sharing over at the High Calling.

When the Enemy Comes In Like A Flood

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When the enemy comes in like a flood….

And it’s during your non profit organization’s biggest annual fundraiser

Which is planned for outdoors

And you have no plan “b”.

When a deluge of doubt drowns all that was sprouting green

And hope is as damp as the basement floor

That threatens to pool over like the tears in your eyes.

When carefully laid plans seem to lay in waste

And a crew of almost 100 looks to you to make a decision

Whether to admit defeat or somehow trudge on.

When even after clouds empty the air is thick with Mosquitos and humidity

And parking lots are lakes

And dreams threaten to turn to nightmares.

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God raises a standard.

And it almost always includes His army

Of mighty workers and trusters

Who look in the face of doubters and dare to defy disaster.

God raises a standard of men and women

Who work together to see how we can make it happen.

Even in the midst of near fundraising tragedy.

God raises a standard

Better than our plan “a”

With fellowship and smiles and never one cross word.

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God raises a standard

A plan better than ours

And once again I remember…

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Still counting

Three gifts water…

110. Morning downpour places screen with Monet masterpiece.

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111. Deluge turns into delight

112. Running water in my home.

Three gifts curled.

113. Dog sleeping

114. Me curled up on office floor napping.. :)

115. Eyelashes

Gifts in life, growth and decline

116. Baby boom at church

117. Taste of Love INC money raised!

118. Decline of 7 day work weeks now that the Taste is over.

Three gifts yellow

119. Early morning sun through trees.

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120. Lone Black-eyed Susan in a sea of green.

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121. Church family donned in Taste of

Love INC yellow. image

122. Firemen.

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123. God’s protection.

124. My neighbor’s safety.

Three gifts hanging down.

125. vbs props

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126. Flower baskets – gifts from God.

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127. Neighbor’s grape fines dripping sweetness.

Thre gifts learned

128. image

129. image

130. image

Three gifts musical.

131. Birdsong

132. #Connect14 worship

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133. Her. She sings in her sleep. image

Three gifts baked.

134. Sourdough bread

135. Double chocolate cupcakes

136. Lasagna

Gifts in light, darkness and shadows.

137. Grandma’s house. image

138. Sunrise shadows.

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139. Dark and cool forests.

…sharing a playdate with Laura:
and at a new place for writers Unforced Rhythms of Grace.

and with beautiful Jennifer Dukes Lee…
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All for the Joy

kd sullivan:

Friends…just this today…

Originally posted on Journey Towards Epiphany:

This is a repost…but I don’t think I could write a better description of my life today.

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How to be deeply pressed and yet not be depressed.
How to remain under stress and not crack for the pressure cooker that transforms uncooked hard flesh to tender heart.
How to allow the bitter to turn sweet. How?

How to face giants without human companionship.
How to distinguish small still voices swallowed in roaring, raging winds.
How to say yes when it would be so much easier to say no. How?

Jesus, our mentor, has gone before us in every area, this one incuded. Pressed on every side, and pressured by the enemy to turn back from His assignment, he stayed. He stayed unmoving even under pressure that squeezed blood from His sweat glands. He did it for the joy that was set before Him.

And maybe this is how. Maybe we…

View original 368 more words

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