- Written by Callie Neff
ˌəmˈbrelə/nounnoun: umbrella; plural noun: umbrellas1.a device consisting of a circular canopy of cloth on a folding metal frame supported by a central rod, used as protection against rain or sometimes sun.
2.a protecting force or influence."the American nuclear umbrella over the West"
Over the seasons of living with and loving the young women and their children that have been part of our lives, I have come to recognize the real role that we serve. We are an umbrella. We offer "protection against" further hardship, deeper hurt and facing life alone. We are a "protecting force or influence" that for a season offers hope, gives voice to long silent dreams, and gently points the way to the eternal. Much like the banner of love we are offered by our Heavenly Father, so we step into that role for those who would choose to step out of the sun or rain and we remain in place as a rally point.
Season after season we hear from someone who came to us in a time of need and now they know where they can step out of the storm. We are here. They can freely come and go and choose to stay under the protective cover, stand nearby, or simply check to see if the umbrella is still open. Making full use of the umbrella is a choice, returning to the umbrella is optional and there is no further obligation once they have let go. We remain in place to provide protection, to offer hope and to live our mandate of love.
Psalm 60:6 (CJB)
6 (4) To those who fear you because of the truth
you gave a banner to rally around, (Selah)
Song of Solomon 2:4(CJB)
4 He brings me to the banquet hall;
his banner over me is love.
- Written by Callie Neff
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
Many of us know this song and the lyrics remind us of our call to walk by faith and encourage us to go "where feet may fail." This journey in family and ministry has no end to the unknowns and the places that require deeper trust. We can only hold loosely our expectations, structures and systems. We must allow room for "other" and the great mystery of what the Lord is working in another person's life even as we do our part in offering the hope of salvation, setting clear boundaries and marking out a path to restoration.
Sometimes the greatest moments of unknown are in the offer of trust...giving that young woman the ability to return to a family setting with dynamics and people we cannot control, trusting that it is the right thing to do in her walking out her decision making, self-determination and putting into practice all she has seen and heard while with you. Sometimes the unknown looks like sharing your heart with your team members, not sure of their position on a matter and trusting the outcome to the Lord. Sometimes standing in faith looks like saying no to an opportunity that may meet a need but is not confirmed in your spirit.
Isaiah 48:6 (NIV)
You have heard these things; look at them all.
Will you not admit them?
“From now on I will tell you of new things,
of hidden things unknown to you.
My prayer for you is that you will take that next step down the path of the great unknown and that you can walk "where feet may fail"!
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
- Written by Callie Neff
2 Samuel 6:8-10 (NIV)
8 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.[a]
9 David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David...
It is hard to say how many times I have to start over, try again. I have to work through a negative consequence, face an inconsistency or catch my breath in the day to day of living, loving and leading. I cannot say I have learned the art of graciously having to start over, but if I am going to do this work, follow where the Lord leads and live out the gospel; I am going to face this lesson quite often. I have had many moments like David, where I put thought, effort, planning into something only to experience a great loss and hurt that has me questioning and reeling from the ramifications...a woman departing suddenly from our home returning to addiction and abuse, a team member speaking unkindly and bringing division and discord, a failed effort at great cost to outside relationships in the community, a redacted funding source... I ask like David "How can"...[we succeed at reaching these women through all these obstacles]
I find myself unwilling and unwanting to try again yet here I am in a role demanding this of me again, and again and again. The journey of people work and ministry is not a clearly mapped science leading from point A to point B. The best laid plans and preparation can be undone by a single word, a forgotten task, a hurt team member, a heart not ready to yield...
Yet this assignment is from the Lord, this work is Holy and each woman is sacred and we are called to surround her and walk with her learning as we go how to extend grace.
Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
Ultimately we are challenged to not only learn how to get up and receive this grace and mercy for ourselves but to extend it to others. Extend the never ending kindness, compassion and understanding to those we are called to serve, to those serving with us and at times even those who seem to be standing in our way.
The Ark Brought to Jerusalem
6 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand.2 He and all his men went to Baalah[a] in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name,[b] the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it,[c]and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets,[d] harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals. 2 Samuel 6: 1-5
May you experience the unfailing compassion of the Lord! May you have the grace to extend to others!
May you have the courage to try again!
- Written by Callie Neff
Ephesians 6:13-15 (NIV)
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
When the day of evil comes, and after you have done everything...Stand firm then.
Yesterday as I was reflecting on the week behind and preparing for the week ahead I had this sense that I was at the "after..." The battle is still unfinished, the obstacles have not all cleared, but the groundwork is laid, the preparation of prayer is done, the explanations have run out, the team is prepared, the "everything I can do" is done and now it is time to stand firm.
It is time to "resist" the lies of the enemy the taunts that say it was in vain...it is not worth it...it will not last.
It is time to rest in the truth and promises I know, I have seen, I have heard.
It is time to STAND.
May you be on your guard! May you be prepared to stand firm! May you know God's love is at the heart of everything you do!
1 Corinthians 16:13-14(NIV)
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
Psalm 33:10-12 (NIV)
10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
- Written by Callie Neff
Luke 12:25-27 (CJB)
25 Can any of you by worrying add an hour to his life? 26 If you can’t do a little thing like that, why worry about the rest? 27 Think about the wild irises, and how they grow. They neither work nor spin thread; yet, I tell you, not even Shlomo in all his glory was clothed as beautifully as one of these.
We have a beautiful little Ruby-throated hummingbird that comes to the feeders in our backyard and has taken to sitting on the Black Eyed Susan's. That little bird on a flower reminds me of how my grandmother would always greet us with "how is every little thing with you". I miss that greeting and the sincere love and care that came with it; I knew that my grandmother loved me and cared about my answer. As I watch "Ruby" I think of what a gift he is to me... and I reflect on my love for flowers, hummingbirds and our backyard and I hear Abba Father ask me "how is every little thing with you". I know that even more than the sincere love and care of my grandmother, that my heavenly Father loves me and cares about me and that He is the only one able to meet my needs and address "every little thing."
When I feel lonely and isolated in our work and family life he reminds me of a kindred friend with whom I can pour out my heart in prayer and tears. When I am angry He reminds me with a gentle nudge from one of our creatures or a kind word from my child that holding that anger will not get me anywhere. When I feel tired He sends my husband to remind me to rest and to turn off all that demands my attention. When I need quiet...when I need answers...When...He hears my heart cry and He cares about "every little thing" and there is "no thing too little for Him."
Psalm 91:14-15 (CJB)
14 “Because he loves me, I will rescue him;
because he knows my name, I will protect him.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him when he is in trouble.
I will extricate him and bring him honor.
4 (3) Proclaim with me the greatness of Adonai;
let us exalt his name together.
5 (4) I sought Adonai, and he answered me;
he rescued me from everything I feared.
"How is every little thing with you?"