- Written by Callie Neff
John 12:24-25 (CJB)
24 Yes, indeed! I tell you that unless a grain of wheat that falls to the ground dies, it stays just a grain; but if it dies, it produces a big harvest. 25 He who loves his life loses it, but he who hates his life in this world will keep it safe right on into eternal life!
Unless a grain of wheat .... dies. Unless a life is given for a life. Unless someone is willing to give up freedom and hope in exchange for someone else's freedom and hope! This is the life of love we are called to. Dying to the need for control. Dying to the pride of being capable. Dying to the misunderstood place of wholeness and health as an individual pursuit. Willingness to lay down.
John 15:12-14 (CJB)
12 “This is my command: that you keep on loving each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than a person who lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends, if you do what I command you.
We choose to lay down our lives. We choose to walk as those oppressed. We choose to become as one rejected, lost, minunderstood. No greater love...
These are the truths that ring in my heart when I face the ones in my life now. When I face the realities experienced, the nightmares lived, the long road ahead for each one. I willingly must choose each day to die to my sensibilities, my affections, and my understanding. I choose to go beyond understanding and keeping myself safe...I choose to lay down my life and enter into death. I am asking this of those I walk with. I am asking them to lay down all they have known and understood and to step into the risky place of walking by faith in a Creator they do not know, to follow a path that is unfamiliar, to experience the raw and amazing pain of love, grief, hope and rebirth. There is nothing glamorous here. There is nothing finished. There is nothing familiar.
And so I must find courage to go, to face the pain, to accept the limits of free will...my inability to force or make another choose this path with me. Each day I go. Each day I pray. Each day I lay down my life...knowing it will be kept safe on into eternal life!!
May you go! May you pray! May you be kept safe as you die to self that others may live!
- Written by Callie Neff
Psalm 31:20-22 (CJB)
20 (19) But oh, how great is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
which you do for those who take refuge in you,
before people’s very eyes!
21 (20) In the shelter of your presence
you hide them from human plots,
you conceal them in your shelter,
safe from contentious tongues.
22 (21) Blessed be Adonai!
For he has shown me his amazing grace
when I was in a city under siege.
The eye is so calm because the now strong surface winds that converge towards the center never reach it. The coriolis force deflects the wind slightly away from the center, causing the wind to rotate around the center of the hurricane (the eye wall), leaving the exact center (the eye) calm. [google search: Why is the eye of the hurricane so calm?]
We are surrounded by "strong winds" but are promised to remain safe in the shelter of our God. Many of us are working directly and indirectly to be and to create places of refuge for those ready and wanting to step out of the storm. We work to bring together people and communities to care for and walk out love for our neighbors. We work to go beyond the indifference and apathy brought on by being "tossed to and fro by every wind of teaching." [Ephesians 4:13-15].
We are promised refuge in our God. We are promised that the enemy will "never reach" us. We are promised to be safe in the eye of the storm.
24 (23) Love Adonai, you faithful of his.
Adonai preserves the loyal,
but the proud he repays in full.
25 (24) Be strong, and fill your hearts with courage,
all of you who hope in Adonai.
- Written by Callie Neff
Proverbs 2:3-5 (CJB)
and raise your voice for discernment,
4 if you seek it as you would silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure —
5 then you will understand the fear of Adonai
and find knowledge of God.
Gemstones are treasured by most of us and to retrieve these precious gems from deep down the earth crust one has to go in for treasure hunt. Gemstone Mining is very complex and tedious process that requires huge input of valuable resources such as time, workforce, equipments and knowledge etc. There are different methods for recovering the gemstone from the lap of Mother Nature. The appropriate procedure is selected depending upon the circumstances but no matter what method is selected the entire process of gemstone mining needs to be very systematic as it costs a lot of money. The total process of gemstone mining is so intricate that inspite of putting in so much efforts there is no surety of the results. Failures and disappointments always have higher percentage than the success. Excerpt from an article on Jewelinfo4u.com by SHEWETA DHANUKA
The process of mining for gemstones is not unlike the work of housing ministry. The work of helping another person see themselves as loved, valued and wanted "is very complex and tedious" and "requires huge input of valuable resources" with "no surety of the results." We come to this work of love because we were loved and sought after in the same way, because we ourselves have come to the refiners fire. I marvel at the lengths of love my Father God lavishes on me. In the middle of what does not make sense, or feels too high a price, He gifts me with a glimpse of the gemstone...the beautiful, God breathed creation that I am called to love and care for.
The brilliant color catches my gaze and I feel reenergized to get back to the process. The joy comes in the smile that reaches the eyes, the written word that reminds me Jesus was in the story long before me, the action of taking this step to put aside the normal and ugly for something more...Each person stepping out of the darkness allowing me to come alongside them to mine for the treasure that has almost been lost is the journey I am on.
May you catch a glimpse of the gemstones you are working to recover! May you not be discouraged at the apparent failures and disappointments!
May you allow yourself to remain in process as you yourself are being refined!
Malachi 3:1-3 (CJB)
3 “Look! I am sending my messenger
to clear the way before me;
and the Lord, whom you seek,
will suddenly come to his temple.
Yes, the messenger of the covenant,
in whom you take such delight —
look! Here he comes,”
2 But who can endure the day when he comes?
Who can stand when he appears?
For he will be like a refiner’s fire,
like the soapmaker’s lye.
3 He will sit, testing and purifying the silver;
he will purify the sons of Levi,
refining them like gold and silver,
so that they can bring offerings to Adonai uprightly.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7(CJB)
6 For it is the God who once said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has made his light shine in our hearts, the light of the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of the Messiah Yeshua.
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it will be evident that such overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.
- Written by Callie Neff
This phrase caught my attention: "Yes, Seeing requires something,..." [pg 9 Second Touch, Brodie and Brock Thoene]
Seeing...Seeing the hurt, discerning the unjust, understanding the need.
Matthew 25:37-39 (CJB)
37 Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’
The journey of "seeing" has required something...it has required introspection, engagement and sacrifice. Over 13 years ago "seeing" is what opened the way to our family journey into the world of housing ministry. Day after day my husband and I would see young men and women walking up and down the city streets, see the progression of a young pregnant woman turning into a young woman pushing a stroller accompanied by different friends. We would see the going in and out of houses and the apparent random families that were being created in response to broken down family systems. We began the introspection of what does this mean, what am I seeing and who is reaching these young, random families in our community, who is telling them that there is another way, who will go? This finally led to the decision to engage through the sacrifice of leaving the life, comforts and possessions we knew to step fully into our roles as live in house parents.
This seeing has continued...with each young woman and child and family encountered, seeing the realities of brokenness, sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment...being asked to open the door of our hearts to the realities of sex trafficking and the slope of decline when our sexuality is used outside of God's design. Seeing the link of pornography, abortion, sex trafficking and the cycle of drug addiction. The seeing continues to press and require a response. The seeing continues to challenge and to change. The seeing and being seen continue the introspection, engagement and sacrifice.
Ezekiel 47:6 (CJB)
6 He asked me, “Human being, have you seen this?” ...
May your eyes be open to see! May you press in to understand the need! May you wait for the Lord to direct your path to respond!
- 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.