I have an article up at Plough magazine

Hi Everyone,

I know it’s been ages since I’ve posted, but I just had a piece published at Plough, a magazine (both print and online) that I highly respect. Plough provides lots of thoughtful/reflective and change-prompting reading that I’ve appreciated over the past year. The piece I have there is “Belonging.” Just follow the link to read, and while you’re there, check out the magazine and website.

Blessings,

Jen

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a piece up on DineANDRhyme!

matcha 2Sometimes, in the middle of writing class assignments and web articles, you gotta’ write something just for fun! So last week, as I was trying to squeeze a paper down to its required 5-6 pages (I failed), I wrote about my favorite “office away from home,” Cafe K’tizo, and submitted my just-f0r-fun poem to DineANDRhyme, a blog of poems about restaurants.

Here’s the link to my poem about my favorite treat at my favorite place. The piece on DineANDRhyme also has a link to K’Tizo’s website. You can order teas from the website no matter where in the world you are, but if you happen to be in the western suburbs of Chicago, I would suggest visiting the store in person. Who knows–you might see me there!

Annual Gifts-that-Give-Back post

Today is “Giving Tuesday,” did you know? The link takes you to a Youtube video that explains why Giving Tuesday was created to follow Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I thought today would be a great day to post my annual “gifts that give back” post. More and more we have the opportunity to give gifts that give twice: to the recipient AND to a ministry that practices Biblical generosity. If you have already completed all your Christmas shopping, then this post isn’t for you, but if you’re just starting to think about it (I’m in this camp!), then I hope to give you some good ideas in this post.

GENERAL GIVING

You can use Amazon.com’s Smile program and choose a charity to receive a portion of your purchase price. (Mine is locked in at Compassion International currently, but there are thousands on Amazon’s list.) The link above gives more info, and this program is not just for the holiday season but operates all year.

FOR THE TEENS/PRETEENS IN YOUR LIFE–OH, AND FOR EVERYONE ELSE, TOO!

Check out www.mudlove.com, Bel Kai, and Belove.

MudLOVE, based in Winona Lake, Indiana (home of my wonderful in-laws and my alma mater, Grace College), sells made-on-site clay bracelets, necklaces, mugs, and more. The most popular version is stamped with a word or phrase, and you can even custom order a word or phrase that has particular meaning to you. Twenty percent of each purchase goes to provide clean water in Africa, and $5 spent provides an African with clean drinking water for a year. My girls (ages 11, 15, 16, and 18) ALL love them. (Honestly, I do, too!)

Bel Kai, which sells beautiful handmade jewelry, is another company that gives-back, and when the creator of MudLOVE married the creator BelKai, Belove was created. Great story (check it out at the Bel Kai link above) and just as great products!

BIG-TICKET BEAUTY

Hand and Cloth sells gorgeous, one-of-a-kind blankets made from used saris by women rescued from the slave trade in Bangladesh. I’ve featured this ministry before on my blog (https://journeytojen.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/blankets-handmade-by-women-women-handmade-by-god/).  These are perfect buys for the person who appreciates beautiful, handmade artisan items (hmm—maybe that describes you yourself!). They start at $98 dollars and go up to around $200. Check out the blankets at the website—which itself is beautiful—and read their story while you are there. “Blankets handmade by women. Women handmade by God.” Wonderful work! (They also have stockings–each one unique! So cool!)

Renew Project is an incredible ministry. Based in my area (Chicago’s western suburbs), it trains and employs refugee women to make beautiful items from recycled textiles. Bags, baby items, tablecloths, etc., and their work is incredible (these women are artisans!). Best of all, each purchase helps a refugee woman thrive in her new home.

SIX FOR WOMEN AT RISK

If you want something other than blankets made by women rescued from the slave trade, visit WAR International. The acronym WAR, standing for Women at Risk, was started in 2006. You can find jewelry, accessories, home décor, and children’s items made by women in 13 countries, including the United States.

Narimon employs women rescued out of the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand. the woman make beautiful jewelry, handbags, and some clothing at The Well, where the women not only work but are ministered to. Narimon is the products division of Servantworks. Seriously, their work is beautiful.

www.stoptraffickfashion.com has t-shirts, jewelry, and totes/bags made from recycled materials. Many of their t-shirts express the heart of the women who run this website. One with a barcode also has the logo “People are not products” and several sport the logo “free.loved.radiant.”

Sseko (what a cool name) Designs was started by Liz Bohannon. Read this great article about her and her business at Relevant Magazine–and shop here, too! Their tie sandals are awesome, but they’ve now branched out to bags, clothing items, scarves, etc.

Noonday Collection and Trades of Hope both offer beautiful fair trade items (primarily jewelry, scarves, bags, etc.) made by women artisans in developing countries. Great businesses, great products, great stories. I have friends involved in both of these businesses, and they are passionate about their work and what it is providing for other women around the globe. I encourage you to check out their websites.

LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Need to shop for kids, men, women—want to spend a little for this one, more for that one? Go to www.tenthousandvillages.com. Gorgeous jewelry, decorative items, and woven/knitted items for women; toys and games for children; even things like chess sets, bookends, and bicycle-chain frames for men. Their website is very easy to navigate and has some very helpful tools. If you click on the “gift ideas” tab at the top of the page, you can shop for holiday items, for men, women, or children, or by type of item.  You can spend a little (items as low as $4) or a lot. They also have shops (there is one in Glen Ellyn, IL) across the U.S. You can find a shop locater on the website.

FOR THE COFFEE LOVERS

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company has “Drink Coffee. Do Good” as its motto. It started with farmers in Rwanda (the founder saw the effects of the genocide and had to do SOMETHING) and now works with farmers in Haiti and Thailand as well. They sell 100% Arabica, fairly traded, fresh roasted coffee. They sell ground, whole bean, and decaf, teas, and coffee accessories.

I Have a Bean “was created for a purpose–to positively impact the lives of post-prison men and women, their families, and the communities in which we live.” This business employs post-prison men and women. If you’re in the Wheaton area, drop in their store on Fridays for free coffee and a chat with their awesome staff!

If you’re in Chicago’s western suburbs, drop in at River City Roasters in Wheaton (if you’re not, you can visit them virtually) and pick up a few bags of their direct-trade blends, which River City Roasters roasts themselves. Sometimes they also have their Venture blend, which supports Venture Corp (www.entertheventure.com), a small nonprofit started by some young friends of ours. Each bag purchased helps support two wonderful ministries in Africa. (I am privileged to have met both Mary and Ronnie, the leaders of the two ministries Venture supports.) Speaking of Venture, you can visit its website and support its ministries through buying beautiful Ugandan necklaces. Just click on the “enter the venture” link above.

LOOKING FOR HANDCRAFTED CROCHETED ITEMS–AND MORE?

My husband just told me about this one, and I checked it out and love their website. What a great story! A group of high school guys learned to crochet simply because they wanted unique ski hats on the local slopes. Others dubbed them the Krochet Kids. Long story short (if you want to know the whole thing, visit the website), they taught these skills to women in northern Africa and then Peru, and they sell these handmade items at www.krochetkids.org. Each item carries with it the signature of the woman who crocheted it, and you can visit the website to learn her story. They’ve also branched out and now offer several ethically-made clothing and accessory items as well.

AND, FINALLY, FOR THE PERSON WHO HAS EVERYTHING

Buy them a goat—bet they don’t have that. Seriously, go to World Vision or Compassion or Open Doors USA or International Justice Mission (the links take you directly to their online gift catalogs). The first two have items like school supplies, ducks, and clean-water wells–and goats! Open Doors has items that are specific to the needs of the persecuted church worldwide, and IJM allows you to pay for trauma counseling or legal representation for those suffering injustice. You can honor someone with your gift, and that person will receive a card telling about your gift and what it will accomplish. If you want to keep the idea of giving in front of you this season, request that a print gift catalog from either World Vision or Compassion be sent to you. It’s a fantastic tool to use with kids during this season when they are constantly faced with advertisements that fool them into thinking that their “wants” are actually “needs.”

ANY OTHER IDEAS???

If you have other ideas, please leave a comment and share! I’d love to hear and share other opportunities to give gifts that give back. Feel free to share this list with others.

Thanks for reading! I sure enjoyed pulling the list together.

Good works prepared: Faith Willard and Sarah Aulie

One of Hand and Cloth's beautiful blankets draped across a chair in my bedroom. They truly are lovely and would make great Christmas presents!

One of Hand and Cloth’s beautiful blankets draped across a chair in my bedroom. They truly are lovely and would make great Christmas presents!

This morning I had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Aulie (founder of Hand and Cloth, which I’ve written about before; click on the link to read about it) and Faith Willard speak at Wheaton Academy’s alumni recognition chapel. Both graduated from the Academy (50 years apart!), and Sarah, a 2000 grad, considers Faith, a 1950 grad, to be her mentor. It’s a beautiful story.

In 2007 Sarah was at a crossroads. She knew the Lord was calling her to do some sort of overseas work that would provide at-risk women with a livelihood, but she didn’t know any specifics. She asked her mother to pray for her, and her mother brought the request to the prayer group she led at Wheaton Academy. The prayer request spread to the administrative assistant of the Head of School, who maintained connections with WA alum all around the world, including Faith Willard, who’d been working in Bangladesh for more than 30 years by then. The admin assistant connected Sarah with Faith.

In 2007 Sarah flew to Bangladesh and saw firsthand the work of The Widow’s Friend, the organization Faith started in 1975 that now runs medical clinics, an orphanage, a high school, a mission/job skills training center for for widows, a school for the deaf, and a hostel for unmarried working women. Through Faith’s widespread work and connections, Sarah got a big-picture view of the needs in Bangladesh, and she became particularly interested in women who were unprotected by husbands or families. These women are often trafficked or forced to work in prostitution because they have no other options for supporting themselves and their children.

Sarah wanted to provide dignified work for these women, and when she discovered the kantha, a traditional blanket made from used sari cloth, she had an idea. She formed Hand and Cloth, a U.S.-based non-profit, to sell kantha blankets in the U.S., and partnered with House of Hope, a business in Bangladesh, to employ women to stitch the blankets.

I wrote a full article on these two women in the fall of 2012. Though I was able to interview Sarah Aulie in person, I had to talk on the phone with Faith Willard. It was a joy to meet her in person this morning and hear her words of wisdom to the students. She told them wonderful stories of God’s providence and how he has led her, time and time again, in the 65 years since she left high school. She, too, had many times when she didn’t know what she was supposed to do; she simply had an urge and a desire. She quoted Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” NIV (the link has NIV, Amplified, and Message versions of it alongside each other).

“He’s already gone ahead and made preparation,” Faith reminded the students–and me. “If you just have a heart to honor the Lord, that’s all he needs. He’ll go before you and prepare the way. He’s always doing that. You’ll find He’s provided all you need.”

As I listened, I reflected on how that message has continued to be true for Sarah. Sarah is now married to a Greek man and is living in Athens, which–not coincidentally–is a real hotbed for trafficking. Sarah is already looking into ways Hand and Cloth can expand its scope and provide dignified work to some of the women trapped in Greece’s prostitution trade. Just as Faith said, God has once again gone before Sarah and prepared a good work for her to do.

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to see how God is making a way for others than it is to see how He’s going ahead of us in our own lives. Faith’s message was exactly what I needed to hear this morning, and I’m passing it along in case it’s what you need to hear, too.

Sharing a site

I’ve been following “Leaf and Twig” for nearly a year now, and it just struck me that I’ve never passed it on as a suggestion. Each day Catherine Arcolio, the artist behind “Leaf and Twig,” posts an incredible nature photo and a short poem to go with it. I’ve found it a wonderful way to celebrate God’s beauty found in both creation and word. The link above takes you to the entire site, but the links below take you to a couple of my favorites from months past.

“Steeple”

“Seeing Through”

“Unexpected Blooms”

Justice in Mountains Beyond Mountains

I just finished Mountains Beyond Mountains, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder’s true account of the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease (ID) specialist. Here’s part of the inside-the-front-cover blurb:

“In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that ‘the only real nation is humanity.’”

Though I found the accounts of worldwide medical politics fascinating, what gripped me most was Farmer’s dedication to the patients right in front of him. Many accounts reminded me of the stories my family-doctor father told at the dinner table. He, like Farmer, saw every person as a patient, someone to be helped. What also grabbed both my attention and my heart was Farmer’s insistence that we must treat the poor as if they are our own sister or brother, child or mother.

This insistence has often put Farmer at odds with medicine on a grand scale. The World Health Organization and other international medical entities, understandably so, want to impact the greatest number of lives with the limited funds they have, which means that those who suffer with resistant strains of a disease often get ignored. Dr. Farmer disagrees with this practice, in part because of his theory (which has been proven time and again through his and other’s clinical studies) that resistant strains, when untreated, eventually enter the general population, and the problem then multiplies. Better, though more expensive in the short-term, to make great efforts to find every person in a region who suffers from the disease, treat every case, no matter how complicated, and systematically eradicate the disease in that area in all its forms.

But the greater reason Farmer treats every patient he encounters is because of this belief: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.” If you visit the Web page of Partners in Health, the organization Farmer, with others, founded, that quote of his is at the bottom of nearly every page.

This belief means Farmer is holistic in his approach to patient care. Well-fed people, living in decent housing, are less susceptible to infectious diseases, he argues. Therefore, in the process of administering medical treatment, he works to improve the nutrition and living conditions of his patients. He has poured out his life in order to accomplish this level of individual and community healthcare in some of the poorest places around the world.

The book is a good read. It’s also convicting. The title Mountains Beyond Mountains refers to a Haitian proverb: “Beyond mountains there are mountains,” and means that as you solve one problem, another presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one, too.

The proverb is so very true, and it should impact all of us, not just those who, like Farmer, are on the front line of the battle against poverty, disease, and injustice/oppression. The rest of us, though, can feel like we have no ability to impact the battle. What is the point, then, of thinking of it at all, of reading books like this? Kidder wrote: “The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them or, when you do, to send money.”

Yet for those of us following Christ, “not thinking about them”—even if we do send money—is not an option. Paul Farmer is quoted as saying, “[Many people] think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We (Partners in Health) don’t believe that. There’s a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It’s what separates us from roaches.”

We Christians don’t believe that either. We are called to think and pray and care to the point that our own comfort eventually becomes secondary.

Still, it can sometimes feel like an abdication to simply send money or even to pray.

As long as the prayer and the giving impact our hearts, it’s not.

At a different point in the book, Kidder said of Farmer, “Lives of service depend on lives of support. He’d gotten help from many people.”

I tell my kids all the time that we are richer than 98% of the world’s population. (They often finish my quote and say, “We know, Mom. We know.” By the way, you can check your own ranking out at the Global Rich List). It helps our perspective to remember that fact so we don’t simply compare ourselves with the other middle-classers surrounding us and see our wealth as being a means for keeping up.

Kidder spoke on this truth: “How could a just God permit great misery? The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb: ‘Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe,’ in literal translation, ‘God gives but doesn’t share.’ This meant… God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he’s not the one who’s supposed to divvy up the loot. That charge was laid upon us.”

Yes.

 

NOTE: I’ve been through enough vague guilt trips that I certainly don’t want to lay one on anyone else. So what do we do when we don’t know what to do?

We start with prayer. God knows the resources He’s provided us with and the purpose He has for each one (whether they be time, money, or expertise). God directs us to (or directs to us) the neighbor next door, the local homeless shelter, orphans across the world, persecuted believers, resettled refugees from Syria or the Congo, or the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Is it easier, perhaps, not to be burdened? Absolutely! But we’re missing so, so much if we stay aloof. We must be bold to pray even when we know it will push us to know God’s heart better—the heart that cares for the entire world and knows each injustice and sorrow.

We can’t know His heart if we don’t pray.

 

LINKS: Here are a few links to U.S. and international organizations that are concerned with justice and health for all:

World Vision

Compassion International

International Justice Mission

Food for the Hungry

Samaritan’s Purse

Feed My Starving Children

Mercy Ships

For smaller organizations, please see the “What I’m passionate about” column on the right side of my blog.

FURTHER READING: To read more about the subject of Biblical justice, follow this link to “A Justice Manifesto,” written by Kelli Trujillo for the July/August 2013 issue of Relevant Magazine. It’s a great big-picture article with excellent sidebars on specific issues and/or ways to get involved.

In the same issue of Relevant, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson wrote “Why You Can’t Save the World.” It’s excellent and a good reminder of the truth that we aren’t called to save the world, just to trust and follow Christ. Saving the world is His job.

PRAYER: Father, as Christ taught us, we, too, pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our hearts long for heaven, Lord, for Your goodness and justice to be the living reality for all. We pray against oppression, inequality, and persecution. Teach us Your justice and how to live justly where we have been placed. Teach us and then so soften and burden our hearts with Your grace that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with You.

In Christ we pray this. Amen.

a suggested read

I link all Scripture references I use in my posts to Bible Gateway. If you haven’t used the resource before, it’s an excellent online tool. It’s not only easy to search for a particular Scripture or theme or key word, you can also view the same verse in multiple versions (and languages), listen to it read aloud, and read commentary on it.

Bible Gateway also has an excellent blog, contributed to by its own staff and guest writers. The common theme, of course, is that each and every post has to do with Scripture.

All of that to say, I found this great post on the BG blog this morning related to the book of Job (which fascinates me more and more as I grow older), and I thought I would pass it on. It’s titled “Job is a Book About Jesus: an Interview with Christopher Ash.”

Hope you enjoy!

I ramble with a purpose

At one of Wheaton Academy's bball games not long ago, the students brought glow-in-the-dark bracelets/necklaces. After the game, PJ gathered as many as he could, and we had a light show/photo shoot that night at home. Here he is twirling a handful of them.

At one of Wheaton Academy’s bball games not long ago, the students brought glow-in-the-dark bracelets/necklaces. After the game, PJ gathered as many as he could, and we had a light show/photo shoot that night at home. Here he is twirling a handful of them.

I like cool blog titles. Here are a few of my favorites: Everyday Epiphanies, Still Point in a Turning World, Logic and Imagination, A Place of Abundance, Writing from the Margins, The Middle: Encouragement for the Journey Through, A Holy Experience

(I think very highly of all these blogs as well as their titles, which is why I provided links).

I used to have a blog title.

But it wasn’t very cool.

Journey to Jen—how’s that for catchy!?

My husband, Dave, hated it, from the very beginning. I won’t tell you what he said it sounded like, but I will tell you I laughed and was also a little horrified. “It wasn’t the title I wanted,” I told him, “but ‘Jen’s Journey’ was already taken.”

I wanted “Jen’s Journey” because that’s all my blog was supposed to be: a reflection of my journey, what I’m learning, how I’m growing. I write to process, and the blog is my outlet.

Plus, I love the word “journey.” I also love the word “pilgrimage,” which is the word that led me to “journey” because, when I suggested “pilgrimage” as my blog title, Dave said that sounded weird.

(And if you don’t know my husband and are thinking right now he seems a little grumpy, he’s really, really not. In fact, he’s my greatest encourager and he makes me laugh.

A lot!

Anyway, back to my blog title. I finally bought my domain (at the urging of Dave) and simply named it “Jen Underwood.”

As in, “Here’s me—and my journey.”

Come to think of it, “journey” was a bit of a misnomer, unless you think of a journey as a meandering path that sometimes goes in circles and follows rabbit trails and then comes back to another circle, much like one of the previously traveled ones, and at this point you’re all turned around and have no idea which direction you’re facing or, for that matter, where exactly this path is taking you.

That is the kind of “journey” mine seems to be. Every once in awhile I look back at my blog entries of the last few weeks and think, “It’s ramblings! Just ramblings. I’ve been all over the place, thinking about all kinds of things. There’s nothing linear about it at all.”

And sometimes I get discouraged about this, because the erratic nature of my blog is a reflection of the erratic nature of my spiritual growth. I share this with God. “Lord, I have this vague idea of the godly woman I want to become,” I tell Him, “and I have, really, no idea how to get there. In fact, I’m not even sure what this ‘godly woman’ looks like, but every time I try to plan out a ‘point A to point B’ sort of journey that I think might lead me closer to her, You rip up my map!”

“Come to think of it, God,” I tell him. “’Ramblings’ could be a good title for my blog, for my LIFE.”

But when I look further back than just a few weeks ago—when I read blog entries of a year, two years ago, when I pull out one of the notebooks I’ve been writing in for two decades—I see growth. I recognize that true good was formed out of disappointments and “rabbit trails.” I understand that each time I followed a circular path, it was a little bigger and a little deeper. I realize that I may not “look” more godly, but I’ve been drawn into a deeper faith in God.

I see a very masterful hand at work.

All my ramblings have had purpose! I just didn’t know it!

God knows very specifically how to draw me closer to Him so that I trust Him in and for everything.

Therefore, I am not responsible for planning my spiritual growth, just for following Him into it, one step after another.

And though that is frightening in one way, it is incredibly reassuring and hopeful in another!

I ramble with a purpose.

His.

And His purpose is sure.

 

VERSES TO PONDER (in the Amplified version today)

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), [a]recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

Psalm 57: 1-2 Be merciful and gracious to me, O God, be merciful and gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge and finds shelter and confidence in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed. 2 I will cry to God Most High, Who performs on my behalf and rewards me [Who brings to pass His purposes for me and surely completes them]!

Exodus 40:37-38 But if the cloud was not taken up, they did not journey on till the day that it was taken up. 38 For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.

Isaiah 25:1 O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things, even purposes planned of old [and fulfilled] in faithfulness and truth.

The Real Battle: followup post

Dear Readers,

I have gotten so much response and information related to the last post that I’m writing a followup post mostly comprised of all the links/books/info I’ve been given through Facebook/blog comments.

First off, some continued reading:

I found an article, “The Super Bowl Could Never Not Be Breeding Grounds for Sexual Exploitation,” written by the Chief of Policy and Planning for NYS’ Unified Court System, Judy Kluger. She is also the Executive Director at Sanctuary for Families, the leading nonprofit in New York State dedicated exclusively to serving domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims, and their children. She wrote in response to several articles which said the hype about the Super Bowl being a “trafficking magnet” was not only overblown but was also potentially harmful to trafficking victims.

Then a friend suggested reading Half the Sky (the link is to its Amazon page) Without having read it yet (though it is now in my shopping cart at Amazon.com–my friend offered to let me borrow her copy, but I’m thinking I will probably want to mark it all up!), I can tell you that Amazon.com calls it “a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world” AND, only moments after my one friend posted the suggestion on Facebook, another friend called the book a “must read.” This friend should know, as she, with several of her friends, started the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition to inform and activate people about the issue right here in our area. While I’m on this topic, here is a link to the Coalition’s Facebook page and another to an article written about it.

And, on that note, more about this issue in my local area, the western suburbs of Chicago:

Over the weekend my husband forwarded to me a prayer email from New Name, a ministry of Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, (that’s my area) that “partners with local churches to reach out to and help walk along side the women who are caught up in these industries.” I prayed my way through the message (heartbreaking stories) and then emailed its sender, asking to be added to the list of people who regularly receive it. I mentioned New Name to my Anti-Trafficking Coalition friend, and she wrote back: “New Name is awesome!” She’s used its videos when she has spoken about trafficking in the West Chicagoland area. If you go to the “New Name” link above, you’ll find more information about it as well as a contact email.

Another friend mentioned A21, which is an official coalition partner with End It, an organization I mentioned in the last post. Both these sites have great information.

I’m also sharing the blog site One Small Voice–which I found through New Name’s prayer email. The blogger says this about the site: “My goal is to post information about global human trafficking issues as well what’s happening right here in the Chicagoland area including strides that are being made by the government regarding this issue.” Right at the top of the site is information about a forum being held this Saturday on this topic.

Lastly, I just want to remind all of us why we should care.

Many years ago, when I was a very young middle-school teacher with no children of my own, I sat in a meeting that involved a student, her father, and our team of teachers. The father was overbearing and belittling to his daughter, and we left the meeting feeling discouraged. One of our team members, the lone male on the team, father to a young daughter himself, was more than discouraged. He was angry. “Any man can be a sperm donor,” he said, “but it takes a real man to be a father, and that girl doesn’t have one.”

Most of the girls involved in trafficking have never had a true father, one who protected them, cherished them, and honored them. God longs to be their Father. He’s angry and sad they’ve never experienced true love, and He’s called us to have His heart for them. He says He “will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them” (Psalm 10:18), and He’s called us to enact that justice in the here and now.

Let’s pray for some genuine religion, friends.

And then let’s do it.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

Redeemed. Redeemed…

redeemedThe writing I do in my head is beautiful! As I walk at the dog park or fold laundry in the basement, words, lines, and ideas float through my mind and I am awed at their perfection.

First chance, I grab pen and paper and fix down the words that hang like masterpieces in my brain.

This fixing destroys them, or, rather, it unveils them. What I imagined as a Renoir is nothing more than a child’s cartoon drawing. “What happened?” I wonder. “Did I remember it wrong? Was it not really that beautiful to begin with?”

I am not alone in this, not as a writer, nor even as a person. We all long for perfection. We plan perfect dinners, evenings, vacations, outfits. Those are small imaginings. Bigger are our dreams of ideal families, marriages, lives, homes.

This fascinates me. Why do we have this obsession with perfection when we have never, not ever, experienced it?

And isn’t it ironic that though we long for perfection, our very natures seem bent to ruin any good we do encounter?

A few days ago I bought myself a new MudLOVE necklace (http://www.mudlove.com/index.htm). It says “Redeemed.” I picked this one over others that read “Blessed,” “Believe,” “Hope.” I picked it even over the “Set Free” necklace, which I bought last year but then gave away to a young man in Africa this past summer.

Redeemed.

MudLOVE does not have a necklace that reads “Perfect” or even “Perfected.”

That’s not surprising. Few of us are that egotistical, at least outwardly.

Perfection implies there is no need for any kind of change, no need for redemption. If something is perfect, it simply is. There are no marks of fixed flaws, no evidence of past issues.

Yet Christ told us to “be perfect, even as the Heavenly Father is perfect.” (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5:48&version=ESV)

Impossible—which was pretty much the point.

Which brings me back to redemption.

I look at my reference tools and find the definition of “redemption” that fits the Biblical idea of the word: “the buying back of something.” But when I switch to the thesaurus, it’s the synonyms that catch my attention: “recovery, renovation, reclamation (I like that one), restoration, revitalization.”

Yes, I think. This is what I do with my writing. I tinker, trying to reclaim a bit of the perfection the words seemed to have when they floated through my head.

But our perfection is more than a puff of smoke in our Creator’s mind. There once was perfection, when our actuality matched His design. Now, however, there can be no more perfection. We’ve been marred. So there must be “the buying back,” accomplished by the unmarred Christ, whose Perfection stepped in for us. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+10:14&version=ESV)

So the positional perfection, the positional redemption has been accomplished. But what about all the synonyms? I don’t continually feel or act restored, recovered, revitalized.

I look at my necklace again. “redeemed.” There is a period after the word.

Hmm.

Bought back—past tense, completed? Yes.

Still being revitalized, reclaimed, restored?

Yes.

Redeemed. AND Redeemed…