A Gathering of Links XV

links

I haven’t posted my favorite links for several weeks, so all of my favorites have been piling up. I hope you are able to take some time to read through some of these. I love them all, but I have put a * next to my very favorites in case you only have time to read a few.

Spiritual Inspiration:

Labels at A Deeper Story.

*From A Holy Experience, How to be Beautiful and Have a Beautiful Home Life.

At A Deeper Story, On Peace.

In Which I Climb a Metaphor from Sarah Bessey.

At A Deeper Story, Meet the Racists.

Just do yourself and read this over at A Holy Experience.

At A Deeper Story, The Day I Ate 6 Cheese Buns.

The Church:

Sunday Night Church by Jen Hatmaker.

*At A Deeper Church:  Church Words:  Preach.

From Rachael Held Evans, Why I Can’t Stay Angry.

Doing it Wrong at A Deeper Church.

Parenting:

A look at Girl Drama from A Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Food Love:

Simply the Best from Pioneer Woman.

Book Love:

*31 Noted Authors Pick Their Favorite Books at Real Simple.

Twaddle-free Books for Young Children from A Simple Mom.

Summer Survival:

*I can totally relate to An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Summer from Narrow Paths to Higher Places.

Rachael Gathers:

My own most read post over the last month or so was I Gather a Prayer for Ruby.

_____________________________________

What about you?  Have you read anything funny, inspirational or informational lately?  I’d love you to comment with your favorite links!  Have a fantastic week!

sig

Langstons Gather

I spent last week in New Jersey with my cousins who pastor a pretty awesome inner-city church.  They started it about ten years ago with little outside support and the help of only one nephew.  The church is growing and thriving now, with over 250 in weekly attendance.  I love receiving updates from Tanya about how many were in service or how many were baptized.  My intention was to write a blog about how fantastic Tapestry Church is.  I have been there a few times, and love the authenticity of the people and the pulse I sense.  It tells me the church is alive and tuned in to the presence of God and the purpose of God.  They have a great team of leaders working with them, supporting and inspiring the Langstons and devoting themselves to the mission and vision of the church.

langstons
Image Source: Joy Langston Photography

But that is all I’m going to say about Tapestry Church.  That is another post for another day.  Instead, I am going to brag about Tony and Tanya…. because sometimes you just have to give honor where honor is due.  Sometimes when you are moved and challenged by someone doing the work of the kingdom, you have to say so.  This is me saying so.

This is how the Langstons gather.

1.  The Langstons gather people together in their home.  I have never met anyone with an open-door policy like that of the Langstons.  Their home is the hub for meetings, dinners, social activities and weddings.  They have hosted countless services, prayer meetings, counseling sessions and leadership meetings.  Their furniture, refrigerator and carpet pay the toll.  They have had NINE people live in their spare room in the last ten years (including my niece currently).  Their neighbors drop by and are welcomed.  Young people from the church show up and are greeted with open arms.  And you know what?  I have never heard them complain about it.

I long for this type of community.  Here in the suburbs, it seems like a miracle if I can get to know the names of my neighbors.  Yet the Langstons have shared the love and gospel of Jesus with countless neighbors and a large number of their church members have come from their genuine connections with these very neighbors.

2.  The Langstons gather ideas, knowledge and experiences.  My brain spins when I am around them.  They are constantly discussing how to improve their effectiveness.  They have a mission and they gather every possible resource to help them accomplish that mission.  They attend conferences, read books, listen to sermons and push one another to grow as leaders.  Tony and Tanya have been successful in seeing their church grow by many standards, but they are not satisfied.  They celebrate the growth, but are always quick to say how far they have to go, how many they have to reach.

3.  The Langstons gather people to Jesus.  I am so moved by their genuine love for people.  Tony and Tanya aren’t doing this exhausting work to make money, build an impressive church or gather accolades from their Christian counterparts.  They are in it because they desire to gather people UNTO Jesus.  Their mission field is saturated with real people who have real, heartbreaking stories.  The people they gather tell stories of abuse, drug-addiction, prostitution, violence, divorce, abandonment, depression and hopelessness.

Yet because of the persistence, compassion and love the Langstons have for their city, and by the faithfulness and power of God, these stories have turned into lives full of hope, healing, restoration, deliverance, peace, unity, commitment and freedom in Christ Jesus.
__________________

langstons2
Image Source: Joy Langston Photography

Their job is messy.  Many of the people they love and reach have issues I may never witness in my privileged suburb.  It is often a thankless job.  It is a job that faces much scrutiny and criticism from the Christian world.  Their methods are questioned.  Their dedication and commitment to doctrine are questioned.  Their job is all-consuming and never-ending.

This is the work of Jesus, my friends.  They are carrying a heavy cross to walk this path with Jesus.  When I see their ministry, I see the Great Commission being carried out with grace, compassion and an abiding love.  And while their job isn’t easy by any means, it is rewarding.

They are seeing lives transformed by the power of God.  They are experiencing tangible, sustained growth.  They live with an authentic community of believers.  They are seeing their purpose fulfilled.  They are reaching a FIRST-GENERATION of disciples.

Their passion is exhausting, yet I am inspired.  I feel like I received a holy gift last week.  I saw a glimpse into the lives of people who are truly gathering people to Jesus.  I am changed by it and I thank you, Tony and Tanya, for your unyielding commitment to the purpose God has laid before you.  I thank you for being a shining example to me of what it means to spend a life for the cause of Christ.

Gathering My Thoughts on Man in 8D

I have been absent from the blog world for over a week now and have MISSED IT!  I drove my niece to New Jersey and spent the week getting her settled in her new home.  You will hear more about my trip when I have more time, but for now, I want to share with you a letter to the man I sat next to on my flight home.  Do you ever have a simple interaction with someone and leave feeling you somehow had an interaction with Jesus?  That happened to me on the plane and I wanted to share my experience with you.

Dear Man in 8D,

I must admit that I smirked at your visor.  Who wears visors anymore, anyway?  It made me smile.  You were all distinguished looking, all business in your khakis, pressed dress shirt, well-groomed hair…. then… visor.

You make the customary small talk.  “Travels going well today?” or something of the sort.

I see you, 8D.

Maybe you are tired from your long business trip, but you help me with my bags, smile genuinely and ask where I am headed.

“You like Francis Chan?” you ask when you see his name on my book.

I see you, 8D, the way you perk up, the way the light turns on when you have an open door to talk about your faith.

8D, you travel the world.  You seem to have an important job and money, but I see Jesus in your eyes.

I see Jesus in your eyes when you tell me about the sunrise over Jerusalem.  How you only had a few hours, but you rented that car, watched the sun shine its light over the city that changed our destinies.  I see how moved you were at that holy place, that sacred moment.

You seem important, 8D, but you humbly tell me about serving on the board at an inner-city mission.

I see you, 8D.

I see you when we talk of Cuba and you tell me, ever so concerned, about your friend’s daughter.  How she struggles, how she is going to Barbados on a mission and I see your hope that she will return forever changed.

You ask what I do and you respond something about “important work.’  We both work at things.

We both know which of those things are the important ones, 8D.

You tell me about Tim Keller, an author who changed your life.  I see your hunger.  I see that you are a seeker.

As the plane descends, I look out in wonder at such beauty.

I see you., 8D.

You help me with my bag again and wish me safe travels.  I wish you safe travels, too, and I like to think we both mean it in a way that goes beyond our journeys today on this plane.

I see you, 8D.

I see you and I am reminded that you are my brother.  I am reminded that you and I are just two in a kingdom full of 8Ds or 8Fs.  I forget sometimes, but you remind me that people everywhere are going through their lives, doing their best to help others with their bags, lighten the loads of others…. follow Jesus.  Thank you for that reminder, 8D.  I needed it today.

Sincerely,

Woman in 8F

A Gathering of Links IX

blog2-1

Happy Monday to you all!  It is a beautiful, warm, sunny day in central Indiana and I couldn’t be happier about it!  We have a lot going on in our world.  Friday we had a Mad Men themed going away party for my niece, which was a blast.  We had a huge turnout for the community garden workday last week.  Ava is taking ISTEP this week and Isabel is at a campground with my mom.  I am trying to soak in all the time I can with my niece before she (*tear) moves out.

I have lots of great links to share with you today, but first I want to share some exciting news….

Agnes-age-10-ref#81

Agnes has a sponsor! A huge THANK YOU to the special family who will be making an impact on this precious girl’s life. I can’t thank you enough. I had hoped to have more sponsors by now, but I believe the seed has been planted and we will see more of these kids sponsored very soon! (If you are interested and missed our big promotion, please see this SPONSOR AN ORPHAN link)

Also, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the way all of you received my most popular post of the week, A (Re)Gathering of Faith.  It was my most popular post in the history of Rachael Gathers, thanks to all of your shares.  I was so moved by the comments and messages I received from so many of you responding to my story.  Sometimes I hesitate before I hit “publish” on personal stories, but the feedback from you reminded me that we all struggle and we can draw strength from the testimonies of one another.

So, let’s get to it!  Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and check out some of the best links from the WWW this week!

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Winn Collier, Revolutionary Shepherd.

At Mary DeMuth, Candace’s Crazy Beautiful Story of Healing.

From A Deeper Church, Not Just Bread, Not Just Wine.

From Narrow Paths to Higher Places, On Loving Well: A Stone’s Throw Pt. 1.

At A Holy Experience, 6 Books When You’re Looking for Change.

From Sarah Bessey, In Which We Need to Ask Questions that Have No Answers.

Food Love:

At A Cozy Kitchen, The Best Tabbouleh Salad.

For Laughs:

At It Just Gets Stranger, Dear Vague Facebook Status Poster.

And my very favorite post of the week, beautiful and challenging and straight from the Bible:

From Brian D. McLaren, a compilation of “one another’s” in the New Testament.

What have you been into this week?  I would love your comments about your favorite blogs, books, TV shows, movies or activities these days.  Have a blessed week!

sig

Have you subscribed to Rachael Gathers? If not, you can do so HERE and receive e-mail updates of new blog posts.

A (Re)Gathering of Faith

oldfamily

At a time when I should have been praying about petty fights with friends or asking God for a pony, I was interceding for my dad’s life.

As hard as I try, I can’t seem to remember pre-cancer days. I have scattered memories of short-lived remission days. Mostly, though, I remember the days of cancer. Lymphoma was an integral part of my childhood vocabulary, along with chemotherapy, radiation and phrases like “two months to live.”

And oh, the prayers.

Maybe there was a night here and there when I didn’t pray for healing and health for my dad, but I don’t remember those carefree nights. In the forefront of my mind are the nights of pleading and begging, with a voice or in a whisper, with dry sleepy eyes or with the tears of a child.

There are so many stories to tell of those nights. Stories of angels in my room or the closeness I felt to my comforter. Stories of loneliness and fear, intermingled with stories of faith and hope.

But the story in my heart today is the story of the after. The story of a prayer unanswered and a father buried along with the faith of his daughter.

 

_____________________________________________

My brother became the pastor of the church when Dad died. A revival had been scheduled before his death and it was decided to move forward with the special guest speaker. Evangelist S. was a friend of my father, of our family and of our church. My guess is that in the midst of church-wide grief, the leadership was desperate for healing and hope. So he came. And this 16-year-old was there.

It was surreal walking into those church doors those first few months. I saw Dad everywhere. The church building was my preferred context in which to place my dad (beats a hospital any day) and the building of that church had been his life’s work. Yet, in I walked, sitting as though I hadn’t been shaken to my core.

That minister preached a masterpiece of a sermon. He remains the most captivating storyteller I have ever heard. As was customary for this particular minister, he began to pray for people after his sermon. I am Pentecostal, and it is not uncommon for Pentecostal preachers to call someone out for prayer in front of the congregation. He asked if anyone was sick and began laying hands on people to pray for them.

I don’t quite know how to describe how I felt in those moments. Just try to imagine with me….

*16 years old
*Father was just buried
*9 year battle with cancer
*Thousands of prayers for healing
*Sitting in father’s church
*Minister praying for the sick

A flood of grief enveloped me. A cloud of sadness rested on me. An anger burned inside me.

And then it happened. A kid from our youth group had raised his hand, saying he was sick with a cold and had a terrible sore throat. Evangelist S. called my name, staring me down with penetrating eyes. Our conversation went a little something like this:

S: Rachael, stand up.
(I stood, tears already flowing)
S. Rachael, do you believe God is a healer?
(My world is shaking under my feet. I don’t know what I know. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know. I want to scream. I want to run. I sob)
Rachael: (through broken sobs) Yes.
S: Rachael, do you believe God can heal Alex RIGHT NOW?
Rachael: Yes.
S: Rachael, I want you to step out of your seat, lay your hands on Alex and pray for healing.

I know what some of you are thinking. I have thought it myself. What Evangelist S. did could have been considered cruel. He could have inflicted further damage on an already broken girl.

And yet….

I stepped out, laid my hands on Alex and prayed. I prayed for healing and Alex said his pain vanished immediately.

Evangelist S. is one of my heroes. Yes, what he did that night could have been cruel. But that is where the HOLY SPIRIT comes into play.  Imagine with me for a moment what he must have felt in that moment, when the Holy Spirit led him to call me out, a girl he knew and loved in a deep ocean of fresh grief.  Imagine what faith and trust he must have had in God to obey in that moment.

The reality is that I was at a crossroads that night. I was on the verge of losing faith. My father died and I felt something had died in me. My father was buried and I felt my former life had been buried with him.

But hear me now….

My father had been resurrected to be with Jesus and I had to experience a resurrection.  I was confronted with the most basic and yet the most important of all questions….

Do you believe God is who he says he is?

The question was posed and I answered from the deepest, truest place of my being.

Yes, God is healer.  Yes, I believe.

My journey didn’t end that night.  I continued to deal with overwhelming grief and still have days when grief overcomes me.  But from that night forward, I knew what I knew.

I know God loves.  I know God heals.  I know God is worthy of my trust.  I know God is who he says he is.  I know it today.  I have never forgotten.

Evangelist S., I thank you for listening and responding to the Holy Spirit.  I thank you because it was a pivotal moment in my life and I took a step in the direction of faith and have never looked back.  I thank God for his abundant love, reaching out to me at my point of desperation…. posing the most difficult yet most essential question of my life.  My answer was, is and will continue to be a resounding “YES!”

me&dad

Me, with my Dad, not long before his death.

Much Love,

sig

What I Gather About Women of Valor

Sarah Bessey is hosting a synchroblog in honor of International Women’s Day this Friday, March 8th.  Read here for her post on Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives.

patronsaintsmidwivessynchroblog

I love the idea of celebrating the women who have helped give me spiritual life along the way.  May I always pay respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed (Romans 13:7).  There are countless women who have poured themselves into me, supported me, encouraged me.  These women have been my friends, my family, my mentors, my inspiration.  They have taught me by example, spoken words of life, prophesied, transmitted spiritual wisdom and giftings.  They have defended me, stood in the gap for me, cried out to God on my behalf.  They have rejoiced in my joy, wept with me in my grief.  They have given spiritual life time and time again.  For that I honor them now.

To my mother, who has been my lifelong example of grace, wisdom and service.  No woman, no human being has taught me more.

To my grandmothers, one a fierce and fearless missionary, the other a gentle and enduring lover of Jesus.

To Chelsea, who brings joy and asks hard questions, the kind that make me run to my Savior for answers.

To the FAC spiritual giants, Judy Oliver, Jula Crider, Jamie Ball, Amy Beck, Sherri Palmer, Maria Kleiman, Billie Riley.  Mindy Whipple, I see Jesus in her eyes.  Shelly, a mentor despite her youth.  And Linda, who has believed in me, spoken encouragement and stood by my side in the most trying of times.  Who would I be without the influence of these women of valor?

I honor my friends along the way.  We learned together, made mistakes together, grew together.  And I will never forget.  Leah, Tania, Jodie, Mindy (quite a road we have walked!), Shanda, Whitney, Heather, Pashen, Haley, Erica… so many more.

The worship leaders I have never met…. they make me want to lock myself in a room alone with Jesus.  Darlene Zschech, Brook Fraser, Crystal Lewis, Ginny Owens, Kari Jobe, Kim Walker…so many more. I thank them.

The bloggers who get me on my knees and into scripture, searching for truth, searching for Jesus.  Sarah BesseyKathy EscobarJen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp, Jennie Allen.

To those women of the faith who I admire mostly from afar.  Vickie Oliver, her ministry changed me, set a fire inside me.  Her words were like salve on an open wound of grief.  Dorothy Roca, Kim Sciscoe, Deborah Tisdale (who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself), Faythe Gill, Judith St.Clair.  God bless them for their lives spent for Him.

Women of Gathering… Tasha, the Proverbs friend who loves at all times… turned sister in times of adversity (17:17).  Sara, whose faith astounds me and is my motherly role-model.  Heidi, whose prophetic voice calls me to the deep places.  Chellee, Andrea, Nichole, Beth, Norma, Marty.  My co-laborers, my heart is full to be on this journey with these women of valor, my friends.

Estrella of Cuba, she died as a Christian should die, with joy and anticipation of the future.  Just as she lived.  Zulema of Cuba… no-one has loved me as fiercely.  She lives and breathes Jesus.

The ones to whom I am accountable… Tanya, a warrior.  Her strength makes me strong.  Her passion is infectious.  Lori, she sees me so clearly and speaks so honestly.  What would I do without her voice, the scriptures she speaks in the moment they are needed most.

So, in celebration of International Women’s Day, I honor these women.  I pray that God reward them for their investment into me and into His kingdom.  My only hope is I am able to do the same for someone else and that women of this caliber come along to help birth my girls in the Spirit.

Finally, for two things I ask your forgiveness.  First, forgive me if I forgot your name.  I know there are people I left out and rest assured, I thank God for you and the oversight wasn’t intentional in the least.  Second, please forgive me for all of the incomplete sentences in this post :)  I was in a flow and sentence structure didn’t seem to matter.

How about you?  Who are your spiritual midwives?  Who deserves to be honored in your life as a woman of valor?  I would love to hear about it and feel free to link up with Sarah’s synchroblog as well!