New Wineskins 2016 – coming soon!

Banner-1Every three years Anglicans in North America gather for an amazing conference: … and it’s coming up soon: April 7-10, 2016.

We would love to see a small team of people attending from Restoration. The Blaines will be there as well as many other folk we are encountering and working with globally. On the last day there will be an additional South East Asia Symposium which will be a wonderful opportunity to hear more about Cambodia and the Blaines (and where we can hoot and holler our support for them!)

Interested? Read more here, sign up and then let Liz know you are going so we can arrange accommodation and travel together! We do have some money available for scholarships as well.

Honestly? You won’t regret it! Join me!

~Liz

 

Walls

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I remember waking up the first morning in Lakeside, and gathering as a group for Prayer. We had arrived after midnight the night before, and we were bleary-eyed, seeing our surroundings in the light of day for the first time. From where I sat during our reflections, I could see the startling image of a gate of the old Roman walls, standing silent and alone, as the walls on both sides had crumbled away leaving just the arch. The City’s ancient walls easily possess the attention of visitors; coming from America, a country without fortified cities, I imagine that I was captured more than most.

One of our primary functions during our time was to prayer walk the old City. Practically, this meant splitting up into sets of twos or threes and walking the streets of the city, praying for anything our eyes laid on and any prayers or ideas incited by the Holy Spirit. We split up the city into four sections, with each street prayed for by the time we left.

The Walls formed the boundaries for our goal and a guide to us as we traveled the City. If you became lost, as long as you found the wall, you could reorient yourself, walking the route back to our home base. Over the course of a week, they became an old friend.

Importantly, the walls were a visible testimony of time. They were completely gone in a few sections and, in many others, decaying with the expiration of centuries. We took great joy in discovering the idiosyncrasies of certain sections, in particular finding old stones with Greek or Roman alphabet or ornamentation in the wall’s foundation. The walls were also a visible testimony to change. At one gate, the City commissioned an enormous mural displaying, with great effect and with undeniable pride, the moment the Turks finally made it past those invaluable fortifications, now deteriorated, of the Christian city. The walls were a reminder of ancient glory, and its demise.

The walls were also a visible image of the barriers to a renewal of the Church in the city. Our groups was incredibly moved, by the end of the week, with all of the hospitality and generosity given to us by the locals we met. Within each interaction and each conversation with people we met, however, there was distance amidst the hospitality, a pride in local religion and nationality in the willingness to speak about faith. There were walls there, especially for our faith.

We were provided images of hope. Across city walls, plants and other vegetation have made their home. Vines spread abundantly, from the walls into the city, a sign of new growth and the persistence of God’s creation. More astoundingly, even in walls with few plants growing on them, we found roots emerging at eye level of the 25 foot high edifices. These roots had been around a while, waiting and persistent, digging for life-giving water.

We followed the passages prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer each morning and by grace God gifted us Ezekiel 37:

  • (v1-5) “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. “
  • (v11-14) Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

God’s plan for the restoration of his creation and his plan for a new heaven and a new earth include West Asia and Lakeside. God will breathe life into the ruins and roots which lay dormant, and he will be worshiped anew in a place where the foundations still remember Him by name. Most importantly, God’s plan involves not just what was, but who is there, toiling through everyday life, wondering what it is like to be known, to know, and to be loved steadfastly. I pray that God would give those roots water and breathe life into those dry bones.

Interested in hearing more? Join us for story-telling about West Asia (and food!) at our sharing night “Turkish Delight”, Wednesday at 7:30 PM at the Grays. Questions? Contact liz@restorationarlington.org.
Interested in praying for Asia? Join Eric  praying for the Silk Road (and Asia) on Monday, February 1, 7:30 PM at the Church.

~Eric Lessels

Stories from Team Lakeside #1

Team Lakeside in Olive Grove

Over the next couple of weeks our two teams to West Asia will be sharing some reflections on their time on the ground. Simon Gray from Team Lakeside starts the series….

[17] Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, [18] yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV

What does rejoicing look and sound like? An old olive farmer describing how work can be worship for him; a glass of tea offered by an unemployed woman and her husband; exploring ancient walls and hidden passage ways with young schoolboys on their lunch break; an old barber thinking carefully to get the right prophetic word for a customer; a potter welcoming a moment of prayer in his shop; sharing with a Syrian refugee about Aleppo; hearing the affection in the voice of a waiter talking about a phone call with his young son, far away; standing atop a tall ladder, picking olives and stealing a look at the light of the sun setting over the hills.  And recognizing that when the people are silent, even the stones cry out about the long and deep, and very real, spiritual history of the town.

unnamedHas the olive crop failed? Again, I am reminded of an olive farmer explaining that even a 2,000 year-old tree, if tended and pruned to let in the light, and with the weeds dug out from the base, even this old stump can bear fruit – and some of the best.

Spending a week prayer-walking through an old city in West Asia – what a great way to spend a week! Thank you for praying for us as we walked.

~Simon Gray

çay ve kahve

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çay ve kahve in a market square in a lakeside town…

In contemplating my hopes for the Outreach Prayer for WestAsia over this year, I’ve been thinking about what image I might hold when we meet. We have many images from tradition, scripture, and the church to hold in our praying hearts. We can probably agree on the most prevalent ones: a cross, a last supper, a sun, still waters, a nature scene, an empty tomb. Some images are parables: a prodigal son, a buried treasure, a vineyard. At Restoration, we are often reminded of the image that God invites us to a table of abundance. Each Sunday, we return to the image of God’s eternal table and celebrate His feast.

In community together, often we gather again in our homes for a shared meal, a potluck, and that meal differs from the Eucharist. Instead of one playing host and providing the food, we each bring something to the table to feed the group. It’s an easy way to have a feast without the burden to host falling on one party. Still, the imagery is precious: just as the Body is made by various parts, here, each brings different food for the group. Moreover, by each individual bringing a portion to the table, we find ourselves fed.

When we gather as Christians, we often engage in some sort of potluck. We don’t always bring food, but we always bring something. In each interaction, worship service, or small group, we bring our own images in our praying hearts, hopes and sorrows, faiths and doubts, and our own healing and brokenness. We bring our perfectly created uniqueness and, at the same time, our similarity in each bearing the image of God.

This Monday, 10/5 at 7.30pm, we’ll be gathering at the church to pray for Asia. It will be like this image of a potluck. We’ll each bring something different, just as we will each be different. The important thing is that we bring our offerings to God and share in His community, each bearing our portion. In doing so, I have no doubt that we will find ourselves again, at a table of abundance, albeit a spiritual one, and find ourselves leaving fed. We’d love to have you with us!

~Eric Lessels

#Cambo15: Airplanes, Loom Bracelets, and Special Education

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Want to hear more? Come to the team debrief  TODAY – July 27, 7.30pm at  the Weimer’s home (address on the calendar or worship guide!)

The Lord Equips

When my husband, Matt, and I are heard about the Cambodia trip, we jumped at the chance to go for two reasons: it fit within our timeline of vacation days as teachers about to enter summer break, and we were eager for an opportunity to serve and explore missions together. Married just over a year, both of us had prior experiences in short and long-term missions as individuals but this trip would be our first chance at serving a community and a church overseas as a married couple. I knew I could help with the administrative logistics of planning the prayer retreat and I also felt comfortable with the idea of prayer ministry time for the Khmer pastors during the first week of the trip and working with children for Vacation Bible School for the second week of the trip. Beyond that, however, I felt intimidated by the idea of being a co-leader of a trip to a place I had never been and unsure how my particular talents and giftings as a special educator and school leader would be of use to the team or the people we were coming to serve.

A couple days before Vacation Bible School started, we learned from a member of Church of Christ Our Peace (CCOP) that a boy, ‘J,’ with behavioral challenges and special needs was signed up and would be present on the Yellow Team (9-12 year olds).  His mother wanted to know, however, if she should just keep him at home due to his behavioral challenges or if someone might be able to give him some extra attention to help him during the week. My heart smiled when I heard his story and his needs. Attention issues? Got it. Needs to move around a lot? Sure thing. Has a hard time interacting appropriately in social situations with peers? No problem. I spent the past year working long hours day after day with 10-12 year-olds with similar learning and behavioral challenges and fell in love with their quick wit, high energy, honesty, quirks, and desire to engage and be heard. Children with learning challenges and behavioral needs are capable, interesting, and in need of a few extra supports to access activities like the ones we had planned at Vacation Bible School. So, I jumped with joy at the chance to be J’s ‘special friend’ for the week.

To earn his trust, we spent half of the first morning getting to know one another by talking and playing. He talked in highly technical terms about airplanes — far above my head — and I listened with fascination and respect as he was clearly passionate and knowledgeable about transportation. Later, we joined the Yellow Team again to make loom bracelets and J realized that he loves to create! We set up an incentive system where he could earn stars for listening and participating and once he earned 10 stars, we would take a break together to talk about airplanes. For all future Bible story times and worship times, J could be found making loom bracelets, necklaces, and key chains while his VBS teachers led the activities.  J left that week with love from his VBS teachers, a confidence that he had an ability to create, and questions about Jesus’s baptism from John the Baptism.  All in all, a great week!  God equips us with unique talents, skills, personalities, and spiritual gifts to do the work He has called us to do.

Hebrews 13:20-21

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

~Kelley Spainhour

#Cambo15: Bev reflects….

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The Cambodia team continues to reflect on their experiences, here are some of  Bev’s thoughts about the trip…

Want to hear more? Come to the team debrief  next Monday, 7.30pm at  the Weimer’s home

I came to Cambodia to serve, but also to see the country where members of my family lived and worked as missionaries for decades. I wanted to get into the minds and hearts of the Khmer people. They have been through so much.

When the US Started bombing Cambodia in the 1969, people swarmed to Phnom Penh for safety. Then in 1975 Pol Pot ordered everyone into the countryside. Under the Khmer Rouge,40 percent of the population died. The professional class was wiped out.

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Tuol Sleng Prison

While visiting Tuol Sleng Prison, I realized that some survivors of the genocide were my age, and would have been teens when the Khmer Rouge was in power. I also realized that my aunt and uncle probably lost friends in the genocide.The emotional scars of that time have left their mark on the next generations in the form of domestic violence and worse.

In 1997, my cousin and his family experienced the coup in Phnom Penh. Tanks rolled down the streets and some buildings burned. I asked a Cambodian friend about the experience and she said that they were afraid the devastation was happening again.

Now for the good news. There are a myriad of projects to rebuild, providing jobs and education for Cambodians. Many of the efforts are aware of the need to heal the psyche of a nation. Cambodia is rapidly changing for the better. I was especially excited to hear that International Justice Mission has worked themselves out of a job with regards to trafficking of children, turning over their work to nationals and other NGO’s. In the future,IJM will be focusing on something else.

In Siem Reap, I talked with young adults working hard as hotel staff who seem to have an eye on the future. I saw traditional music,dance and drama rising from the ashes in the enthusiastic performances of youthful dancers and circus performers.11540849_10153524914716424_7155775006890188070_n

Continue to pray for Church of Christ Our Peace and other Christian organizations in this mostly Buddhist country. As conditions improve in Cambodia, pray that Jesus Christ will reveal Himself as healer for individuals who seek an answer to their deepest needs.

~Bev Westergren

#Cambo15 overview….

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Over the next couple of weeks, different team members are going to tell you stories from Cambodia. David kicked off the series last week with his blog about the retreat.. Here are a few more details which will give you the overview for all our stories! We would also love to invite you to come and hear more in person on Monday 27 July, 7.30pm at the Weimer’s home. 

Team A: June 30- July 5

Team A consisted of Matthew Spainhour, Kelley Spainhour, David Hanke, Liz Gray (team leader) (Restoration) and we were joined by three lovely people from ChristChurch, Austin who are also working on developing a relationship with CCOP and the Blaines, Kim Polk, Sara Morris, Jason Morris (Christ Church)

The Anglican Church of Cambodia (ACC), under the leadership of Rev Tit Hieng invited Restoration (in partnership with Christ Church, Austin) to run a ‘Listening Prayer’ retreat for the Pastors and Leaders of the ACC. The retreat was held at a centre outside Sihanoukville, and 11 pastors attended – including Rev Gregory Whitaker (CCOP), our very own Jesse Blaine and Guy Benton (Youth Pastor).

We were asked to include some teaching, plenty of time for reflection, the inclusion of prayer ‘techniques’ and plenty of prayer and down time. Every day included Biblical teaching, Lectio Divina, various prayer activities, small group prayer, focused individual prayer and some riotous games! Every member of the team had an opportunity to lead and guide the group – which was a fun learning experience for all of us.
The time flew past, and we were weary at the end but overwhelmed by God’s goodness as he spoke powerfully through his word, through the prayer times and through 1-1 conversations. We were all encouraged…. and I hope we all learned a little more about listening to God!

After the retreat we returned to Phnom Penh, for a lovely weekend. On Sunday we attended the Khmer and International services – and David preached at both. In the evening we spent a lovely hour or two praying with the Blaines and Whitakers before David (to our sorrow!) flew home.

Team B/Omega: July 6-14

Team Omega (as they prefer to be known as) consisted of Matthew Spainhour, Kelley Spainhour, Liz Gray (team leader), Jen and Mike Dodson, Bev Westergren, Caitlin Staples, Brent Jones, Matt Lowery, Christine Wilson and Regan Wilson.

The main object of this section of the trip was to run a Vacation Bible School for the kids at CCOP (International). We ran a 4 day VBS, 8.30-11.30am each morning. 35 kids registered plus 10 in the nursery (which we were not responsible for!). There was some fluctuation in daily numbers but overall the team worked extremely hard and the VBS was deemed a HUGE success by parents and kids alike! One parent approached Liz at the end and said, “Thank you so much fo coming, and for loving on our kids, we feel so refreshed!”. What more could we ask?

In addition, in our spare time we visited a number of projects: IJM, Project Khmer Hope, Agape (AIM) as well as prayer walking the red light and political districts, and exploring and drinking coffee at our favorite local coffee shop, Browns! We visited Tuol Sleng Prison and the Killing Fields. Some of us visited the National Museum. Most (10/11) of the team attended the CCOP (International church), and some of worshipped at a Khmer service as well. We also ran the service at a small rural church, Rokokos, on our last Sunday afternoon: liz preached and we also told stories and played games with the kids. It was a lovely time.

At various stages, some of the team had some tummy issues…. and we were reassured by the local missionaries that being ill occasionally is part and parcel of life in Cambodia; whilst we were there 3 of our close missionary friends each had 24hrs+ of being unwell as well. A stark reminder that life living in another culture can be challenging in so many ways.

The trip was very full. Afternoon activities were deemed optional, but most of the team took part in most activities. We were all pretty exhausted by the end – but when time in country is so short it is good to maximize exposure to all that the city holds.

Future:

Rev Hieng is keen for us to work with ACC further in the future. Gregory Whitaker will be coordinating ideas for the future with all of us… we are hoping for a return visit in June/July 2016. Gregory oversees all Anglican mission teams to Cambodia, CCOP (international) and all Anglican missionaries in Cambodia. In the future we would love to support each of  these three groups – working closely with Christ Church, Austin. We also await with anticipation and hope the prospect of Jesse being approved for ordination, and the unfolding of his dream to church plant…. watch this space!

THANK YOU all for praying for us,  for supporting us with money and encouragement and so much love. We could not have done these things without all of you behind us. We are grateful.

~Liz

West Virginia … part 2….

More tales from our intrepid team!

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“Thank you, God, that Cathy saved Dax’s head!”

That prayer by Macrae Hanke on Friday evening pretty much sums up my second West Virginia trip with Restoration. Having spent Thursday and most of Friday working in the vicinity of the community center, I had some free time Friday afternoon and headed down to Nancy’s trailer to see if I could help the team working on her roof. I stood in the back and watched as people moved things around — including removing the screws that held a pole supporting a gigantic TV antenna to the back of the trailer. As the antenna started to fall precariously toward Dax Terrill, who was on the roof, people started shouting, and I yelled, “Look out, Dax!” He held his arm out and was able to stop the antenna before it hit his head — or worse. It was, I believe, a miraculous confirmation from God that I was meant to go on this trip.

Besides saving Dax from serious bodily injury, I enjoyed learning how to lay bathroom tile with Kelley as we helped Pastors Dave and Bonnie from Peoples Chapel. I was struck by what Bonnie said about a missions trip that she was leading. “People here have no money, but they give out of their need,” she said, emphasizing that the Bible commends doing so. That got me thinking about how I can “give out of my need,” whether time, money, energy or something else. I was also convicted by what David said about how we serve others because we are loved by God, not to get love. Too often, I do good deeds to get others’ approval, and I am grateful for the chance in Philippi to get strength from God to love the people around me — and even save their heads.

Cathy Guiles

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The sweeping expanse of Appalachian valley and mountain range which suddenly comes into view at a magical place on Chestnut Ridge Road.  The coffee, cookies and cake shared in the basement kitchen of Ford Run Pentecostal Church by Pastor Geneva, Bill and Rosie and Larry with the work crew staining their outdoor pavilion and deck.  Our singing together to the accompaniment of John Westbrook’s guitar.  Above all, the opportunity to share our life stories with one another in the context of our traveling and working together in a place that tests our limits and expands our horizons for ministering to a broken world as a body of redeemed people.

Weber Ivy

West Virginia…. part 1

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Restoration’s West Virginia team recently returned from five days in the mountain community of Philippi. Our group of 22 adults and 10 youth worked with Jeff and Lisa Sickler of Appalachian Community Care, doing various projects and, above all, building relationships. We’ve shared some of our best memories below (part 2 tomorrow!)

Looking back to our beginnings as a small group, I feel that Ali Burke and Timon Hazell did a wonderful favor by being transparent in sharing about themselves. I remember coming away realizing that we all have some cross to bear and we should “count it all joy” as it is all for our training and edification.

The missions trip itself was, in a word … wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of the 31 others in our group better. Jeff and Lisa Sickler were the ultimate host and hostess as they made us feel at home with comfortable accommodations and excellent farm-fresh cooking. Our Project Team #5 was nicknamed “the Creosote Cretins” by the Wallins, and for good reason: We cleared out the firebox for the outside campus boiler. The boiler was the largest one the manufacturer makes, and the boiler is used to pump hot water to about five separate buildings. The firebox was very dusty and dirty from flying ashes and soot. We wore masks, and when we cleared everything out of the firebox, we could see that the boiler had been over-fired and certain grates were melted and ruined. Jeff explained how this nuclear meltdown had happened and how he corrected it so that it wouldn’t happen again.

At this point, our group split into thirds. Susie, Evan and Carson Wallin cleaned the shop floor, worked on a house next door that is rented to a family of nine from Nigeria and helped harvest produce on the farm. Cathy Guiles and Kelly Shields did a beautiful job laying tile for a bathroom floor in another guest house. Mitch Wallin was a special blessing to me as he helped me focus on repairing the boiler.

At night, I slept well in the top bunk (don’t ask me why I chose a top bunk at my age) in the same large room as all of the other guys. One memorable event was waking up to Phil Burton’s signature pot o’ coffee. It was strong enough to stand my spoon up in it (j/k). It was so strong, I only took a half-cup at a time, but I liked it so well, I kept coming back for more. Another memorable event was a little girl sneaking up on me and clipping clothespins on my shirt without my knowing. I think I know who it was, and her initials are Helen Hanke. Another wild memory was playing Spoons at night in the community center. I feared for my life playing against Abigail (diving on the table to get the last spoon) and Laura Hassell (put under church discipline for saying she had four of a kind, but couldn’t prove it (j/k)).

David Hanke always gave great devotionals that were thought-provoking, and the small groups afterward resulted in some meaningful prayer times. The last night, I was in a group with a local couple name Rosie and Bill and also Ira (the beekeeper). Bill and Rosie had been married 50 years and blessed us all by what they shared about their prayer life and marriage. Ira and his wife brought food for our dinner each night and had been married 53 years.

The last memorable event was going to the service Sunday at the Ford Run Pentecostal Church. One of the teams had stained the church deck, and it looked real nice. The congregation was very appreciative and warm. They sang for us, and John Westbrook led us as we sang for them. Pastor Geneva made excellent points from Bible passages and called on the congregation so everyone participated. The two-hour service seemed like 15 minutes. Truly, West Virginia seemed to be “almost heaven’ as we tasted what it was like to serve and be served with God’s family.

With a grateful heart,

~Tom Downie

Justice and the Generosity of God… what next?

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The combination of justice and generosity captures the breadth of the Gospel. In the Gospel, God is making something right, restoring what was lost, acting justly. But He does it with great generosity. The Holy Spirit is forming us into the image of Christ for the sake of others. We will generously do justice— just like our father in heaven.” ~ David Hanke

Over these last two months we have listened, pondered and discussed God’s heart for the quartet of the oppressed, we have allowed the Holy Spirit to woo and coax us to think about how our individual and corporate response and we have wondered what is next. As you have engaged with this topic….

  • What habits have you made or broken as you considered the call to allowing space for gleaning? For re-engaging more specifically with Sabbath?
  • Where have you found yourself changing, growing, praying?
  • Where has your heart expanded for the quartet of widows, orphans, sojourners and the poor?

Can I encourage you to not lose hold of the things you have marinated on these last weeks. Take some time to journal, reflect, carry on the discussions with friends inside and outside of our community. Invite your neighbors over for a cookout this summer and ask them what they think… and consider the changes you need to make in your life. Perhaps someone from your small group can hold you accountable?

We would love to know what you thought!

As we reflect on our response to ‘Justice and the Generosity of God’ we would love you to use this survey to send in your thoughts, ideas, growth points – either for your personal discipleship or for us as a community. And if you want to know how to engage with others in our community there are also suggestions of how to do so here or you can read more about our partners here.  And – specifically – if you are interested in helping with the Immigration Legal Aid Center idea – we would love to hear from you here!

And meanwhile, here are a few reflections from members of our small groups on this trimester….

  • The entire justice series helped me to think about the way I view others, especially those who are in need.
  • Making margin in my life has become a priority: I want to make space for others to glean
  • So many, but one main takeaway is that while justice is doing for other people, it has to start with accepting the justice God has provided for me first.
  • Remembering that God cares about justice, even in the petty differences and squabbles of my office, gives more dignity and meaning to my day-to-day life.
  • We had an awesome conversation around Sabbath that has led to direct life changes and a transformed view of Sunday.
  • The sermon series on justice has been a tough subject, but one that I am finding myself more aware of and therefore more prayerful about when I am seeing or hearing about injustices.
  • Learning how to “make space for justice” and deal with injustice in my life was helpful. I also liked the idea of justice being both distributive and retributive.
  • After the studies, my confessions were much deeper — informed by the inequities uncovered in my own heart esp. regarding the Jonah and Isaiah 58 passages

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5 ESV)

Have a great summer!

~ Liz Gray

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