And from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be.

{this article was published in The Morning Center Chronicle, November 2017. The Morning Center provides free, full-service maternity care to underserved women in the name of Jesus. ProWoman. ProHope. ProLife.}

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10

The Morning Center stands for life.

However, our journey in supporting The Morning Center did not begin with life. Our journey’s seed-bed was Death:  our daughter, Tirzah Catherine Knight, was born still and silent at 40 weeks, and into the arms of Jesus on August 20, 2014. It was the darkest night of our lives.

She was our every dream and prayer come true. We loved her beyond words. Holding her in my arms, and the soft touch of her cheek was a touch of heaven… for a moment. But heaven is real, and I will touch her again.

We are people of the Resurrection. This is our hope.

It is from this place that our journey with The Morning Center blossomed.

Tirzah is NOT dead; she IS alive. Her life matters. Though born still and silent she has a voice that speaks loudly and clearly a message of life.

Tirzah’s message and the Morning Center’s mission are one and the same: Life. Resurrection. Eternal Life.

This is why we choose The Morning Center to honor and celebrate Tirzah’s life each year on her birthday, and invite others to join us. On her first birthday, we hosted an online baby shower that raised over $6000. We also celebrated her 1st birthday with a party and collected baby gifts. It was a holy experience to unwrap the gifts: clothes and dresses were chosen and wrapped through the tears of those who love us.

The dresses, that would have been so beautiful for Tirzah, were meant to bless another baby. Holding these dresses was literally holding grief and joy together: hope beyond the sorrow.

This baby shower for The Morning Center was actually a battle-cry:  A fierce stand that as Evil rages on this earth, scheming to “kill, thieve and destroy”, Death does NOT have the last word. Life wins!

In the battle against Evil and against Death, The Morning Center and all who work through the ministry are warriors fighting for life!

We joined forces with the Morning Center, because Jesus has conquered sin, Evil and death!

We stand on hope in the Resurrection. I repeat: Life wins!!

We love the Morning Center and are proud to join the war on their behalf because they have dual weaponry against the Enemy that is rare in Christian ministry: Sharing the Gospel in deed AND in Word.

The Morning Center enables women to carry and delivery their babies with excellent medical care. At the same time, their mission is sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the fullness of truth with love. I have been so blessed to join with The Morning Center through prayer and see their work overflowing in Bible study ministry to fathers and refugees in the community.

As we grieve our daughter here on earth, it has given us joy and peace in believing that the purpose of Tirzah’s life was for the grace of Jesus to spread (John 9:3). We see that promise fulfilled through The Morning Center, as her life has inspired us to take part in the gift of life to babies, mothers, fathers… and truly an entire community.

https://www.morningcenter.org/

 

 

 

What a prostitution survivor taught me about joy ~ by Jay Stringer

What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me About Joy, Part One

By Jay Stringer · November 5, 2015 What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me about Joy

For the next two weeks, we’re featuring an article from Jay Stringer, an alumnus of The Seattle School (MDiv and MA in Counseling Psychology ‘09) who works as both a licensed mental health counselor and an ordained minister. Here, Jay writes about the devastating, paradigm-shifting stories he encountered working at a community mental health clinic, and about what the people there—including a prostitution survivortaught him about trauma, addiction, healing, and, somehow, joy. This post originally appeared in The Other Journal.

http://theallendercenter.org/2015/11/prostitution-and-joy-1/

 

I hope you take the time to read the full article, both parts. It’s *so* good!! But here are some salient excerpts: 

Without exception, each client had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some type of chemical dependency diagnosis for cocaine, heroin, alcohol, or meth at some point in their life. For the first time that I can recall, addiction made sense. My paradigm for drug users shifted from a posture of condemnation to a hybrid of relief and lament that they found a substance capable of giving them a brief intermission from all the brutality they had undergone. Those who are traumatized do not choose drugs because they want to be rebellious teenagers or irresponsible adults; they are choosing a chemical that is powerful enough to address the powers of evil that have been unleashed against them and within them. How is it that we have become so judgmental of drug use and so blind to their trauma? **The tragedy, far more than the drug use, is the trauma. Woe to us who forget this.** ….

The angel of the Lord finds Hagar here in this unexpected place and asks her the best questions any friend, spouse, therapist, or pastor could ever ask someone about their life: Where do you come from? Where are you going? The voice of God is curious, and the ears of God incline to hear her trauma…

Hagar is so moved by this encounter and blessing that she is compelled to say, “El Roi,” meaning “the God who sees me.” This is remarkable. It is a stranger, a foreigner, who is the first person to name God in the Scriptures. Although her knowledge of Yahweh is exceedingly limited, Hagar recognizes that this God is concerned with her trauma and will move with compassion toward her.

What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me About Joy, Part Two

By Jay Stringer · November 12, 2015 What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me about Joy

In part one of this article, Jay Stringer, an alumnus of The Seattle School (MDiv and MA in Counseling Psychology ‘09), began writing about the devastating, paradigm-shifting stories he encountered working at a community mental health clinic:

“The absurdity and oddness I observed in these men and women were, I realized, not only characteristics of their trauma. They were also estranged because they did not have the access, ability, or desire to bow to our modern idols of capitalism, denial, and power. These gods allow most of us to maneuver our lives away from pain as we settle for surrogate sources of comfort. In spending time with this population, I began to get a sense of something out of a Twilight Zone episode—I began to think that maybe we, the stable ones, are actually the most troubled.”

 

http://theallendercenter.org/2015/11/prostitution-and-joy-2/

Again, some salient excerpts:

One Friday afternoon, I was covering the front desk after our receptionist went home sick when the most unusual woman came through the doors. Her walk, her clothes, and her face—they were all ancient in a futuristic, Star Wars sort of way. She leaned her arms over the reception counter and carefully examined my face for a good ten or fifteen seconds as she chewed gum with the tenacity of an iconic 1980s aerobic instructor.

She stopped chewing and said, “You must be new here. I don’t believe our eyes have met.”

I nodded with a smile and said, “You are correct. This is my third week. What can I do for you?”

She glanced at the clock. “Well I know you are about to close for the weekend. I just need to know where my party is and I will be on my way.”

I told her I had no idea what she was talking about. She looked at me with a bit of irritation. “Oh, of course you don’t know yet—but the city of Seattle throws me a party every Friday night.”

At this point, I was thinking almost exclusively about the appropriate clinical diagnosis for the woman. My internal dialogue went something like this: “Schizophrenia? Possibly, but not enough disorganization. Narcissistic personality disorder? More than likely—who in the world says something like that?”

I chose instead to be playful with my incredulity and asked, “Now why would a whole city throw you a party?”

Delighted, she stood straight up with a strong and playful dignity and proclaimed, “Well, I used to be a heroin whore, but now I’m clean, I’m sober, and I’m beautiful. Every weekend the city throws me a party to celebrate my life. You should come; it’s the best dancing in the city.”

I googled clean and sober parties in Seattle, and sure enough they existed. I wrote the address of her party on a card and she thanked me, spun around, and danced out of the clinic…

After declining another dance party invitation, I retrieved Stacey’s chart to write a progress note from our session. When I opened her file, chills ran through my body. I had read her file before. This was the woman who was sold into prostitution by her mother on her ninth birthday and had remained in that life for over fifteen years.

Stacey’s life and presence remain completely astonishing to me because I’ve come to recognize that she understands more about the nature of trauma, addiction, and healing than I could ever hope to learn. She knows that her lifetime of trauma and decades of addiction were not grounds for condemnation or alienation; she knows that they were the very events that formed her beauty and invited her to dance in the delight of God…

The mission many churches faithfully commit to year after year is one of service to a broken and hurting world. The complexity of this mission is that it often sets us up to believe that brokenness and sin reside mostly out there in the world and not in us. The result is a patronizing engagement with the people we make the focus of our mission or outreach. We refuse to see ourselves as the sick ones, and we therefore live as if we need no physician. A litmus test for whether or not your ministry falls into this trap is to discern whether you understand yourself to be more troubled and in need of the gospel than those you serve…

Christianity is fundamentally a faith in the trauma and resurrection of Jesus. The powers of evil believed their weapons of torture could defeat God, but paradoxically it is the trauma and death of Jesus that liberates the world. If we want to reveal the story of Jesus, we will be asked to confront the traumas that surround us…

But there are other seasons in which the trauma we confront is of our own doingthe recognition that our control has fractured the relationships with our spouse and children; the reality that we have hated ourselves for decades and it now contaminates everything, from our eating to our buying and the very theologies we embrace; of a gender that is responsible for so much of the degradation and violation of women…

The wonder and wisdom of the gospel is that God’s trauma addresses both these story lines. The atonement Jesus procures for us is the announcement that we are sinners who struggle with lust and anger but also the good news that this sin is {no longer} grounds for separation {because Jesus was our substitute in bearing God’s wrath for us, in our place} ; it is the very soil in which the work of redemption will grow forth.

 

Christianity is a *Legal Standing*

Here is my proposition: True Biblical Christianity is primarily a “Legal Standing” in God’s court of law. This is in contrast to every other religion, and many so called forms of “Christianity” which are codes of morality and goodness.

Imagine that you are summoned to court to stand trial, after you’ve been arrested for a crime. Let’s say robbing a bank. And as you’re sitting there the prosecution pulls out a video tape of your crime. There is no disputing the truth- you’re clearly guilty. So the judge sentences you to either life in prison or pay a 10 billion dollar fine. You realize that there is now way you can pay this debt- EVER. No matter how hard you work your entire life.
You hang your head in defeat and despair once you realize that there is no way out of the life sentence.
Then you look up, and see the judge himself walking around from behind the justice desk. And he says, “I will pay the debt myself, therefore, this man can go free and the justice of the law will be upheld.”
*This* is the true Gospel (meaning “good news”)- We ALL stand guilty before God’s court of law {we are all liars, adulterers (at least in heart), murderers (hating someone or being angry is murder of the heart), blasphemers (if you’ve used God’s name as a curse word either verbally, or taking his reputation through the mud)} And God’s Law demands death for sin. But God, in human form- Jesus- came around from the judgement seat and said, “I will take their place. God’s righteous law will be upheld, and justice met, because I will take their place and pay their debt, so they can go FREE.”
Thus, when a person has “faith” in Jesus, they are accepting His gift of paying their debt.

This is the *primary* point of following Jesus- In a legal sense our standing before God is changed from “Guilty” to “Forgiven/ Acquitted”. But that’s only half of the legal change…. It’s actually MORE than that… It’s a legal *exchange*. Jesus took our place legally (our sin was laid to his account, although he did not personally become sinful.) And we also took his place legally (HIS perfect adherence to the law was credited to our account- so in God’s court of law we are legally seen as perfect law-abiders, although in reality we have transgressed.)

God’s perfect Law demands perfect obedience/righteousness… and when broken/ transgressed, demands death. Jesus fulfilled BOTH demands of the Law *on our behalf*. 1) Because Jesus was God in the flesh, he lived a perfect, holy, and righteous life… This perfection is credited to us. 2) The law demands our death- Jesus’ death is credited to us. And our debt paid.

This is the *freedom* that is offered: **EVERYTHING God demands from us, He *gives* to us, through Jesus**

So all is Gift. All is Grace. And all is Free and freedom. We are *accepted* before God.

There is no earning, no working, no striving… just receiving the GIFT and resting in that for salvation.

Here are some passages for reference: (Best thing to do is to read all of Romans and Galatians with an eye toward the legal language)
First our legal standing as guilty:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ~ Matthew 5:21-22

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” ~ Matthew 12:36-37

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. ~ Romans 3:19

Legal Exchange & Legal Standing as Justified/ Acquitted:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. ~ Romans 3:21-28 {propitiation is a legal word, meaning to take another’s debt on yourself}

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace… But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
~ Romans 4:2-5,16, 24-25

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. ~ Galations 2:16

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. ~ Galations 3:10-14
Legal Standing as Righteous (not our own personal righteousness, but that of Jesus credited TO us)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–
~ Philippians 4:9

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. ~ Galations 4:4 (NOTE: “adoption” is a legal transaction, as well as family)

love…. with ferocity and abandon

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, it was 4:00 am, Jeremiah was calling for me… I never went back to sleep (although Jeremiah did!). About 5:30 am, by God’s providence, the following story was staring me in the face:

http://www.abort73.com/testimony/1816/

When I read this it reawakened all my grief in a flood of tears… that sent me reeling all day long. I felt like I was struggling just to breathe. I wanted Tirzah, and I wanted this baby (who died 2 days before Tirzah’s actual death)… I’m thankful that they’re together in heaven and that they know so much joy. so. much. But it still hurts to not have them here.

This is the short synopsis of the story I read: a young girl, at age 17 became pregnant… and was excited to have a baby. She made lists of everything she needed. She started a journal of letters to the baby. Her boyfriend simply ignored the pregnancy until she was 21 weeks… then he demanded an abortion, or else he would never having anything to do with her again. She was manipulated and coerced. At the same time I assert this, I am not claiming her innocence before God. But I AM looking at the full story.

In her words there is a story of heartache and grief… I am convinced that her grief must be similar to my own. Except she wanted foot prints and hand prints and didn’t get any… She begged the nurses…

She didn’t get flowers, meals, and cards, and necklaces… But she lost her baby too.

Before the abortion, she didn’t know what it would be like… there was an insidious lie… now she knows. And now there’s no way for her to grieve the way she needs to. She is silenced by the guilt, and the shame… but she wants her baby back, just like I want Tirzah back.

I now believe that post-abortive women are truly a category that is unseen, unheard (or just avoided)… despised from both sides… and while everyone is busy arguing right vs. wrong, this woman’s pain is *missed*.

Her pain is too messy and the horror too striking to sit in it for very long. So she sits alone. Or turns to addiction in one form or another… to be her companion… and sit with her.

So now I have deep compassion for women like this one… I want to have open arms for women like this, because Jesus has open arms… “Come to me, ALL who are weary, and heavy laden, and I will give you *rest*”… His forgiveness is offered to all, and gives true rest.

He gives rest, because He took our guilt AND our shame to the cross, and it was nailed there… and once we accept that free gift, God will never bring those things against us, EVER.

I understand that there are looming questions: How does God fit into the death of a baby? Either by still birth, or abortion… and how could God allow babies to be formed with deformities and disabilities? How can He *exist* and be *good* and *all powerful* and these things happen??

Belief in God clearly influences perspective on abortion, because if there IS a God, he designed even the babies with deformities, loves them eternally,  gave them an eternal soul, and has a plan for their lives… no matter how short, just like I believe and experience for Tirzah, though I don’t understand the fullness of how plan… but how do I know she didn’t have some deformity? Tests didn’t show anything, but we don’t know why she died. And I’m still so thankful for her life and to be her mother. I cannot imagine any mother of a baby born with anencephaly saying that she wished she had aborted at 20 weeks… Each one will say that their baby was a *gift* and they are *so thankful* for the short time they had with their baby.

The God I believe in says he has chosen the weak and despised things of the world for His own… That’s *me*, and that’s *each of these babies*… each of the aborted babies is an eternal soul that God has chosen for His Kingdom. I truly believe that is in large part how God is fulfilling his promise to Abraham to have a people in number the same as the “sands on the sea shore”, and a people from “every tongue, tribe and nation”… through the eternal souls of babies miscarried, aborted, still born, and infant deaths. And each of these has a soul that is just as valid as mine. It feels like a mystery to imagine how that can be true because we feel our soul so connected with our conscious thought that results from a fully developed brain. But I believe it is true, and there is a mystery to it… like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly… and will one day be unveiled.

But back to the story of that Wednesday… God used this girl’s story and my unspeakable pain to give me a passion for ministering to post-abortive women. I’m not sure how yet or when… but I’m seeking the Lord… It’s my desire and heart to step into the messiness of women’s lives and offer real help… too often people offer “prayer” as a substitute for tangible help (and I’m NOT discounting prayer, but only when it’s used as an excuse for inaction)… In James 2 it says “if a brother or sister is poorly clothed or lacking in daily food {or has an unplanned pregnancy??}, and one of you says to him, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that??”

Here is the paradox: as I lay curled up on the floor, weeping, begging God to take me… He answered No. And He gave me a passion for living in proportion to my desire to die {I need to insert here: *in that moment*, I AM NOT suicidal!!}… Prior to this day, I could read Paul’s words in the book of Philippians and agree in my mind, but this was the first time I had this very same experience, and could honestly say that these words are from my own heart:

to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus,…  striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,  and not frightened in anything by your opponents… For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. ”

~ Philippians 1:20-29

I pray that this experience will produce a great and lasting boldness for the truth of the Gospel of God’s grace through Jesus Christ… and that I will not be hindered by such things as mere awkwardness or men’s approval… because when I’d truly rather be with Jesus… and Tirzah… really, who cares??  As Isaiah 22:2 says, Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he??

So the kingdom and power of Darkness here on earth ought to tremble, because as long as the Lord gives me breath and life on this earth, I plan to attack the realms of evil with a ferocity and such an abandon, as if I have nothing to loose.

this new Esther Generation

Every morning that I wake up and Tirzah is not in my arms, is like a knife in my heart all over again.

Every. Single. Day. The pain never eases, never subsides. It is new every morning.

The mercy of the Lord is also new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

The only reason I can put one foot in front of the other each day is because of His presence…and the Truth of the resurrection; the tomb was indeed empty. The fact of His resurrection is my certain hope that Tirzah has experienced that resurrection and is now with the Lord.

It’s not just a flippant band-aid of Heaven on the wound of my heart.

The reality that Jesus took my place on the cross, and paid for all my sins is my surety that I will also experience the resurrection one day… and see Tirzah again.

I’m thankful for my Mom and for Ryan, who continually remind me that the Lord has kept me here on the earth because His work for me is not done… Like Esther… like Tirzah… I was born for such a time as this. 

Esther 4:14,16b:

{Mordecai to Esther:} “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”… {And Esther replied} “Then I will go… and if I perish, I perish.” 

I have this vision… of Tirzah leading the way in this new “Esther Generation”… she… and I… and us… born for “such a time as this.

All of us, in this sisterhood of saints, need her… Tirzah.

All ye saints in the Lord (those clothed in the righteousness of Christ and by His blood made perfect), let us not forget that we are of one body, growing into Christ our Head. We grow together. And Tirzah is part of our body, an indispensable part. And by her life we grow…

And she is.not.silent.

Do you see the irony?

Her voice is calling me, urging me to not remain silent.

” and if I perish, I perish.”   And what is that to me?

She speaks to us. Of the beauty of Christ, which she sees face to Face… of eternity… of simple obedience… of the resurrection.

And others in the sisterhood of saints speak to me… to us… along with Tirzah… Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who “did not fear anything that was frightening”… the Proverbs 31 woman who *laughs* at the days to come (although Mary Mohler recently pointed out to me that she is NOT a real person.. okay, so we can all relax our shoulders and sigh relief, she’s an *ideal*, not real!)…  Mary Magdalene who **clung** tightly to the risen Lord…

My prayer is that my life may adorn the Gospel of Jesus, as I look for the day when my faith shall be made sight. That is my longing, my hope. And until then I *cling* so tightly to the Lord.