Prayers Needed for a Friend

Many of you know my good friend Allan. I first met Allan at our emergency warming shelters at Brenthaven Church last winter and have journeyed with him through the ups and downs of recovery. We all recently rejoiced when he finally moved into his apartment home in June after successfully completing a 30 day rehab program at Buffalo Valley.

Last Friday, Allan went with a Christian ministry group called “Men of Valor” to Center Hill Lake for a day of fun and relaxation. Allan jumped into the lake and a freak accident occurred. After jumping in, he had no feeling in his legs from the knees down. He was taken by ambulance to Cookeville Regional Hospital where it was discovered he had broken his back and a piece of his broken vertebrae was pressing on his spinal cord. He had a two hour emergency surgery Friday night where a neurosurgeon “put him back together.”

As of today, the doctors are uncertain if Allan will ever walk again.

He is in good spirits and feels surrounded by friends, love, and prayers. Allan would want all of you to know about this so that you can also pray for him. Allan is a man of faith, believes in the power of prayer, and is not giving up on walking without a fight.

So, please find a quiet spot in your day and say a quick prayer for Allan… 10612749_10204773361399589_6091111616910204646_n

Finding God in the Unexpected

So as most of you know, I have really been under the weather for the last three weeks. I went in on July 30th for a simple procedure to remove my gallbladder, but ended up with multiple cuts and sores to my throat and airway, bruised lips, and a bruised tongue, resulting in a very unexpected and extended painful recovery, and the inability to eat, drink, or talk comfortably, none of which had anything to do with my gallbladder. The breathing tube inserted during surgery and a over-zealous anesthesiologist were the culprit.

I have been through a gamut of emotions through this misadventure, anger, apathy, frustration, and a brief bout of what could only have been depression over it all. There were days all I could stand to take in was water down my painful and swollen throat. Even as I write this post today, 21 days following the unexpected assault to my throat, I have some pain still when eating and certain foods will not go down without help from liquid behind them. I have been unable to commit to preaching at a little chapel I have grown to love for four weeks now, and I have just yesterday started to get back to some abbreviated sense of normalcy.

Through it all however, I have patiently waited and wondered what God was doing with all this mess. I would be lying if I told you I had that answer quite yet. However, as soon as I stepped back out into the world yesterday I think God was giving me a few clues.

A clue when I was joyfully reunited with a friend in the midst of recovery, newly housed, who had been apparently missing me as much as I had been missing seeing and checking in with him. A clue when he couldn’t wait to pull a gift for me out from under his couch, a simple framed expression of words expressing what a good friend he considers me to be to him. A clue when he wanted to ride with me to run errands as a way to extend our visit. A clue when he kept saying how good it was to see me finally.

A clue when I saw another couple I minister to who live in the same complex and they too expressed how worried they have been about me and how good it was to see me out and about.

A clue when in the midst of those errands I received a call out of the blue from another friend, calling me first to tell me he just got word he was approved for an apartment. A clue when this same friend sent me a text later in the day to express that he loved and missed me and really wanted to see me face to face (we are having lunch today!!).

It has just been one day somewhat (and briefly) back among my community that I love so much. But I know God was present in all of those clues. And I know I was reminded that I am loved as much, and maybe more, by that same community I serve, and for that I thank the God I serve, I am thankful for the call I have been given, I am thankful for the people I serve, and I am thankful for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Nashville Presbytery for supporting this very unique call and ministry. I still don’t quite know what the last three weeks was all about, but I know God has a unique way of pointing you back to what is really important and I felt the Holy Spirit’s hands on my shoulders yesterday gently adjusting my view.

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Random Sparks

So there is not really a creative bone in my body, and I am surely not a photographer.  However, I have had this urge placed on my heart and mind recently to share with you the faces and places I call my family, my community, my friends.

Recently I have been posting a picture every day on Instagram, that also trickle over to Facebook and Twitter automatically. I make them all black and white simply because black and white just feels right.

I take and share their pictures for no other reason than these folks are such a blessing to me and I want to share that blessing. These pictures are taken and shared out of love and respect for the person and a desire to honor their place in creation as the beloved children of God that they are…random sparks created from the divine spark of God.

I don’t know how long I will be doing this, but for now it feels right. The pictures I have already posted are included below, if they interest you, check my social media for others that will be posted.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and I hope you will lift a prayer for those who are depicted.

Have a blessed day and week, I am headed back to the streets!

Pastor Lisa

A Leg Up
“A Leg Up”

Basket Case
“Basket Case”

Burrito Blessings
“Burrito Blessings”

Home Sweet Abandoned Home
“Home Sweet Abandoned Home”

Oxymoron
“Oxymoron”

Taking Charge
“Taking Charge”

Sacred Sparks Ministry’s Week at General Assembly in Chattanooga TN

Sacred Sparks Ministry had a great time at the 184th General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church this week!! Thanks so much to all the good servants who visited the Sacred Sparks table and served our homeless friends by making Blessing Bags and personalized “living water”bottles! I was blessed to have a good friend who has a heart for the homeless, Lisa Anderson, be elected moderator. I was able to experience (and help) with the “Connect” children’s program which provided a real purpose for children at GA for the first time ever, including the kiddos leading worship one morning. “Connect” was led by my mentor and good friend who also has a heart for the homeless, Jodi Rush. I was blessed to lead worship for the CP women thanks to Pam Phillips-Burk. These women are the heart and soul of our denomination and such big supporters of mission work of all kinds. They definitely have a heart for the homeless. I was given the gift of membership into the Louisa Woosley Society in support of clergy women in ministry on a night where a beautiful worship was centered around celebrating these very same clergy women. Thanks to Tiffany McClung for organizing the worship service and Beverly St John and Jan Davidson for the gift of membership into the Louisa Woosley Society. These three women definitely have a heart for the homeless. Worship all week was wonderful, spending time with many friends was precious, and I never saw one minute of the business meetings 🙂 Thanks be to God!

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Joy and Pain

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Make no mistake, I have the best job/call in the world. It is an honor to walk daily with the men and women of Nashville and beyond who are un-housed, newly housed, or precariously living in poverty.

However, I am reminded daily that this job/call comes with both joys and pains. Not one of us should be surprised that we can not hope (or fear) to abide in either joy or pain forever; everything is a season and seasons change, shift, move on…

We are told in the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a season for everything. To be born and to die; to plant and to pluck up; to kill and to heal; to break down and to build up; to weep and to laugh; to mourn and to dance; to throw away stones and to gather stones; to embrace and to pull away; to seek and to lose; to keep and to throw away; to tear and to sew; to be silent and to speak; to love and to hate; for war and for peace.

Joy and pain is woven all throughout this beautiful piece of scripture found in the Old Testament. A timely reminder for us that both joy and pain are a part of life. And I have experienced both these past few days.

I abided in joy when I finally closed a huge chapter of my life at Memphis Theological Seminary this past weekend. Abided in joy when handed my Masters of Divinity degree along with many, many beloved friends that made that journey with me. Then joy gave way to pain as I drove away from that school and those good friends, wondering when we might meet again…there is a season for everything, to weep and to laugh.

I abided in pain while in Memphis that I could not be with other beloved friends who were fighting against the “powers that be” to keep their humble home…all that they have in this world…along the banks of the Cumberland River back in Nashville. Then pain gave way to joy as I read the text that the camp raid was cancelled and (for now) the “powers that be” will allow the housing process to run its course without disrupting the fragile existence my friends have established along the river…there is a season for everything, to mourn and to dance.

I abided in pain every time I read a frustrated Facebook post from a friend waiting for what seemed like forever to obtain housing for him and his best four-legged friend, Baby Girl. Pain because I knew they had no where to sleep at night until the apartment was inspected. Pain because they had to sleep outside on steps, risking arrest and risking their safety. Then pain gave way to joy when my friend signed his lease Monday afternoon and I was finally able to deliver the furniture I had been holding for him to his NEW HOME…there is a season for everything, to break down and to build up.

I abided in joy that a friend was about to turn the corner in life, obtain housing, and defeat the demons of addiction that have plagued him for so long. Then joy  gave way to pain when I realized that nothing is that simple, that turning a corner can be much like turning a battleship in the ocean, and that the demons of addiction do not give up without a fight…there is a season for everything, to seek and to lose.

So, may your days be filled with seasons of joy and pain, for reality is we are not allowed to abide in one or the other forever and ever. Seasons change, shift, and move on. Joy and pain perform a twisted, beautiful dance together in all of our lives, and I think we just need to be okay with that fact.

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Shalom U’vracha,
Rev. Lisa Cook
Street Chaplain @ Sacred Sparks Ministry

“Love works, it’s up to us”

I Just Want To Be There…

Thoughts and musings about my last couple of weeks growing into the call God has placed on me. A call to be present. A call to be there…

I just want to be there for a young couple who both desperately want to be parents to their children, but are slowly coming to the painful realization that they are in no position to do so at this time…

I just want to be there for another young couple who are desperate to unite as man and wife, but are having a hard time getting all the pieces into the right spots so it can happen, but it will…

Happy Couple

Happy Couple

I just want to be there for the four men who live at a beautiful camp by the river, who are threatened on a daily basis to be kicked out of the only place they can call home right now by the “powers that be”…

"Home" by the River

“Home” by the River

I just want to be there for the couple, who after a year of trying to get into housing and out of a tent, FINALLY moved into their very own apartment with smiles on their faces a mile wide…

Home at LAST!

Home at LAST!

I just want to be there for the three beautiful souls who are living in an abandoned storage shed together and only ask for canned goods every now and then…

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"Home" for now...

“Home” for now…

I just want to be there for someone I have never met, who is a friend of a friend, who recently had two surgeries and almost died due to a staph infection, who is being released from the hospital to return to the same tent where he caught the infection, who is only asking for fresh underwear, loose-fitting pants, and some fresh bottled water…

I just want to be there for a friend who is struggling all alone right now, somewhere, with an old demon he thought he had gotten rid of, a demon that came back I think when the apartment rejections just kept coming due to a past he is trying to leave behind…

I just want to be there for the 15 friends who will fill the fellowship hall tomorrow night at Brenthaven Church for a night of respite and resources…

I just want to be there, walking closely behind Jesus, going where He leads me, even if I or others don’t understand where we are going or why…

I just want to be there for my friends who I have been called to be present with…

This is Why…

I find it hard to believe that I have been so blessed by God. Blessed to be called to such a unique ministry; blessed to be in relationship with many in the homeless community; blessed to be their pastor; blessed to be invited into their lives, their sorrows, their joys, their worries, and their celebrations.

Recently we lost a good friend and member of the homeless community in a terrible accident. It was a shocking loss that took us all by surprise and we grieved a life lost as a family and community. God has put me in a position where I could be there for many of his friends who needed pastoral care when they lost Phil. Thanks be to God!

Yesterday, another good friend gave birth to a baby boy named Aiden Lee at 10:26am by c-section. He was 6lbs 8oz at birth and was born a little early. He is having some trouble breathing, but is being watched over closely in NICU at Vanderbilt, and he is a beautiful, beautiful child. God has put me in a position where I could be there for his Mom and Dad and their friends, to share in their joy at Aiden’s birth and provide pastoral care. Thanks be to God!

This is what Sacred Sparks Ministry is all about. Being present and in relationship with our friends in the homeless community; sharing in their lives and caring and loving them without judgment. This is why God has called Sacred Sparks Ministry into being and this is why I serve that God in the name of Jesus Christ!

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Goodbye Friend

This week Sacred Sparks Ministry lost a good friend. Phil was killed in a terrible accident and will be missed like crazy by so many people. He always had a great story to tell, he made you laugh, he frustrated you at times, and he was a beloved child of God.

I saw Phil exactly a week before the accident. We had a nice talk and he asked for some shampoo, which I just happened to have in my trunk. When I told him goodbye, I never dreamed it would be forever.

The photo below was taken that day as I drove off to show my friends at Brenthaven Church, who also loved Phil very much. The other photo is the memorial that been erected at the site of the accident.

Thank you God for allowing us to know and love Phil. He likes his coffee hot with lots of sugar and cream, just so you know…

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Take a Minute, Just a Few Minutes and Watch…

This church could be any church who chooses to serve, could it be your church?

The stories could be anybody’s stories, could they be your story? Your friend’s story? Your family?

Take a few minutes…watch…see the people in the pews…listen to their words…hear their stories.

Allow yourself to feel for a minute the warmth of the sacred spark that burns inside of them.

Pray for them, for us, for our world.

It’s just a few minutes…watch…feel…pray. Amen.

Video

Baby its cold outside!!

So I am sitting here tonight with Starr (see her pic below taking a well deserved rest) after helping Brenthaven Church welcome 30 guests off the cold, cold streets and into their warm building for the night. It has been a wonderful night and I have been doing some reflecting I wanted to share with you.

Someone asked last week if the word of God is proclaimed at these warming shelters. This question immediately brought to my mind the typical requirement by some shelters and missions that someone must attend a worship service before they can eat a meal. That practice just does not feel right to me, so I wrestled with the question for a few days; it took an action by one of our guests last week to help me find the true answer.

While there is no sit down worship requirement before you can eat your meal here at Brenthaven, make no mistake, worship is taking place in our midst!! God is being worshipped when we pray before the meal and everyone is quiet and respectful. God is being worshipped when a guest breaks into song on the piano that sits in the room everyone sleeps in together. God is being worshipped when you hear “God bless you” over and over again. God is being worshipped when a young homeless man gives up his spot on the full bus and steps back out into the cold so that his place can be taken by a man with a severe disability.

Remember I said it was an action by a guest who helped me know for certain that the word and worship of God is alive at these warming shelters. That action was a moment of confession, followed by grace and forgiveness.

Phil was not having a good night last Thursday when he was here and he got really angry about some little something that really doesn’t matter. Tired and worn out by the long day, Phil’s temper got the best of him and he almost left the church that night. Thank goodness he came back inside; about an hour later he handed me the note you see pictured below and asked me to make sure all the people from the church read it. God is being worshipped when confession happens and forgiveness and grace is the response. Phil is back with us tonight, and we welcomed him with smiles and a bear hug or two 🙂

Starr Counting Sheep

Starr Counting Sheep

Phil's Note

Phil’s Note

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