amy courts: en route


Help! I Need Somebody!
September 17, 2012, 9:41 am
Filed under: Activate, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Politics, Random, Running, Uncategorized

Ugh.

I am woefully aware this morning that I have recently been, uh, negligent as regards daily quiet time to breathe in Scripture and live it out.

Not that I’ve been totally dismissive of spiritual food… I mean, we attend church (most weeks). I download the sermon podcasts from weeks we miss, and faithfully listen while running. I engage in many theological and spiritual discussions throughout the week.

And I swear, I really do love Jesus!

But I am negligent, none the less.

Case in point, number one: Last night, my Facebooking was interrupted by a message from a dear friend encouraging me to read, soak in, and be encouraged by Psalm 107.

So I googled ‘Psalm 107,’ was redirected to BibleGateway.com, and, upon seeing how dreadedly long that stupid Psalm is, I skimmed it, thought to myself, “awww…,” and immediately returned to scouring my Facebook feed for offensive political posts to which I could respond with appropriate self-righteous anger and dismay.

Case in point, number two: Late last week, I was invited by email to join a “Scripture Encouragement Exchange.” It’s like one of those book exchanges where you invite six people, and each of you sends a book to the person at the top of the list (and that person ends up with like 300 books), and then you add your name to the number two slot and forward it on.

Only with this, it’s as simple as sending an encouraging verse to a stranger.

Guess who’s procrastinating, because she “just can’t think of six people to invite.”

I know, I know.

Please line up to punch me in the face. One at a time.

And then, once you’ve punched me, please help:

Send me your suggestions for a good, in depth daily devotional or study of some sort. Your favorite devotional…or Bible Reading guide…whatever.

And keep me accountable.

Because I firmly believe and trust that, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

But I’ve got to let Him plant the seeds and water them if I’m to enjoy any growth…

Advertisements


Light and Shadows

Sunday, July 15 2012: Teaching from Colossians 2:15-17, our pastor spoke on what he calls “God’s shadow activity.” For over 25 years, as a professor and expert in theology, he has tried to make sense of the God we see on the Cross -who abhors wars and violence, taught us to turn the other cheek and sacrifice ourselves in love for even our enemies, and expressed that core truth in the most inconceivable way when He suffered a God-forsaken death by crucifixion – and the God of the Old Testament who seems, at times, to have been a genocidal, ethno-centric maniac who commanded Israel time and again to slaugher hundreds of thousands of men, women, children, infants. Our pastor’s theory – which makes sense to me and finally articulats both the tension I’ve always sensed in the contradiction and a reasonable reconciliation – is that these were God’s “shadow activites.” That just as a shadow acts as a negative contrast to what is real, and in so doing points to reality, so these situations show God not as He is, but as He is not. They show Him bearing their sin as His own, and thereby showing who He really is: the selfless Savior. Rather than denying and rebuking their behavior altogether from the get-go, as His true character does (which we see fully in the person, teachings, and life of Jesus), He becomes one of them (in Christ, but also as “The God of Israel”), takes on their sin as His own (even though He himself knows no sin and abhors the sin), and shows Himself to be quite the opposite of them: utterly selfless in His love for them and for all mankind….so selfless as to take on their sin to show how far He’s willing to go to win them. I can’t explain it as succinctly or adequately, and I know a lot of people will label him (and probably me also) a heretic (again) for even voicing the idea. But it makes sense to me. And it brought back to my mind a lyric I wrote who-knows-how-long-ago, “Love is not the shadow but the light that casts it on less important things.” [For a fuller understanding, listen to the sermon here (it’s worth it).]

Monday, July 16 2012: I took a pretty big risk yesterday, threw myself way out on a limb, and after being personally “sought out” by a talent producer and allowed to skip the cattle call and move straight to “call backs,” I auditioned for one of those televised karaoke contests. And I failed. Miserably. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever sung so off-key, or tried so painfully – and obviously – hard to impress people, or just been NOT myself. I don’t know what I was trying to be, other than hopefully something the judges liked. And it was stupid, because the whole reason I was invited to audition in the first place was because they DID like me already. I put way too much pressure on myself, on the audition, on the opportunity, and I seriously effed it up. They may have even laughed as I left. And so for the rest of the day, I was reliving the horror. Going, “Wow, this is what I do, and yet I can’t actually do it.” Thinking, “This is the story of my recent life: When the time comes, I am utterly incapable of doing what ought to be so basic and natural. I couldn’t have a baby without screwing up so badly that I almost died even though this is what women do. I couldn’t successfully audition for a singing contest when singing is what I do. I felt like a colossal failure. Utterly inadequate.

Today: Yesterday’s crap audition and Sunday’s sermon gelled a bit in my mind. I’ve wanted, for ages, to finish that lyric…to see it bloom into a song. But the rest of the song just wasn’t there. And truthfully, I’ve been in every place other than the Songwriting Place lately. So it slipped to the recesses of my mind. But I took it with me into yesterday’s audition, thinking “maybe this is the love…”. And as I went over and over the whole situation, I was reminded: God, HE is Love, and He doesn’t withhold any good thing. He doesn’t cast shadows over good things in order to tease us. He is the Light, and He shines the light to cast shadows on lesser things, to draw our faces to Him. To reality. To what He actually desires for us, rather than what we want Him to desire for us. He turns us from our shadowy selfish will to His glorious, inconceivable design.

I’ve been reminded over and over and over this year that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived what God has planned for those who love Him.” (1 Cor 2:9) I’ve been reminded to turn my eyes to Him, to seek Him in the promise that He will be found, and to dream inconceivable things.

I think the dreams I’ve had for myself, though lofty, have been far too stereotypical and, I confess, entirely selfish. I want a massive audience to enjoy and be moved by my songs, so I can sell CDs and make a living doing not only what I love to do, but what I’m meant to do…what I can’t not do.

Every time I’ve “almost” gotten there…or developed some momentum…or had an opportunity that could or should rocket me forward…it’s gone awry, and – as time always tells – in the most beautiful ways. I’ve been given little tastes of That, and then been reminded there are better, sweeter, richer, more eternal things to be done.

There are songs to be written for and with broken people…forgotten people…people here and there and everywhere who actually own my heart even if we’ve never met. People who deserve a voice, even if it’s only mine.

I’ve been reminded that when a shadow falls over the plans I’ve drawn up for myself, it’s not the meanness of God, but His great goodness and love that cast that shadow to draw my eyes to Him.

And today…I caught a glimpse.
Today, I turned my face to the Light rather than dwelling on the shadow.
Today the words came.

“Love is Not the Shadow”

dark are the days
i am seeking your face
i am finding you are ever near
branches below
they announce where i go
as i step and stumble around here

and there are times when i feel
hopelessly alone
when i am begging to belong
and to be loved
and to be known

and you say

hope is hiding where i least expect to find it
faith grows not in what you want, but i need need and
love is not the shadow but the light that casts it
on less important things

with each new sunrise
new questions arise
and i strain to hear what you will say
as often as not
you are silent, i’m caught
by the need to trust you anyway

these are the times when i feel hopeless and alone
and i am begging to be heard
and to believe
and to behold…
when you say

hope is hiding where i least expect to find it
faith is growing not in what i want but need and
love is not the shadow but the light that casts it
on less important things



Kony, Russell, and the Ever Invisible.
March 16, 2012, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Activate, africa, Culture, Humanitarianism, Travel, Video

I’ll be honest: Today’s news about Invisible Children’s Jason Russell being arrested and then detained for psychological evaluation felt like a sucker punch. I love Invisible Children’s premise – that they fill a void and meet an actual need. Where so many organizations focus solely (and rightly) on individual rehabilitation and on-the-ground programs, IC is and always has been an awareness campaign. They exist not only to work on the ground, but equally to educate, energize, and mobilize young people to do something (lobby for justice) in a part of the world most will never see (Uganda, DR Congo, and CAR) for people most will never meet (literally countless young men and women who were abducted and forced to live as murderous soldiers and/or rebel sex slaves) in an effort to rid the world of one of it’s most horrendous and yet unrecognized genocidal maniacs (Joseph Kony).

I’ve participated in many of IC’s campaigns. They are why I knew about Kony, the LRA, and their evil tactics years ago. They are why I searched for a way to get more deeply involved with victims in Gulu. They lit the fire in my soul that got me involved with Mocha Club and put me on a plane to Gulu, where I met the recovering, owned their stories, and in whose keeping I left half of my heart awaiting my return.

Image

So you can imagine how excited I was last week to see #KONY2012 trending on Twitter, to see his name and the now-infamous video on every major media outlet’s front page. I was ecstatic that the world – yes, THE WORLD! – was finally taking notice and committing to capture and finally defeat this man whose pure evilness can only be compared to Hitler’s.

But then…a different firestorm started. Invisible Children started becoming more famous than the guy they were trying to make famous. Rather than talking about Kony and the horror he’s sprayed on Uganda, DR Congo, and CAR for nearly three decades, people were talking about Invisible Children’s “questionable” finances, political relationships, and the maturity and seriousness of its leaders. Because some were legitimate questions, and because they’re on the up and up, instead of dismissing and ignoring the charges leveled, IC chose to address them succinctly and clearly, in hopes of redirecting the focus back where it belonged: on Joseph Kony.

But it didn’t work. The bullets kept flying. And yesterday, it came to an even more explosive head when Jason Russell, the face of Invisible Children on the video in question and on almost all media interviews, was detained for public intoxication and masturbation and when, instead of pressing charges, San Diego police had him committed.

My immediate response tricked me, though.

I would have expected myself to say, “Oh, come ON!” I’d be angry with Jason for drawing more negative press to an already bogus situation. I would have immediately questioned my own defense of IC up to this point. I would have imagined the firestorm awaiting me on Facebook for defending them so strongly.

But what actually hit me immediately was this: This is bigger than Jason Russell, or Joseph Kony, or gossip. There is a battle of epic proportions going on, and it involves deeper and darker things than mere humans. I don’t say this lightly, and I’ve rarely said it before, but I believe it to be truer than anything else today: I am witnessing a battle between the principalities, between Light and Dark, between the Enemy and the rest of us.

I believe the Enemy is attacking.

He would have us believe Kony is no big deal; that perhaps he’s not even a legitimate bad guy. He would have us believe the problem was solved years ago. He would have us believe Kony is weak and powerless. He would have us believe those who have been working tirelessly for years to capture and bring Kony to justice are of lesser character than Kony himself, and that rather than serving Kony’s victims, they’re serving other evil warmongers. He would have us believe leaders of Invisible Children are a bigger problem than leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

He would have us believe salacious gossip is truer and more relevant than capturing the ICC’s most notorious fugitive.

He would have us distracted.

And, if today’s twitter trends are any indication, we have played into his hands.

I don’t know what I would do if I were Jason Russell or any of Invisible’s other leaders. I can’t imagine giving my life to building an organization from the dust and watching it explode into an incredible global effort, only to then feel it collapse at its pinnacle. I can’t imagine the massive pressure they’ve all recently been under from every side. I think it must feel something like being thrown into the deepest end of the ocean with ankle weights and bloody guts for shark bait. So while I can’t explain or defend Jason’s actions, neither can I condemn him.

Not when God has been so historically adamant about using the chiefest of sinners to do His work, to bring His Kingdom.

And not when such an important, generation-defining issue is staring us in the face, begging for a response.

After all, if the Enemy is at work, God is in the process of accomplishing something massive.

Whatever you may think about Invisible Children or Jason Russell…

Let it not distract you from the real monster, Joseph Kony. Let it not distract you from his real victims who, somehow, still remain invisible to so many micro-blogging gossip mongers. Let it not distract you from the real story of 26+ years of genocide and abduction and slavery and violence waged against children who are only now beginning to recover and heal.

No matter how tempted you may be…

Give them your attention.



Conceiving the Inconceivable
January 5, 2012, 11:18 am
Filed under: Activate, africa, Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Music

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” -Shel Silverstein

I ran across this quote this morning. I pondered it. I thought about it along with something I’ve been considering for a few weeks now: that perhaps my fear and paralysis, my eternal worry about my professional life, is my own doing. My own responsibility. My own failure to believe and really internalize what is both simple and true… that I am meant to dream inconceivable dreams so that God can out-do them and so prove Himself bigger and better than I’ve ever imagined.

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

I’ve spent a long time being afraid I’m asking too much, expecting too much, wanting too much, hoping too much. I should know better. In one year – 2010 – I watched, in stunned jaw-dropped-ness, while God brought me home from Africa (where He taught me what it is to surrender) only to meet and tour with my two musical heroes, Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb; then, for the first time ever, gave me exactly what I asked for in the exact context which I asked: I got pregnant “accidentally” and found out on my birthday.

So I ought to know better than anyone why we should ask for more than we can ever imagine having…because God is in the business of doing the inconceivable for those who love Him and ask it, with hope and expectant confidence.

But it’s taken so long to even recognize the concept, much less believe it. It is still a struggle for me to actively believe that God wants to give me amazing things. But if the Apostle Paul was telling the truth, then He has already planned the inconceivable for me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind conceived what God has planned for those who love Him…” – 1 Cor 2:9

The only question, then, is what I find inconceivable. I’m beginning to believe that the less inconceivable it is to me, the  bigger God is allowed to be.

In all of this, my dreams are shifting. They’re not as much for me anymore, but for Elijah.

I may never change the world. But my son can. And the most powerful thing I can give him is a taste for the Inconceivable.

May Elijah ever know that the impossible is always possible; That he can literally be anything he wants to be, and do anything he wants to do; That what’s inconceivable to him is small potatoes to his Infinite God whose dreams for him are bigger than even mine.

And may I only ever empower and equip him with tools of courage, hope, faith, fearlessness, boldness, confidence, and above all love – for God and others – that he might dwell in the truth that no matter how small he is or may feel, his God is infinite.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.” – Maximus

Oh, that he would echo.



Celebrity vs. Things That Actually Matter
August 24, 2011, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Activate, Culture, Missions, Music, Travel

God always speaks most clearly when I least expect it. Usually when I’m wallowing.

Take tonight, for example. I was browsing Jeremy Cowart’s unbelievable photography, clicking through gallery after gallery of people famous, beautiful, and/or rich enough to hire him. (Oh, that I had the money to pay him to make me look like a celebrity. Ha!) A small seed of jealousy set in and I began to think, “Why can’t I be important enough for someone to become my manager and make me famous and hire Jeremy to take my picture for a magazine or an album cover or something very cool that would show the world how truly unique and important I am? Woe is me; woe is me indeed.”

Yes, I confess: I am addicted to myself, and sometimes it’s rears its head like that one really scary scene in Lord of the Rings when the elf queen lady Galadrial gets that wonky voice and looks like a skeleton and starts talking about ruling the world…you know, when Frodo is practically sleep-walking? Anyway, that’s how I look when I get like this.

Anyway, so back to the point: Tonight, I was doing that…looking at amazing photos of disturbingly beautiful and famous people and wishing I was like them and wondering why I’m not, when I skipped to the next gallery – the “Voices of Haiti” gallery.

After the devastating earthquake of 2010, Jeremy took a team down to Port-Au-Prince, where they documented the aftermath. He says in the gallery’s intro, “After the 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti on January 12th of this year, I was deeply moved as most of you were. For days I watched as the television flashed images of gloom and doom… dead bodies, crumbled buildings… It just felt like a heartless display of numbers and statistics. ‘How were the people feeling?’ I wondered. I was tired of hearing endless reports from strangers that just arrived to this devastated nation. So I decided to go to Port-Au-Prince myself and ask them directly. My question was simply ‘What do you have to say about all this?’ This photo essay reveals the many answers to that question.”

As I scrolled through the photos of homeless, broken, lost, and abandoned men, women, and children who’d lost house, home, life, livelihood, and family members, I was struck again by the simple truth that while we know almost none of their names (except, perhaps, Jeremy & crew), these people and their five-worded-statements had the power to profoundly change their photographer and doubtless countless others…like me.

Theirs is the reality I want to be part of. Theirs are the lives in which I want to invest. Theirs is the hope I want to see flourish. Theirs are the futures I want to see become. They are nobodies. They are everybody.

And they are, I’m quite certain, first on Jesus’ mind and heart.

These people don’t know me, nor I them. They aren’t famous. They aren’t modelesque in beauty. They are – according to their own country and most of ours – incidental and forgettable at best. There are millions of people just like them in Haiti, in Uganda, in India, in Cambodia…all over the world, people in dire need of help whose best hope is a guy like Jeremy taking their pictures and showing it to us, that we might be moved enough to see them as Real and equal, and do something.

Even if all we do at this moment is recognize their inherent, incomparable value, and our brotherhood with them.

So yeah. I guess my choices, if I want to be photographed by Jeremy Cowart, are to either a) become sickeningly beautiful and famous, or b) move to a rundown, third-world city too few care about, and live among unnamed masses too few have heard about.

Jeremy did his job tonight. He made me fall in love with the face in the photo. He made me want to live among them. He made me want to be part of something bigger and infinitely more important than celebrity and wealth and influence. He got me out of myself.

And he made me desperately miss Gulu, and ever more anxious to return to the only place I’ve felt I truly belonged.



Need a Little Help from Our Friends
May 5, 2010, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Activate, Home Life, Humanitarianism

In case you haven’t heard (which would be sad, but entirely understandable considering the lack of national media attention the current crisis has been given), Nashville is under water thanks to what they’re now calling a “1000 Year Flood.”

Some of Nashville’s most beloved and historic landmarks have undergone billions in flood damage, including The Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, LP Field (Titans Stadium), Bridgestone Arena (Nashville Predators) and more.

Worse, hundreds of thousands of people have either lost their property, cars, homes or portions of it to flood damage. In west Nashville’s Bellevue area, there are hundreds of homes literally under water.

Roads and railroad tracks have been torn to shreds. Cars displaced and stacked on one another. In various areas we watched as cars and houses floated down the interstate.

Suffice it to say, we’re in trouble and we need help.

I’ve never been more proud to be from Nashville, where our City’s leaders have begun the recovery process swiftly and smoothly, and where citizens have chosen to band together and put the city back together rather than riot and loot. Businesses are completely changing the way they operate in efforts to conserve water and clean up the mess.

But we still need help.

So…if you’re in Nashville, lend a hand. Hands On Nashville has thousands of opportunities for volunteers, and the need is growing. Sign up and find out where you’re needed at http://hon.org.

If you’re outside of Nashville, we need some cash. Easiest way to donate is to text “REDCROSS” to 90999 and you’ll be billed $10 for flood relief.

For more info on the flood and ways to help, check these out:
http://nashvillest.com/2010/05/03/so-nashville-is-flooded-how-can-i-help/
http://nashvillest.com/2010/05/04/the-people-speak-we-are-nashville-flood-2010/

And thanks…from me and all my Nashville family. We are Nashville, we love Nashville, and we appreciate you.

Love, Peace, and Dry Ground,
a

**images taken from Boston Globe.



THE Blog: The Africa that Changed Me
October 9, 2009, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Activate, africa, Culture, Humanitarianism, Missions, Music, Uncategorized

This has been such a difficult blog to write. I want so much to share everything about Gulu and the Acholi people, but feel a need to give you the brightest highlights and keep the rest to myself until it rises to the surface of circumstance. Not because it’s not worth sharing, but because I fear in sharing it without context, it might lose power. I don’t know, but I don’t yet want to take the risk. I am certain, though, that as time moves us forward, stories will be shared as they relate to circumstances and my experience will prove itself something beyond time.

Grace - one of the Women of Hope - with me after the meeting.

Grace - a Women of Hope - with me after the meeting.

For now, I’ll share the part that changed me at my core.

God began something early on that I knew would break me by week’s end. Traveling with a team of artists and musicians whose experience and notoriety far exceeds my own, I confess the desire to prove myself equal. Though my stage and audience are considerably smaller, I wanted to clarify that “I’m just as good.” Quite shameful on its own, even more in light of where we were and why.

So on Sunday, after an indescribable morning church service attended by 150+ Acholi from distances as far as 50 miles, we went to the Home of Love to spend the afternoon sharing music, playing our own guitar-based American songs as the kids giggled with delight, and watching them sing and dance to their own rhythms and melodies. It was both beautiful and terrible, mostly because after sharing my own song and declaring it utterly suckful, I sunk into myself and allowed pride to overwhelm me.

That evening as I prayed and scoured the Word for some kind of encouragement or affirmation, a promise from God that I am, indeed, good enough for both my team and the Acholi, God slapped me across the face saying, “Who exactly do you think you are? Why on earth would your songs matter more here than mine, and why should I share my glory and honor and approval with you? Have you learned nothing of these people? Do you still not realize that they recognize and crave what’s eternal, and the only eternal thing you can offer them is Me and whatever comes from Me? I brought you here to love them with My love, to serve them, to give of yourself without condition and for My glory, that they may see Christ. And here, still, you seek an ego massage.”

I cried myself to sleep that night, overwhelmed but determined to put myself away. There really was no other choice. God is right: whatever I give, in song or deed, if not for and to Him is utterly without and will waste away and be forgotten. And so I would spend the rest of my time seeking only to be a tool. Whether He spoke to or through or around or about me didn’t matter, so long as I was surrendered to Him and lifting Him up. Even if that meant just shutting up.

Monday was a new day. We went back to the school to share songs with the kids and paint their handprints on a mural, and as we sang together and taught the kids American praise songs with all the motions, I felt a clean wave of liberty wash over me. What mattered was that I engaged. Whether or not my vocal or guitar playing abilities were up to par wasn’t the point. They loved that I was there, and so I was ALL there.

And on Tuesday – our last day – Missy, Genevieve, and I had the extreme honor of attending the Women of Hope meeting and sharing songs and the Word with 200+ women living with HIV/AIDS who meet weekly to hear Scripture and to love, encourage, and comfort one another. They sang their welcoming song when we arrived, and I was immediately asked to sing a couple songs, which I did with relish. They applauded, but I think by the end of the second they were ready for the Word. My English songs may have sounded pretty, but still unintelligible to a group of women who don’t speak my language.

So, after being asked to “give the message,” Missy and Genevieve each read to the women from the Psalms. What’s beautiful about these people is that when they ask for the Word of God, they aren’t asking for a sermon. They believe the Word speaks for Himself, so they read the Word together and applaud and celebrate God for His goodness in teaching them. They don’t need all our hoopla of exegesis and application.

When Missy and Genevieve finished, I was invited back up. I wasn’t sure if they wanted more songs or more of the Bible, so I asked. And, to my good humiliation, they made abundantly clear they did not, in fact, want more music, but more of the Word.

So, having just been over this with God, I said, “Sounds good.” And I began to read from Isaiah 54. I’m not sure why I chose that passage, and I admit I was unsure whether it would mean anything to them. But the day we arrived I remember reading it and thinking, “this is for these people.” For a people who’ve been torn by war for 23 years, ravaged by disease and poverty, homeless and so often hopeless.

So I read to the women.

“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; 
he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness 
I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer. “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. “O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.”

As they heard the chapter in their own language, I watched something amazing happen. Throughout the reading, women cheered and hollered and shouted their “Hallelujah!”s and “AMEN!”s. One woman in the front kept looking at me with tearful eyes, smiling and giving a thumbs-up, apparently pleased with the passage.

And afterwards, when the women gathered to hug us Mzungus (white people) and introduce themselves, many explained their cheers. They are barren women, sick with HIV/AIDS and unable to conceive, abandoned by their husbands and scorned by society, riddled with worry about their children’s futures. They said these verses were indeed from God, a gift for them. They celebrate and revel in the promise of an Eternal Husband, a Redeemer who re-purposes the sick woman’s life, who Fathers her children and establishes them in peace and righteousness, protecting them from danger, terror, and even death.

I was moved to tears, overcome with gratitude to God for letting me deliver good news that day. It was as if clouds opened up and He pointed down and said, “See! I told you!”

I was even more moved when, in thanks to me (for what?), the Women of Hope gave me a new Acholi name.

“Amaro-Rwot.”

Which means,

“I love God.”