Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Holy Hush : Silence is Healing

It's a gray day here. Gray days cause a quiet hush to fall on the land. They feel like tears. They aren't sad tears per se. I call them tears of presence. When a time of quiet comes and I can hear the gentle voice of the Lord, my eyes tend to water. It's a washing away of sorts. That meek and wild voice of God destroys old things and propagates new ones simply by speaking. Even though the exact words that he is saying are not always understood by us, we feel it. It reverberates deep within. The holy hush falls upon us and we are changed.

I heard Makoto Fujimura say that our churches will need new wine skins for our new wine after this pandemic. The world will be different. We will all be different. We will seek the Lord more desperately. I think we will all need new wine skins to hold the fermented fruit of this season.

God has drawn us away from the business of life and invited us into his quiet, contemplative presence. That has changed us. We are remembering to enjoy our families again. We are remembering to enjoy him again. We are searching for the depth and richness of the everyday. We are gardening and baking and playing. We are makers again. We are creating and sustaining life alongside You. O, how we have missed this. We have remembered to pray again. We pray for our neighbors and send toilet paper and hold parades and ask people how they are doing. We are more like You right now.

Silence is healing. I read that on a sign in the surgery center while waiting on Dr. Mike Tschoepe to fix my friend Kenny's eyes. It was ironic because the tv was on, but the words glued themselves to me. I have thought about them several dozen times. The world went quiet. It grieved with us. It sang together. It quit celebrating the huge feats of celebrity and applauded human kindness. You have learned to teach online. You are homeschooling. You have parked in hospitals collectively with your blinkers flashing and prayed for the staff and patients. You have figured out how to love your congregations. You have called people to ask how they are holding up. You have masked up and gloved up and fed the homeless. It has been a joy to see you care. Thank you. Thank you for caring for us all. Your kindness is a teacher.

Jesus, show us how to hold deeply to the silence you speak in. Show us how to hold fast to compassion and mercy. Show us the beauty hidden in the everyday.

"There are burning bushes all around us." -Makoto Fujimura

May I take this holy hush forward with me. May we all see the sacred in the simple moments of our lives. Those moments that we have long neglected are the moments that we could easily be overcome by holiness, but we have been afraid to actually talk to you for a long time. So we light a candle. We pause and breathe deeper than we have in possibly years. We see you quite clearly. Your common grace is felt. Help us to remember. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Simple Folk

I have been wanting to go to Bob Goff's Dream Big seminar for years, but the $3500 price tag was a huge deterrent to me. When I saw that he was opening up an online version for $200 during our quarantine, I immediately purchased it. I have to tell you that I am so glad I did it this way. 

He tells you that if you go through the questions too quickly to do them again because you haven't thought deeply enough about your answers. Friends, I have spent three weeks in the introduction and I have cried quite a bit. I wasn't expecting this at all. I thought I'd go through this and formulate a plan to best help homeless people in my community and maybe learn to be more hospitable to those around me. I've never been a person who wants to follow their dreams or dream big. I just like to follow Jesus around. He's doing crazy stuff and it is absolutely wild to be in cahoots with Him. 

Here's what I didn't expect: When asked what my dream was, I had to stop and ask myself some questions. I have had so much abuse in my home(s), at school(even by teachers), and in church that I don't think I had ever allowed myself to feel safe enough to dream. I stopped and I grieved that. I'm still processing it, to be honest. I have flashbacks of cruelty and I go through the emotions and forgiveness. This is a hard journey to healing. I have been looking for the people who gave me hope in humanity.

If you know me, you know that I am completely willing to do crazy things. I followed God out to a dilapidated mansion in the middle of nowhere, to foreign countries and under bridges to sit with homeless friends. This is different. I am discovering who God created me to be and exactly why the enemy was trying to crush that.

The questions that set me to thinking were really simpleWho are you? What makes you get out of bed each day? I always think those sayings about the hustle sound great, but I have reconciled to the fact that I am not the hustler. I like slow, steady, thoughtful movements that impact people. That's why I get out of bed each day. I want to enjoy Jesus and use that to love people.

I have read that you are like the people you surround yourself with. What you admire is often where your own heart is. I have thought through my own friends and then I started on a path to who my heroes are. I am 42 years old and one of my heroes is Mr. Rogers. That's true for many of us, but I really thought about the “why" of that. I know I looked for tv personalities to teach me because my own family wasn't healthy. We were constantly in a state of divorce and remarriage, but Mr. Rogers offered me something that other adults did not. He communicated feelings in a healthy way, a simple way. There is even a Harvard professor that teaches a course on his simple, direct approach. Mr. Rogers was quietly fierce and at war with a culture hellbent on destroying it's creation. He gave us words for our pain.

I realized that every hero of mine followed this basic ideology. Simple words that fight back darkness. One of my favorite stories from Corrie ten Boom was about how she felt like God had prepared her for the concentration camp by having her volunteer in a hospital full of the mentally ill and special needs children. She said she learned to communicate the gospel there in the simplest of ways. She begged Jesus for clear words that would reveal truth to minds that couldn't comprehend it. After much hardship, she was given the opportunity to take those words to the nations.

I started making a list of my heroes and the reason they stood out to me. It isn't comprehensive, but these are the first people to come into my mind.

Andrew Murray: simple humility
Jimmy Dorrell: simple gospel
Bob Goff: simple acts of love
Alan Graham: simple community
Mr. Rogers: simple human kindness
Corrie ten Boom: simple words of power
Jill Briscoe: simple prayer
Cervantes: simple depth
Dr. Paul Farmer: simple care
Harper Lee: simple character
Dr. Barry C Black: simple speech
Anne Graham Lotz: simple love of Jesus
Benita Long: simple hospitality
Bryan Stephenson: simple justice
George Washington Carver: simple redemption

I can go on and on with George MacDonald, CS Lewis, Frances Mayes, Lois Tverberg, Edith Schaeffer, Charlotte Mason, Voddie Baucham, Bono, and even Dolly Parton. The thing I love about all of these people is that they have simple ways, even though some are hidden in big, public lives. For me, it all boils down to speaking very plainly to the one thing that God has put in front of me. I hate to see people in pain with no idea how to care for themselves. I want to earn the opportunity to speak truth to pain. That often comes through feeding the homeless or anyone who will sit at my table. It's simple. So, I think I'll quit everything else and sit with these heroes, the simple folk.

I was sitting here at my desk trying to sum up my life verse to fit on a personalized journal that I am buying myself for my birthday. How do you sum up Isaiah 58:10 to exhort yourself? It says that if you pour out what you have to satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your own light will rise in darkness and your nighttime will become like the noonday. A little long for my one line of personalization. Then, into my head came these simple words. 

Give them what you have. 
Give it away, Steph.

Simple indeed. I hope you find me with the simple folk.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Grief is a Gift

On Friday I was on a ladder scraping paint off the back of our house. The rain started coming down, but I was tucked under the eaves so I stayed a few more minutes. I stood there thinking about all of the musicians that had died recently. We lost Kenny Rogers, Joe Diffie, and Bill Withers. As I was thinking of them, as loud as a person can hear internal words, I heard these words, "Grief is a gift." It prompted me to think about losing my two brothers. The grief of losing my brother Mike truly changed my life because I wanted to change how I loved people. When you tuck into the Lord with heavy things, He creates beauty that could have never been there before. The words kept repeating in my head like a drum during all of this.

Grief is a gift. Grief is a gift. Grief is a gift.

Never in a million years could I have imagined that Denbigh would lose his brother Michael the next day to a tragic accident. It's a terrible thing to have in common with someone. We have now both lost a brother Michael. They both died days after their birthdays.

When you lose someone, you have this feeling that the world should stop and grieve with you. It was unnerving to me that the world kept on spinning when my brothers and babies died. You want to shout at people who are walking around like nothing happened. "Please grieve with me." In this strange world we are in right now, it feels a little like the world did stop to grieve with us. It is a sad and yet comforting reality. In some way, we are all grieving. We miss the people we love and want to be near them. We have a longing to be more intentional. May it be so. May our hollow relationships and empty activities be replaced with depth, gratitude, and value.

I know there are people who feel sad for others and there are empaths. We empaths feel the emotions of others. I once touched my mother on my brother's birthday and felt a wave of grief so strong that I released her as if I had touched lightning. It's the same with my husband. I can quietly wade through my own grief with Jesus, but his grief is unbearable. It's so palpable to me. I can hardly breathe at times. The ache is so intense. I prefer the hard moments, the raw times of truth with others, but this ache is terrible beyond words. Please pray for my tender hearted husband.

Grief is a teacher.

I have learned some things about grief as we have surrendered close family and six babies. Don't ever fight it. Don't try to cheer any one out of it either. Let the horrible weight of the thing settle in on you. Use it to rip apart every selfish part of you and sit with it. Beg Jesus to take every single ounce of it to bring Him glory. May the one taken by the last great enemy to be destroyed (death) be used to bring many to salvation. I am not suggesting that you don’t get help if you need it. I am conveying the power of God to do something beyond our comprehension when we walk through things with Him instead of running from them.

There is a time to grieve. Take that time.

I also learned to grieve by giving. Sitting with the broken is home to me. I can't tell you how many me toos I utter under bridges. It's the strangest sense of belonging. I don't belong in a place, but with a people. It's healing beyond words. So, you'll find us out tossing gift cards and food to homeless people this week to honor our Michaels. We won't be yelling, "Towanda," like in Fried Green Tomatoes. We'll be yelling, "Tomichael!" To God be the glory.

There are wide bits of redemption already being woven into this story. Take heart.

Michael was a kind and caring young man. He was an engineer, loved gutting houses, loved his church and friends, and rebuilding cars. He died helping a friend. He went out with his boots on. Denbigh is flying to South Carolina to be present when they bury his brother on Friday. They are moving his body from Tennessee to South Carolina to be buried near his mother’s home. Please keep her and all of the family in your prayers. Pray for Denbigh's travel safety too. Thank you kindly.

If you'd like to help us give gift cards to the homeless in his honor, you can give at

Cry if you need to.

Grief is a gift.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Engineer's Wife is Fascinating!

The Engineer's WifeThe Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a completely fascinating story of the woman who stepped up to build the Brooklyn Bridge when her father-in-law was killed and her husband took ill. I cannot remember having heard this story and the extraordinary lengths that Emily Roebling went to in order to see this vision to completion. In a day in time when women did not have jobs and wore huge dresses unsuitable for work, Emily took on an unimaginable challenge. She dealt with the business side of things as well as actual oversight of the job sight. She faced so much ridicule for being a woman, but amazingly prevailed. You'll have to read the story.

There is some fiction added into this story. The author added a story with PT Barnum, one of the richest men in New York at the time, and his emotional affair with Emily. There is no basis for this. Looking at her life, she seemed like such a devoted woman. I wonder if this addition to her story would have been an affront to her character. The rest was a great read. Captivating tale.

View all my reviews

Human(kind) Inspires Kindness

 Human(kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back TogetherHuman(kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together by Ashlee Eiland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love kindness. The concept behind this book is to showcase kindness and lack thereof in a memoir, short story style. She shows us how racism has effected her personally. Her style is Melanie Shankle meets LaTasha Morrison. Her stories of her kind grandma and the kindness she encountered growing up are great encouragements. You can see clearly how small things and words can give people hope for the rest of their lives.

One thing I enjoyed reading was when she was involved in a homeless ministry. She sat down and ate McDonald's with a man who had very little to say to her and was thankful. Later on we see her angry at a woman trying to buy her dinner because she was black. That made me think about how I receive people. Do I receive some people well because I think I am helping them and others not so well because I think they are condescendingly trying to help me? How can we help each other learn best? Kindness.

Be kind always.

Great read. Encouraging fun style. My 13 year old is reading it now. May it be a beacon for her to pursue kindness with all. Here's to something we could all use a little more of right now.

View all my reviews

View this post on Instagram

I have cherished the quiet. I have sat long hours in creative prayer. I have needed this space for a long time and I had not created margin for it. There was much to do. You know how it goes. I have waded through discouragement and disappointment in people I hoped would cheer me on. I have gone over words of people mocking poverty and those in it, even my own neighborhood. I know Jesus loves those in poverty. His heart is for them. Then, like an old friend, Mr. Rogers’ words began washing over me in movies and podcasts and shows. I remembered why I came here to restore this place. Listening to one of my authors *Human(kind)* I remembered that I wanted to create a soft and safe place for others to land. The world is full of pain and we are hard pressed to find a place to heal. So back to work I go. Writing. Restoring. Praying. If you could pray for us to continue the work for and in our mission house, that would be lovely. I feel selfish asking with all that’s going on, but I know safe spaces are soon going to be needed more than ever before.
A post shared by Steph Cherry (@heystephcherry) on

Miscarriage | Infertility | Hope

I encountered Jesus as a young child in a church pew in the balcony of an old country church. Through a lifetime of trial, I knew he was the...