Why I’ll be fasting for our country on the 21st of each month.

Some weeks ago my friend David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, invited me to join him and a coalition of other Christian leaders in fasting and prayer on the 21st of each of month.

Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision-makers to help end hunger at home and abroad. Given the priorities of President Trump and Congress, David and his colleagues believe unprecedented action must be taken on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable.

Because the risk of hunger is increased by a wide range of policy decisions, Bread for the World addresses a broad range of issues, including: agriculture and trade, the federal budget, tax credits, incarceration and hunger, global nutrition, immigration reform, international food aid, climate change and health care.

As well as offering education related to these issues, Bread suggests concrete ways to take action: writing letters and emails, making phone calls, and visiting our members of Congress.

As people of faith, Bread for the World leaders believe advocacy efforts must be strengthened and sustained through spiritual practices that deepen our commitment to ending hunger, poverty and injustice, and to sustained prayer for key decision-makers.

That’s why they initiated #ForSuchATime, a campaign of fasting, prayer and advocacy grounded in the Biblical story of Esther. As Esther called the Jewish people to fast and pray in the days leading up to her advocacy with the king on behalf of her vulnerable people, so #ForSuchATime calls us to fast and pray.

The campaign was launched with a three-day fast beginning May 21, and will continue on the 21st of each month throughout the duration of the 115th Congress. The 21st day of the month was chosen because 90% of SNAP (food stamp) benefits are used up by then, making the last week of each month the hungriest week in America.

Several weeks ago, David invited me to join #ForSuchATime and to encourage others to join. I did not take David’s invitation lightly. Knowing the campaign will run through the end of 2018, I did not want to make a commitment I wasn’t prepared to keep for the long term.

I also knew that promoting the campaign would mean speaking more explicitly about my conviction that political advocacy is a vital part of Christian discipleship, as well as about my ongoing disagreement with the direction of our President and Congress. Based on past experience, I could imagine how many critical emails I would receive. So I hesitated.

Then #Charlottesville. I woke last Saturday morning to the news of what had happened on Friday night and I knew the only appropriate response—for me, anyway—was fasting and prayer. It was an easy decision, actually, since I was too sick to my stomach to eat and the only outlet I had for the deep grief I felt was prayerful lament. So, really, fasting and prayer was less of a choice than a necessity.

As the week has progressed, it has become increasing clear that joining #ForSuchATime is also less of a choice than a necessity. I need to join with a community of people committed to fasting, prayer and action on behalf of the vulnerable in our country and throughout the world.

So on Monday—the 21st day of August—I’ll enter into the spiritual discipline of the #ForSuchATime campaign. I’ll fast and pray regarding concerns suggested by my friends at Bread for the World, and regarding other concerns that have become priorities to me during this past week.

I’ll fast and pray for those facing the risk of physical hunger and for those making decisions that impact them.

I’ll fast and pray for increasing bipartisan condemnation of sinful and selfish attitudes and policies, and increasing bipartisan support for policies that support and protect the vulnerable.

I’ll fast and pray about the hunger of spirit in our country—about the undernourished hearts and minds filled with ideologies that believe racism is okay, that white supremacy is justified, that differences of race, religion, culture, or sexual orientation offer licenses to hate.

I’ll fast and pray that my own heart will be broken ever more deeply for the vulnerable and marginalized.

I’ll fast and pray that more Americans will adopt a consistent ethic of life that includes but is not limited to protecting the unborn.

I’ll fast and pray for my friends in the US and globally who are refugees, immigrants, undocumented, unwelcome, fearful, facing famine, discriminated against, desperate, hungry, lonely.

I’ll fast and pray for women I’ve met in the Congo who are victims of horrific rape as a weapon of war, for displaced women I’ve met in Iraq who have been brutalized by ISIS, for Israeli and Palestinian women I’ve met working daily for reconciliation and peace in the Holy Land.

I’ll fast and pray for persecuted Christians and for victims of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

I’ll fast and pray for Chicago, confessing that I’ve poured much passion, energy and time into people and places around the globe, and very little passion, energy and time into the city right next door, the city I blindly drive through on my way to somewhere else.

I’ll fast and pray for bridge-builders, and for those who are so weary they can’t find the energy to try to build another bridge.

I’ll fast and pray as an act of solidarity with the hungry, as a lament, as a necessary jolt to my comfortable way of living.

I’ll fast and pray for boldness and discernment.

I’ll devote the day to learning from voices new to me, and determining what actions I can and should take, either politically or personally.

I’ll end the day with the prayer that has so often changed the trajectory of my life: God, what is mine to do?

Why am I writing this? Because I hope:

• that many of you will join the #ForSuchATime movement.
• that you’ll go to www.bread.org/fast to learn more.
• that you’ll spend the 21st day of each month—or some other day—in fasting and prayer for the vulnerable.
• that you’ll earnestly and consistently pray prayers and determine actions shaped by the unique passion God has given you for our brothers and sisters facing hardship and threat.
• that you’ll learn more about advocacy as a part of Christian discipleship by reading Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures.

During the last week, I’ve been disheartened and grieved by much that I’ve heard on the news and read on Twitter and in blogs. But I’ve also been encouraged and inspired by so many people—men and women, young and old, people of diverse faiths and those who claim no faith, white people and people of color—who are earnestly and articulately humbling themselves, confessing sin, breaking their silence, offering and receiving forgiveness and grace, and committing to a better way.

Clearly, there is great need and great potential for transformation in our hearts and minds, in our personal relationships, in our leaders, in our policies, in our country. I want to be part of that transformation—through fasting, prayer, and action. Will you join me?

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Why I Spent Mothers’ Day in Mosul, Iraq #2

“Being imprisoned in our homes was so demoralizing. ISIS was in control for two and a half years, and we couldn’t leave the house.”

“The only thing that kept me going was to think about what I’d do after ISIS left. I dreamed of creating a day care center and preschool for kids whose parents worked at the local hospital.”

Eman lived in east Mosul, Iraq, a community often described as a beautiful mosaic of minorities: Sunni Muslims, Christians, Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis, Shabaks, and more. It was an energetic, resilient, highly educated community.

It was my third visit to Iraq, but my first to Mosul. I wished I had seen the city before much of its beauty had been turned to rubble by ISIS. But despite the devastation, I saw clear signs of the city’s resilience–in young people like Eman.

Ten years earlier Eman had graduated college with a degree in fine arts. The kids’ center she created in the months after ISIS left east Mosul showed the clear mark of an artist: walls painted brightly and a creative, high quality curriculum.

Financial empowerment from the Preemptive Love Coalition, combined with her own resilient spirit, helped bring Eman’s dream to reality. With the early growth of the center, she’s already been joined by additional staff, and she envisions a future where more and more kids and staff will be able to benefit from the beauty and hope of the center.

As we were leaving I told Eman that I liked her brightly-colored t-shirt. “Under ISIS everything was black,” she said. “I’m done with all black!”

For her, it seems, pink is the color of hope.

In the six months since east Mosul was freed from ISIS, what was a ghost town under ISIS has again become a thriving community. Sadly, the western side of Mosul suffered longer and even more severe deprivation under ISIS than the east side, and it is only now being freed, neighborhood by neighborhood.

My friends at Preemptive Love are pre-positioned with food, water and medical supplies, ready to enter each neighborhood in west Mosul as soon as ISIS is forced out. Without this life-saving emergency response, desperate families will be forced to flee to refugee camps, where they’ll be separated from their homes, their neighbors and the lives they’ve built in the city they love.

But if we—through our friends at Preemptive Love—provide for the people of west Mosul now, so they can stay home, they’ll be positioned to move into a hopeful future, as Eman has done.

Please give now.

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Why I Spent Mothers’ Day in Mosul, Iraq #1

“My dad, my brother, and my husband were all killed by ISIS.”

At fifteen she got married. At eighteen she was a widow, the mother of an infant, and caretaker for her widowed mother.

For two and a half years she’d lived under ISIS control in east Mosul, Iraq. When her community was freed from ISIS in November 2016, a new future opened up to her. But what kind of future awaited a traumatized and grieving teenage mother in a neighborhood wrecked by war?

Fortunately, my friends at Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC) saw beyond her external situation to the resilient spirit inside her. They provided funding for her to open a small cosmetics shop.

Bullet holes still marked the facades of nearby buildings. Crumbled concrete and twisted metal left by months of shelling was still being cleared away.

But on the May day on which I visited the cosmetics shop, the streets were filled with shoppers and business was booming.

After years of brutal oppression, the civilians of east Mosul were eager to return to the life they’d known before ISIS.

And a young shopkeeper—along with her mother and her child—were looking with hope toward the future.

Check here for information on how you can join the Preemptive Love Coalition in empowering other women impacted by war in Iraq and Syria.

Currently PLC and their local partners are helping men and women in Mosul establish bakeries and barber shops, pre-schools and medical clinics, grocery stores and vegetable stands, tea shops and falafel stands, pharmacies and office supply stores–and so much more.

And each person empowered brings light and life to their corner of the world.

The need is real, but so is the hope!

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Why I’ve Never Missed The JUSTICE Conference—and Won’t Miss It This Year!

June 9-10  Chicago
June 9-10 Chicago

In 2011 I asked myself this question: Has the American evangelical church actually awakened to the biblical call to justice as a part of our discipleship as Christians? Or, did we just get caught up in a temporary cool to care movement? Continue reading

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Why I Signed the World Relief Open Letter on Refugees

Today a reporter asked me why I signed the World Relief open letter asking President Trump to reconsider his recent executive order impacting refugees. She also asked my opinion on the apparent divide between the pulpit and the pew when it comes to refugees. In other words, over 500 evangelical leaders signed the letter, yet polls have revealed that a majority of white evangelicals do not feel a responsibility to Syrian refugees and would support a law barring Syrian refugees from entering the US. Why that divide?

Here’s my answer: Continue reading

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What Climbing Kilimanjaro Taught Me About Refugees

On March 8, 2016, International Women’s Day, I reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. At an altitude of nearly 20,000 feet, it’s the highest peak on the African continent, and the tallest free standing mountain in the world.

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Help First-Responders Rescue 4,000 Syrian Women & Children–NOW

Questscope is one of my favorite organizations serving refugees and displaced people in the Middle East. I’ve traveled with them, I’ve seen their programs, I’ve met their top leaders as well as grassroots volunteers. I just received the following email update about an immediate and critical need. Would you join me this weekend in giving on behalf of 4,000 women and children. Just $50,000 can lift them from despair to dignity and hope.

From Questscope

4,000 women and children are currently being evacuated from two besieged towns in the Idlib governorate of western Syria to designated areas around the city of Homs – right now, this week. They have lived under siege for more than three years. Our team there will coordinate this move and provide support and shelter.

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December–The Quiet Month

I actually wrote this blog a year ago. Called “Confessions of a December Dropout,” I wrote it to give myself–and anyone else who needed it–permission to opt out of the crazy hustle and noise of the season. Turns out I need that message even more this year than I did a year ago. The weariness I felt in December ’15 I feel even more deeply now, and the quietness that beckoned me twelve months ago calls with even greater insistence today. So, here’s to a quiet month, a month of slowed down hours and simple pleasures, a month of deep healing and profound joy and the anticipation of new birth. Join me? Continue reading

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What I’m Thankful For

I actually wrote this blog the weekend before the election. I decided that for two days I would shut out the steady stream of negative and depressing political rhetoric and focus on a few things I’m thankful for. Unfortunately, before I could post the blog, my computer succumbed to a severe virus and crashed. But as the negative and depressing political rhetoric continues—and as Thanksgiving approaches—I offer these humble and meandering thoughts. Continue reading

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Hear the Mother’s Prayer: Bring Down the Peace!

The following is a guest post from my dear Israeli friend Lisa Loden. Lisa is a theologian, a leader of contemplative prayer retreats, an advocate for women in leadership…but mostly, she is a courageous and passionate peacemaker who longs to see God’s people living the reality of reconciliation. On October 19, Lisa joined thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women in a March of Hope sponsored by Women Wage Peace. I guarantee you will be inspired by Lisa’s description of the march.

Guest Post by Lisa Loden

As someone who longs for and actively pursues peace, to join a march with thousands of women who share this passion was not much of a question for me. Despite never having taken part in a public march, this one, from the first time I heard about it seemed right. It was more than right; it was a hope-inspiring journey for me. Continue reading

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