Wednesday, December 26, 2012

For Better or Worse

I want to spend my life loving God and loving people,
being in community,
creating community where there is none,
reaching into abandoned places,
bringing light to the darkness.

This period of waiting seems counterproductive, even counter intuitive.  If I want to love God and people, shouldn't I just get out there and do that? Maybe. But this time of waiting has its purpose, I'm sure.

I feel that this particular time of "waiting" on the Lord is precisely the right time for me to dig into Scripture and unearth truth, truth I have seldom seen before, truth the church has not taught me, truth unobstructed by my middle class American upbringing.

I will always read the Bible as a white, American female, because that is what I am, but, I can do my best to understand the cultural nuances and assumptions that litter my mind as I read.

I want to read the Bible as a 1st Century Middle Easterner.

How will this help me love people? Valid question.

The Bible, in ancient days, was not a nicely packed together book, individually bound, in several different languages and translations. It was a bunch of individual stories, histories, and letters meant to be read aloud to groups of people who would listen intently then apply the truth they heard.  With the invention of the printing press, Bibles became personal possessions and one was now able to read and interpret the Word of God alone, a way it was not originally intended to be applied.

The Words of God were always to the collective, to a group, a Body of believers.  Because of our individualistic Western society, we misread Scripture by asserting certain individualistic ideas/words into passages where it didn't exist. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:19 reads, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were brought with a price."

Most of us, including myself, would read that as meaning my body belongs to God and I should make sure I'm doing everything to take care of it because it is where the Holy Spirit dwells. A lot of Christians cite this verse as the reason to stop smoking or drinking. However, the "you"s in that verse are plural (Hebrew has the plural form of "you" while we make things up like "ya'll" or "yous guys"), meaning not an individual, but the collective.  That verse could be better understood as saying, "All of you together are a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is among the body of believers, whom God gave to His people (collectively). You, as an individual, are not your own because you belong to this Body. Christ paid the penalty for all of you together."

We read as individualists and could potentially misunderstand entire passages by doing so.

I'm starting to understand God's heart for His Body. Not just the individual members that make up the Body, but the Body itself. The Body of believers who claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and are walking out their salvation with "fear and trembling" as Paul says in Philippians 2.

By understanding the Bible as a love letter written to a collective group of people and not individuals, I am beginning to better understand God's heart for community, for drawing people together to live out their lives together, sacrificing for one another, caring for one another, loving one another when it is painful. Even loving  one another when it could get us mocked or killed.

I'm beginning to understand, really understand, I am only a small part of this Body and I can't do it alone.

When I married Christ, I married His Church.

We are in this together. For better or worse.

If you want to help support my small part in this Body through my internship with Mission Year, you can do so here:

You will find my name in the drop down box.

"Mission Year is a year long urban ministry program focused on Christian service and discipleship. We take teams of people, place them in an area of need, and help them to serve people and create community. We are committed to the command of Jesus to “love God and love people,” by placing the needs of our neighbors first and developing committed disciples of Christ with a heart for the poor."

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lessons From a Whore

So, I was sitting around talking to God and thought I’d share that conversation with you all.  It may freak some people out that I sit around and converse with the Almighty; it may sound like I’m only talking to myself (and believe me, it feels that way sometimes). But that is a blog for another time.

I asked God, “What do you want me to know today, Lord?”
He said, “I love you.”
I replied, “I know that.”
“Really?” He asked.

“Well, yeah. You’ve given purpose to my life. I know you love me. Although, I’m sure there are people in my culture and other cultures that feel they know their purpose within a family, a tribe, or a culture. So maybe giving me a purpose isn’t the first reason I should give as to how You love me. You took me and paid my debt. That’s how You love me. By being actively involved in every aspect of my life, keeping me safe (relatively speaking), guiding me, showing me the path you want me on…”

“And…?” He asked.

“…And by giving me good things and taking my focus away from worldy things, filling me with the Spirit and bringing me to a healthy place mentally and spiritually. You delivered me from oppressive people, situations, and relationships to bring me true freedom in You.”

And then my eyes focused on one word I had just written: delivered.  

According to Webster’s online dictionary, to be “delivered” means “to set free; to take and hand over to or leave for another; to assist in giving birth; to give birth to.”

I sat with that for a while.

I came to the conclusion that to be delivered from something, you must also be delivered to something else. So, as a Type A, I made a list of the things God has delivered me from and to.

He has delivered me FROM:
Co dependency
Demeaning relationships
Demeaning self talk  
Unhealthy boundaries
My savior complex (wanting to save the world and every broken person I meet…that’s still a work in progress)
And, ultimately, death
And a whole lot of other things, but those were the biggest ones I could think of.

He has delivered me TO or UNTO
Holiness (setting me apart for His good use)
Love (the real, true kind, not the kind that says “Let me help you and save you ‘cause I’m a codependent”)
Healthy relationships and boundaries (aka: being able to say ‘no’)
Peace (through knowing my identity in Christ)
Fullness of life

The Bible is full of examples of God’s redemption, delivering people out of one thing and into something else.

The biggest example is the Israelites whom He delivered from bondage to the Promised Land; He delivered Joseph from prison to the head of Egypt in order to save his family and the country from starvation during famine; God delivered Ruth from a shameful heritage derived from the incestuous relationship of Lot’s daughter to redemption in Boaz, an Old Testament Christ figure; He delivered Rahab, a prostitute, from death because she hid His spies in the Promised Land, delivering her into the inheritance of the Promised Land.

The list could go on and on, because throughout all the Bible God is out redeemer. To redeem something is to buy back, or to release from blame or debt. Jesus redeemed us with His own life, delivering us and buying us back from our state of death (in sin) to full life (in Himself).

The most beautiful visual example of this redemption (other than the Cross itself), to me, is the story of Hosea.  God told Hosea to marry a prostitute, a woman who would continually be unfaithful to him in marriage. God introduces this woman to us by saying to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hosea 1:2 ESV). That’s a lot of whoredom. I think God’s trying to make a point here. However, no matter how often his wife strayed, no matter how many other lovers she went to, Hosea was supposed to remain faithful to her, even going so far as to redeem her by literally buying her back from her lovers, chasing after her the way God Himself chases after us, after His people, after Israel, even when we have completely turned ourselves over to other “lovers.”

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
And bring her into the wilderness,
And speak tenderly to her…

And in that day, declares the Lord, You will call me ‘My Husband’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal’… And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”
-         Hosea 2: 14,16,19

To “know” the Lord in this sense means to “perceive, know by experience, to find out.” Because He does these things, chases after us, speaks tenderly to us, loves us, THEN we will know Him because we will have experienced Him and His love for us.  We will know by experience, not just through head knowledge.

I know His love for me because He has delivered me, not just once 2,000 years ago on a cross, but every day, in ever season of my life. He delivers me again and again and again, because I need it. He chases after me like Hosea chases after his wife, a woman who runs after other lovers thinking she will find satisfaction in them, in something this world offers, believing the world’s lies over God’s truth. 

And He keeps breaking chains, the chains I put on myself to be driven back to other gods.

And He keeps asking me to put down my chase and embrace His cross.

And everyday that is what I try to do, put down my chase, turn away from my other lovers, and turn back to my first love, because He first loved me.

Just so you’re not confused, “lovers” is being used as a metaphor for all the other idols we place before God. They could be money, power, pride, addictions, etc. I’m not just running around with a bunch of guys here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

(In)Dependent Woman

I have never had the desire to find out what exactly it is a godly woman is or does. I figured if I just kept getting drawing closer to God (on my own) I would become that woman, without all those pesky biblical cultural walls holding me in.

But during this time of stillness, this time of deprogramming myself of all the cultural nuances America has embedded into my understanding of scripture, womanhood, and myself, I feel strangely drawn to the women of the Bible.

I want to know them, their struggles, the way they interacted with Our Lord, the way they interacted with men, what God spoke to them, and HOW God spoke to them.

My own healing journey started with women.  I thought I could be healed in an emotional vacuum, just me and God hammering things out. But, as damaged as I was, God wanted to bring me into His community and allow me to be healed there.

My journey has been full of women who have come alongside me to prop me up when I was falling under the weight of my sin and the sorrow of my past.

Women who spoke truth into my life time and time again, and loved me, even when I foolishly refused their advice.

Women who showed me what real, confident womanhood is, getting rid of the crutches I had made of men and my own codependency.

Women who showed me that My Maker is My Husband (Isaiah 54:5), and I can trust Him and He will never lead me astray or have ulterior motives for our relationship. He just wants to love me unconditionally. No strings.

These women changed my life and my direction. They encouraged me to grow in the Lord, praying for me constantly, and modeling what it looks like to be a strong woman in a culture that constantly fails to show women how to be real women.

I owe much of my spiritual, emotional, and psychological health to these women and their husbands (for those who are married) for showing me the way a real godly man treats a woman, how he pursues her with pure intentions, and how he always leads her toward God, even if it opens him up to being hurt.

I have never felt more healthy or more secure as a woman of God. My identity is in My Maker, My Husband, the Lord of my life, and I will never have to go looking for it elsewhere. 

Just to specify, the women I am talking about are all my ladies at Calvary Community Church, who have been the closest friends I have ever had. I love you all. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012


My heart beats heavy inside my chest.
I'm waiting for something.

What is it Lord? 

I'm ready for the next step, the next adventure, but You're telling me to be still and wait, hold back from busyness, schedules, jobs, and long drives.

My heart is restless.
I can feel it trying to escape my body when I lay awake at three, four, five in the morning.

Maybe it's all this comfort making me uncomfortable,
this itching of the suburbs and all these white people.
This luxury.
This safety.

Be still. Be still. Be still.
Remember, He is God. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Another Crazy Jesus Adventure

As you may or may not be aware, I have just returned from six months living in India where I volunteered for The Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s gals).  Through various situations in India, God has humbled me over and over again, reminding me that I am called to be His servant, a servant who simply obeys her Master, no matter how small or large the task may seem (See Luke 17:7-10 for some radical servant training by Jesus). Our God is glorified when we simply submit to His will, whether that means sitting in a basement filing information, orienting new volunteers for their assignments, or teaching intellectually challenged girls their Christmas play lines. My God wants my obedience.

Through a series of events and revelations in India, God has directed me to the next season of my life. I have applied, interviewed, and been accepted to Mission Year. Mission Year is a beautiful organization whose mission is the same as all of ours: Love God and Love People. They place young adults in Christian teams/communities in poor (low income) urban areas around the country and teach them how to love their neighbors through prayer, social justice, education, and simple community living.

You can check out their website here:
I will be heading out to Chicago in September of 2013 for their year long program. I will be volunteering about 30 hours a week with a community organization or school that helps low income families in the neighborhood in which I will be living. The rest of my time will be spent in prayer with my team, meeting and loving my immediate neighbors, and learning how to do social justice like Jesus through Mission Year’s Theology of Poverty classes.

After this program ends in 2014, I am anticipating coming back to Phoenix, getting my masters in Community Development online through Mission Year’s partner, Eastern University, and (simultaneously) buying a house in a low income area of Phoenix and living out the command to love God and love my neighbor, using the training I have received through Mission Year.

I know this is big. I know this will cost a lot of money and a lot of sacrifice. I know all of this is totally impossible without God. He is my provider, my sustainer, the “lifter of my head” when I begin to look down at myself or my situation, thinking anything is too big or small for our all powerful God (Ps 3:3).

Here’s the part where I ask for your partnership in this crazy Jesus endeavor.  I need prayer and finances, and I know God will supply both through His beautiful body of believers.

First, please pray to our Provider and see how He will have you partner with me in this. If He asks you to pray for this mission, please pray with all your heart. If He asks you to give financially, please be generous with the earthly treasures He has given you. If He asks you to give monthly, above and beyond your tithe, bless His name and thank you for your faithfulness.

Ways you can pray:
      - For God to prepare the team I will be living and learning with
      - For all $12,000 to be raised for my mission
      - For $2,000 to be raised by the end of December for a match by Mission Year
      - For continued guidance and direction in my life, to follow Jesus more closely

Ways you can give:
  • You can give a tax-deductible donation online through Mission Year:
  • BONUS: Not only is your donation tax deductible since Mission Year is a non-profit organization, they are also matching all donations to my account dollar for dollar up to $2,000 until the end of December! They are also giving awesome gifts for different amounts of donations.
  • To donate online, visit the site above, click “Donate"
  • In the Donation Information section in the dropdown box find my name (Tarrin McDonald)
  • Click the “Add Donation” button
  • On the next page you will be able to designate whether this is a one time gift or a recurring gift you would like taken from your account automatically every month
  •  You can also send a check made out to Mission Year, with my ID number (13-9010) in the memo line. Be sure you add that ID number (NOT my name)!
  •  You can send this check to: Mission Year P.O. Box 17628; Atlanta, GA 30316
Since taking the steps to be a part of Mission Year, I feel like I have jumped into a Grand Canyon of uncertainty, not knowing where my feet may land, not knowing how God will provide, but knowing, for certain, that I am leaping into the arms of an all powerful God who makes sure I lack no good thing (Read Psalm 34 for some beautiful pictures of God’s providence for those who seek His face).

If you were part of the Body who supported me through prayer or finances on my mission to India, thank you. If you are praying about supporting me in this mission to America, thank you. If you are serving and giving elsewhere and cannot contribute to this mission, thank you for the generosity you show to the ministries you support.

We are one body in Christ and we need one another. Thank you for your love and support.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Humble Brown Bags

I went to a friend's baby shower the other day. I brought her  a small gift from India to put in her baby's room, a ceiling hanger of elephants, made by mentally disabled women who were given dignity and hope in India by being given the job of making these crafts. I didn't have a bag to put the gift in, so I created one with paper and stickers. I added a hand-made card, also made by women in India, telling her about the gift.

I set my gift on the designated table. A small brown taped up package in the midst of large, store bought, nicely wrapped, stuffing filled gifts, probably containing something much more useful than my little decorative gift.

In my mind, I shuffled nervously, feeling like my gift was too small, too insignificant.

Look at all those other gifts. They're so pretty, so expensive. What was I thinking bringing her this thing? It's not even useful. 

When all was said and done, my homemade bag was handed around for everyone to see and so was my little gift. Everyone loved it.

Lesson learned: never be ashamed of being small, weak, and humble. It's usually so different from what people normally see that they are intrigued by it and come in for a closer look. Like a weak, vulnerable baby lying in a stack of hay in a barn. Like lowly shepherds who came to give what they had to the newborn King: their praise.

"To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until it was all leavened." -Luke 13: 20-21

The Kingdom came to earth in a small, unlikely way and God is still using the small and unlikely to bring His kingdom to earth. "For he who is least among you all is the one who is great" and "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." -Luke 9:48 and 14:11

I pray to be smaller.

Since being back in the States, I have spent pretty much every day in Bible study and prayer.
I have no job, and do not feel God leading me to a job.
I do not spent money on anything I feel to be unnecessary, such as my car, which I do not need right now.
I am reading more about my upcoming Mission with Mission Year and preparing for preparations...

I will be moving in September of next year to a city to be determined for Mission Year. Mission Year will place me in a Christian community in an urban city and teach me how to love my neighbor through outreach, prayer, curriculum on neighborhood justice, simple living, and community living. I will be in this program from September 2013 to July 2014, after which I hope to come back to Phoenix, get my masters in community development online through Eastern University, buy a home in a low income area of Phoenix, and start living out the Gospel through community living.

You can check out Mission Year here:

God is keeping me small and reliant on Him by keeping me jobless and carless, for the time being. I know there is meaning in it all. I do not think God wants me to get a "job" for a long time... which is unsettling for me because since working age I have always had a "job," I mean the kind I get a paycheck for every other week. But if He keeps me from making "my own" money, He's got to provide. Which makes me cling to Him, coming to Him as a beggar to a rich man, asking, "Father, fill me with the Holy Spirit and take care of all else." My God is big. He will take care of me every month when the rent needs to be paid; He will take care of me when I need food in my fridge (and He's been doing so through my siblings since I've been home!); He will take care of the $12,000 needed for my Mission Year program. And you know why He will take care of it all? Because I'm His daughter whom He has called for a purpose. And our Heavenly Father takes care of His children, even if the ways He takes care of us look strange in our own eyes.

He provides.

Jehovah Jireh.