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Moving!

December 15, 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, I believe its a good time to say goodbye to Justice in the Kitchen and invite you to come on over to bethbruno.org.

I started this blog years ago as a means of digesting my graduate program into bite sized chunks for my kids. My heart was to raise globally minded, justice seeking, kingdom dwelling children and to invite you into all the little conversations along the way.

But I am far too scattered and dabbling in too many things to confine my musings to Justice in the Kitchen. I needed to streamline while simultaneously developing a platform that more accurately encompasses my writing and activities. It seemed grandiose and vain to choose my own name for a blogsite, but what else would allow for the redirection and alignment I desire from God?

So, might I invite you to join me in conversation over here:

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I’ll be developing three columns – Becoming Women, Exploited Women, and Ministry Women – as well as thoughts on my work with vulnerable youth, sex trafficking, and the creative process. I’ve even closed my photography website and revamped my entire creative model. I’m hoping to achieve more personal clarity and offer you more consistency if you choose to follow these categories.

I’ve loved this blog for the challenge of taking personal risk, putting my voice out there, hearing your feedback, and embracing my calling. Thank you for being a part of it!

Without further delay, I bid you farewell.

See you at bethbruno.org

I am Jonah

November 8, 2013

Humpback Whale Breach 108

I am Jonah.

I run the other way and stomp my foot in protest and talk back in stubborn dissent. Even when I know what I’ve heard and from whom I’ve heard it, I have several better, more doable options to suggest.

My “doable options” are equally outrageous. When we were contemplating leaving Turkey for grad school, Seattle seemed far scarier than staying. And when grad school was nearing an end, the fear of starting from scratch and launching new ministries in Colorado felt impossible. For 24 hours we were moving back to Turkey.

Last week I mentioned Kenya. Yep. Kenya. Have we ever been? No. But it honestly felt like a “doable option” compared to what God was asking us to do. Surely not Nineveh God! Surely not that way, them. Spidered brambles again?

These were the words which originally launched me out of the whale, the first time I ran in protest, 17 years ago…

I would rather clutch my invitation and wait my turn in party clothes, prim and proper, safe and clean, but a pulsing hand keeps driving me over peaks and ravines and spidered brambles. So I will pant up to the pearled knocker, tattered, breathless, and full of tales. (Janet Chester Bly)

Because that is what I want… a life full of tales. A life of reckless abandon. A life that is messy but beautiful, with meaning and purpose. A life worthy of hearing, “well done my good and faithful servant.” And not out of duty or debt, but truly out of a desire to bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven because in doing so I see more of God, experience more of Jesus.

So here was the question: if presented with the opportunity to live what we preach, would we respond? Would we put aside our fear, our convenience, and all of the unknowns, the unanswerables? A young man is fatherless, on the streets at risk of trafficking… would we live what we write and speak and teach about everyday in our ministries?

Or would we move to Kenya?

The whale came fierce. Swallowed me up whole as I wept and imagined every worst case scenario my melancholy mind could muster. The call to Nineveh felt too risky and unpredictable. Too much God! You’re asking too much!

But it was a fierce love, a saving grace in tumultuous waters. The whale saved Jonah and the wrestling with God confirmed the call and calmed the fear. I was spit out just in time to meet him, the young man who is moving into our home.

…the young man to whom my son is giving his room
…the young man whom my youngest has eagerly anticipated coming all week
…the young man I feel compelled to bless
…the young man who will change us all

Avalanche Team does an Injustice to all Women

November 1, 2013

UNiTE_Poster_A_smWhile I am not a hockey fan, I am a fan of men, athletes or not, who treat women with dignity and respect. The opposite holds true then. I am not a fan of violent athletes who treat women like objects or the condoning coach who puts said man right back on the starting line-up 2 days later.

This week’s charges against Colorado Avalanche’s starting goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, are unsettling enough. His girlfriend has accused him of kidnapping and assault. However, I find it more disturbing that coach, Patrick Roy, himself involved in a domestic violence call in 2000, is putting him back in the game 48 hours later. And even more appalling is the Judge who granted permission to travel and a $5000 bond for his release!

The message I hear is that it’s okay for men to get drunk and beat up women. What do you hear?

Innocent until proven guilty. But even if Varlamov is innocent, Roy and Avalanche should take the moral high ground and bench him until the facts are revealed. Avalanche should set an example that violence against women is intolerable, even if the bruises do not justify a felony charge.

I’m particularly wound up because of a suspected trafficked victim I learned about involving the Colorado ICE indoor football team. Though unsubstantiated, it is another example of an athlete abusing and exploiting women with impunity.

I expect more from athletic teams, coaches, athletes, Judges, and men in general. As November 25 approaches, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, let us take note of this case and the message it sends: Women face violence everyday without justice.

Our mantras, for when we forget

October 10, 2013

I used to kill off my husband at least once a week.

Not literally of course. Sheesh!

And not because I wanted him dead.

No. My husband died in my imagination in a number of gruesome ways. What I feared most, I felt instantly. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I rehearsed the speech to the kids, the eulogy, my introduction to the first new person I’d meet after.

I am a melancholy. We do these things. We are not pessimistic in that we believe any of what we envision will actually occur. We are creative and emotional souls.

I have a melancholy friend who used to be a co-worker and every time we were left alone together the world fell apart. We couldn’t help it. We imagined, and felt, the worst.

As a melancholy, I have to be careful how I answer, “How are you?”

Because what I feel

is that I’m doing too much even though it’s “good” stuff

and money is kind of tight

and it’s hard raising a teenage boy and always questioning if he’s really as naive as he seems

and I wish I were writing more

and it’s tiring to build a business, a nonprofit, a dream…

October-54

That’s not really how I am. Those are the ongoing ticker feeds in my subconscious.

But I need to remind myself. Like a mantra.

I repeat and repeat…

I am good because God is good.

Because I am healthy

and have a healthy family

and a good marriage

and a home

And the world may be falling apart.

But God is good.

So I am good.

What are your mantras? How do you remind yourself on the days you are forgetful?

How far would you go to defend human rights? My struggle in a strip club

September 10, 2013

stilettosFor the last 24 hours, our town has been ablaze with the news, “Last strip club closes, bought by church.”

It was a sudden decision to close the doors, but a long soul-search for the two brothers who owned the club, another story for another time. When one of the owners began a life of faith, he questioned his business. When his daughter invited him to career day, he knew something had to change. He approached the church with a request and this weekend’s story began to unfold.

But for now, I want to process my response to the dancers, or rather their response to the closure.

For the past 10 months I have joined a team of women on Friday nights, entering the club with little gift bags and information on free services at a local medical center. Our desire was to build trust and eventual relationships with the dancers. We believe they could do more with their lives. We believe they are worth more than their bodies.

Ironically, many of the dancers may not agree.

When news broke and TV channels descended, 23 year old “AM” tearfully reported, “It’s definitely something I love to do … feeling in control of yourself and feeling beautiful.” Many of the women expressed anger at losing their jobs with an underlying tone of feeling betrayed, losing their “family,” and genuinely liking their work.

It was shocking.

I am pro human rights. I believe we all have the right to live in safety, to worship freely and whom we choose, to thrive physically and mentally. But do we all have the right to shoot another? Of course, there are limits. Do the women have the right to strip? Do they have the right to live as they desire? Yes…

Yes, but can I rally for them? Are those rights I want to defend? I am incredibly interested in their point of view. Month after month, I have been promoting the right to leave the industry, to end the exploitation of their bodies, the selling of something I deem sacred… but they don’t all agree. I knew that, but to hear them say it, again catches me off guard.

How does a woman come to choose to sell her body? To believe that her greatest means of control is wielding her flesh just out of reach of a “pathetic” man? We as a society have failed her if that is the best she can do to feel powerful. There are systemic gender issues at work- a widespread disregard for human dignity.

I am pro human dignity. Perhaps more than rights. Because if dignity is our highest goal, then basic rights should follow. If Yemeni men valued their daughters as valuable members of the community, worth educating and protecting and feeding until womanhood, would 8 year old girls die on their wedding night? If the dancers at the strip club valued themselves as women of dignity, would they choose employment at a dirty, run down club in the seedy part of town, with only an old, ragged fleece to cover up with during smoke breaks? If the “gentlemen” viewed these women as their sisters, mothers, and daughters, would they fondle with their eyes and demean them in their thoughts?

The dancers have the right to be treated and valued as women of worth and dignity. They have the right to feel powerful because men respect them and they are honored as the capable, intelligent contributors to society that they are. They have the right to feel control of their bodies because they can trust that they won’t be violated or exploited by a culture of men unable to dignify their fellow gender. These are human rights deserving of my defense.

In the end, more than human rights and more than human dignity, I am seeking shalom. If it brings about a rightness with God, self, others, and the environment, then it is what we should pursue. The strip club derailed shalom in all sorts of ways. For me, I am proud to be a part of a church that has chosen to be a shalom-restorer.

Subscribe to this blog to follow the strip club series.

Tending to things long-neglected

August 29, 2013

As a parent, my year begins at the end of August. New Year’s Day is merely a chance to clean up the presents and boxes of Christmas with the noise of football punctuating the silence. Resolutions feel pointless when nothing about my schedule is changing. But the onset of school? Now that is a fresh start.

Today was my New Year’s Day. Free from meetings and projects, I found myself gravitating to things that have been neglected for years.

I bought pajamas. Yes, it’s been years.

My handy neighborhood ACE helped diagnosis the multiple problems with our “lawn” and I began with nourishing a tree that is on the verge of death. And who knew grass needed to be fed?

I can now safely say I am not to be trusted in the hands of a Middle Eastern woman. Mesmerized by the lilt of their English and distracted by trying to guess their country of origin, I find myself agreeing to treatment I did not intend to receive. My hair has been straightened, dyed, and cut beneath this spell. Today, I risked having my eyebrows repaired. It had been 16 years since my boss took control of my unruly eyebrows, waxing me to tears, and leaving me to pluck for all eternity. Well, I plucked myself a mess and created two uneven, misshapen lines above my eyes. I went to a nearby cosmetology school for help.

The first student tried waxing and then asked another student to try threading. I have successfully avoided this method for over a decade as this is how they do it in Turkey as well. But I tell you, her eyes… her accent. I am helpless. And now, I am also very sore.

In the mode of self-care, I also touched up my 3 inch roots with my henna dye. Yes, they were 3 inches. The henna dye requires a longer set period, providing ample time to try out my new Magic Erasers. And for the first time since we moved into this house (3 years), I scrubbed our shower floor back to white.

Neglect. I’m amazed at how many things in my life have been neglected over the last few years. Self-maintenance aside, I think of friendships I have allowed distance to rob. I think of my teenager, asking big theological questions, testing God, and realize we have been operating on the “discipleship by osmosis” mode for too long.

Busyness is not to blame. I have wasted plenty of time while the grass turns to weed, my eyebrows get thinner, my far away friend meets a guy, falls in love, gets married… my son wrestles with faith. Afterall, there was time for Downton Abbey, Pinterest, a batch of brownies, Facebook, more Facebook…

And yet, my varied jobs and causes have fragmented my soul. They have oozed into every day, preventing blocks of time like today when I can tend to myself and my house and sort out the kids’ needs and just get a grip on it all. I’ve known this. The question is will I make today my New Year’s Day? Can I tend to things long-neglected and bring them back to health and goodness?

What about you? What have you long-neglected? What is requiring your tending today?

Seeking Memory in Our Rest

July 23, 2013
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Through the years, we have all amassed friends who are now scattered around the globe. Facebook keeps us privy to their big life moments and annual vacation updates. I’m always interested in the regional retreats friends tend to take…

Those serving in China escape to Thailand. I can only imagine the deals they must get living so near! Pennsylvanians go to the Jersey Shore. Chicagoans retreat to Michigan, Lake side. Seattleites head for the Islands. Here in Colorado, we head for the mountains.

When we lived in Istanbul, it was Abant. We would do anything to spend a weekend in this secluded mountain resort, surrounded by Pine covered hills and overlooking a lake. In the winter, we endured hours of traffic, trudging behind Intercity buses and inexperienced drivers to the summit of the mountain pass our coveted escape was near.

In the winter of 2003, when I was 8 months pregnant, the lovely snow had turned into a dangerous blizzard by the time we reached the summit. We pulled into a motel to spend the night before making it to the lake the next morning. All traces of the concrete jungle of our city were magically gone as we drove through Alp-like scenery to our destination. As we neared the hotel, we were greeted by a line of horse drawn, enclosed sleighs, a reminder that the pain of getting here was worth it. Rest awaited us.

Rest. We all seek it. Beach, lake, or mountains. We crave the beauty, quiet, and nature.

But there is something more we seek. Memory. We are in search of innocence, before heartache and life’s work and the stress of living became common place. That time in life when innocence was ours. It is that memory we strive to recreate.

Last week my family was in the mountains. We had strewn together a mess of a vacation including 5 different “beds” in 11 days: camping, hotels, kids camp, and a cabin. It seemed fun in the planning, though it was far from restful.

Mountain Flowers

Our route took us through parts of our State that I first saw on a summer trip with a group of friends from high school. It was my first time out West. My first time experiencing cowboy culture, camping under the stars, white water rafting, hiking a 14’er, the blue skies of Colorado. We took half of our group to Eagle Lake Camp, while the rest of us went to Summit Ministries. Regrouping at the end of the month, we knew we were all forever changed.

Last week I again drove the gravel road to Eagle Lake Camp to pick up my kids. As if it were yesterday, I remember being there at sunset, 22 years ago. My friend Mara had recently saved up and purchased her first SLR and she insisted we stop to capture Pikes Peak at sunset on our way down the mountain. She was my hero and the reason I was even in Colorado. It was her Mom driving and chaperoning; her Mom’s property that we camped on in Fairplay, where we just spent July 4 with our kids, enjoying ice cream and banjo music. Their love of Colorado was contagious.

That was a summer of independence and courage. The year before my senior year in high school, it served to both solidify my faith and give me a vision for my future. I didn’t plan to marry a guy from Colorado. I had no idea the house we stayed in was owned by a woman in my mother-in-law’s bible study… that he was down the road. But it left an indelible impression. It was a summer of innocence which holds vivid memory these many years later as my family wove our way through mountain roads and towns beneath the blue skies.

Innocence is that time when all feels right in the world. Eventually, most of us experience a shattering of this, some at younger ages than others.

The mountains hold even deeper memory for my husband. Our vacation triggered the pain caused by an untimely shattering of his childhood innocence. His memories of boyhood include a horse named Buddy, riding a 4 wheeler alone through his backyard forest, crazy pets, a log cabin dream home, and elk in the front yard on early winter mornings.

He spent 11th grade as an exchange student in Germany and returned “home” to a new house in the Denver suburbs. Robbed of contributing his voice to the decision to move, of packing up his own room, of saying goodbye to the epic wild boyhood he had enjoyed, he spent his final year of high school commuting to the mountains from the city.

I found him alone in the early mornings at the cabin, coffee and journal on the front porch, overlooking a small lake nestled in the peaks of the high country. He is still mourning what he had, treasuring innocence and slowly realizing his last 22 years have been a journey back.

A writer more than I, he is working on a book which covers all this. Innocence is our Eden, our shalom, he says.  “The window of innocence is far too short. Yet, by design, we were each intended to live eternally in innocence. God’s purpose for all humanity involved living contentedly forever with Him in Eden. Innocence, or rather, naivety to evil, was His intent for us all along. He made us for Eden” (The Brotherhood Primer, Chris Bruno, work in progress).

We are all seeking Eden, whether in short weekend retreats or summers at the lake. For most of us, we harken back to our memories of a time when innocence abounded. But for all, I believe that which we truly seek is of a time imprinted in our souls. It is called eternity.