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Dial Toll-Free

She’s a working mom struggling to provide for her kids. Each day that she punches a time clock feels like a death sentence she didn’t deserve, but she has no choice. She is the breadwinner. She finds out that a neighbor-boy has been sexually abusing her three-year-old little girl. By the time she realizes it, the damage has already been done. Her daughter’s innocence has been stolen, and her family will never be the same.

He’s a musician…. and not a starving one. In fact, this guy is not only talented, but he is sought after and endorsed by a long line of other people with unique talent and fancy endorsements. He’s got the money and the fame, but the one thing he doesn’t have is his wife who just left him. She took his three kids with her because he has a violent drinking problem that he refuses to face. She hopes this might be the very thing that could sober him up.

She’s a stay-at-home mom with three kids and she’s bored. Her husband works ten hours a day and when he comes home, he can’t be bothered by her or the kids. He buries his nose in his favorite books until well after the children go to bed and emerges without a word only when he wants to enjoy some “marital benefits”. The unspoken longings inside of her from years of neglect have made her a prime candidate for an extra-marital affair. She copes with the stifling neglect by replaying fantasies in her mind of another man… a man who isn’t her husband.

He’s got a great job. The benefits are amazing. So amazing in fact, they include a full-time office secretary who makes him feel like a king. She laughs at all of his jokes and she compliments his work. He married young and after his two kids were born, he often wonders what life may have been like if he had waited to become a family man. He begins to keep longer hours at work while his wife wonders why she can’t seem to reach him anymore. They had dreams of opening a small business together one day but all of that changed after the kids were born. So, they go on leading separate lives.

She wasn’t always this way. She used to be outgoing and friendly with a head full of ideas and a heart full of dreams. That was until she got sick. Her disease is slow-progressing and invisible to the naked eye. Her husband doesn’t want to face the fact that her illness just might mean he has to put his big plans on hold. Call it manipulation, mind games, or just plain emotional abandonment, but over the years their life together has revolved around his vision, his desires, his plans and no one, not even his ailing wife or their young children will stand in the way of him and his dreams of grandeur. And so, she and the kids remain silent sufferers in the wake of his neglect.

What would you say if I told you these were the people that were walking in the doors of your church every Sunday? Perhaps you’d say there are people available to pray with them down at the altar following the Pastor’s message. Better yet, this might be the perfect opportunity to share the gospel with them and bring them to the realization of their deepest need for grace, healing, and forgiveness. You could give them a Bible, invite them to small group, encourage them to fellowship with other Christians or to sign up for the next baptism service.

            What if I told you they were already professing Christians?

                What if I told you they were your ministry leaders?
The church secretary, the pastor’s wife, the laymen, the worship leader, the nursery worker, the door greeter?

NNaaaahhhhhh…. that sort of stuff happens in other churches. Not in mine. Not my family. Not my marriage. Not my staff. Well, hypothetically speaking of course, what if it did? See Christians, especially professional ones, aren’t immune from the aforementioned scenarios. Far from it. I am convinced you will not find a more jacked up group of people anywhere else 0n the planet than you will in a room full of pastors and ministry leaders. {I would almost bet on it, but then someone might think I have a gambling problem and strip me of my ministry title.} We Christians are simply a lot more sophisticated about our issues. In fact, we don’t actually call it abuse or addiction. We use more sanctified terms like “struggle”, “temptation”, and my personal favorite, “spiritual attack”. God forbid we ever did fess up and say, “I’m one hit away from losing my family”, “I would rather die than live with this loneliness”, or “I can’t remember the last time I thought about my husband and not some other guy”. Is it worth risking your pride, your reputation… heck… your job if you get paid to do ministry for a living?

Also, hypothetically speaking of course, lets’ say you are the Lead Dog. The Head Honcho. The Big Cheese. The Man or Woman in charge and one of your key leaders comes to you and confesses their “struggles” with “temptation”. Do you…

A. Send her to counseling?

B. Insist he take some time off?

C. Ignore it because after all she is getting the job done?

D. Tell him to call an anonymous hotline for other pastors who struggle with temptations?

E. Strip her of her service title until she gets her act together?

F. All of the above

Gosh, if those are the only options {and I pray to God that they aren’t}, then I would keep my issues to myself too. Who wants to hear someone they’ve trusted enough to confide their woe’s tell them to take their woe’s somewhere else? Or worse, the Confess-or deems the Confess-ee unfit for Christian service and dismisses him with a “We’ll pray for you” severance package.

I can’t picture Jesus forming a campaign or writing bylaws on church discipline. The Jesus I know didn’t engage in politics or exploit the failings of others to keep his ministry staff free from unwanted blemish. He certainly didn’t choose his most devoted disciples from among the Bible college elite. Peter, James, and John were far from pedigree, wouldn’t you say? Did he send the woman caught in adultery to counseling? I don’t recall him giving the rich young ruler the number to an anonymous hotline. Did he strip Peter of his affiliation even after he profanely denied being associated with him moments before he went to the cross? If my Awana Sword Drills serve me correctly, I believe he restored Peter in the wake of that cowardly atrocity. But that’s what makes Him Jesus, right?

So then what are we doing? Oh that’s right. Building His Church.

And somehow that’s become a different matter entirely.

And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground… And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
–John 8:7-11 


It’s Not Okay

I think it’s called a fricative. I looked it up today. It is not exactly a phonetic sound or a consonant really, but more like a voiceless popping sound made by using your tongue and the roof of your mouth.

Why are you telling me this?

Because for the last several months, whenever it is Salem’s turn to pray at bedtime, he strings together a unique blend of incomprehensible sounds separated by these sort of clicking noises. Perhaps in his former life he was raised by an indigenous tribe in the remotest parts of the Amazon rainforest. Either that or he has the gift of speaking in tongues. Occasionally, we’ll make out some words or phrases that allow us to echo our “Amen”. So far we’ve been able to make out David Gray, Eric Clapton, Harry Potter, and Micky Mouse amidst all of the clicking. I am pretty sure my kid is the only three-year old on the planet who prays for Chris Pennie of Coheed and Cambria, but I must admit, I absolutely love that he has been a rocker since he was in diapers. Lately however, we’ve been making out a new phrase in his prayer language.

It’s not okay…. shimah shimah….pop click pop click… nanna nanna nanna…It’s not okay.

It’s not okay? What’s not okay? Clark and I look at each other night after night scratching our heads and wondering what’s not okay. He is three for crying out loud. Was it the meatloaf I served for dinner or the Thomas the Tank Engine pjs that are three ankles too short, or the Indian Removal Act of 1830? What could possibly not be okay?

And then last night, it hit us…. well, it hit Clark. I was too busy trying not to giggle at my sweet son’s pop click prayer. For the last several weeks, he has been quoting Paul David Hewson (better known as Bono of the band U2).

We have the resources to end extreme poverty…It’s not ok to have a child die for the lack of a 20 cent immunization. Its not okay for a child to die for lack of food. We want to make poverty history. 

I stopped giggling.

Salem doesn’t know the first thing about extreme poverty. How does he know that it’s not okay? Heck, I don’t know the first thing about extreme poverty. I think times are lean when I have to split a value meal with the kids in a climate controlled fast food restaurant. And yet, of all the things this child hears on any given day, that is what suddenly rose up in his little three-year-old spirit when it was time to pray before bedtime… children in extreme poverty. Out of the mouth of babes…

After  I was so moved by his sincere petition, albeit a quote from the 2005 Vertigo Tour: Live from Chicago, my heart swelled with pride that we might actually have a rock star humanitarian prodigy on our hands.

A mother can dream, right?

Life By Assignment

A few months ago, an angel sent from the Lord gave Clark and I his Civil Wars tickets AND arranged for childcare before we could refuse his generosity. He has since been written into our Last Will and Testament, and we are seriously considering naming a goldfish after him. In all seriousness, Clark and I are lucky to catch one, maybe two, live shows a year. I know. Utter travesty for two people who call themselves musicians, but after we think about how we’re going to pay for concert tickets and find childcare, our heads start to throb and we quickly settle for a Red Box movie instead. So, to have someone do all the headache-inducing work for us is a luxury beyond words. It was two weeks before Christmas and even though I nearly severed my index finger with a rotary cutter trimming my Christmas cards earlier that day, I stopped bleeding just in time to see the opening act at the McGlohon Theater in Uptown Charlotte. I actually started whining in the doctor’s office around 5 o’clock about how I never get to see live shows and they had better stitch me up quickly because I’m not about to miss my chance to see the Civil Wars for FREE on account of a Christmas Card injury. And I meant it. To say it was the highlight of the season is an understatement.

And the show did not disappoint. What goes through your head when you witness musical genius? I think all sorts of deep and substantial thoughts like, “John Paul White really  does look like Johnny Depp”, and, “I wonder if I would look that good in black tulle”. But before I began to ponder all of that, I joined the intermission crowd as they shuffled out the side entrance to the concession stands. Clark and I, still giddy to be out on the town on a school night, suddenly recognized some friends seated a few rows behind us watching the shuffling-Sam-Adams crows funnel through the double doors. We quickly decided to abandon the herd for a few moments of small talk with our friend and his wife. Up until this point, I’d say we were acquaintances at best. We have mutual friends that trace back to my banner-waving pentecostal days, so I think perhaps they felt more familiar to me then just your average acquaintance. Anyway, I’m not the World’s Greatest Small-Talker especially when thirsty patrons are bumping into me left and right. I felt like a victim of a Will Ferrel and Chris Kattan dance number from Night at the Roxbury. This doesn’t lend itself to making great conversation with banner-waving pentecostal acquaintances twice removed. But we managed. I knew that they had only lived in Charlotte as long as we had so I asked the wife, “So, how do you like living in Charlotte?”

{Have you ever been out just having a good time, not thinking about anything particularly fruitful or life-altering and then all of a sudden God speaks to you and you are suddenly snapped back to a spiritual reality that you had temporarily replaced with thoughts of Johnny Depp and black tulle? The following account is of one such occurrence.}

I’ll do my best to paraphrase her answer to my rather surface question. She said that over the years, her and her husband have learned to live their life by assignment. She went on to describe this particular season as their Charlotte-assignment and how they consider it as good as any and they are grateful for it for the time being until the Lord gives them their next assignment.

Huh. Not the answer I was expecting. Happy to make their acquaintance, we wished them a Merry Christmas and merged back into the shuffling herd. Not even ten seconds later, the voice of the Lord stopped me dead in my tracks in the middle of all those people and said…

When did you stop thinking that way?

I had no idea how significant her reply and the prompting of the Holy Spirit in that moment would be in the coming days, for it was the very next day that we found out that what we thought was a permanent assignment here in Charlotte was, in fact, temporary and our services were no longer required.

One assignment ended and another would begin.

Breaking the Silence

It is a sunny 60 degrees outside. Spring has kissed the air, and today feels like the perfect day to blow the dust off the old Sound of Center City blog. I considered deleting this blog all together, but for fear of disappointing all 6 of you who actually read it, I think I will grace this cyber-platform perhaps just this once. Or maybe more than once. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Granted, we’ve since journeyed from the place where our Charlotte chapter began, but technically, we’re still in Center City if slightly on the outskirts and last I checked, we were still making noise…. so, The Sound of Center City still rings true…. for now anyway {unless of course the Lord reassigns us to Albuquerque, at which point this will become The Sound of Juan Tabo’s blog.}

Have you ever heard of the idiom, “There are two sides to the same coin”? Well, what happens when you reach an impasse in a disagreement with another person and it suddenly dawns on you… Forget the coin. You are not even dealing with the same currency anymore. It happens in marriage, friendship, government, and religion, and it has no doubt happened to all of us at one time or another. If it hasn’t happened to you, rest assured, it will. And if it has happened to you, you can count on it happening again. Then it finally occurs to you that all of the hair-splitting, hell-raising, trash-talking, and evidence-stacking will only keep you picking the same bone that done already been plucked {as the good folks say in the South}. Next thing you know, you’re not even clear on the details of what really went down in the first place, but all you know is that whatever exchange you were once dealing with before, you are apparently not dealing with it anymore, and you’re all dealt out on this new deal you’re supposedly dealing which leaves you with only one hand to play… to figure out some way to deal with it. And it begs the question, if we’re both dealing with different dollars then who is going to win out? I believe the answer is this… it doesn’t matter if both sides come up short.

Ok, soooo, ya lost me there

The point is this…. if we as members of the same Christian faith claim to share the eternal kingdom perspective, then we all ought  to be dealing with the same eternal kingdom currency. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and I doubt it ever will be this side of Heaven. So what is this currency exactly? I’m glad you asked. I’ll tell you what it isn’t. It is neither power, authority, endorsement, charisma, popularity, education, and for those of us in ministry, you sure as heck know it isn’t money. It isn’t even about being a faithful tither with a perfect church attendance record and a squeaky clean moral slate. When the chips are down, none of these advantages are going to maintain their worth. Last I checked, Jesus had about a pinky nail’s worth of tolerance for religious externals. Power is often assumed. Authority can be given and taken away. Talk is cheap. Crowds are fickle. Money has a way of growing wings, and I think we can all attest to knowing some highly educated idiots. So what exactly am I supposed to stuff my mattress with in the likely event there’s a rainy day in the forecast? At the risk of sounding trite, I believe it is Christ, Himself.

I beg you to put your Biblical translation issues aside and humor me just this once. The amplified version of Philippians 4:13 nailed me between the eyes last week.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me {I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency}.

The GASB {Gospel According to Salina Beasley} version translates that last bit, “I am fully-funded and abundantly resourced with available heart and head space so much so that Christ’s love cometh out of my ears”. The question for me now becomes, “Do I have enough of Christ, His love, His presence, His otherness to remain spiritually and soulfully resourced so much so that I can continue to engage in the broken, fragmented, and oftentimes bankrupt stories that are walking and talking all around me on any given day?”

Do you?

Singing this little ditty while sippin’ on my dark roast…

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow
To overflow

–Bethel Music

Slice of Center City: 5th Street

I live on the kind of street where the trees canopy over wrap around porches, bird houses, tire swings, and elaborate holiday displays. I’ve waved to more than one of my neighbors dressed in their bathrobe and socks on their front stoops retrieving the morning paper. I know the mailman’s name. And Salem and Mia insist that we greet the two black labradoodle pups, Sophie and Cinder, on our morning commute to and from the park. I rarely lock my front door for a quick trip to the market, and I can see my neighbors vegetable garden from my kitchen window.

Yup. Its one of those neighborhoods. Sort of Stepford and Spector all rolled into one.

But it is glorious and I never want to move. Although the surrounding neighborhoods are perfectly lovely {and somewhat cheaper and more modern} I am a sucker for the storybook landscape and turn-of-the-century charm. And all that and I can still walk outside my front door and see the city skyline. Somedays I can’t believe I get to live here.

I recently stumbled upon something else on my sleepy little street. Just outside the Baptist church on the corner of 5th and Hawthorne, a small white sign reads…

Charlotte Family Housing…. working to solve family homelessness.

A startling statistic crossed my desk a few weeks ago that there are over 4,000 homeless children in the city of Charlotte.

4,000 Homeless children. 

Who can comprehend such a tragic reality? Well, Clark and I and a few friends paid a visit to the staff and residents at Charlotte Family Housing on Monday night where we had the privilege to meet a half-dozen families that are no longer included in that statistic. In what looked like my university resident hall, men, women, and children were enjoying clean and private lodging, home-cooked meals, and laundry facilities. A curly-headed toddler in pair of cozy, footed pajamas bounced past me in the hallway as I stopped to greet his older sister who explained that she was one of four siblings living there together. Her mom is working to finish her GED and hopes to start her own business as her husband recently lost his job due to illness.

Pause for a mid-sentence tickling match with the toddler in the footed pjs.

I learned more about empowerment vs. charity, the pending threat of separation among homeless families, and the preservation of personal dignity that night than I have ever been exposed to in my life.

After Monday, I have fallen in love with my street all the more. At one end I am decorating Christmas trees, assembling toy train sets, heating up leftover Thanksgiving turkey, and Skyping with friends and family far away. At the other, I am invited to make friends with a homeless family by bringing them a meal, some holiday cheer, or even staying in their temporary housing facility over night.

This street is home to me, home to the houseless, and home to a blooming friendship.

Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” 


Story Time

A simple exercise….

Pour yourself a cup of joe, go sit by a window, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Now this part is very important. Ready?

Just sit there.

No books.

No to-do list.

No quick text to confirm lunch.

Don’t even file your fingernails.


Clark told me he did this yesterday, and I thought to myself, “I really don’t think I can sit still for 15 minutes without either writing or fiddling with my phone or thinking of the productivity I am inevitable wasting sitting here staring out the window.”

But today, I did it. Amelie’s melange rich… check. IPhone safely out of reach… check. Corner spot in the cafe facing the NODA industrial strip…. check. And I sat.

In the course of 15 minutes, I discovered the early stages of restless leg syndrome, observed that I really am a shallow breather, seriously considered contacting a co-worker I haven’t spoken to in 9 years, and I almost fell asleep. The fact that I am telling you all of this is probably counter-productive to the exercise itself, but at one point, a bus boy interrupted my laser gaze into oblivion and actually said, “Helloooo? Come back to us.” I found out later he is Employee of the Month. Anyway, the point is that 15 minutes without stimulation or productivity is actually incredibly difficult. But before the crickets started chirping {quite literally, my timer rings to the sound of chirping crickets} my thoughts had started to wander to something of depth and substance. I know that’s hard to believe seeing as moments earlier I was nearly asleep, but I started thinking about children. Not just any children, but children all over the world without parents and all that implies– unlimited juice re-fills, tickle fights on plush mattresses, singing in the car out of tune, making funny faces in the mirror, and someone to notice ankles peeking out of pj bottoms. And I began to think about how giving life is very much about food, water, and shelter, but being a father or a mother is the color in between the lines.

And then Eureka! All 15 minutes of “nothing-ness” led to a fantastic find. This is the sort of thing I’m amped about supporting this holiday and even after we pack up the tinsel and return the red sweater from Talbots.


You Don’t Have To

Perhaps the cabin pressure keeps me from over thinking things, but at 30,000 feet, suddenly it all became clear.

You don’t have to have it all together to live sacrificially.

You don’t have to have a degree to teach someone how to read.

You don’t have to speak the same language to be a good listener.

You don’t have to start a non-profit to think about the poor.

You don’t have to buy organic to fill an empty belly.

You don’t have to have children to give life.

You don’t have to know all the right people to give someone dignity.

You don’t have to agree with someone to hold hands with the dying.

You don’t have to get published to tell someone’s story.

You don’t have to have the perfect marriage to care for a fatherless child.

You don’t have to wait for an invitation to make friends with the forgotten.