Book Review: NIV Easy Read Bible

For Each Day


Shouldn’t one’s Bible be easy to read? Yes, of course it should. It can be discouraging for someone to be given a Bible, or buy a new one, and find it is hard to hold and hard to understand. I am, at heart, an Elizabethan, and the early English Bibles appeal to me, right through the King James authorized text. I do understand, though, that the archaic forms of modern English are becoming, at a rapid pace, unintelligible to contemporary readers. The King James version with which many people of my age were raised was written in a dialect of English that was already disappearing fast in Britain, but was retained for that translation to match the form of English used in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

Today’s liturgies and worship services, along with modern commentaries on the scriptures, are written in contemporary English. While it isn’t necessary to…

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City Life, Street Ministry


I am not really a city person. It took two years for me to venture as far as the lakeside in Chicago, even when I worked about two blocks from the waterfront. I don’t go to theatres, clubs, pubs or restaurants. I don’t shop. What am I doing in a city?


Particularly among the people who end up living and begging on the streets. They are addicts, alcoholics, runaways, ex-cons, and con artists. They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, victims and disabled. Some are holding onto life with a tight grip, others are barely holding on with a fingernail. Some have found that street life keeps them out of institutions, as long as they can keep moving, keep a low profile, stay out of legal trouble. Others find that street life regularly sends them to jail or the psychiatric unit, because they don’t move fast enough, or don’t have a low profile, or they can’t stay away from those who lead them astray.

I talked to James on the phone today. James was once a gang leader, a bad character, a dangerous man. Substance abuse, though, left him weak and sick. He walked into a Pentecostal mission one night, and found a new life. It didn’t get him off the streets, though, and since he wouldn’t go back to crime, he begged. then he ended up near dead in the snow. A long hospital stay brought social workers into his life, and things turned around, as he went to a transitional shelter, and then into his own apartment.

James is my principal contact downtown. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him. He prays with people, gives blessings, and is a source of hard-won wisdom.  He still has to beg from time to time, to get en0ugh together to pay an electric bill, or to get some documents copied. He knows I don’t like him to beg. He is vulnerable, with his bad knees, his slight frame, his fragile bones. I thought James was about seventy; his nephew tells me James is two years older than me. the police hassle him sometimes when he has to sit down on the street corner, claiming he is blocking pedestrian traffic or being a nuisance. James is polite, quiet, and helpful. Yet his need and his presence are seen as intimidating to tourists.


James needs some help this week, but I don’t have the funds. I don’t have time to get downtown until the end of the week. I will check in with him by phone before I take the Blue Line to Clinton Street. It hurts me that James has to beg, that I can’t help him with his simple and basic needs. It hurt me yesterday that I had run out of money, food cards and transit passes. I gave one person a rosary and a Bible, and he appreciated it, but he needed food and shelter as well.

We are not funded by a denomination or church. We are pretty much on our own. We get some donations, but most of Hermosa House and the YOKE is supported by our own earnings, and we are maintaining two separate residences right now because of, well, circumstances. Our prayer is to be self-sustaining, to draw in enough companions to make the burden light for everyone involved, and have enough to help the poorest of the poor. This is not a situation for beginners, though. We have tried that, and the ones without years of experience in the faith run from the intensity, the poverty, the lack of diversion. We are an order for those who are already deep in obedience to their Lord. We cannot serve two masters, not both God and the world of success, status and wealth. We serve one Lord, and we bar the door to the other one who would master us in His place.

hermosa house beggars poster



Grief and Comfort

caspar david friedrich the window

If I could fit out a small, portable chapel that I would push like a handcart, it would be a useful thing.  Still, the sacred space makes itself apparent, flows down around us and encloses us when we must call upon God for shelter.

As I left work today, I passed a woman who was seated in a chair just beside the subway turnstiles. She seemed to be hyper-ventilating, and a small cluster of Transit Authority employees surrounded her. Perhaps she had fainted, perhaps she was lost. I had a feeling that their problem was about to become my concern. One of the guards offered to walk with her down to the train. I was just a few yards ahead of them, and he escorted her onto the car where I was seated. She took the seat behind me.

Then she started to cry.

It was more than crying. It was wailing, and praying. She was in hijab, and she was calling out in Farsi. As the doors of the car closed and the train started to move, I asked her if she was ill, if there was something I could do to help. Two young Egyptian girls, also hijabi, sat across from her. I pieced together that she was overwhelmed with the news she had just received that her father had died. She had been at work in the airport, a family member called her, and she was on her way home to tell her household.

What could be done? I could not reassure her; her father was dead, it was terrible news, and no empty consolation would mend that. I held her hand, and patted her shoulder. I told her I understood, that it was the saddest news one could hear. She cried, she wailed, and she prayed. The two Egyptian girls tried to comfort her, hold her other hand, and pray with her, but they did not speak Farsi, and told her in English to be a strong Muslim woman, that Allah could hear her prayers.

She told me what a fine man her father was, that now she was sure he was with Allah, that he was receiving the reward for his faith. I agreed with her, not because I knew, or even believed in the same way, but because that was important to her, to think of her father as a man of great faith, who God loved.

Grief cannot be stopped. Once it starts, it is as inexorable as the tide. It must run its course, the tears shed, the words said, the prayers prayed. It is like labour, one friend told me, and to try to circumvent it will harm all those involved.

I knew which train station she needed to exit at, and the girls were going the same way. I walked her to the door of the car, and made sure she was safe. The girls would see her to the bus. She thanked me for my care and support. I hadn’t done anything but make sure she reached her destination, and held her hand, and murmured soothing words that really didn’t matter in content.

Tourists and other passengers looked at me with curiosity. “Her father just died,” I explained. “She got the news while at work.”

They had watched this noisy and dramatic scene with some alarm; they were all right with having me take charge of the scenario. Two women sitting together, probably sisters visiting Chicago, thanked me for my intervention and praised my Christian compassion. The man in front of me said, “I’ve learned something from you. You were so kind.”

In that loop of eternity, there were four of us caught in a vortex of grief and prayer, all of us women, all of us traditionally dressed. The Afghani woman crying out her loss was simply dressed for work, and covered with a beautiful red scarf. The two Egyptian girls, delicate, big-eyed as icons, and graced with glowing, caramel skin like the light of sanctuary lamps, wore elegant silks. I was in my plain black skirt, uniform shirt, and a black kerchief folded and pinned as a short veil. We were four women of faith, at a crossroads. We did what should be natural to women, and entered an ancient relationship, of comforting the bereaved, and praying out the grief.

It was a blessing to minister in that difficult situation, to be allowed inside the curtained enclosure that is hijabi. It did not matter that I am Christian, or that they were Muslim. We were all merely human, merely women, at a time when one woman needs another.



Men, Step Up


Step up to the plate, and don’t strike out.

I had a bad, disturbing incident on the train yesterday. I have to get to the airport, where I work in a bookstore, very early in the morning. While I like the work and the people at work, the journey in the dark hours is stressful. I get through it by preparing myself the night before, and otherwise not thinking about how difficult this part of my day is.

I was sitting peacefully in the train car, having walked a mile in the dark to the station, in rain and wind. I thought the worst part of the trip was over.

A man got on the car, carrying some grocery items in a plastic store bag. He sat next to me, which annoyed me  a bit, as there were plenty of seats elsewhere. But I was near the door, in the first car, and sometimes people will choose to do that if they are riding just a stop or two.

Soon he was fidgeting with the bag, which was set on the floor between his feet. The woman across from me said to him, “What are you doing? Don’t do that.” I gave him a deep, frowning glance, as I wasn’t sure what was up.

A few minutes later, he was fidgeting again. I felt a tug at my skirt hem. My usual work dress is a long, heavy black skirt over a long, dark petticoat. I wear knee-high stockings and heavy leather clogs. I often wear a black cardigan over my long-sleeved uniform shirt, and my hair pinned up under a prayer kapp. Not exactly provocative attire.

The two women sitting in the seats opposite then both said to this man, “Hey, leave her alone!” I jumped up and moved to sit next to one of them. “He was trying to lift your skirt,” one explained.

“What do you think you are doing?” one woman scolded him.

“Don’t act nasty to people,” the other said.

I was furious. I looked at this man intently and said, “You know that is wrong! Don’t do things that are wrong! If you are going to act like that, you can get off this train.”

We were pulling into the next station, and he got up, took his bag, and got off. The women tried to comfort me. I was considerably upset. He seemed to have been looking to sit next to a woman in a skirt, using the bag of goods as a blind for surreptitiously lifting skirts and “accidentally” touching.

This is, bluntly, sexual assault. Purposefully touching a person’s clothes and body without their permission is assault, even if they are not materially harmed physically. It is upsetting, invasive and deviant.

When I was younger, and living in Washington, DC, we expected that during crowded rush hours on the Metro (the rapid transit subway) women would be accosted and physically assaulted by strangers who used the standing room only conditions to fondle and grab. That was twenty-five years ago, and this is still the condition women face in public.

There is a lot of discussion now about the rape culture of cities and universities. Men are still, within a subset of community, encouraged to see women as sexual conquests, and available for men to use without regard for the personal rights of the women.

There have always been people with sexual problems. Forms of physical violence, from forcible rape to “creeping” on the subway, are very public forms of that sort of sexual misbehavior. Maybe we can’t cure everyone with a mental illness, but we should be able to prevent further victimization.

Women are told to watch out for themselves, take self-defense classes, carry a weapon, travel in pairs or groups, stay out of public areas where they might be attacked.

And that doesn’t work. Why should we have to be the ones in charge of the deviants?

Since almost all public perpetrators of sexual assault are men, I am calling this a problem for men to address. Men, take responsibility. Work to make the world safer for women, children and other men.

Patrol subway cars, petition for added police presence, and call out the men who victimize. It isn’t just some weirdo, or homeless guy, or dirty old man. It can be respectable-looking businessmen, college students, proper elderly grandfathers. It can be your drunken best friend. It can be your son or father. Start promoting a culture in which people don’t have to be afraid to go to work.

Yes, we need more mental health care available without someone first being convicted of an offense. We need more therapy groups and fewer jails for people with such mental health problems. Work for them. Write about how men need to step up to the plate and connect. Stop acting as if this a problem women have to solve by arming themselves or staying home.

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Hermosa House


Hermosa House is where I live, where our ministry originates, and where we host visiting members of our trans-denominational religious order, the YOKE. We have two websites:



The YOKE is the principal website, home of the webzine, and where most of the action takes place in the form of our monthly online magazine and information about the order and our work.

Hermosa House online is a scrapbook of our life and ministry in Chicago.



Book Review: Know the Creeds and Councils, Justin S. Holcomb

For Each Day


Know the Creeds and Councils, by Justin S. Holcomb, Zondervan, 2014

This small volume covers the ecumenical councils (synods of the church undivided, and accepted as foundational throughout the churches); important denominational councils,the significant creeds such as the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian; and the major catechisms. Holcomb acknowledges the political forces behind these documents, both secular and sacred, while steering carefully away from expressing support of any of the political views, historic or contemporary.

A concise reference that is orthodox and even-handed has been needed for decades. While not entirely ecumenical, nor neutral, it is concisely factual. Holcomb refers to the scriptural basis of the orthodox choices made by councils and synods. I can detect a subtle bias in Holcomb’s viewpoint. He is an Episcopalian (the American version of Anglican, part of the world-wide Anglican Communion) and although he teaches at a seminary in the Reformed tradition, he does…

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