Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Upon Reflection

I go through spurts every now and then where I read lots of books. I am on one of those right now. But, before starting my next read I decided to get some of my thoughts out there about the recent reads. Over the past few months I have read...
  • The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young
  • Sex God, by Rob Bell
  • The Last Temptation of Christ, by Nikos Kazantzakis
  • More Ready than you Realize, by Brian McLauren
  • Leadership Essentials by Greg Ogden & Daniel Meyer
Sometimes its easy just to pick up the next one and keep going, but I NOT going to do it! I believe it might be due to reading some of these books in combination with my trip to Israel and my new found passion for prayer, but I do have some mental shifts that I am excited about.

  • It was hard for me to get into The Last Temptation of Christ because I was so confused about what was going on, who was who and how something could be so "off" from the biblical narrative, but also so "close". I was LOST! Then, I adjusted in my mind, "It is fiction, just keep reading." Then, I was okay... until the end... I was getting pretty pissed off by the last couple chapters... I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but the "dream" Jesus was having got me closer to imagining what temptations he may have really gone through when he walked on this earth.
  • I almost thought he was going to give into them (the temptations). What would this world be like if he had not died and rose again? AHHH! I can't go there, because I believe that the biblical accounts are true.
  • Have you ever imagined that Jesus as a human had similar longings to what we have? For marriage, for sex, for deep friendship that doesn't backfire on us? To be known and accepted completely by other humans? If he was truly a human and truly a diety at the same time I do think he would have these REAL temptations, not just a good story that we think about happening 2000 years ago, but real life struggles. *I'm not saying he had all of these, but he could have??
  • Yet, he conquered these temptations. He was able to submit himself to God and be selfless enough to give up the longings that were so appealing.
  • I think the major thing that I have been learning is how REAL the Bible is... REAL in a way that is beyond the mythical stories that only carry trite phrases or life lessons for us to glean to help ourselves, but true stories of real people who God is working through. These people are examples and hope for us.... just consider the book of Hebrews in the New Testament...
I'm not trying to make some deep theological statements (or at least I don't think I am), but what I'm trying to say is that I feel more connected to the reality of scripture and Jesus and God and the Gospel than ever before. The fact that we aren't separated from God when we allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives, the fact that Jesus really has gone through everything that I have gone through, the fact that God mourns with us, rejoices with us, and loves us more than we can imagine. The fact the we are called to serve, be selfless, and follow and we can do it, with God's help and we aren't alone in it.

A combination of experience, scripture, books, prayer, calling, & reflection... It will keep going.
Have you learned or read anything good recently?

Monday, April 27, 2009

What a great weekend!

This weekend was a lot of fun! It started out with a Friday full of friends, lunch with Robyn at the Morning Times, bike ride with Jenny & Barry, dinner at The Point with Hunt & Jessica, then roasting marshmallows and drinking wine on the Chewies back patio... can spring get any better?

After a meeting on Saturday morning it was laundry and wine tasting time with the hubby! 
*Even though meetings are still 'work', it is exciting to be a part of what God is doing in the life of our church community. There are some heavy and difficult things going on right now, but at the same time there is a ton to celebrate and I am thankful to be privileged to be a part of the highs and the lows.  

When Matt and I got home, for some reason I thought we weren't "connecting", so we got to talk about our feelings, have dinner and take a walk after the sun went down. Thanks Babe for being patient and generous with me. 

Sunday was full of more meetings, worship, and then a day of errands with Matt, yet more connecting time! Then we took a 'joy ride' on our bikes. Neither one of us expected to be sweating as bad as we did while we were riding our racing bikes in our flip flops, but we had a great time exploring our neighborhood and attempting to get the itch for a mansion out of our systems by gawking at other's.
*Good finds: 4 Avacado's for $1.25 on clearance at Harris Teeter & a mouse trap that I think just worked... just got off the phone with Matt but am too nervous to look inside of it... that will be for another blog post.  

One other thing, I almost forgot... my brother's family has updated a bunch of pictures. Seeing these makes me happy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Busy Bee

The Busy Bee: In the heart of Downtown, this renovated old hot spot is a new trendy spot for the urbanite. 

After a few weeks of thinking about eating here I finally got to go yesterday with my friend Nicole. I will remember to ride my bike next time I go because parking on Wilmington St. can be a pain at 12:30 in the afternoon. 

I am convinced that the stress of finding the narrow, two story, hip cafe was worth it. The menu is decked out with burgers, sandwiches, salads & small plates. I got the Shaved Ham, ham, pineapple, black bean spread & frisee.  Served with choice of side, I went for the fried green tomatoes. Price tag $8 

Frisee is a fancy word for lettuce. (I had to ask, it was a toss up between cheese and lettuce). Delish! Next time I want to try the Veggie. 

I will say that they need a sign on the upstairs back door that says "TO PATIO"  or something to that effect. We were going to try to sit outside, but couldn't figure out how to get there. We weren't the only ones who opened the door to someone's office trying to find our way... 

I have yet to try the cocktails, but I hear they are pretty delicious, next time when I sit at the long bar in the evening with friends I will try one (or two). 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Rockford

The Rockford (they don't have a website or at least not one I could find):
Located on Glenwood South at 320 1/2 (the only restaurant I know with a .5 address)

Matt and I had our first date here. I will never forget my crabcake sandwich and his ABC. We sat a small wooden table on the far right side of the place. It was a Sunday evening and we had great conversation. That was my first time there and I had no idea that it would soon become one of my favorites.

You have to walk up a skinny flight of stairs that opens up to a small but chic bar and cafe. The waitstaff is friendly, but not over the top. At times there is a long line (especially at night).

Once seated you can check out one of their unique specials or go for a sandwich or salad. My personal favorite, the Turkey Avacado (can you see a theme with the avacados?). I had this on Friday, Marbled Rye bread, turkey, pepper jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, guacamole pressed panini style and served with your choice of seasonal side. Price tag $7.75

I have never been too crazy about the sides here, but that is okay because I need all the room to finish my delcious sandwich.

NoFo Cafe

NoFo Cafe: Located in the eclectic 5 Points community, established in 2002. I have worked there since Feb. 2004

I have worked at NoFo for over 5 years and still love the food. Some of the items have changed and others have been a consistent delicious mouthful. 

NoFo used to be the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store and is decorated with memorabilia to match. There is even a hand-blown glass chandelier imported from the Czech Republic. Complete with a wine wall and fun martini list, NoFo makes a great place to go for lunch, brunch or dinner. 

On the lunch menu you can't go wrong with the Grilled Tai Chicken Wrap completed with Broccoli Salad... Grilled Chicken, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, and peanut sauce all wrapped up in a spinach tortilla: Broccoli, raisins, cheddar cheese, bacon, green onions and a special sauce to die for :) $8.75

Other favorites are the unbeatable sweet potato fries (served salty, not sweet) and the Shrimp BLT with Cheddar Macaroni.

Service? I do my best :) 

Side Street Cafe

1) Side Street Cafe: In Historic Oakwood, founded in 1979 (same year my brother was born) 

When I walk into this cafe feels like I just walked into my grandma's house. It is decked out with white linen table cloths and old timey paintings (like the ones my grandpa and gg did) hanging on the walls. Once you sit down, the menu has almost 30 sandwich options to choose from. However, there always seems to be only one or two people working in the whole place, so you may have to wait a bit longer for your sweet tea than desired. 

My favorite bite hands down is the Avacado-crush-onyou-sweeteepie! Yep, wholewheat bread, avacado, lettuce, tomato, onion, honey mustard, (choice of bacon, turkey, or xtra avacado) and swiss cheese. All sandwiches come with your choice of side and a slice of orange for dessert. Price tag? only $6.75

I got to have my birthday party there. They opened the place on a Saturday night just for me and my crew. It was a blast and with carafe's of wine for only $8 you can out of there without killing your pocket book either. 

*Watch out though, they only take cash or NC checks.


Restaurant Contest

I go through spurts where I have lots of lunches out with folks. I feel like I was having a dry spell for a while, but now I have been back at it in the past few weeks. I will describe my favorite dishes and ambience at 4 spots in Raleigh with similar prices/options and would like to get your votes on which one is the best... 

1) Side Street Cafe
2) Nofo Cafe
3) Rockford
4) Busy Bee

Descriptions to come...


Several people have been wondering where we are on the house project... the key word here, "pause".

We don't think we are going to do anything right now... here is why...

1) We aren't convinced that we 'need' it
2) We have lived in our house for 3.5 years just fine and don't feel rushed to change.
3) There is a possibility for us to save some money due to low interest rates or high competition in the market right now, but realistically it will only be several thousand dollars. It seems wise to us to get what we really want v. trying to time it right.
4) If we do end up doing it, we really want a master on the bottom floor and a large front porch. The architect we met with tried to convince us otherwise.
5) We want to get a few more estimates.
6) Dreaming about what our lives could look like if we stay in our house longer is very exciting.

I was reading a quote this morning from Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.. Uncle Wormwood (the devil) says, "Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is 'finding his place in it,' while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circles of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build in him a sense of being at home on Earth, which is just what we want."

This may sound a bit radical, but if you know me very well, its not... basically its just a thought that we want to keep considering as we are moving forward and one of the items that contributes to us hitting "Pause".

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Abigail

Last night Matt and I got to help celebrate Abigail's 3rd Birthday. We realized when we got there we were the only adults there without children of our own... "What are we getting ourselves into?"

We had a blast. Lets see, on top of watching all of the fathers and their children and how much they cared for them, we got to do a few things that were out of the norm for us...

Carry around Jonathan
Feed a bottle, I found out that you actually have to tip the bottle up in order for the milk to come out. Apparently 7 month olds can't yet drink from a 'straw'
Put together a princess scooter
Help Emma become Bat Woman
Play basketball with the boys down stairs

The fun goes on!

On top of all of that we got to eat delicious cake, snack mix, pork tenderloin, pasta salad, cranberry-cashew-pear-poppy seed salad... Yum!

We love all of our friends who share their lives with us, kids and all. Although, I am thankful that when we left and got home we were alone... no bath time, no diaper changes :) I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Its Open Now!

I just received word from the Hope House... 

From the Founder, 

It is with joy and excitement that I write this letter to inform you that On Eagles Wings Ministries has now opened the first faith based, no government funding, shelter for domestic minor sex trafficking victims in the US. Lack of appropriate shelter for these victims is a major problem and there are less than 50 beds available. We will be able to take up to 5 girls under the age of 18 who have been prostituted. We often get the question "does this really happen?" 
Unfortunately it happens all over the US.  Our children are for sale. 
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimate up to 300,000 of our youth are at risk of being sexually exploited each year. According to the Department of Justice, the majority of American victims of commercial sexual exploitation tend to be runaway or thrown away youth who live on the streets who become victims of prostitution. These children generally come from homes where they have been abused, or from families that have abandoned them. Other young people are recruited into prostitution through forced abduction, pressure from parents, or through deceptive agreements between parents and traffickers. Among children and teens living on the streets in the United States, involvement in commercial sex activity is a problem of epidemic proportion. Approximately 55% of street girls engage in formal prostitution. Of the girls engaged in formal prostitution, about 75% worked for a pimp. Pimp-controlled commercial sexual exploitation of children is linked to escort and massage services, private dancing, drinking and photographic clubs, major sporting and recreational events, major cultural events, conventions, and tourist destinations. About one-fifth of these children become entangled in nationally organized crime networks and are trafficked nationally. They are transported around the United States by a variety of means - cars, buses, vans, trucks or planes, and are often provided counterfeit identification to use in the event of arrest. The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14. It is not only the girls on streets that are affected -- for boys and transgender youth, the average age of entry into prostitution is 11-13.

The Hope House offers a safe place of seclusion, restoration and healing for domestic minor sex trafficking victims. Our program is a 3 stage process with a minimum of a one year commitment (or until their 18th birthday), with the understanding that we will not hold anyone against their will. We focus on complete restoration using biblical principals. We place strong emphasis on security, keeping the survivors safety our first priority. Each potential resident goes through an intake process to determine if they have been a victim of sex trafficking before being accepted into the program. All volunteers are given a criminal background check. Our program includes counseling, life skills, educational classes, case management, health care, recreation and spiritual mentorship.

We are committed to operating with a standard of excellence. We are committed to helping our survivors understand who they are in Christ and working with them for complete healing and restoration. We are committed to safety and security of our survivors, allowing them to achieve their goals without fear. We do not believe in an institutional type setting; we strive for a family environment and operate with House Parents. We are committed to raising awareness about sex trafficking not only within our own community, but nationwide.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Story of the Thorns

This story is worth a read, it was written by one of my friends several years ago... we probably all have thorny places we are being or need to be led through...

Close your eyes and imagine a deep, dark forest with many thorns and bushes that can entangle you. You look and see only one narrow path. The path is clear and it will lead to the other side of the forest. The thought of the path you have taken and lived, as well as the task of continuing to cross the forest blinds you completely, just as you have been blinded many times before. 

You hear the sound of a familiar voice as a person approaches you. You shake in fear. Suddenly a sweet voice says, "Take my hand and I will lead you to the other side. I am the master of this trail." 

You hesitate and say, "My way has always worked. I'm in control."

However, reluctantly you touch the hand of the Master. The grip is not tight, but nice. The journey begins through the forest. You can feel the thorns touch you and immediately you feel out of control. Filled with fear, you let go of the Master's hand trying to make it through the woods by yourself. You choose an alternate path and begin to get entangled, pierced and bruised by the thorns. You become hopeless and out of control. 

Suddenly you recall the Master's voice. Where is he? Gently you feel the thorns removing themselves from your battered body and the entanglement is gone. Hmmmm it's Grace. 

You are still blinded but are not safely on the right path. The decision is yours to go back to your own path and continue to be entangled, battered and bruised, or to stay on the Master's path and trust the Master's hand. 

"Hold my hand and I will lead you." He says. 

In desperation, you grasp the Master's hand with a firm grip. Yet, somehow the forest is still scary and unknown. Blind and bruised, you hold on in faith. In fear, with a shaky voice you ask, "What's on the other side of the forest?"

The Master answers with simple, powerful words, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans for you to have a prosperous future." 

With a gentle touch, the Master says, "My eyes can see what yours cannot."

Amazed you ask, "What did I dod to receive such joy, prosperity and a hopeful future?"

The Master paused and sweetly said, "Hold on to me. It is my grip that leads you. The problem is when you leave my side, get in front of me and let go of my hand. The path you have chosen in the past is scary and entangles and traps you. Faith is holding on to my hand not knowing where I am taking you but believing that life on the other side of the forest is better for you. It is the path that only I could lead you on." 

So you grasp the hand of the Master and many times through your journey you find yourself entangled. Yet, the Master gently unwraps you and sets you back on the right path. As you walk with the Master, you can feel his tears fall down onto your wounds healing them immediately. Your tight grip on His hand is secure and gives you hope. Your eyes are beginning to open. And though you know the journey will be long, you know that your security lies in the hand of the Trail Master. 

--Glenda Osorio

Monday, April 13, 2009

I need to sleep-- lots of randomness

Its been a long day, a great day at that, but I just finished watching 24 and for some reason that show gets my heart rate up higher than when I am running. I was sitting there on my couch and my whole body was twitching almost... How can tv do that to a person?? 

I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't caught it yet, but I didn't see this twist coming. How many hours do we have left? 

So, in order to get my mind off of it I went to facebook for a while... I need a new book to read! 

Tomorrow I hope to give my run down of The Last Temptation of Christ. You may remember that I wanted to complete it before Easter and it was done on Saturday. Go me! 

Another cool thing that happened today... Lily's Pizza. I know you all love it! I went tonight and they accidently burnt the edge of my crust, so they brought me that piece and then cooked me an entire other piece of pizza. I was hungry, so I ate the slightly burnt one. It was still delicious, and now I have dinner for tomorrow night for free. 

Life is good :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Update on Lent

It would be out of character for me not to post something super spiritual during Holy Week, but for some reason I am not feeling 'inspired' with great insights to share with the masses... I do have a couple thoughts to share

Thought One:
Alcohol/ Wine: I tried to give up alcoholic beverages for the season of Lent. Upon further reflection, I decided to only give up wine in efforts to become more aware of my motives behind drinking. I realized how much my motives were impure and how much I got out of other's thinking I was doing this really hard thing. After working through those issues, it became easier for me to let go of what other's thought and to focus on my relationship with God in this whole process.

What did I find? Without considering what other's thought, I felt more freedom and also more guilt. I realized that it would have been more honoring to Jesus for me to give it all up.

I have rationalized many scenarios in my mind. Good ones too! I am so thankful that I don't have to hold onto that guilt. So, this week I am going to be a purist! Its going to be hard tonight because I an going to Helios and they have $3 beer specials and I really want to dry their Spring Bock. But, now it is between me and God, desiring to connect with the sacrifice and remember the pain. (like not drinking one beer connects me at all with being nailed to a cross or disowned by your closest friends??) Not so much, but it is allowing me to enter into the season with a deeper respect for my creator-turned human- willing to die and willing to feel just like we do.

Thought Two:

I am reading a book, "The Last Temptation of Christ" by Nikos Kazantzakis. I haven't finished it yet, but I have about 100 pages left and my goal is to complete it before Easter. This book is amazing. It is fiction, but describes what Jesus' life and relationships could have been like. After being in Israel and seeing the places described in this book, it brings the bible even more to life, as I picture the friendships he has with his disciples, real relationships. This book is bringing me closer to understanding why it is such a big deal that he died and ROSE again! Thanks George for the book! Once I'm done, I will do a more complete review.

Thought Three:

Our scripture on Sunday was from the gospel of John. I have been reading through John's account of the final week, and will continue until Sunday. One segment stood out to me...

Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn't admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the prasie of God.

This has made me ask myself: Where do I love human praise more than the praise of God? Who are the Pharisees I want to impress and be included by in my life?

Have you learned anything over this lenten season?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

People should read this...

Today, I'm working on updating the information that we give out at our Newcomer's Reception at Visio Dei. The first page describes what we are about as a community. Being around the lingo of learner, lover, giver for several years, sometimes it becomes a bit cliche and I forget what is behind our catchy terminology...

But now, reading through these descriptions, I was reenergized and am pumped about what we are about and we are moving towards. None of us have achieved all of this yet, its a journey and a process.
  • If you have been around Visio for a while and need a reminder: READ ON
  • If you are new to Visio: READ ON
  • If you have no connection to our church: READ ON 
I would love to hear thoughts and questions about these statements! 

Welcome to Visio Dei
… seeking and showing the face of God in our community and the world…

As a community, it is our desire to be constantly seeking and showing the face of God in our community and our world. We long to become more like Jesus and to seek out who God truly created us to be. We realize that this does not happen immediately and is probably more of a journey or even as graceful as a dance as we, step by step, figure these things out together.
This could be described in many different ways, and we have chosen to use a few words that have a lot of meaning behind them to help us along the way. As a community becoming more like Christ, we want to be growing as learners, lovers, and givers.

We want to be growing as learners... learners of God's story and our place in it. This does not mean that we need to create a checklist of how we can become smarter than those around us. This simply means that we want to learn more of who our God is and how we got to where we are now. The story of the Bible is one of the most beautiful and captivating stories ever told, and we believe that it offers truth as to who we are and what we were created for. We also believe that we can learn from one another as we are seeking to become more like Jesus together.

We want to be growing as lovers of God, those around us, and His creation (1 Corinthians 13). It is possible, without love, to have all of the things that this world has to offer and still have no peace. We believe that, as we grow in learning the story of God and realize His love for each of us and the world, we will only be able to respond with love.

We want to be growing as givers of all that we have been given. Believing that we have all been uniquely created and gifted, this requires us to not only seek, but pursue our own talents, giftedness, and passions so that we can offer them back to the world. Wrapped up in this is a notion that we are blessed to be a blessing to the world around us (Genesis 12).

A Quote to think about

Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., from an address given to South African young people on their Day of Affirmation, 1966

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Human Trafficking and Men?

If you have been following my blog for any length of time you know that I deeply care about victims of sex trafficking and human trafficking in general. I am part of a group, Jubilee, that meets 2x a month to discuss ways we can be a part of the solution. 

We have been meeting for about 2 years now and are actually getting some good direction, action items, and see where we can be effective as a group of volunteers. Since the time we have been meeting we have had a fluctuation of folks in and out of our group. At one point we actually did have 4-5 men who were coming regularly, but most of them have moved away :( 

A little while ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who asked me who was at the S.A.F.E. walk/run. My answer, mostly college students, a few families, mostly women, and several men. However, most of the people who came to our table were women. 

*There was the guy who wore a t-shirt that said "Ending abuse one step at a time"... he ran the 5K barefoot! That was awesome :) 

Anyways, my friend replied, "Its really hard to get men involved."

After that conversation I started evaluating the different meetings and events that I have been involved with... 
  • Jubilee meetings: Currently, no men
  • RIPPLE meeting: (Group of NC service providers who are working on a plan to combat trafficking in the state)... at the meeting yesterday, 3 men, 15-20 women
  • S.A.F.E. Walk/Run: I would say 75% women
  • Conferences/Seminars: 80% women
  • Hope House Workers/Staff: Only 1 man
  • Hands that Heal Training: 3 men, 40 women
Okay, so I will stop there, but my point is... Whatever we do to support survivors of trafficking is wonderful and necessary, but without combating demand and changing the stereotypes that are out there, there will always be more victims. In order to change anything in the trafficking world I think more men need to be involved. 

If you are a male, what would keep you from being involved in work towards ending trafficking? 

*Side Note: David Batstone with the Not For Sale campaign is very effective and it is exciting to this organization thrive. 

What do we need to do to appeal to men?