Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Anger and Judgement

One of the main things that I struggle with God on is the wrath issue and how, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures, God chooses to deal with sin and rebellion... often from my perspective God seems 'mean'.
I am currently reading Amos... 

Then, last night I went to a meeting with other folks who are working to combat human trafficking, specifically trafficking children for sexThis happens in Raleigh. There were several points in the meeting where I wanted to burst into tears or hit someone. 

The sheer reality of our sin and brokenness is overwhelming.
And we are all a part of it.

I wonder if these reactions in my soul were a tiny glimpse into the heart of God. Sin leads to death... real consequences now... we can see it all around us... God intended a different reality... God wants to make things new...  

I can't even begin to understand the anger and sorrow that our creator must feel. 
Justice needs to happen. 
We need to be a part of that. 

Amos reminded the people of Israel and Judah, "Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living." (5:23-24) 

God was pretty much telling them that if things didn't change
 they were going to be intensely wiped out.

I'm thankful that through Jesus we are forgiven already, but now we are somehow a part of God's plan for reconciliation... and Jesus will come back and judge later...? I still have a lot of questions on how all of this fits together... 

I am content with the mystery. 
For now. 

But, what I do know is that our sin is serious and its important to deal with it
Lets us this Advent Season to reflect and prepare for our Lord and King to come. 

How might we be floods of justice and an endless river or righteous living? 

Monday, November 29, 2010

My new "oranges"

I just discovered what I like to call M NEW ORANGES... 

Some of you may remember the paper I wrote about Oranges... I wrote it for my college applications and maybe another one for an essay in English class or a testimony or something like that... 

Anyways, the gist of it was... I was having one of those no good, very bad days, UNTIL... I bit into a delicious orange that awoke my senses and gave me a fresh perspective on the joy of flavor and brightened my day... 

Its the little things :) 

Then, in college I was kind of ANTI- Flowers, especially via boyfriends... so my roommates gave me a bouquet of oranges wrapped in packing paper for my birthday. It was beautiful and DELICIOUS! 

So, what could take the ORANGES place... 

Amazing Pomegranates! 

There is just something fabulous about biting into one of those seeds that brings a smile to my face: EVERY SINGLE TIME!! How did all of that powerful juice get in there? Its totally worth making your kitchen counter look like a massacre occurred to get to the beautiful pellets of delight. 

If you haven't tried one before... just do it. You will be amazed! But, be careful not to squirt the juice in your eye because according to my father in law during our Thanksgiving meal... it stings a lot!  

What little things bring you joy?? 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reminders of Grace

In the midst of reading through Kings and Chronicles in the Hebrew Scriptures I was getting a little frustrated and disappointed in God and the people of Israel and Judah.

Every story seemed to include destruction... smiting people for disobedience, lots of pain, seemingly arbitrary hardship, overwhelming pride, all ending in judgment... 

I was having a hard time reconciling the how the God I believe in, represented mainly through Jesus and the stories of redemption could be the same yesterday, today and forever; if these stories are true... 

Does this every happen to you? You find something out about God or life that doesn't quite make sense? You don't know what to do with it? You aren't sure if you buy the whole package?

Well, it does to me.

So, I usually just start talking to God about it... "What the heck? How do you expect me to make sense of this?"... then with a subtle act of grace the next item on my reading plan is: Jonah. 

You should read it yourself, but this cute video is another way to get the picture. 

I'm sure there are many layers and points to this story... but, for me it was simple reminder from the Holy Spirit... "I am full of Grace and desire repentance." 

I heard God saying...  

"See, I AM, the same yesterday, today and forever. I have always wanted forgiveness, I have always provided ways for people to repent and am in the business of using people, like you, my child, to make things new. You see, its not so much about the destruction as it is about the recognition of who I am and the sweetness of grace that humans encounter when they turn to me. Don't count me off... I am the same, and so are people... all forget me or push me aside, but I am longing to embrace them (and go way out of my way to provide a way for this to happen)... even for the scary ones from Nineveh, even for the self centered prophets like Jonah, even for you and your friends."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And now a lighter one :)

I figured that since I haven't written any blogs in a while, I should go ahead and get a bunch out of the way while I am on this website ;) Don't feel like you have to read them all in one sitting!

Seriously thought I have back logs of journals and pictures from our recent trip to California that I want to post and some Halloween Party fun that merits some blog shout outs... I blame facebook

Anyways, I just wanted to let all of my faithful readers out there (all 5 of you) how awesome my pear, asiago, rosemary scones turned out! I am not a regular or confident baker, so when things come out just right I get really excited. I even altered the recipe just a bit and got a hint of honey on the top that just adds that extra pop to make them stand out.

From Southern Living Dec. issue:

Preheat oven to 450

  1. Mix 2 cups flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup finely chopped pear, 1/2 cup grated asiago cheese together in a large bowl. 
  2. Cut in 1/2 cup cold butter and mix together until it looks like the consistency of peas
  3. Freeze for 5 minutes
  4. Mix 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary and 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp whipping cream.
  5. Pour cream into flour mix and stir until moist
  6. Place dough on wax paper and form into desired square/rectangle (about 1- 1/2 inch thick) 
  7. Cut into desired sizes and place on lightly greased baking sheet
  8. Brush with extra whipping cream and drizzle with honey
  9. Bake for 13-15 minutes 
YUM! There are 8 other varieties in the magazine... I  may just try the chocolate chip ones next. 
What are you excited about making for Thanksgiving this year? 


Although I do have an overwhelming sense of Shalom & Serenity this morning... I still have a lot of questions. 

Another part of my time with the Lord includes reading scripture. For the past 6 months or so I have been doing this chronological bible study... basically where you read through the whole bible in chronological order... Did you know that its not actually set up that way? Go figure it would be confusing :) 

Well, the reading plan I got is helping by putting things in somewhat of an order for me. The bible is reading more like a narrative now. 
A story about God and God's people. 

I am loving seeing how things fit together, but boy do I have  A LOT OF QUESTIONS!! 
Some of them I am even hesitant to ask out loud.
I shouldn't still be wondering all of this stuff, right? 
Maybe I'll never know the answers... 

I have been considering starting a new blog, just about questions... I'm sure you have them too... would that be interesting? 

One question that I faced today was, "Did the folks in these times (I am currently in the middle of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles and will be reading Jonah tomorrow) experience serenity? How? Where do I see this? Where don't I? How come? What does this mean? Anything?" 

I do find that in the Psalms, in the midst of anguish there is a sense of trust and hope. I wonder if that is a piece of Shalom shining through?? 

Serenity/ Shalom

Each morning I try to spend some time with Jesus reflecting, praying, reading and listening. Sometimes I can't shut off my brain enough to focus and other times the peace of just being still washes over me...

This morning was one of those days. 

I was given a devotional book, "Daily Strength for Daily Needs" that simply includes daily verses, poems, prayers, and thoughts from people over the centuries. There is something beautiful about connecting with women and men who have served Christ faithfully and abundantly from long before I was even around... humbling, perspective giving, and grace filled. 
Its not that a specific quote stood out to me today; rather that the Holy Spirit sent a gift of serenity to my soul. Just an overwhelming presence of peace

Then serenity prayer came to mind... 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. One day at a time. Amen

Although, this prayer is often used for addicts and in recovery. I believe that living into this reality can wash over the anxious places of our hearts.  It prompts me to walk in confidence that nothing is too big for God or too scary to face. 

I am thankful that our Creator desires Shalom-- presence of peace-- and that in some moments we get to taste it... all things being made right around us and in us. 

This Thanksgiving Holiday take some time to embrace serenity...

Where might God be bringing you to a new level of courage and wisdom? 
Where can you find serenity in the often hectic moments of our broken world?

By doing this, we might end up tasting a bit more than turkey... we just might taste the Kingdom of God! Delicious!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tears are powerful

The rain we are having in Raleigh echos the way that my tear-ducts have been feeling over the past month... a severe emptying. For a long time in my life I saw tears as weakness and difficult feelings as "non Christlike" somehow I was supposed to be able to walk through life without pain, and the pain that I did have was only helpful if stuffed way down inside until I could see the beauty of it.

Ya know where that left me, almost dead! When I was 21-22 I entered inpatient treatment for an eating disorder and got lots of therapy and help to deal with these misconceptions of truth. I grew and learned a ton and since then my life has not been easy, but has been full of pain and joy in many ways. I love it!

What I didn't realize is that I thought the learning I did then was complete. I thought that I now had wisdom and insight to share with others and that my family was fixed and my ability to express and understand myself was fixed... I knew that I needed to continue to be honest with my symptoms, but didn't think I had more emotional work to do... I had already done so much!

Well, Jesus has an alternative plan for my spiritual growth. I just can't escape the depths of God's desire for me to experience life to the full, which includes tears. I am currently leading a study on a book, The Emotionally Healthy Church, by Peter Scazzero and came across this exceprt from the Chronicles of Narnia:

Eustace, a young boy, becomes a big, ugly dragon as a consequence of being selfish, stubborn, and unbelieving. Now he wants to change and go back to being a little boy, but he can't do it himself. Eventually the great lion Aslan (representing Jesus) appears to him and leads him to a beautful well to bathe. But since he is a dragon, he can't enter the well. 
Aslan tells him to undress. Eustace remembers that he can cast off his skin like a snake. He takes off  a layer by himself , dropping it to the ground, feeling better. Then as he moves to the pool, he realizes that there is yet another hard, rough scaly layer still on him. Frustrated, in pain, and longing to get into the beautiful bath, he asks himself, "How many skins do I have to take off?"
After 3 layers, he gives up, realizing he cannot do it. Aslan then says, "You will have to let me undress you." To which Eustace replies: 

I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desparate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right to my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt... Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off-- just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt-- and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft... The he caught hold of me... and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again... After a bit the lion took me and dressed me... with his paws... in these new clothes I'm wearing. 

I'm sure that I am not done shedding layers, but its amazing to see the beauty in the pain and not to run from it. I don't like to doing the hard work of letting Jesus take away my darkest parts, but I will continue to do that and can think of no better way to live.  

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can a large female please sing for me?

Its been months since I've written here, but our latest saga merits more than the characters I can fit in "What's on my mind" on facebook...

Words, where are they when you need them?? I am finding myself at a loss to express the emotional roller-coaster we have been through over the several days... let me see if I can go for it...

Waiting to close on the Culter house... everything seems to be a go, just waiting on the final details. Anticipating a great deal in a great neighborhood...

Ring Ring... "Hi Robyn Marshall" (AKA-- Amazing  Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams)

"Hi Traci. Hope you are doing well... we have a few updates and I just want to keep you informed on where we are in the process..."

**At this point the deal was that we were going to need to rent to the seller after closing for a few days-- No big deal from our end at this point**

BTW-- Do you see this amazing kitchen (both Matt and I can be in there at the same time :))

Tuesday, Aug 24-- My emotions-- desire to control, excitement, anticipation, longing for our new house, willing to be patient-- in my mind I thought... lets close early and get this guy out of there...

Wednesday, Aug. 25-- I woke up and went for a long run (training for a half marathon) and ran by the new house... up until this point I must confess that I have had a very bad attitude towards the seller and the situation. Prayer is a big part of my runs and I was able to actually release those feelings of anger and bitterness as I passed by the house and started feeling a sense of peace about the whole thing and that made for a great day... I thought I was going to be able to walk from here on out drama free...

La de da... on my way to home group...

Ring, Ring: "Hi Robyn" (AKA fabulous and hardworking woman who got this thing taken care of!)

"Hi Traci, I just have few updates for you and want to let you know what is going on..."

**At this point I pulled my car over... Apparently we might be in jeopardy of losing the house. Shady Loan Shark for the Seller was continuing to change and update the amount our Seller owed him... more than what we were willing to pay**

"Okay", I thought to myself, "Its gonna be okay." Robyn and the other agents and lawyers involved are working on this and it seems like the logical decision to sell us this house for all involved. I'll keep a positive attitude.

**We might loose this beautiful staircase and chandelier**

Being an external processor I start running mouth on all of the possible scenarios, but am trusting that it will work out the way it 'supposed to' (whatever that means).

**Have I mentioned yet that we have renter moving into our Peebles house on Sept. 15th?** Thankfully that sense of peace I gained maintained me throughout the next few days. Praise Jesus for that one.

Anyways, Thursday is a waiting game... at least for me, come to find out that our agents were working around the clock in negotiations with this Lender to come to some kind of agreement... we were kept well informed, but not brought into to many of the stressful and shady details on the seller's side.

Friday, August 27th-- The day of sorrow--

So, Robyn meets with Shady Loan Shark on Friday morning... I am awaiting a call to tell me that he decided to be reasonable... 10AM, 11AM, Noon... Lunch with a friend... still haven't heard yet... I start thinking, "This can't be good"... then around 2/3PM John Pace calls me  (you see John and Robyn work together and John helped us to buy our first house). Again, I think, "This can't be good"...

So, he lets me know that its all falling apart. The Loan Shark is being very unreasonable and there isn't really anything else we can do at this point...

**So the thought of having this gorgeous front door flashes through my mind as a distant possibility**

We start dealing with reality... we are going to lose $$, we are going to be homeless in 2 weeks, we are going to have to clean out our house and move somewhere??

Loss, Grief, Remorse, Fear

**Oh yeah, Matt is playing golf at this point and Monday is his birthday day**

He finally gets home to me moping around the house waiting for the Smith's to show up and take us out to "celebrate"...

I think I said about 2 words at dinner, Kim tried really hard to have conversation with me, but I was pretty much locked in my own little world trying not to scream and processing everything. I thought I was at peace, but Matt started getting upset about... If you know Matt very well he is one of the most even mannered people who I know and when he was expressing his disappointment, it made it even harder for me and the worst part was, I couldn't do anything about it.

Sat. Aug. 28th-- Tossing and turning I woke up to mow the lawn and have an intriguing conversation with a neighbor friend (another blog post to cover that one)... start cleaning and doing stuff... isn't there something that I can control around here??

Well, we ended up going to a few wine tastings and driving around Raleigh until I got to release a bit of steam and have fun with friends at an awesome Batchelorette Party.

I come home at 1AM to find Matt had gotten the 2 for $20 special on steaks and LoneStar and was watching Inglorious Bastards... I guess we all deal with loss differently... we were learning to let go and holding out hope.

Sunday, Aug. 29th-- Thankfully we had a busy day and kept ourselves occupied. We started to come up with a few plans for living and resigned ourselves to losing the house.

**We are going to have a shower with 2 heads!**

Highlights of the day: Seeing Scott's new place , having a few great meetings and finally JUMPING IN A BOUNCY HOUSE!

We were letting go... all the while informed that the realtors are still working...

Monday, Aug. 30th-- Matt's 30th Birthday-- This day we tried not talk about, but started thinking about options and enjoyed a great night together eating good food (that I made and it turned out good!) and going to the driving range to let off some steam... home early and got an email from Robyn again... still working on it, going to throw some "hail mary's" in the AM and see if we can still work this out...

Matt was still hopeful... I was kinda like, "sure"... Sleep was good last night...

Tuesday, Aug. 31st-- OFFICIAL CLOSING DAY!!

Ring, Ring: "Hi Robyn"

"Hi Traci (really she talked to Matt), but somehow it all worked out" We would be closing at Noon... if we still wanted to...  it was about 10AM...

I requested that Matt come home... lets talk this over... what in the heck??

Talk about an emotional roller coaster... I was shaking on the inside. Craziness!!!

So, shower and over for a last walk through and onto Sandman and Muphy for our closing.

So, we are now official home owners of 2 houses... and how do I feel?? ...

**GRATITUDE for a very hard working agent and her team Robyn Marshall and John Pace--  I know she had to even give up some of her commission to make this happen. Amazing and fun to work with at the same time. Two houses in and we will continue to go with PRG/Keller Williams in the future (although I hope it a long long time before we go through buying another house)

**RELIEF we are not going to be homeless

**ANTICIPATION for cleaning and moving and finding our way in our new space

**THANKFUL  for friends who have been supportive and generous with their listening and offering to help.

Okay, so that was a ton of info... I need a nap!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sabbath Thoughts

Over the years I have entertained a variety of thoughts about what it means to 'keep the Sabbath'... if Christians are called to do that still, what God really intended for the Sabbath day and how far we probably are from following what the Lord was thinking.

The Jewish religious leaders didn't seem to get it at the time of Jesus and I know I don't get it now... when was the last time I truly "rested"... and what the heck does that mean?

So, this morning I was reading in Isaiah and found this verse... chapter 58, verse 13--

Keep your Sabbath day holy. Don't pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord's holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don't follow your own desires or talk idly. 

So, the thing that kicked me in the face? "Don't pursue your own interests on that day"

This is seems almost complete opposite of how I have looked at the Sabbath (when I have)... in those moments, I have asked myself... okay, its the Sabbath, what do "I" want to do? -- The sabbath is for me, right? (ha!)

**SIDE NOTE** I am not saying that our interests are always contrary to God's interests, I'm just saying that my sabbath moments would look different if I asked myself, "What would bring God delight today?"

I haven't come to any conclusions, but thought this insight was worth sharing... I hope you have a great day today and maybe you can ask yourself today-- (regardless of the day of the week)

"What would bring God delight today?" -- and do it! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Truths to Pass along

I just started reading Here I am Lord... Send somebody else! By Jill Briscoe

In all honesty I started reading it a while back and put it down because I couldn't get into it. But, recently my homegroup started doing a study on Faith and it addresses a lot of what we are talking about so I picked it back up again.

At the end of each chapter there are a series of reflection questions... one of them asked me to consider what 5 truths I would want a child I had in my care to internalize... After a bit of reflection here is what I would pass along.

  1. You are blessed to be a blessing.
  2. God loves you-- no matter what! 
  3. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart Jesus has overcome the world. 
  4. You are special inside and out--a creation of the Lord Most High
  5. Joy and peace are abundant in Jesus Christ. 
What truths would you pass along? 
How confident are you in what you would want a child to know? 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Something interesting I just read

A few months ago I started reading the Bible from the beginning. I have done this a few times in my life time, but this time, for some reason, the stories are either making a lot more sense or creating many more questions.

Yesterday, I read about the plagues in Egypt... this left a lot of questions. I still am wrestling through some of those... an except from my journal...
"The passover is a celebration, but is also a tragedy. Did you (God) not love the Egyptians as well? Did you not want them to know you?-- Wait! that is why you did these things-- so they would know you-- The Pharaoh was the one whose heart was hardened. Why did you do that? To show your glory? I don't know if I'm okay with that. Why show your glory at people's expense? Its all about you (God)-- I get that--- but not completely... so difficult to discern your character... I get that Jesus is the answer and the final passover lamb. I don't get your sense of timing... I'm sure your understanding is so much greater than mine, but sometimes its hard to explain to others (and even myself)... Maybe starting with Jesus and going backwards will help to see you more clearly. One day I'm gonna ask you these questions. Help me to trust you even when things don't make complete sense."

But, today was one of those days where things clicked... an "A HA" moment, a get up and cheer moment... the story of the Israelites actually celebrating the passover and how they did it. Did you know that they actually had to offer their first born son every year... but, they would always get him back... Did you know that they had to eat the entire meal in one house, with everyone unified? an except from my journal...
"Wow God! All of the first born son stuff is pretty awesome. You were preparing the Israelites to see Jesus as the fulfillment from the beginning. They were truly a chosen and unified people (millions of them). Thank you for their stories. It is very cool to see your consistency over time. I would think having them offer their son as a sacrifice each year and having him return would prepare them to see Jesus as your son, offered to take away the sins of the world, a completion of the penance and your presence among them. It surprises me that they didn't get it. But, we don't get it do we... we want things to make sense from our perspective. Thank you for showing me a glimpse of Your story today. Thank you that you are leading people to yourself through a variety of ways. Thank you for the beautiful picture of unity. I pray that we would move closer to that as a people now."

You see, reading the Bible can be very interesting stuff!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hot Lanta!

I just returned from a quick and eventful trip to Atlanta. One of my best friends, Charlotte moved there a few years ago and I got to go visit her for the weekend. Its pretty cool because I hooked her up on a friend date with my high school friend Michelle. They hit it off and are buds now and Charlotte introduced me to her friend Katie and we are friends now... I love making these connections and seeing how relationships build and grow...

Anyways, we had some awesome meals... La Fonda, a cute cafe with a variety of latin choices. I enjoyed a grilled pork and mango salad. We tried the outside seating, but its still a little chilly.

I am so ready for warmer weather!!

Thankfully, Saturday was bright and sunny. We started our day off with the traditional walk to Alon's. I actually don't think I've ever been to visit Charlotte without going to Alon's. Its a traditional french bakery a short jont from Charlotte and Rob's house.

**Side Note** I have yet to find a good bakery in Raleigh and think we need one!!

We love walking and talking... that pretty much sums up Saturday, Piedmont Park, more walking, more talking, more soaking in the sun...

Then we met up with Michelle for dinner at Flip Burger. Now, this is a great concept for a restaurant. Basically, its just really interesting burgers and milk shakes. Charlotte got her's with pimento cheese, mine was topped with avocado and Michelle's was made out of shrimp. We had a ton of fun, not to mention that we had a hot waiter... maybe he and Michelle will reconnect??

**I think the burger concept would work in Raleigh, but the ambiance was way to clubin' for something like Flip to work here...

After Flip we drove down the street to JCT bar where we listened to live music and overlooked the city sky line. We found some friendly people to watch our table while we went to do our photo shoot...

You know how married couples do those pictures?? ?? Isn't it fitting that Charlotte and I would do the same thing?

We rounded out the trip with more great conversation and breakfast at Rise n' Dine with Katie. Now, this place would be perfect for Raleigh. It actually reminded me a lot of Nofo with out the store. The thing I liked best about this place were the people working there.

They were SOOO nice and friendly, even for it being SUPER crowded. Sometimes when it gets busy like that at Nofo my charm and charisma go out the window and I just turn in to a robot getting orders, this was not the case there, still a high paced hustle and bustle, but keeping the personality up! I was taking notes and hope to improve my serving techniques.

I also learned that when you make poached eggs you typically put vinegar in the water to help the egg stay together. I'm not crazy about my eggs tasting like lemon, but I learned something new.

A great time all around. I'm so excited to meet little Nate when he arrives in a few weeks. Charlotte and Rob are going to be awesome parents.

Friday, March 26, 2010

So, God must be trying to teach me something...

Through all of the reading that I have been doing and talking with people and discussing... I came up with the question... "Is there a difference between trying to follow Christ and allowing Christ to live through you?"

Yesterday afternoon I was talking with my friend Robyn and we discussed how there may not be a difference in the semantics of it, but in how the individual asking the question perceives it could be on the edge of a subtle, yet profound distinction... one that I don't want to miss.

So, I after returning from my morning muscle and spin class, made Matt breakfast and then entered into my daily time with God... omelet, toast, juice, coffee and water (yes, I do this about every day)... I opened up the Lenten Devotional and here is what it said...

Gratitude is the opposite of resentment, and "returning" is an inner passage from resentment to gratitude. Gratitude for the gift of your life is your response to God's abundant love. Your life can be lifted up and offered to God in thanksgiving. You will know the enormous spiritual difference between living your life out of gratitude for God's love and friendship, and living your life trying to earn God's friendship. It sounds simple and in many ways it is. But life is also a struggle and choosing to live the struggle gratefully and humbly as a child of God makes all the difference between a fulfilled life and an empty life.

God, I offer you my life and my death in thanksgiving for the privilege of being born and being loved.

What struck me the most were 2 things:

First, God knows what questions I am asking and where my heart is and the Lord is speaking to me. This is not the first time something like this has happened to me, but it just seems to be happening more frequently recently... WOW!

Second, Do I ever really consider just being alive, being born to be a miracle, to be a gift? Do you? When I do, I have one of those moments where freedom enters my soul and I need to stand up and do a cartwheel.

Pretty amazing stuff!
What about you? Do you struggle with working for God? Trying to earn God's favor?
Do you ever think about your life as a gift?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Life??

Today I get the opportunity to speak at the Peace College Chapel. I did this about a year ago and ended up reconnecting with a student whose mother was with me at Ramuda Ranch; her mother and I had walked with one another through recovery from eating disorders. It was surreal, but amazing...

Today I will speaking again and drawing a few things in from my recovery process, but more so will be walking the students through my journey of faith... the beautiful things that I have learned about following Christ and the distortions that I have and still face while following him.

If you want a copy of what I am going to say, just let me know and I'll send it to you (its like 6 pages long)...

anyways, Maybe its because I have been reflecting on this recently, maybe its because I am in church leadership, maybe its because over the past six months how I read the Bible and what that means for myself and the community of which I am a part have been shaken and I am open new thoughts, maybe these thoughts aren't new but I am just finding others who are expressing deeply held beliefs that I haven't ever been able to articulate... So, I have been reading!

Over the past week I have finished two whole 200+ page books and snippits of several others...
I recommend
Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight
The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley
When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert & Steve Corbett
Possessing the Gates of the Enemy by Cindy Jacobs

I don't claim to agree with every word in their pages, but they have forced me to think,
they have prompted me to pray and
they have inspired me to live more freely...

so, maybe they will inspire you too. I am going to move on to book 3 for the week here in a moment.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dynamic Water

Some of you have seen the pictures on face book from the murder mystery dinner that Matt and I were a part of a few weeks ago. We had a blast! Outside of just having fun and helping celebrate my friend Shannon's 30th birthday, we were helping to raise money for a great organization, Dynamic Water.

Dynamic Water is an organization dedicated to bringing clean, safe drinking water to those communities that don’t have access to such water.

You can be a part of helping bring clean water to individuals in Laisamis, Kenya. Its easy, just $20 pays one person's water bill for 20 years! Wow!!!

Here is how you can help:

In celebration of World Water Day, there is a fundraising campaign called “Pay the Water Bill”.

The idea comes out of something like this… if it cost $10,000 to drill a well that serves 500 people, that breaks down to $20 per person. So, by donating $20, you are essentially paying one person’s “Water Bill”.

The objective is to have individuals like you and me make donations in $20 increments and then encourage have us encourage our friends and family to do the same.

So, here I am, encouraging you... I paid 2 people's water's bill... will you do the same?

Friday, February 19, 2010

More of you God and Less of me... do I really mean it??

As you may know, we are currently 3 days into the season of Lent... a period in the Christian calendar that leads up to our celebration of Easter (Christ is Risen!!! Risen In Deed!!)... Anyways, part of Lent is taking up spiritual practices or sacrifices that lead us deeper into our true need for a savior. This year I am not giving up anything specifically, but am praying the prayer... "God, more of you and less of me." 

To help me actually live into this prayer I am reading a devotional with several others from my church family... The title is "From Fear to Love"...

I would say that I'm not afraid of much... at least not on the surface, so this should be an easy one for me right?? NOPE... It just so happens that at the same time I am currently facing several major freak outs areas ... just ask me and I'll tell you, but will spare the internets all the details!!

In the midst of my angst... I woke up and read this... thanks Henry Nouwen.... (or God's spirit speaking through the words you wrote)

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly. Isaiah 58:8

In the light of Divine Love, we are encouraged to enter into our deepest hearts, often hidden even to ourselves. There we actually touch God's light, and discover more and more our desire for that presence within. It's where we experience God saying, "I love you so deeply. I want to be present to you in all your 'lost' places so you will know not just your lostness but also in how many places I long to find you." 

This is an exercise of communion: to sit with God in the inner chapel of your heart and to say, "I've heard so often of your love but I just don't believe it. Mostly I believe that you only wish to judge me, but today I'll remain here in your loving presence, and present myself to you in all my vulnerability." Heart speaks to heart. 

This is not to say, "Well, you'd better start thinking about how awfully dissipated and resentful you are. No! This is to say, "When your're in touch with your dissipation and resentment, you're in touch with the very places that God waits to touch in you more deeply, and to heal you." 

Forgiving God, I fear to stop. I need love and want love, but I fear what you might ask of me... 

I want so badly to listen and enter into the fear and embrace what God is doing inside of me and around me. Here we go... 37 more days... what else will I learn??

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentines Day & Justice

Valentines Day is just around the corner and many of us will be receiving and giving chocolates to loved ones. I LOVE Dark Chocolate, not so crazy about the milk, and white can be good from time to time, but I hope to receive some chocolate on this special day... hint, hint!!

However, I don't want to be a part of suffering as I am enjoying my chocolate.

Did you know that slave and child labor is often used in the production of chocolate? Thankfully advocates for human rights have put together resources to help us, the average consumer, speak with our pocket books.

Here are just a few of the products I would suggest staying away from :
Godiva (sad I know) ... If you love Godiva, let them know you want change (D-)
Russel Stover... one of my favorites growing up (D)

At least one I recommend:

Divine (A-).. You can find these at Ten Thousand Villages and a few other stores.

Also, Nestle is getting better (C)... they have made a lot of progress over the past year or so

To find out more about the rating systems and other products visit: Free2Work.org

Happy Valentines Day!!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hands that Heal Overview Training

One of my passions is seeing women and children in sexual bondage become free. A few years ago several Jubilee members were trained in the Hands that Heal Curriculum. Read below for details... we will soon be hosting a brief training for community members interested in finding out more about sex trafficking and working with survivors. 

Staggering numbers of women and children are forced into the sex trafficking industry to be modern day sex slaves. This is shocking and appalling. Unfortunately, their battle is not won after leaving the sex industry. Aftercare for victims of sex trafficking is an enormous challenge, as God uses His people to help these survivors rebuild and reconstruct their broken lives.

Join us on Sat. February 27th at Visio Dei Church for a training concerning the redemptive and exciting process of caring for survivors of sex trafficking. We will be using an international curriculum called Hands that Heal. The training is from 8:30AM-3PM with an hour break for lunch. Training is free, but please register and direct questions to justiceandjubilee@gmail.com.

What? One day overview Hands that Heal Training for Victims of Sex Trafficking
When? Feb. 27th 8:30AM-3PM
Where? Visio Dei Church 524 E. Whitaker Mill Rd. Raleigh, NC 27608

Free, Please let us know you are coming http://handsthatheal.eventbrite.com/

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fun Times with Emily

In every village we went to there were large Buddhist and Hindu statues that resembled traditional stories and tributes to their religion.

One of the stories apparently included a dragon eating a maiden and it was located in the pond across the street from our hotel. Jacki went to explore and take some pictures after breakfast one morning and Emily and I braved the moto and tuk tuk crowded street to join her for our photo op.

I think we did a good job acting out our own version of the story.

Guilt and Shame v. Joy and Strength

I just finished reading this passage from Nehemiah 8. The basic gist of the story is that the Israelite people hadn't been reading or learning from their book of the Law very well, often or much... They decided to try again... Once the priests and head guys read the book to them and explained what it meant, apparently they started weeping...

The response from their teachers, not what I expected... v. 10 "Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!"

I think this story resembles a lot of what I have felt over the years. But praise Jesus, I am starting to learn a new reality. Instead of getting discouraged or heaping on more guilt and shame when I realize I am falling short of where God wants me to be, I need to start rejoicing that I am even aware of the need and the truth to change and have started the journey. God's strength will help me change.

Does guilt ever keep you from praying or reading scripture? 
Do you ever feel worse about yourself after spending time with Jesus?

If you answered "yes" you aren't alone, but hear the Good News! You don't have to weep and mourn or hold on to guilt and shame... Jesus provides freedom.

God is rejoicing that you are even starting to follow him. Allow The Lord's strength to fill you and change you. The words of scripture even tell us to throw an awesome party!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mission, Methods and Resources

This post is one that I write with humility and still some trying to figure it all out, but it comes out of the most uneasy place that I felt while I was in Cambodia. The title reflects my work with the non profit minor at NCSU. When I was in grad school I helped teach a couple non profit classes. One of the things I did was help the students think through the challenges and benefits of bringing together your mission, methods and resources with integrity and a couple other values that are escaping me at the moment.

Anyways, after our dinner in Battambang we headed back to the Trade School to do a few interviews. The intention of having several of the women tell their stories was so that we could bring back a video and show it to our churches to get support.

Having individual stories to share and real faces to go along with the often overwhelming reality is helpful in raising money and motivating action.

However, I could tell that Randa was pretty stressed about asking the women to share. I was uncomfortable because it wasn't my idea, but I was the one who would be sitting next to these complete strangers and telling their stories into the camera as if I were their friend...

One of the things I learned during training in trafficking work is that having people share for publicity can be hurtful and exploitative, even if we mean it for good... I asked Brian (Board Member) if the women were okay with sharing their stories, he said, "They will share them..." People, will do a lot of things that aren't the best for us...

Anyways, I didn't ask any other questions.
Honestly, I just wanted to know the stories myself.

So, Randa, Setun (camera man) and myself set up for an interview with Sarim and Saran. Sarim had to stop half way through and shook her head like she didn't want to continue. She didn't speak any English, so I just put my hand on her leg and looked her in the eye.

Hopefully I communicated compassion.

After the interviews were over I asked if I could hug them. They received this well and I do feel connected to Sarim and Saran more now than I did before and hope that they get to fulfill their dreams of working in a factory or owning their own sowing shop. I did see hope in their eyes and thankfulness for a chance for a new way of life.

Transform Asia is doing a lot of good, and this is evident from their stories.

Just like when I was in grad school, balancing mission, methods and resources is still a challenge for non profits who desire to help and need money to do it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Belief in Process

I receive a "voice of the day" update from Sojourner's... this is what it said today...

"Throughout the gospels we are repeatedly told that after some word or deed of Jesus "his disciples believed in him." The point of this statement is not that up to that point they had no faith, but rather that their faith deepened with the passage of time. To believe in God is more than simply to profess God's existence; it is to enter into communion with God and -- the two being inseparable -- with our fellow human beings as well. All this adds up to a process."

- Gustavo Gutierrez, from his book We Drink from Our Own Wells

I agree with Gustavo, my faith is a process. This morning I was reading in the Psalms about God's goodness and justice and how the Lord gives His people good things. I started thinking about all the hard things that His people also go through and was having a hard time reconciling it all... here is how I tried to process it this morning in my journal...

"Dear Jesus, Some of this stuff is really hard to understand. There are all of these promises about your goodness and justice in the Psalms, but yet there is still so much destruction, even for those who are clearly your people throughout the ages. I try to understand, but I just don't get it! I think this is okay-- to not get it-- but I want so badly to be able to explain things. Help me to rest in your truth even when its messy..."

Then I started listing all the people facing brokenness in their lives in various ways. As I cry out to God for others I know it makes a difference. I just can't explain it all. I'm glad its a process. God is good and trustworthy, just confusing sometimes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Battambang Trade School

We made it to the Trade School just after lunch time. This part of Transform Asia seeks to prevent the sex trade in a variety of ways. They welcome women and men into this residential program. Here they take English classes, learn computer and sowing skills, develop a relationship with Christ and have fun.

The individuals we met here were super friendly and could speak a little bit more English than the women in Kampong Chhnang. One of the girls was probably my favorite the whole trip. She just took hold of my hand from moment one and wanted to talk and have help with English. She brought out one of her lesson books and we did our best to learn some new words.

The rest of the group left me at the Trade School to go help a women with an infection in a rural town just outside the city. I decided to stay and hangout. We ended up playing volleyball for a few hours. I was pretty darn good :)

Our game ended pretty suddenly though, and I was like, "What is going on?"... Someone informed me that they had English class, and I was going to be helping them... OKAY...
I went to class with my new friends and helped them learn how to move from singular to plural. They were eager to learn and did a great job. It was fun to be a part of their learning environment.

After that, I got informed that the rest of my crew was already at dinner... so, I would have to jump on the back of the guards moto bike and get taken to our dinner spot.. YEAH!! I was breaking rule #2 from my husband, no riding with strange men on moto bikes... but, he worked for the organization and drove pretty slowly, so I felt safe and it was fun to say that I had actually ridden on one of the motos :) I made it safely to dinner and then we headed back to the Trade School for a few hours that evening... those occurrences will be shared in the next post.

The Road to Battambang

Emily & I met Nit at the Women's Center in Kampang Chhnang. She is a 10 year old girl whose mom didn't have enough money to care for her. Her mom offered Randa the opportunity to purchase her and although, Randa declined buying Nit, she arranged custody for her and planned to transport Nit to the orphanage where she would begin a new way of life with 59 other children in Anlong Vey.

On the car ride to Battambang, I realized how awesome Emily is with children. Nit wanted to play with our cameras and play peek-a-boo for about the entire 3 hours. My patience wore off after about 15 minutes, but Emily held strong for at least 2 hours... at least she did on the outside. Nit was so sweet and well behaved, she truly wanted to soak in every ounce of the journey.

We made it to the Trade School and she was welcomed with open arms by the individuals there. It is amazing to watch the love between people and the welcoming environment that Transform Asia provides for its residents.

Unfortunately, Nit's mom is apparently an experienced con artist... after we had left Cambodia she made her way to the orphanage and demanded Nit back in her custody, although the paper work was complete, the village chief decided that being a true mother counts for more than the level of care Nit would receive. So, Transform Asia had to give Nit back to her mother.

They have since learned that her mom has "sold" or "borrowed" her to various orphanages throughout Cambodia only to go back and get her later. Its some kind of scheme to provide for herself and her children. It doesn't really make sense to me, but to someone in poverty who is trying to figure out the way to make it, maybe it does... Our prayer is that Nit will remain safe and be spared from the sex industry.