Monday, October 16, 2006

Turning leaves

I want to thank everyone who has been praying for me these past few months as I have been seeking God’s direction for my life. Last week it was made official that I will be leaving Cleveland in November. I will spend a month in Zambia working with a rural people group near the town of Ndola with my father. Then in December I am driving back to CA to pursue a Masters degree at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

I have loved and appreciated my Cleveland family SO MUCH and it saddens me to be leaving. However, I am SO excited for what God might have for my future.

Please pray that:
-I maintain a peaceful and humble heart.
-God continues to bless the circumstances around these transitions.
-my financial needs would be provided for.

Seeds of Hope International Partnerships:
Fuller Theological Seminary:

Friday, September 29, 2006

old news... chicago

I REALLY didn't want to go. There were four of us booked to take MegaBus from Cleveland to Chicago on a Friday evening. I didn't really know the two dudes that Kelly had invited along with us. I had been sick most of the week before we left. To total it up, I was going with virtual strangers, 13 total hours on a bus, with a cold, and no expendable $$ - all to spend a precious 32 hours in the great American city of Chicago. Oh, and did I mention rain was in the forecast? The trip was going to suck - it was all in the cards. Nothing I could do about it.

The road has this special way of working out the kinks in me. The farther we got from Cleveland, the less worried I was about having a good time. The freedom of knowing I didn't have the responsibility of maintaining a 'schedule' helped me breathe and by the time we hit Union Station at 11pm I was ready to live a little.

And we did! We spent 32 hours wandering the streets, chatting with strangers, taking naps in parks, playing cards in pubs and making fun of our fellow hostel tenants. It was exactly what I needed. So thank you God for inventing road trips, friendships and MegaBus - we all need to allow ourselves to live more often!

Here's to Kelly, Paul and Steve... :-x

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

El Salvador 'goodies'

I thought I would share a few pics and stories of my time in El Salvador last month...

This picture was taken in a small community living on a mountainside near the town of Quezaltepeque. These people lost their homes and many family in the 2001 earthquake. They lived for years as squatters on the side of the highway. It was there that Mauricio and Rachel, the couple that started Love and Hope Children's Home, met them and learned about their situation. They began to visit them regularly and share meals and Christ with them. A few months later, the government granted these people land on a mountainside with no electricity or running water. They made small single-room homes out of sheet metal and within the past year have begun a thriving community. The people here are beautiful - you can see eternity in their eyes and mercy in their smiles. Even though to them we must have seemed like 'rich, privileged Americanos', they still welcomed us with open arms and were gracious hosts.

The above picture was taken after a church service. Mauricio is passing out dishes of food to the congregation, as he does every Sunday and Wednesday. This was the truest example of God's church that I have ever experienced. Isaiah 58: 6-7 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen? To loose the chains of injustice, to untie the cords of the yoke... Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked to clothe him and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

This little man's name is Moises. He captured my heart last February and it was wonderful to see him again. If I could steal him away, I might - but I have a feeling he'd be missed way too much at the orphanage! He is there with his older sister Brenda and twin brothers Jacobo and Esau.
These are a few of my little buddies - Jacobo, Alsy, Checke and Isau. Please pray for Alsy and his two brothers, Rene and Anhil. They have recently been adopted by a family in the United States and will be leaving Love and Hope any day. They were among the first children that Rachel and Mauricio brought to the Home and it will be heart-breaking for them to see the boys leave. Please pray that they will be put in a loving environment and that they will be able to adjust to small family life.

Please don't hesitate to ask me about my time in El Salvador - my time there was priceless and I hope that I can return soon to maintain the relationships I've been blessed with there. If you would like to learn more about Love and Hope, their web-site in listed on my blogsite.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our Loud American Life

I've been actively avoiding this site for the past two weeks. Coming home from El Salvador, I was painfully overwhelmed with the amount of communication that descended upon me. I had voicemails, text messages, emails, comments, usps mail, counter-top notes, and more, and more!

For the two weeks I was in El Salvador, I was allowed to be fully focused on what was at hand without any interruptions (except for the occasional child pulling my hand and asking me to take them to the swings!) I was blessed to be completely present for every conversation, enjoying every bite of every meal, meaning every prayer that I lifted up to God. The 'to-do' list wasn't running the treadmill of my sub-conscious and I didn't wear a watch or check the time on my cellphone for 14 days!

Once our plane landed in Cleveland, it took me 3 hours to start hating my cell phone and 1 day to start hating my e-mail. I had this evil inclination to heave my cell phone into lake erie and discreetly just delete my on-line accounts. I wonder what would happen? I wonder if it could make life slow down? Could my life here be as deliberate as my life was in El Salvador.

After a couple weeks of consideration, I've decided the answer is "No". Our lives here are congruent with the American culture monster we've created. Our unintentional commitments to be independant, successful, witty, accessible and desirable have driven us over the cliff of superficiality. Now don't get me wrong - anyone who has been to another country can jump on the bandwagon of America-bashing in an instant. This is not my intention. American industry, in the effort make people happy, has implemented complex systems to 'help people stay connected. However, the system has become indulgent and gone awry. By creating a society in which everyone is accessible at all times in multiple ways, we have foregone quality communication.

I would like to find a compromise in my own life. Maybe only answering my cell phone and voicemail in the evening. Maybe only checking my email twice a day instead of hitting refresh every few minutes (yeah, you caught me!) Maybe being intentional about spending time with someone instead of talking on the phone with them for an hour (while I'm driving, grocery shopping and reading mail, of course!)

Anyhow, I realize this was not a very interesting subject for most of you. You think I'm over-reacting to a case of reverse culture-shock. Maybe so. Just don't be offended if I stop answering your calls or emails :)

Friday, June 30, 2006

Kingdom of Community

Tomorrow I leave for El Salvador with a team of 15 other people from Cuyahoga Valley Church. We'll be traveling together, sleeping together, eating together, playing together, praying together and basically everything together for 15 days! As excited as I am about our trip and the work we will be accomplishing, I can't help but be nervous about how our team will get along. Or more accurately, how I am going to let down my pride, independance and isolationist lifestyle and live in community with everyone else.

I'll admit, this is something that I truly struggle with. Nothing is more appealing to me than spending a day all by myself with my own thoughts, my own noises and no one to bother me. It takes a lot of effort for me to be around people sometimes... and I'm about to embark on 15 days of solid interaction!!

It's interesting that this has been on my mind lately, because God has been working overtime to show me that my isolationist mindset is not necessarily healthy or his intention for my life.

As I was sitting on my front step the other evening, I looked up and spotted 3 ants carrying a large dead bug down the side of the brick wall. I got closer and watched them as they worked together. There was something so simply beautiful about these tiny insects painstakingly working toward a common goal. If one of them decided 'Nope, I'm done! i've been workin' all day and i'm sick and tired of being with you guys. From here on out, I'm on my own!' their delicious(?!) dinner would have dropped and many other ants might have suffered for it.

When we, as Christians, decide to 'go it alone' and do it 'our own way' instead of laying our prerogatives aside and working toward a common goal, we severely hinder the impact we might have. I see this over and over in American churches today. In our culture we want to have the best program and the most progressive/unique way of doing church and the easiest/quickest way of serving those less fortunate.

I'm convinced that the saints living among us who God uses in dramatic ways are not those who are isolationists and independantly loud, but instead those who have a quiet, steadfast purpose and the ability to spur others on at all times. Not just at church and not just when it's convenient. They don't drop the dead bug because they are tired and need alone time. They don't go off in search of a smaller bug they can lift on their own without having to put up with other people.

I pray that God would challenge me to carry the big bug with the help of my comrades. That I would lay aside my independence, be willing to do things that are not 'my way', and that when I feel the need to curl my back to everyone and hide, that He would grant me grace and a peaceful heart. God, please bless our team with big bugs to carry together!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

what is up with all the changes?

so... i was getting annoyed with my former blog's name and decided it needed to change. I don't think this matters much, because I only know of 2 people that have actually visited my blog site. I transferred my former blogs to this new site, which is why the dates are funny.
Dios te bendiga,

6-19-06 About Ezra

Here's a little ditty about Ezra, the dude who led a group of Israelites from Babylon to Jerusalem a really long time ago. God had been pretty upset about the many unfaithful generations of the Jews and allowed them to be overcome and taken into exile by the Babylonians. When Artaxerxes became King of Babylon, he allowed a group of Israelites to return to their homeland. Ezra was their leader, a man full of Godly wisdom and knowledgeable in the law of Moses. This excerpt takes place right before their long trek commences:

Ezra 8:21-23 "There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us, and our children with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the King for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road because we had told the King "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but His anger is against all who forsake Him." So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer."

This passage caught me so off-guard last week that I re-read it twice, then went back to it the next few nights. Here's what is so interesting to me...

Ezra was a well respected and wise man - knowledgeable in God's law, but also of the laws and society in Babylon where he was living. He was chosen to lead this group of people because he commanded respect and had what it took to be followed by thousands of people on a 5 month long road trip (walking, mind you - not driving!) At some point in preparing for this trip, the King had asked him what he needed to safely and successfully lead this group of people back to Jerusalem. He had the entire support and provision of the wealthiest and most powerful empire in the world at that time. It would have been easy, even expected, that he would ask for military protection. This wasn't just a team of men taking the voyage, but also women, children, possessions, animals... things that would not stand a chance should they encounter hostilities along the way.

However, Ezra was ASHAMED to ask for soldiers, because in his knowledge of the scriptures, he KNEW that God was all-powerful and could protect His chosen people. He KNEW it. It was in his head. He believed it. Now...

Turning down an offer of protection from the king of Babylon was the easy part. The hard part was physically trusting that God would do what He promised. I can just imagine what was going through Ezra's mind when he's sitting in this valley called the Ahava Canal looking over the thousands of people with their junk all packed up, with dust high in the air, and kids crying, and women bickering, and men looking around with 'what the heck did we agree to this journey for?' written on their faces. If I were Ezra, I would probably be thinking along the lines of 'Oh crap. How did I get into this situation? There is no way possible that this is going to work. I was an IDIOT for rejecting soldiers and horsemen from Babylon.'

I am glad that Ezra was not like-minded. In his wisdom, he took up God's challenge like a true man. He humbled himself before his God and lead all the Israelities in doing likewise. They became one in purpose. One in heart. Seeking the only source of protection they could rely upon. Essentially, Ezra's lip-service to the King became REAL FAITH when he actually stepped forward in trust. There was no way he could have known on human terms whether they would make the journey safely.

How many times do I tell people: 'God is in control', 'I trust that God will give me an answer', 'Everything will work out according to God's purposes', 'I have no need to worry or fear, because I know God has me covered.'
The truth is, all of these things are just warm and fuzzy sayings until I step out on faith. Faith doesn't have anything to do with common sense. Can you imagine what people thought of Ezra leading all those people across the desert unprotected? I'm sure all the wealthy and respected citizens of Babylon thought he was nuts!

The part I like the best is the end... 'so we fasted and petitioned our God about this and he answered our prayer.' I wonder how he answered their prayer? - was it an unexplainable assurance in their hearts? Was it not confirmed until they reached Jerusalem and could look back at his providence? Was it by a miraculous sign that we wouldn't believe today if we saw it?

Dear God, please show me how to step out on my faith instead of just talking about it. Place shame on my heart, as you did Ezra, when I come into the danger of seeking our man-made safety nets for protection and provision.

6-14-06 Old Brooklyn, here I come!

Old Brooklyn, here I come!

I'm very excited to say that Lizzy and I will be roommates in the historic Old Brooklyn neighborhood of Cleveland, OH beginning July 15th. All day yesterday I was waiting to hear back from the landlord. There were a handful of other people looking at the apartment this weekend, so I was pretty nervous that we weren't going to get it.

We will be living in the upstairs of an old home built in 1888. There is something about the space that is truly unique and peaceful and I pray that God will be able to use it for His glory! I can't wait to begin meeting the people on my street, at the bus-stop, in the grocery store. Looks like another year in oh-so-cold Cleveland has begun - I can't wait to jump into the adventure that lies ahead!

6-12-06 Making Rapid Friends

Today had a gorgeous morning - partly sunny - 57 degrees - crisp and calm. I must have just missed the train because when i got down to the platform at the Ohio City rapid stop it was empty.

Within a couple minutes I heard some footsteps to my left and was a little shocked to see a man walking toward me (usually i would have heard him earlier - I must have been too consumed in my own thoughts to notice him coming down the stairs.) He was an older black man with dirty jeans and a ragged brown plaid flannel shirt. His face was framed by the gray beanie pulled down over his patchy grayish hair. His eyes were cold as steel. He had a fresh cigarette hanging out of his mouth and was motioning to me that he needed a light. Since I don't smoke, and to be honest, really didn't want him coming any closer, I quickly shook my head and said I didn't have a lighter.

At that, he turned around and walked behind one of the staircases and it struck me that he was urinating back there. Now at this point, most people would be completely repulsed by this individual. He was dirty, he smoked, he was black and poor, he was URINATING IN PUBLIC for goodness sake. At that moment I realized that Jesus loves this man just as much as me and yearns for this man's life. I felt in my purse pocket to see what time it was on my cellphone and my hand grabbed a book of matches i had thrown in there from Edison's where I had pizza last week. The pack had a bicycle printed on it, which at the time I thought was kinda neat.

When the man came back around the corner, zipping up his dirty jeans and re-adjusting his beanie, I held up the matchbook for him. When he saw what I was offering, he painfully jogged over to me but as he got close he hesitated. As if HE didn't trust ME. I handed him the pack and said that he could keep it. He started motioning oddly and I quickly realized that this man was mute. He was asking me with his body language if I was sure that he could keep them. I smiled and said that I didn't need them and he was welcome to take the whole book.

As I sat on the train and watched this man - who was seated a few rows ahead of me - I began to wonder about the hardships he had faced in this short, violent life. What would it look like for him to have joy? What would it look like for him to be healed? I was moved to pray for this man and the gravity of what God put on my heart lead me to silent tears.

Maybe I will see him again on the train in the coming weeks. Maybe I could offer him more than a cigarette light. Maybe I could be more than just that 'crazy white girl who smiled while she gave me her bicycle matchbook'. God, please show me how to love your people.