Friday, December 30, 2011

Thankful

I am thankful. Thankful for seasons that bring holidays, that bring pause to life and time for family and travel and big meals with sweet pies. I am also thankful that they are pauses, and not the norm. That not everyday is kick back, and not every day is family time and not everyday is big meals and excessive desserts. I am thankful for seasons in general. Thankful that there are appointed times and places and persons as Ecclesiastes so blatantly points out. With that said, I am even thankful for Mondays.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

House hunting...

Its fun, and exciting and scary and serious at all the same time. In many way, buying a home feels bigger than a baby. There is a sense of permanence and settle that a house connotes for me, where as a child, well, I envision slinging him on my back and keepin it movin. Kids adapt. Cement footings don't. But, both require faith, and we do have peace about a particular house. Waiting to sell the truck before we put a bid in on it. Got a call on it earlier in the week... praying about it all... timing and price negotiations and favor with the house builder.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm back

Did I tell you not to feel slighted...? My bad. Obviously my time has been divided. But after a viciously written text from my younger sister reminding me that I would lose all my following if I didn't write soon, I am back. The last month has been a blur.

My business cards are in. Logo done. Business paypal set-up. All the site content is written (including rates, packages, contractual language...)The site design and functionality is in its final stage, should be ready by Christmas. My promo packet is complete, and I am now preparing my pitch list... school, colleges, universities, churches that may have editing or content writing needs.

Just recently began titling my work. We went to a Christmas party last night and the infamous North American convo starter was thrown at me every which way, "So, what do you do." Honestly, I was tempted to ask why they cared, and suggest that there were deeper more meaningful questions to ask to get to know a person... like, "How is your walk with God?" or " What do you do that brings you satisfaction and true joy?" Instead, I told one woman that I was a freelance copy editor. That still didn't suffice for her, and tilting her scrunched face she responded, "What exactly is that?"

Sigh.

Oh, and everything on my body is growing, slightly, but growing nonetheless. My hips, my stomach, my arms... yes, my arms. This all just means I'm healthy- I think.  I told my husband he luckily married thick skin when he surprised me with a monthly gym membership and I wasn't offended. :) I must admit, it has been a nice addition to my week. Every Mon. Wed. Fri I drop Matt off at work and hit the swimming pool and treadmill for an hour or so. Gets me going. 

We heard the heartbeat Nov. 14th. Pretty much the most amazing thing I've ever heard in my life. In church on Sunday I swore I felt something tap my right insides. But since the thing is the size of a jumbo shrimp it may have just been gas.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Timing

It has taken 3 months of unemployed blessing to bring me to the point of readiness. But I am ready. And with some healthy coaxing from the husband, and affirmation from my family, it is moving. I am starting my own editing and writing freelance business.

The irony is that for the past year I have been editing a book during our travels, and writing for Examiner.com - the preparation has been in the works. Not to mention the Journalism major and 3 years of business writing experience.

I was reading in 2 Peter today about God's patience. How he is allowing time to pass slowly it seems, so that all can have fair chance to hear and believe on him. It reminded me that timing is everything in many ways. That God works things together until they reach their fullness, when God can receive the most glory from them.

Website is in the works, business cards in the mail. Clientele, well... anyone need an editor or content writer? I will be hosting a professional blog via the site. Don't feel slighted.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Missing MX

I miss Mexico today... a lot. I miss our little house, and our neighbors, and the mural, and the sun and bible study. I miss the tomale man, and fresh fruit from the tangys market and Mayra's meals at 3. I miss hanging my clothes on the line, and then the whole first floor smells like detergent when the wind blows. I miss Darlene, doing aerobic videos with Iris, I miss sweet bread and walks to Tiffany's to chill or cumbi rides to Laura's to bake. I miss not knowing what's next.

I miss being so amazingly aware that God is moving, and changing things, and saving people and simple. I know that is happening here too, but its different. Its not exotic, and new, or simple. Its home and bills and cold weather, and ministry to high school girls who cuss you out, read at 1st grade levels and are 3 times more likely to be pregnant and impoverished then high school grads or college entrants. Its teaching worship dance to youth I am not even sure enjoy worshiping... its looking for a job when you don't really want one.

Maybe Mexico and Mn. are more alike then I realize. Maybe ministry is beautiful and ugly no matter where are you. I miss the beautiful right now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

...

In many ways, life has just happened for me. Things I have attained that may seem as if the certainty of my heart and the determination of my mind made them come to pass actually often were a result of coincidence or unmerited favor. This of course is not the explanation for all my decisions and or "progression",  I have definitely worked hard, set my mind on goals, paid my dues in some respect, but I would say that generally, up to this point, life has been easy going, and my foot has never lingered too long in the air before knowing where to set it next.

Yesterday when I told the coffee cashier that I wasn't ordering, but instead looking for applications, and then later spoke to a department store manager to see if she had holiday part time hours available, I realized that for the longest period of my life ever, my foot has been up in the air. Not necessarily because  I do not have a job, but more so because I am still unclear on what it is I am supposed to do with my day. Even when I was working my comfort was not in my job, but the fact I knew I was to be there. I realize that in 9 months my daily activity will be fed me in a sense, but still, even a baby cannot exempt a woman from obedience to multiply her talent, and keep her lamp burning and ready...

It seems to me that my situation, is an ideal situation in many ways... 24 hours upon 24 hours of endless possibilities. Ideal, and overwhelming at all the same time.

I read a fellow blogger's post of a quote by Charles Spurgeon. It reads, "When you can't trace his hand, trust his heart." And I do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Braids

Last week I had an old roommate call me about braiding her brother's hair.  I told her sure, not expecting that 5 minutes later he would text me and be on his way with his girlfriend. At the moment I was babysitting a 10 month year old, still hadn't made dinner and had a bible study group coming over in 2 hours and needed to clean up some still. But for some reason, I still felt like I should do it. So, I put my Mexico hat on and went with the flow. I threw a frozen pizza in for dinner, said whatevs to cleaning, and told the girlfriend she would have to help entertain the baby. I called a friend and asked her to pray for the time with this kid and his girlfriend.

Prayer is powerful. After flat ironing, his hair was barely 2 inches. I couldnt get all the hair to lay into the cornroll for the life of me. After 2 braids I gave the guy a mirror and told him to tell me if he wanted me to keep going or stop. He thought it looked great. Honestly, I took a double check at the mirror to make sure it was clean and clear. Was he looking at what I was looking at? In my head, I was so confused. But, since he was willing to sit and enjoy it, I talked. I talked about Jesus, my marriage, I asked them questions about their relationship, school, family. Even invited them to bible study, but apparently, it sounded to intense for them. I eventually finished the whole thing. Fuzzy and all, it looked like good braids, 2 weeks old. Again, he looked in the mirror and told me it looked amazing. He offered me $40! I took $20 and when I closed the door behind him, I just sat down and smiled. In those 2 hours, Matt had called to say he wouldn't be home for dinner because of a random work get together, 2/3 of the bible study text and said they couldn't make bible study so we cancelled, and when I looked around, I realized the house was pretty clean as it stood. Funny.

PS. That line I wrote in my last entry about feeling good- take it back. I woke up yesterday and could barely get out of bed, until I forced myself to get up and chew on a bagel around 10. It got more bearable as the day went. I think the best way to describe it is that I feel like a drank an overdose of nyquil but I'm still trying to function normally. No complaints though, as I realize these are healthy normal signs, and we want that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bebe

2 weeks ago I was frying potatoes when I literally left the stove on and the spatula in it, to appease an itching suspicion. I took a pregnancy test and there were 2 lines. I showed Matt and he went into shock mode for about 3 hours. He went for a run, took a walk, shower and a nap in that window of time. Processing. We took another test Thursday morning in case it was a defect but no, another second line. Matt has had them both sitting on his night stand since then. Memoirs... I think. 

This to say, we are very happy. Gregariously happy actually, we have been telling pretty much everyone we run into. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks..." It was somewhat earlier than expected, but God is good and perfect with his gifts and their timing. I feel very normal, so much so that I worry I will show up for my first appointment Nov 14th and the nurse is going to laugh at me and send me home for a mistaken self diagnosis... Matt assures me that won't happen.

Yep, so there it is. 7 weeks now I think... according to my experienced sister n laws who understand how to calc these things. Just hoping for a strong heart beat at the check-up. Don't worry, I will not turn the blog into an expectant mom journal. At least, that's not the plan.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Buying time

I smiled with true joy in my heart when I received probably my 6th or 7th notice via email of "Thanks for your interest but another candidate has been chosen." Its becoming comedic that I cannot even land a secretary job after rounds of interviews. I do not mean it with any ounce of sarcasm, though I realize it appears I am writing it with such.

I am almost certain God is buying me time. Not in the way he bought Hezekiah time, but in the way he allowed Moses years over the Sinai Peninsula in preparation for his Pharaoh confrontation, or the way he bought Ruth time in her travels with Naomi and part time job in the field, or the way he bought David time in the pastures during early adolescence. He buys time for quiet. For learning. For redirection. For hypersensitive ears to hear his voice sharply and clearly. And even that is just an expression doing little justice to the season. God doesn't have to buy anything. He owns it all. Maybe the more accurate description is, God is borrowing me this time. He is so gracious to do so.

Afternoons of couch journaling, and kindle reading. Hours of YouTube videos where I hone my knitting skills, teach myself web design and edit side jobs to keep building a portfolio. Of course this is in between applications, revisions of resumes and interviews. My house is clean, my husband is well fed, I am all ears to his daily activities and find his experiences fascinating. I am free to be in love not to just be married, to rethink what ministry looks like in my life, or what it doesn't for that matter. I am allowed to reevaluate how I do faith, or how I don't for that matter. How I love those around me, or how I...

I am in Chicago. I drove up yesterday. A couple missionaries from Mexico are here speaking about Arts in Missions at Moody Bible Institute.  Spent last night with one of my best friends from college. How beautiful to catch up and just have a good ol sleep over. Talk God, and boys and watch Dancemoms at all the same time. Deep.

Life is good, because God is bigger than it. He makes it worth my time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Say Yes

I signed up to volunteer with a mentorship program called, "S.A.Y. Yes" (Save America's Youth). Mentorship is a portion of the entire dessert cart. It includes: After school tutoring, bible club, gym and dinner, crafts and lifeskills... it's mother is a non profit org called, "Here's Life Inner City" but operates completely through the local church. I love it.

This last month entailed my entry interview, weekly orientation/trainings and yesterday we had our first parent orientation opener. The flow of parent's was slower (to be expected in a low income, high crime, 30% English as a second language neighborhood). In pairs, we took bundles of flyers overviewing SAY Yes and went house to house last night surrounding the church. I ended up using my Spanish a good amount. It was heaven.

South Minneapolis is eclectically diverse. As we were talking to a White man about getting his kindergartner involved, a Native American man from the house prior yelled at us from the porch to talk to Gabriel a block down. We walked to the address shouted us, and after letting ourselves in through 2 open porch doors, we walked up a duplex stair case over loads of shoes, old t shirts and toys. In response to our knock, we met a smiley Gabriel...his 4 elementary kids, and his wife who does not speak or read English. They could utilize the tutoring program and plan to come to the orientation this Wed. at the church.

It all just felt so comfortable. Maybe because it simulated the going-ons of our 3 months in Mexico, maybe because I could speak Spanish, maybe because of the one-spiritedness of all the volunteers with me, maybe because I was in the hood-? Maybe because it was something to get me out of the house. I don't know. But, I am excited to be a part.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Christian Music

One of the many ironies of my life, is Gospel Music. There was a time when it really was one of the only genres I could truly claim to know. We weren't allowed to listen to secular radio stations growing up, or maybe more so, my family simply didn't play secular music in the house- period. I remember being at school dances mouthing, "watermelon, chicken dinner" hoping no one would notice I wasn't familiar with the song. The song that apparently, was the next thing to slice bread.

Gospel music became somewhat of a default music, seeing as at church, once you hit double digits, you were initiated into choir. It was all day on Saturday (and some weeks, if it was near a holiday, it was everyday a week all evening). We would arrive Saturdays at 10, and we would not get back until dinner time. Really. No exaggeration. So naturally, gospel was in my head through out the week.

I had very little awareness to Contemporary Christian music. In fact, when I thought Christian music, I thought gospel music. I do not recall any KTIS's or Praise FMs... all I knew was KMOJ's gospel hours (which back in the day had not yet been demoted to only Sunday mornings, or sandwiched between Lil Wayne during rush hour).  The contemporary songs I did know I called, "Campus Crusade Music". The worship music played at meetings from my parent's organization. And secretly as well as naturally (in my mind) it was white people's music, and it seemed sad and corny at all the same time.

The irony comes in that my introduction and soon following love for many contemporary christian artists, came while attending a Historically Black College in D.C. I remember visiting the dorm room of a friend I had recently made and she had a radio station playing in her room. I immediately identified it as the Crusade music and I thought, " Really? You?" She eventually made me a CD of her favorite songs. Soon my room too was full of this sad/corny music that almost literally put bible verses to melody and drew me to my knees.

By my Senior year at college, at any given time my room was  filled with gospel music, Christian Hip Hop, "contemporary worship" and Jazz. And you know what I found, every genre moved my Spirit to worship. I learned powerfully that Christian music is not about a genre at all. It is about being Christ centered and bringing you to a place of awe before God. Nothing else.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autumn's Peak

You helped me see fall for what it is
Not sure how I never saw it before
Like unsaid love, like unknown love
now found, admired, coveted
its the foretaste of a fantasy discovered true
where animals talk, gravity gone and trees bright as the sun

Streets of gold can't be far from fall
I see it in every bronze tone color leaf
I smile at the thought
rainbow trees all year long, no longer in need of rain
whose branches bend to make way for my coming
and sweep my back as I leave
who say goodbye and ask if I spoke with the King that morning

I smile at the thought of all that truth boldly peeking
through yellows, reds and oranges
as if He's winked at all the world
and for once I get His meaning

Monday, September 26, 2011

A gift

According to the "Five Love Language" test in the back of the book, "Gifts" are low on my totem pole as love affirming agents. I suppose it makes sense. Generally, I do not crave gifts, nor am I compulsive or a consistent giver of gifts, though I appreciate them and thoroughly enjoy receiving and giving a good surprise.

Matt bought me a car. An Acura TL actually, with a navigation system. I married a man who's love language embraces gifts as a pretty close third to acts of service and physical touch. He surprised me last night, at around 10pm. My brother-n-law had driven it down from the used car lot and parked it out front on his behalf.


I do not understand the psychology of it completely, but alls I know is I felt like in a matter of 30 minutes I went through the 5 stages of mourning. I was completely struck by unbelief, and kept wondering why I was saying thank you every time it came out of my mouth. Then I got in it and I thought, "Why me?" Why did you buy me a car? I didn't even ask for a car? Then as Matt preceded to share with me his payment plan, I got just plain angry. Do you know how many churches we could build for that? How many bibles we could send to China? (In a perfect world, this stage would have lasted only as long as the others...) Before we closed our eyes to sleep, I moved into sadness. Sad that I wasn't embracing my circumstance with a little more joy- not to mention making my husband feel like dirt at the same time. I mean, its not like we could sell it back- right? And what woman doesn't want her husband to surprise her with her own (almost) brand new car with no strings attached?

And so here I am, in the final stage of acceptance. In fact, I would say at about 11 this morning when I was out in the cool breeze with the sun shining, cleaning the inside (the lot must have been in the middle of a desert) and windexing the illegally tinted windows (my favorite feature btw) ... I fully recovered from mourning.

Its growing on me. The steering wheel cover I put on and the little vanilla trees hanging off the vents help. I think I'll keep her.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Knitting

Firstly, I would like to give due recognition to Hannah Galloway, who in the gracious giving of her time entertained my desire to learn how to knit this past summer. I put the knitting to action on our 12 hour flight home from Mexico in July but all too often Matt would point out that the scarf was gradually getting bigger, in the wrong places-?  A couple days ago I picked the awkward ball of scarf I had started a couple months back and started over. Thanks to Youtube, I relearned casting on and binding off, and below you will see my latest concoction... A neck warmer!

Gramma let me use an old button she had lying around. Yes, I am going to wear it- at my husband's football game in fact. No, it is not a scarf ( the photo is deceiving, it is not long enough to tie). And no, you cannot order one. Though, you could probably pick one up from a french boutique for $50...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Faith, Glory and Thanks

I have had one really bad week in the last 2 months of unemployment. One bad week of self-centered ingratitude for my sweet situation of quiet, and slow and peace and worship. My ingratitude manifested itself mostly in frustration toward Matt... I have since asked for forgiveness.

I don't say that "1 week" arrogantly, in fact, seeing as many of those "good weeks" were full with family events, weddings, showers and sunny days of lakes and exercise... they were just busy enough that I may have found joy in something else other than my salvation. But as the last few weeks have settled down and the cool chill of fall has set in, and I find myself on my couch, quiet, more often than not, I have been forced to make the Lord my portion.

Hallelujah for ALL things that force us to make the Lord our portion. I was on a walk the other day, and I started thinking through Hebrews 11 in my mind. I kept getting stuck on on the second verse, "By [faith] the men of old gained approval" By NOTHING else. By faith alone they gained approval. The chapter goes on to list men and women of faith, who from their faith storehouse, did miraculous things that had generational effects. And what was their faith in? Later in the chapter it tells us their faith was in a coming world (heaven), and everything in this life was put against that backdrop. They did everything in preparation for what was to come- eternity with their Savior.

I laughed out loud when I realized how backwards the Western world has success. We spend our time building elaborate business plans that rack in money, or we position ourselves so that we can gain power, in all different facets. We build ridiculously unjustified lists of who we want in a mate, and we truly believe that other person will complete us. If you read that list of "men of faith" in Hebrews, they didn't start out with what they wanted to be, or where they wanted to go. Their heart was set to be right with God, and in that do whatever, at all costs, would bring him glory- they acted in faith, obedience and with courage. And from that they freed slaves from bondage, built strong kingdoms, saved nations, and unknowingly made way for the coming king, Jesus. They were diligent to follow the Lord's leading and it made life worth living.

Then I recalled the scripture in Philippians that tells me, " Whatever it is, whether eating or drinking, do everything unto the glory of God." And I felt like I could see 2 words floating in front of me: Faith and Glory. ALL THINGS, must be done in faith, for His glory, and how can I do that without a thankful heart? No matter what the circumstance, NOTHING and NO ONE changes my eternal reality, that I am an heir to the throne and daughter of the universe's creator (Rom 8).

So my last week has been full of thanks, as I joy in believing that he has given me this time for the purpose of His ultimate glory ... as I seek to take my shower in faith and for God's glory. To take my walk, to make dinner, to do laundry, to job search, to blog, to talk with Gramma and to read... somehow in faith for God's glory. I literally say, please take glory in this. And I feel like he has answered me on multiple occasions with, "I am taking it."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God is good

God is better than everything I can imagine. And I have a BIG imagination.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Time

I led a seminar once (I am still unsure of my qualification and expressed that to the requestor) on time management for a group of college students at a christian conference in Chicago. Ironically enough, 6 months later, completely unrelated to the first, I was asked to lead a time management seminar at a secular conference for college students. Go fig?

One of the points I made in both presentations, was that death empowers time. And some wise person, some while back realized this and created bumper stickers stating "Life is short, so live x..." If life were not limited, we wouldn't need time tables, and we wouldn't have an urgency to live life meaningfully. This rings true for both the believer and non believer. Time makes us think twice about what we do during the day.

But I am realizing that for one person, time is a clock that we watch and dread as we see days and years pass before us, and become overwhelmed by the bucket list items left unchecked.  And for the other, time is like the New Years countdown, and the 10, 9, 8 just seems to be happening in slow motion... In both scenarios, there is adrenaline, there is urgency, there may even be bucket list items that they desire to have completed before the clock strikes... but do you see the difference?

Each of us is one of those persons, and we live from an abundance of how we view our time, our clock. As a believer, I know that in 1 Corinthians 15 it tells me that death has no place for me, in fact, Jesus conquered death and in that proved that his promise of eternal life for me is real. So if death is not of God, and the urgency of time is a result of death, then when Christ reclaimed my life through his death, he also reclaimed my time.

Maybe this is what Ephesians 5:16 means when it says, "Redeeming the time because the days our evil..." Redeemed means to "take back" "to compensate good". Jesus has taken back my time and for it has given me good things to do. It is his, for his doing, for his glory, "to make much of Him" as my pastor would say. I am over figuring out how to make much of myself. It gets old.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Death

My first real provoking of thoughts around death, was an incident during winter of my Sophomore year in high school. I was on the bus, pulling away from school, and I witnessed through the window (along with the other half of the bus that had moved to my side, students pushed up against me to get a look through the frost) a boy had come behind another boy and body slammed him. The victim's head hit the concrete curb and we watched as the boy's eyes rolled back and he began to seizure from the head trauma, a river of blood flowing from his head, slipping down the ice and staining the plowed snow around him.

I wanted to cry. I journaled that evening about it, but it was the only consolation I received, because the school staff and administration never made any mention of it, and never followed up with updates. I guess they chalked it up to another bad fight that didn't deserve attention. But I was sure he had died. And no one seemed to care.

I remember being overwhelmed for a time about how fleeting life is, and how unfair it can be, and how hopeless it can be. Yes, I thought these things at 16. I remember those feelings almost as clearly as I remember the hope filled certainty of my salvation during my Sophomore year in college. I remember there being moments I was so overtaken by the truth of the gospel that I literally told God I was ready, if he was, to go. And I meant it. Yes, I meant it, at 20 years old.

I still believe that, that death has no place with me, that I will never taste it, I will never feel its sting. My readiness takes on different degrees these days, with my husband in mind, friends who don't believe yet, my unborn children... but I know it is truth, when I am quiet and prayerful. And I know that God will not allow anything to happen, not even my death, without him receiving full glory in it. And that, is consolation enough for me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fork in the road

I feel like I am at an internal fork in the road... I can choose to work or I can choose to work. One work would be traditional, and the other entrepreneurial. I don't believe there is a wrong or right direction to go, but there is nonetheless a direction to be chosen. One I have been down, and one I haven't.  The funny thing, is that I am in a waiting season for both. Meaning, there is not a clear opportunity in either, so when I close my eyes, I can literally envision these 2 roads forking, but for the moment, I am just staring at them. What I do know, is that when I move, it will be in a direction fully and faithfully. I believe that God is sovereign, and in that, I believe he will allow me to make a sound decision.

It reminds me of an illustration I was given once regarding the topic of predestination in salvation. (Not that my salvation is riding on my work dilemma in any way... just a mere connection of wandering thoughts). I will retell it as I remember it...

"A man sees a doorway, and above the door is a sign entitled, "Eternal Life." The man thinks for a moment, and decidedly walks through it. Upon doing so, he turns around to close the door behind him, and above that side of the doorway there is a sign entitled, "Chosen."

Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Law

I was listening to an old Piper archive- that audio, and my own cross referencing thoughts to Galatians has me appreciating the process in which God used the holy law to point us to himself. In fact, I see now how, it is completely in line with how he has created humanity.

We do not come out of the womb knowing gospel. We don't understand propitiation and atonement and sinful nature. But slowly, we learn truth that points us to the ultimate truth. No, the 2 year old does not get Jesus as Savior, but he can understand that when he does something wrong, he is pinched, or his toy is taken a way.  And in that, mom has subconsciously taught that in this household, there is standard. It is preparation for understanding that our faults have consequences.  It is preparation for Romans 3:23 and how we do wrong when we know right. When he is 3, he cannot understand atonement, but he knows that when he doesn't treat his sister correctly, against the household standard, he must ask her for forgiveness. It is preparation for the idea of atonement. You get the idea...

What does this have to do with the Holy law? All of mom's rules, all her "do this" and "don't do that" it is ultimately (at least for the Christian mom) to teach us to follow Jesus. To trust him and to obey his word. The rules were a pointer. In the same way, God gave his chosen people law. Ridiculously meticulous laws, that seemed impossible and unnecessary so many times, but the law was just a tutor...just a pointer to the Christ to come.  Every detail, from the veil, to the inner courts, to the sacrificial lamb, to the manna that fell teaching daily dependence.

The law of the Jews is necessary, not to justify us, but to point us to the legitimacy of Jesus. (Gal 3:24) The law reveals how every thing about our nature screams for Jesus. The law is a means to an end, nothing more. And that is why Jesus could so simply say, that he didn't come to condemn it, just fulfill it. (Matt 5:17) And with that, we honor it- the commandments of Jesus. Like we honor the speed limit after a policeman has graciously let us go without a ticket, or our parole when the judge should have given us 10. We obey out of duty AND of thankfulness. It is the difference between hypocrisy and Christianity.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The 22

I started a poem in my head probably 2 years ago or so, while on the bus going to work. I still remember it, it went: "On the 22, in between hoodies and corporate suits..." I didn't get much farther than that. But it seemed to speak volumes in such few words. I was thinking of it again yesterday on my way to an interview downtown where the metro transit system once again chauffeured me.

I honestly think the bus is one of the most grounding pieces of my life. It is the only place where crackheads and business professionals sit next to one another for an extended period of time, at least, on the 22, that goes from Brooklyn Center through North Mpls before hitting downtown. It is comical even- to watch people, stiff and uncomfortable, pretending to be enthralled with something out the window, when really they are counting down the minutes that the smelly homeless person next to them will switch seats or get off. I may not be guilt free on that one either. Its reality.

It is the only place where I am guaranteed to hear outlandish conversations of who cheated on who, police mistreatment, job trouble, if the homeless shelter was maxed out again the night before, and get called a Bitch by a 17 year old because I didn't give him my number ( and he has no idea my husband was his teacher last year). 

I sincerely, really am thankful for the 22. The 22 reminds me how grateful I am that people are viewed through God's eyes, and not mine. That every "outlandish" conversation or concern, every person I secretly deem "beneath" me in my heart-is not outlandish and beneath God. Don't get me wrong, there are some messed up people on the bus. But the 22 reminds me that I am one of those messed up people. That just because I don't smoke crack, or have a same sex preference, or just because the bus is a choice for me not a default...it doesn't give me the right to cut my eyes, or snoot my nose. The 22 keeps me humble. AND, it gets me downtown in 20 minutes with free parking.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Breakfast Thought

I am not much for mornings. I won't go as far to say that I am not a morning person, I can function, and even pleasantly if I put my mind to it, but it is by far my second choice to sleeping until at least 8 and taking an hour to get moving. With that said, I have been sensing that the Lord wants me to get up earlier. In fact, I told Matt earlier this week, that when I am offered a job, I am considering requesting a 7-4 schedule- to free my evenings up.

PS. It is kind of a big deal to type that this is what I am sensing, because I have sensed it before, and have been inconsistent in following my lead. So, there is an almost accountability to it now I suppose. In addition, in the last handful of years I had secretly concluded that the sense was most likely not from the Lord and instead from the unsaid pressure of "Christian mainstream" that praises early sunrise prayer and bible reading. And maybe it was... then.

My husband however, is a "by preference" morning person. I got up with him this morning- 6:15 am. Mostly because I had drug my feet on ironing his shirt last night, and he wanted to jog and get into work early. I finished ironing pretty quickly, and fell back into bed when I am almost certain the Spirit told me to "get out of bed and have coffee with your husband." I rolled out, barely brushed my tongue to simply cover the worst of smells, made sure Matt's belt was through ALL the loops and we sat down and drank our coffee and read our morning devotional.

He just left 20 minutes ago, but it hit me. Maybe a 7-4 schedule is not about my evening being free, as much as it is about my mornings? I didn't really think about how it would align with Matt's schedule. Maybe God's up to something...again. Our devotional was Psalms 27, "Wait on the Lord."


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting Season

Its midnight, and more than 2 months after our adventure abroad... 2 weeks in Colorado, just spent 2 weeks in Boston and New York with my sisters. Lots of cook outs, birthdays, we even confirmed membership at our church last Sunday.

It has been a whirl in some respect... and then this past week came. I think Gramma had a more full agenda. Waiting to hear back from my last interview, hoping by this Monday...

I was imagining, not too long ago (like yesterday), what life would look like if I simply didn't go back to work. If I stayed home. I mentioned it to Matt and he seemed to be waiting to hear the rest of my game plan. At that particular moment, I hadn't thought farther than simply, " what if I didn't go back." So it was somewhat of a dead end conversation. Couldn't use babies as reasoning either seeing as they are not exactly in our next week plan, and I suppose our children deserve more thought than that, so needless to say, my job hunt continues. And I am feeling pretty good about it... honestly, I am. Plus when I am not working, or at least not utilizing my skill set and gifts in some productive way, I find myself prioritizing ridiculous things, like counting the minutes Matt is late for dinner, or irritated that the mail comes at different times everyday. I know, its sad. But its real. And yes, life is not as exciting as I would like it to be right now. In fact, in theme fashion of this blog, I think it is very appropriate to say that I am in a slow, waiting season... but then again, every song has its bridge, every plot it's pre climax lull...

So bring it on day, there are more recipes to try, more bike paths to ride, more red boxes to watch... and maybe a neighbor to meet, a friend to encourage, a scripture to memorize...






Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life

I listened to my pastor's sermon from this past week, his first after an annual 7 week sabbatical. (Matt and I were at Friendship church this past week to listen to my Father preach. They are in town for their ministry.) Pastor pretty much preached the mural we created in Mexico- John 10.

Abundant Life. It is real. And I think I forget that I can have it- life abundantly. I already have so much more joy and peace than the masses around me, I am sure of that. From the doses I receive in God's word and prayer. Secret smiles he gives me through out the day that only I would recognize (Im convinced). And yet, I think there is more. I believe he desires even more joy, even more peace, even more fruit, if I would continue to open myself to the work of Spirit.

I want it. I was thinking earlier today how much do I really believe there is heaven. I do believe, and yet, I have a little anxiety around dying. And not for Christian reasons, like "I cant go yet, there are others who need saving..." As much as I do believe that, that there are others who need love and joy and peace like I am experiencing, AND MORE... but I still, in my finiteness, think I would miss this place alittle. Did I say that out loud? Maybe there is a way to love this world, but not be of it, to look forward to the country to come, but still livei n the moment here, and do it all abundantly, with overflowing joy, and love and peace.

At my last interview, the woman across the table told me "You are just so peaceful, this is the most peaceful interview I have ever had" There was one of those smile he gives me. I hope she remembers that feeling for years to come and one day it draws her to Christ. If only it would have drawn her to give me the job... lol. God is good.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Interviewing and the works

Had my first official interview this morning. A Senior Project Manager position for an ad firm downtown. I meet with a contact from Carlson Marketing early August, hoping to explore an open position there as Account Executive. In addition to my constant exploration of opps at Target.

The YMCA marketing department is hiring as well, I'm hoping my seasonal membership will pull some clout ;)

I accidentally used the word sexy in the interview this morning, HR seemed to find it funny and fitting though (wiping forehead sweat). I was describing the not so sexy world of project management juxtaposed with my strategy concept experiences, and yet, there is joy I get in owning the day to day work of campaigns, versus handing it off after strategy. Plus, when the world is all right and perfect, project managers work hand in hand with their strategists and even have client facing time.

We shall see. No matter what, God is God, and we still have a place to live, and a bag of rice in the cupboard. Matt has picked up some construction jobs too. All is well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Honey and Water

I have been joking the last week or so, that my new office is Caribou and Starbucks, as I find myself there for hours at a time through out downtown, meeting with old colleagues and past managers, trying to determine the Marketing landscape right now and job opportunities that may exist.

I slapped on the heels this morning and dusted off my fancy purse to go meet an Events rep from Target. I purposefully got there 30 minutes early, and while I was waiting at the Starbucks, I watched a man come in, plainly dressed amid professional suits. He had a little gym like bag with him, nothing else. He walked up to the counter and ordered a water with ice. Nothing surprising I suppose, in our 100 degree humidity, but then again, why Starbucks for tap water? After receiving his drink he passed by the condiment counter and grabbed a handful of packets... "Sugar?" I wondered. He then sat down in a corner, and without rush, opened a packet of honey and squeezed it into the drink. I watched him with each packet, at least 6 I am sure. He barely stirred it, and started sipping.

Looking down, I decided, I didn't need to buy coffee. I could just make some when I got back home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Spirit

Matt and I have a devotion by Charles Spurgeon called, "Morning and Evening." It traveled with us through Central America and Mexico and now back to Minneapolis. It has become a part of our normal morning coffee, and sometimes, our bed time salutation.

Yesterday's Spurgeon devotion was based on Thessalonians 1, 4-8. It said:

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achai.

A few years back I went through a time of questioning the role of the Holy Spirit at work in my life. I wondered if the fruits of the Spirit were something I just conjured up for my own personal sense of security of Jesus Christ. I knew the bible said that if I was rooted in God's word and seeking him, my life would produce fruit (Galatians 5). I also knew that the bible said it is only by God's spirit living inside me that God identifies with me (Romans 8). I wanted to be identified with God, I knew that, that identity was my eternal hope, and so... I worried.

I reflected on that time with Matt, and remembered that the same Holy Spirit I questioned, later assured me, in the same way that Paul assured the Thessalonians in chapter 1. I heard him and I still hear him, even yesterday saying:

"Alyssa, you did not transform yourself, I am working in you, if I wasn't how is your life over taken by deep conviction of the gospel? How has your character from the inside out, not just looks, but behind closed doors, completely changed and changing into the Jesus of the bible? How could you ever see joy in trying and sorrowful time? How could you be a model and perpetuation of the faith to other people?"

My walk as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ is not merely wrapped up in the moment I accepted Jesus into my life, it is defined by the moment by moment transformation of the Holy Spirit at work with my Spirit. Making me and molding me to be used. Praise God for the Holy Spirit, and praise God for change.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Corn Tortillas

Hosting a little party tomorrow and decided to make taquitos. In my search for ingredients, I was rather disappointed with the "Ethnic food" section of mainstream grocery stores. I made my way across town to 16th and E. Lake street just to find corn tortillas.

I think I found where Matt and I should move!

I walked in, and all I saw and heard was Spanish. The woman behind the counter assumed I was Latina, and the assumption made my heart smile. It's the little things.

We had two friend couples from Spanish sunday school @ church over to the Millers on this past Sunday. Sweet time of Spanglish and BBQ chicken. I miss Mexico, but I am thankful for the existing and potential community here in Minneapolis.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Adjusting

...Was tagged on a photo of Julito and I in front of the mural, see at the end... that feels like ages ago. We are so fast pace here, even when we're slow.

My parents have a bi-annual work conference here in Colorado, so it worked out perfect to see them before we leave for the mountains this afternoon to meet up with a handful of couples from the Miller side...we are sharing a vacation cabin for the week. Spent the last several weekdays with my immediate family and now the weekend with close cousins from Matt's side. What a blessing to come into family, really, it has saved me from many things I am sure.

It has been sweet, but, there have definitely been moments of adjustment, even sadness. My family and I were celebrating my belated birthday, and sitting around the table I couldn't help but feel like we should call 20 people and ask them to come over, even if they were strangers.

My parents and sister's apartment in Colorado State for the conference is a one room apartment. One of the staff asked where Matt and I were staying and we told them we were staying with my parents, and in shock they said, "Where do you all sleep?" I turned away as I teared up thinking about Darlene, Miguelito, Fer and Lupita on that king size mattress their whole lives. We just have little idea here.

I attended a leadership course with my Mom during the week conference... as we were doing the "myers briggs" activities, shuffling into groups and discussing our traits and how we interact, I was overwhelmed by how analytical we are here in the States, instead of just "being." I understand that it is important to understand one another, but I couldn't help but remember how well we got a long with people in Mexico, not because I knew if they were an ESTJ, but simply because love and forgiveness seems to transcend psychology. And the degree of structure was comical, everything was on a timer and I just wanted someone to talk 5 minutes too long, or something just to see if they would escort them off the stage... I know I sound ridiculous, but I thought it, I really did.

God is good, and I am giddy thinking about seeing more family that we haven't seen in almost 9 months. Was up last night at 11 sending resumes to more contacts... Life is back to fast.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our last days in Mexico... Baptism, Parties and Julito

Matt was really bummed when the immigration guy didn't say, "Welcome home" but he cheesed all the way down the moving walkway of the airport to baggage claim nonetheless. It was a surreal feeling. It still is... different.

Our last weekend, really couldn't have ended better. Saturday afternoon we set up bunk beds for our good friends and neighbors Iris and Miguel, their 4 kids had been sleeping on a king size mattress together. It was a family affair, and I am thankful to the giving that came in to do it.

That evening a group of us went to a local restaurant with live music and salsa. Sunday was a combined baptism service between the first and current church plant. We all met at 7 in the morning and bussed to a water park where 19 people professed their new faith and were baptized. We spent the rest of the afternoon there, and at the end, they surprised Matt and I with a "Despidida" or going away time. They gave us words of encouragement, a huge card with notes and pics and prayed with us and gave us beautiful gifts. I couldn't stop crying for a time. Later that evening, we hosted a surprise birthday party for one of the missionary kids (cake, ice cream, tamarindo, music...).

Monday morning we packed, had breakfast and unloaded a give a way bag of clothes and random stuff with the kids of Iris and Miguel. After, we took pics with the interns in front of the mural and as we were loading the van to head to the airport, we saw " Julito" the #1 gang guy in the community. I walked over to him and I introduced myself. I thanked him for not giving us any issues with the mural, as I know it is his territory. He said it was all good and he thought the mural was pretty cool. One thing lead to the next and we ended up taking a pic together in front of the mural. I shared the message of the mural and when I told him I had experienced the transformed life on the left side and he could too, he teared up. I told him, my husband and I would be praying for him. He said he had been meaning to talk to us, so I put him in touch with Iris and told him he should speak with them, since they are good people and it was our last day.

My heart was so full all the way to the airport. God can do all things, he is the maker, owner and king of all... Julito is nothing hard for him. Pray for him, and that he would give his life to Christ, and that his faith would ripple effect to the youth in the community.

Final Mural Pic
My Ballet Girls
The kids receiving their bunk beds

Baptisms at the Waterpark

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2 weeks

Tomorrow marks 2 more weeks left to our travels abroad. I am not quite sure how I feel about it honestly. We are finishing up the mural, my 6 weeks of baking classes have ended, my ballet classes conclude next week, the little girls will be doing a dance to "Dame tus ojos" by Marcela G. during church. And, we are still hosting... so it is easy to forget that we are returning. Matt begins a week of physical games in the evenings with the youth here, and I am hoping to get some knitting lessons in from Hannah and finish the mural before we leave. We have also been working with a young kid in the neighborhood named Miguel, teaching him how to read. Hoping to make some headway on that as well...

We had the youth over today after church, devotionals, carnita tacos and a movie. Several of the youth don't understand why we need to leave. I told Brian that we had to find jobs and his response was, "Well, their are jobs here in Mexico..." That one I didn't expect, but I explained that we dont have working visas so it would be illegal. The following was wanting to know when we will return, how long we will stay...

I can't help but have this overwhelming desire to make sure I implement the service here in Mexico, into my community in Mpls. Why don't I think to paint Murals in Mpls. as an avenue to share the gospel and build relationships with youth? Why don't I think to start free baking classes to build relationships with my neighbors? Why don't I offer free ballet classes to little girls as ways to introduce them to worship with their whole selves? Why? Why? Why?

Just finished "Radical" by David Platt. Read it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Clases de Reposteria




My 6 week baking course came to an end this week. But we ended on a sweet note, "Pay de Manzana." (Apple Pie). 7 ladies from the community in Santa Barbara were there. It has been a really sweet time-literally :).

Food is an avenue to more than just a man's heart, in this case, it has been an avenue for Alejandra who lives across the street from the church to attend a Friday women's bible study for the first time after coming to the class. Or, Mariana, a mom of three, a product of some serious marital issues (and about to be a grandmother thanks to her 15 year old daughter) came to the baking class...the first time she has intimately been around the church ladies in the last 4 years!

God uses everything- murals, baking classes, ballet classes and simple hospitality to show his love to those who are searching...and those who aren't.

Mural Progress



Friday, May 27, 2011

Mexico City and Newbies


We left Wednesday afternoon for Mexico City, to pick up students from the airport that have internships through the Latin mission, CAM International. Even though Matt and I are not officially with CAM, we are working in partnership with the ministry and church here until we leave end of June. As a result, we were a part of the 2 day hotel orientation and in a sense, are operating as helping staff, in that we are a hosting family and can help orient the students to the day-to-day ministry here. The orientation was cool. Bonded with the group and saw a good number of sites, including the pyramids. I climbed both the moon and the sun.

The students are a riot, and come from all walks of life. The students in our house comprise of Hannah. She is from the hill country of North Carolina and is a southern bell for Jesus, she has stories of shooting squirrels, deer and coyote. Her birthday is Sunday, so we plan to throw a surprise fiesta after church with the youth. Robert, is an MK from Paraguay, but currently a Moody Institute student in Chicago and is considering Seminary. He will be leading a mens bible study and preaching a couple times while he is here. Brigham, is a 20 something believer from Buffalo, NY. He is quite aware of his liberty in the Spirit and has bonded quite well with Matt...they discovered quickly they both enjoy cigars, tacos and beer. Pray for them ;)

It will be a full house these last few weeks here. But, honestly, it would be boring any other way.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bomba

Matt got a little sick this past weekend. By a little... I think he said he hasn't been that sick since he was 10. He couldn't lay down vertically without vomiting. He couldn't even hold down water... The next morning he was still feeling it pretty strongly so I went to our neighbors for help. Iris and Jos, two women who attend the church as well, ended up taking us on the afternoon adventure of a lifetime. We went to two doctor offices before we got to one that was legitimate and open. (legitimate and open..believe it or not I think the latter word is harder to find). We were seen by Doctor Lechuga. (Umm, that is Dr. Lettuce in English).

I did my best to translate everything from Dr. Lechuga for Matty. He prescribed 2 different medicines. One to kill the infection in his stomach, one for pain (headaches due to dehydration of not drinking).

Then the nurse entered and swirled her finger in the air as the signal for Matt to turn over on the table. He received a shot in his bomba :) I don't know what exactly was in the shot, but within 20 minutes it took away Matt's gag reflex, and he was able to sip on Gatorade. This ability was important, as it got Matt through the treacherous journey of finding a pharmacy that actually had the medicine we were prescribed. We went to 3 different pharmacies, and finally landed on Walmart, which had what we needed (go fig, even in MX). Poor Matt was in the back seat of the 2 door car, leaning to one side to keep pressure off his newly sore bomba and head bouncing like a bobble head with every speed bump...(you won't be able to appreciate the speed bump remark until you have driven in Mexico).

We left a little before noon originally for the Dr. and we arrived back at four. 4.5 hour ordeal for a clinic check-up a couple miles away! All this to say, Matty is up and running now, just in time for us to host 5 new students who fly in this Wednesday. We will spend Wed. night through Friday at a hotel in downtown Mexico , helping orient the students to the ministry and the culture in Ixtapaluca. Kind of fun to be on this side, 4 years ago, I was in their shoes, preparing for a 2 month internship with CAM ministry. I didn't even know what CAM stood for at that time, I just knew I was where I was supposed to be.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

So much...

Not sure where to start...

I think the last entry was about mural work. That's more than coming. We are about halfway there, had different youth and even a short term team of students that came down through Corbon University help me out on it. God has answered prayer and is using it, so many people stop me during painting and ask questions about its purpose. I am more than happy to share John 10 and the opportunity for all to walk through the door. As of Saturday, the city has agreed to pay and paint the other sides of the graffiti covered water tower, white, in support of further mural work. To top that off, Julito, the gang leader who we originally were worried may violently respond to our mural work on his territory, has agreed to paint on the otherside of the water tower in aerosal, to share clean and family friendly artistic interpretations of life. Wow. Pray for mighty things to come through that!

The team of students this past week was fun. It is such an ironic feeling, to host people in my first house, in another country, for a mission that I do not technically work for, but I am here, we are here, and we cannot believe it is anything but ordained, even if it is just 3 months. Its been 2 months this weekend. How sweet it was to travel around and meet missionaries through out Mexico, giving their lives, their comfort, freedoms and wallets to the simple but hard work of loving people and sharing the love of Jesus. It still exists, if you can believe that. House to house bible studies, baptisms in rivers, addictions being broken, marriages restored, worship without official choirs, just pure off tune singing at the top of lungs. Its pretty beautiful.

We had 2 guys living with us from the Corbon group, they left this afternoon and tonight, we have a guy from Paraguay staying with us. Just enought time to wash the sheets.

I am pretty tired and heading to bed but the gist is God is good, God is good, God is good.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dia del Madres




Yesterday we (along with missionaries, and a couple handfuls of youth from the church) hosted a mothers day dinner and program for the women in the church. It was evangelistic in that the women were to invite a friend as well. We had almost 50 women! We rented a tent, and the youth served. It went well. I shared a 10 minute or so message about my relationship with my mother and tied it into Proverbs 31. In Spanish! Se viene... poco y poco. The youth shared a skit, we played games, even had a special music serenade surprise by the men... It was all worth it.

We prepped all day.. decorations, lasagna, brownies, salad... skit by the youth. Check out the pics.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Semana Santo y Mas


Easter morning we were up at 5:30 for a sunrise service on top of a hill in Ixtapaluca. We got about 3 hours asleep the night before, (between the new 24 tv series we are addicted to on our laptops and the street party outside our window).

The service was wonderful. Bonfire, Worship, Sermon, Play. The sun came out about the time we started eating tomales and drinking atole, so the volleyball nets and blow up pool came out. We hung out until I couldnt keep my eyes open anymore...which was about 2 or 3 pm I think. At some point the kids turned the pool and hose into a massive water fight against the adults.

I had my first baking class on Monday and ballet class for the ninas on Wednesday. I will continue to teach them weekly for the next month and a half. We made mufins de platano on monday and on Wed. I taught a handful of girls the basic 5 positions of ballet along with tendus and plies. Priceless. Ill try to get some pics up soon...


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update

We have been here about a month as of this Friday and we have plenty to do in partnership with the local church and mission. We were teaching English classes, Matt was running a basketball camp and i start teaching a baking course and ballet course once a week after Easter. We have a Mothers Day event we have been prepping for with the youth in the church, not to mention simply living life Mexican style in our little house... Late night taco stand runs, random drive bys from kids in the neighborhood, neighbor moms who stop by for salt, but stay for hours chatting... it has been an experience! In May and June we will be hosting different short term groups from the state in our house. Who would of thought we would move to Mexico, and host others!

The church here meets in a house space, about the size of my dining room growing up. It is the second church plant actually. The first is in a neighboring town. Majority of our community activities meet here as well... you should see it when there are 10 full grown women doing aerobics in there! On Sundays it is overflowing out into the concrete and people listen through the windows. Its beautiful. But cramped, on our little plastic stools.

There are so many needs. Food for the youth nights, rent for a larger church space, paint for our mural (its about 6x3 meters large!), ballet shoes for the little girls... the list goes on. Our little is so much here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Time

We find ourselves starting to prepare for normalcy. We still have 2 months but real, relevant questions are starting to rear their heads. house vs. apartment, updating linked in, job searching, bought our plane tickets even...

Time is fleeting. I am sure I still do not understand that like mothers who have lost their children or those who are given a window of time to live, but what I understand of it, sometimes it is overwhelming.

Everything in its season...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Joy

I would sacrifice to you. I would pour sweet aroma over fire in hopes that you could smell my sorrowful repentance and soothe your anger. I would lay prostrate before the priest, I would go without food, in hopes that you would spare my soul.

But I do not. Because the sacrifice is complete. The Lord has appeased himself with the scent of his own sweat, the shedding of his own blood. I will not hang him again.

My sacrifices now are from joy, not from sorrow. They are from redemption, not from guilt. I am free from the condemnation of my iniquities, and I have power over iniquity itself. No longer am I heavy with my sin. I can watch it from a distance , and I can kill it with one swing of my sword. I can hate it, but still love myself. I no longer am that person.

Let us talk about that old self like at the dinner table, discussing an old friend turned foul. Let us exchange head shakes and unashamed gossip about the things we once were, but are no more. And let us clank our bottles together in cheer of True life, True love and True hope.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The transcending gospel

I have been writing local articles from a distance for Examiner.com, keeping a pulse on Minneapolis through news outlets and friends in the community. At first, I thought it something of a conundrum, almost cheating, to sort through my global spiritual experiences and attempt to connect them relevantly to our home, from a hostel in Panama, a classroom in Costa Rica or most recently, the streets of Mexico.

It has been everything but difficult. Dare I say, easy?


I shipped my Kindle home prematurely and have been at the reading mercy of Rod’s book shelf. My most recent pick-up, a textbook by Timothy C. Tennent entitled, Theology in the context of World Christianity, has helped me make sense of why this may be. Yes, a textbook. Tennent discusses (among many other things) the transcendent power of the gospel. He provides extensive historical trends in the church to reveal the continual shifts in geographical locations of church growth and spiritual awakenings.


It seems so simple, right? Of course the gospel is transcendent, of course it penetrates all people groups and cultures, of course it is relevant despite if you dry your clothes in a machine, or hang them on a line. Of course?


I had never realized just how much I took for granted the beauty of this truth, until now. It hits you differently, when you are worshiping across the world and you realize, though the chords are different, that somehow “these people” have discovered the same truths I did, when I was by myself in my college dorm room.


They sing of the weight of sin, but have never heard John Piper preach. They sing of his redeeming, overwhelming grace, but have never read Francis Chan. They boldly proclaim Jesus as the “way, the truth, and the light” but have never heard of Campus Crusade for Christ and gone through evangelism training.

If people in Nicaragua, Cuba, Panama and Mexico get it –powerfully- that we live the gospel, that we stand on its promises with out waiver, that we live now only for an eye’s twinkle and we do it at breath taking (I mean breath taking) selflessness, what does that say about us?


What does it say about our declining belief in the authority of the scriptures and the growing liberality toward sin in our country? We have shelves of books, we are the Western hub for systematic theology and para church mission organizations, we produce more worship songs in a year than most any other country and yet, we are steadily converting Christians that doubt the authority of scripture, see truth as progressive, never share their faith, barely tithe, and are struggling to justify church membership.


What are we? Who are we? Whose are we?


The movement of the Holy Spirit, is real, biblical, felt and bold, no matter where He is. He transcends all ways of life and he teaches. When we remove the personal, insistent seeking of His power in our lives I believe, we are left with the state in which I described above. With waivering and differing core truths, with empty prayer lives, doubtful hearts and far and in between home cooked dinners with our neighbors.


My travels have reinvigorated my heart for the U.S., and for Minneapolis. For once, I do not see North Americans as the gospel tellers, but instead, the gospel needy. Timothy C. Tennent, author of “Theology in the context of World Christianity” says this after research and reflection on the declining state of Western Christianity and the flourishing growth of spiritual revival in places like India, China and Western Africa, “It is thrilling to see those who once were the object of our missionary endeavors now bringing the gospel back to us and reminding us of that which we have largely forgotten.”


The actual article entitled "The transcending gospel" can be found: Here



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Graffiti y Jesus

Samuel (on the left) and I, have been sketching furiously putting together concepts for a mural here in the community. He is extremely talented, it has been a pleasure and education working with him, even just for concepts. We have chosen a spot. The "Reloj" or the shadow clock, which is also a water tower. It lives in the center of town, faces the community center area of the church and the basketball courts where the youth come.

We have been playing with elements, but the main idea is water (to play off the tower) "La vida de agua" or the water of life eternal that Jesus speaks of in the bible. We want to paint a picture of peace, and joy and fulfillment using natural elements of the community. We drove around yesterday (with his wife, son and Matt) taking pictures of trees, rocks, buildings, hills and have been working off meshing them all together.

We have one little problem. The city can only keep the reloj free of graffitti for about 2 days max. It is a hangout spot for the druglords, skaters, whatever... We are going to go ahead, with special prayer that the mural will be SO "Que Padre" or "cool" that the youth will leave it. We shall see... Just maybe, the Lord would allow this one side of the reloj to stay untouched by paint cans, what a testimony that would be...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Our first Fiesta


We threw our first fiesta this past Saturday night. We had made some rather large purchases on Friday and Matt can only spend so much money before his blood pressure hits dangerous levels... so we opted to serve hot dogs. Not the most sophisticated party we have ever thrown, but it was fun, and we had a decent amount of people for sending the word out the night before on facebook and word of mouth. Chips, LOTS of pop and brownies-n-icecream made up for the excess of simple hot dogs. We borrowed a table, chairs and large speaker from the church down the road... We overflowed through our parking area into the street. Nothing like "Jesus Adrian Romero," "Marcela Gandara" and other Christian contemporary latin artists for party music on a Saturday night. Probably rose a few eyebrows from the neighbors. But, then again, that is the point right? To live, and in the abundance of our joy and convictions we tease those around us to join in.. "taste and see..."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Our Mexican Mansion: Before and After

We live in a three room house, which will become home to a 2 year stint missionary after we leave. So, we figured we would give her some lovin. Here are a few "before-n-afters"...

BEFORE: Living room was all blue, with several holes and chipped paint. Kitchen had some serious grease layers going on.



AFTER: With the help of friends, the walls were washed, edges taped and freshly painted.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The first weekend in Ixtapaluca

The last 3 days have been a sweet whirlwind. This morning was my first opportunity to sit with a cup of coffee and soak it all in, in a rocking chair on our front stoop.

We lived in Costa Rica almost 5 months and barely had a conversation with a neighbor. It is an understatement to say our time here, in even just 3 days, has been a night and day experience. I didnt even start to unpack until last night. We arrived into Mexico City Thursday night around 10:30. Almost didn't make the connecting flight..had a customs back-up and we literally sprinted with our carry-ons to the gate. We were picked up by Rod, his 10 year old son Daniel and David Gomez, another missionary guy here.

We were in the astro van by 11:15 and looking for a taco stand by 11:45. Time is a very loose concept here. We were up by 8:15 the next morning for 8:30 prayer ... got there a little late, but in just enough time to receive prayer cards with facts about other countries. I prayed for China and Matt prayed for Somalia. A jumbalaya of English, Spanish and very simple sentence structures. I'm over sweating prayers though... God understands and the effort alone has to be edifying to the hearers. We were teaching English to a group of 12, by 10:30 (with an age range of 6-45). We taught in a cube sized room with a pull up door, pre made hand outs and white board. By noon, we were in a cumbi (van sized taxis that have routes through the smaller towns to larger landmarks) with Daniel as our guide, on our way to the Soriana to pick up groceries and things for the house, a cellphone with minutes...

We got back around 4, unloaded the shopping bags and were off to basketball with the community kids a few blocks away by 5:30. Matt helped a few of the men in the church with facilitating 2 hours of basketball, while I sat with Claudia and Noe, a couple whose kids were playing. We talked for majority of the time, until the sun went down.

The church anniversary was this Sunday so Saturday was a busy time. I had a handful of women in my kitchen most of the day cooking about 30lbs of meat and another 5 lbs of chile salsa for marinating. (Rosa, Iris, Chi...) I cannot even begin to paint the transpiration between women, cooking for 5 hours around a table...while the meat cooked, we house hopped, had coffee, went to the corner store for snacks, talked about marriage and the gospel (my how those two things go hand in hand). At some point, I think around 10 that evening, I choreographed a praise dance for the service the next morning.

The service is at 10. However, there were some sound and tent difficulties so, I think we probably started around 11 or something. No one cared, and when I think about it, I don't even remember feeling antsy. 45 minutes of band worship, 30 minutes of prayer, scripture readings and testimonial time. 4o minute sermon and 20 mins. of special music and dance toward the end. We brought in tables and chairs under the tent and everyone ate and listened to more worship until the cool of the early evening set in. Makes church back home feel like a 30 sec. advertising spot.

My host family from 4 summers back came to the service about midway through. The beauty is that apparently they have not been to church since the Sunday I left them in 2007. Good to see them back. Matt and I spent the rest of the evening with them. Our spot for coffee, their spot for catch-up and Quincenera videos (mi hermanitas son grande ahora!) then we went to the mall and bought icecream and all 6 of us shared a foot long subway sandwich. I don't know when we got home, but literally 5 minutes later we were in Rod's car for tacos.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mexico


Costa Rica has come to a close. It would be dishonest to say time has flown, there were moments time crept, but in fairness and retrospect, we lived it up. We hit Panama, Cuba, Nicaragua for weeks at a time. We traveled to the Pacific and Caribbean sides of Costa Rica and more importantly, we felt the faithfulness of God with us in our provision, our relationships and in our marriage.

I was reminded the vast body of believers and our one spirit, the sad realities of capitalism and the inevitable class system that results, the importance of family and community above money and status. I had a chance to reflect on 3 years of work, reevaluate my gifts and talents and (re)pursue journalism. Among many others... my Spanish has improved as well.

We leave for Ixtapaluca, Mexico this Thursday. We will arrive in around 10:30 pm. Rod Fry will pick us up. Looking forward to seeing him and the family and the community from when I did short term missions there 3 years ago. Were packing, trying to cook the last bits of ingredients in the cupboards, meeting up with friends and saying goodbyes...Our church prayed over us this past Sunday and we have had dinner almost every night with different people. It is a good, closing feeling to have.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Che Guevara and Loving well

Matt and I watched a documentary on Ernesto Che Guevara last night, called "Motorcycle Diaries." In the early 50's, Che traveled across South and Central America before his final year in medical school. He traveled mostly on foot and first hand experienced the injustice of political and social oppression toward the millions of indigenous Indians who had, at one time, built and sustained their land with dignity and care, prior to the Spanish colonization. Take Machu Picchu for example. In Costa Rica, even now, there are Indian reservations, similar to that of the U.S., who are scraping to preserve their native languages, customs and traditions, with marginalized governmental assistance, and many reserves without electricity and running water.

Che eventually moved to Cuba and is most renowned for his role in the Cuban communist revolution, but his passion and fire for indigenous justice and equally dispersed wealth set all of Latin America ablaze. He was murdered, with the help of North America's CIA in the late 60s in Bolivia.

I couldn't help but admire how well Che loved. He gave up his potential wealthy and comfortable life for the most outrageous hope: world revolution against capitalism, for the sake of justice. I am sure it is justifiable to argue his tactics, maybe even argue his political logic, but I do believe his love is inarguable. At least the love portrayed in the documentary.

He loved like Jesus, sitting with the leper, listening to the widow, giving of his monetary gains to those with less. He even had disciples-if you can call guerilla attack groups that (?). I cried countless times, not because I idolize Che, but because I idolize his love. That kind of love is Jesus love, and I too often feel like I cheapen it. I keep more than I give. I give of my time when it is convenient...

Shame on me, on us, that our standards are so low. When we went to Cuba we would often see Fidel and Che's face next to one another. I wonder if Che would be disgraced by that now, if he could see that the revolution has left Cuba in probably a worse off state. The revolution is 52 years old, and the country looks like it froze in 1959, the same cars, same buildings, same streets, poverty, dictatorship and religious oppression. We praise the spirit of Mother Theresa, but have little desire to be her. We put Che's face on our t-shirts and wear it to the mall.