Saturday, July 30, 2011

If God Is Really God, Then Live For Him Like He Is Really God

I started reading Craig Groeschel's book The Christian Atheist the other day. It's been on my reading wish list for a while now and thanks to an amazing Kindle ebook special, I got that book and Weird for $2.99 each. I can always tell a book is right on time for me if its a struggle for me to get through it due to a little bit of conviction and down right honesty with myself. The Christian Atheist is messing me up for real. Best $2.99 I've spent in a long time.

I believe in God. I do the church thing. I serve. I mentor women. I lead a small group. I do missions trips. I pray for coworkers who threaten to kill themselves. I fast. I spend hours in the Furnace in prayer. I lead outreaches in the community. I blog about all the amazing things I have experienced and have been delivered from thanks to God's saving grace. I don't have sex. I feed the homeless. I stand up for victims of human trafficking. I worship with the best of them. I teach my kids to love God. I teach Aiden to pray for Jesus to heal his eczema and asthma. I teach Gavin to be a leader worth following. I am the ideal Christian.

Despite all my works, my testimony, hearing God's voice with my own ears, I don't always trust God. I don't always believe Him or believe in Him. I trust Him in my head but sometimes trusting Him in my heart doesn't happen. I doubt what He says He will do. I doubt that if I leave my job like He has told me to, He will truly be my provider and take care of me and my boys. I doubt that He will supernaturally open doors and provide favor for me. I doubt that He hears all of my prayers. I doubt that He really wants me to write books. I doubt that He will make a way for me to have a ministry that allows me to be aid in "setting the captives free."

I am a Christian Atheist. Commence throwing stones.

Even in my moments of doubt and skepticism, I still know that God is not threatened by my unbelief. He is still God even when I am shaky. He is still God even when I don't feel courageous. He is still God when I am riddled with fear. He is still God even when I don't trust Him. He is still God because even in all my chaos, He still speaks to me. He still chases after me. He still gives nudges me to remind me that He has more blessings than I can even imagine waiting for me to receive. He is still God because He is never changing.

"If God is really God, then live like He is really God." That was the challenge that Pastor Johnson gave. Even in my Christian atheism, I know that God is really God. It's time I start living like He is really God. Time to search my life and expose areas where I have compromised, where I have grown lukewarm, where I have doubt & fear. Time to live like God is really God everyday, not just in a time of crisis.

If God is really God, then live like He is really God. Period.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Wedding Disater

So last night I had a rather detailed dream about me preparing for my wedding. You would think that because its my wedding day, I would be dreaming about all the excitement, the love, etc. Yeah, not me. My dreams about weddings tend to be nothing short of a disaster. Since this was a dream that I could clearly remember and feel, I am going to assume this was a God dream. So here goes.

When the dream started, I was getting myself dressed and I was alone. I was about to just put on my wedding dress like I was putting on any old sun dress when I realized I should probably put on some of those fancy wedding gown lingerie type things. There was no sense of care and delicacy with me getting dressed. So I'm standing in front of a full length mirror (I have significantly lost weight!) attempting to put on this corset type bustier but for some reason, it just was not working out right. I didn't have any help and I was in this dark, drab, creepy looking room. Everything around me was very dark and the only light I had was the little bit of light that was shining on me as I stared at my reflection in the mirror. It almost looked like I was getting dressed in a dungeon or something.

So I get my dress on and this dress just was not pretty. It was a two piece dress and was very ill fitting and wrinkled and plain. There is no happiness, no excitement. Just a sense of "let's get this over with." So I start searching for my white shoes to wear with my dress but I cannot find them anywhere. I go into what I guess was my closet to find the shoe box with the white heels. It was pitch dark and I only had a flashlight to light my way. I get on my hands and knees in my white wedding dress and crawl on the floor looking for the shoes. I see different shoe boxes exactly like the ones in my closet now, but the white shoes for my dress were no where to be found. I become absolutely frantic and hysterical over shoes. I ended up just putting on a pair of flat silver sandals that looked like this:

Surprised I even found the shoes I was wearing. Crazy. And you see why I was not happy because I don't even like those shoes. I remember trying to hide my feet under the dress so no one could tell I was wearing those shoes.

The next scene is me walking out of the house with my dress on. I am walking on the side of the white house in the grass and a woman walks passed me. She stops and frowns up at my hair (which I did not do when I was getting dressed). She attempts to arrange my hair and puts in a hair piece. I don't see what type of hair piece it was but I could feel the clasp and tugging as she arranged it. I get into the car with my friend Diana who is going to take me to the church. The wedding is supposed to start at 5PM and I believe it was about 4PM then.

Diana has to make a stop before heading to the church and I am hesitant about it because we are already running late. We park at what I now realize is Lillian Webb Park in Norcross not to far from my home. There is parking surrounding the park with a church and a community center across the street. Diana goes to one of the buildings across the street and I take a walk along the sidewalk around the park. I start to get this feeling of absolute dread because I am about to marry someone I do not love. I never know who my intended groom is but I just know who ever it is is not someone I want to be with for the rest of my life. I start saying out loud that I do not want to get married and I do not love this man. I start to wonder how I got myself into this predicament and how I was going to go through with a wedding I don't even want. I start to feel completely overwhelmed with dread and regret. I am looking down at my wedding dress which is dirty from me crawling around on the floor and walking in the grass. I start to twist at my skit (2 piece dress) because it was such a bad fitting dress and get even more frustrated. I get to the cross walk and cross the street. I pass by a window and see my reflection and it is horrible. The hair piece is just this huge ball shaped mass of curls sitting on top of my head and my dress is dirty. I am not happy.

I look away from the window and glance across the street towards the park and I see my a guy friend of mine. He is wearing jeans and a blue polo shirt and is heading towards the same building (the community center) that I am. The next scene is my friend and I standing in the lobby. He is sitting in a chair and I am standing across from him along a wall. I look down and I see wood floors. I find out the time is now well past 6PM (either 6:24 or 6:42 PM) so I am officially late for my wedding. I get frantic wondering where Diana has disappeared to since she was my ride. My friend, in his typical joking manner asks "Why are you so upset? Got somewhere to be?" I shoot him an "Are you kidding?" look as if he can't see that I am in a wedding dress. He apologizes nervously then for some strange reason starts to fling semi-melted Sour Patch Kids candy at my dress. Since the candy is melted it sticks to my top and smears leaving red and green globs everywhere.

I get upset and scold him and realize I am just about to have a nervous breakdown because everything bad that could happen on your wedding day is happening, cold feet and all. I then start to realize I don't have any make up on nor do I have any jewelry on. I start to get frantic again because I realize I don't have something old, something borrow, or something blue. When I think about something new, I get a vision of a silver or platinum necklace with a diamond heart shaped pendant. I feel my mood brighten for that brief moment and I see myself standing in this bright white light with a beautiful, spotless white wedding dress on. The vision of the necklace and me in the beautiful white dress only lasts for a second and I am back in the lobby with my friend in my dirty dress.

I get so overcome with sadness, fear, and regret that I just start crying. My guy friend rushes over and hugs me because he is the only person around. He comforts me and reassures me that everything will be okay. I hear him saying "Shh. Don't cry. It's all going to be okay." I continue crying uncontrollably and he never lets me go. I never see Diana again in the dream and it just ends with my friend and I hugging.

The alarm wakes me up out of my sleep and its over.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Think Before You Leap

I was listening to one of the local popular morning radio shows this morning on the way to work. I usually have a CD playing or riding in silence (my only bit of quiet time in my hectic days) so it must have been a fluke that I was listening.

Anyway, the show brought a listener into the studio to get some feedback on her current marital situation. I didn't catch the begining but was able to figure out what this poor newlywed bride Joanne was going through with her husband Jason. Her husband is currently in New York training and interviewing for jobs in the investment banking field. Joanne is still in Atlanta alone. Due to the high demands of his training, he often goes days without talking with Joanne. This is their first year of marriage so to be separated and lacking communication is adding stress to their situation.

To make matters worse, once he secures a job, they will be moving to New York for about 3-5 years where they have no friends or family. Jason is former military and Joanne admitted that her fear of having to be separated from him due to deployment prompted him to leave that career behind, go back to school for finance and enter a more lucrative career in investment banking. Joanne also admitted that as loving and wonderful as her husband is, he does have a pattern of putting military, school, and now investment banking first above her feelings. What stuck out to me the most was when she tearful said that she finally realized she married her father. Her father worked so much that he missed her growing up and that's never what she wanted in a husband.


I love the institution of marriage and all that it stands for in the eyes of God. It saddens me when people get married and on the other side of "I Do" they realize they are on different pages about a lot of things. Some of the best marriage advice I have ever gotten was from a married friend of mine that said being married doesn't fix your problems, it only amplifies them. Joanne is realizing that she got married knowing that her husband puts career first. She was silent in making her need to know that she is the main priority out of fear of sounding insecure and ungrateful. To Jason, getting a great job as an investment banker would allow his wife to never have to work again while Joanne would rather both make less money and still have her husband home for dinner every night. She has insecurities that stem from her workaholic father that she never dealt with as an adult. In turn, her husband is now suffering for damage done years ago.

This all reminds me of why Pastor Johnson stresses the importance of courting with a purpose. Both people need to be on the same path, heading in the same direction. If she wants to be a missionary in China while he wants to be a teacher in Montana, clearly there are going to have to be some compromises made or it won't work. Joanne wants her husband present and accounted for while his main focus is providing for his family despite the sacrifices. I understand that life happens, circumstances change, and the vision may need to be tweaked at some point. Yet, somethings should be dealt with (insecurities, past hurts, priorities) should be addressed before the vows are exchanged. Marriage is tough enough as it is.

It's easier to just think about what you are getting yourself into before you leap into something that you didn't plan for. Woman make the mistake of hoping marriage makes to red flags we tried to ignore while dating, go away for good. It doesn't. I have seen too many of my married friends bring baggage to the feet of their new wives or husbands expecting them to clean up the mess someone else made. God gives us wisdom and discernment for a reason. He speaks to us even when we are too stubborn to listen to Him warn of us of pending danger. He allows us to make mistakes that He would have rather we didn't, all for the sake of us leaning on Him to pull us out of our own pit of dispair.

Think before you leap. Marriage is a lasting covenant. Don't bring extra baggage along for the ride.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

I had an interesting conversation with a guy friend today about relationships, dating and courtship. This is what I like to call typical boy meets girl stuff. Having a Christian relationship can be kinda tricky if all you know is regular dating, sex, break up, date again. I have sat through many relationship series, bought the books, bounced questions off of friends, etc. Yet at the end of the day, all we have are guidelines to follow. No sure fire formula so for many, some things are left up to interpretation.

My latest boy meets girl scenario came as an interesting revelation over the weekend. It finally dawned on me that a friend that I have known for a couple of years is interested in me in a more than a friend way. I had a hunch but suppressed the girl in me who wanted to analyze every gesture as a sign of pending marriage. After a few days of pondering this revelation, I finally asked my admirer what he thought of me.

My hunch was pretty much confirmed minus the fanfare and theatrics. I explained the turn of events to my guy friend over the phone and in typical guy fashion, he asked what I was going to do next. My response was immediate and natural.


For a woman who desires to be married and to find out that this guy is digging me, I am pretty sure my friend thought I had lost my mind. But to me, doing nothing made sense. I realized that had I not asked the first question, my admirer would probably not have ever shed light on the fact that he saw me as more than a friend. But I had to ask the question. I had to take it upon myself to get clarity. Even after it has all been said and done, it would still be up to me to figure out what happens next. I would have to take the lead.

But that is not what God intended. Proverbs 18:22 says that "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." Can't get any clearer than that. God intended for a man to find a good thing, not a woman find a good thing. Men are designed by God to be leaders, to pursue their future wives. That was a revelation tonight. God randomly reminded me that I am to be pursued and I am worthy of a man's efforts of pursuit. Me doing absolutely nothing meant that I know I am worthy of being chased, wooed, and won over.

Don't take my desire to do nothing as me just waiting idly by until a man falls from Heaven. Far from that. But it is my belief that women should not spend their time chasing guys. Often times women put themselves on display, make themselves available to catch the gaze of a man, being the initiator of conversations, invitations to hang out, whatever the case maybe. Sure in this day and age, it's common place for women to do these things but I know God has placed the call of leadership on the man's shoulder. If I am going to submit and respect my future husband as the spiritual leader and covering of my household, I would assume him mustering up the courage to ask me out, express his interest and try to win me over would be common sense.

The idea of being pursued reminded me of the story my friend and fellow Peru missionary Chae told me about how she and her boyfriend Brendan started courting. They went through the whole getting to know you phase, hanging out in groups, seeing how they interact with friends, then graduating onto more one on one conversations, asking more detailed questions, revealing bits and pieces of themselves. After months and months of taking things slow and getting to know each other, they agreed to court each other. The whole time, Brendan pursued her. He stepped up and initiated conversations and planned outings. He expressed his desire to be with her without even really knowing if she felt the same way. He pursued her. However, shortly afterwards Chae was apprehensive about whether or not this courtship would even last let alone evolve into marriage. God revealed to her that He sent her Brendan so that God Himself could pursue her through Brendan. God wanted to express His love and devotion to her through the love and devotion Brendon would shower on her during his pursuit of her.

Only God can write love stories like that.

Just a few moments ago, I messaged my guy friend and explained the revelation I had. My position as a woman is to be pursued. Period. A man should know his position as the leader, step out on faith and pursue a woman wholeheartedly just like God pursues us daily. I think he got my point. This whole Christian dating thing is not for the weak and timid. Takes courage and faith to step up and follow God's lead. But it is so worth it in the end.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rest In Peace Monte

Death is inevitable. We are only here on Earth for what seems like mere moments. Our job is to make the most out of those moments and leave behind a rich legacy of good works. Some people accomplish this, but many don't. Where I am from, if you are lucky to get out of the city, you are doing better than most.

I read on Facebook this morning that someone from my hometown was killed. The name Monte was all I knew. Reading the statuses and comments, my heart sped up a bit because I was hoping that it wasn't the Monte that I was thinking of. Growing up in the projects in Columbus, MS, I had the luxury and pleasure of growing up around some of the most down to earth dudes around. Cats in the hood get a bad reputation because many are involved in illegal dealings or what not. But in my eyes, they were friends. Monte, Anthony Hodges, Big Chris, Dominico, Head Poppa, Robert, Marquee, Jermaine, Thad. These were dudes that always looked out for me and my female friends in the neighborhood. They were never disrespectful and never let anyone else disrespect us either. I remember some of my best memories growing up involved my front porch and everyone from the neighborhood and the streets nearby just hanging out, laughing, enjoying life, and making the best out of our circumstances.

I checked the local news website about 20 times before they finally printed the name of the 32 year old victim that was gunned down in front of his home early this morning. It was Edmund of the coolest cats I knew growing up. My old friend. My heart hurt. My hometown has a history of violence but only a few deaths hurt me to my core. The death of Monique Ledbetter at her own party was one. She was shot by a stray bullet from a drive by just weeks after giving birth to her baby. The death of Monte is another. These are two people whose faces I can still see walking down the halls of Columbus High School. Faces I still see in the grocery store, at Skate Zone, riding past my grandmother's house on 20th street or just walking to the corner store. These were people I knew personally. Shared life with at one point. Monte was a good dude with a big heart. Had some run ins with the law but I couldn't think of a better dude to watch out for me when my brothers weren't around.

I hate that he is gone. Most of my FB friends from back home are really feeling the sting of his death, considering this is the second murder in two weeks. My heart hurts for Columbus, MS. Kinda glad I am going home this weekend to get my boys just so I can take a look at the city that holds so many memories for me. I was one of the lucky ones. I got out and never looked back. So many people I know are trapped there. Trapped in unemployment, lack of education, crime, violence, racism, hopelessness. My family is still there. My heart breaks for my brother who is still there and my cousins who are buying into the hood antics and mentality. There is a world outside of Northside.

RIP Monte. My dude. Thanks for holding Northside down.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Missing Peru

This was 2 of the school girls that walked with us from the school we performed one of our dramas at in Cieneguilla. They belong to the after school tutoring/nutrition program provided by the Hearts in Action church.

This is a shot of the mountain villages in Cieneguilla right across the street from the church. Hundreds of little houses built on the government's mountain land. This area has a history of tragedy and violence. These kids have witnessed so much death and destruction around them. School and the church are their little bits of freedom.

This is the beach right across from our hostel in San Bartolo. We took this path just about everyday we were in San Bartolo visiting with the kids of Generacion. Our hostel and their house are literally feet from the ocean. The yellow house belongs to Lucy Borja, founder of Generacion.

This is Carla. She was our guide at Casa Veronika which is a rescue home for girls that leave the sex trafficking industry. At Casa Veronika, they teach sewing as a trade. The girls learn to make clothes for their children and sell shirts to help bring money into the house. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, they have not been able to complete the construction on their additional classrooms or take care of very many girls once they are off the streets.

This was one of the little girls I met at one of the schools we visited in Cieneguilla. It was so weird but all the kids treated us like rock stars. They wanted our autographs and to touch our hair and asked millions of questions about the US. Everyone girl wanted to know if we knew Justin Beiber. Go figure.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Lupe. She is such a beautiful girl, its crazy. She is a bit of a tomboy, surfer girl but has a smile and sparkle in her eye that will melt any guy's heart. She is one of the older kids at Generacion and does her best to watch out for the younger girls. In this picture, it was our last day with them so the kids took us to the rock cliffs at the beach. It's kinda like their special place but they always take our missions teams there.

This is one of only 2 pictures I captured with Sandy (in purple) smiling. The girls on my team had just presented Sandy and Rosemary (in blue) with matching necklaces and we prayed over them. She is such an affectionate girl who loves hugs. She shared part of her story about how she ended up at Generacion and instantly captured my heart. She still sends me IMs on Facebook even though I don't know Spanish. She is patient while I use the Google translator app to talk with her.

This was our last day with the Generacion kids in San Bartolo. We had spent 3 days with them laughing, dancing, singing, eating, and praying over them. They get visitors from other organizations that come through out the year but they look forward to seeing our Fusion mission team. To them, we are their American friends, not just missionaries. Even though to an outsider, it may seem like we did a lot of just hanging out, but for us, it was so much more. We bonded with these kids who are former street kids with some of the most heart breaking stories you could ever hear. You never know what lives you can touch, just being being the light of Jesus.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Arms Wide Open

On Tuesday, I got the most random thought. Out of the blue, an old friend came to mind. He is someone I hadn't talked with in a couple of years and really hadn't thought much of either. He comes to mind in passing sometimes but with all the things that vie for attention in my life, reaching out to him never became a priority. Just like the fleeting thoughts of the past, I figured this one would go away rather quickly. But it didn't. I actually found myself looking him up online to see if I could get a glimpse of what was going on in his life.

I struggled most of the afternoon with thoughts of him. Nothing bad, just this nagging "reach out to him" kinda thought. I typed up a quick "just saying hi" message on my phone but couldn't hit send. With him being married, I felt like it was a little borderline disrespectful to contact him. I didn't want to cause any issues, so I didn't send the message.

But the nagging feeling didn't go away.

I spent the rest of the day, night and most of the morning on Wednesday kicking myself for punking out on sending the simple e-mail. I finally got over myself and sent the message that afternoon figuring not much damage could be done from saying "Hi, I hope you and your family are well." Knowing that my friend is online a lot, I knew it would be a relatively short turn around time for a reply. I was right.

I wasn't prepared for the news that he shared. Him never being one to sugar coat things, he was very direct and open about what was going on in his life. Without going into details, my heart broke for him and his current circumstances. Despite our obstacles and fumbles when we were closer, he is a pretty decent guy and an amazingly devoted father. Anytime he hurt, I hurt. Even now and its been years since we last spoke.

I replied that I was truly sorry to hear what was going on. I wanted to know how he was holding up, how his kids were. But he didn't reply right away. I was at a crossroads at that point. I believe in God and he does not. Offering to pray for him would not be received well and I knew that. I knew that in the span of time it would take for him to reply, he was going to look me up on the net to see what was going on in my life. I knew that he would run across the plethora of blog posts or random musing about God I have written. I knew our e-mail exchange would be brief after that. I was prepared for that. I was okay with that.

When I got the idea to reach out and see how he was, it was never with the intention of shoving Jesus down his throat. It was never to flaunt my faith before him and to spark a debate. There were no motives, no pretense, nothing. Just a sincere desire to check in with a friend who seriously left a mark on my life. I wanted to know how school was going, how his wife and kids were, what new ventures he was undertaking. He is a brilliant man, great conversationalist, and in my eyes, the differences on God didn't matter. To me, I see him for the regular guy he is.

He finally responded this afternoon confirming what I already expected. He'd found my blog and called me more religious than when we met. He hoped that I wasn't following blindly. I knew that my heartfelt concern was being overshadowed by our difference in belief. My heart literally felt like it was going to break. Tears welled up in my eyes and I couldn't stop them from falling. I felt sad and angry all at the same time. Sad because my friend was so guarded that he couldn't see that someone truly did care about what he was going through. I was angry because I thought back to the stories about how fanatical "Christians" would attack him and his family because they didn't believe in God. It's people like that who use judgement and condemnation to spew hatred and divide people. Sometimes, I don't blame non-believers for not believing based on the image that Christians portray. The church has really dropped the ball in showing the love of God to all people, believers and non-believers alike.

Everyone has a choice to believe in whatever they want. Doesn't make me any better or less of a person and the same goes for those that don't believe. I was a sinner when I didn't believe in God and I still sin and fall short after accepting God. I am not perfect and never will be. I just know that even in my sins today, I am forgiven and get another chance to get it right. I am not who I used to be and it is truly a miracle that I am here today. I can't deny Him. I won't relent. I won't stop being nice and caring for my friend and his family from afar. I won't stop rooting for him and desiring the absolute best for him in all he does. I won't stop loving people unconditionally and seeing them for the people they are, not the titles they carry. I won't stop loving with my arms wide open.

Love God. Love People. Prove it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Right Where I Am Meant To Be

I am a firm advocate of leaving the past right where it is. In the past. Some people come into your life for a reason, a season or a life time. Many of us spend too much time trying to parlay this person who was only meant for a season into a life time.

That was me a few years ago with an ex. We were an unhealthy, codependent couple who settled and wasted many years. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about myself and life and general, so I can honestly say I don't have too many regrets about that period in my life. I walked away from the situation with my head first and my bruised and broken heart followed behind shortly thereafter.

For me, it was very easy for me to get over someone by just acting like they didn't exist. I ease memories, avoid certain places, throw away all mementos and keep it pushing. But with this last relationship, God had different plans for my healing process. He made me wallow in the hurt and pain for a while. In my head, getting over that relationship was going to kill me but God was showing me how to trust Him to be my comfort and strength. I had to be serious about this God thing if I wanted to be normal again. It wasn't easy but I did not fold and try to worm my way back into a relationship that God literally stopped time and plucked me out of.

Just the other day, God downloaded a thought into my heart. He reminded me of all that He has accomplished through me once I stepped out on faith in that supernatural encounter with Him and left the relationship for good. Here is a quick recap:

-July 2009: God stopped time and space and spoke directly to me, saving my life.
-August 2009: I visited Victory World Church for the first time.
-August 2009: I started attending Fusion and joined a small group.
-September 9, 2009: I gave my life to Christ, fully and wholeheartedly.
-November 2009: I was baptized in front of my Fusion community. This was also the month that the issue of human trafficking hit home for me in the wake of 5 year old Shaniya Davis's death. She was sold by her mother to a man for sex and her body was found on the side of the road a few days later. She resembled my 3 year old neice and both lived just miles apart.
-January 2010: I stepped into Fusion leadership.
-March-May 2010: I experienced 12 amazing weeks of Spirit filled revival at Fusion during the spring of 2010 that changed how I viewed the Holy Spirit.
-June 2010: I went on my first Sunday to Sunday in town mission trip, an experience that rocked my world and broke my heart for my city. During that week, I met a young lady that fueled my passion for the victims in the sex trade.
-July 2010: I begain blogging as a way to get back into writing and to journal my journey with God. I wrote blogs for the Sunday to Sunday website.
-October 2010: I participated in an amazing overnight outreach with Fusion, feeding and ministering to the homeless and cleaning up SafeHouse Atlanta, a staple of hope for the homeless of Atlanta.
-November 2010: I launched a donation drive to provide much needed items to WellSpring Living, a non profit restoration home for former sex trafficking victims. I delivered a van load of supplies and journals to the ladies 2 weeks before Christmas.
-February 2011: I became a small group apprentice, training to lead others and create disciples within my Fusion community. Later that month I participated in Lobby Day with StreetGrace, a partnership of local churches and community partners to lobby for legislation to protect victims of child sex trafficking and punish traffickers and johns.
-April 2011: Friends and I visited a local strip club and ministered to the beautiful, yet broken girls. I left with more hugs, tears, and prayer requests from the girls that I would have ever imagined. Also, attended the Resilent Women's conference and was introduced to the dyanmic Christine Caine, a powerhouse evangelist and advocate for suvivors in human trafficking.
-June 2011: I embarked on a 10 day mission trip to Peru to work with former street kids, trafficking survivors, and children from some of the poorest, most violent slums in the country. On Wednesday, I get to attend a panel discussion featuring Rachel Lloyd, one of my favorite advocates for victims of child sex trafficking.

This is seriously just a snapshot of the things that I have done in the past 2 years. There are too many outreaches, Fusion services, spontanteous prayers for strangers, bible studies, friendships created, leaders trained, disciples made, late night Furnace prayer sessions, supernatural encounters, missionaries supported, lives changed, to even count. Our lives are a ripple effect, touching one person, who then touches another and another. I have met so many strangers and shared the gospel with it is beyond measure. I have encouraged so many friends, strangers, and coworkers with words or just random acts of kindness, its overwhelming.

I am right where I am meant to be.

Going down memory lane is okay but I have no regrets from getting off that beaten path. None of this would have been possible had I chosen to stay in that one relationship. Being consumed with one person would have prevented me from affecting the lives of thousands with the gospel. You never know how far your reach is supposed to go when your focus is on everything but God. Thankful that He stopped time to chase me and that I had sense enough to let Him catch me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Talent v. Skill

I am sitting in a coffee shop attempting to do some research on how to get into the writing game. I detoured a bit to my blog roll and came across the latest posting from the author of Until I Get Married. I have followed him for about a year now and enjoy his writing style and creativity. The topics can be a bit off color but, to each his own. I start reading the post and was a bit saddened by the end. This is someone whose writing I enjoy but he is starting to doubt whether this whole writing thing is even worth the effort. This one passage really made me think:

"I know I have the talent to write, but to be a writer takes skills, a lot of which have absolutely nothing to do with putting words and sentences together, a lot of which I sometimes wonder if I possess. Make no mistake about it, I am not writing this because I’m questioning whether or not I’m good at writing. I know I have the talent, but do I have the skills? One is what you’re born with, the other is what you learn."

Now for me, this is really challenging to read because I am currently still riding the high of God starting to nudge me in the direction of writing. I kinda feel like the rug is being pulled from up under me and I am falling back to reality. I feel like the author of the blog right now. I know I possess a talent for writing (even if I am my own worst critic) but I also know I do not possess the skill of writing that it takes to parlay this into a career that can sustain a family.

Now is not the time for doubt to be setting in.

Luckily God has a futuristic view of my life and knows when obstacles will come. He sets up safety nets along the way to catch me and dispel my unbelief and fear. That came in the form of my Fusion leadership training classes this morning. One class was focused on God's purpose for our lives and putting that calling to action. (Same thing I discussed on Thursday at my small group). During the class, we were given a few scriptures to reference. My God anticipated safety nets were:

If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believing, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. James 1:5-8 (MSG)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. 1 John 4:17-18 MSG

I must be on the right track with God because there are already obstacles trying to jump in the way to cast doubt and fear. I think the difference between me and the author of that blog is that I know my strength, my courage, my talent, my provision, my opportunity, etc all come from my Creator. I do not lean on my own understanding. I trust and submit to God and know that He will make all my paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) I may not think I have the skill to make this writing thing a career but my Creator who operates in the supernatural thinks so.

For I Know The Plans I Have For You...

One phone call rocked my world tonight. Seriously. God is up to something for real.

Let me set the stage.

I have always loved writing. For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed writing. I remember being in elementary school writing poems and short stories. I would spend hours in the library reading Beatrix Potter books and reading about the life of Langston Hughes. Books were the most amazing creations to me. I remember being in 7th grade SPIRIT class (gifted program) and instead of participating in the super cool Odyssey of the Mind competition (which meant out of town trip and time away from school), I opted to do the alternate project: write and illustrate a book. I remember spending weeks perfecting my story and my drawings. I remember watching each page shoot out the printer and I remember binding my book together with card board for the cover and string to hold the pages together. Great memories.

Fast forward to my teenage years. At 17, I became a mother and decided to reevaluate my career choices. Instead of being an English/Journalism major, I decided to go into the science field. Better opportunity for a single mom was my rationale. I lasted 1 semester at Ole Miss as a biology major and decided to switch to English and follow my dream. I remember one of my quirky English professors and her obsession with crime and murders. I remember writing a report on the child killer Albert Fish. According to her, my paper was good enough to publish in one of her graduate school journals.

I moved to GA after my freshman year at Ole Miss, never to return again due to the reality of moving to a new state and an unstable home. I had a toddler, 2 siblings, and 3 adults depending on me to take care of the house. My dreams of writing faded with each passing day until I never thought about writing again.

Until 10 years later. It was this time last year, that I decided to start writing again just for the sheer pleasure of it. I had finished college, was in graduate school so I was used to writing for assignments. But after doing my Sunday to Sunday in town mission trip, the writing bug hit me. So I started this blog.

About 2 weeks ago, I took my small group to Daystar Church's prophetic ministry night. We all had appointments to basically have someone give us a prophetic message from God, whatever it may be. I was blown away. The people in the room spoke about things that had been weighing on my heart, they described my personality and desires to a tee. God was pleased with me and the Devil feared me. I was told that God has called me to deliver people from bondage. I was called to set the captives free...Isaiah theme chapter that God put on my heart last year.

The she said it. She told me I was going to write books which will help finance my ministry. I was speechless. How did this complete stranger know anything about my desire to write? She told me that God says I will write He truly knows the desires of my heart because lately, I have been saying I would love to have a career where I could just write for a living. No experience writing professionally what so ever but I know its something I enjoy. God was tapping on my heart strings with that prophetic message.

Then tonight happened. As I was getting ready to head out to support a friend's fundraiser, I got a text message from a friend from church named Justin. Justin and I really only speak at church but don't hang in the same social circle. He sent a message saying he wanted to "clear up a few things." I was nervous cause I had no idea what that meant. He called and started talking about the fact that he was glad that I reached out to him about my interest in writing. Justin, by the way is a published author and coaches other up and coming authors. So imagine my utter shock when he starts talking about being excited about me wanting to write. My mouth was wide open because I HAD NEVER EVER TALKED TO JUSTIN ABOUT WANTING TO WRITE!! NEVER!!! Where was this coming from?!

We continued to talk like I had actually reached out to him for advice because I couldn't dare say that I had no clue what he was talking about. My heart was racing because I knew it was all God. He was setting this all up for me. Justin was giving me great advice and pointers about how to start my writing off. In the mean time, I was trying to balance my friend's 10 month old and her diaper bag on my hip, while walking up a hill in the heat to get to my event but I was taking in everything he was saying. He invited me to come to a Christian writers conference tomorrow which I had already known about and kinda wanted to go but was hesitant. Yeah, I will totally be there.

For the next few hours, I kept trying to rationalize what had just transpired. Me, a writer. By the time, I got home to put baby Eden to bed, I was so overwhelmed with emotions. Just last night, God changed my plans for my small group lessons just minutes before we were about to start. He gave me Jeremiah 29:11 and I had my group discussing God's purpose for each of us and how we should take those first steps to start living that purpose out now. As I sit here writing this, God is telling me that I have wasted enough time and now is my first step. I am getting just a glimpse of what He has called me to do and its so overwhelming, I feel like my brain is going to melt. He knows me well enough to not give me the big picture all at once because it would probably scare the crap out of me. But He has given me this small snapshot:

Write. He will give me the words. Just write.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I sat around the TV in the break room of my job a little past my lunch hour. Everyone left their cubicles at 2:15 to be present for the verdict for Casey Anthony. I have to be honest. I did not follow this case with much interest. Cases like this tend to bring out the worst in people and separate the masses.

Not guilty of murder. Guilty of falsifying reports to the police. The guilty charges are each misdemeanors which carry a max of 1 year in prison and a fine. Casey Anthony has been in jail since 2008 so I am fairly certain she will be sentenced the max 1 year, to be served concurrently, with time served. That means, she will be heading home after her sentencing.

No justice for Caylee though.

We live in an imperfect world. I get that. We live in a world where you are tried under the watchful gaze of the media before you ever enter a courtroom. We live in a world where you are essentially guilty before you are proven innocent. Casey Anthony was already guilty in the eyes of millions before she was ever formally charged. What mother does not report her child missing for 30 days? What mother does not show any emotions or remorse through the past 3 years that this issues has been in the headlines?

Guilty until proven innocent.

The burden of proof is always on the prosecution to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the defendant is guilty. All the defense has to do is to leave an air of doubt in the room and poke a few holes in a story to get an acquittal. Simple in theory, but complex in real life. I sat and listened to all the comments my co-workers had about the verdict. I am reading all the blogs, news reports, and commentary about the shock of her walking away from a murder rap. I really don't have an opinion on Casey Anthony's guilt or innocence. It is a sad day to know that Caylee's life has been taken and there is no one to blame. Being a crappy mother isn't against the law. The prosecution failed to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that she killed her daughter.

Case closed.

For some reason, I am fairly certain we have not heard the last of Casey Anthony. She will stay in the headlines because she is a lost soul that is stumbling her way through life. She is guilty in the eyes of America and in some way, shape or form, they will punish her. She will never have a quiet life. She will forever be under the watchful eye of everyone she comes in contact with. She will never be allowed any grace to make a mistake for the rest of her life. Even though she has been found not guilty by a jury of her peers, she is doomed to wear the guilt and shame handed down by the jury of popular opinion.

No winners today. Rest in peace Caylee.