Friday, July 30, 2010

Part of my Heart is in Africa Right Now!

The star is where my sister and my brother-in-law are likely just getting up "tomorrow" morning!  It is so absolutely incredible to comprehend.

Several years ago I went to spend a week watching their 3 kids while they took a trip to Jamaica for their 10th anniversary.  It was a very special time!  I remember her telling me later that they had talked, ever so briefly, about adopting some day.  (I think this was when, so if I'm wrong, I apologize!)  I remember my sis saying something about a little girl from Guatemala, but her husband said that he thought it would be a little boy from Africa!  I remember thinking that it sounded a bit far fetched, but as they weren't serious about it, it was just a "huh!" moment!

And now here they are: in Africa getting ready to meet their little boy on Sunday (Saturday night for us)!  I had no idea my brother-in-law had the gift of prophecy!  O.K., that may have only happened as a special gifting for the moment, but I'll probably think hard about any predictions he'll make from now on!

Probably like many people, my sister and I weren't exactly "kindred spirits" as we were growing up.  She was a fairly typical oldest child and I was certainly a second.  I didn't have very much in common with her, it seemed, until we got older and realized how much we truly do.  Mostly we just discovered that we like each other and our differences and have grown to appreciate what God is doing in each others' lives.  Actually, I absolutely adore my sister!  She has shown me love and forgiveness more than any one person in my life.  God has blessed me immensely by putting us together and I'm so grateful that I can come along on her spiritual shirt-tales!

I'm also so incredibly fond of my brother-in-law!  He's a definite tough guy, but I'll never forget how he waited for my sis to figure out that he was the "one!"  We all knew, of course.  I have been so impressed at how he has led in his relationship with my sister.  He takes such wonderful care of her.  He is a pretty cool dad, too!  Watching him with his little girls is so precious and it cracks me up how boys and their dads can be!  He's taught his children well.

I would do just about anything for these two people.  I wish I could do more; be there more; give more.  They are two ordinary people who have let the Extraordinary God show through them.  They are an example of what I want to be.  For the next week, these two are moving forward on bringing my nephew home, even if it won't conclude for another 6-8 weeks.  So, for now, I am praying that their trip is smooth, they will be well-rested, and they have wonderful visits with their son in his home country.  It won't be long until they can bring him home, but til then, we all have a little of our heart in Ethiopia!

Monday, July 26, 2010

THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL by Richard Stearns * Book Review

The Hole in Our Gospel: The answer that changed my life and might just change the world by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision International, U.S. explores the concept that there is something missing in our "Americanized" Gospel.  He suggests that as a whole, the American Christians have, perhaps in their zeal, left out the social revolution part of the Good News that Jesus brought.  Throughout the book, Richard brings out the statistical references that should make all who proclaim to be followers of Christ fall on our faces in shame.  Fortunately, he also shares in his own struggles to live out what he knows to be the "Whole Gospel" and in doing, encourages us all to to take a second look at what it is we profess and how we live out our faith.  Do we embrace the whole gospel that Jesus proclaimed, and if we would, how radically would it change our world?  Instead of letting others outside the church lead in social revolutions, we ought to be like Jesus and be the leaders!

This book was extremely wonderful and terrible to read.  My passions are ignited, and to that I am excited!  I am also heart-broken and horrified to not just read statistics, but to hear stories of how "we" are dropping the ball on so many of our brethren.  I never felt that Richard was trying to "guilt-trip" anyone into doing more or giving more; instead he had an encouraging style where you felt caught up in his passion and excitement to become involved.  Because his story includes so much of the World Vision organization, there is a lot of reference to them, but again, no pressure to choose them exclusively with which to invest.  I felt as though he was trying to open the eyes of those who simply do not realize the extent of what is going on in our world and to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds."  (Hebrews 10:24)

I would recommend this book to anyone who claimed to be a Christian, and even those who do not.  It is an eye-opening book to the struggles of the poor and the effects of non-action, both real and perceived.  In a culture who's greatest goals seem to be to take care of our "own," and to simply walk by, Mr. Stearns reminds us of who our neighbors really are, and what we do or don't do reveals who we are as well.

*This book was provided to me at no cost by Thomas Nelson Publishers for the purpose of reviewing.  All thoughts are solely my own and I receive no benefits for positive reviews.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Can Do It - BY MYSELF!

It seems I am a toddler at heart.

I can do it all by myself!

For the past 8 years or so, my fabulous husband has been on a mission to get me to a higher plane of self-sufficiency.  He has enabled me to see past the perceived need of tents, bulky food, trails, most cooking utensils, and much more.  I have been able to learn that I truly need very little to survive in fairly comfortable environment that I can create for myself.  

This self-sufficiency fed into my deep desires to be independent.  I have wanted independence from something or someone since I could remember.  While growing up this manifested itself in wanting independence from my family, whether in name or actual physical location!  As I grew, my goals were very centered on creating an independent persona for myself - all by myself.  I was going to be someone people would admire, wonder, wish they were, etc.  I was going to do this all alone.  All through school, even through college, I detested group projects.  I felt as though they were a socialistic standard that only served to bring me down to average, which I truly aspired to be above.  I thrived when I finally got to do my relatively independent study for my Horticulture degree.  It fit me perfectly!  I got all the credit!

Even now, I feel tremendous satisfaction in completing a project or tackling a problem successfully on my own.  Just tonight, I was changing the water filter in our crawl space (more like a stoop-space), and as I was opening the water line back up, water began to pour out the pressure relief button.  This was no exaggeration.  It was pouring out.  (Did I mention we are supposed to have a showing this weekend?  No?  Well, yes, this added to my panic!)  As I shut off the water and pushed my panic into a box in my proverbial emotional shelf, I realized that the button was likely gunked up (yes, I made up that word) by some sediment.  Fortunately, I had just sprayed a thrip-covered petunia with a soap/water mix that I thought may help along with some Q-tips.  I went ahead and texted my man just in case he had any other thoughts!  In the end, I was able to clean out the valve and stop the leak, averting the crisis.  I was quite proud of myself!

Then I remembered that we aren't supposed to do anything by ourselves.

Jesus Himself said:
"'I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can only do what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.'"  John 5:19
"'For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.'" John 6:38
"'My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me."' John 7:16
"'I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me.  And the one who sent me is with me - he has not deserted me.  For I always do what pleases him.'" John 8:28b-29
"'At my Father's direction I have done many good works.'" John 10:32a
"'I don't speak on my own authority.  The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.  And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.'" John 12:49-50

Now, I don't want to take this all out of context and say that I cannot do anything, ever, on my own.  I do believe that God gives us challenges that only we must go through, but am I by myself?  No.  I'm not.  I have to admit that when I was putting the filter back on that last time, I was praying that God would seal it and keep it from leaking.  Not only does He help in moments like these, but He uses these situations to bring us into a deeper reliance on Him.

Sometimes, He desires us to draw upon our community for support.  Earlier today I had a dentist appointment.  That may not sound that big to some of you, but I have had less than stellar dentist appointments in my day and I have a tendency to get a bit panicked.  My jaw locks up and hurts when they put the block in, I almost always have sinus drainage that collects in the back of my throat, and that doesn't help my claustrophobic tendencies which cause me to have brief panic attacks thinking I can't breathe, and gosh darn it: it hurts!

So anyway, I humbled myself and asked for my group and my mom to pray for me today.  Mom's are great for that, aren't they?!  I admit that I felt rather silly asking for prayer for something fairly trivial.  I should surely be able to get through this by myself.  I was reminded of what a privilege it was to be able to see a dentist at all, but I was still not looking forward to my fillings.  Today I felt so thankful for those prayers and support.  I prayed for me and the dentist throughout the appointment, and I felt a calm and relaxation that was foreign to me in that place before now, and I know it was due to the prayer support.  The dentist seemed to feel the need for urgency and made the appointment go quickly.  I now have a molar that no longer has the metal filling, but a composite one, along with a little extra that needed to be filled.  It was as pleasant an appointment as it could have been.  I didn't even feel the shots, though it looked as though I'd had a stroke for the next 5 hours.  I kept hoping I wasn't drooling.  I digress...

I had just had an experience where the coming together of sisters had blessed me, and yet I was still determined to find pride in doing things by myself!  My problem stems not from the ability God has given me to accomplish things like fixing a leaky pressure relief valve, but in taking the full credit.  I am so thankful that God has worked in me and used my husband to teach me how to take care of things.  Jesus, who was God's own Son, again and again reminded us that even He relied on the Father for direction and strength and then gave the glory back to Him.  It was never about Jesus' story alone.  He didn't do it all by Himself, and I don't want to either.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tom Davis's Plea for India's Girls

Update:  Praise God this specific endeavor has been fully funded.  Please feel free to support Children's HopeChest for their continuing efforts to bring these children into safety.

Red Letters

Red Letters

Living the Words of Jesus

by Tom Davis

How to make a profit selling virgins for sex

Wednesday July 21, 2010

It's apparently very simple.

First, you establish yourself as a respected community leader who heads up a women's rights group in India. This will solidify your reputation as someone who protects and defends young girls.

Next, you need to really specialize in something to keep the customers coming back for more. You need, as the marketers call it, a "unique value proposition." You decide to focus on virgin girls. Highly prized and more expensive than girls with experience.

For clientele, you cater to corrupt police officials, local authorities, and the occasional visiting VIP or dignitary. That way, you'll always remain safe from raids and prosecutions.

Last, and most importantly, you need a good supply of virgins. For that you have an arrangement with the local boarding school for girls. Potential customers browse through your photo book of potential child sex victims. Once they make their choice, you bring the girls to your brothel to be raped for profit. 

Sadly, this true story is unfolding right now in India. 

A well-respected women's leader and her husband run a trafficking and prostitution ring specializing in virgins and young girls. The description above is true in its details, documented by our partners in India.

A rescue operation is in the works, and I am raising funds through this blog to free as many girls as we can. Will you help us?

They have documented at least five minors--all girls--being held as slaves. The rescue plan involves using the local television station to expose the operation, and thereby force the police to conduct the raid.

Will you join me in supporting this rescue operation? Here are the details:

Rescue Operation: $1,250 - ($125 per girl we plan to rescue)
If we successfully rescue 10 girls, that's just $125 per child saved. This involves setting up the rescue operation, getting the investigative team in place, coordinating with the media and police, and conducting the raid itself. Even if $1,250 rescued only one girl, it would be far worth the investment.

Rescue Kits for Each Girl: $450 - ($45 per girl up to 10 girls)
These kits are the first step in restoring a girl's dignity. They contain clothing and personal hygiene supplies. The girls are taken immediately to a government after-care facility, and these kits provide each girl with needed supplies for the long journey ahead.

Professional Social Worker: $6,000 - Salary for 12 months
Once in the government after-care home, our partners will send a Christian social worker to meet with each of the girls and begin to counsel them toward long-term recovery. Until the girls are allowed to leave that facility, our partners will provide consistent biblical counseling from a licensed and educated social worker. Providing this victims' advocate is critical because in many cases girls are returned to the parents or relatives who sold them to the brothel in the first place.

Our goal is to rescue up to ten girls. Although in a similar attempt a few weeks ago, only one girl was freed from her captors. 
I will keep you posted, and encourage you to continue to pray, to spread the word, and to give as you are able.

Here are two ways you can be involved:

Join our Prayer Conference Call TodayOur prayer team, iFast58, will pray for this operation on their weekly sex trafficking prayer call. Please join them today (July 21) at 1:30pm Eastern Time.  Call 760-569-9000 ID: 968101. If you can't make the call, please commit to pray for this rescue.

Make a Gift to the India Rescue OperationClick the donate button at the top of this post to make a gift toward this rescue operation. A gift of any size will make a difference. Give even $5 to stop this horror. A $45 gift buys one girl a rescue kit. A $125 donation helps rescue one girl (if we are successful in freeing 10 children). A $500 gift pays for after-care social work for the girls. Make a gift today. All donations are processed by PayPal and received by Children's HopeChest, a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit corporation. We are members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability also. For more information about our ministry, please visit

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Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm getting a little Caulk-y!

Yes, there's something missing here.  Caulk.  I spent all day working on re-caulking our bathroom.  I thought it would be a simple thing, as I had caulked doors and windows before with relative ease.  One thing I had neglected to consider was the preparation before the application.

You might have thought, as I did, that a simple razor blade device would easily lift off the old caulk and enable you to simple peel it away.  If that is what you thought, as I did, you would be mistaken, as I was.  I have a razor scraper thing that wore my thumb down to mix of pain and numbness.  I used this until I discovered our utility knife where it had no business being: stuffed between my wireless router and DSL "box."  Regardless, I was ecstatic to relieve my thumb as I scraped and cut away the old caulk.  I'd like to give more details, but as I doubt your interest would go any longer, suffice it to say, it took a LONG time.  My husband will love all those commas!  

I then reasoned I was ready, until I looked closer at the tile and tub.  No, I needed to clean this up.  Carefully.  I realized I had some cleaner from the late '90's that, much as I tried, was not even going to come out of the bottle and thus it was trashed.  I tried the Bar Keeper's Friend cleaner hoping the abrasive would help.  It didn't do much.  I was forced to pull out that razor thing that killed my thumb and scrape away the remaining slivers of caulk.  Then I pulled out my hair dryer from the closet (no I don't dry my hair - dryers are terrible for your hair!) and proceeded to make sure the surfaces and inside the cracks were dry.  THEN, I pulled out the vacuum.  I had to suck out all those tiny bits of caulk that I had cut loose only to jam into the cracks beyond where I could poke with the utility knife.  Preparation before the application.  All of this is important, as you know what a job looks like if you don't do the proper prep; terrible and it usually doesn't last long.

Writing this seems like it shouldn't have taken all day, but it seems I am easily distracted and did take moments to walk my dogs, run to the store for good caulk, eat, check my email; stuff like that.  

Finally I had prepared for the filling of the gaps!  And there were some gaps!

As I was prepping most of the day, it dawned on me that God works with us in a very like manner.  We are so excited to be a part of a great work that will look so wonderful, or even a simple thing, but before we begin, He has a lot of prep work to do on us.  We often have to release our hold on the surfaces that cover our flaws and open ourselves to being cleaned out by the Spirit.  It can be amazing and a bit scary to see what we've hidden and allowed to grow under the surface.  Only when it's open and laid bare can God cleanse us and then fill us with His purpose.  What may seem like a simple step of faith may require some serious prep work before He even allows us the opportunity.  Some preparations before the applications can take more time than others.

I'm reminding myself of this as we wait for our house to sell.

Of course, now with that bright white caulk, it looks like I need to keep working on that grout!  
Seriously.  Tile must have been invented by people who have others to clean it for them.  Or they didn't have hard water!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sour Grapes

Yesterday I went to the grocery store for just a few items.  It amazes me how that can multiply once you see what's on sale or what your hungry belly decides it will implode without.  I was instantly in a bad mood upon entering the store due to the insane amount of tourists/dipnetters in town that were clogging "my" store.  I tried to quickly gather the items on my list plus one (I only allow myself one item off my list, so I consider carefully!), and get to the long check out lines.

I was in the produce section when I was stopped in my tracks.  There she was: a woman in her late 50's or early 60's (old enough to know better) and not looking as though she was starving was helping herself to the apparent buffet of grapes.  I was horrified.  I blatantly stared and hoped she'd catch my eye and my expression of "Are you seriously eating those grapes of which you have not paid?".  I even thought in correct grammar!  Anyway, she never looked up at me and kept her focus on her sampling of the grapes.  She was talking to herself and muttering that she thought they tasted good!  Perhaps she would go ahead and actually pay for some.  I finally had to leave lest my rising anger would spill over and I would start pointing at her and yell "THIEF!  SHE'S STEALING GRAPES!  GET HER!"

Seriously.  I really wanted to start yelling.  I could not believe the brazenness of this woman to literally steal food in front of so many.  Apparently, I was not the only one who lacks the self-control to confront someone of their error in a positive manner as she wasn't stopped by anyone else.

As I drove home, I replayed that scene in a million different ways with my favorite being the time I posed as a police officer who was off duty.  That was fun!  Probably not what Jesus would have done, however.  I'd love to know what He would have done.  Hmmm.  He may have had some insights that I didn't.  Still, I was really angry about this woman's blatant disregard for what was right.  I couldn't shake it.  Didn't she realize how unsanitary it was, regardless of the whole fact that she was eating for free?  I couldn't sleep last night for the replay going on in my mind.

I finally asked myself why on earth was something so trivial bothering me so deeply?  I don't really know.

Then I wondered why the other injustices that go on in front of me, so much more with modern media, go without such a reaction.  Shouldn't the fact that little girls in the tent cities of Haiti are being raped every day make me more angry?  Shouldn't the fact that over 26,500 children will die just today from preventable diseases stemming from bad water, no food, or a mosquito bite make me sick to my stomach?  Why doesn't the knowledge that just now a 15 year old girl got kicked out of a Russian orphanage with little more than what was on her back and no hope of help from anyone but a member of a sex slave organization make me want to yell and scream?

Actually it does.  Sometimes.

One thing I just can't do anymore is to get emotionally upset at the injustices and then walk away.  Perhaps that was the best thing for me to do at the grocery store under the circumstances, though maybe I should have mentioned it to a manager, but I cannot walk away and just think about how wrong things can be.  I must do something.  It can be overwhelming to see statistics about what is happening in our world.  I've chosen to forget the statistics and focus on one.  There is one that can be helped by something I can do.  Just think if we all focused on just one.  Or two.  At least one at a time.  God doesn't expect us to do more than what He equips us to do.  If He equips us, we must obey and not walk away mumbling to ourselves how terrible "it" is.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Clothes for a Cause

Seriously, aren't these T's just great?  If you'd like one, and really who wouldn't, please go to my sister's blog and order!  A great T with proceeds to help an orphan-no-longer come home!  The proceeds will also help my sister's friend (her blog is here) with their adoption of siblings from Ethiopia.  Clothes for a cause.  No better coverings, I think.

Kids shirts $20, Adults $25

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pablo's Inspiration

A while back, we discovered that some friends of ours who are adopting, have a son who was doing something special.  He was 4 years old when he decided that he wanted to do something to help bring his brother/sister home.  He decided to make cards with his own fabulous style!  He named it Pablo Candy-Finger's Cards!  We were hooked.
We simply could not resist the very sweet drawings of a boy who was using his talents for Kingdom purposes.  He is now 5 and has some really diverse offerings.  I'd have shown more, but I already sent some!   We were still partial to the aliens.  Don't they just make you want to smile?!

His desire to act and do whatever he could to help has inspired us.  Pat is especially drawn to him, being an artist himself, and couldn't resist using his metal art to encourage young Pablo!  After receiving our order of Pablo Candy-Finger's Cards, Pat chose one of his favorites and went out to the shop.

Seriously - Isn't that alien just the cutest guy?!  (the one in the middle in case you couldn't tell!))
We love the inspiration that Pablo Candy-Fingers has given us to do whatever God has enabled us to do for His glory.  If a 4 year old can help orphans, so can you.  If you would like to see more of Pablo's work, check out his mom's blog.  I would encourage you to support Pablo Candy-Fingers as long as he is working and help them bring home the next member(s) of their family!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Simple Joys

Anyone who knows me knows that I find a huge amount of joy in flowers.  Not as much in the cut variety as the ones who slowly emerge and surprise you with the burst of color that only they give with patience and slight care.  Most people likely have these moments of excitement in March or April when their flowers are popping up.  I must wait until June to see the blooms and flush of colors.  This is when I begin my daily vigil of walking around my gardens to check on my "babies."
Every day I check on the flowers to monitor their growth, delight in their beauty, and praise their Maker.  I love how little I am involved in the perfection of my plants.  Each one is extremely different and wonderful.  I find such peace and joy in the flowers (planted and wild) that I don't wonder that God first put Adam and Eve in a Garden!
I have been struggling at times lately resting my spirit.  Everyday I see money exchanged for things that are fleeting when they could be used for much more.  I see myself doing it, and I don't know how to quell my uneasiness.  I still buy flowers or doughnuts or other things that are for a quick dose of temporary happiness.  I know there is a balance and I try not to feel too guilty, but there is clearly an awareness that is going on.  I have begun to equate the cost of these things with the loss of meals for a child or the lack of a day of school.  Spending one day at the hair salon for a cut, hi-lite, & brow wax could send a child to school with a uniform and provide them with 3 meals a day for 6 months.  This is why I haven't gone since November.

My regrowth is horrendous, but fortunately, I don't see it much!  I don't have new clothes, and mine are beginning to get a bit ratty and stained.  But I am clothed.  I don't have the cutest styles of flats/boots/sandals, but I have shoes.  I've had some moments of wanting newer coverings for myself, but then I remember that I have what I NEED.  More than I need, actually.
Spending a little time each day in view of what He created rests my soul.  I remember that I am on a journey that is not finished.  I remember the changes that we have made to more fully participate in His Kingdom and it excites me to keep changing.

I wonder if my Maker takes His moments to walk around, check His "babies," and watch each day how I grow.  I want to delight Him even more than His flowers delight me.