Friday, March 31, 2006

RGBP Friday . . . .

O.K. Here goes. . . .

Family sayings:

Orly (Mom's mom): "Once you turn 11, don't even think of leaving another woman in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner. She may say that it doesn't matter, but she will talk about you later to all of her friends." This has gotten me through many first dinners with old boyfriends' mothers.

Mom: "It's not what happens to you; it's how you handle it."

Grandma: "Always keep your toenails painted. No matter how bad you look, your feet can always look great."

Do you have any classic family sayings? From your family or mine?

Ninjas for the Kingdom

Dr. Phil ran a show last year called, “Am I Normal?” Thousands of people had written him to ask if a habit, behavior, or opinion of theirs was socially acceptable. Either they had never revealed this secret or people had been questioning them for years. They sought the validation of Dr. Phil to see if they passed the normal test. If I remember correctly, one guest on the show counted everything obsessively. Someone else was addicted to plastic surgery. Another woman dressed up her dog on a regular basis.

I discovered that we all develop strange habits throughout our lives. Many of them are unknown even to the closest people in our lives. Confession or scrupulous observations are the only means of learning of these hidden behaviors. Traveling alone to speak at conferences forced some of my “secret habits” to become more obvious.

When I enter a hotel room, my first priority is messing up the bed. It drives me crazy for the room to seem so sterile. Next, I unpack items packed specifically to make me feel at home. Using my own shampoo, coffee, and pillow help me feel as if the traveling is more personal.

Another regular traveler revealed his “secret habit” when entering the hotel room. He immediately opens the drawer of the nightstand in search of the Bible. His personal quest is finding a hotel that the Gideons overlooked. The Gideons win the secret battle every time!

How can a group of people make such a magnificent impact on the world without us seeing them in action?
After researching the Gideons, the facts of their organization and mission seem even more impressive. They state, “We are placing and distributing more than 1 million copies of the Word of God, at no cost, every 7 days in these areas” (hotels and motels, hospitals, nursing homes, and domestic violence shelters; schools, colleges, and universities; the military, law enforcement personnel, firefighters , and EMTs; prisons and jails).

If the Gideons are placing 52 million Bibles a year in public places, how have I never seen it? When I polled some friends over dinner, they never saw it either. In fact, I only know one person who has. I learned that this friend was a Gideon himself! The friend on a mission to find the Bible-less motel refers to the Gideons as “the ninjas of Christendom.” They are infiltrating lonely places and secretly leaving the Word of God for unknown friends to discover.
A few other friends in my life are ninjas for the Kingdom of God. One friend regularly eats dinner alone at the Waffle House so she can be there for a stranger who might need to talk. A friend from high school invites a young girl over for a slumber party on the weekends to give a single mother a night off. A few missionaries in the second and third world continue their mission because of the hidden generosity of an elderly woman in our community. That same dear woman lifts me in prayer each morning before the sun rises; I thank God that I have her on my side.

Jesus told us that these undercover people are blessed. In the Beatitudes, his first and most famous sermon, He tells that “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Because of their lives, many others see God as well.

Thank you, Gideons, whoever you are. Thank you for providing Bibles and giving them to people who need to read the story of God. Thank you to all the rest of you seeking to expand the Kingdom of God and not leave any fingerprints.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I need words

As I sit and try to write my article for the paper this week, my words just will not come out. My brain and heart are all wrapped around this immigration bill. My friends in South Central continue to send emails and directions about what is happening in Los Angeles concerning protests. Please pray for that city. Also, pray that I find my words to communicate clearly and respectfully.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Words From C.P.T.

"I woke at 5:30 a.m. to the news on the BBC that the remaining three Christian Peacemakers held captive in Iraq and finally been released. I knelt by the side of my bed and wept - with the joy of liberation and the grief of the suffering these brothers have endured for the sake of the cross.

For nearly four months, as a global community, we have prayed our way down this via dolorosa. We have prayed for Jim Loney, Norman Kember, Harmeet Sooden, and Tom Fox's safety and protection. We have prayed for the state of the soul of their captors. We have mourned and cried out to God when Tom's broken body was found on the airport road in Baghdad. We have prayed and labored for the thousands of detained, disappeared, kidnapped, abused and tortured Iraqis. And now, we break our Lenten fast from the resurrection word, and say "Alleluia! Alleluia! Our brothers are free at last!"

Cherry Blossom Festival

“Ogino-san dozo stagee ni.” My father, the first previous resident of Milstead to speak Japanese in a public arena, summoned his friend, Mr. Ogino, to the stage at Conyers Middle School. It was the second International Cherry Blossom Festival, and he was presenting an award to Mr. Ogino, the plant manager of Maxell.

The prior year, Maxell, a thriving Japanese business in our community, gave the city of Conyers dozens and dozens of cherry blossom trees. Conyers decided to line the Olde Town railroad tracks with them. This generous gift sparked the imaginations of business leaders and the Chamber of Commerce. Since the international business community was growing in Conyers, they decided to try an international festival. If Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and even Macon, Georgia, had a successful Cherry Blossom Festival, why couldn’t Conyers have one as well?

The first Cherry Blossom Festival in Conyers was quite successful. The community responded with excitement. They even flew in an expert in Kabuki theatre from Japan as an entertainment highlight.

When the second year rolled around, the leadership planned for a magical spring festival. Arrangements were made for a Japanese drum team to perform. Local community members signed up for an international fashion show. However, the highlight of the second annual Cherry Blossom Festival caused the greatest amount of excitement. On Saturday afternoon, families and friends would join together on the lower field at Conyers Middle School, the original site of the festival, for a kite-flying extravaganza.

How should we respond when we make plans and God has other ideas in mind?

I woke up that morning to my father’s loud pacing in the living room. As a seven-year-old kid, my Saturday morning meant watching Kids Incorporated on T.V. and eating a big bowl of Apple Jacks before my parents awoke. That morning, my parents woke up before me. My dad, the chairman of the Festival that year, kept saying, “How do you fly a kite in a gym?!”

Looking outside those pink gingham curtains in my bedroom, I saw the white wonderland that Southern children dream about each winter. Even though it was springtime, it had snowed the night before.

Everyone’s account of the snowstorm varies. Dad tells about moving everyone inside and trying to explain to the drummers why the crowd was a bit low. My grandmother remembers tying blossoms on trees that were not blooming due to the cold. I only remember asking my parents why they would not let me try to fly my kite in the snow.

Even when we plan and plan, sometimes we face circumstances that no one ever anticipates. God has other things in mind. The account of Job in the Bible tells about a man who had everything in life going for him. Suddenly, he lost his family and wealth, and then he fell victim to terrible illnesses. How can we explain events like this?

My friend, Chris, works for a relief organization in Sri Lanka. He tells of the horrible devastation and loss faced by that small, island nation. “They have seen terrible evil and amazing generosity since the tsunami,” he reports. Developers and relief organizations dream that Sri Lanka will stand stronger after the re-building is complete then they did the day before the tsunami attacked them.

God is the One who restores. He restores broken countries, wounded hearts, dashed dreams, and even snowed-out Cherry Blossom Festivals. How can He restore our hearts, our lives, and our community even today?

Friday, March 17, 2006


Big Bro with new bike. . . SG on back.

Spring Breaks remembered

Per Songbird's request, I have spent Spring Breaks in the past at the following locations:

1. Key West, Florida: This was the location of Spring Break, 1995 (Freshman year in college). It is a beautiful city, and I haven't been down again. Visiting the home of Hemmingway was definitely my favorite part. I know--I am a nerd.

2. Panama City Beach, Florida: Spring Break, 1993 (Junior year in High School). A friend promised us that her parents' condo was NOT in PCB! When we arrived, we found ourselves in the middle of the strip. I drove down with four girlfriends, and, surprise!, five guys showed up that night to stay the week at well. Needless to say, it was crowded, but we had a great time. Our friend's mom went down with us. Poor, poor woman. I don't know how she took it.

3. Oxnard, California: While living in Los Angeles, I was able to take a few Spring Break trips up to a house owned by the organization that I worked for. It was beautiful, serene, and free of middle school students. We had a blast there.

4. Orlando, Florida: My grandparents would take us to Disney World all the time when I was a kid. My bro and I had the time of our lives.

5. Los Angeles, CA: Every beach that we could find. Other Spring Breaks in L.A. were great. We didn't even have to travel to go on vacation. :)

Taken from a McLaren Blog--inspiring words

"At most gatherings, Grace has been able to bring together some amazing women leaders. The tide is turning and doors are opening, although all of us wish the progress was faster and farther along.

Through all this we've had great meals, met phenomenal people, heard both inspiring and heartbreaking stories, and grown in our awareness that something important and far-reaching is indeed happening around this conversation about emerging, missional, post-colonial Christian faith. I sense that we are very near a "tipping point" - and my concern is not that this emerging global movement won't fully emerge, but that we won't be fully ready when it does. Something to pray about - and prepare for.

Of course, each locale is unique, but I'd say that the similarities among the events, churches, and leaders are more striking than the differences - both the similar problems and the common sense of hope, both the shared obstacles and the uniting dreams for better days for the church and for our holistic, integral mission in God's world.

Thanks, everyone, for your prayers. From here, we go to the East Cape, then to Capetown, then home. In the meantime, wherever you are, be assured that you aren't alone, and that thousands of people around the world are sensing a fresh wind blowing with new possibilities and challenges, undergirded with the faithfulness of God."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Peaceable Realm of God

Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children, and to your children's children. Deuteronomy 4:9

These words blaze above a single candle shining against the front wall in the Hall of Remembrance at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. After walking through the museum, full of bleak stories of torture and evil, the simplicity and power of those words haunted me.

Thousands of years ago, Moses scribed those words found in the Bible. God spoke to him, and Moses wrote it down. Then, in 2006, a southern girl found herself in Washington, D.C., staring at those words on a wall. Someone told them to their children, and their children’s children, and finally the words found me. Now I must “guard my soul,” so my future children can know too.

Walking down the steps that day, those words continued to haunt me. A few weeks have passed, and they still run in my mind. I cannot get rid of those words in the museum.

What have my eyes seen that I need to tell my future children some day?

God is answering that question for me each day. This life of mine is much bigger than I once knew. Nothing had changed; I am just developing eyes to see more of it. Good parts. Bad parts. Lost and invisible parts. I am learning to see between the lines of my days.

For instance, visiting the Holocaust Museum overwhelmed me with the reality of evil in our world. How did we allow a man like Hitler to rise to power? Can the human spirit grow to such terror that we kill children only because of their race? This type of horrific genocide continues to pump through the veins of our world, even at this very moment.

As I walked down the staircase from the museum, my heart heavy and eyes full of tears, my brother told me to keep quiet. Sarah Grace, my two-year-old niece was sleeping peacefully in her stroller in the museum. The night before, she had invaded my make-up box, and she experienced the thrill of M.A.C. eye shadow for the first time. Now, she was tired and needed a rest. She was so beautiful as she slept. In one instant, my eyes saw terror and beauty as if they were holding hands.

Last week, my front yard in Olde Town was in full bloom! Since this is my first spring in the house, the daffodils and lillies-of-the-valley surprised me. Each morning, the fruit of the tender care of the prior residents of the home greeted me when I stepped outside. The daffodils connected Mrs. Elder, who has since passed away, and me. Each of us have loved and cared for those sweet flowers that bloomed by our shared mailbox.

The sweet fragrance of those spring blossoms filled the air as I read the news that morning. Tom Fox, a peace worker in Iraq, had been found dead. He left his family to fulfill a call to help create peace in a war-torn land. Now, he is gone. Fox stated, “The only ‘something in my life’ I can hold onto is to do what little I can to bring about the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God.”

Tom Fox’s words now haunt my imagination too. How can I remember the beautiful and terrible part of our world, so our children and children’s children can experience a peaceable realm of God?

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Healing Service

Last night, our church hosting a healing service. They followed the tradition order of worship for United Methodist churches. It was my first time ever experiencing a healing service of this nature, and it had a profound effect upon me.

First, the liturgy was simple and brief. The sanctuary was lit by candles. Our pastor gave a brief testimony about healing from a heart attack, and we sang just a few songs. He also told us that God spoke to him last Thursday night. He woke up at 3 a.m. when God said, "Tell them to listen to Me. Then, be obedient to what I tell them." The group that gathered together were mixed ages; all seeking some sort of healing. Our prayer team coordinated the time, and they were prepared to join us in prayer as well.

Towards the end of the night, we lined up as if we were taking communion. The pastors stood with a small chalise holding oil. They annointed our heads and whispered the words, "May you be brought to healing and wholeness, mind, body, and soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit." The room was silent except for their words. No one rushed through the line.

Seeing that line of people was beautiful. A few elderly friends needed help walking to the front of the church. The teenagers decided to walk up together. A few dear friends with existing medical conditions cried as they made their way forward. Others cried over broken hearts and hurt relationships.

After receiving the annointing oil, people moved to the altar for prayer. Someone from the prayer team quietly stepped behind them and prayed. The altar was crowded with those seeking healing. Family and friends came down together, offering support to one another.

The altar experience was fascinating to me. Something literally happened to us last night. People were displaying genuine affection for one another; no one was too timid to touch another person. Husbands and wives held each other as they prayed. They shared a kiss when they returned to their seats. Prayer team members laid hands on others while praying. When someone felt a hand on their back, many would reach back and hold it. They did not even know who was praying for them. People sat in the pews with heads laid over on someone else's shoulder or holding the hand of the person sitting beside them. The strangest part is the phenomena that no one else seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary about everyone's behavior. It was completely natural.

God healed us last night; I am convinced of it. I don't know what happened individually, but our church family fell in love with Him and with each other.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What Message Are We Sending?

“Hello, Hello!” sings Bono when my cell phone rings. The chorus of “Vertigo” screams out to let me know that someone is calling. Neil Diamond used to sing “Sweet Caroline” with each ring, but it started to annoy me. My older brother, who owns a courier business, has Willie Nelson singing, “On The Road Again.” Andrew Atkins, an avid turkey hunter, has one of the most original ring tones going. His phone literally gobbles.

Ring tones tell so much about people; it identifies a hidden part of their personality. Whenever I am in a public place and hear “Big Pimpin’”, “Play That Funk Music White Boy”, or “Man, I Feel Like A Woman,” I look around and guess who might reach for his or her phone. It’s never who I would expect. Ring tones offer a brief glimpse into a stranger’s inner-self. When we hear “Jungle Boogie” playing from the purse of a fellow consumer in the checkout line, we might think she looks like a mild-mannered soccer mom. On the inside, she is a party monster.

Consequently, we download ring tones for entertainment, attention, but mostly for the novelty of it all. Some teenagers in the late ‘90s created a way to play music on their cell phones. This little idea led to a multi-billion dollar industry. “Sales of mobile phone ring tones, those tiny song recordings programmed into millions of handsets around the world, jumped 40 percent in the past year to $3.5 billion,” reports the ARC Group, a research organization. It will cost me $2.49 to download a new ring tone on my phone. They tell me that it will “give my phone a personality.” Financially, ring tones are still lagging far behind. ARC mentioned that basic text messaging brought in over $40 billion last year.

The numbers keep going. World Vision reports that 12 million people are going without food in Southern Africa. 3 million people in Pakistan have no home due to the 2005 earthquake. Six months after Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross is still serving almost 10,000 meals every day.

What if we were identified by our radical generosity instead of the song playing on our cell phone?

So often I hear people commenting on bottom lines. What is the least amount that I should can give away and still be o.k? The Ten Commandments tell the basis tenets for living. Don’t kill; don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t cheat, etc. Many people spend their lives trying to find the loopholes.

Jesus, however, outlined living to the revolutionary maximum. He tells the rich, young ruler to give everything he had to the poor. What is the largest amount that we can possibly give away? Imagine our response to a friend who traded in her vehicle for something cheaper because she sponsored so many children internationally or gave so much to Hurricane Katrina victims?

While living in South Central Los Angeles, I had a friend named Mercedes who was in the sixth grade. Her parents were immigrants, and their family lived in a one-bedroom apartment. She decided to cut her long, beautiful hair to give to Locks of Love. It is a program through the American Cancer Society that uses hair to make wigs for cancer patients. Mercedes took the only thing that was really hers, her hair, and she gave it all away.

World Vision says that it takes about a dollar a day to feed a child. We could have given $40 billion for food last year, but we sent text messages instead. What message does this send to the world and to the children?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Donald Miller Words

I have a ton to say about the Donald last Sunday night, but time is running short today. You can find an overview of his remarks at the website listed about. Check it out. I'd love t read your comments on it.

ONE Campaign

The new spot for the ONE campaign is unbelievable. You must check it out!