Wednesday, December 30, 2009

100 word wednesday: we matter...

We all know the feeling of walking into a room filled with people, yet feel overwhelmed with loneliness. During the holidays these situations are magnified. Isolated car rides, solo shopping excursions, or simply having no where to go for the holidays, thoughts of worthlessness and loneliness creep into the crevices of the mind and have the potential to overwhelm.

But we haven’t been the only ones who have felt this. Oh no, Gen X'ers! These feelings have permeated every culture, race, and generation. To temper and balance the inadequacies, listen to what the psalmist said:

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of the sand. When I awake, I am still with you (Psalm 139:17-18).

Despite our stations in life, we have a purpose to fulfill, we are not forgotten, and God cares because we matter.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

year verse(s)...

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever--do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:8

In a conversation with Matt the other day, he asked what my verse for the year was. Uh, what do you mean? Like, out of the 31,103 verses in the bible, I’m suppose to predetermine a scripture to fit my particular theological bent for blahblahblahblahblahblaaaaah. I should have been slapped. Right there. In that moment. The question was simply, what verse do you want to adopt into your year? That’s it. No theological twisting or contortion. Just one verse.

But I’m simply complicated and I make nothing easy. Like nothing. Matt showed me some scriptures he’d written down in his journal the last couple weeks of reading and I, well, wanted some too. Not because I’m uber spiritual, but because I’m competitive and I want a life verse too!

While scouring the scriptures for a totally amazing, fantastically stupendous, earth shattttttering scripture [insert booming voice here], I was gently coddled during my devotions when I came across Psalm 138:8 again. I blogged about it before but this time it was with greater significance. Though this is not my verse for the year, it was a reminder of yesteryear when the Lord used a gentle word to encourage me in a time of forgotteness.

I spoke to Matt today and was very proud to announce that I have my verses. Yes, as plural. Why have one verse when you can have FIVE, I shrieked with excitement. He simply rolled his eyes and said I was complicated.

If you have a verse you’re holding onto or a promise for 2010, would you share it? I would love instead of resolutions, we create revolutions in our heart, mind, and soul. If you share yours, I’ll share mine :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

incouraging miracles...

As the Christmas trees are taken down and the decorations are put away, I hope Christmas has brought together family, friends, and amazing food. The new year is rapidly approaching and in thinking about what's looming on the horizon, I wanted to seize the opportunity given to me by incourage to talk about miracles. Incourage is a site dedicated to, er, um--well, encourage those who stop by!

I was honored to be asked to write for them again and was allowed to speak about the miraculous. To read the whole piece, you can click here or on the icon below. The comments have been turned off so you can join the conversation there! Thanks for the constant love and support.

I believe in miracles. I know, I know, miracles are a touchy subject for 21st century intellectuals. But I do.

When we read about God parting the seas, providing food in arid places, and liberties to captives, and we walk out of church roused by history, but unconvinced that the God of yesterday is the God of today.

To read more, click the button:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

happy birthday jesus...

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want, cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you. --Leslie Gore, 1966

I'm staring at the plastic Santa, inflatable Snoopy house, and mechanical deers on my neighbors lawn wondering how Baby Jesus didn't get invited to the lawn party. I don't get it. It's Jesus' birthday party and he doesn't even get an invite?!

Please invite Jesus to your lawn parties, family parties, Christmas parties, but more importantly, invite him into your life. Allow him to permeate your life every day, every way. It is then and only then your Christmas will be merry, your holidays happy, and your life purposeful.

Isaiah 9:6, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

weaving benevolence...

Acts 11:29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.

She sat at the loom and methodically laced beautiful strands of string. Each strand was a different color, yet when sewn together, a beautiful piece of art was composed. The Persian woman with weathered hands used what was in front of her to create beauty.

Each person who emailed me was different. A doctor, a photographer, a homemaker, a dreamer, a student, a mother, an artist. Each person was like a beautiful strand waiting to be knit together, waiting to be used to create a masterpiece of benevolence.

I sat at my computer with weathered hands and aspired to create beauty, not knowing what would come of these ambitions.

Today the masterpiece is complete and thanks to many of you, two beautiful families living under one roof will have a Christmas to remember. Because of your support and prayers, we've raised roughly $1,600 in two days. Each teen will receive a gift card to purchase anything they want, two boys will receive toys, trains, and trucks, AP will receive a $500 gift card and a turkey to a local grocery store, and the rest will be given to the family in need to help them find a place to rent.

In economic times like these, it is truly more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Whether you gave three dollars or four hundred dollars (or if you donated the turkey), you gave what you were able to give. Merry Christmas, y'all! I love you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

critics and quotes...

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. --President Theodore Roosevelt

Peter heard the cock crow. Moses struck the rock. Jonah jumped ship. Eve bit the fruit and Adam followed. None of those pillars of biblical narrative would ever claim to be perfect. And neither do I. I have faltered, and sadly, I will falter again. Paul encourages and reminds the Romans that there is not one person who is righteous; everyone has failed and fallen (3:10, 23). But as believers in Christ, we stand before critics as broken vessels yet claim, through His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5); as piles of ash waiting metaphoric beauty, we claim He uses the base to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Dale Carnegie said, Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving. Only listen to a critic if they can be forgiving. If not, be unthwarted by their comments. Like my father always told me, to escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

trails and life...

The sweat. The fall. The doubt. The belief. The sunrise. The trail. The pain. The end.

The sun was calling over the mountains like a siren to sailor's death. The mountain called. I responded. Step by step, minute by minute, mile by mile, I endured the hill. Half way up the trail, I lost my footing and slipped down onto jagged rocks, cutting my hand and shin. I debated quitting. I mean, I had already completed a good amount of trail. What would it matter if I continued? Who would know? Who would care?

But I couldn't quit.

I was surrounded by trees; their limbs were like semaphores swaying encouragement. I had to get to the top. I limped my way to the crest of the peak and my breath was taken away. I saw the entire trail, the sunrise, the doubtful cliffs, the believing trees, and I rested in the beauty.

I had a moment with the Creator and saw Life. Sometimes I've asked myself, What would it matter if I continued my walk of faith in a Divine Creator? Would would know if I quit? Who would care? But as I stood at the peak of the hill I endured and saw the difficult path I emerged from, I realized the end is worth the fall, the doubt, the pain. Press on, fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), for He shows loving kindness to those who walk before Him with all their heart (2 Chronicles 6:14).

Have you asked if it would matter if you quit? It does. Don't give up. The view is beautiful from the top.

Friday, December 18, 2009

pine tree air fresheners on my mind...

There is nothing more vulnerable than being a female and taking your car into the mechanics. But alas, I'm here because my car is making a grinding/wheezing/ching-ching sound and with every minute that passes I'm seeing more and more dollars drain from my savings account as I insist I really don't need a pine tree air freshener.

I'm no mechanic, but does my car really need a new air filter, tire rotation, oil change, air conditioner fluid, and pine tree air freshener to dangle from my mirror? I didn't think so either.

I totally was ready to discuss the death penalty and the moral implications of death since it's Friday and I post vlogs and all, but the only thing I can talk about is the death of my car... and reasons why I don't need a pine tree air freshener to dangle from my rear view mirror.

I'll record the vlog later today. Sorry--I'm a horrible blogger!

video

Thursday, December 17, 2009

why i'm a horrible facebooker...

The email indicated we had to meet. There were serious issues which needed to be clarified. I set up a meeting and the 40ish father of one of the teens I mentor arrived promptly to discuss the serious issues. Privy to information about the current status of the family, I assumed it was to discuss matter of dire importance. I was SO wrong!

Him: Thank you for your time. I'll make this brief and to the point. Are we ok? Do you not like me or have I done something to offend you?
Me: [blink] Well, um, er [blink, blink, blinkblinkblink], I'm not too sure I know what this is in reference to.
Him: Well, it's just that I friend requested you on facebook over two weeks ago and you haven't accepted my friend request.
Me: [blink... blink]

I was dumbfounded. He could not possibly be serious. Oh, but he was! So serious I thought he was going to rain down fire. I explained to him that facebook was a way for me to connect with friends from high school and college and I don't accept friend requests from parents of my teens since the parents will use it as a way to spy on their children (which I knew he would do). He then proceeded to list the names of other parents who I had accepted friend requests. [blink]

Since then there have been other dramatic facebook situations which frighten me from visiting facebook (accidentally marking the 'married' and 'it's complicated' boxes; spammed with porn to my inbox; long emails from people who don't like me; being a silent voyeur of other people's lives [don't lie, you do it], etc.).

Usher had his confessions and now it's my turn. I'm sorry if I haven't responded to your facebook email, lagged in accepting a friend request, or haven't replied to a question. I have a job which I love and would like to keep so spending hours playing Farmville or snooping through photo galleries isn't my thing. I know I'm not the only one with stories from facebook, so spill it! What are some funny/dramatic/horror stories you've encountered?

Here's a video I saw on Michael Hyatt's blog. I love it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

people...

A flux of emails reminded me why I do what I do.
People.
For people, by people, because of people.

There is a woman with a hardly laugh, big hugs, and tender heart. She's been a loyal reader since the inception of this blog but recently made her presence known by leaving comments. I know her story. I know her family. I know her heart.

Perhaps it's the beauty of anonymity, but in an emotional state she confessed her own struggle while reading yesterday's post about the working poor. I felt the black letter words radiate through the computer screen. I know what fear of the unknown feels like. Cavernous. Hollow. Desperate.

The phone latched onto the receiver and for a moment, I felt like the physical voice of God. Last night I received several emails from people who want to help buy food, presents, or donate money to as she houses ten people in a two-bedroom apartment. If I could have recorded her cry of sovereign providence, any skeptic would be wooed by her belief in the God who provides more than we could think or imagine (Eph. 3:20). Through her sobs she replied, I knew God would provide. I didn't know how, but I knew God would provide.

If you would like to join those who have offered to help, whether it's a $5 gift card or 5 million dollar check, please email me at bianca@inthenameoflove.org for more information. I'm BLOWN away by the readers of this blog and I love you more today than I did yesterday!*

*I know I over-use exclamation marks, but I'm really excited! So here are some more exclamation points just to annoy you!!!!!!!!! Merry Christmas!!!!

Edit to post: If you would like to use PayPal, please click here

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

working poor...

If you give the the poor, your needs will be supplied! But a curse upon those who close their eyes to poverty--Proverbs 28:27

In our society homelessness is widely spoken about. On a global level, we are moved by gut-wrenching faces of emaciated children from third world countries. We stare surreptitiously from our car window at a bushy-faced man holding a sign willing to work for food.

What we may not see or be aware of are those Americans who try with all their might to make ends meet, yet come up short every month. The socio-economic label is working poor and they comprise 28 percent of American families. According to data collected by the US Bureau of Labor statistics 21 million children live in low-income working families who parents are categorized as making 200% of the national poverty level.

The report notes that working poor families "lack the earning necessary to meet their basic needs--a struggle exacerbated by soaring prices for food, gas, health, and education. About 60 percent of working families are forced to spend more than one-third of their income on housing, and nearly 40 percent lack health insurance for one or both parents.

The question remains, what are YOU doing about this? I'm not too sure it's the governments responsibility to feed my neighbor, but I am totally sure as a lover of Jesus Christ and a copy-cat of his ways, I am called to do so. While President Barak, bureaucrats, and bankers worry about tomorrow, I will help those in need today. Who do YOU know is in need? Who can YOU help? Will YOU help change the world one person at a time?

*Edit to post: If you would like to help blog commenter "ap" buy purchasing Christmas gifts, please email me at bianca@inthenameoflove.org. This may be your opportunity to help those in need!

Monday, December 14, 2009

christmas eCard...


Dear Internet Friends:

Thank you for being part of my life the past couple months. As we approach Christmas, I wanted to send you my annual family Christmas card. This year has been a wild ride, but I'm grateful you've joined along!

Ho, ho, ho,
B

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Video Post: cosmetics, christians, and the church

She came up to me with her hair in a slick bun, long skirt, and nothing more than a band of gold on her ring finger. After quick pleasantries, she began to question my worldly clothing and use of makeup while referencing 1 Peter 3:3-4. I was taken back and immediately felt like I looked like RuPaul on a Friday night! Out of embarrassment I simply apologized, thanked her for attending the lecture, and began wiping blush from my cheeks.

I was mortified. But I began to research the texts she quoted and found an amazingly sound biblical explanation and reason for Peter to write what he did. Apologetics Press wrote a great article and after reading it, I felt like I should slap on some mascara and douse my lips with gloss! Bring it on.

I'd love for you to weigh in on the issue of cosmetics, Christians, and the church. What are your thoughts about bridging Old Testament references and New Testament scriptures?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

100 word wednesday: directions in life...

My ever-fabulous sister reminded me of a Sesame Street sketch we would watch as kids. We would laugh until our bellies ached because of a hilarious elephant who uncannily resembled me! No, not because I weighed 172 pounds as an 11 year-old, but because I was never patient enough to listen.


Fifteen years later, Jasmine reminded me of my elephantal resemblance. I don't take the time to listen. I'm impatiently pushing and striving and aiming to get to the next place quicker, faster, and smarter. B, you just need to stop. You want to run, but you need to listen to the directions, she gently said. God will show you where you need to be, but until He does, just wait and listen.

Um, when did SHE become the holy one? That was always MY role in our relationship (I'm kidding, Jas... well, half kidding). When I hung up the phone, I immediately thought of my self-imposed mantra stolen from Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God. I'm asking for directions, but I'm not taking the time to listen.

Am I the only one? What are the things you're asking for, yet not listening for answers? We all have them... don't make me feel like the elephant in the room!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

be a star...

Our society is inundated with a fascination with stars. From movie stars, to music stars, to television stars, to now even reality television stars. With the invention of reality TV, talentless people can become wildly popular.* But the attraction to stars from a biblical perspective can shed light on how we are to interact with friends, family, and frienemies this holiday season.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11. A simple light hanging against a bruised colored sky led wise men to the truth. From this passage we learn these learned men were from the east, educated and wise, had political clout, knowledgeable in prophesy, indifferent to status (yet were of great wealth), and divinely in tune to spiritual matters.

Compare the wise men to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-12. Shepherds were lowly, base men who were looked down upon in society. They slept for several nights on end with sheep and probably smelled like sheep. Yet as non-entities in society they were endowed the privilege of worshiping the son of the Living God. Against the darkness of the night, both groups witnessed luminous, bright testaments to the coming birth of our Lord.

Society is telling us to be a star, act like a star, dress like a star. I would like to modify this thought. Be the star that leads wise men and simple men to the cross. Be the star that has answers and gives hope to those who are searching. Be the luminous voice from heaven that encourages even the lowly that are blessed and the Christ child has come for them.

Be a star! You never know--someone might ask you for your autograph ;)

*See William Hung and every show on E! entertainment channel.

Monday, December 7, 2009

if i perish, i perish...

Queen Esther had a choice to make. The annihilation of her people hung in the balance in which she could tip. Esther was full of excuses as to why she couldn't do what was being asked of her. Truth be known, they were pretty good excuses (you know, like not being put to death and other minor details). In verse 11 of chapter 4, Esther sandwiches her excuses neatly in between a slight possible hope, but sends it off as reasons why she is not the girl for the job.

But something happened. Something changed. Someone simply asked if perhaps she was brought to this position for a intended purpose.

Like Esther, I have a choice to make. I don't have a wise uncle by the name of Mordecai, but I have a wonderful mentor who I bug all the time. She questioned my faith in a recent email and I've been reading her email over and over everyday:
Esther went from being full of excuses to full of faith. Not full of wisdom or full of confidence, but full of faith. In one question asked of her by a dear mentor and friend, she acted valiantly. The question was simply, What if you come to this position for this exact purpose?

Excuses exists because they are legitimate reasons for not doing something. But does that mean we can't do it? Or does it mean we don't think we can? My mentor asked me why I was so fearful of making a certain decision. Oh Blog Friends, I listed a host of reasons really good reasons and excuses! She didn't combat me or convince me, but reminded me about faith in a Living God.

Are you struggling to make a decision? Have you made a decision you're proud of? In a myriad of choices, how do we choose? Esther made a decision with such brazen courage--let's do the same.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Video Post: convince me to have a child...

Instead of moderating the discussion or answering questions, I'm asking a question.

Share stories, provide insight, break down some theology--I'm asking with all sincerity.


If Paul is right, please convince me to find salvation ;)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

disney, dating, dreams, and dark romance...

Kisses to break sleeping spells, glass slippers and fairy godmothers, cursed apples and magic spells conjure up sweet Disney tales. If we're honest with ourselves, Walt's appropriation of fairy tales have formed Generation X's ideal romance. White horses, princes with kingdoms, harmless [yet difficult] obstacles to overcome are part and parcel of most young women's fantasy with love.* There's nothing intrinsically wrong with loving love, but it's very important to recognize the commodification of fairy tales and mass marketed romance that has pandered to young girls for the last thirty years.

But Generation Y is tired of Prince Charming and his polished savoir faire. There's a new hunk in dreams and he doesn't need pixie dust to sparkle. Edward Cullen is taking over dreams... yes, even mine.**

Disconcerting as it may be to some, Twilight and the umpteen books in the series are forming a new wave of fairy tale dreamers. Except, I have some qualms and issues needing to be addressed in regards to dating and romance via the philosophy of Stephanie Meyer. And yes, I'm the perfect person to address dating! Okay, okay, maybe the single girl in the last stages of her 20s isn't an expert on dating, but I'm an expert in identifying social trends and philosophical influence of mass media. So--cut me some slack!

I'm not bashing the series. Nor the movie. Nor Kristin Stewart and her very odd, singular Bella expression of I'm-confused-yet-sexy-and-breathy which bugs me to no end. All I'm saying is beware of the poison in the apple--it may look shiny and tasty, but when eaten, there is danger deep within.

Few cautions to pass along to young/dumb/innocent readers:
  • Tell young girls it's not cool to stay with someone after they've abandoned you in a cold forest and told you they don't love you nor want to be with you. [What Bella really needed was a friend to tell her, He's just not into you.]
  • Tell young girls it's not cool to flirt with a friend who likes you just because he can help you with things like building a motorcycle. [Which, by the way, what 15 year-old can build a motorcycle?! Come on, Stephanie!]
  • Tell young girls it's not cool to put yourself life-threatening situation even if visions of the pale man who dumped you in a forest occur. [Duh! He dumped you. He's just not that into you.]
  • Tell young girls it's not cool when your life is threatened or in danger in the presence of a man who can throw you across a room. [Yes, even if he says he's sorry and will never do it again.]
  • Tell young girls it's not cool to steal a sports car in a foreign country and drive recklessly in attempts to save a man who said he didn't love you from committing suicide.
Have I read Twilight? Yes. Have I watched the movies? Yes. Did I enjoy them? Yes. All I'm asking is for people to recognize the underlying messages and sudden philosophical, ethical, and metaphysical subtleties in popular media.

If Hosea's warning is true, then consider me your romantic life-line.

*I have friends who to this day dream of getting married in Snow White's castle in front of Fantasy Land. One girl I knew rented Cinderella's stagecoach and eight white horses to pull her up to her ceremony. [Note: It cost $6,000 for her 3-minute entrance.]
** I read Twilight in one day. Er, more like 9.73 hours. And yes, I dreamed I kissed Edward Cullen in Forks. I'm serious. Like, dead serious.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

100 word wednesday: laws of the land...

Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. (Romans 13:1-2, Message)

Six months have elapsed since the genesis of this blog and I’ve been pulled over four times by the California Highway Patrol. Allegedly I can’t stay below the speed limit. I’m trying to really follow street laws now. To the letter.

On the freeway I’m the only one without a "World's Best Grandma" bumper sticker putt-putting along at fifty-five. I should probably have my hazards on as cars whiz by me. They honk. They swerve. The drivers look at me like I’m the lone Red Sox fan at a Yankees game?!

But I do this for two reasons:

1. I can’t afford to pay more than the price of freedom for my insurance. I just refuse!

2. If I really claim to follow Jesus, then I need to be subject for the Lords’ sake to every human institution (1Peter 2:13-14). Here’s the best part: so do you!

Food for thought,
B

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

beautiful disaster...

Third year art students were required to scour the corridors of LACMA and find a piece to discover, unfold, reveal. Fully researched and prepared, a piece had been chosen because of it's beautiful perfection. It was neatly framed and cohesive and palatable to all viewers. It was perfect. But something paused the Hunt for the Perfect Art Piece. Overwhelmingly massive and jetting out from the wall was a large wooden assemblage art piece.

I had studied assemblage and the Dada art movement, but it was disastrous, heinous, and riotous to me. Really? Slapping junk together was hardly creative, let alone beautiful, I said to myself as I flipped through my Gardner's Art Through The Ages textbook. Finding redeeming qualities in chairs, boxes, poles, and crates was difficult--even for an neo-art snob like me.

Standing in front of this piece, however, brought to life the ugly, unsettling, unnerving beauty in the undone. It was a beautiful disaster.

When examining life, sometimes the neatly framed, cohesive, and palatable is over taken by the assemblage of the life's circumstances. Ephesians 2:10 says we are his workmanship. We are his art piece crafted according to his good purpose. When Life looks like a beautiful disaster, God has crafted us in his great beauty for his good works.

What is disastrous in your life? How can you find the beauty in it? Revel in being a beautiful disaster :)

Monday, November 30, 2009

be who you is...

Recently I've been labeled as being urban or ethnic. Labels may be a simple way to categorize and organize groups, but it also compromises diversity. I find the label comical since I've been out of the 'hood for over fifteen years. Apparently home school, public school, private school, and graduate school can't cover my roots. Maybe Snoop Dogg was right when he said, You can take the boy out the 'hood, but you can't take the 'hood out the homeboy.

While in New Jersey teaching at a women's conference, a very sweet woman came up to me with her eyes bright and hands excited as she communicated with every ounce of her being. I love when you talk your ghetto-talk when you share. It's so fresh and real! I know she meant well and her intentions were flattery, but she solidified deep fears. I was the only woman of color speaking at the conference and I felt different, odd, slightly out of place. It was if I spoke like Rosie Perez or Bon QuiQui and simply needed fake gold hoop earring and bangle bracelets to complete the image.

I called my dad and he siphoned through the jokes. He saw the hurt from 3,000 miles away.

Words dipped with honey soothed my soul as he assured me with the words of Paul--we all belong to something bigger than us. A body is comprised of different parts, even parts darker than others, but all parts are necessary. His accent permeated the sentence, his life has permeated this belief. Be who you is, B. Be who you is.

There's something great about being different, odd, and slightly out of place. Different exposes new possibilities; oddity reveals diversity; slightly out of place expands territory. As members of something larger than us, expose new possibilities, reveal diversity, expand territory. Be who you is.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

things that matter...

“To admit the existence of hunger in America is to confess that we have failed in meeting the most sensitive and painful of human needs. To admit the existence of widespread hunger is to cast doubt on the efficacy of our whole system.” George McGovern, 1975

As millions of Americans sat around their dining room table to celebrate Thanksgiving with mounds of muffins and pounds of potatoes, 35.9 million people struggled to find a meal. Three decades later, McGovern's words prophetically have come to pass as evidence indicates the existing system is failing a vast number of Americans

Yes, poverty is a reality in America. 12.9 million children are either living in homelessness or part of a new social group, working poor. Almost 50% of children living in poverty are African American or Hispanic and many more are undocumented citizens surviving on one meal a day. 3.4 million senior citizens live in poverty and make less than $10,000 a year.

Our lives end the moment we become silent about the things that matter. (Martin Luther)

Poverty isn't a continent away--it's in our backyard. This past Thanksgiving, over 300 volunteers did something which mattered. I'm so proud to have worked with CCM and Mariners church on such a great event. But the journey doesn't end here. You, me, we, us need to do something. Get involved and do something that matters!

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

100 word wednesday: truth...

The thing about truth that is most annoying is that it is true, making anything that contradicts it false. Christ is either God incarnate, risen from the dead, or He is not. There is no halfway position here. If he is not, then His teaching hold no more authority than those of Confucius, Tupac, or Oprah. We can take them or leave them.

But if Christ is God, it changes everything—there is nothing more important, more authoritative, or more central to the human race, to the way we live our lives, and to our very understanding of the world. Christ is an all-or-nothing proposition, and one way or another, every one of us has already made a choice about Him. We have either committed our lives to Him whole-heartedly, or we have not.*

Which lends me to ask, if Christ's claims are true, what are you doing about it?

*Thanks to Dr. Suzanne Wyle for forcing her students to think critically in 100 words or less. Represent WC!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

an open letter to david wenzel...

Dear David,

Today you will receive the results of your long awaited MRI to determine whether or not the tumor inside your brain has shrunk. This day is meaningful on so many levels simply because you have another day to kiss Amy, laugh aloud, create beauty, and love life. Yes, the simple things in life I take for granted.

As you stood in our church sanctuary to share your story last week, I sobbed. Cathartic healing occurred in drops of tears and labored breathing while you spoke Truth to nameless faces who fell in love with you, your story, and your belief that God is truly the author and finisher of our faith. Past the tapered denim, impeccable diction, and fierce determination is a man who has a faith larger than Goliath, a trust greater than Noah's, and a promise larger than Abraham's. You are the lover of God who I aspire to be.

My prayers do not end at noon when the doctors determine your fate. My prayers continue to forge past results, hypothesis, chemotherapy, natural medicine, and homeopathic remedies because I'm calling out to Jehovah Rapha who can heal all, my friend. To Him who can do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ever think or imagine, I lift you up to our God who stands above and claims that He is proud to be your God (Hebrews 11:16).

I believe in miracles,
Bianca

For more on David's battle, check out his blog.
For the vodcast of the talk he gave at my home church, click here and chose a one-time subscription.

Monday, November 23, 2009

play to win...

Eyes roll, bodies shift, and long sighs ending with snickers accompany my suggestion of a friendly game after dinner. I'm a board game junkie. I'll play anything, anytime, anywhere. But lately I've been really struggling with my competitive reputation. Do I deserve the reputation of Killa'?* Yes. Yes, I do. But I've been feeling condemned about it by my friends and family... until I read 1 Timothy 6:12 again, Fight the good fight of faith.

There is nothing worse than seeing an apathetic boxer enter the ring before a fight. There is nothing worse than seeing a dejected basketball team in the last few minutes of a game. There's nothing worse than people believing, It's just a game! No, people, IT'S NOT JUST A GAME.

If I run a mile, I run to win. If I study for an exam, I study for an A. If I play Monopoly, I play with the aspirations of building multiple hotels and charging you rent every time you land on my Boardwalk estate. I don't understand when people laugh when I repossess their property to pay rent. Hello?! You just became homeless, fool! But that's the way many Christians play the game of Life.

There's nothing worse than an apathetic Christian's approach their devotional time. There's nothing worse than a dejected Christian professing to have joy. There's nothing worse than Christians believing this is nothing more than a game. No, people, THIS IS NOT JUST A GAME! If you are called to suffer, suffer well to the glory of God. If you're successful, be successful unto the glory of God. If you're alone, utilize this time unto the glory of God. If you're competitive and your friends think you take board games too seriously, tell them you play to win, you're fighting the good fight, and you expect the rent on Park Place to be paid in full.

*In a heated Scrabble game with a friend, I busted out a Latin word for a rockin' 36 points and gloated for the next hour. Father, forgive my sins.
*In a heated game of Pit, I elbowed my brother-in-law in a reach-to-the-finish dash for the stock pile. Father, forgive my sins.
*In a heated card game of speed [on my first youth event], I screamed at a youth and accused her of cheating. Father, forgive my sins.

Friday, November 20, 2009

advocate life...

Deep, dark eyes, barren and empty, filled with tears as he spoke in tones hushed by fear. He sat across from me and let out the guilt, shame, and rejection he was experiencing from his family and church. He grew up in the church and knew the Leviticus and 1 Corinthians texts about homosexuality. Reiterating these truths would be moot and wasteful.

He wasn't asking for spiritual insight or forgiveness, but rather crying out as a broken man in need of love. In that moment I remembered a quote from one of my favorite pastors, "It's God's responsibility to save. It's our responsibility to love." My friend didn't need condemnation. So many others already had. He needed to know he was a child of God who, like me, needs a Savior.

I came across this article on the Marin Foundation blog and was completely taken back at what is occuring in Africa. There is a grave injustice occuring and if the church believes in the sanctity of Life, this matters. Despite gender, color, race, or ethinicity, we are all children of God. Advocate life. This is not a social gospel. This is the gospel.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

you know you're stressed when...

You know you're stressed when...

...your left eyes twitches involuntarily at the sound of an email notification.
...you begin to speak a language only you and celestial beings understand.
...you begin to talk to yourself, then disagree about the subject, get into a fight over it, lose, and refuse to talk to yourself for the next hour.
...you respond with flipping over tables and yelling, "You brood of vipers," when people ask you WWJD.
...you specifically stay sequestered in your office so as to not have to waste a nanosecond on the noun, hello.
...you keep yelling, "Stop touching me!" even though you're the only person in the room.
...you wake up at 4:32am singing songs from Psalty the Singing Songbook.
...you write the same sentence over and over, without realizing you've written it before.
...you write the same sentence over and over, without realizing you've written it before.
...you stop drinking water because using the restroom is a waste of time and energy.

My life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

100 word wedneday: what would you say...

I knew her.
Her childish face was tear-stained and swollen.
A warm embrace caused her body to collapse in my arms.
Through the sobs she wailed, My baby! My baby! I killed my baby…

She swore she’d never do it.
But family disdain was too much.
Whore. Slut. Irresponsible. Unlovable.
You’re a child who took the life of another child, they exclaimed.

I cried because she cried.
Nightmares. Suicidal thoughts. Isolation. Guilt.
I don’t deserve to live. I just want to die. God hates me.

Heartbroken at wordless, I asked for God to give something to say.
But how would you respond? What would you say?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

psalty and me...

Royal blue book cover, large happy eyes, and expressive white gloves welcomed children of all ages to enjoy singing at Sunday school. If a modern comparison is needed, he’s the original Barney—except with unquestionable sexuality and a chipper family in tow. Psalty the Singing Songbook was part and parcel of my formative song retention in vacation bible school and home life. In fact, I secretly wanted to be part of his musical family. Yes, I wanted Harmony, Rhythm, and Melody to be my siblings, so my faux name was Symphony. [What!? I was a creative homeschooler!]

One song in particular has been etched in my memory and I can still recite the chorus: God is great! God is good! He kept His promise like He said He would. God is great! God is good! Blessed be the name of the Lord.* It’s odd that one melody and set of lyrics so simple, can be so profound.

A few weeks ago I tweeted about a Thanksgiving event I was coordinating at church. I jokingly said Jesus needed to perform a miracle with some fish and loaves to feed the amount of people attending. But, today I am humming like Psalty because God is great, God is good, and He kept His promise like He said He would. We have over 200 volunteers giving up their national holiday to serve others, 212 donated turkeys, 500 cans of donated vegetables, 167 donated pumpkin pies, 250 brand new jackets to give away and 1,500 food boxes donated from Mariners Church. But it gets better! My friend Matt from Mariners Outreach is bringing over 100 volunteers to serve along side of us AND they’re bringing a hair team to provide haircuts and styling to those in need.

I woke up at 4:32am this morning overwhelmed by God’s provision and care for those in need. Like the prolific songbook once sang, God is great! God is good! Blessed be the name of the Lord. Are you overwhelmed by God's goodness? Or just overwhelmed? Either way, speak it out! I love knowing how to specifically pray for those I care for.

* Psalm 104:1

Monday, November 16, 2009

insert long sigh here...

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:3

Linear thinking on Sunday afternoon at 4:03pm: I don't need a new car. I want a new car. I miss my BMW. Honda's aren't cool. [Insert long sigh here.]

I realized this small fact as I sat in Santa Monica, ate at a vegan restaurant, and watched young Hollywood drive by with their convertible tops down. Thoughts began to run through my head and desire seeped through my pores. But I want it. I sighed, ate my tofu burger, and recalculated my finances in attempts to convince myself that I can once again drive a depreciating luxury good with a convertible top. [Insert long sigh here.]

Because God is hilarious and drops reminders that He's all I need, I get a love-note from God in my morning devotions.
Keep your lives free from the love of money...
Me: Check! God, you know I totally I don't love money, right?
God: Bianca, have you tithed this month yet?
Me: Well, um, [cough, cough], you see God, I've been really busy and I... okay, no I haven't.

Be content with all you have...
Me: I'm totally content, right God?
God: Every day you ask for something that you promise me you can't live without. Do you think you're content?
Me: Well, um, [cough, cough], you see God, I really want... okay, I'll own it! No, I'm not content in all areas of my life.

God has said, "Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you."
God: Do you believe me? Do you believe I will never leave you? I know what you need. I won't let you down.

Once again the vortex of Want sucked me in. Instead of recalculating my finances, I need to recalibrate my thinking. God has never let me down. I've written about it here, journaled about it, spoke about to groups of people about it, but I needed a reminder. Sometimes I think we all do...

Me: God, you are have never left me. Thank you for my Honda. [Insert long sigh here.] But just so know, I think I might die if I never have a Louis Vuitton purse. Just kidding! Well, half kidding.

Friday, November 13, 2009

four-letter words and substitutes...

The neon ball floated through the air above the net and I knew there would be no way JD would--What?! He hit it. In the nanosecond it registered, I scrambled across the tennis court but it wasn't enough time. I missed the return. To lose the set after a long, hard volley was beyond frustrating, so I did what any John McEnroe lover would do: I flung my racquet onto the floor and screamed out a word of injustice to the tennis gods. I turned to my tennis partner, Jelani, but he was motionless. I turned to JD. Then to Jas. No one moved.

Something in the cosmos changed because our lively, fun little game of tennis turned into spiritual intervention, with lame phrases like, It's just a game, or Why don't we call it a night, or the ever-patronizing, Why don't we stop and pray, by my over-religious sister.

I was confused. What just happened?

To this day, they still think I screamed out an unchoice word loud enough for people in Milwaukee to have heard. But I didn't. I promise I didn't. I let out a substitute word that may have sounded like a four-letter word. But I'm holy and a bible teacher and love Jesus and would never say such things, right? Riiiiiigt.*

But does this matter? An angst-filled word meant as a substitute is still an angst-filled word. If you're like my mother, you think I'm totally wrong. If you need intervention like me, how can we change the error of our ways? On a non-related note, why do I look like I'm going to eat you in this video?
*Disclaimer: Please don't ever bring this story up. I hate it. In my defense, I haven't cursed since the age of six when my mother heard me say a four-letter word and she washed my mouth out with a bar of soap. Seriously.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

reason #342,937,140...

Reason #342,937,140 why I'll be a bad parent:

I never thought I'd be that pet owner. You know, those people who are weirdly in love with their pets. For instance, one of my best friends in high school, Jennie, had a pair of annoying poodles who she was enamored with. (Sorry Jen--I can still hear Misty and Hersey barking in my nightmares!) She let them lick her face, sleep with her, and yes, rule the house. One Christmas she went to PetSmart and actually posed with her dogs and passed out the pictures to her friends as gifts. If I was truly mean, I'd scan the picture and post it here but she'd kill me so I won't--but it would be hilarious.

Last night at dinner we somehow ended up talking about pets. I immediately pulled out my phone and started gawking about how amazingly adorable my pets are while scrolling through pictures of them (yes, pictures as in plural). I was waiting for them to turn a light shade of green because I seriously have the most adorable dogs in the whole wide world. No, the universe. No, the Milky Way!

But they didn't. In fact, they politely smiled and continued on with conversation. Oh wait, I thought to myself, maybe that's a bad picture. They have to see this one! But, no, they weren't filled with envy as I showed them pictures. I put my phone away and was slightly bruised that they couldn't see that I had the most gorgeous children in God's great universe.

Then it hit me. I'm going to be that parent. You know, those people who are weirdly in love with their children and think they're brilliant, well behaved, and beautiful. I'm going to pull out my phone and scroll through a million images that only a mother can love. So, dear Internet, when I send you a picture with my children at PetSmart in front of a Christmas tree backdrop, you better love it! In fact, you better tell me that my children are the most gorgeous creations in God's great universe. Because really, they will be!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

100 word wedneday: everything...

1 John 3:16-20

The conclusion is inescapable. Jesus asks much more of us than just believing right things.

Our society compartmentalizes life:

Work [here] Friends [here] Church [here] Finances [here]

But our faith must permeate every aspect of our life. We can’t compartmentalize faith to Sunday mornings—it’s more than a political affiliation, hobby, or thing to do. Our faith must be like the very air we breathe. For when we breathe in Jesus, we exhale Him to those around us. The poor, the rich, the lonely, the successful, the annoying, the amazing—every one needs Jesus like everyone needs air.

What does God expect from us? Everything.

*Thanks to Dr. Suzanne Wyle from Whitter College for forcing me to critically think in 100 words or less. Go Poets!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

beautifully broken...

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' (Luke 15:28-30)

In The Phantom of the Opera, there is a scene when the mask that covers the monstrous face of the Phantom is dramatically pulled off and exposes the hideous creature beneath the mask. A heinous, marred face of the man with divine musical talent cowers like a beaten child. Even after seeing the play five times, I always cry every time the mask is removed—and now I’ve figured out why.

Amidst a small group of women on Sunday night, I trusted them to accept me for me; ugly, pockmarked, and decrepit. As uncomfortable as it must have been to watch me remove my mask, I knew it had to be done. The bible study paused as I metaphorically sung like the Phantom my story of jealousy, envy, and conviction. I saw some eyes turn away, shift, or look down; I’m sure it was out of embarrassment for me. But I knew the person beneath the mask and she longed to be exposed.

The girl. I hated her yet wanted to be her all at the same time. I felt like the world was celebrating sin and rewarding folly by fawning over this woman. But my mask hid the Prodigal-Brother-Syndrome and I watched with envious eyes as she was being blessed. What I didn’t realize was she had removed her mask to reveal the ugliness she possessed. In doing so, she invited the world to gaze upon her brokenness and marred past. I was convicted by her humility and honesty upon hearing her story; her ugliness was somehow beautiful up close and I needed to ask for forgiveness.

As I drove home on Sunday night feeling ugly and free and accepted, I knew why I cried when the Phantom removed his mask—he wanted to feel what I felt on Sunday night: beautifully broken and accepted.

Monday, November 9, 2009

the prayer of juarez...

You have to read it! Really, it’ll change your prayer life, she said. Maybe it’s the rebel in me, but anytime someone says I have to do something, I want to do the opposite. I know, I know, I’m a female James Dean. But since it was a dear friend whom I trusted, I took her word and bought the newest Christian phenom of a book, The Prayer of Jabez. The book is based off an obscure prayer found in the middle of a long section of genealogies in 1 Chronicles 4: “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”

Here’s the book in one sentence: If we truly pray for God to bless us and be used for His kingdom, good things would happen—God would bless and enlarge our territory and we would serve Him in a deeper and expanded way.

Nothing is wrong with this assertion, but many people read this book like a get-rich-quick manual. Like God is a celestial Bob Barker waiting to pull back a colorful door to reveal A new boat! A new dining room set and china cabinet! A set of jet skis! and other signs of wealth. All we need to do is spin the prayer wheel and ask for the illusive $1.00 spot.

I don’t know if this was the author’s intention, but to me, it was a palatable prosperity gospel* in mini-book form. It didn’t bode over well as I sat back and looked at my mother who was dying of cancer, I was a stellar college grad who was jobless, and my heart was broken for choosing God’s will over mine. I rested the book on my chest, placed my hand on my chemo-ridden mother and thought of Paul the Apostle. According the 2 Corinthians, Paul had frequently been in prison, flogged severely, exposed to death many times, whipped 39 lashes five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, shipwrecked, and endured dehydration and starvation. But his territory expanded. In fact, he authored more than half the New Testament, was thee early church father, and was a legit theologian who has changed lives even today.

The Prayer of Jabez is a poetic request from God, and yes, God blesses the lives of those who serve Him. But the Prayer of Juarez would include, Thy will be done, not my will. Come cancer, death, success, and health, blessed be your name. You give and take away, but my heart will surely say, blessed be your name.

*Prosperity gospel: the belief that God rewards faithful and sincere Christians with success! Good health! And material prosperity!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Video Post: Is Drinking a Sin...

Some Christians think of alcohol as up there with adultery, idol worship, and South Park. I met a fundamentalist who argued that the "wine" drunk in the Bible is not wine at all but actually grape juice (I'm pretty sure Thomas Welch was behind that theory). I simply asked for a scripture reference which bans alcohol. He couldn't provide one. I wasn't lobbying for the alcohol industry, I was simply advocating for a balance of scripture.
When I don't have the answer on a topic, I search for one. Being a nerd, I found the experts of all experts, a conservative Christian oenophile named Daniel Whitfield. Whitfield has made an astoundingly exhaustive study of every alcohol reference in Scripture--all 247 of them. I quote his findings here:
On the negative side, there are 17 warnings against abusing alcohol, 19 examples of people abusing alcohol, 3 references to selecting leaders, and one verse advocating abstinence if drinking will stumble a brother. Total negative references: 40, or 16 percent.
On the positive side, there are 59 references to the commonly accepted practice of drinking wine (and strong drink) with meals, 27 references to the abundance of wine as a example of God's blessing, 20 references to the loss of wine in offerings and sacrifices, 9 references to wine being used as a gift, and 5 metaphorical references to wine as a basis for a favorable comparison. Total positive references: 145, or 59 percent.
[Note: Being an over-achiever, I also found one reference to medicinal alcohol in 1 Timothy 5:23. Maybe my grandma knew a little sumthin' sumthin' if you know what I mean!]

It comes down to the battle between the Bible's gusto for life, and the Bible's weariness of excess. Between it's Epicureanism and Puritanism. You can find both themes in Scriptures. The Epicurean side is best seen in Ecclesiates:
"There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find fulfillment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God" (Ecclesiates 2:24).

So, what's do you think? How can we have our liberties, yet be mindful of our weaker brothers? Comments, suggestions, stones to throw?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

revelations to revolutions...

Last night I met with two wonderful girls from Wonderfully Made to discuss stories about life, Internet friendships, and changing the world one day at a time. These amazing women are starting conferences on college campuses and churches with the sole ambition of reminding girls that no matter who you are or what you look like, you're wonderfully made.

Kayla is bubbly and chipper and beautiful inside and out. Allie is honest and kind and strong, yet soft spoken. Over her ahi salad and ice water, Kayla asked me how my Biblical Living challenge was going. I paused for a second then blurted out that I'm totally a pharisee and had a huge revelation while in Chicago last week. I decided that maybe I should share it here as well.

I wasn't going to post anything about this challenge anymore but I think I should chronicle the revelation I had and share it with the blogosphere. If anything else, I'm documenting my committment to love like Jesus loved, live like Jesus lived, and touch like Jesus touched.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

fish and bicycles...

In the 70s a feminist by the name of Irina Dunn coined the ever-popular phrase, A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. If what she said was true, then call me Nemo and hand me a Schwinn, baby! This fish needs a bicycle.

She would never come to know how her graffiti mark on a restroom wall would impact much of the Feminist movement even today. She died alone and divorced in her Australian apartment. I often wonder if she surrounded herself with books at night to keep her warm--then laugh because so do I.

With that being said, Marcus Buckingham's book is rocking my world. I am learning so much and I barely started chapter two?! One point has been ringing in my ears for the last hour: Since the feminist revolution, women's satisfaction in life has decreased steadily every year. What's the correlation? I'm sure Michael will address this coming chapters but my own assertions lead me to Genesis 2 (yes, I'm a bible nerd).

God knew that Adam needed a mate suitable for him (v18) and it definitely wasn't an animal (v20). Biblical narrative suggests that Eve was physically taken from Adam's side, but who knew how long that might have taken?! Donald Miller noted in his lecture* that it probably took roughly ten years. I don't know about you but after years of naming animals, I'd sing out some poetry too if I saw someone made from me, butt-naked and unashamed!

So maybe, just maybe, fish were meant to ride bicycles. Okay, okay, maybe the analogy doesn't work, but is there a correlation between feminist ideology and unhappiness in life?

Totally curious and open to opinions,
The Man Lover

*Million Miles book tour (Los Angeles, CA)

Monday, November 2, 2009

my computer, cast away, and commands...

I'm still crying about not having my laptop. According to the FedEx Fascists, next-day delivery doesn't actually mean the next day. No, it means whenever they feel like delivering it. I guess if this was Cast Away, I'd be Tom Hanks, completely forgotten, and talking to a volleyball waiting for someone from FedEx to actually care I'm forgotten.


As I writhe in longing for my appendix, I will share some learnings I had in Chicago. The short: I'm totally the suckiest Christian ever. I started my Live Biblically challenge like all other challenges I self-impose: decide now, assess later. As always, assessing my decision to do this in the middle of the vow has been like asking for directions in the middle of a hurricane. As a control freak, I gave the illusion that everything was fine while my left eyelid twitched, heart stuttered, and head spun trying to follow my list. I've been driving myself crazy trying to be a good Christian. But that's been the problem. I'm will never ever live up the title Little Christ (literal definition).

Here's the best part--it was never expected of me.

What does God expect of us? What is the Christian faith about? Going to church on Sundays, praying before meals, and stringently following a list of commands--or does God expect more? When people say they are Christians, what exactly does that mean? If you're a Christian and you believe Jesus is the Son of God, then all He said and did is deeply significant to how we live our lives. So it's cool we believe, but God expects more. More than prayer, church attendance, or a list of rules; God asks us for everything. As Richard Stearns pointed out, He requires a total life commitment from those who would be His followers. In fact, Christ calls us to be His partners in changing our world, just as He called the twelve to change their world two centuries ago.

So, the challenge can be wrapped up in two simple commands, not 2,345,345,962:
Luke 10:27, ...'Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul with all your strength with all your mind,' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' I think I might be able to pull this off after all.

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