Wednesday, September 30, 2009

do nothing...

I was reading at the gym this morning and my eyes fell onto Philippians 2:3. For some reason I had to read this verse over and over. I've read this verse before but this time it radiated like a pulsing neon sign.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
But Paul, my friend and homie, don't you know me? I'm intrinsically selfish! We all are. I don't make up the rules, I just play by them. If I don't think of myself in this dog-eat-dog world, who will? If I don't push to the front of life, I'll be trampled and left in the dust. Therefore, my wise friend, on this one, I think you're wrong.

I climbed off the elliptical machine and walked to spin class where I had reserved my bike before anyone else could. Ouch! Was I just selfish?

While finishing my reading this morning at home, the following verses indicated why we should esteem others better than ourselves and who we should emulate. It says nothing about being humble because it's-a-good-thing-to-do or this-is-the-golden-rule-of-human-interaction. No, it boils down plainly to Jesus Christ and His example of true humility. Some of the words I circled in reference to our attitude in verses 7-8 are nothing, servant, human, humbled, and obedient. How many of those descriptions fits my daily behavior? Uh, I'll get back to you on that one.

Don't get me wrong. I hold the door open for people, smile at strangers, give my change to homeless people with witty signs, but Paul encourages us to do nothing if there is an ulterior motive or conceit in actions. Taking this point and inversing the implications, we could read this scripture like this:
Do everything out of humility and earnest actions with no ulterior motives because we are all the same. No one is better than you.
I think this learning was illuminated for more than just me, so I share this with you. Walk with love, talk with love, teach with love, and preach with love. Our example is Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

feeling like a maguey...

Ecclesiates 3:11 He has made all things beautiful in His time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

While driving through the desert this past Saturday to a conference I was speaking at, I was reminded of an odd plant that thrives in arid regions. It looks like an ugly love-child of a cactus and aloe vera plant. It has a spreading rosette in the center of the plant which grows spiny, grey-green leaves about three inches thick and has a sharp spike at the end of each tip. Each year the plant grows wider, longer, and uglier.

Seriously, the maguey plant is one of the those plants you can walk by and never even notice or care about; it's forgettable and over-looked. But as I studied this plant, I was shocked to learn this plant has a beautiful story of endurance and perseverance. For over 20 years the plant will grow without producing a single flower or fruit. But then, like a great Disney tale, a small shoot grows out of the center of the rosette. And keeps growing. And growing. And growing. In a matter of three days, a stem roughly two feet thick will reach heights of over twenty-five feet! At the very top of the stem is a beautiful cyme of yellow, fragrant flowers.

After years of ugliness, the beauty that was deep within pushes up and stands majestically in dry and barren land.

Years of abuse, molestation, neglect, depression, trials or tragedy are part of the brokenness of man. But in God's perfect time He restores the years of ugliness with vibrant colors, sweet scents, and towering strength. Even when we can't see the full scope of God's work from beginning to end, He will make all things beautiful in His time. Are you blooming? Share your story. Are you feeling like the maguey plant, ugly and overlooked? Share your story. It's about time we rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping (Romans 12:15).

Monday, September 28, 2009

100th blog post and providence...

Last night in a small house on Maple Avenue with a broken fan and a faulty air-conditioner, I began our small-group study through the book of Esther. I was so excited to begin this study and more excited that it was tailored for women between the ages of 18-25 because it was roughly the age of Esther when God used her to do the impossible. I wanted to be like Esther and rally the girls to rise for such a time as this and do the impossible with their lives [insert clapping, affirming nods, and vibrant Amen's here].

But I stood in my grey dress and snake-skin heels while the girls fanned their faces and wiped the beads of sweat from their foreheads. No, I was not teaching a fire-n-brimstone message on hell. It just felt like we were in the pit of it. We had ten more verses to get through when I made the decision to just read them all in one breath andputthewordstogetherlikethis just so we could finish. Definitely goes down in the books as one of the worst teachings I've ever taught.

While in bed last night [kicking myself for The Worst Teaching Ever], I began to think about what I learned through the study of Esther. The narrative begins in a pagan city where God's presence is seemingly absent. There is no movement of God, no word from God, no sign from God. But He's there. Just as He was present at 915 Maple Avenue. Would I have liked the miraculous to occur and a cool breath from Yahweh chill our packed room? Would I liked to have chucked my notes out the window and quote Hebrew translations from memory? Would I have like to serve homemade scones instead of Chip's Ahoy cookies? ABSOLUTELY. But God doesn't always work in the miraculous.

Sometimes, the bigger miracles are the ones that occur in the natural realm. Like believing that God's word was planted in hearts and minds and lives were changed. Not because of me, but in spite of me.

On May 8th, 2009 I started this blog. I really didn't know what I would say, what would come of it, or who would read it, but I made a commitment to post one hundred blog entries, then assess if I wanted to continue on. Almost five months later, I've hit the goal and I'm exciting to commit to one hundred more. Why? Because I believe God's word can be planted in hearts and minds through this blog. Not because of me, but in spite of me.

Thanks for joining me on the first one hundred posts!

Friday, September 25, 2009

ask anything...

Today is Ask Anything day! Yup, here's your chance to ask questions about faith, culture, or the bible to someone who knows what they're talking about. No, not me. Cheryl Brodersen!

Next week I'll be interviewed by Cheryl Brodersen on her Internet television show, Today's Faith. When her assistant called to invite me I tried sounding cool and collected but the quiver in my voice betrayed me. I immediately had this grand idea of interviewing HER because really, she's waaaaay cooler than I'll ever be. Cheryl's the daughter of a pastor, wife of a pastor, mother of four, European missionary, author, speaker, and teacher.

And then there is me. Standing in her presence I feel like a gum chewing teenager, wearing a tacky pink shirt with puffy print that reads, "I'm a PRINCESS" while responding to her questions like an incoherent teenager: So like, it's like so cool, that like I have a blog and like I love to tell people about the love of God. It's like so cool, right?!

Well, for whatever reason, they invited me for an interview this Thursday, October 1. I really want to take advantage of this opportunity and talk about issues women are facing, since they didn't like my idea of interviewing her. So here's your shot to ask anything! I'm hoping to answer some of these questions and get Cheryl's insight and seasoned wisdom on how to be a woman of God in the 21st century. You can ask anonymously or link out to your blog, but all I ask is what city/state you are from.

Ask away...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

ivan drago, me, and the sprint that changed everything...

So Rosie the Riveter, Irina Dunn, and every other Femi-Nazi who doesn't shave their underarms would've been proud today. In fact, Hillary Clinton would've probably patted me on my back as I finished my wind-sprints in bootcamp today. Oh that's right, Internet! I walked in late to the gym and saw two guys in my 5:15am bootcamp class. As sovereignty would have it, I was placed next to a tall guy with a shaved head and goatee who looked at Jacqueline and I as we walked in and took our places. As the instructor lined us up for sprints, he looked at me and smiled. But like a condescending smile which read I-Will-Kill-You [said like Ivan Drago from Rocky 4]. I returned the pregnant look with, I-Am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar [rawr!].

Let's just say the competitive beast came out in me and I was determined to have this guy read the invisible Eat My Dust sign on my back. And he did.

As bootcamp finished and we walked to spin class, I boasted in my success to Jac. But somewhere in between the Justin Timberlake songs and the hum of the bicycle wheel, I began to feel very conflicted. Being competitive is one thing, but it was deeper than just wanting to win. It was wanting to beat someone who offended me by assuming they were better than me. In that quagmire laid all sorts of questions about myself.

I can't figure out if I am wrestling with gender roles, stereotypes, or prejudice, but all these scriptures are running through my mind as I think about the way I approach Life. Why do I feel the need to compete with others? What is the benefit of self-affirmation? What are the long-term effects of comparing myself with others? The answers are leading down roads of psychological destruction. I am complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). I am part of something bigger than me (1 Cor. 12:12). God has a plan for my life despite the color of my skin, preordained gender, or class status (Jer. 29:11, Jer. 1:5, 1 Cor. 1:27-29) . Worst of all, if I'm not careful and believe my inner monologue, I might end up like Ivan Drago with a condescending spirit and bad haircut.

It's not about measuring up to others. It's about being who God has called you to be.
It's not about self-confidence and affirmation. It's about being confident in the Lord and believing He has already affirmed us.
It's not about assuming a lesser role due to gender, class, or ability. It's about being embracing the journey we are on in this specific season, at this specific time.

What's your journey? What are your struggles? What are you wrestling with today?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

garlic, cooking, and the aroma of Christ...

I love to cook. In my dreams I'm southern like Paula Deen, dainty and precise like Giada, master mixer like Bobby Flay, and as creative as Alton Brown. But like I said, it's in my dreams. In reality I'm Bianca Juarez, cook ordinaire who loves to eat, therefore loves to cook.

Last night my friends made a tasty offer: I cook, they buy the ingredients. Deal! I had a low-carb, high flavor meal in mind so I texted the ingredients and marinated the menu in my mind. When I arrived I immediately began whipping cauliflower, cleaning and blanching the asparagus, and seasoning the meat. Without a care, I chopped up an entire shallot, onion, and a bulb of garlic. No, not a clove of garlic, a bulb of garlic. By the time dinner was done I had washed my hands multiple times, but there was no denying I had been around garlic. The scent deeply penetrated my skin and the aroma filled in the car even as I drove home.

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. We each have a fragrance we emit which is determined by what we are around. Just as garlic seeped into my skin, the word of God does so likewise. Paul urges us to, live a life of love, just as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2). So the question I ask is, what is your fragrance? Do you smell appetizing? Do you reek of cantankerous rot? Have you been saturated by things that will draw people in or push them away? I'm not saying to mince a garlic and reek all day! I'm simply pointing out that what we surround ourselves with will omit a fragrance that will let everyone else know what we've been around.

Be the aroma of Christ. Now if you'll excuse me I need to wash my hands for the umpteenth time. Yes, my phalanges still smell like garlic.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

don't stay down...

Failures and false starts are a precondition of success. Paul Arden

Sometimes people want us to fail. Sometimes we false start and fall flat on our faces. Sometimes it's self-imposed stupidity that causes us to stumble. At other times it's not being equipped enough to handle what was required, dooming us to failure. The question isn't when will it happen, but rather what will you do when it does?

A righteous person may fall seven times, but he gets up again... Solomon, Proverbs 24:16

I can't be honest with myself if I'm not honest with others. I have fallen and stumbled in my walk with Lord. Stupid dating decisions, poor financial investments, flat-out transgressions that I knew were wrong [but I did them anyway] all led to falling into a pit that was deeper than I ever thought and darker than I could ever imagine. But where am I now and what have I learned?

Matthew Henry in his commentary on Proverbs 24:16 said this:
The righteous man, whose ruin was expected, recovers himself. He falls seven times into trouble, but, by the blessing of God upon his wisdom and integrity, he rises again, sees through his troubles and sees better times after them. The just man falls, sometimes falls seven times perhaps, into sin, sins of infirmity, through the surprise of temptation; but he rises again by repentance, finds mercy with God, and regains his peace.

I hate to burst spiritual bubbles, but the truth is that you will fall, you will stumble, you will fail, because we all do (Romans 3:23). But don't stay down. Get up! Like Matthew Henry pointed out, we rise again by repentance to find mercy and regain peace. In the words of Notorious B.I.G., If you don't know, now you know, you know, you know... Now get up, dust yo' self off, and keep walking. Beyonce did.

Monday, September 21, 2009

live in love...

I approach blogging the same way I do first dates: Don't speak about ex's, politics, or bodily noises with accompanying smells. Some information is meant to be discussed behind closed doors, ya know? But on Wednesday I tweeted about being frustrated with the American medical system after my weekly lunch date with my two favorite senior citizens, Peter and Camille.

Virtually every week I hear how the boy from Spanish Harlem and the girl from Little Italy fell in love on a New York brownstone stoop. He painfully walks to his bedroom and proudly brings out a large picture frame of Camille at the age of 16 who is reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor (at least that's what he says every time he looks at the picture). She blushes, he cries. They hold each other's hands and finish each other's sentences. It's beautiful.

After the She-looks-like-Elizabeth-Taylor story, I asked about their health. Camille looked solemnly at me and spoke in hushed tones while Peter finished his fruit. Bianca, it's not good. Peter needs another medicine to help him with his dementia and Alzheimer's, but we can't afford either one. Our insurance says he doesn't need them. I wanted to throw stones and raise angry fists at our health system, medical reform, and social security. But I dropped the stones and unclenched my fists when I acknowledged that I can do what the government was never called to do: Love.

James 1:27 states that pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. James also challenges us by saying, If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking food and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (2:15-16). John the Beloved challenges us also by noting if our brethren is in need and we don't do anything, how can God's love abide in us (1 John 3:17)? I may not be rich, but I have money. I may not have medicine, but I can give hope. I may not have much to give, but I have time. We all do. So let's take lunch, spend time, and dispense hope to those who forgotten and needy.

Live in Love.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

spinning, cycling, falling...

I arrived totally looking the part. Spandex? Check! Water bottle? Check! Helmet? Check! Let's ride, he said with a sly smile indicating he knew something I didn't. The terrain was tough, the hills were scary, and quite honestly, my derriere ached because it felt like I was sitting on a brick. This is SO not like my Spin class, I called out as we peddled and panted up a hill.

I began spinning and became quite obsessed with stationary cycling about three years ago. Two years ago I found myself feigning for a better cycle workout, so when my friend Jelani asked me to go mountain biking with him, I totally thought I could hang. I mean, come on, I was spinning four times a week in an air-conditioned, dimly lit room while Michael Jackson medleys motivated me to push harder, faster, stronger. Mountain biking was going to be a piece of birthday cake!

He warned me of a steep drop on the trail and to let go of the bike, tuck and roll if I fell off at any point of the descent. No sooner did he say that I began to feel the wobble in the front wheel, the violent shake of the bike running over rocks at illegal speeds, and my back tire lifting off the trail with every pump of the break. I AM GOING TO DIE, was the only thought that crossed my mind. Release, tuck, roll, release, tuck, roll, I kept saying to myself. When I reached ungodly speeds, I tried to fall off the bike in a natural fashion but my feet were strapped in the stirrups. Of course. Release, tuck, roll? Heck no! I held on for dear life with every ounce of my being and squeezed the bike between my thighs. If the bike is going to flip, I'm going to bust out an Evel Knievel and flip with it! I made it down the hill and glared at Jelani as he smiled and said with disappointment, Awww, man! I thought you were going to fall.

Today in spin class, I thought of God's word. No matter what the world is shouting at us to do, sometimes we have to do the safest thing and hold on to what we know (Hebrews 10:23). How do we gauge morality?1 What is the rubric of Truth?2 What is the barometer of ethics?3 As Christians, our grid of knowledge and world view must come from God's inspired and infallible word. When Life is moving at warp speed, when you feel like you are falling, if fear is overtaking you, squeeze and hold onto God's word like your Life depends on it. Because it does.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

because it's my blog...

I never win contests. Like, never win. The best thing I've won has been a neon pink fanny-pack after registering for the Long Beach Marathon. Needless to say, I never claimed my prize.

But Internet, I felt lucky. I mean really lucky. After checking out totally amazing Story Chicago and the list of speakers, I knew I had to enter the contest which included 4 tickets to the conference, 4 tickets to the additional workshops, 4 books by Dan Allender (love him), and a 2-day hotel stay in Chicago. I wrote the required essay with a heart, soul, and a little bit of [totally planned] humor.

Apparently I'm heartless, sans a soul, and as humorous as a box of rocks because I didn't win.

Please let me wallow for a minute in disappointment by turning off my comments and boycott posting my blog today. How can I write stories if I can't even win the STORY Chicago contest? Excuse me as I bang my head on my desk and eat an entire bag of something delicious and fattening.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

seeing jesus...

in weathered hands asking for spare change, see jesus. in manicured hands with beautiful rings, see jesus.
in vaccuous eyes, hallow and empty, see jesus. in tear-filled eyes, joyous and hopeful, see jesus.
in fine suits, imported and tailored, see jesus. in tattered punk-printed shirts, dark and angry, see jesus.

I want to want God. I long to long for Him. I need to need Him. So I may love to love Him.

If we take the time to see the imprint of the Creator ingrained in every being, we will love our neighbors like we love Christ. The station in life shouldn't matter. The color of one's skin should be irrelevant. The financial wherewithal of man is vanity. The only thing that should be considered is if we are loving man like we love God.

Monday, September 14, 2009

grace and 84 miles per hour...

Last Friday I crawled into my car at 11:03pm half-dead and exhausted after an epic youth event. I reached for my cell and placed a phone call (Strike one!). I knew no one was at the stop sign so I casually paused and performed a California stop* (Strike two!). At the main boulevard I slowed down before making a right turn, but didn't make a complete stop at the red light. Since no one was there, it didn't matter, right? Wrong (Strike three!). While I was chatting [illegally] on the phone, I saw red and blue lights flashing and heard an ominous, Pull over to the side of the road, now! I hung up my phone and felt my stomach drop into the center of the earth. I prayed for mercy and grace as I thought of the impending ticket, insurance hike, and another point on my driving record.

A miracle of divine reciprocity occurred when CHP officer let me go without due punishment. In Mother Theresaish fashion, I cupped his hand in mine and said, God bless you, officer! God bless you, swore I'd be a better driver, and thanked God for the grace He'd given (Eph. 4:7). In my hubris I thought I had learned my lesson and had changed my ways due to the lavishing of grace bestowed upon me. But when I was pulled over on Sunday afternoon for speeding, I was completely taken back because there was no way I had been speeding in a 15-passenger van?!

I clocked you going 84 miles per hour, m'am. I didn't even know a 15-passenger van could go that fast. I apologized again and handed him my license and registration on cue. I already knew the routine.

I was embarrassed and humiliated that I had once again broken the law. I promised. I vowed. I swore I had changed my evil ways. But like Peter warns, I had been free from the things that defiled me through knowledge in Jesus Christ, but once again I had been overcome by sin. It's now worse this time because I knew I had been given grace, yet sinned again. Woof woof, oink oink, people. I'm the dog who returned to her vomit and the pig who returned to the mire (2:20-23). I knew the law, I sinned, I deserve punishment. But we all do.

A miracle of divine reciprocity occurred in the form of a human man who willingly took our punishment for our error and sin (1 John 4:9). We should be guilty, but we are free. What do you do with this grace? Without realizing it, I had mingled in mud and slurped my vomit after drinking freely of grace. But here's the good news: Grace doesn't run out. If you have tasted grace and gone back to your vomit, you can come back and be forgiven. How do I know this? Theologically: 1 John 1:9. Practically: The officer walked to the window, handed me my license and registration and said, The Lord works in mysterious ways.

*Why is it called a "California stop" if you can't do it in California?!

Friday, September 11, 2009

foolish things...

Brad picked up his guitar and began singing songs as staff devotions began. The staff loudly began to worship and unabashedly sang out as the chorus approached. The honest truth was that my mind was not there. My mind was on a million other things as I was stressing out about this weekend's Genesis retreat and all the things which needed to be completed. Did I bring my notes with me? Do I have my VGA cable for my powerpoint? Did I pack floss? What if the studies suck?

Matt Redman's worship song Heart of Worship filled the staff lobby and I feebly sang in unison with my peers. But I didn't mean it. It was hallow and dishonoring.
I'm coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about you, it's all about you
Jesus. I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it, 'cause it's all about you, it's all
about you, Jesus.
When Brad finished the chorus I was choked up and the shaky quiver in my throat caused me to stop singing--it was if Brad was singing where my heart should have been, but was so far from.

Life is not about me. As much as I want to believe that my words or leadership or charisma was needed for success, I humbly realized that it's never been about me. God is going to do a work in spite of my inadequacies, in spite of my faults, in spite of... well, me. When God calls us to do something or we are bestowed the honor of serving the Lord, there is peace in knowing we are only vessels. HE fills, HE equips, HE anoints us. At the end of the day, it's all about leading people closer to Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 is proof that He's going to use me... I've obviously made a fool of myself already.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

hope...

There are certain words in the American vocabulary that really can’t be defined in one standard sentence. Hope is one such word. It’s almost like gathering a bunch of people to survey the Grand Canyon and expecting them to describe it the exact same way. It just doesn’t work.

Hope manifests itself differently in the lives of each and every person who believes that one day things will change… things will be different… things will be better.

*To read the rest of this blog, click on (in)courage and join the crew of writers who are discussing hope. The comments have been turned off so you can join the dialogue there! Speak up and be heard on what hope means to you :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

they, them, those...

They picked me up from my hotel while I was breathing out frozen puffs of air like an amused fourth grader. My bible and notes were frozen in my naked hand and my California winter coat did a poor job at shielding me from the east coast chill. The assistant pastor and his wife spoke to me about the event that I would be teaching at and briefed me about what to expect, but I was distracted by the falling snow and frost-breath stick figures I was drawing on the car window. We pulled into the church parking lot before any of the attendees had arrived.

Except for one.

A man wearing an old flannel jacket and wool hat stood against the New England brick wall with a small grin which exposed his toothless smile. Two hours before anyone else had arrived, this man anxiously waited to hear the word of God taught in tattered clothing too thin to keep himself warm. He had a large bible in one hand and a lit cigarette pursed tightly in between the fingers of his other. I greeted him with a soft, Good morning. He exhaled the smoke nervously and began to cough violently. I didn't know what to do, so I offered him a cup of coffee. Before he could answer the assistant pastor angrily told the man to put out his cigarette, quit smoking, and told him to leave the church property if he was going to smoke again. The embarrassed man walked away humiliated and still coughing... and I stood there in complete disbelief.

As we entered into the church building, the pastor spoke of this man in third person plurals; they, them, those. I wanted to die. Didn't Jesus come to save the they, them, and those? Would Jesus care if this guy smoked a cigarette? Would Jesus tell this man to leave if he felt an inclination to repeat the offense? The pastor rambled on about those people while I tried thinking of a response, but I was physically and emotionally numb.

In the sad faces of people we meet, in the vacuous eyes of people we glance at, can you see Jesus? Behind his tailored suit, beyond the baby on her hip, can you see Jesus? If we fail to see Jesus in the people we encounter they will be left untouched like lepers, unreached like the lost, and unloved like the poor. Matthew 10:27, So he answered and said, "'You shall love theLord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and [love] 'your neighbor as yourself.'" And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."

Monday, September 7, 2009

laboring...

While everyone in American enjoyed Labor day around a pool or barbecue, I labored. No, not at my desk or behind a computer, but by moving a billion boxes out of a friend's apartment and into a new one. I walked into the apartment and was waist-deep in boxes; it was daunting. By the time it was said and done, the day proved that 1. friends who move an entire apartment in less than two hours need to start a moving company, and 2. when things seems daunting, friends who help you handle it are little miracles from God.

A few days ago I heard a bing while I was shuffling papers around on my desk. Bing indicates that my life must stop and immediately drop all important things and run to my computer to check email. It must be Pavlovian's bell because on cue I'm at my screen, begging for a treat or a pat on the head. But as I read this particular email, something struck me as different. It wasn't long, self-absorbed, or needy. It was honest. As I read each word in the email, my heart began to break as I learned of an Australian blog-reader who daily visits the blog, not because she has to but because she wants to. She painfully asked me to pray for her sister who, being a single-mother raising two kids and having been in remission of cancer, was once again told that her cancer returned. The litany of questions were asked: why, how come, why us?

By the time I finished the email, I walked into their life and I was waist-deep in boxes; it was daunting. I didn't want to pass along a cliche scripture or pretend that it was going to be fine. I did the only thing I knew how: pray. I wrote her sister's name on a Post-It note, stuck it on my office window, and prayed for a miracle. We both were praying for a miracle.

I received an email from my new Australian friend and I nearly started crying as I read the first sentences:
I don't know where to start with all this, i am on my way home from the snow with my sister. We got all her results, the cancer is GONE. We still have a road to travel, but i wanted to thank u for being a guiding light, inspiration and helping me to get back to god...

Box by box the apartment was moved. Prayer by prayer faith was restored, lives were changed, and cancer removed. Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Friday, September 4, 2009

my dress of many colors...

Ecclesiastes 5:15 says Naked we came into the world, naked we shall leave... Uh, thanks Solomon, but what do we wear in between birth and death? God cares about the minutia of our lives and the small desires of our hearts.

I'm not a fashionista nor claim to be one, but I do love nice clothing. The problem lays smack dab in between wanting certain things and having the ability to buy them. I work a part-time job. At a non-profit organization. In East Los Angeles. Trying to pursue what I believe I'm called to do has forced me, like many of us in this economy, to live on a budget. Designer clothing doesn't event make the list of necessities, but living in LA is hard to do without being desirous of the perishable vice (aka shopping).

God cares about the minutia of our lives and the desires of our hearts. Jesus vocalizes not to worry about our clothing because He beautifully clothes the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28). See, I know that in principle, but sometimes when I look in my closet I realize the practice of this belief is not as strong. If I have to go out with friends or get dressed for church I begin to unconsciously use Lamaze breathing techniques so I don't hyperventilate and cry from trying to work a miracle in my closet.

But a couple days ago I was window shopping on my way to lunch and saw the Dress of Many Colors. There, hanging on a clothing rack with a divine light shining upon it and celestial melodies filling the air, was a colorful Diane Von Furstenberg dress... by itself... in my size. Something possessed me to asked what the clearance price was and I nearly fell over when I heard the price. IT WAS PENNIES compared to the price tag still hung on the sleeve. I don't want to even tell the price because you'll be so jealous you'll throw me and my Dress of Many Colors into a pit then sell me to slave traders.

I walked out of the store and couldn't help but spiritualize the moment because God clothes the lilies of the valley, feeds the birds of the air, and cares about the things that don't even make my list of necessities. God cares about the minutia of our lives and the desires of our hearts. Maybe designer clothing on clearance doesn't tickle your fancy, but what does? Voice it to the Lord... I promise you He cares.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

sin is sin...

My battle with gluttony has been a daily war since about the age of 10. I fell in love with the intoxicating feeling and euphoria food provided. Something triggered fairy-like endorphins that magically took away any feelings that I had. Fear, stress, loneliness, and insecurities disappeared in heaps of hot food.

Food was my frienemy!

What makes this sin difficult to talk about is gluttony is different from other sins because like air, we need food. However, we justify our actions because it’s a necessity [insert loophole here]. By doing so we justify this sin and lessen the weight of it because it’s not a “bigger” sins. But sin is sin. Period.

The problem is that a simple definition of gluttony will fall short because it doesn’t address the heart of overeating. What does God say about this? Paul the Apostle, in tears, warned that many are living like enemies of the cross of Christ whose destiny is destruction and god is there stomach (Phil. 3:18-19). But the problem is that there is a legalism in dieting. Controlled eating = righteous. But it couldn’t be more wrong! The issue is at the heart. For me personally, I couldn’t control my actions. Telling me to stop eating was like telling a paraplegic to stand up and walk. It was impossible.

No one understands the emotional turmoil, guilt, embarrassment, and defeat that you feel when you try on clothes, step on a scale, or see people look at you and stare. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t help me?! I mean, this was my health and I was asking him to help me! Literally, I was crying out to Him for help.

But I was asking for the wrong thing. I wanted Him to change my body, but not change my heart.

If you think you can handle this sin, it’s putting you at odds against Jesus Christ and what He did for you at the cross. It’s time to grieve and mourn our sin, but not live in condemnation of feeling hopeless, helpless, and worthless. Conviction is good, but condemnation is bad (Romans 8:1).

Here is a snippet that Denny from Bridgeport Productions put together out of his own time and dime. Thanks, DB!

video

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

living out loud...

Something just happens. You can't explain it because it's beyond you. It's like a snap of a button, a switch of a light, a blink of an eye, and suddenly everything makes sense. It's like seeing your child emerge from the womb; you know that nothing can stop you from loving it. It's like seeing your spouse on your wedding day for the very first time; nothing looks more beautiful. Or like standing in the batter's box after hitting a grand slam with bases loaded; nothing feels more perfect. For me in this season in my life, something has happened and I can't explain it because it's beyond me.

I'm living out loud what I believe and not giving a rip! And it makes sense.

It's not like I coward behind the religious beliefs of my parents or lived as a camouflaged-Christian, but there was something silent about my faith because of fear. I feared I would be ostracized, I feared I would be marginalized, I feared I would look like I belonged on some weird Christian television show with people who looked more like a circus act than followers of Christ. So I remained silent about my faith or gave mousy replies when asked about particular subjects.

But in growing up I’ve learned that I don’t have to carry a 40-pound cross, tote a 10-pound bible, or hold up signs claiming that I love Jesus. I am simply a working girl, who stands for justice and righteousness, teaches the bible when possible, and is quite normal. I’m not a hyper-fundamentalist who is afraid of media, music, and movies. No sir, I embrace this culture [with caution] because I’m in this world but not of this world (Col. 2:8), trying to make it better by sharing Truth, Hope, and Love any way possible. I will use a homing pigeon, smoke signals, a blog, twitter, facebook, or whatever means possible to dispense redemption and Truth.

So, I’ve decided to create a facebook page for In The Name Of Love and will be posting updates and discussions as I think it may be easier to dialogue with other followers. Topic du jour: mass communication J

Preach the gospel always. And when necessary use words. Francis of Assisi

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