Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What I Would Do With 30 Seconds

Like most Americans, I spent much of the weekend pondering Friday's massacre at Sandy Hook. I'm heartbroken; we all have that in common, but how we process is so different.  I was alone (in public) when I heard the news. When I couldn't get a hold of Matt, I went on FB and Twitter to find some sort of connection in my grief. In the beginning, each and every status update lamented the shock, horror, and sadness of it all, but as the weekend continued, different tones emerged as people tried their best to make sense of things in their own way. How other people process can be really annoying if it's not similar to your own.

Isn't that how it always goes?

In these monumental moments, whether tragic, or overwhelmingly beautiful, we have about 30 seconds where we can all be on the same page, united in whatever it is we are united over, until the pull of self tip-toes in with a single comment. Or look. Or whatever it is that awakens the I that momentarily stepped aside for the other. I think one of the wisest things I read was this: http://timgombis.com/2012/12/17/silence/.

Not inaction. But giving each other room to breathe, deeply.
Waiting on wisdom.

Maybe we can stretch out those 30 seconds of unity. Because having different ideas is good. It's healthy, enriching. We need different perspectives to challenge us to go deeper. As long as those perspectives are laced in grace and the desire for understanding.

There were constructive conversations. I read a long post between my mom and a lifelong friend, where their views differed, but instead of feeling aggravated by it, it made me want to go back to growing up around our kitchen table where hours of conversation took place between our families. I wanted to connect with eyes and inflections, not a dumb computer screen.

Because that's what's supposed to take place between neighbors.
If we could just extend our 30 seconds. And just be.

Friday, December 14, 2012

There Are No Words.

I'm sitting in Starbucks trying to write a paper on how to fix our nation's educational system. Impossible.
I feel sick.
Just saw the news of dozens of kids in CT killed in a mass shooting at school. Babies, really. The report that I read said much of it happened in a kindergarten class. Babies that would be friends of my own baby.
Gosh, unfathomable.
There's no sense in it. Children. God, anyone but our children.
My mind has been wandering through the silence of God in so many ways lately. Where are you God? How long must we wait for you to show up? How long? I so believe that you are a God of love, compassion, and mercy. And justice. God is just. I believe these things with every fiber of my being. But these days come, when we see how much we hurt each other, when nothing makes sense. When our babies are murdered.
How long, God?
I can scream these questions at God. Are you even there? Are you good, God? I can ask and shout and scream my doubt. It can get pretty ugly sometimes, when that doubt creeps in.
He can handle it though.

And the answer will still be yes.
Yes, He is good.
Yes, he hears our cries for deliverance.
Yes, he knows our pain.

When I hear of senseless, horrible tragedies like this, I think my mind will always go back to Cambodia. To the Killing Fields. To the tree. That tree is forever etched in my mind. Against that tree where children were horribly, senselessly murdered. And it leads me to another tree. God, how could it not? Because the Story, the workings of this tree run through me. Only when life is framed through looking at this tree can any of this senselessness make sense.

God is with us.
Truly with us. Emptying himself of all God-rights to save us. Taking on our sin.
On a tree.

The Prince of Peace.
Stepping into our pain.
Knowing it so fully, yet never retaliating or hurting when hurt.
Fully drinking from the cup of human suffering.

Yet there's human suffering all around.
He waits.

And there's such hope in that waiting.
He will redeem it all.
Oh God, we are desperate for your redemption.

Death. He conquered.
Life. He gives.
Horrible, brokenness. He heals.

The power to make all things right in this world.
He holds.
Divine justice.
It will come.
It has come.
But someday, in all it's fullness.
The only hope of a world turned mad.

We mourn, we weep with those whose pain is unbearable to bear alone. We share in it with them. We comfort through our tears, our presence, our remembering. There are no words. We trust. And live expectantly in hope. And until that Hope returns, we are the tangible expressions of it for each other. We work to right all these wrongs. We work and we pray and we don't give up or turn a blind eye. We love as he loved.

God help us love in days like this.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When Silence Falls

Sometimes it's so hard to see God. To know that he speaks.
As in ages past.
I forget this is not just a modern struggle. The ancients struggled with the silence of God, too. There were centuries of silence where the prophets lips were closed. They just didn't hear from God. Where was he in all this silence?

Working his plan in his own time. Wooing us to trust him even when we don't hear as we want to. God knows, God sees, and yet he waits. With a linear view of time, this doesn't seem to make sense. If only we had the eyes of God.

I've been reminded of the cries of the Psalmists, begging God to show up. And I've seen it the lives of those around me. How long, God?

All things speak of the mystery of God. I believe that wholeheartedly. I feel it in my bones. As we follow Jesus, we must be people that interpret the world well. That he is here. And he is good. So good that even when the material world seems to scream he's absent, the immaterial whispers back of his love. His Story running through our veins in a way that always points home.

The signs are all around.
If we can see them with the right eyes, as we stumble in between the inciting incidents of faith. Finding the holy ground of earth and air, breathing in the normalcy of the slow process of maturation. All things in their proper time.

Everyday marches on. The sun rises and sets. The seasons change.
These very things speak of Him. That the word doesn't just spin madly on. It's not all chaos and dysfunction. There's sense, order and reason. Imagination and beauty.  Love. Redemption.

How can we train our eyes to see Him more clearly?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Art of Communication

After my last post, I got a text from someone asking if it was about them. This was pretty funny to me because these peeps were probably farthest from my mind when I wrote it. In fact, I really didn't have any particular person in mind when I wrote. It was just something I've experienced here and there in life and felt like writing it out. It seemed like a universal that most could identify with at some time or another. Or maybe I'm just weird.

Who isn't?

Then I got to thinking who else is going to see themselves in this post? Uh oh. Will they be offended? It's not meant to be offensive. It was supposed to be the opposite of that. Seeking glimpses of God's renewal, everywhere. But that's what happens when you combine different people with different perspectives, trying to interpret each other. It's amazing we ever get anything accomplished. I'm reading a book right now that talks about how strange it is how we view Jesus calming the storm as more miraculous than his ability to see and heal human hearts. John Arnold says it takes "more obedience to the Father's will, more divine energy to face his fellow human beings and subdue them, than it did to outface the storm." After all, it was people that crucified him.

Communicating well is an art form.
One in which I have yet to master. Even when it is done well, there's still the potential for getting screwed anyway. But when it's happening like it's supposed to it's such a beautiful thing; those moments when you truly feel known and know another. When our masks of self-preservation and self-centeredness are dropped. Those moments are fleeting as we're confined to this flesh but such a glimpse into a future reality when our communicating with others is actually communing with them. When the games that we humans play, even unrealized, are no longer, but replaced by wisdom and vulnerability coming together in perfect unity.

We'll get each other. Someday. We labor not in vain. Someday, we'll see things as they are, unveiled. The good work He promises to be faithful to complete in us will be completed. Yet, while we're not living in the completed, the Somday can also be right now. Real, meaningful relationships are achievable. Authentic community isn't just a pipe dream. It just happens to be a lot of work. How thankful I am for those that are willing. In this, the Someday meets today.

He is the Hope of the impossible. 
Come quickly, Lord Jesus. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Life as Art (again)

I used to write a lot about life as art, but then life got seemingly more complicated and my mind got stuck in seeing mostly just the dark or serious side of life. It's easy to get stuck in that place and become frustrated with all those around you because you get it and they just don't. And you want to yell,"Why can't we just be on the same page (my page)!?"

Why. Is. This. So. Dang. Hard?

And suddenly you realize all the battles you want to fight for others expose all your own internal battles and struggles, which suddenly make it very, very hard to breathe. And it becomes hard to talk about that which you always wanted to talk about before because of that fear that as soon as you open your mouth you'll get those looks. Or worse, people will just look the other way. So the internal battle of pride and fear flare up again and shut down mode looks so appealing.

Everywhere you look there's obstacles.
But really, what those obstacles are is people.
Who are supposed to be gifts.
Are now challenges.
That's what we become to each other. Something to overcome.
It paints such an ugly picture.
Strife. Tension. Manipulation. Masked in shallow conversation.

This should not be.
The reality is that each and every one of us is a complex, beautiful gift, meant to be given and received.
We are works of art, created in the image of God.
Made by vulnerability and molded by the hand of God.
There's so much magic and mystery in that I tend to forget.
I forget how our different experiences, paired with our natural gifts, have brought us where we are and not a single one of us has arrived.
How desperately we need each other.
With all of our crap and complications. We need other people to give and receive love.
To love each other where we're at and inspire us to be more.
Learning together the art of being human.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

And Then I Broke Up with My Scale

Today I ended an unhealthy relationship. One in which I've been dependent upon for years. I've pushed it aside before, but I always go back. Not anymore though. Out of my house, out of my life.

The thing is, you always speak truth to me, and every day for the last several years I've listened to you. I define my worth based on what you tell me. If what you say is good, then I feel like I have an ounce of control. If I don't like what you say, I feel defeated. Too many days I've spent thinking about you. But, it doesn't matter if what you say is true. Your cold, hard facts may be full of truth, but I'm being redefined by a greater truth. I'm choosing to believe Someone greater, no matter what you tell me.

So long, sucka.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Glimpses of Grace, in the Middle

Well, the month is over and so goes with it our Less is More Mix, For Love146. By all accounts, one could probably look on and say that started out well but ended up a big failure, to which I could reply, "Yes, I know I really tinkered out there at the end," and we would all sigh and agree that next time we will do better, next time we will work harder, be more disciplined and just. be. better. 

Here we are on November 1st, and I will admit, in some ways I failed miserably and thought of all the ways I could get out of living consistently. There was a day that I literally stood for several minutes at the grocery store in front of no-bake chocolate chip cookies and thought, "Dang it, I just want to make cookies for my kids but know that all the chocolate chips are made from cocoa harvested by children slightly older than my children. But DANG IT, I WANT cookies for MY kids and WHY does it matter, really?? Because my voice means NOTHING. What difference does it make? Can we make a difference? Today I would rather believe that we can't. And gosh darn it, they donate a portion of profits to breast cancer research. But seriously, how double-minded is that? They'll purchase chocolate from exploited children on one side while donating to eradicate a deadly disease on the other side. Double-minded, double-minded!"

And this is me. 
And this is you.
And here we are.

There is a double standard that haunts our footsteps and leaves a path of destruction on one side while reaping beauty on the other.

This is life.

Because, friends, we're in the middle of it, and the middle is not a beautiful, finished product. The middle is messy and undefined and difficult to discern. But in the middle is lovely and wonderful because God pours grace upon grace upon grace and woos us to rest still, in the middle of the striving, in him. He lets us draw from his well, from fountains that bring life-giving water from which we will thirst no more. He roots us and establishes us in love, in him, and in relationships with others that are just as unsure as we are. And I love this. Because this is real life. 

It's not a sprint; it's a marathon. With hills. And ruts in the ground that will make us lose our footing. Sometimes we won't fall gracefully but are told that those that have finished their race are cheering us on and all the while we're given the tangible gift of each other. I'm so very thankful for those relationships that are truly gifts from our Heavenly Father because this month, and many other months preceding have brought tears of frustration and tears of joy as we try to walk well. walk wisely. walk humbly through this crazy thing called life.

Such a gift, this life is, for those that stay the course and don't give up. Not in a rigid, inflexible way but with our eyes always on the One who plots the course, knowing that we run in his strength and power. He's invited us to participate in his work and he will supply the grace needed to finish. Even when we want to throw in the towel. When it seems too hard or like it doesn't make a difference. Let's keep running, together in unity that makes people wonder how this crazy group of misfits keep going against all odds. How can we tackle whole systems when we can't even live well for a month? 

Grace upon grace upon grace, flowing as deeply and as widely as we're willing to receive and pass along to each other.

Please know, I speak only for myself in this. Maybe everyone else was as consistent as the day is long. I hope. But if not, please know that we're in this together, if you'd like at least. We'll get there, eventually.

And in case you are still interested in donating to the work of Love146, I have created a DONATE page for us. If you do decide to donate, enter the code TF417 in the comments section. No pressure, friends, but a couple people had asked.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

And Then it Reached My Sweet Tooth

I learned something awful today. Life-changingly awful. Seriously crappy awful.

This month we've been focusing on the idea that less is more, choosing not to buy more stuff but to come alongside to meet each other's needs. We also wanted to research what products we buy that don't match up with a consistent ethic. If we are going to fight slavery, we want to do it in our everyday lives as well, not contributing to the systems that keep people enslaved. To be honest, I'm not the most informed consumer. I want to buy products that are not harming others, but it's easier to talk about than for it to become a part of who I am. I know this isn't a sprint either. I don't want to get overwhelmed (or annoy the heck out of my husband) by changing every aspect of my family's life and then just end up feeling like a big fat failure. The thing is, it's not about us working our tails off to get it right so we can say that we're totally awesomely ethically enlightened. However, it is about people around the world, created in the image of God, who are exploited in ways that we can't even imagine and choosing how we'll respond to this knowledge.

It's been interesting.

I can stay away from Target and not grab silly things that I don't need. That's not my big issue. My big issue is in food. Sweets and treats. We've been trying to live in the necessities and keep treats as just that, treats. I kind of suck at it. I read today that the average American consumes 11 lbs. of chocolate a year. I'm not the average American. I seriously think that I can consume that much chocolate in a few months. For real. I can suck down a whole bag of Hershey's kisses like it's my job. Ridiculous, I know. But I can't be the only one that does that, right? Right??

So here's where the horribly awful thing comes into play.

I started researching chocolate, and what it comes down to is that the major chocolate distributors in the U.S., such as Hershey, use cocoa that is gathered by children, some of whom are trafficked, who are subjected to horrible working conditions. There have been many attempts to get Hershey and others to stop buying from those in West Africa that exploit their workers. However, while they have said they will comply, their actions have proved otherwise. After a large marketing campaign during the Super Bowl that threatened to expose these things, Hershey promised to improve their standards with 100% certified fair trade cocoa...by 2020. So folks, in eight years Hershey may or may not have fair trade chocolate.

Pretty lame, Hershey.
I think I've finally kicked my chocolate addiction.
Please hold me to it.

As I said, I just started researching this today, so there's a lot to learn. If you have any helpful information to pass onto me, I'd really appreciate it. Here are a couple of articles I read today that were helpful.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Same People, Different Landscape

One of the Love146 partners who I had the opportunity to learn from in Cambodia was in the States recently. He posted some thoughts on facebook as he headed home from his first trip to this side of the world. I thought I'd share one thing that really grabbed me from what he said. It's always fascinating to hear cross cultural perspectives. 

"At a parking lot, a man said, '$15 for parking for 30 minutes.' I was astonished! A thought came into my head, 'My gosh! Parking car for 30 minutes costs our 3 meals in Cambodia.' Buying two sandwiches for breakfast, I paid $27. I felt, 'Oh! That is so expensive.' A silly thought came to my mind again, 'The price of 4 sandwiches is the same amount that we give to the families of the children to improve their lives (we give $50 as a micro-loan to help the family to start small business).' 4 NYC sandwiches can help to change a whole family and the entire community."

This was just one observation among many. There was no judgement in it. It's just a fact of our different landscapes. How quickly I forget these facts though. This was such a good reminder for me as we enter this month of choosing to say no to excess and yes to sharing with others in the Less is More Mix, For Love146. I'm not good at this. I often forget how blessed we are to be able to give. I'm asking God for these things to root down in my heart like they never have before. I'm asking for His Spirit to change me, help me become more intentional and for all of us that are participating in this to come alongside each other in unexpected ways, sharing in the beauty of what it really means to live life together. 

I hope that we can continue to develop ideas together and share in best practices that we've discovered that help us live well in the great Story we're a part of. 

* Sophany Pang is the director of Kone Kmeng out of Phnom Pen, Cambodia. You can follow them on facebook.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Glimpses of My Girl

My Emma's legs are growing stronger and longer on a daily basis, with bruises up and down that prove she plays hard and can hold her own with any girl or boy on the playground. She's growing and changing so much it's at the point where I just need to bottle some of her up and keep her tight by my side. Tonight as we cuddled I made her promise that she would always let me snuggle her, even when she's too old. "Of course!"she giggled, unable to imagine it any other way.

She doesn't see how she's growing into a valiant young lady.

She's been trying to whistle for a while now. She said she was going to try every morning and night until she got it and tonight it finally happened. She was so proud and informed us that she was to be called whistle-girl! for the rest of the night. An hour after she went to bed I could still hear the airy, high-pitched whistle coming from her room. I love how hard she worked at it and her pride in the accomplishment.

She doesn't see the compassion growing in her heart.  

Last week she was so excited because her teacher's daughter was having a baby. In the days before the baby's anticipated arrival, she would talk excitedly about him, by name. She was sharing in the joy of her teacher. But, she also learned the agony of sharing in someone's pain. The baby passed away soon after birth. I didn't know whether to tell her, but when she started talking about him again I just prayed that God would help me find the words.

As I told her the baby was with Jesus, she got angry with me. She couldn't understand why I would say such a thing. She kept telling me not to say something like that. To stop teasing her. She said babies weren't supposed to die. She kept repeating it, "No Mommy, babies aren't supposed to die." And how right she was.

"They're not," I told her, "It's so very sad but someday, someday God will make all the sad things come untrue. I promise." She bawled as I stopped the car and scooped her up.

She doesn't see the wisdom taking root in her soul.

As I picked her up from school yesterday she was unusually quiet, and as I bent down to ask her why she burst into tears. No one wanted to play with her. Now, when I dropped her off in the morning two little girls ran up screeching her name. I know the girl has friends but in that moment she felt alone and unloved. So we prayed together as I would do with my mom when I was hurting over friendship as a little girl. As we continued down the road she said, "They told us about the sad thing today, Mommy."

"Were you okay?"
"Did you cry?"

It seemed like too much sadness in one day for a 4-year old, but I had little to offer.

"You know how much I love you, baby?"
"You know how much daddy loves you?"
"You know how much God loves you?"
"Even more than you and daddy. Look, goats!"

And then my four year old was a four year old again.

She doesn't see how proud she makes this momma's heart. She doesn't see the lessons she teaches me on a daily basis and how I would jump through flames for her and her brother. She doesn't see how rich  she makes our lives and how her invitation to dance with her daddy melts my heart every time. There's so much she doesn't see now, but someday I hope she thinks back on these days and laughs that precious laugh knowing how much joy she's brought to our world.

One day.
One day she'll know.
Because one day she'll see all the unique, beloved beauty she is in the face of her own little girl.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Less Is More Mix, For Love146

Our Love146 task force wants to be a group of people that care about living justly in all areas of our lives. In light of this, we're asking questions and would love for you to join us. The essential question being asked is simply this: 

How can we make one change in our lives this month to live more justly?

If we don't practice justice in our everyday lives, how can we advocate for others in the big stuff? Too often we compartmentalize. For instance, how can we take a stand against human trafficking while continuing to buy products that are manufactured in ways that exploit people? While most people don't intentionally contribute to systems of exploitation, it takes hard work and a lot of thought to maintain a consistent ethic. We need to take the time to educate ourselves on what companies are mindful of how they treat their workers on all levels, and even be willing to pay more for products at times. Once we know, we're responsible. As a jump start to living justly, why not take some time to get out of the practice of being mass consumers? 

Here's the action item:

Take the month of October for the Less is More Mix, For Love146. The entire month of October we're choosing not to buy anything new but depending on God and each other to meet our needs. Feeling a fall chill in the air but don't have a sweatshirt? I have about ten that you can choose from. Your kid's backpack fell apart? Post it on the FB Love146 Lakeland Task Force page and I'm sure someone will take care of you. You wanted to win "most creative" at that upcoming Halloween party? Well, now is your chance. 

Anything that you would buy, borrow instead.

 If you're not in Lakeland, consider forming a group in your community. 

Becoming more informed consumers will put more money in our pockets. However, the purpose of this is not so we can hold onto more of our money. We're sharing so we can have the margin to be free with our money, living with open hands. By the end of the month, we have the goal of raising $1000 for Love146. Think we can do it?

What changes can you think of to live more justly this month?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Because Small Things Matter in Big Ways

I have little patience for politics. For years, I've disengaged because I can't find a home within either party. Political banter usually sends me straight into shut down mode. Seriously, I think an actual glaze may form over my eyes. The more I learn about human trafficking though, the more I realize this is no longer acceptable. Legislation is absolutely necessary to fight for the most vulnerable. I'm slowly approaching this new table, wondering if there could be room for someone like me - a reluctant participant who is willing to lend her voice if it'll mean giving voice to those who can't fight for themselves. I can only hope those who hold power will listen.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which will renew the Trafficking Protection Act of 2000, must pass before Congress ajourns at the end of the year. The original bill established the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person. The annual Trafficking in Persons Report, establishes a global minimum standard for confronting trafficking and slavery, which has been our government's most important asset for fighting trafficking internationally. This tiered system provides leverage when a foreign government is unresponsive to demand to end abuses. The legislation also serves to provide domestic funding for assistance programs for survivors. 

IJM has organized a National Call-in Day to pass the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) for TODAY, September 4th. All you have to do is call your senators and ask them to make passing this legislation a priority. IJM makes it simple by providing a script, as well as the phone numbers of your senators. Pass the word around by tagging 10 people on facebook and asking them to participate. 

It's so ridiculously simple.

If you live in FL, I'll even give you the phone numbers to call: 

Senator (R-FL) Marco Rubio's Office
Phone: 202-224-3041
Senator (D-FL) Bill Nelson's Office
Phone: 202-224-5274

Here's what you'll see when you go to the IJM page:

TAKE ACTION: National Call-in Day to Pass the TVPRA on September 4!

Abolitionists around the country have been advocating for the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) – bi-partisan legislation that will sustain life-saving programs that fight human trafficking at home and abroad.
This legislation must pass before Congress adjourns at the end of the year. On September 4, IJM, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), and abolitionists around the country are mobilizing for the National Call-In Day to Pass the TVPRA!
There are many issues competing for your Senators' attention right now, so they need to hear from constituents who care about ending modern-day slavery to make the TVPRA a priority. Let's work together to generate 3,000 calls – from all 50 states. Will you help us?


September 4 - Make and Log your Call!

Making the call is easier than you think. Enter your zip code to look up the phone numbers for your Senators, and use the script below to make your phone call (feel free to personalize it!). It only takes 2 minutes!

Sample Call-In Day Script:

"Hi, my name is [NAME] and I am a constituent from [City, State]. I’m calling to ask Senator [NAME] to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (S.1301). This bill would help to combat human trafficking in the United States and around the world, something I really care about, and I would like the Senate to vote on it as soon as possible. Would you please pass my message on to the Senator? Thank you!"
We want to keep track of how many calls have been made to each senator's office, so after you've taken action, let us know! When you enter your zip code and click "Find Senators," the call log form will appear. Enter your name and email, and click "Log my calls!"


Spread The Word

Our goal is to generate 3,000 calls from all 50 states, but we need your help to reach that number. Tell your friends that you took action by sharing this through social media.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Because It Matters

I want life to slow down. Even though the FL summer holds on until October and the rush of school won't come for another year, I'm not ready for the changes that come with fall. It's ironic because I always advocate for change, but when it's right around the corner I get cold feet.

Change itself isn't the fear; it's the doubt that it will have any impact. It's the berating whisper that what we do doesn't matter. For instance, do I really want to put all that work into finishing my Master's? I wonder about the impact that it will have on our lives in the future. I honestly don't know if I'll ever be in a classroom again. 

It's the voice of why bother. 

All I know is that sitting barefoot in a warm room in Cambodia, surrounded by shelves of anti-trafficking resources, awakened a part of me that refuses to slumber again, even in the face of Educational Statistics. Looking back at all the small decisions and big leaps that have made up the tapestry of my life, nothing has been wasted. All is finding it's purpose. I suppose that's the beauty of being the workmanship of God. 

When doubt sings the siren's call of comfort, refuse to listen, even though continuing on as always would be so much easier. Why bother pursuing friendship with someone that's different; it's too awkward. Why put yourself in an environment where you feel completely out of place? Other people will step in. Such lies will only bring the bitterness of regret that rot the soul. What we do matters; we were created for impact. 

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Perspective of Trees

A few weeks ago I threw on some stylin' clothes and headed downtown by myself. Sure, Matt dropped me off on his way to run an errand with the kiddos, and it only lasted twenty minutes but still. It was twenty minutes of pure bliss. I walked around cute shops that I had no idea existed and looked at pretty fair trade jewelry and local art, while sipping on a latte from a non-chain coffee shop. I was, like, the definition of hipster and discovered that my little town has way more character than I realized. Kuddos to myself and Lakeland. I didn't know we had it in us.

I know I wasn't nearly as cool as my twenty minutes in heaven made me feel, but it did allow for some perspective. I've been in a bit of a funk for the past several weeks; it's nothing huge, just that unsettled feeling of grey that can come from trying to wrap your mind around a lot of heavy stuff all at once. Time has to be a part of the processing equation. Learning to live well doesn't happen overnight.

Beauty and lightheartedness add such a necessary dimension to life, often overlooked when needed most. It sounds ridiculous but looking at these small pieces of art almost took my breath away. It's as if I'd forgotten that creativity is part of our make-up; it's innate. We are works of art, made to create, cultivating beauty wherever we are. Beauty speaks in so many different tones that we can fail to recognize it. It's in simple deeds of service and hospitality, good conversations with friends and our children's laughter. There's time for creating works of art simply to add beauty to this world. All of these can be acts of worship. No matter how much our world has been distorted by ugliness, it's not a true picture of how it's supposed to be. Art, no matter the form, is a sign post to something bigger. It awakens the ever present longing for the Giver of all good things; all life is art.

Those minutes gave me a fresh perspective, for a moment. I saw the masterpieces in my littles sitting in the backseat and in the love of the man sitting next to me. I let myself just be for once, not worrying, planning or thinking of anything beyond drinking in the life in front of me. We drove around for quite a while, as we've done a lot lately. We drove down quaint brick streets with big oaks in neighborhoods that are rich with history. It made me long for that connectedness and thankful for all the time ahead to plant our own trees and watch them grow.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

They Shall Be Called the Children of God

The last couple of weeks has me thinking a lot about identity. It doesn't take much to see that we're a culture obsessed with labels, whether ones we identify ourselves with or ones that we ascribe to other people. Subcultures and communities are built around them, but they also serve as a way to push us away from each other. Bumper stickers are a great reminder of this. I can size you up in ten seconds to determine whether or not to give you a pass for cutting me off. You got a Jesus fish? Well forget the road rage, we're on the same team! A CoExist sticker? What now? I'll CoExist your tail for the next five miles.

Totally kidding.

I think maybe we do operate like that sometimes though. And well, I do want to be identified with Jesus.

I want to be known as a child of God.

I think.
Most of the time at least. I want to be identified as a child of God in the way Jesus described a child of God. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."  Matthew 5:9

The peacemakers, aye?

If I want to be identified as a child of God then it's important that I am a person who is actively seeking peace with others. Actively seeking peace with others, it seems, requires a posture of humility, which probably won't involve defending my rights. In fact, I can't think of any time that Jesus talked about defending his.

"Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God, and died a criminal's death on a cross." Philippians 2:6-8

How's that for rights?
Sometimes, to actively pursue peace, we have to give up our rights and close our mouths.

When the soldiers and officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees came to arrest Jesus, Peter tried to defend him with a sword, cutting off a man's ear. Jesus not only told him to put his sword away but healed the man as well. Then, he was subjected to all kinds of insults, abuse and a criminal's death. He could have shown his power by having the angels come and slay every one of his enemies. But this wasn't the way his kingdom was built. The offensiveness of Jesus is in the fact that he shows us that the power structures of this world are not really where power is found. It doesn't mean we don't stand for anything. Jesus defended others all the time. He stood for those that had no voice to stand for themselves.

The widow.
The orphan.
The diseased and crippled.
Those caught in sin and those known as sinners.

And yes, Jesus stands for us.
In our helplessness and shame.
In our sin and lowliest of low places.
Jesus stands for us.

This is the God I am so proud to know. The God that actively sought peace with humanity through giving up his rights and dying in our place.

Maybe being a peacemaker looks less like standing up for him, and more like standing with him. Taking on his posture.

Giving of ourselves.

Yes, I want to be labeled a child of God, but I want God to be the one defining the terms.

What are some ways that we can be active peacemakers?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Standing for Justice with a Collective Shout

I'll be honest. All this chicken talk has been wearing me out. It's been so loud and polarizing in a way that makes me wonder if we'll ever get it right. Really, do our voices ever change things anyway?

I suppose it depends on the battles we choose.

A couple months ago I sat in a room with five incredible people talking about ways to stop child sex slavery and exploitation. During the course of the conversation, Glenn Miles, Love146's director of Asia Prevention told us about a book that was sold on Amazon.com called Age of Consent: A Sex Tourists Guide. The basis of this book was to inform people about the varying ages of consent in different countries so as not to get in trouble with the law while engaging in sex with children. It wasn't buried in some shady back room bookstore, it was the first book to come up under a search for sex tourism on Amazon's site. And yes, these are the kinds of materials our right to free speech protects here in America. Thankfully that doesn't mean that there's nothing we can do about it.

The book description stated,

"In some countries it is even illegal to have sex outside of marriage, with severe consequences if you are caught doing so! On the flipside, there are many countries on this planet where the age of consent is as low as 12 or 13... This $3.49 will keep you out of jail, possibly the most important few dollars that any red blooded testosterone pumped traveller will spend."


There is an obvious connection between child sex trafficking and exploitation and sex tourism. The fact that type of material is so readily available on a popular site like Amazon is sickening. While people like Glenn are over in Asia fighting this atrocity, we're over here pumping out ideas on how to make exploiting children easier.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Love146 launched their new Task Force Community website. When viewing the site, one of the first things to see was an "Action Opportunity," which encouraged people to contact Amazon and ask them to protect children by removing the ebook from their site and consider better screening options for the products they sell. As Amazon has responded well in the past to situations like this, Love146 urged people not to boycott, but to respectfully explain their position. A sample letter was given, along with the phone number to contact Amazon. What a great reminder that our posture towards people is important. 

The phone call took five minutes of my time, and the woman on the other side of the line was equally appalled that such a book would be sold by Amazon. I went on with my day and logged onto facebook tonight to see that the huffingtonpost had picked up the story and by 8:35 tonight, the book was off the site. 

Oh my goodness. 

Just like that, it worked. There was no need to badmouth Amazon; they heard.  Obviously, my one voice was not what removed this book from Amazon's site. What did remove it was the collective shout of many voices that were willing to speak up to protect the most vulnerable. As my friend who was part of the initial conversation two months ago put it, "From idea to change in 60 days!" From opportunity to action in 24 hours. 

I know my friends over at Love146 are flying high right now, as well as every individual and task force that was a part of this. We really can make a difference in this world. Our voices matter. Using them is meaningful, even when everything else seems to say, "It is what it is; why bother trying to change things?" 

What a lie. 

So thankful and motivated right now by this beautiful glimpse of seeing that our voices, raised together, can bring about change. Small steps make a big difference. Next time I consider walking away because an action just seems too little and insignificant, I'll remember this moment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Glimpses of Green: Revised.

When I named this blog, it was an invitation to step into our lives. We are, after all, the Greens, and this was a glimpse into our daily. As I've continued to use this space, it's evolved into something a bit different, however. The name has taken on an entirely different meaning for me. So much of the past year or so of my life has been discovering what it means to embody the life of a new creation, and seeing how the extravagant love of God reaches into our world to make all things new. Through my eyes, these glimpses of green have become less about what the Greens are doing on a daily basis to more about the glimpses of renewal that God is creating. It's a glimpse into the greenery of new life that is springing up all around. Hope in darkness. Beauty in ugly messes. Love where hate makes more sense. I also see those glimpses of green in our everyday life as we raise our two littles. Surely it's there in sibling rivalry and reveling, the chaos of the terrible twos, and working through loving a spouse in word and action. But the green of renewal moves far beyond our front door, to a world where children are freed from the bondage of sex slavery, the hungry are fed, the no ones become someones, and the someones realize they're no ones.

When our lives are awakened to this new reality, there's no going back. Why would anyone ever trade the real for imitation? Once you taste the goodness of God, how can you ever settle for anything else? Yet we do.  All the time. We long for Egypt when we've already been set free. This space is for walking through it honestly, through doubts and questions and mistakes, knowing in our humanity we all are life-givers and takers. We're messy and beautiful. We're moving forward but are no closer to arriving. We're only given glimpses, small signposts to the reality of Kingdom life. The someday promise that God is going to completely restore all the brokenness of this world with his healing hand. All nations, all tongues, and tribes will rejoice together in his goodness....someday. For now, we see it in the fight against injustice and systems of oppression. We see it in creative solutions and those that choose to help the poor instead of exploit them. We see it in relationships that choose love over power struggles, and parenting our children patiently instead of exasperating them. Most of all, we hear it in the sweet name of Jesus, through the sacrifice of the cross, and the power of the resurrection by which all people are drawn to bow before the King. These are the glimpses of green that I want my life to inhabit.

So here, I'm camping out, learning as I go.
Always learning.
Always hoping.
Always searching.
And always praying that there's others who will join me.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Life in the Little

One of the greatest things I've learned as of late is just how much life is in the little. If you look at an organization like Love146, it's easy to see the cool artwork, the inspirational tweets, spiky haired/tattoo clad Rob Morris, and think that the work is being done by a bunch of cool hipsters. Let's be honest, being involved in social justice sounds semi-sexy. It's cool. It's Bono. It's cool glasses and sweet hair. But that's so far from the truth. 

How much I love the truth. 

Love146 is not cool. The people that I traveled with from Love146 weren't cool (in the most wonderful way!). They were the me and you. Of course, there's a place for those that sit at the cool kids table, but they're not the face of God's kingdom. The face of God's kingdom is the woman who is half blind but runs a program that brings kids off the streets and shares the love of Jesus with them and their families. It very well could be the hipsters running things, but the hispters aren't hipsters when they're doing the work. They give up the cool for something better than cool. 
They're the little. 
The average.
Because that's what someone becomes in order to be who God has for them to be.
so love that. It makes my heart swell to think about who God uses verses who we think should be used.  I love that Jesus didn't go out and look for the best, brightest and most influential to build his kingdom. I love that he chooses people that stutter and that run from him and throw fits when he doesn't do things like we think he should.

It means there's hope for me in his kingdom. When I'm struggling and flailing and gasping for breath because I have no idea what he's doing, he's there. He's in it.
When I'm tempted to go numb because I don't know if I can overcome ridiculous fear to just put one foot in front of the other, I know he's there. He's in it. 

He's working. He's wooing. 
He's showing himself big in my smallness. 

I want a big God, not a small god that does what I want or that can be manipulated to fit my purposes. I want real, not fairytale. 
Life in the little is where it's at, where He's at, so I don't want to be anywhere else.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Help a Sista Out

Shakespeare was a genius. You know why Shakespeare was a genius? He was a master of this wonderful little literary device called comic relief. This girl needs a little comic relief in her life. You know you need a little funny when you start talking in third person.


How I want to dropkick hashtags in the face.

So this is one of those days, or maybe weeks, when all I want to do is have a good laugh. I'm not asking for a straight week of laughter. An interlude would be nice though.

So let's talk funny, shall we?

Yeah, I've got nothing.
So please, lend a weary girl some silliness.

Monkeys are sorta silly.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Heads Together

One of the most important lessons that I've learned through dealing with this leg wound is it would have been nearly impossible for me to get the proper care had I been a person in a vulnerable position. I was able to fight for myself, but even so, I didn't receive the optimal care. I also had a network of people to help me along the way. People that encouraged me to keep fighting, family and friends that stepped up to care for my children while I ran around to multiple doctor and business offices in order to make sure it happened. There's no doubt in my mind that I would have ended up with a serious infection had I just waited around to be seen by my insurance company's time table. Weeks after getting into the doctor it wasn't completely healed. I had to go see a doctor while in Cambodia- but not just any doctor- a doctor that the people I was with knew and trusted. I was able to get the care I needed in a foreign, developing nation because of the fact that I had the right connections.

I have people all around me that will stand up and stand in for me. I think I've spent my whole life taking that for granted.

Love truly does empower.

The more I learn, the more I see the significance in that. We need to be advocates for each other and for other people. We have to stand in the gaps for the most vulnerable in our communities. We have to fight for those that don't have a voice. I think that's a big part of building up our churches in a healthy way. It's not through providing the best programs or music that will attract the masses, but literally by just serving.

A couple nights before I left for Asia, a small group of my girl friends got together at Starbuck's to just hang out, offer me their support, and pray over me. We talked about my fears and excitement. They understood how it might be difficult coming back home. They promised to listen and encourage me through the wide spectrum of emotions they knew I would encounter. They imagined I would feel angry at times returning to our culture. They were right. They knew my passion and drive would increase. No doubt. And they told me they'd journey with me. I'm trusting them to follow through; I know they will.

These are the types of communities that we have to cultivate. Ones that support and encourage each other to act, to come alongside each other, provide support in the weak moments, and bounce ideas off of each other. I want others to experience the joy I've had through having people to walk through life with. Good friends and family are such a gift. I look forward to coming up with ways with them to share that love with those who have not had such experiences.

It's go time, friends.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Redeeming Love

Growing up, I remember dreaming about someday meeting a man that would love me just as I am. My girlfriends and I spent much time thinking about our wedding days. We all wanted the day to be perfect with dresses and flowers, delicious food, music, and laughter. I've walked this road with many friends as our dreams became reality. I've learned that marriage isn't the fairytale that we're conditioned to think it is; thankfully, it's so much better than the shallow story of Prince Charming riding up on his white horse, sweeping the girl off her feet, whisking her into the sunset to live happily ever after. It's two imperfect people coming alongside each other, promising to choose each other every day. It requires sacrifice and hard work, but it is one of the most beautiful unions life has to offer.

On our last day in the Philippines, I had the privilege of watching one of the girls that went through aftercare at the Round Home enter into this precious covenant. What a beautiful portrait of redemption. It struck me how it brought back memories of my own wedding day. It was just such a great reminder of how similar we all are. Etched in all of us is the desire to love and be loved. There were cultural differences but the spirit was the same. It was a day of joy, love and celebration. 

The bride's face radiated with joy. Her groom looked at her with love and longing. Her friends sang along to love songs like any group of girlfriends. One expressed to me her desire to someday get married as well. It was just incredible to me. I can't imagine being able to trust someone after all these girls have been through. I wasn't prepared for the amount of joy I saw in them. I learned some of their stories and how desperate they were when they arrived at the Round Home. They entered this place with no hope.

Love changed all that.

These girls were changed from the inside out through holistic care. Above all else, they know they are loved by God, and that love enables them. They are pursuing education and learning music and art. Their care goes so far beyond just meeting basic needs; these women are learning to thrive. They are healing in ways that I would not even think possible. They are shown what it means to love and to accept love. 

On this day, this beautiful young bride, along with the other young women who survived such horrific circumstances, were not defined by their past, but were given a glimpse into a future brimming with new life and opportunity. Their lives have no element of fairytale; each have a story that goes much deeper than that. They have experienced the pit of hell and the richness of love. As their stories unfold, there's no doubt that pain will still be a part of their lives, as it is for all of us, but I hope this day will always symbolize the hope of restoration. Life-giving, sacrificial love is possible because they are loved perfectly by a God that rid himself of all his power and suffered to set us free. Because of this love, no story has to end in despair. 

Love protects.
Love defends.
Love restores. 
Love empowers.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pressing On

We were made to grow, to change, to be more than we were the day before. Being conformed to the image of Christ looks like forward motion. It's so important to be proactive and creative in how we serve others. I've seen that here as people develop programs that are flourishing in the middle of darkness.

Darkness wants chaos and separation that breaks down communities. Light restores order and connects people in meaningful ways. I love how Love146 is partnering with the local church. We saw the extremely vulnerable positions so many people are in, and how they are flourishing in ways that are sustainable; families are taking ownership in education and providing for their family's needs through business endeavors. You can visit Love146's website to see the specific projects that they are working on in Asia prevention.

Such as:

• Children at Risk Transformation Project: Kone Kmeng focuses on reducing the vulnerability of children in communities by providing resources, consultation, and encouragement to local churches. This includes funding, monitoring, and consulting on specific projects aimed to better the community and reduce risk for children. It also includes conducting training on child protection and assisting partners in setting up a child protection policy.

• Save the Children Project: This project works with a local pastor to educate children with the end goal of reintegrating them into the public school system.  Further, by providing a dormitory for students, this project reduces the risk of trafficking as children travel the long distance between their homes and school.  Workshops are conducted for parents that address child labor, domestic violence, displacement of families, drug abuse and addiction, and health issues.  Kone Kmeng also provides micro-loans to families for the purpose of creating micro-enterprises and establishing livelihoods, thus reducing the vulnerability of children to trafficking.

Trafficking effects the most vulnerable people within communities. Chaos, confusion and poor communication opens up opportunities for those most vulnerable to be exploited. These programs teach that children are valuable and worth protecting. They provide alternatives from the sex industry that so many are forced into from lack of education and opportunity. Communities that are built up and strengthened through relationships, education, and opportunity are less likely to fall prey to those with ill-intentions. One of my favorite things was listening to young teenagers explain art work that they had done that showed what they wanted to do as a career when they get out of school. They had goals to aim for. They were excited and also had realistic expectations. It was beautiful. It was also beautiful to see a grandmother who has been able to sustain a business selling pigs to provide for her family, joke around with the program director about her recently dyed black hair. What a small luxury for someone who has taken such care of her family to be able to enjoy.

I love how there's nothing static about Love146's prevention. They are constantly researching, engaging and networking with others to find the best ways to protect children. Seeing these programs in action was incredibly motivating. Community leaders and law enforcement are coming alongside and supporting them. People's lives were being rewritten. Their stories don't have to end in defeat. The obstacles that these communities face are huge, yet they still press on.  There's such hope.

Visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng

We left the rush of the city for wider, greener land. The Cambodia countryside was quite pretty with interesting flowers and foliage. We walked winding paths where birds chirped overhead and big butterflies fluttered around. It was quite peaceful, which just wasn't right.

Because this is the Killing Fields. 

This is a place where people were executed after being tortured in horrific ways and thrown into mass graves. Men, women, children. During seasons like this when there's a lot of rain, more bones and clothing come unearthed. Right on the path there was a set of teeth. Teeth that belonged to someone. A person alive with hopes and dreams. A person who was important to someone. A person who was loved and who loved others. And now those teeth are telling a story, as they are exposed to those that visit this site to learn and remember the 2-3 million people that were exterminated.

On this path is also a tree. On that tree the executioners used to hang speakers to blast music. They wanted to cover up the sounds of the dying. They numbed their senses so they wouldn't have to face the horrible truth of their actions. They created enough noise so others wouldn't hear the cries of the victims.

Don't we do that though? Don't we numb ourselves to the cries of those in distress? Of course there's a big jump in the comparison because we're not literally murdering people, but we certainly fill our lives with white noise. Pain is certainly all around us. In this part of the world, it's pretty blatant. You can't miss the horror of a toddler begging on the street or a ridiculously young girl prowling for a man.

You can't miss it, but you can ignore it. 
You can numb yourself so that it doesn't break your heart. 
Our culture does numb so very well.

In our country, the pain of others may be easier to avoid, but that doesn't mean it's not there. We just find different routes to take that avoid the seedier neighborhoods in our communities. We shut our eyes to injustice and hope that someone else will find solutions. And let me be clear. By we I mean me. I do these things. 

At the same time, I know many people in my church and community that are working hard, stepping into other people's pain. I know wonderful people, doing some wonderful things for the least of these. I just struggle though because it's never enough. I hate to say that but it's true. 

It's not enough. We're not doing enough. As an individual, I'm not doing enough. As a family, we're not doing enough. As a church, a group of friends, as a community, we aren't doing enough. We depend on the work of a few to do what we all should be doing.

These issues are so big, and the thought that it will never be enough makes me want to both give up and fight harder at the same time. Life will always be lived in a tension where there's beauty and dread. The dreadful parts can make us want to numb ourselves and just give up, give in to the numbness. But then what? Darkness gets disguised as light. The ugly parts of our humanness becomes the norm. 

It's not just a suggestion that we should take care of the marginalized within our communities. It's really not. When we see injustice, we can't say that it's not "our thing" to respond. We can't hear about human trafficking and say it's just not my issue. The minute you hear about people being exploited it becomes your responsibility to do something.

It doesn't have to be huge. 
It just has to be a conversation that continues.

Get involved.
Somehow get involved.
Fight for those that can't fight for themselves. Be a part of solutions. It doesn't look the same for everyone. Prevention is a huge component of this battle. I'll share a lot more about what is being done in this area, but there are so many ways that we can get involved, and there's always room for improvement.

We can't just ignore though. We can't turn up the tv, our ipods, or surf the web to numb ourselves to the cries of those all around us. We have to look at people and see them and not look away. We can't hang our speakers from a tree and pretend nothing is wrong. We have to be people of action.