31 December 2008
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoners,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
in every way,
in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.
poem by Howard Thurman
30 December 2008
chains shall he break
"Oh Holy Night" is one of my favorite Christmas carols! My sister and I used to dance to this song at church in our Christmas play often growing up. yep, dance. we aren't pro dancers to say the least but for some reason we gave it a try ;)
I can't even fathom how many times i have seen these words printed on a hymnal in front of me or projected onto a wall during a worship service.
But, this year these words have hit me quite differently, different than they ever have before. unfortunately, over the years, this familiar song has become all too 'familiar'. so commonly sung and hummed that the words i am actually speaking have gone unnoticed by my heart and mind. How did I just mindlessly read over these lyrics year after year... well, this Christmas they have come alive to me in a whole new way.
I sang this song for the first time this Christmas season about 3 weeks ago in our prayer time at work. As I sang the words unconsciously, my voice suddenly stopped at the line, "chains shall he break..."
to proclaim liberty to the captives.
to recover the sight of the blind.
to set at liberty those who are oppressed.
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor forever.
19 December 2008
and how much could happen in one week?
leave internship program
graduate from college
see friends and family for first time in almost 4 months
start new job
train for new job
have no place to live
look for place to live
fill out 1000000000 forms/paperwork (exaggeration but almost accurate)
move all my personal belongings 2x
carry around the essentials with me in suitcase everywhere i go (when you never know where you will be sleeping...)
i am very very thankful. this has been one of the best weeks of my life. seriously! i could write a book of all the hilarity. i lay in bed and laugh out loud at the unpredictable misfortunes and wipe away tears with thoughts of all the wonderful blessings.
flying home to Texas again tomorrow (: smile smile smile :)
"But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him?
He does what he wants, when he wants to.
He'll complete in detail what he's decided about me,
and whatever else he determines to do." [job 23:13-16--the message]
09 December 2008
The tossing around of garments in the dryer. A warm pile of whites beneath my toes. The empty suitcase. Lotions, shampoo, toothpaste in the corner. What’s the allowable liquid amount again? I can never remember.
Nice to see you again, although why’s it always so late when I prepare for you?
I leave for the airport in two days. That doesn't seem like too short of a time, but I am supposed to pack up everything I own here by tomorrow (i think)... And yes, my suitcase and my hanging clothes thing and my other suitcase now sit naked across my floor. I feel slightly paralyzed because I do not honestly believe it is possible to get everything out the door packed neatly in little boxes.
There’s something about packing at late hours that attracts me. Maybe it’s that I’m disorganized, but I’m not so convinced. I love the silence.
The time to think and anticipate the coming days with faces I don’t often get to see. Something about folding wilted laundry into perfect squares (Okay, that’s a big fat lie. There’s no folding when I pack. One and only one motion occurs: the glorified shove.) while simultaneously planning when it will be worn, around whom, and in what circumstances. Packing cards to give to those who I desire to write a note to. A really good juicy pen. if you don't know what i mean...the difference between a juicy pen and a plain old regular pen is kind of like the difference between a mac and a dell. the mac is simply smoother. you want to touch the keys. it makes you excited to type and work and produce something--just like a good juicy pen :)
I love the silence because my anticipation of travel…the people, the meals, the sights, the love…keeps me company while I pack.
Well, it's off to Texas for only a few short days. but a few days that I will cherish every minute of...
off to graduate from college
to see friends and family
to breath in the, dare I say 'beloved' Aggieland air
to squeeze my Daddy's neck
to snuggle with my Momma on the couch
Oh Praise the Lord! I thought I'd never say it...
Texas, my Texas, I'm coming home to you.
05 December 2008
i know i'm a week late but i went to New York City and wanted to share! I traveled with fellow IJM staff and interns...we stayed in a hostel and roamed the city for 4 days :)
a quick pictorial history of my time in the BIG APPLE!
i've watched this on TV for years and it was so much fun to see it in person!
we woke left around 5:30 to stake out a good spot on the curb! Four hours, a hundred oversized balloons and teenage starts later...we were exhausted!
We found a real authentic Mexican food stand on the side of the road near 5th Avenue...the cooks were from Puebla and it was phenomenal (and cheap!)
spent the next morning in central park playing in the leaves!
i found my new yogurt love. pink berry! i had heard all about it and finally got to try it!
New York Stock Exchange!
We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge!
New York City!
famous magnolia cupcakes (...although i had never heard of them before...)
This was my first Thanksgiving away from home....although NYC was an incredible experience, it comes in second place to good ole Daingerfield in my book.
i'm pretty sure i first tasted homesickness when these two girls came to visit me...
My big sis and friend Whitney came to la capital just deep enough into my internship to kinda make me wish i could jump on the plane with them...
I am very excited to come home, yet I am also very sad to leave.
This next week is full. future life/job decisions will be made, i will attend the IJM D.C. banquet and say goodbye to my fellow interns who have become my dear friends, i will move back to Texas on Friday and see friends and family i haven't seen for 4 months, on then on Saturday i will graduate from college...
yep, full week :)
17 November 2008
my life is crazy.
but i love it and am definitely not complaining--i just wish i could capture it all so i won't ever forget it
a few of the hightlights from my recent past...
election night in D.C.:
north carolina trip:
6.5 hrs in the passenger seat with margie.
jack's 'trucker' mix
elliott's country hits
jacks first football game
i love football and probably could not put into words how much high school football holds a little place deep in my heart. the smell of nachos and sweat and hot chocoloate. the sounds of boys running into each other. the sudden shouting outbursts of dads. the quick gasp from moms. the cheerleaders jumping and climbing on top of each other. stadium seating. tailgating. little boys running around in football jerseys. ahhh i just love it.
Davidson football, you touched that spot....thank you MB
tailgating with mark and trailmix--possibly the most memorable tailgating experience :)
gourmet mexican food. ahhmazing.
meeting the hometown football and basketball heros.
brunch on main street at 'toast'
6.5 hrs in the passenger seat on the way back with Margie
sweet tea at quiznos
IJM Board Meeting Dinner
i cried way too much. i wish that i could have bottled it up and given that night as a gift to everyone i love and want to know and deeply understand the work of IJM.
i have never been more proud to be a part of something
ahhhhhhhhh. extremely movie-esk (word?)
Thanksgiving spread, British style.
4 hours hearing the story of God's faithfulness and love
i am too blessed.
died my hair.
"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going."
if it was good enough for Abraham, it is good enough for me.
02 November 2008
i have seen and heard many things. many many things.
i have eavesdropped on conversations i probably shouldn't have, and i have heard things i wished i would have never heard.
i have been in conversations that have lifted my spirits and in some that have caused me to have to swallow vomit.
i have learned so much from engaging in dialogue with people who sit probably on every side of the fence you can imagine (i have found there are like a million sides to the fence...)
i do have opinions but i don't want to share them here.
however, i do want to share this because it made me smile and it will probably make you smile too.
i'm technology illiterate and have no idea how to post the video...but you can just follow the link :)
12 October 2008
Friday night i went to watch a new documentary that was recently released named "Call and Response." This project was created by a musician named Justin Dillon. Justin found inspiration to create this film when he unexpectedly came face to face with the truth of slavery in our world. He found out the overwhelming fact that there are approximately 27 million slaves are in our world today.
in our world.
i have to admit, i really had no idea what to expect when i sat down in my chair friday night at the cute little draft house theater in virginia. i had watched the trailer and it completely blew me away. i knew that this film would be unlike any other i had ever seen. i, myself, have become increasingly enlightened about the truth of this pain and oppression happening in our world over the past couple of years. i have seen things first hand in romania and mexico that, on many days, i wish i could erase from my mind...and i had no clue how the film would tackle the issues.
'Call + Response' has been deemed a sort of "rockumentary" because of its marvelous cast of musicians. Justin used his influence within the music scene to ask many artists to contribute to this collaborative response against the injustice. some of the artists involved were Moby, Switchfoot, Natasha Bedingfield, Talib Kweli, Five For Fighting and many others.
my favorite song was by imogen heap. it left me feeling breathless.
Even more than all the great music was true content about the three types of slavery that exist today: Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor, and Child Soldiers.
"Call + Response goes deep undercover where slavery is thriving from the child brothels of Cambodia to the slave brick kilns of rural India to reveal that in 2007, Slave Traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined."
Throughout the film advocates and abolitionists were interviewed concerning the issue of slavery. Dr. Cornel West (who was phenomenal!), Madeleine Albright, Daryl Hannah, Julia Ormond, Ashley Judd, Nicholas Kristof, Gary Haugen (founder of International Justice Mission) and many other prominent political and cultural figures offered first hand accounts of the 21st century slave trade.
one of the most compelling parts in my mind was the recount of the story of William Wilberforce and his fight to end the british slave trade...an incredible awe-inspiring story.
i know that this film could possibly leave you feeling devastated and helpless. it is hard to hear this information and not feel a heavy weight of sadness. though you will most likely feel intense emotions, my hope and prayer is that you will also be encouraged to reach out with compassionate action. i think the heart behind the film is to remind us as an audience that we CAN do something. we might can give 5 dollars (or much more) to an organization that is on the forefront fighting slavery. we might gather a group of people together and dedicate time to learn more about the injustices happening around the world. (i recommend 'Good News about Injustice' by Gary Haugen) we could raise awareness or fund raise by using our talents: art, music, writing, etc. we can communicate this message to our friends and family.
in our eyes we might not think we can do all that much.
but i can't help but be reminded of the all too familiar story of Jesus when he fed thousands of people with a little boy's sack lunch.
Matthew recounts the story... "As evening approached, the disciples came to him [Jesus] and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. YOU give them something to eat."They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"
"What do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered."Bring them here to me," he said.
first, we see the disciples overwhelmed at the magnitude of the problem: thousands of hungry people. then, we see jesus simply not agree with their idea to send the people away. instead, jesus commands the disciples to do exactly what they felt was impossible. the disciples, assuming that there was obviously no way to feed the people, wanted to get rid of the problem. jesus seemed to have a different perspective. in the midst of their concentration on what they lacked, jesus asked them a simple, yet profound question...
"what do you have?"
he then said,
"Bring it here to me."
i think God is asking us the same question. What do we have? What can we do?
if you are like me, the immediate answer to those questions seems too small. too little. not significant enough to actually make a difference in the fight against such big issues as sex trafficking...
but what if we answered God's invitation to bring what we have to him. what if we really believed in the power of God, not the power of ourselves? what if we recognized that giving what we have today is all that God asks of us? God is the miracle worker, not us.
What can you do to help end this 21st century slave trade?
19 September 2008
i have found the closest harris teeters approximately 1 mile away, but then found the closest Trader Joes at 3 miles away. bummer. TJs is entirely too cute (anna you would want to live there) of course i have found the market by metro and have traveled there the past 3 weekends. i think it has begun to satisfy my need to feel as if i belong here. i miss the good ole CS coffee shops that you walk into and feel like you own the chair in the corner with the cute little table because you've been there so many times. the sweet gardener that sells me fresh green beans and squash has become a much needed familiar face. somehow the market is the place i've picked to become my own, not to mention it's blueberry pancakes call my name every saturday morning...
i have found that panty hose rip a lot more often than you would first guess, and that blisters are common place here.
i have found a community of believers that have welcomed me and given me a taste of home. it really has only been a few short weeks away but without my closest brothers and sisters it can easily start to feel like an eternity. i have found my heart begin to flutter again on sunday mornings with excitement to be surrounded by family. although, i am abundantly blessed to find this family in the eyes of each face at work as well. i walk in between grayish white cubicles and find that even though we don't know each other--we share a common love, a common dream, a common passion.
i have found that the people who fill the chairs on intern row are people who i can not wait to know more and learn more from.
i am told that this is a perfect time to "find yourself". the quote of the century. "Oh emily, this is such a great time to find yourself." :) no, it doesn't frustrate me to hear that, it just makes me ponder what that phrase means exactly--or when i will be able to answer that comment with, "yes, this is a great time to find myself, actually i found her last week and now we know each other quite well."
i don't know if i have found my 'self' just yet (still holding my breath). i don't even know how i will know when i find her. i have, however, found that i'm terribly bad at answering the question of who i am or what i want to 'do'/'be' or what i am passionate about. i really dislike that i am finding it hard to describe me. 'me' is changing."Therefore, my dear Sir, I could give you no advice but this: to go into yourself and to explore the depths whence your life wells forth; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create." Rainer Maria Rilke
30 August 2008
many things to update on...
i have an internship, the internship if you ask my opinion
*more to come on this very soon
i am living with 5 new girls
i live in the northeast
i don't have a car
i am a guilty 'escalefter'
i speak Spanish in my apartment
i ran across the Patomac river
i own 7 business suits
i have a new obsession with the Wright brothers
i walk an unimaginable amount of miles per day
i met someone who might possible be more ok with casual mess than me
*(thanks and gig'em new roomie)
i wont continue on because this list could quite possibly go on forever and ever and well it's only been a week. the list consists of extremely frivolous things anyway... so for the sake of brevity and your sanity, i will stop. i do; however, want to use this to update the people in my life who have asked me to update. Although, i am never quick to do so because there is so much to update on and thus i am continually indecisive on what to type. not to to mention i sometimes don't really have anything substantial to type either...ahh the ironic love of blogging. but nevertheless, i will update. just for you :)
this will somehow get better, i promise.
02 August 2008
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "God in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:14-17
...can that faith save him?
i'm not going to even act like i understand or have this figured out. but i will say that i want to and i desperately desire to know more of what the Lord says concerning how we are to practically 'act' out our faith in our lives. in my everyday going to the grocery store kind of life.
there have been experiences in my life where i have witnessed the incredible faith of fellow believers. faith that compelled them to use their life, empty their entire life, as a service to Christ, sending them far off of the highly traveled path. faith that is undeniable because it is so apparent in their actions.
one such experience was my time in prison last spring semester.
yes. in prison.
for those of you who have heard me talk endlessly about my experiences in prison, I am about to talk about it more. :)
I went to prison a little before I started slightly keeping up with a blog and so I haven't shared to the blog world just yet....which provides another opportunity to share! why share? because i want more and more people to be a part of it and to be praying for it
a little bit of background: Prison Entrepreneurship Program is based in Cleveland, Texas (near houston). PEP finds the worst drug dealers, biggest gang leaders, creatively illegal entrepreneurs and sets out to teach them how to start a legal business by matching their ideas with top executives and MBA students from around the country, resulting in 98% of the inmates never returning to jail, which says an incredible amount when "the national recidivism rate is above 60% (conservatively), which tells us this: we need to rethink prison as punishment and begin to utilize it as a place to the end the wicked cycle of crime and addiction. The bottom line is prison has turned into a college for criminals, with felons leaving in worse shape than when they arrived. In an attempt to enact punishment on criminals, we’ve created a dull but comfortable holding tank where rehabilitation is more goal than reality."
So what does PEP do? "realizing that prisoners have a massive reservoir of untapped potential once expressed in ill-legitimate business endeavors e.g., gang-related crime, drug dealing and violent crime. PEP seeks to redirect these men into legitimate enterprises, leveraging their proven entrepreneurial skill-sets to inspire an even deeper change."
In short PEP is a four month business crash course where prisoners in their last year are partnered with CEO's and MBA students in order to retrain their minds and encourage them to be successful honest citizens. but PEP is much much more than a simple business program. "In addition to a rigorous in-prison business program, PEP teaches their overachieving underdogs essential life skills like moral decision-making, the importance of spiritual discipline, how to treat women and what employers look for when hiring."
The program was founded 4 years ago by Catherine Rohr, a person who I consider to be a hero.
I heard Catherine speak and decided i wanted see what she spoke of. i wanted to go to prison.
I signed up for MBA day unknowing what that meant at all. i brought along a friend for the ride and figured we would just spend the day in the corner of the room watching what happened during MBA day. (little did we know 'sitting in the corner' doesn't really ever happen in PEP...)
when i walked into prison for the first time i admit i was more than a little scared. i mean, it was my first time in prison and i had no idea what to expect. I had no idea that I would walk into a room full of the joy and love of Christ.
the story of redemption was all around me. i felt so much warmth so much fire in the PEP room located right in the middle of a prison... it was hard to contain the joy i felt.
my first handshake was with a man wearing a suit with a name tag that said "PEP Class VII". After i shook his hand i quickly realized that he had just been released from prison and had just graduated from PEP...i felt so small when my mind went straight to fear and judgement. as the day progressed i was slapped on the face with the grace of my God and how much i have to learn of it. how i lack the knowledge of how sinful i am and what forgiveness through Christ truly means...
i ate a subway sandwich with Brandon, who had never had a visitor before. (the next time i came to prison, Brandon had encountered God and received Christ as his saving grace) i watched men who had committed murder lay hands on and pray for each other. i critiqued business plan after business plan, but in the process heard the life stories of men who had encountered and experienced things i could not even fathom. i listened to prisoners sing songs of their hope in Christ. i laughed and cried repeatedly. and simultaneously.
needless to say it was an experience i will never forget and it is an understatement to say that it changed my life. i went back 4 times. i brought my parents with me to graduation. i fell in love with seeing the gospel played out right before my eyes. i honestly never wanted to leave prison.
never thought i would ever say that. funny where the Lord takes us sometimes...
i just want to share it with everyone. if you want to hear more just ask. seriously i will talk your ears off. or if you want to learn more go to the website and read all the articles and watch the news clips of this incredible story of forgiveness and redemption
[things that catherine rhor has said that will never leave me]
talking about going to prison for the first time...'everything around me was saying no, but the buzzing in my heart was saying yes.'
pray: "Bring it on God"--but be careful if you ever pray that, because it might land you in prison in Texas. or something like that.
if you are totally comfortable, something might be wrong. if you are moderately comfortable, something still might be wrong.
get out of your comfort zone and take action. are you willing to let go of your security blanket?
I came to realize that maybe everything i had, everything, was meant to be used to bring glory to God...
and what if i, emily, really acted like every part of life, everything that i have, every thing i put my hands to, everywhere i go...all of it. that all of life comes down to one thing...to know him and to make him known.
"You are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "and I am God." Isaiah 43:10-11
"And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
i don't know where the Lord is going to take me. or what he is going to ask me to do specifically. but i do know that i want to use everything he has given me, my passion, my talents, my education, my money, my time, my love so that more might come to know his Love. so more might come to know Jesus. so that more will have this eternal life. and how with they know?
I have it. i show it. i extend it to my neighbor. i bare witness to who He is. believers carry it. we are His love in action. we are Him in action. we are His hands and feet. this restoration, this joy, this peace, this love cannot end with myself.
p.s. if you get a chance, go to prison. it will change your life.
17 July 2008
we both went to school. i was glad we both had school today--otherwise i would have burst with the news
i came home for lunch and shared some tuna with Sara. she was normal. normal sara making tuna. little did she know that she would retell every detail of this day over and over again to so many people, even the part about making tuna :)
i could barely eat my sandwich as our conversation turned to family and fathers and husbands and boyfriends...
i could see her mind churning, thinking about Ryan. and i had to stare at the ground to not shout to her
"Sara! in less than 3 hrs you will know! You will be reassured that he desires you and you alone. You will become aware of the plan he has been planning! your eyes will be opened to see! You will be overwhelmed with the grace of our Father, with His faithfulness to you and his promises to you"
but we both finished our lunch and sara left to go back to school.
it wasn't too long after she got back home that the plan quickly unfolded.
I will leave the rest of the detail story-telling up to Sara :) after all this is her story. this is the story of the journey of her love for Ryan.
however, i can't help but see the resemblance between Sara and Ryan and myself and my God.
isn't beautiful that through people. humans who love and are loved by God resemble him and his characteristics.
I can't help but recognize his pursuit of me.
I wake up every morning to a new day. new mercies. new grace. fresh love from my God
I see the his sunrise every morning on my way to school.
I don't want to ever forget.
I don't want to lay in bed wondering if psalm 139 really is true anymore.
I don't want to worry. I am so tired of wasting precious time feeling unworthy and not good enough. why do i doubt the words of my creator?
He has promised me life and life to the fullest (john 10:10)
He has a good plan prepared for us.
i am so thankful that he continues to love me and continues to give me grace
it's as if I can feel him aching for us to know that we are loved. that his plan is perfect. that he knows every intricate detail of our lives. just like i ached all day to scream at sara!
and guess what... God IS screaming to us. loud through the people around us who contain His spirit. and His creation shouts from every mountain and every string of green grass that makes up our world
i pray we begin to honestly believe
i pray that I will honestly find my new identity in the love that my God has for me
13 July 2008
i have to share this with you.first listen to this:
and also, i just bought this book on amazon and I'm on the edge of my seat to get it in my hands.the name of the book is "Just Courage" , and I encourage you to get it as well. i haven't read it but i'm willing to take the chance and say that both you and I will gain much wisdom from it.
go to www.justcourage.com
please read this...
Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian: Going on the Journey but Missing the Adventure
In different times and in different ways, our heavenly Father offers us a simple proposition: Follow me beyond what you can control, beyond where your own strength and competencies can take you, and beyond what is affirmed or risked by the crowd—and you will experience me and my power and my wisdom and my love.Jesus beckons me to follow him to that place of weakness where I risk the vulnerability of a child so that I might know how strong my Father is and how much he loves me. But truth be told, I would rather be an adult. I’d rather be in a place where I can still pull things together if God doesn’t show up, where I risk no ultimate humiliation, where I don’t have to take the shallow breaths of desperation.
And as a result, my experience of my heavenly Father is simply impoverished. If I want to stay safe and warm at the visitor center, I don’t get to be with him on the adventure up the mountain. But he says his power is made perfect in my weakness, not in my strength.Does this mean I need to abandon the things I do well? Do I have to let go of my sources of strength—my gifts, my passions, my training, my expertise? No, I don’t think so. Those are good things from God. I think he simply wants us to take them on a more demanding climb, where we will actually need his help, and where he delights to grant it.
My difficulty is I either would prefer not to desperately need his help, or I would desperately like his help with things that aren’t necessarily of his kingdom. (They are, instead, the things of my kingdom.) In both cases, my Father can’t pour himself out in power because I’m either not asking for it or it would be bad for me. So I’m stuck.This is why I am so grateful for my experience with International Justice Mission (IJM)— because it gives me a continual experience of my weakness in which God is delighted to show his power. We are a collection of Christian lawyers, criminal investigators, social workers and advocates. We rescue victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and oppression around the world. I started out as its first employee in 1997, and now we have about three hundred full-time staff around the world, most of whom are nationals working in their own communities in the developing world.The journey for me has been incredible, but by far the most joyful, exhilarating and life-altering part has been the authentic experience of God’s presence and power. I have experienced God — and that experience has come in my weakness. God has called us into a battle with violence and aggressive evil that, every day, my colleagues and I know we cannot win without the specific intervention of God. We are forced by our own weakness to beg him for it, and at times we work without a net, apart from his saving hand. And we have found him to be real — and his hand to be true and strong — in a way we would never have experienced strapped into our own safety harnesses.
In concrete terms, what does that desperation look like? For me, it means being confronted with a videotape of hundreds of young girls in Cambodia being put on open sale to be raped and abused by sex tourists and foreign pedophiles. It means going into a brothel in Cambodia as part of an undercover investigation and being presented with a dozen girls between the ages of five and ten who are being forced to provide sex to strangers. It means being told by everyone who should know that there is nothing that can be done about it. It means facing death threats for my investigative colleagues, high level police corruption, desperately inadequate aftercare capacities for victims and a hopelessly corrupt court system. It means going to God in honest argument and saying, “Father, we cannot solve this,” and hearing him say, “Do what you know best to do, and watch me with the rest.” In the end it means taking that risky bargain and seeing God do more than I could have hoped or imagined—setting girls free, providing high-quality aftercare, bringing the perpetrators to justice, shutting down the whole nasty operation, training the Cambodian authorities to do this work themselves and seeing the U.S. government willing to pay for it.In taking on the forces of aggressive evil, we have found a place where we desperately need our Father’s help, and where he is delighted to provide it. This is not a resignation of my gifts or passions or training, but a deployment of those endowments to a place beyond safety, beyond my ability to control the outcome and beyond my own power to succeed. It’s a place where God is desperately needed and a work in which he delights to engage – for it is his own work.
08 July 2008
after Mexico I spent a couple of days with my family at my sister and her lovely husband's cutsy apartamento and then headed home for a mere 3 and 1/2 days, hardly enough time for me to soak in the beauty that makes up my community there. however, I was blessed to go home for the of July as well. and for proof of a divine day at the lake...
I would be lying if I said that I am not scared. I am. but somehow not knowing any details is somewhat freeing in an ironic and beautful way. it has freed me up to concentrate more fully on my time here in Texas. there is a reason that God has not revealed to me His plans just yet. I am here right now today and I am convinced and convicted that it is not to over think the future, even the immediate future that seems increasingly unclear. I desire to be present. Presently soaking in and appreciating my time with the people who surround me because in reality all i have is today.
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
i simple want to embody this. i want to embody what i sing about at church. i want to embody the way that Jesus came to show us how to live.
not looking to be on the top but instead looking to serve all
not loving others like i hate myself, but loving others like i love myself.
"Here is one choice that our Father wants us to understand as Christians – and I believe it is the choice of our age. Do we want to be brave or safe? Gently, lovingly – our heavenly Father wants us to know that we simply can’t be both."— Gary Haugen
this is the way i am called to live. i am called to give up my life. i am called to die everyday to myself and take up my cross. i am called to be a servant to my God, to relinquish all my rights, to live using my talents, my money, my time, my love not for myself. i am by no means saying this is easy. it's not. i know because I fail at it over and over again, but I am striving for this.
I don't know what the future holds. I don't even know if I will ever live in Texas again. (wow, that's a crazy thought...) I don't know what I will be doing on Aug. 19th. but I do know that there is an urgency in my heart to meditate and know the way in which i am called to walk. because I know I am about to step out into a world that I am an alien to, that continually tugs at my flesh, that begs of me to give in, that is tempting, that looks so good and so right at times, but will always lead to death.
26 June 2008
19 June 2008
oh dear, I have so many stories to tell. I can't possibly begin.
one week has passed. and I honestly have no idea where to start. I apologize for the ramblings.
I think the best idea is to start with the beginning.
8 days ago today.
I woke up last Saturday morning at 5a.m. wide awake. I realized that I would have been on my way to boarding my plane to Dallas where, in a mere 3 or 4 hrs my Daddy and Momma would embrace me and I would be in their arms. It was a thought too much for me to handle. At that moment there was nothing that I could think of wanting more than seeing my family at the gate.
I got out of bed and grabbed my bible, searching and begging the Lord to consol me. Asking for Him to remind me... or, more honestly, perhaps reveal to me why I had such a strong feeling that I needed to stay in Mexico, because at the moment I couldn’t reach deep enough inside me to find that feeling again—it felt so so far away. The only feeling consuming me was the intense desire to take it back. Take changing my ticket back. Take it all back and close my eyes and be in the plane on my way back home and knowing that I would see my family within hours.
I found myself in tears and got dressed as fast as I could and headed to starbucks (my solace of internet access here in Mexico) All I wanted to do is talk to my Daddy and Momma and hear them affirm me, say that I wasn't crazy, and that there was a chance that I was doing the right thing.
But then my mind wandered and my fingers turned to these passages that I had recently read this past week. These are two passages that I never really can seem to understand what Jesus was communicating.
“and a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross daily and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
I once thought this had to do with God separating those who knew him and those who didn’t. I once thought that this might have something to do with loving God more than I love my family. I once thought that loving anything or anyone in this world was maybe evil.
Well, of course I don’t have the answer figured out but, this passage means much much more to me today than it ever has.
I think because I just experienced it.
And I think it’s true.
My greatest enemy are those in my household, both family and dear friends.
I think my greatest enemies to my undying love for Christ are not evil things but are the wonderful gifts God has given me. Wonderful gifts that are so easy for me to hold too tightly. Gifts that I cherish and will forever be thankful for, but that I have to watch carefully because these precious gifts from the Lord can easily be perverted by man and be made idols in my eyes.
Jesus further brings this truth to light again with a short parable in Luke 14.
“When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
But Jesus said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lances of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame. And the servant said, Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘God out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’
For all the evil that Satan can do, it is the gifts of the Lord that keep me from running toward him with all of my might. It isn't the evilest of evils. It is a field, it is oxen, and it is a wife. simple, everyday parts of life.
It is our livelihood.
It is the little things I find enjoyment in that creep in and take over.
It is cooking, talking, meeting new people, traveling, shopping, sleeping in, friends, working out, hobbies, reading, internet surfing, coffee, movie watching, etc. These are gifts from God. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God himself.
and i think...really?
could those things possibly keep me from running to the table of my Lord?I wonder what the man who excitedly proclaimed how great it is to sit at the table of the Lord thought about the story Jesus told.
I'm sure he was really confused.
I mean he really didn't say anything that seemed to merit a parable afterwards.
He just got finished proclaiming how blessed it is for someone to sit with the Lord, to taste his way of life, his love, his calling...
Jesus was quick to respond to his proclamation. I'm guessing his response left the man kinda speechless. I'm sure he thought, why?...that doesn't make much since...why would anyone taste of the Lord and then choice other things in life over the way of the Lord? why would people not choose to eat at His banquet? and especially just because of an oxen...or a field...or a wife...?
or perhaps, this man knew very well what Jesus was communicating. Maybe he knew all too well. Maybe as he was sitting and being and learning and relaxing and choicing the Lord... really in his heart he had things, not evil things, but things that had become idols to him. And if the next day the Lord would invite him to dinner, he might have been too busy with his field. and so he wouldn't come. and maybe Jesus knew what was in his heart.
or maybe none of that is actually what was happening. i'm just imagining. but I can only imagine what the man sitting next to Jesus thought after that parable.
“The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.
--Piper (Hunger for God, you should read it, great book)
I have spent the last week at an orphanage filled with people who have unconsciously been asking me every day what I am hungry for.
I dont really know how to sum this up...or exactly what I am trying to say.
there is much in my heart and it's not easy to communicate.
all I know is that I am feeling hunger pains to run to be where my Father is and to eat.
I have enjoyed some of the best food I have ever tasted in the past few days. (and i'm talking about food, literally. zoe and I were blessed with a chef this weekend. and a chaufer. and a private pool. and clean towels. and a huge bath tub. and a king size bed) It is a funny story, but I am thankful that the Lord choose to randomly bless me in that way.
but I am still hungry. It is a different kind of hunger. I am homesick. and I'm sure when I arrive in Daingerfield on Tues, I will still feel the pains of homesickness. It is a different kind of homesickness.
A hunger and a homesickness that this world cannot fill. I was not made for the bread of this world and I was not made for this world to be my home.
"I am the bread of Life"
"I've been feeling kind of restless
I've been feeling out of place
I can hear a distant singing
A song that I can't write
And it echoes of what I'm always trying to say
There's a feeling I can't capture
It's always just a prayer away
I want to know the ending
Things hoped for but not seen
But I guess that's the point of hoping anyway
Of going home, I'll meet you at the table
Going home, I'll meet you in the air
And you are never too young to think about it
Oh, I cannot wait to be home
I'm confined by my senses
To really know what you are like
You are more than I can fathom
And more than I can guess
And more than I can see with you in sight
But I have felt you with my spirit
I have felt you fill this room
And this is just an invitation
Just a sample of the whole
And I cannot wait to be going home
Going home, I'll meet you at the table
Going home, I'll meet you in the air
And you are never too young to think about it
Oh, I cannot wait to be going, to be going home
Face to face, how can it be
Face to face, how can it be
Face to face, how can it be
Cuz this is just an invitation
Just a sample of the whole
And I cannot wait to be going home"
-a song by Sara Groves that honestly echoes my heart.
I went to church this morning, and words can hardly express.
Like I said there are too many stories...But I am in awe of what the Lord has done. :)
tomorrow is my last day at the orphanage, pray for my eyes to be open to see and my ears open to hear.
17 June 2008
love to share.
that is the name of the orphanage. a name that has begun to seep into me. a phrase that has begun to spark a lot of questions in my heart. a phrase that I desire to be stamped on my soul to remind me of the great love of Christ, to remind me of the way Christ has called me to live.
Last week I got to meet with the director of "Amor para Compartir" and talk with her about the possibility of volunteering. She showed me around 'Casa Hogar' where the children about 7 yrs and under live. I got a glimpse of all the little kids running around and immediately I knew in my heart that God had placed me here for a reason. I had no expectations or any real idea of what might happen. I was told to write a letter (in spanish) explaining why I wanted to volunteer and what I would like to help with. She told me that they were in need of an english teacher and I was welcome to come and volunteer every day from about 8:30 to 1:30.
Monday morning was my first day there. I bought some teaching materials at a little stand we passed by on the street Sunday morning. With no clue as to what I would actually be doing, crayons, a felt number and alphabet table seemed to be like a good idea to have in my bag.
Every morning the little kids from Casa Hogar are 'bused' to the other house where the older kids live, because there are more rooms there to have school. Every morning about three men come and all the kids pile in the cars, roughly about 25 people per vehicle. I sat in the front seat along with another teacher, each of us holding about 3 little girls. When we arrived there were the older kids ready to mingle and divide into their classes. After a few minutes of standing around looking seriously lost, I found my way to the niños pequeños class.
The kids are beautiful. Their eyes are full of joy and are a door to a heart that simply desires someone to love them, to find them worthy to be held and listened to and sung to and played with...there wasn't a moment that I ever stopped asking God why I couldn't take them all home with me.
Yesterday, when I began teaching/hanging out with the older kids (9-12yr olds) I noticed that their teacher sat outside and read her bible while I taught.
my heart jumped.
Right after class I shared with her that I was a believer. She hugged me so tight as we realized we were sisters. She has lived in the orphanage with the older girls for 4 years. When I asked her how she decided to and how it has been for the past 4 years, she simply answered--"esto es mi vida"
this is my life .
how accurately put, and how incredibly humbling.
I had been wondering for the past week or so if the orphanage was started by believers and hoped to find the answer to that question today.
and i did. :)
This morning was my second day and I wanted to get there extra early to help with breakfast for the little girls and make sure I didn't miss the car ride over to the other house. Today I felt like I belonged. Yesterday the kids looked at me as the unknown gringo, and today they knew me as Amelia. :) As the little girls were eating breakfast I started talking to another volunteer. She is only 13 and lives with the little girls as one of their caretakers. We began talking and we both shared with each other about our relationship with Christ. I began asking her lots of questions and she explained to me the story of the beginning of "Amor Para Compartir"...
There is a garbage dump in Cuernavaca.
There is a gigantic trash pile where many children live.
There is a smelly, dirty, ugly dump that homeless families and orphans call home.
I know that description sounds awful. It honestly feels awful to type about it, but this is the way millions of people around the world live, and it has become too far away from us, from me, for too long. I need to be reminded of this truth, and not just once in a blue moon when I travel to other countries. I need to constantly be reminded of my blessings. I need to be reminded why I exist as an ambassador for Christ. I need to be reminded what it means to call myself a CHRISTian. I need to be reminded what the heart of the father is.
A small group of believers saw this garbage dump and decided to act. They joined together and bought three houses. Three houses that comprise the orphanage, "Amor Para Compartir".
Today was their 5 yr anniversary, and tomorrow they are having a huge fiesta to celebrate.
I am on the edge of my seat to see what tomorrow holds. I have already become so attached to the children I cannot bare the thought of leaving.
pray for my eyes to be open to see, and my ears to be willing to hear...
11 June 2008
well life is happening in Cuernavaca and come to find out life will continue to happen here for me until the 24th of June.
i'm not flying home this Saturday.
Oh what a moment today has been. A moment of coming face to face (yet again. oh why do I doubt?) that He knows when I sit down and when I rise up, that He understands my thought from afar, that He scrutinizes my path and my lying down, and is intimately acquainted with all my ways, that even before there is a word on my tongue, He knows it all-- these are moments built for me to dwell in, and to continuously live in.
I have made plans. remade plans. and yet again remade plans. (which should really teach me not to trust my planning so much) meaning I have changed my return flight ticket twice now, first thinking that I only needed to stay for 4 weeks because I found out I only needed two classes--therefore the logical thing to do would be cut my 6 weeks stay in Mexico short and make it only 4 weeks. and I'm a logical person, therefore I changed my ticket as soon as I found out this news. Then I very unexpectedly fell in love. with what I'm not entirely certain. I don't have a one liner answer but nevertheless I knew when I felt the stinging in my heart about a week ago that Saturday the 14th was not the day I would leave. reason? not really sure I have a reason, at least not a satisfactory one for my flesh at the moment. My flesh thinks I am slightly crazy. ok, really crazy. but then an opportunity landed in my lap. of course it would.
I will be volunteering at a local orphanage here in Cuernavaca. Sparing all the details, I spoke with the director on the phone on monday (in Spanish--very stretching experience) and she excitedly told me I am welcome to come and work and even possibly teach some english classes for the children. and. my heart burst.
new flight: June 24th. 10 more days in Mexico. I will be done with classes this Friday and start working at the orphanage as soon as i possibly can. please pray for this opportunity. I will be meeting with the director tomorrow at the orphanage, pray that the Lord would provide a situation for me to be used to spread his love to these children. pray for my emotions, my attitude, and my mind as these next few days pass and this all unfolds.
I am not sure if I understand faith as Jesus spoke of it. I claim that I cling to this 'faith' but in practice fall short of grasping what Faith is. I have heard of faith as jumping into the unknown, or as the definition Hebrews gives being sure of what we hope for and certain of things we do not see. I have heard many things about faith through the stories of Paul and of the desciples, but living and experiencing faith is rare it seems and difficult to identify. pray that the Lord would penetrate me with faith. faith in the hope of Christ, and faith that he is leading me.
In other news: classes have continued. I am becoming more comfortable with the language, but don't worry, I definitely still get the deer in the headlights look from several people a day. also, the dog around the corner of the block doesn't bark at me anymore when I go jogging. we have become friends, which is a great achievement because the 'block' takes me about 2 minutes to run around--therefore the dog really never would stop barking. but now I can actually hear my wonderful ipod music instead of the dog. I also have become addicted to limes. limes are everywhere and in everything. for instance, mayonesa and packages of peanuts. and anything you eat anywere, it is known that you will squeeze lime juice on it.
I want to share some fun pictures! I am glad and rejoice that my God has given his children life and life more abudantly. There are many stories tucked away in my mind that I desperately wish I possessed the ability to translate them into words...
enrique loves helado :)
um. yes. just about the cutest thing ever. i find myself in a awkward situation almost daily when I tell people how much I wish I had a little boy from mexico.
Girls night out! (plus Enrique)
Dinner at Chili's!
my obsession with the mumu continues...romeo i hope you like the one beautiful handmade one i'm wearing cuz it is coming home to you!
Zoe got her hair cut! and it's super cute!
so i didn't bring salsa shoes and, honestly, I enjoy the tennie shoe look much better. however, after walking out of my room like this , mi madre y hermana simply wouldn't have me salsa dancing in tennie shoes or anything other than heals...therefore I now borrow madre's black neutralizers for dancing--comfy and mom-ish but considering everyone else here is about 1ft shorter than me and wears a size 5 shoe they will have to work ;)
Our local friends took Zoe, Amanda, Samantha, and I on a trip to Tequesquitengo for a day at the lake!
and...Eric. mi primo. he is only smiling b/c i am jabbing him in the ribs, otherwise you would be getting his 'i'm very serious and never ever smile for the camera' face. he is our amazing cook, our comic relief, our movie watching and taco eating amigo, and has become one very dear friend.