Why the Congo Conflict Matters at Christmas

It seems as though the Christmas shopping season, which officially kicked off on Black Friday, is a bigger deal than ever this year. For the first time stores opened on Thanksgiving rather than waiting until the wee hours of Friday morning to welcome hoards of shoppers. Some people, eager to be the first to snag a killer deal on a 50-inch LED television, camped out in front of stores like Target and Best Buy Best for a week.

Truth be told, I don’t have a problem with Black Friday and Christmas shopping or with people camping out on sidewalks across the nation for days in order to get a good deal. I mean, who doesn’t want a great price on everything these days?

But I do have a problem when this consumer nation is uneducated about the products they are buying such as how objects are made and where the materials to make all the products we love so much come from. Sometimes it seems that America, a country in which education is freely available to any and all who desire it, operates as one of the more ignorant, uneducated nations in the world in terms of understanding how things work globally. 

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Give Thanks; Not Spanks

A few years ago, during a Thanksgiving church service, my hilarious younger brother leans over and whispers in a silly tone of voice to both me and our older brother, "give thanks; not spanks." As is typical when I'm with my brothers, I got a bad case of the giggles and wiggles in church at his funny little rhyme.

Every day we have choices. Grumble and complain about life's spanks or give thanks.

Trust me when I say I can grumble with the best of them when things just aren't going my way.

I was doing a lot of grumbling over life's spanks upon me back in 2007. I had finished seminary, moved back home with mom and dad, struggled to find a "real" job and ended up cleaning toilets at Disneyland. One stereotypically beautiful Southern Californian day, I met up with a friend who had attended seminary with me. My sweet friend listened as I went on and on complaining about my life during that season of toilets, plungers, and a whole lot of blah, blah, blah. When I had finished spewing out complaints about life's spanks, my friend graced me with her wisdom and love and asked me one simple question that caused a radical shift to take place in my life.

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Recipe for Change

With the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation approaching in September, this is a perfect moment for Americans to take stock of where we are in the fight to eradicate slavery in our own country. Slavery does still exist in the United States, but it doesn't have to be that way. No one wants to eat food tainted by slave labor, and we can act together as consumers to ensure that the tomatoes we purchase are guaranteed slave-free. -Eileen Campbell, Director of Justice Campaigns, International Justice Mission 

Ever hear of something so ridiculously unnecessary that you can’t actually imagine the reality of it?

That’s what I think about Florida’s tomato fields where men, women and children are right now enslaved to work.

Seek Justice

“Where exactly do you seek justice?”

“Seek Justice? I have no idea what that means.”

“SEEK JUSTICE!”

“Excuse me. Are you a law student?”

I sometimes wear a T-shirt from International Justice Mission that says Seek Justice on the front. Inevitably when I wear it, I get comments or questions about it. The above are some of what I’ve heard while wearing the shirt.

When I first bought the t-shirt, awhile back, never did I anticipate it would draw the attention it has as I sport it around town from time to time. Actually, the first time I wore the shirt on casual Friday’s around the office, it was a co-worker who stopped me to ask me “where exactly do you seek justice?” While I was completely caught off guard by the questions, thankfully the Holy Spirit was not and instantly this verse was brought to mind and so I responded with:

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Psalm 89:14.

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To Be Remembered

This past Saturday me and my husband took a day trip up to Big Bear Lake in southern CA. In the past, we've done a good amount of hiking through the mountains that circle the vast lake. But this time we kept our feet level with the lake and spent our day driving to various parts of the lake while remininiscing about those past hikes and trips with friends to the gorgeous mountains. Thoughts of my grandpa were also swirrling about in my mind that day as I knew his time on Earth was coming to an end. I had the sermon I describe below on my heart as well. As our day in the mountains ended, we descended down the curves of the mountains and I got a phone call. Grandpa had passed and Jesus had remembered him once and for all. I hope the knowledge of salvation in Jesus brings you hope on this day, no matter what life's circumstances are moving around you. And if you don't yet know the salvation and rememberment Jesus brings, I hope that your heart and mind be opened to his grace and forgiveness.

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When life is crummy is God still good?

It’s been one of those weeks where life is just not turning out to be what I had hoped it would be. Curve balls were thrown, disappointment moved in like an annoying houseguest who just won’t leave and expectations were unmet. Ugh, ugh and more ugh!

Does any of that change who God is?

I believe the answer is no but I have to be honest and admit that it’s pretty tough not to think that when things just don’t go like I want. I know God isn’t exactly a genie in a bottle that grants my every wish and fulfills my every desire. But the world I live in tells me that if I work hard and do well, then I’ll be rewarded for that and good things will happen to me. This doesn’t surprise me since I also believe the ways of the Lord are opposite than the world I live in. The way God thinks is different than I think (Thank Him!).

Knowing this doesn’t exactly alleviate the disappointment. It makes it understandable, but not disappear.

I know I come from a long line of Christian family members who have also been thrown off by the course God set before them.

Take the Israelites wandering around in a dry desert for 40 years for example. I don’t think that was their idea of freedom. And the food? Oh, forget about it! Talk about disappointment!

Or what about David who was told he’d be King and rule the land, yet ended up running for his life and cave hopping to escape Saul’s sword?

Elijah had an all out show down with the false god Baal and Baal’s followers on a mountain called Carmel and saw victory over Baal by the mighty hand of God up close and personal. And yet, after all that he witnessed God do on Carmel, he runs away from a woman named Jezebel who threatened him. I doubt he expected that after the Baal butt whipping he experienced.

Hannah was faithful to the Lord despite not being able to have children. God heard her cries for a baby and answered. She finally got her baby and then gave him up to live in the temple to learn to serve God all his life. That could not have been easy to do.

And then there’s Mary, the mother of Jesus. There’s no need for a lot of explanation here. Her life turned out 180 degree different than I’m sure she ever imagined for herself as a young girl.Talk about things not going your way! Yikes!

J.I. Packer once said, “God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your ‘thorn’ uncomplainingly — that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak — is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace.”

The issues I faced this past week are relatively small compared to larger issues the world faces today and yet, on the small scale of my life, I am experiencing pain, loss, disappointment and all the emotions that come with unmet expectations for my life. My heart is sick and in pain and because of that pain felt, I’m finding myself seeker my God on a deeper, more personal level.

I feel sad. I feel weak. My brokenness is on the surface.

Jim Cymbala said "God is attracted to weakness. He can't resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him."
Sometimes God allows us to be broken so that he can patch us back together again. This is what smarty pants theologians like Packer mean by sanctification. Paul wrote to the Colossians that “we should put on a new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Packer and Paul, or P&P, agree that God desires to give us a new self, which can only be found in him. God has greater things designed for us than we can ever imagine.
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From A (Africa) to B (Boston)

Happy Spring! Seasons sure do come and go. With each passing season, adventures are had, experiences shape our characters and hopefully we grow little by little. Have you ever experienced defining seasons in your life that you can truly say have paved the road you might be on now? I know I have. Below is the very first blog I wrote for ConversantLife.com and I share about an unconventional season of my life. While I'm in a much different place where I was when I wrote this and more so when I lived it out so many years ago now, I am confident that the truth in it remains: God is leading and I'm doing my best to hold on for the ride....

Landing at LAX after a few weeks spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa in fall of 2003, I let out a sigh…I’m not sure if the sigh was out of relief of being home or fear of being home.

Are you Sure about Heaven?

Are you sure?!

Remember the Sure deodorant commercials from the 1980’s? Those who weren’t wearing sure deodorant were timid and unsure if they should raise up their arms, exposing their potentially smelly pits. But those who were wearing Sure deodorant confidently threw their arms in the air without hesitation.  

When it comes to heaven, are you ‘sure’ you’re in?

 

Jesus talked about heaven and assurance of him taking his followers there.  

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 
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Kony 2012

It’s only March and already 2012 is turning out to be an unforgettable year.

Campaigns for President are in full swing.  

Forty-two thousand college students made a roaring statement by giving 2.6 million dollars towards abolishing modern day slavery at the Passion 2012 conference in January. 

 

Tensions between civilians and leaders and between political leaders from one county to the next, in much of the world, are nearing close to a boiling point.

 

Gas prices are climbing at a faster rate than they have before.

 

Many believe 2012 marks the end of the world as well.

 

And this is the year of Kony 2012.

 
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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity

Have you ever heard something, a statistic maybe, so overwhelming that you literally felt paralyzed?

It’s easy to feel that way after 30 seconds of nightly news these days. And it’s easy to feel helpless. I will never forget the empty, hollow look in the faces of so many young people in Moldova, a country chewed up and spit out by the former USSR. Their situation is so grave, they literally are desperate for change and yet, too overwhelmed to know what to do.

The first time I heard there were 27 million slaves in the world today, I was shocked, mortified, and angry and felt completely helpless. For weeks and months I did nothing but sit in the bottom of a deep well of disbelief.

Half the Sky, written by New York Times columnist Nicholas D.

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About
I drink coffee, read books, and travel. I’ve been able to drink coffee and discuss books with friends all over the world, simply because someone built a bridge and I made it east of the Mississippi and beyond. For this reason, I love bridges.


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