Saturday, October 15, 2016

Nightime Devotional with My Kids- what it looks like.

To show that night time devotionals with our children don't have to be long, dull, or drawn out, I want to share what I did with my kiddos earlier this evening.

Tonight, when I gathered them to read, we began with C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters.

Initially, I didn't tell the boy what the book was going to be about. I wanted him to see if he could figure it out as I read aloud. My daughter, on the other hand, already knew the premise. She initially didn't want me to read the book because it's one of her assigned reading for her studies. I convinced her it might be a good idea to go over this material 2 times so that she can get a better comprehensive understanding of the content and of what Mr. Lewis was trying to say in this book.

By the end of the first of chapter, the boy was stumped. He could not figure out who the patient was. He was also clueless as to who was the Enemy. Normally, when we read books, the protagonists is always the "good person" and the antagonist the "bad guy". The boy knows this so he was having a hard time putting the characters in this typical context.

Mr. Lewis turns that whole assumption upside down in this book, giving us a fascinating next few weeks as we delve into how our real enemy operates. Not only am I looking forward to reading the rest of the book with my kiddos I am also excited for the ensuing conversation that inevitably will follow each chapter.

The next book I wanted to read was a teen guide to John Calvin's Institutes. My daughter became intrigued with the title, I think it was because it had the word "teens" in it, and asked if she could read it for school. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to unpack that book with both of them. I sadly succumbed to letting her read the book on her own terms for school. Now I will just have to figure out a weekly lesson plan to see where it can fit into her already jam-packed reading school schedule. But I will not complain.

With my second read aloud gone, I went to our bookshelf and picked out a book we had read before. I liked the short devotional aspect to it and whenever the devotion references scripture, I make my kiddos break out their Bibles and read.

Tonight's scripture reference was Isaiah 53:5-6. It was used to answer question 20 of the Westminster shorter catechism.

It reads:

Q. 20 Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery? 


God, solely out of his love and mercy, from all eternity elected some to everlasting life, and entered into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer.

Here we see the origin and foundation of the remedy God has provided for human sin and need. God has chosen some, indeed, a great number, to be saved. He has his reasons for his choice, but these reasons are in him not in us. We are not chosen because of anything in us or because we have some claim on God. It is solely of his love and mercy, and we do not deserve, nor can we earn, his favor. God’s choice was made in his own mind before creation, and a covenant made with Christ on behalf of elect sinners. Christ undertook the part of a Redeemer, that is, he agreed to place himself in the position of those the Father had given him, and to meet their obligations. In this way, he would redeem them, that is, buy them back from bondage.

Ephesians 1:4-7 - even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 have some of my most favored words in the entire Bible. Reading these words seem to always bring me to tears. 

They read:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Isn't that just comforting to hear?

To close out our devotional, I had the kiddos read Isaiah 53:5-6. I wanted them to connect prophecy concerning Christ with the reality of why he came. He came for his elect...this we know. But to read why he came for his chosen is mind blowing. 

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

After they read the scripture in Isaiah, we closed our Bibles and I played his video for them. I only allowed them to listen to the lyrics and the music. I know that they are not ready to see the images in this video. I'll wait until they are older for that. 

Then we prayed and thanked God for his mercy and love. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Women, Poverty and Sexual Assault: A Real Advocate. A Perspective No One Wants to Hear.

Sexual assault. 

It seems that people are confused as to what it actually is. 

When I was sexually assaulted, I was almost 17. I went with a friend to a military base because she wanted to visit her boyfriend who lived 2 hours away. When she informed me that we would spend the night, I packed a little overnight bag and included my long grandma like pajamas and a change of clothes for the next day. I was living with her and her single parent mom because I ended up in an alternative high school and had run away from home over 10 times in the previous 2 years. 

You see, my own mother was also a single parent, but we were poor. Dirt poor. Food stamp, government cheese, section 8, welfare kind of poor. Single parent minority mothers living in poverty deal with a marginalization that the rest of the population just does not understand. My mother's way to cope with her situation was to keep her anger and frustration bottled up so much, it didn't take much for the bottle to burst and she would explode in fits of rage and anger, most often directed at me. My other 2 sisters somehow were able to avoid feeling the extension cords and belts breaking skin or hair being pulled out in chunks. 

That kind of abuse went on for years and when I turned 14 or 15, I had enough. I ran away so much that my mother kept threatening juvenile hall. At that point, I didn't care where I ended up. I eventually found an alternative high school 45 minutes away from our small rural chile field town and convinced my mother to let me go to school there.  I secured my own transportation and began attending the school. Within a couple of weeks I met a new friend and moved in with her, her 6-month-old daughter and her single parent mother. Even though I had never known any white people up to that point, and even though it was a major culture shock to live with this new small family unit, I forced myself to deal with the strangeness of white culture. It was nice to have a reprieve from the physical abuse from the hands of my mother. My mother didn't stop me from leaving for good. Maybe she knew I was tired of getting beat and maybe began to wonder if I would ever fight back. I never did. I just received blow after blow of her anger and with each hit, with each bruise and break of skin, my self-worth plummeted. That was my normal.

I don't know whose apartment it was that my friend brought us to but my friend and her boyfriend seemed happy to see each other. Another guy was present. He was a tall massive looming figure. He was a friend or co-worker of my friend's boyfriend and as soon as we arrived, he broke out the cheap wine coolers. Since I was just there to give my friend company on the 2-hour drive, I thought nothing of this older guy refreshing our wine coolers whenever the bottles became empty. My friend and her boyfriend eventually retreated to one of the bedrooms and I was left to hang out with this complete stranger.

Small talk was made throughout the night and when it got late, I excused myself and retreated to an empty room and made myself a little pallet on the floor. I changed into my little house on the prairie pajamas and attempted to lull myself to sleep in the quiet dark room with the door closed. Some time in the middle of the night, the wine cooler man, who must have been a good 10 years older than me, came into the room, closed the door behind him and raped me. 

There were not a lot of words exchanged during that ordeal. No "dirty" small talk. No vulgar or sexually charged words prior to the rape were exchanged. 

Just the assault. 
Strong offensive hands holding down feeble attempts to defend.

For this impoverished soon to be 17 year old with no self worth or sense of value, I was extremely confused. Did I lead him on? Did I give him the impression that I wanted to have sex with him. From my immature point of view, I didn't think I did. I was a child. He was an "old" man in his late 20's.

You see, real sexual assault does not happen over a play on words. Most of the time, no words or very little words are ever used. Most often, during real sexual assault, the only words you will hear are from the girl or woman,  crying over and over again "no" as she makes a pretty strong effort to move his hands away from pulling off her undergarments. Then, like a sudden slap in the face, comes the stark cold realization that the longer and harder she tries to stop him, the stronger the grip of his hands become.....and then the grip becomes painful. 

Scary painful. 

It's the kind that tells her to stop fighting or else something worse will happen. She realizes that he is unstoppable and blinded by his own lust and that her cries of "no's" are landing on deaf ears. She realizes that the force of his hands and body will not end until he gets what he wants.

So she stops fighting. And silently begins to cry.
She cries because she is scared. 
She cries because she can't stop what is happening to her and the act of violent sex is unimaginably painful.
She is literally powerless under the weight and strength of the man on top of her. 

So, when I hear the news media and the masses rebuke one of the candidates over his words and then deem his words as determinants of sexual assault, it makes me angry. 

When I hear the First Lady get on her soapbox and declare disgust over "locker room banter" and call it sexual assault, it makes me angry. 

  I recently read a blog written by a Christian man who wrote that he would never leave his wife or children in the same room with said candidate and hinted at the idea that sexual assault was going to take place if he did....that really made me angry. 

All these people actually believe they are advocating for sexual assault victims or women in general.

CNN writes of the First Lady's reaction: 

Her voice quaking with fury, the first lady said Thursday that Trump's comments about using his celebrity to grab and grope had affected her powerfully, occupying her thoughts since the tape emerged late last week. "I can't believe I'm saying a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women," Obama said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. "I've listened to this, and I feel it so personally," she said. "And I'm sure that many of you do, too -- particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. That is cruel. It's frightening. And the truth is, it hurts.

As a real sexual assault victim, I don't feel that any of these people are speaking for me. The First Lady is not speaking for me. She is speaking for herself and her own democratic agenda and sadly, is using a politically correct definition of "sexual assault" to win over the woman vote. From her platform of privilege, she has the audacity to say that the candidate's WORDS affected her powerfully and personally and hearing words from a perverted man is frightening and hurtful. 

It makes me angry that all these "advocates" are using the term sexual assault to discredit a candidate, but to what endorse or give more ammunition for the other just-as-sick-and-twisted candidate?

And as much as I dislike the grotesqueness of the candidate who said these words, when I heard them, they sounded much like the words of the many men I've known throughout my life before I became a follower of Jesus. Men who are now CEO's of companies, head coaches of major universities, school teachers, correction officers, military commanders and personnel, professional athletes, body shop workers, auto shop workers, real estate agents, personal trainers, etc. The list goes on and on. 

I honestly don't think any man is innocent of this kind of talk. They may not be quick to say these kinds of words in the presence of the women they love, but get a bunch of guys together.....

Shockingly, my husband has even told me stories of Christian men he has had to rebuke for using demeaning and perverted talk when discussing women who are not their wives.  

As a woman who lived years of death and sin prior to becoming a Christian, I heard so much "locker room banter", its not even funny. For unbelieving men, it's as common as sports team banter.

The sad reality is that there are scores of men establishing a woman's worth based on the size of her breasts, derriere and hips. These men then go on to make comments with other men in private that either validate or reject pursing the woman in question. This kind of chaffing is pathetic and degrading, but it's not sexual assault.

However, we cannot blame all men for this kind of crude behavior. 

When you have women going under the knife or getting implants to make themselves more attractive or desirable in the eyes of men, you know we are dealing with a culture of women that should not be offended at locker room guy talk, especially when they put these silicone parts on display in public.

When you have women who spend hours in the gym doing 1000 squats a day, (ok, I'm exaggerating) to "plump up" and tone her bottom so that she can take pictures of herself and her half naked body parts to share with the world on social media for "likes", and then these same women complain when men make sexually provocative comments, you know we are dealing with a culture of ridiculous hypocrisy. 

Don't believe there are women who do this? Check out Instagram. 

So what am I trying to say with this blog by putting myself and my sexual assault on display?

1) As a sexual assault survivor I have a bit credibility which allows me to see what is and what is not true unwanted sexual assault. 
2) It's easy to cast all the blame on men over this idea of rape culture while excusing women from any and all culpability.

Syncretism is a pattern of living where we add to our Christian faith the ideals, preferences, beliefs and practices of a non Christian world. Eventually, our Christian faith becomes almost impossible to distinguish from the world around us. Syncretism affects not only how we think but most importantly how we live, which includes our patterns of behaving in real life. 

Do you remember King Solomon? He was a man that started out strong for the LORD, but after marrying wife after wife, 700 wives and 300 concubines to be exact, these wives bringing with them their own practices and worship to other gods, Solomon's own heart became pulled in many directions. His faith was no longer honoring and in obedience to God because he was embracing the practices and beliefs from a polytheistic culture by way of his lust and the presence of beauty of the women around him that he married. 

Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant (1 Kings 11:11)

There are consequences to living syncretistic lives. 

However, on the opposite end of syncretism, there is monasticism. This is when people make an attempt to escape from the world's influence by withdrawing from it. Think Amish. Or those sects of Christians or other religions that promote uniformity in how women should wear their hair or dress. Or the priesthood of monks. We would be disobeying Christ and his command to go into the world to make disciples if we remain in isolated communities and create for ourselves Christian or religious bubbles of conformity. 

There is tension here, no doubt. It's not easy to be part of the world and not be shaped by it. However, if we are not drenching our minds in scripture, we won't know what to embrace in our culture and what to reject. We won't be able to discern what elements of this world can be used as springboards for connecting with unbelievers for our Gospel driven assignment from Jesus to "go". We won't be able to distinguish what the main stream media is telling us about certain issues of our day from the truth that only God gives. Meshing the two perspectives is not real truth. It's syncretistic in nature.

So when the world is telling us that words uttered from a man who is not a follower of Jesus are words that promote sexual assault, I find it preposterous. As a victim of sexual assault, I can't, for the life of me, reconcile this. Are his words excusable or acceptable? Of course not. But I don't expect them to be. 

As a woman, I find certain things in our culture more offensive than Trump's words. Not only as a woman but as a mother with daughters. 

Here are 3 of those things: 

1) Having to give my 15 year old daughter the "talk". No, not the birds and bees talk, been there and do that often. The "talk" I'm speaking about is the one where I have to explain that she is more than the sum of her body parts. I have to remind her that the size of certain private parts do not make someone more attractive, even when the world wants to tell her otherwise. I have to prepare her for the likes of Beyonce and the Kardashians, when after voluntarily succumbing to the plastic surgeon's knife, they want to spread messages that say a woman's currency and power is her body on display, lest we forget, the gyrating that goes along with it. The watching world is applauding and allowing these women to dictate standards of beauty, sexuality and popularity. Having to explain to my then 14 year old why Christian women in their 20's declare to my daughter "I wish I had a chest like yours" saddens me and offends me greatly. GAH!  This sin runs so deep, even women who profess Christ are not immune to its effects. 

 2) I mourn that I have to remind my daughter often, that beauty is more than skin deep because the culture is going to bombard her with another lie that says she has to dress a certain way or make herself up in such a way that all her blemishes are "magically erased". We can go online and find a gazillion tutorials on how to apply foundation with the right amount of contours and highlights, how to glue on fake eyelashes, how to color matte full lips, apply catlike eyeliner, and once all those skills are mastered, only then can one be considered "beautiful". Even confused men are using these tutorials to make themselves look like women and are getting Cover-girl contracts to prove they are a success at attaining beauty. I not only have to prepare my daughter to combat these superficial lies of beauty, I've got to prepare my son as well. I don't want either of them believing all of the above is what makes a woman or man beautiful.

3) I think I am most offended that wealth, title and status is equivalent to power. When people of power attempt to tell everyone else how to think and behave, that makes me more upset than hearing Trump's lewd comments. Trump is the product of wealth and power. So is Hillary. So are the Obama's. None of them really speak for the poor and it offends me greatly when they think they know how to best solve the issue of poverty. They have no idea what it means to live a marginalized life with no relief in sight. They have no idea how poverty affects relationships, parenting, children, self worth, value and identity. 

These "advocates" speak from platforms of privilege and power and they honestly believe they speak for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed and now the sexually assaulted.

We are a nation whose elected leaders reflect the sexual perversion that has always been who we as a people are, sinners pretending to not be. Yet as a nation we have the audacity to be shocked at what we see in the outward behavior of some, while closing our doors and practicing licentiousness of every kind privately.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)

I don't place my trust in any of these elected or soon to be elected officials.

Not the perverted machismo who thinks his wealth guarantees unchecked sexual permission slips to lewdness. 

Not the Clinton woman whose integrity is in question over lives lost due to something shady going down in a foreign country and then the fiasco of deleted emails and the breaching of national security. She is a life time politician. She knows how to play the public "word" game to win approval ratings. She also has been known to treat the victims of her husbands sexual advances as enemies, not sexual assault victims. Maybe she knows they are not real victims because some of them may have welcomed his behavior. Only her husband and those women know the truth.  

Not the Clinton man whose own history of sexual perversion has already defiled the White House and the role of the presidency, like many presidents before him. We just didn't have the technology to capture it. 

I also don't and have never believed in the platform of hope and change the Obama's rode in on. Well, they did bring change....but I am not convinced it was good change. Due to the Obama's, we now live in a more sexually confused nation, where women and men are applauded for changing their gender identity based on what they feel on any given day and laws are now in place to protect these whims. The Obama's brought in a law enforced slippery slope of change, labeling it tolerance, that is bound to have long lasting consequences. However, I can't cast all the blame on them. They are simply elected officials whose main goal was to please the already sexually confused masses. They represent a large portion of who and what this country already was. 

Under Obama leadership, there is hope for the sexually confused. There is no hope for the Christian who believes in sexuality the way God determines it. But I can't say that out loud without being accused of being a racists or an unloving Christian. 

But, in spite of all this.......

I do know of One who has provided real hope, real change and real solutions to dire situations...even ridiculous elections, wide spread sexual debauchery, and spirals of downward moral descent.

He advocates for real sexual assault victims. 

He reconciles poor parents to their children and children to their impoverished parents.  

He gives parents the right words to teach their children so that they are prepared to not believe the lies the world wants to feed them concerning sexuality, beauty, power, wealth, value, and identity. 

He advocates and actually loves the poor, marginalized and oppressed. 

He does not need to campaign for votes because he already reigns as King. 

I may be in my mid 40's and still cannot sleep in pitch darkness, even knowing I am safe with my husband right next to me. It took years of wrestling with God for me to arrive at seeing and savoring the beauty and trustworthiness of God's sovereign hand and providential care. 

It took years of patience and unconditional love from my husband, with God equipping both my husband and I with the Holy Spirit, to help us wrestle with my reality of being a sexual assault victim. I also had to painfully learn how to let Christ heal the emotional and psychological effects of living a life of real poverty, marginalization, oppression due to class-ism, while resting in my identity in Christ, as I struggled to reconcile my past, present and future as a beloved daughter of the Most High.

No candidate can or ever will be able to offer that kind of healing, or hope, or change. 

Only Jesus does. 

We don't need to withdraw from the world and all that our modern culture brings with it. We must remember that Christ's primary goal was to come INTO the world for the redemption and salvation of his people.  

Equipped with 
1) the Holy Spirit's power
2) discernment and wisdom that only comes from God
3) God's words on paper, the Bible
we are able to participate with Christ in his work. 

We need to be able to know, as men and women who seek to honor God with our sexuality, our words, our beauty, our bodies - 
1) what is redeemable
2) what distracts from obedience
3) what syncretism looks like and resist the urge to conform
4) what monastic tendencies have surfaced in our thinking and behavior and realizing that its our fear of conformity that feeds these tendencies

We must also remember that Jesus uses redeemed people to reach unredeemed people so that they also have the privilege of meeting the one Who redeems.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Misfit Missionaries In The City

August of last year, in response to those horrendous video's showing Planned Parenthood selling baby parts, I wrote a piece that landed on RAAN's top posts of 2015. In the piece, I admonished evangelical Christians to walk across the "tracks" to not only save babies from the death chamber that Planned Parenthood is, but also to make contact with those lower income, black and brown mothers who make up the majority of abortions statistics, for the goal of reaching out to love and serve the mom's of those babies.

Somehow, I let myself off the hook from going into these underprivileged and lower-income neighborhoods because my husband did not have a calling or desire to enter these areas to serve. To be honest, it was just not on his radar. He grew up vastly different than I did and securing a nice home in the country with a nice quiet life was his idea of "success". I prayed much and prayed some more.

By the end of the year, we discovered a new church plant that was specifically honing in on the areas I wrote about and had a heart for.  I informed my husband about the church plant and asked him if we can move our finances around a bit to begin financially supporting this new church plant. We prayed about it together for a few weeks and then reached out to the church plant pastors. After getting a response, we sat on it for a couple months. The Lord seemed to be working in the heart of my husband because the next time I brought up the issue of sending financial support, he said the following words:

What if we didn't send money? What if we join them?

For those that know my husband, one would know that God is the only one that could have provoked my husband to say those words. It took me off guard and I was speechless for several minutes while I looked at him, confused.

We live in Washington. This church plant team is going to be in Los Angeles. We were thinking about moving to San Diego. I was looking online for potential plots of small acreage with a house so that I can grow avocado trees and have a chicken farm for heavens sake. 

I immediately thought, "how can I live a country life but still do inner city ministry?" How will that work? And if I am going to be even more honest, LA was NOT on my heart, AT ALL. 

Inner city and underprivileged? Yes.
Inner city and underprivileged IN LA?  A big fat, without a doubt NO!!.

What do you mean join them?, I asked my husband with major and serious perplexedness. I also knew that the nature of his job would never have us transfer to the L.A area.

My husband said he didn't know and we just stared at each other for several minutes.

They probably won't even want us to join their team, we thought and shared out loud. We are a multi-ethnic blended family with a divorce in both mine and my husband's histories, even though we have been married now for 12 years. We surely did not represent the traditional nuclear American family that most families in ministry are. I also know that many evangelical churches with a good and strong emphasis on Bible exegesis, things I love, appreciate and hold dearly, place marriage on such a high pedestal, families like ours are often invisible in the church. So I asked my husband to reach out to the pastors and see if they will be open to having "our kind of family" join them. 

To make a long story short, the pastor that my husband spoke to on the phone expressed an excitement and appreciation of the experiences and life history that our family represented and welcomed the idea that we were considering joining them. Can I just say......THAT WAS UNEXPECTED! 

We began to slowly feel more and more confirmation that this was the direction that God was having us go. We began preparing ourselves spiritually, mentally, emotionally, as well as tangibly. We got our house ready to sell and once the improvements were made, we apprehensively put our house on the market with a hope to see God move.

The house sold over the weekend. THAT WAS UNEXPECTED.

To make more of a long story short, we are now in California, renting a teeny tiny apartment, as we wait for job opportunities for my husband to manifest. Back in the beginning of the year, my husband received clarity as to WHO he wanted to serve and in what capacity he wanted to serve. The only question we both had was "how"?

With that said, since July, we have been slowly plugging away and doing all the leg work to establish ourselves as an official non-profit here in California and with the IRS. We are currently working with grant writers to secure funds to help us buy a street front commercial property with enough square footage for the outreach we are wanting to see happen in the 90805 zipcode. We want to live in the community that we are called to serve so whatever building we acquire, we will do additions to the building so that we can work and live right smack in the lives and neighborhood of the people we are wanting to serve, and hopefully have a chicken or two.

We now feel that it is time we share what we are wanting to do here in North Long Beach with our family and friends in the hopes that anyone feels called to:

1) pray for us, but most importantly pray for the people that we will encounter or who will take advantage of the services our outreach will offer
2) financially support us
3) join us

We don't know what the immediate future holds. We know that my husband might need to quit his job in the future in order to be fully available for this non-profit outreach, but for right now, we are about to embark on balancing a life of transition that involves him staying employed, which will involve a commuter's existence between San Diego and LA. We know that we are not wanting to do a simple "after-school" program to get kids off the streets for an afternoon with busy work or sports related activities.

We are seeking Gospel transformation and we will not settle for anything less. 

Individual God-induced-regeneration where the Holy Spirit is welcomed in the lives of these young people is what we are after. 

This will take massive amounts of work, Christ-like patience, love, mercy, compassion,  motivation, perseverance and longevity to reach and establish deep relationships with young kids, youth and young adults who have no inkling of what Gospel love is. In our own strength? Not possible.

Please consider partnering with us in the three ways mentioned above. We can't do this alone, nor do we want to. 

Thankfully, as we are learning the hearts of our new church leadership, we are seeing more and more confirmation that their hearts and the missional characteristics that God has placed in the hearts of our own family is more like-minded than we could have imagined. 

THAT WAS UNEXPECTED AS WELL, beautifully confirming the magnitude of how God has knit this whole plan together. 

We don't know anything other than that.....we are here, with a desire to plant deep roots. Willing and waiting to serve this neighborhood with our new church plant team.

There is a little button on the top of the blog page where you can donate if that is what God calls you to do. You can do a one-time donation or set up a monthly deal. We chose to use Paypal because we learned that other fundraising sites take a portion of your funds for their overhead. We don't like that and want everything you donate to go directly to help serve the 90805 zipcode. For accountability purposes, we have compiled a board of directors that include local law enforcement, a couple of local multi-ethnic pastors, a retired movie set construction worker and of course, my husband and I.

Don't forget to follow our new Facebook page as well. HERE

Can I lastly say, or write, this is a very scary adventure that we feel God has convicted our family to. Giving up a way of life in exchange for another way of life, with an unbelievable amount of unknown factors, specifically for Jesus-exalting purposes, is not the easiest thing to do, but obedience is better than easy, right? 

We may not have needed a passport or boarded a plane to fly across the ocean for this adventure, but we are on missions nonetheless, especially when city life feels as foreign as moving to another country. I also want to stress that we feel ill-equipped for this conviction and calling. My husband and I REALLY feel like misfit missionaries in the city, in more ways than you can imagine. 

Oftentimes, missions to other countries is romanticized and seen as more legitimate. Trust me, for years after becoming a Christian, I thought this way too. This kind of perspective is harmful to the local church in that we neglect to see that there are cities and areas in our own country that have huge pockets of lost souls, that include native Americans and foreign-born nationals, as there are unreached people groups in other countries. God had to open up my eyes and soften my heart to see this fact.

Sadly, families who move to other countries are often put on pedestals in their local church and are quickly seen as "rock star" Christians who must have their faith and spiritual life in such perfect order. We think that God must have picked them out for this important assignment due to their exemplary faith, making the rest of the saints in the church think and feel that Jesus's mandate to "Go and make disciples" does not apply to them (Mathew 28:19).  

They begin to believe that God has ONLY called them on "mission" to their local coffee shop to read their Bibles in public because they convince themselves that their faith is not as strong as the Christian who feels convicted to go overseas. We must stop this kind of thinking because this Jesus-directive is not only for the Christian who has their stuff together or whose faith does not waiver. Missions is for all believers. And if you don't know what you are doing, Christ is even more magnified because all glory will go to him. Christ is reigning and ruling always. He kinda knows what he's doing. All. the. time.

I also know that many don't think that the surrounding cities of L.A. county could be a mission field. When my husband and I have spent the better portion of our Christian lives together living in a Christian bubble, surrounded only by people who worship like us, pray like us, and live like us, though not necessary look like us, well look like me, in quiet calm country settings, city life is a shock to the senses.

Today, during one of our morning conversations, my daughter started crying due to the weight of the sights she has seen here in the city in conjunction with the events that have transpired over the last week in our country. Through tears, she shared her heart's burden for people living in other inner cities. This prompted me to gather my kiddos under my wing and pray. We prayed for the people God will allow us to meet while here, we prayed for those people living in other inner cities and urban areas across our nation that do not know our living Savior, or worse, have a wrong understanding of who and what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and we prayed for more workers for the harvest (Luke 10:2, Mathew 9:37) 

Will you pray with us? 

A bit of stats: 

1) The city of Long Beach’s population as of the 2014 census was 473,577 a growth of +2.6% since the census of 2000. 
2) Long Beach consists of 111 constituent neighborhoods and is the 7th largest city in California covering 50.4 square miles.
3) Long Beach has a crime rate of 5.04 per 1000 residents which is higher than the national average 3.8 per 1000 residents. 
4) You have a 1 in 198 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime and a 1 in 37 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime. 
5) On average there are 294 crimes per square mile.  
6) 20% of the city’s population has less than a high school education.

Our target area within the city of Long Beach is, North Long Beach specifically the 90805 zip code. 

1) This neighborhood has a population of 92,991 people inside of a 7.4 square mile area, which amounts to 12,620 people per square mile. 
2) The median house/condo value is $282,000 while the average household income is only $44,070. 
3) The unemployment rate in the 90805 neighborhood is 17.1%. 
4) In the 90805 community 32% of the residents have less than a high school education.
5) Out of the 1461 children born in this neighborhood in the last 12 months 990 were born to unwed mothers. 
6) Roughly 20% of the community receives food stamps and is either on state or government assistance.
7) In North Long Beach alone, 46% of homes with children living in them are led by a single parent (80% of these are led by single-mothers 
8) Fatherlessness is a common place, runs rampant and has deep lasting, far reaching consequences for the lives of these children and women alike.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Teaching Children When To Get Angry, When to Mourn and How to Pray Like Habbakuk

O LORD, how long shall we cry for help, 
and you will not hear? 
Or cry to you “Violence"
and you will not save? 
Why do you make us see iniquity, 
and why do you idly look at wrong? 
Destruction and violence is before us; 
strife and contention arise. 
So the law is paralyzed, 
and justice never goes forth. 
For the wicked surround the righteous 
so justice goes forth perverted
Habakkuk 1:2-4

Because I have always been the kind of mom that would rather lay out all truth to my kids, yes, even hard truth, for the sake of important dialogue, in order that they will grow wise to the ways of our fallen and broken world, I beckoned my 15 year old daughter and 10 year old son to watch the video of Terrence Crutcher's altercation with police that subsequently led to him being shot and ultimately killed. I also read aloud to them the article that was attached to the video.

My kid's first reaction was to get livid at incompetency, especially since they have a dad in law enforcement. My kids learn from their dad the protocols of what should be in place when law enforcement pulls anyone over for any reason. My kids know that whenever law enforcement responds to the scene of any given situation, anything can happen, even the worse "anything", like the kind that can take the life of my husband and their dad. So bringing my children into these kinds of discussions is our norm.

Another added dimension is that my husband is white. I am not. Due to the ethnic makeup of our family and my husband's job, we cannot see these kinds of situations from one perspective, one side or vantage point.

After watching the video my kiddos got into a heated debate as to what all the police officers involved in this incident got wrong. As their conversation ensued, it was obvious that my kids became filled with rage.

My daughter started prejudging the female officer who fired the shot, claiming that even though the female officer has been an officer of the law since 2011, she must not know what it really means to be on the police force. My girl began ranting and raving about how desperate the police department must be to hire "anyone off the street who don't know what they are doing" [her words] and how "police are called to protect, not kill" [again her words].

My boy, on the other hand, was more reflective in his anger. He watched Terrence Crutcher carefully and said that he didn't do anything wrong, well other than walking away from police. He said that if they questioned his motives, they should have tased him only, but not shot him. I reminded him that one of the police officers actually did use a taser and it was done at the same time he was shot. My boy just shook his head and said they should all be fired. He didn't understand why Mr. Crutcher was shot. He kept saying, "they didn't have to shoot him" over and over again.

As their mom, I knew anger had filled their hearts. I reminded them that it's proper to have outrage. Mark 3:5 tells us that Jesus looked at the Pharisees with anger and then grieved at their hardness of hearts. Anger and grieving can go hand in hand. However, we must not allow ourselves to sit there in it. I had to teach my children what their next response ought to be.

Yes, it is good and right to see incompetence and injustice for what it is, call it out, and demand someone should be fired and prosecuted for shooting this unarmed man, regardless if they are a police officer. I also had to remind my children that since we do not know all the facts, we need to be careful that in our default flesh response we must remember that the media will often sensationalize these kinds of incidents, not realizing that the ripple effect only causes people to be torn apart and divided further.

I also reminded them it's proper to mourn at injustice. I told them we should be sad at how broken our world is. I reminded them that due to people fearing differences, racism exists. I told them that racism continues to exist because others don't believe it exists or simply that people don't care about it because it does not affect them or that people are just content to live out their own existence seeking their own self-interests without regard for others hurts.

However, I am not Jesus and I cannot judge, nor can my daughter judge the intentions or motivations of why this female officer pulled the trigger so quickly? Was it racism in full throttle? Was it adrenaline? Was it fear? Was it power exertion being exhibited because she was a female among a line-up of male officers? Whatever it was, it was bad policing. Or it appears to be bad policing.

Do I want my daughter, who is both black and brown, to default to believing that every conceivable ill in society is due to racism? And even if some of her future negative experiences are, she has a white step-father in law enforcement and a half white brother, whom she loves with all her heart. She cannot see all white people or all law enforcement as one in the same.

 My mom heart wanted both of them to feel the weight of injustice, to get angry, but then also remind them to mourn for those hurting. When I read the news article to them, I stressed what the family members said concerning Mr. Crutcher. I reminded them that he was a father, a son, a brother. I stressed to them that today, 4 children were going to wake up knowing they won't ever see their father again. I let all those realities sink in because I purposely wanted them to feel the sadness over this entire situation.

And they did.

Nonetheless, I did not leave them wallowing in their anger nor did I want them to feel hopeless in their I prompted them to pray. It is my job to lead them and show them how to pray when tangibly they feel hopeless over situations that cause their emotions to go from one extreme to another.

It is my responsibility to teach them that anger can't give way to rage and mourning can't swallow up hopelessness. Likewise, prayer should be our first and final response as we beckon God to hear our prayers. As Christians, it is right to take our questions, anger, mourning and grievances about societal evils that have become common place injustices before the throne of God. Sadly, we fall prey to the mentality that political appeals and continued protests are solutions. As good as these can be, when done well, they will not bring redemptive reformation to our nation at large. They are not meant to.

We only have to see our past and current presidential choices to realize that "progress" does not automatically usher in God's goodness through born again believers that have God's law written on their hearts.

As a matter of fact, history tells us that when nations and countries lose sight of goodness, God's goodness, that God does indeed give them over to themselves, which inevitably leads to their demise and eventual non-existence. How self-righteous of us to think that our country, the good ol' USA is immune to that.

Like Habakkuk, we must default to take our protests immediately to God's high court, who is Sovereign over ALL the earth, even if, no, even when, we see that there does not seem to be a reprieve in sight for the lack of social equality or goodness in our country's culture and how we view each other, which leads to how we treat each other, civilians and law enforcement and politicians and even Christians who ascribe to different denominations.

Habakkuk petitioned God when he saw that God's people were treating each other mercilessly. He questioned God's silence when the nation of Israel collectively behaved in wicked and evil ways that went counter to God's calling and admonishment.

Yes, God gave his people many good and just laws to follow for a time that they were needed, and in those laws, he directed and mandated his chosen people to treat others differently than the rest of the world was treating each other. Being representatives of Yahweh, his people were to behave within God's parameters of behaving.

Isaiah 1:16-17 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Notice this does not say "make children fatherless" or "make widows" of those men who we think are shady or not deserving of justice


Micah 6:8  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Lastly, are we prepared to receive these words: 

Look among the nations, and see, wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told
(Habakkuk 1:5)

Habakkuk asked God to intervene and do something about the injustices and evil that God's very own chosen people were doing to each other. Habakkuk wanted a revival of some sort. He wanted social justice. He wanted evil to be dealt with. However, I don't think he was expecting the answer that God gave him. God was not only going to take care of social injustice, he was going to take care of the entire lot. He going to make an outside nation rise up and plunder his own people. Lay its waste. Desolate it completely.

God's answer to evil acts of injustice was not national revival. It turned out to be national non-existence. Instead of questioning God about the lack of "fairness" that this plan seemed to exhibit, Habakkuk responds rightly. 

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,  yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:16-19)

While we wait for God to answer our cries and prayers, do we have what it takes to wait quietly for the day when God gets the last word and trust that whatever that looks like, we will rejoice in the LORD and take joy in the God of our salvation?

Regardless of what happens, evil, injustice, racism, strife, division, contention, I want my kiddos to pray and trust, even when it seems that God is silent while also teaching them that God is never silent. Simply, we are just not privy to the chain of command that is handed out and implemented by the Commander in Chief of the Universe.

Are we ok with that?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Waiting, Fear, Making Home, and Making Bread

This comes from our Family on Mission section. (see above) 

We really don't have much normalcy in our day yet. We found a teeny tiny apartment in Long Beach, no, not close to the beach, but rather to our church plant target area in North Long Beach, but not quite. Even though I love that our church plant leadership wants to hone in on an area here in Long Beach that is underprivileged (where my heart is), I am just not quite yet ready to plant roots there, at least not without my husband. Speaking of my husband, he finally got word that his transfer got approved but he is still in the process of being vetted. That initial transfer just got him to Cali. For anyone confused about the trail of transition concerning my husband's job, here is a quick run down on what it looks like. It may be a bit confusing reading it, so just imagine what it feels like living it. (Skip this if I have already told you in person or over the phone)
  1. (Items 1-9 are for PLAN A) Paul put in a transfer to San Diego to get our family out of Washington and to California. That transfer is within the same ranks/position/pay as is current job, meaning he gets to keep retirement benefits/years in etc.  Before leaving Washington state, he also applied for another position in another sector/department within the same line of work, meaning he will keep retirement stuff, pay, and more or less his same position, just doing a different aspect of his current job. This job will get him working out of a general Los Angeles county area (there were 4 available slots/cities he applied to that would get him close to where our church plant will be)
  2. Our house sold too quickly after putting in on the market and we all had to move sooner rather than later, instead of waiting for the job transfer to come through. We literally moved on faith with no other real tangible possibility that the transfer would even happen or get approved.
  3. We all left Washington together and drove to Cali together as a family. The kids and I had to stay with my brother and sister-in-law in San Diego while the hubs ended up two states away teaching at the academy, but that gig has now turned into 3 months of teaching, which turned out to be a good thing since that first transfer just got approved at the beginning of this month.
  4. Getting approved is just the first step. Now he needs a report date. But that does not happen until he is vetted. Vetting happens in Washington D.C. After that process is complete, then he will get his final report date. They gave him a projected time frame of mid October, but that is projected, not final or actual.
  5. While he was at the academy, he met some fellow co-workers who had applied for a  transfer to that other department/sector that my husband is trying to secure (the job that will get him to LA county). Those other co-workers are not competing with my husband since they chose different cities in different states. They gave him "hook up" information that allowed him to contact human resources directly for the cities he wants. Human resources requested information from him. Once he provided that information, they immediately put his name on a list to receive a report date, literally bypassing the entire application process. Going the initial application route, it would have taken him 6 months to a year to hear something. Going the "hook up" route, meaning he just knew people who knew people, "expedited" the process down to 2-6 months. (even though i despise being away from my hubs, there was a hidden blessing in that teaching gig)
  6. The teaching gig is just about over. It ends Sept 23.
  7. He will go on 2 weeks of vacation time to spend time with us. YAY!!!!
  8. He will begin working in San Diego mid October (projected)
  9. He will stay with my brother for his work days and live with us on his off days so that he can start connecting with our church plant leadership team. Sadly, he will now be dealing with that brutal San Diego to LA traffic. This will be our new normal until that other job, the "hook up" position, opens up and he gets that final report date that will have him headquartered out of one of the 4 cities here in LA county.
  10. Plan B -  if that final job transfer to LA county doesn't pan out, he will quit his current job (meaning he will get out of the government sector completely) and apply for a lateral transfer within a local police department, or more like submit the necessary paperwork to secure a local police officer position and THEN quit his job. The pay will be significantly lower, he will lose all retirement benefits, but at least he will be HERE, in Long Beach, with his family and our new church family.
We are currently waiting for STEP 6 to happen.
Can I also just add, I don't like waiting. Waiting must utilize massive amounts of patience, which is a character trait I don't readily have stockpiled in my heart and mind. Waiting and patience forces me to TRUST IN THE LORD, for just about everything. When I say everything, I literally mean EVERYTHING. We are not talking about a fluffy everything, or a theoretical everything, we are talking about everything everything.
For example:
  1. Going from living 8 years of isolated country life and moving into a city setting, causes rolling waves of fear and discomfort to land on the doorstep of my heart.
  2. In idolatry, I learned that country living became equivalent to "safe". When my mom moved me and my sisters out of the city when I was child, in my heart, country life eventually came to signify safety and city life meant danger. If that was how my heart and mind perceived the world at large, then I was not trusting in God. I was trusting His creation to give me what I needed. Yes, country life is beautiful, serene, peaceful (you can throw in a bunch more adjectives here), but there is no true safety or true security or true peace in those settings. It was not until we moved here that I realized that I had been placing my trust in God's creation to give me what only he can provide. Those sneaky idols of the heart stink and the stench of this particular idol was causing me so much discomfort I was forced.....who am I kidding, its not a past tense issue, it's a current tense issue. Let me rephrase that - These sneaky idols of my heart stink and the stench of this particular idol IS causing me so much discomfort, I AM forced to reckon with it. I AM forced to see the idol for what it is, fall flat on my face in repentance and cry. After I am done crying, I look up, with dirt mixed with tears smeared all over my face, realize the grip this idol still has on me and throw my face back down in the earth and cry some more.
  3. There is no final moment of "aha" here. I am still, currently, as we speak, deeply wading in the trenches, dealing with this issue. Now that God has shown me a mirror of what is inside my heart, I can't magically pull out the strength and mental fortitude to create trust where trust is not there. I cant tell myself, "Ariel, just trust God more" and magically, by the power of my words alone, trust appears. Trust is an interesting thing in that it is a feeling and emotion that is invisible. You know when it's there and you know when it's not, even though you can't tangibly measure it. Trust comes from deep inside your soul and your gut.
  4. The New American Commentary cites it this way:    To trust “is a concept of central theological importance in the Old Testament. It expresses that which is, or at least should be, central in people’s relationship with God.” Trust “almost always refers to a process at the foundation of existence. Whoever trusts, relies on something, and everything depends upon the reliability of the other; one seeks protection, and one stands or falls with that on which one relies.” God calls on his people to trust him at all times (Ps 62:8; cp. 115:9–11; Isa 26:3–4; 30:15). People are trusting folk, but choose the wrong things in which to place their trust—riches (Job 31:24; Prov 11:28); important people (Ps 146:3; cp. Jer 17:5–8); military fortifications (Deut 28:52; Jer 5:17); in personal abilities (Prov 3:5; 28:26).                                     
  5. Trust is not a "spiritual illusion" or something we can flippantly manufacture. Furthermore, placing trust in God's creation to provide certain sensibilities is idolatry. Country rural serene environments could never give me what only God can, even if they are beautifully designed by him. That same commentary says this: Whenever a person’s desire looks to the creature (or in this case, creation) rather than the Creator, he is guilty of foolishness. An insatiable desire for things not rightly possessed assumes that things can satisfy rather than God himself. Whenever a person sets his priorities on things made rather than on the Maker of things, he is guilty of idolatry.
For this alone I must raise my hand in defeat. I am guilty.
For someone who claims to love God with all her heart, and all her soul, and all her strength, learning that I was trusting in country settings to give me peace and security, that I was taking the serenity of God's creation and turning it into an idol, I was forced to realize that I was not trusting God with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. Once that smacked me right in the face, I had to repent. Plainly. Simply.
The funny thing about this heart idol is that I would not have known it was there had we stayed where we were at. If our family had not moved in obedience to a conviction to uproot our family to be part of the church plant team we discovered back in the beginning of 2016, I would never have known that I had a hidden sneaky stinky culprit in my heart that needed to die. In content obliviousness, I would not have known that I had a fear and trust issue that needed to be exposed, dealt with, and repented of, (mind you, daily repent of).
So now that I am aware of my lack of trust and drowning fear, where does that leave me?
It leaves me looking to scripture:
Mathew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

It leaves me depending on God alone to give me what I need, because I  have no other option. LITERALLY. However, I also know, through his Word, that only God provides what I need, when I need it, forcing me to really trust God with a raw exposed, sight unseen kind of trust. This trust goes deeper than throwing words into the air so that I can sound "spiritual".
1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Knowing that God has brought me to a scary shore of unknown uncharted waters that look deep, knowing I don't know how to swim, I know that God has not done so as a form of punishment. I also know that fixing my eyes on Jesus allows me comfort and security that trumps any kind of peace and security that God's creation can bring. Peter's experience on the boat, with Jesus calling out to him, just entered a whole new depth of meaning in my soul, heart and mind. Peter's mistake was that he took his eyes off Jesus. We all know that. But now that I am up in that boat, I am realizing my soul is just as frail as Peter's. So what do I do in my frailty? How easy it is to tell myself to not be like Peter, it's an entirely different matter to actually not be like Peter. In my flesh, I am Peter. I look at circumstantial waves and begin to sink out of fear. No matter how much I tell myself to not look at my circumstances, they are looming and seem overcoming.
So what do I do?
I sink..... and allow Jesus to lovingly, yet with rebuke come to me and tell me I have little faith. And he would be correct. Because even though I tell myself my faith is grand, my flesh tells me different. And because Jesus comes with BOTH love and rebuke, miraculously, my faith grows.
Is that what it means to have faith like a child?
Mathew 18:2-4 - Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Children comically think they know everything and then throw fits when they realize they don't. But when their parents comes to them with loving rebuke and redirection, trust in their parents grow. They learn to trust that their parents do know more, and in faith children will allow themselves to be lead and guided by the very ones they have learned to trust.
If I am feeling fear, overwhelming fear, I must cry out to God to continue perfecting me in His love. I know, through scripture, that right before Jesus was arrested he dealt with overwhelming fear too. God did not take away the circumstances to erase the fear, instead, the Father gave the Son what he needed to endure those circumstance. Likewise, I know that my good Father has also given me what I need to endure fearful circumstances, namely his Son, my mediator, my great high priest. I know this because scripture tells me so.
Hebrews 4: 14016 - Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Knowing and meditating on the very words of God himself through scripture concerning his Son causes fear to dissipate. I gotta keep going back to God and Scripture daily. Doing so allows long strings of time periods where fear is gone, meaning I can focus on other things that need my attention, like my home. Or at least our "right now" home.
Going from a 2700 square foot country home on 3 acres to a 700-800-ish square foot apartment right smack in the middle of the city is interesting.
The neighbor's tv comes through my walls every morning. Hearing people move about upstairs till the wee morning hours. Looking out my window to see people walking on a side walk 10 feet outside my living room window. Becoming an apartment dweller is challenging for someone who has grown accustomed to seeing people from afar. People are so close here. Almost too close. However, I can't let that unnerve me. I will choose to see all these people invading my bubble space as neighbors to serve, the mission field that God brought us too. Why must I wait for my husband to start serving our neighbors, right? So, this weekend I will make bread to give to my neighbor, whose tv I hear every morning and the ones I hear coming and going up and down the stairs in the middle of the night? Can implementing a servants heart and one filled with fear reside in the same place?
Also, how can I not make an abundance of bread with all my nice looking jars with potential goodness contained in them staring at me in the face? They are beckoning me to bake.
On a less-painful sanctifying issue, I made a trip to Ikea and found a table. I initially went there to find a small bar-sized table to fit into our tiny kitchen. However, once I came upon a beautiful 92 inch country style one, I laughed at the thought of buying a measly minuscule table. Seeing it in the store made me realize that we are table people.
  1. As a homeschool family, our lives happen around our table.
  2. We eat together as a family, around our table.
  3. The boy works on Lego creations, around our table.
  4. The girl does her homeschool studies, around our table.
  5. I do loads and loads of seminary writing, around our table.
  6. Due to #5, I don't have much time to write blog posts, but when I do, it happens around our table.
How was all the above supposed to happen on a ridiculous laughable bar style table shoved against the wall in a teeny kitchen so as not take up more room. It wasn't. Bump that!!! I changed my mind mid-shopping stream. Look how pretty she looks in my living room? That corner is my girl's school space. See my lovely rolly teacher chair that a friend gave me? It sits right next to my boy's chair because he needs my constant supervision and monitoring to get his work done.
Also, on our quest for tall bookshelves, we realized we don't know anyone with a truck anymore so moving tall unbend-able furniture is no longer an option. Well, we do, but he is currently using his truck two states away. So, we decided to make a crate book shelf. Micheal's and Home Depot have wood crates, where we bought ours. I bought the boy his first drill and away he went.....drilling and creating.
I will need my husband to make a base for this once he gets here, but for right now, this will suffice. It's not too wide or deep. Perfect for small space living.
I also found an $8.00 side table at a local thrift store. I bought some aqua stain, plastic gloves, sand paper, steel wool, and me and my girl got to work. Not bad for amateurs. I do have to admit though that my husband walked us through the process over the phone.
Since our kitchen is super tiny, probably about the size of the children's former bathroom back in WA, counter space was gonna be challenging. I made a trip to our local ReStore and found this lovely bottom kitchen cabinet for $30 bucks. I will need to be on the lookout for a piece of counter-top to sit on it and my husband gave me some leads as to where to look, so hopefully, by week's end, my toaster oven (we are not microwave people) will have a new comfortable home to sit on.
Last but not least, I discovered World Market last night. Can I just say.....OH!! MY!! WORD!!! As soon as the kids and I walked in, we were ooooing and ahhhing left and right. A couple of friends recommended another store I had never heard of, Home Goods, but after venturing into it, I was just not feeling it. Cute stuff...but nothing called out to me. World Market??? that is an entirely different story all together. I can seriously get in a world of hurt going into that store too often. EVERYTHING, had my name on it. How can one resist items when things were made with you in mind.
Here are a couple items I picked up from World Market.
Poofs for the kids to sit on while they play their games.
A gorgeous lamp shade for an old lamp. Bowls that can contain themselves and have handles. A handy dandy salt holder with a cute wooden spoon. A lovely wooden bowl to match my new kitchen drawer. A ginger colored basket to hold my ginger.

Knowns in a Sea of Unknowns

This comes from my Family on Mission section of this blog. 

Today while talking to my sister on the phone, she asked me to start a new blog to share with family and friends so that they can keep up with what we are are doing here in California.
Since there are still so many unknowns for our family right now, I didn't think I had the organized brain capacity to share what we are doing...because, to be quite honest, we don't even know yet.
In spite of so many unknowns, which feel overwhelming and suffocating at times, there are a few concrete knowns.

I came up with 10 knowns in a sea of unknowns.
  1. Me and the kids met with our new church plant yesterday for our first gathering. It was at a park. The fellowship was sweet. Beyond sweet. Ever since we left Virginia, in what seems like a gazillion years ago, we have been looking for a church community that we could call "home". Yes, I know the Biblical mandate that this world is not our home so we should not be looking for perfection here in our earthly lives. But with that said, there is something about having church community that just home. Not once did I feel uncomfortable, out of place, or like the only minority in sea of majority. It was completely multi-ethnic. It was a beautiful sight. I could have cried of happiness during the entire gathering, but that would not have made for very effective conversation.
  2. I miss my husband. He is in NM instructing new and seasoned recruits how to drive "law enforcement" style. He's only been gone for 3 days....but.....due to all of our collective unknowns, I miss him that much more. I came across a tape measure in our stuff and started crying. I knew he was my rock and my anchor and my sane voice and my calm and my chill out.....but I never really truly know how much I rely on him to help me when my thoughts go astray. 5 weeks and 6 days left to go until he returns. I can do this!
  3. Fear.... is....a......major dislike for me right now. If I am not careful and neglect to reflect on God's word and promises, I can easily become so fearful that it paralyzes me.
  4. I think we found the perfect piece of property to buy.'s in Compton. read that right.....THE Compton. It is 2 miles from the zip code we were trying to stay close to in North Long Beach. 1.4 miles from my childhood neighborhood where I had.....have.....had.....have.....way too many memories of inner city childhood trauma. That revelation might need to have a blog update all on it's own...but I'm not emotionally ready to process and reflect on that yet. Other than the logistics of the property, what it has to offer is perfect. Two buildings on .33 acres with a price that is not insurmountable. It's a street front property. It's across the street from a big park. There is a library on the other side of the park. Logistically, it really is ideal for what we want to do with it. We can live in one building and do ministry/outreach in the other. The kids and I will go look at it later this week so I am asking for specific prayer about that, especially concerning this property and point #3.
  5. We will close on our house in WA on time, which will be the end of July. Yay! We will soon be officially homeless. Not yay! The reality that we have actually moved without a concrete ideal American plan, literally living out the scriptural mandate to TRUST AND OBEY is a teeny tiny bit nerve wracking...but I am learning...albeit slowly that there really is no other way (yes...that sweet hymn that seems to stays at the forefront my mind and heart lately). Thankful for my brother and his wife for agreeing to let us stay with them in San Diego during this transition period. As much as I would like to be in L.A right now, I don't think my senses are ready for it yet, and especially not without my husband.  San Diego is our transition from isolated country life into city life. I definitely need the transition to allow my senses to assimilate from trees to concrete, grass to pavement, shoes with chicken poop stuck to the ....not.
  6. Homeschooling my children and doing my own school work is my saving grace. It's the stable continuity of my day. Opening up lesson plans, reading to my son, nagging him about his writing is my comfort. It's a very familiar known and I pleaded with my children today to help me help us get back into a rhythm of getting a loose but structured schedule of schooling, regardless of the fact that we are right smack in the middle of summer, in the city....with all kinds of distractions that could pull us in a hundred different directions. Homeschooling my kids, is my OOOMMMMM!
  7. I must stay off the L.A Homicide report website.
  8. I must listen to the song BEAUTIFUL FEET a gazillion times a day. You remind me why and what we are doing.
  9. I think I already said this....but it must be said again. I am thankful for my husband. He is unwavering in all of this. God surely knew what he was doing when he gave him to me.
  10. It is like God had this planned all along. The sovereign hand of God is the most comforting doctrine to me and every time I think about it too much, I break out into tears. Tears of gratefulness. Tears of the big-ness of what is happening. Tears of thankfulness that God saw fit to bring 2 newly redeemed people together 12 years ago, with all of our baggage of brokenness and lead both of us to a greater understanding of HIM simply to send us out with our own calling of ministry into a place where logic tells us to stay far far away.
Other than that....everything else are unknowns to us.
Please pray pray pray for us!
Over and out!
A sub-blog of

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Racism and Being a Good Samaritan on Social Media - A Lesson Learned

While the social media world moves on, as it always does, a woman who shared her story about the racism that existed in her heart is left bleeding and wounded on the side of the road. Scores of people who read her article on a popular evangelical site, TGC, have either applauded her imperfect effort to share her heart, or took her words and the story of her daughter marrying a black man to strip her emotions bear, beat her and then depart, leaving her heart, her story, and her motives half dead, on the side of the fast moving social media autobahn. (The article has been removed at the author's request. See link at the end of end of this article for a follow up response)

There might still be people responding negatively to the story several days later, but for the most part, in the world of social media, her story was yesterday’s news. However, during that brief moment in the land of internet news feeds, it literally blew up the Christian world for a day. Everyone, their dog, and their goldfish had something to say concerning WHAT she wrote, especially because of HOW she wrote it.

Repentantly, I confess, that includes me.

The title grabbed my immediate attention, but not in a good way. Her selection of words and how she pieced together her thoughts gave further clues that she still had a long way to go with wrestling that ugly monster called racism and putting to death any lingering racists thoughts or beliefs that might still exist in her heart.

Furthering my analysis were her bullet points. 

I think my biggest issue with the article was the condescending tone of the entire piece, especially the way in which she expressed her thoughts in her bullet points. However, I won’t rehash exactly what it was about those bullet points that caused such a ruckus in my heart and soul because I don’t need to be a slave to my emotions any longer than I have been on this issue. I do need to say that the article festered in my heart the entire day after it was published and my emotions were indeed taken on a roller coaster ride that included shock, anger, and then sadness.  

As a brown skinned Mexican woman, I have been a recipient of past racists behavior and comments. I know first hand the pain of being rejected for simply being who God created me to be, color, culture and all. I have been witness to not only racist’s tactics, but I’ve also seen body language of others who made it obvious that I did not fit in with their ideal.  

Rejection and Racism 

Prior to God saving me, when I was in my 20’s, I married outside my ethnic culture. The marriage was very short lived, less than 3 years, but at the onset of that relationship, it was made very clear that I was not welcome in that family. The mother of the man I married vehemently and unapologetically questioned her son why he felt inclined to marry outside his ethnicity. 

“Why do you feel that you have to marry this woman? she asked. 

"Don’t you think you could find someone in your own race to marry?” were the kinds of questions she wanted answers to. 

Not only did I sense and feel a lack of acceptance from this man’s mother, but the entire family made sure I heard their back handed insults, insinuations and negative comments about who I was. They made sure I was well aware that I was the outsider.

God did not transform and redeem me until after that marriage dissolved but I have never forgotten the searing pain of rejection for simply being who God made me to be.

Within a year after God saved me, as a new Christian, I was immediately thrown into an all white setting. I had to learn not only Christian culture, but Christian culture in a majority white context. I had to put away my own cultural preferences and had to accept people who were different than me, and then intentionally focus on what connected me to them and them to me….the person, work, death and resurrection of Christ. I had to look at people, specifically white Christian people and see them as family. I didn’t think I had permission to struggle with this issue. The Holy Spirit moved my heart in such a way that I felt obedience was my only choice.

Obedience to the Spirit meant that I could no longer see white people as “devil", "self-serving", “power hungry”, “oppressors”, “weird”, “crackers”, “dirty” or “people who lacked flavor” (there is a Spanish term that I heard growing up that conveyed the idea that white people are like a dish without salt). All of the stereotypes that I heard growing up concerning white people had to die in my heart. Since my first exposure to Christian living was in an all white setting, I had no choice but to put those stereotypes to death, especially after learning the reality that God’s Word reinforces the idea that community in a local body of believers is instrumental in a Christian’s life. God placed me in a local body of believers who providentially happened to be all white. I was faced with seeing people, who I thought I could never have in my life due our differences as vast as the Grand Canyon, as my new family in Christ. 

CONFUSION And the Word. 

Unfortunately, the longer I was a believer, I soon realized, others did not have the same conviction that I did. Imagine my confusion when I came face to face with people IN the church that exhibited behavior that resembled that of non-Christians. Easily and without remorse these church people rejected others simply for belonging to a different ethnic group or culture. This rejection came in the form of name calling (sometimes from the pulpit but mostly in personal settings), withholding fellowship from others, and outwardly expressing the belief in negative stereotypes of these different ethnic people groups. 

My confusion forced me to search the scriptures for answers. In my early non-scholarly research, I found plenty of scriptures that stated that God will have people from all nations and tongues worshiping him so I knew that he did not prefer one people group over another. Since that was my guiding truth, what was I to make of church people who did not make every effort to live out that multi-ethnic reality?

Then I came across Mathew 7. 

Here I learned that Jesus acknowledges and rebukes religious folks who judge others without acknowledging their own sin. He also encourages treating others in a way you would want to be treated. Then he explained that diseased minded people (false believers) will ultimately bear diseased fruit in the form of diseased behavior, actions, and thought patterns, which will inevitably lead others to do the same. Jesus says, without remorse or sadness that he will cut them down and throw them into the fire. 

Ain't no sugar coating or "gentle" truth telling there. 

Jesus goes on to expresses his concern that there were people who claimed to know him (calling Jesus "Lord Lord" signified a presumed close relationship with him). Again, these people were religious people, meaning they probably knew scripture well enough to recite full passages. In a contemporary setting, these would not be sole holiday church attendees or Sunday pew sitters. These people would be those who play deep in the playground of a church setting. Jesus stated that he will tell these uber religious folks to get away from him...that he NEVER knew them. Not knew them for a little bit and then they fell away....but NEVER knew them. Could Jesus be saying that there is a possibility that there are long standing church people that he will say "depart from me, I never knew you"? 

If that is true, then there are indeed church people who are not actually really Christ followers, though they might even think that they are because of all the church-y things they do.

Let that sink in for a bit. 

ANGER...and the Word. 

After my initial state of confusion, that I felt was clarified well with the very words of Christ himself in Mathew 7, I felt like I was given permission to not necessarily judge people, but instead look for the fruit of people's lives, apart from seeing only long standing church activity. 

Reading Mathew 23 gave even more clarification.

The whole chapter is filled with not only rebuke after rebuke, (7 rebukes to be precise), but in a chain of harsh stinging words, Jesus shows his anger and frustration by calling the religious folks hypocrites 5 times, blind guides, and then takes it a bit further with a slew of strong insults. Serpents and brood of vipers were the words he used to describe those long time religious church people. 

The righteous anger of Jesus is on full display here. If there is one thing that Jesus clearly shows that he hates, it is: 

1) people who pretend to love God outwardly

2) but inwardly only love themselves and their projected appearance and/or their reputation in the church

3) as these religious people do #1 and #2, they do so at the expense of showing justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Mathew 23:23)


Isn't obeying the law to a T proof of faithfulness? 
Isn't memorizing scripture proof of faithfulness? 
Isn't being a long standing member of a church proof of faithfulness?  
Isn't doing lots of church-y activities proof of faithfulness?

Not according to Jesus it's not. 
Not if all of those actions are void of showing mercy and justice towards others. 

Part of owning a sincere faith and showing that faith is recognizing that we need to treat others justly and mercifully, and without distinction. If long standing church people are not exhibiting these qualities, then they have no right to call themselves lovers of God. And I didn't say that...Jesus did.

As a new Christian, I was able to see that having righteous anger for the right things is not unbiblical. It's not wrong to feel anger at hostile acts of racism, subtle nuances of racist tendencies, or open hypocrisy. On the other hand, in our righteous anger, acknowledging that we are indeed redeemed sinners as well, we need to be very careful with our righteous anger. We need to make sure that it doesn't consume us or control our actions in such a way that we lose sight of showing mercy and justice ourselves, yes...even to the long standing church people who don't show mercy or justice toward us. 

Romans 5:8-11 can help with reorienting our anger. 

But God shows his love for us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

After reading Mathew 7, in light of Romans 5, we must also remember the end of Mathew 5. Here Jesus calls us to love our enemies in a way that proves we are his people. He does not tell us to love our enemies with a half hearted token kind of love, but with a kind of love where we are moved to pray for them. 

What Jesus????  

Pray for people who struggle with racism in their hearts? Pray for people who don't see us as equal? Pray for people, even Christian people who hurt us? 

I don't know about anyone else, but when I pray for people who hurt me, reject me, misunderstand me, or show that they hate me, the Spirit begins to work mightily in my own heart. My anger, hurt, or frustration is replaced with compassion, understanding, forgiveness and patience.  

Don't ask me how that just does. 

God's Spirit reminds me in scripture that only Jesus had the right to show strong righteous anger. Only he had the ability to show strong righteous anger and NOT sin. We don't have that ability. Not even as sanctification works out powerfully in our lives.  

Can I be the Good Samaritan?

With all that said, I felt inclined to reach out to the woman who wrote the article that caused my emotions to go on a roller coaster ride between confusion and anger. In my reaching out, I shared with her my concerns about her article. I am thankful that she not only wrote back but she also shared with me her heart and her motives for the piece. In our short correspondence, specifically in my last email to her, I asked for HER forgiveness for reacting the way that I did. In my heart and with my words, in anger I accused her of not being a true believer because she shared to the world through social media that she struggled with racist beliefs. If indeed she carries racism in her heart, does that give me the right to condemn her harshly and openly rebuke her? 

A resounding NO!!!!!!!!
And neither does anyone else. 

If I am a lover of Jesus, I am directed to love her and pray for her. If Jesus is my King, I cannot determine who is and who is not a member of his kingdom. I don't have that right....only Jesus does. Yes I can look for fruit in people lives, but in that looking I have no right to condemn, beat up with my own words, or treat people person OR on social media. If I am a Holy Spirit led soul, then I cannot let my past hurts and personal experiences with racism dictate my current behavior towards others, church people or not....even if they do not exhibit justice or mercy towards me or any specific ethnic group of people.

Scripture does not give us an exception clause to Christ's directive to love others, to show mercy towards others and to show justice towards others.

Moving Forward

Racism has a way of making people lose their minds....not only for the people exhibiting and expressing racist behaviors, action, or words, but also to the recipients and victims of past, present and even anticipated future racist behaviors, actions and words. 

As Christians work towards reconciling our faith with mercy and justice, proving we are indeed His people, we must give others room to figure out what that looks like in their own lives. That means that those of us who have been on the receiving end of racism are called to reconcile our faith with mercy and justice to those we think are our enemies. Especially to those people who don't want to or struggle with showing mercy and justice towards me or the ethnic group I belong to.

Christ did not say it was going to be easy. That's why he gave us His Spirit. 

As the author of that article shared with me the deep hurt she felt for causing others pain through her article, the Holy Spirit helped me see that I also contributed to her pain. 

I had a choice to make. 

Knowing that the collective mass of comments and tweets was leaving this woman bleeding and beaten on the side of the social media road, I can either 

1) continue to throw stones at her....or
2) walk on the other side of the road, knowing that her emotions are being left raw, beaten and bloody and think to myself "that's not my problem" or worse...."she probably deserves it".  
The Spirit of the Living God would never ask any Christian to respond to any situation that way. 

There is a 3rd option. 

3) I was prompted to repent of MY harsh accusations, which led me to repent to God for MY words and then felt convicted to make sure I also asked HER for her forgiveness as well.  

I don't want my past hurts and first hand experiences with racism and rejection to keep me from experiencing  the beautiful blessing of unity in the body of Christ.

For those souls who the Spirit is moving to purge racism from their own hearts, they should also not be kept from experiencing the beautiful blessing of unity as well, even as they work out that mess that causes pain towards others. 

As God cleans up his bride, whom he loves and sent his Son for, there will be scraps, dirt, dust, and ugly remnants of trash that needs to be recognized, honed in on, and destroyed. It's not going to be pretty, neat and organized. God will indeed purge things that need to go. Personally and collectively.

Racism is one of those things. 

Just like in our own personal journey of sanctification, Christ-likeness does not and will not happen in a day. Neither will the after effects and current effects of racism be purged in a day either. Things will probably get uglier before it gets better. However, we know that God will have the last word on this matter.

There WILL be people from all tongues, nationalities and ethnic groups worshiping him and giving him the glory that he alone deserves and demands.

He will have that last word on racism....actually......

He DOES have the last word!  

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”(Revelation: 7:9-10)

The author requested that her initial post be removed from the Christian website that initially posted her article. Please join me in prayer that this author, a fellow sister in Christ, can move forward in such a way that her life and the lives of those close to her can rest in knowing that they serve a merciful and mighty God and not even this situation can NOT detract from giving God glory. We know that God made us all...whether black, white, brown and everything in between and we have got to remember to listen to each other, have compassion for one another, and LEARN from one another as well. That means white people need not get offended with the stories of the plight of non-whites, and non-whites need not show impatience with whites as they make attempts to put to death their own non-loving ways.

Here is a link to a follow up conversation the website posted. 

Controversial Article and What We Can Learn