Why blog?

It's therapeutic... specially for dorks like me who communicate better when they have the chance to process their thoughts, select their words, and write precisely what they want to say. As much as I'm a "talker", I stumble, stutter, and don't always say things right. English as a second language might have something to do with that (unfortunately, I don't think I could blog in Spanish... I lost my grammar in that language). I like to pour out my thoughts and leave it out there in the cosmos (or the world wide web) for other people to mull over...

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Tragedy of The Rich Man - Part 2

Matthew 19:20-22 (Amplified Bible)

20The young man said, I have observed all these from my youth; what still do I lack?

21Jesus answered him, If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me].

22But when the young man heard this, he went away sad (grieved and in much distress), for he had great possessions.

We read this and tend to feel sorry for the Rich Man. Poor guy? Give everything up? All he worked so hard for?! Gosh, Jesus was harsh! Couldn't Jesus have cut him some slack?

God is so demanding. I'd rather be comfortable pretending I'm a Christian than to actually pursue God. I don't want to let go of what I've got going for me. The whole "Christ" thing isn't worth it!

Are you kidding me!? Is there anything worth more than an experience with Christ!? He took ignorant, uneducated fisherman and made them into world-altering history makers! The face of half the planet was changed because men like Peter and James walked through and shared with people from all regions their experience with Christ!!! I mean, James was a half-brother of Jesus, and at the face of painful death, with all he could muster, still proclaimed that Jesus was his Lord and Savior, the Messiah! Peter, who denied Christ at the resurrection, refused to be crucified right-side up - because he wasn't worthy to die on the cross like Christ did, and thus was crucified and hung upside down! There's no possible way you could live - and die - like this, without having an impact on someone else.

And there's no way anyone could live - and die - like this, without having experienced Christ. And that's what the disciples did. They drank the wine that was made from water. They handed out the never ending supply of bread and fishes from just ONE poor boy's lunch. They saw the dead girl rise in the middle of her funeral service and come back to life. They saw lepers healed, blind eyes opened. And more than just SAW it, Jesus sent them out to DO it! They were able to see the power of God working THROUGH them to accomplish the same miracles themselves.

Can you put a dollar figure on that? Can you put a dollar figure on seeing the dead come to life? On seeing total healing? On seeing supernatural provision? Nope. I sure can't! But the problem is, when we read this passage, that we focus more on what the Rich Man has to give up that we fail to see all that is being offered by Christ at this moment! And what we focus on determines our reality.

We can't experience true fulfillment in our life if we put our identity in ANYTHING other than our relationship with Christ. Even your greatest assets will be your greatest liability if you aren't using them for what God purposed!

Maybe those that walk away from Christ, or aren't convinced of Him, are the ones who never really stepped out of their box (everything THEY wanted) to see what a relationship with Christ is like. Maybe instead of accumulating possessions we should be accumulating experiences with Him.

Because I'm not crazy in saying that I've seen, through prayer, God raise someone who's heart had stop beating for 10 minutes. I've seen God take my unborn son at 6 weeks, who had a lower heart rate than I did, and form him into the now 4 year old child who is without defect. I've seen God take my car on an empty tank and with no money and still drive it - without damage for the car - for a full work week. I have been at home, looking at Paul, wondering what in the world are we going to eat - only to receive a knock on the door and have a neighbor offer us Chinese take out. I have seen a demon-possessed woman walk up to me with the full intention of cursing me and being forced to walk away without ever speaking to me - while I did nothing but sit. You can call me crazy, but you can't take away my testimony from me. All three of my kids are walking miracles only because they were GOD's first. I could've lost all three, Anakin at first, Brielle and Caleb closer to child birth, had not God intervened. Heck, I could've died giving birth to Brielle. I was in the ICU six hours after the delivery because I was going unconscious and would stop breathing.

You can call me crazy, but you can't take away my testimony from me! My life experiences, what happened to me as I lived it - and those around me as witnesses - are the truth whether you think it would happen or not. And make no mistake, it wasn't me or Paul, or a doctor, or a bank, or a model of car, or luck.... it was Christ. It was only and exclusively Christ.

I'd rather have a treasury of experiences where I can "taste and see that the Lord is good" than anything this world could have to offer anyways...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Tragedy of The Rich Man - Part 1

Matthew 19:16-28 (The Message)

16Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

17Jesus said, "Why do you question me about what's good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you."

18-19The man asked, "What in particular?"

Jesus said, "Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself."

20The young man said, "I've done all that. What's left?"

The rich young man was obviously very religious. All the basic commandments, he had kept! That says a lot considering that God Himself says, "All have sinned, and fall short of the Glory of God." And yet, Jesus doesn't call him a liar! But the Achilles' heel to Christians is that we can get so caught up in the "don'ts" of sin that we fail to do the "do's" - and thus we are sinning! The Bible is not all about the "don'ts", Jesus gave us a lot of "do's"; love one another, forgive one another, pray, share, serve... etc... and NOT doing what Jesus asked us to do is as much disobedience as keeping from the things He doesn't want us to do!

Point in case: If I tell Anakin to clean his room, and he doesn't, isn't it disobedience? And isn't disobedience sin? So when The Rich Young Man tells him "all these I have kept", he isn't lying, and Jesus doesn't need to point that out... but yet, there was something painfully missing, wasn't there? Apparently, being religious wasn't enough because he was still seeking eternal life. He did not have it.

The end result of this lifestyle can be described as the difference between an animal in the wild or in a zoo. The Animal in the zoo can do everything it's supposed to, eat like he is supposed to, sit in a pen that looks like what his home would look like. Yet you and I both know that what we are looking at is ... not a third of what that animal really IS, what it is capable of, what it was created for!

"I wonder if the church does to Christians what the zoos do to animals? We take the danger, the risk out of being a Christian and we just want to make everyone comfortable... We forget that Christ didn't save us to take away the danger from us: He saved us to make us dangerous to the Enemy!" - Mark Batterson

We forget that when we build disciples solely on the basis of staying away from sins of commission (don't steal, don't kill, don't commit adultery...), and we blatantly ignore the sins of OMISSION (forgive, love, share, evangelize... or actually, NOT doing these things), we have clipped the wings of believers to fly on the winds of the Holy Spirit as God intended! After all, are we saved ONLY to stop doing things that are wrong? And would that mean that everything we are now doing is right? Not necessarily!

Fortunately, like the Rich Man, even if we ask Jesus the wrong question, He will always give us the right answer!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Deuteronomy 28

1-6 If you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, and heartily obey all his commandments that I command you today, God, your God, will place you on high, high above all the nations of the world....11-14 God will lavish you with good things: children from your womb, offspring from your animals, and crops from your land, the land that God promised your ancestors that he would give you. God will throw open the doors of his sky vaults and pour rain on your land on schedule and bless the work you take in hand. You will lend to many nations but you yourself won't have to take out a loan. God will make you the head, not the tail; you'll always be the top dog, never the bottom dog, as you obediently listen to and diligently keep the commands of God, your God, that I am commanding you today. Don't swerve an inch to the right or left from the words that I command you today by going off following and worshiping other gods.

Deuteronomy 29

1 These are the terms of the Covenant that God commanded Moses to make with the People of Israel in the land of Moab, renewing the Covenant he made with them at Horeb... 2-4 Moses called all Israel together and said, You've seen with your own eyes everything that God did in Egypt to Pharaoh and his servants, and to the land itself— the massive trials to which you were eyewitnesses, the great signs and miracle-wonders. But God didn't give you an understanding heart or perceptive eyes or attentive ears until right now, this very day.

5-6 I took you through the wilderness for forty years and through all that time the clothes on your backs didn't wear out, the sandals on your feet didn't wear out, and you lived well without bread and wine and beer, proving to you that I am in fact God, your God. 14-21amGod, our God, yes, but also with those who are not here today. You know the conditions in which we lived in Egypt and how we crisscrossed through nations in our travels. You got an eyeful of their obscenities, their wood and stone, silver and gold junk-gods. Don't let down your guard lest even now, today, someone—man or woman, clan or tribe—gets sidetracked from God, our God, and gets involved with the no-gods of the nations; lest some poisonous weed sprout and spread among you, a person who hears the words of the Covenant-oath but exempts himself, thinking, "I'll live just the way I please, thank you," and ends up ruining life for everybody. God making it with you who are standing here today in the Presence of won't let him off the hook. I'm not making this Covenant and its oath with you alone. I

Deuteronomy 30

1-5 Here's what will happen. While you're out among the nations where God has dispersed you and the blessings and curses come in just the way I have set them before you, and you and your children take them seriously and come back to God, your God, and obey him with your whole heart and soul according to everything that I command you today, God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he'll have compassion on you; he'll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors.

6-7 God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children's hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. God, your God, will put all these curses on your enemies who hated you and were out to get you.

8-9 And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God, keeping all his commandments that I'm commanding you today. God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you'll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life. Yes, God will start enjoying you again, making things go well for you just as he enjoyed doing it for your ancestors.

10 But only if you listen obediently to God, your God, and keep the commandments and regulations written in this Book of Revelation. Nothing halfhearted here; you must return to God, your God, totally, heart and soul, holding nothing back.

11-14 This commandment that I'm commanding you today isn't too much for you, it's not out of your reach. It's not on a high mountain—you don't have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it's not across the ocean—you don't have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!

15 Look at what I've done for you today: I've placed in front of you
Life and Good
Death and Evil.

I LOVE how Moses preached it! He was about to die, and BAM! I mean, this just... explains the whole concept of a relationship with God.

He can bless us if we obey Him. If we disobey, we will fall into the destructive consequences of our own choice. But when we realize that, and turn back to God (for realz), He's not like, "Well, I told you so!" But rather, He will OUT DO Himself in restoring us and putting us right back in place.

How great is our God!

It's funny how people would have a problem with the old testament. They say it promotes slavery. But if you read it as a whole, you see that God set a higher standard for the people that would be called by His Name. A standard of compassion, and love, where every soul MATTERS.

You could be rich or poor, slave or free, native or foreign, male or female... born or unborn... you mattered to God, and He set laws in place to protect you, to restore you, and to provide you with second and third chances when life went wrong.

The Israelites were the ONLY ancient nation to permanently release slaves... and not just when they earned it, but every 7 years - whether they paid their price or not. They were the ONLY ancient nation to demand by law restitution for the harm or murder of a slave. They were the ONLY nation to create inheritance laws that protected women. They were the only ancient nation to demand restitution for the harm of an unborn life.

They did so because God was their God! Because He gave Moses the wisdom to set laws that would bless the people - ALL the people. And every time I read Deuteronomy I'm like, "Wow! God You cared! And You still care!"

I just love it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Went for a jog!

I was really stressed out because my job wasn't going great. I felt more like a failure than an apprentice, and I was truly discouraged. I guess the challenge is that in my job right now, I will never "get it"... not unless I go to law school and become an attorney myself! (not likely!)

Basically, I'm in a job where I'll never master it, never really be independent, because at the end of the day in my job its my boss that has to do it. I'm always evaluated, and I never have it right. And it's not failure on my part - it's just the job!

So how can I work someplace where I will be held down like this? I don't mind serving, I guess... Actually, let me take that back. I love feeling like I helped. I like working at a place where I am an asset to the place I work at.

At the end of the day, I want my job to be blessed because I was there.

I'm not quite feeling that way at my current job.

So I prayed about it, and decided I'm going to give my best until God moves me out.

Then I also prayed about God would move me out. I realized that I really, REALLY want to work with animals. I want a career with animals. So I looked around and found places that are hiring to work with animals and I went ahead and applied. I figured, I'm not quitting to go to another "whatever" job. But I will make a move if the door opens for me to work at my heart's desire. I leave the timing up.

And then, I felt at peace. So much, that I put shoes on and went for a jog. I put on my Runtones and ran, all the way around the lake. I took in the scenery, the fresh air, the sunlight at 9pm. The mountains, the pain in my chest, the burn in my calves.

I truly thank Jesus for the hope I have in him. The strength I have in Him. I failed PE because I didn't want to run - it hurt my knees. I did a mile in 16 minutes in high school. I go around the lake and back in 30 minutes - and it's about 6 miles (so the hiking map says)! He gave me the strength to reach, to hope, and to try things that I had never tried before. He gave me the confidence to believe that I can jog, lose weight, get healthy, have energy, and live exactly the life I want.

I love being out here! I love the summer, the sunlight! The playing outside late! The family energy! I feel like I'm alive! Bring it on!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another wetback story

I'm going to call this guy Pablo... because... well, I know a Pablo - he happens to be one of my cousins. I also have a cousin named Julius Cesar. But that's not what this blog is about. (All of my relatives are either in Venezuela or Canada LOL).

So Pablo grows up in this town in South America, that is in the middle of a Civil War. He is the oldest, and his family is poor. So poor he spends most of his childhood hiding in the woods instead of on his actual farm - because the property was used for a war zone. They had to hide up in the woods for days at a time, and sleep there at night.

They dressed in rags made by their mom, and shoes made from cow rope and cow hide. They ate whatever the fires didn't burn and the trucks didn't run over.

One day Pablo's farm was ambushed in mid day by military trucks, loaded with men firing brutally at the villagers that were trying to defend their land w/ machetes and sticks. So per his mother's instructions, he grabs the baby - less than a year old - and runs into the woods again, assuming the rest of the family was close behind. He hears his dad yell, "Don't you dare run back until you don't hear them anymore!" Up in the mountains, he could from time to time hear the sounds of the trucks and the firearms getting closer, so he would go up further... Carrying his baby brother. Then fear set in. He was running further and further away from what was familiar... He was getting lost.

One night turned to three before he found his way back to the farm in the dark - still carrying his baby brother. He didn't realize that the baby was lifeless - he had probably starved or maybe didn't make it through the cold night. This is where Dad teaches him a lesson about being a man - and orders him to take the shovel and bury his baby brother up in the woods where the baby had died... Maybe that will teach him not to panick, to do better, to pay better attention...

As the years go by, there is no such thing as school or childhood. It's nothing but work - cut wood, peel corn, whatever would bring money home to provide for food. One day as a young teenager he sees once again the military truck pull up to his town. This time he's angry, not afraid. So he doesn't run. He stands there, ready to greet the truck and whatever that brings.

He gets picked up by men w/ AK-47s and loaded into the truck. Then they line up all the boys and do a physical exam. He considers himself unlucky because he passed. They buzz cut his hair and voila! The boy is in the army. No papers to sign. No option.

Basic Training for him is nothing like the glorified boot camp of American movies. Two meals of stale bread and coffee. Dirty buckets of water to shower. Nothing but exercise - till they dropped dead or made it through to be strong. As soon as they are handed real weapons one of his mates commits suicide by blasting his brains out. Apparently his friend was strong physically, but not strong enough mentally...

In the military he ordered to drive up to towns, very similar to the ones he grew up in, and shoot at young men and their fathers... very similar to his own. No options.

Then one night at camp the guerrilla comes in and ambushes the army in their sleep. They fire at everyone, granade the place... they take the commanders that were still alive and slit their throats. He's lying on the floor, witnessing all this. Then they leave, and it gets quiet. And he waits to die. He has shrapnel in his face. He is in pain.

But he doesn't die. What does happen is the sound of 5 other surviving soldiers, struggling to live. They get up and start moving out. Pablo is carrying a man who lost his foot over his shoulders. They are found by a helicopter and air lifted to a hospital.

He gets off on leave and visits his Mom, his sister, and two other brothers. His uncles are a part of the guerrilla. His cousins want to kill him. His family considers him a traitor. He goes into hiding.

He returns to the military and they question his loyalty. Who's side is he on? Does it matter? Was it ever his choice? They give him one warning - and one alone: Disappear. Because if he doesn't follow these orders he will be executed... just in case.

He is living in hiding. An old friend offers him money and a ride to the U.S. He is gone - doesn't think twice.

As he is making arrangements to come to the US, before he even has a chance to consult an embassy, or save money... his vehicle is ambushed. He runs for his life but gets shot. His friend, who is helping him come to the US, rescues him and takes him to an unknown ambulatory (clinic). Three days later, before he was fully recovered, they escape in the night. Injured, he crosses several international borders to come up to the United States. A month after his arrival he applies for asylum.

Now over 16 years later his case is still floating back and forth in court. He has been scammed by a guy with good spanish that took advantage of his illiteracy to take about $6000.00 from a cannery worker and ruined his chances at asylum.

During this time he has received mail from his mother... One of his brothers was murdered. His sister has been raped, repeatedly, over an unknown period of time, until she lost the ability to walk and she is crippled. His next brother is also in the US, in hiding, in proceedings, but no one knows where. His brother changed his last name. His mom tells him, "Don't come back. Whatever you do, don't come back."

Obviously he has a lot of questions... and over the years he has pieced together pieces of information... hunting down newspaper clippings, asking friends and attorneys to read documents to him, to make sense of all that happened.

But he is as far north as he can get. He figures he's safe.

Until he's threatened at work by an unknown gentlemen, who knows Pablo's name - and the name of Pablo's deceased brother, and he receives a warning... And then a month later, he gets a phone call on his cell phone. Same message; same threat that he is not to come back to his country. He shows his cell phone to a friend and they find out the phone number was from Minnesota. He's never been there. He is not even sure where in the United States that is!

But he's one step away from being deported. He's accepted that possibility, if need be. Just not back to his country. Anywhere but there.

Does he ever sleep well at night? Does he ever experience peace? Will he ever feel secure? Have a place to call home? I don't know...

It's here where I would love to say that OF COURSE he will be granted asylum, that he will be given a permanent identity in the US, to live and to work, with a new name if he needs it. But I sincerely don't know; and that's what bugs me right now.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

There's a Reason for the Promise

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (The Message)

17-18 If you start thinking to yourselves, "I did all this. And all by myself. I'm rich. It's all mine!"—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.

This Verse stuck in my heart as I went for a jog. I have been thinking about all the recent events, even the trials I have endured over the years, trying to make sense of them all. I think sometimes we undergo a trial and then get stuck on it because we can't figure out why it happened or what to learn from it.

I've also been thinking a lot about our Leadership Bible Study. I've been thinking about Francis Chan, in the video, talking about a Korean minister who among a few others survived being captured in Afghanistan. His pastor and most of his fellow church co-workers were martyred. And now that he was back in the safety of Korea, through interpreters, he tells Francis that he wished he could be there again! Because in the middle of that extreme suffering and torture he experienced a closeness with Jesus that he could not experience once he was comfortable and safe.

I also think about how Francis Chan sells over $500,000.00 in books and sermons and tithes 90% of his income. Still drives a 92 Honda scooter, and his family (wife and four kids) live on the "poorer side of town" in California. He sends a lot of money to an organization that rescues sex slaves overseas. He's perfectly comfortable in a good way - in a "living simple" kind of way. And yet he is stretched in a passion to see God's work done here on earth. And by all worldly accounts he seems successful, though you wouldn't think that by what he drives or where he lives.

Would I live the same way if I had that kind of income? If I can't trust God enough to give 10%, why would He give me more so that I could give 50%?

We have made decisions to live more simple and thus be able to be more generous comfortably. Ditched a couple of things that we like to spend money on (like got two good pairs of sneakers and an at-home exercise program instead of a gym membership), we're looking for a new place to live that may be smaller and thus cheaper, but its ok (and we really REALLY like our apartment! And our landlord! And our yard!). We share one car and I'll be taking the bus when Paul has to drive it. Our car is also old and paid off so we don't have car payments, and we don't really need another car as a couple as long as I work downtown (it's a pretty central location!).

And I hunger for the opportunity to GIVE a little bit more!

We did Relay for Life and we fundraised a total of $571 for the First Church of God team in Anchorage. That's a BIG DEAL! We are a VERY SMALL CHURCH! And then for March for Babies I fundraised $110. Which the cool thing about these things is that not all that amount came out of my pocket - but I did sacrifice some time and energy.

May I interject here, KUDOS to my hubby who stayed all night in the 30 and under degrees freezing cold at Relay BY HIMSELF so that I could go home and get some rest. THANK YOU HUNNY BUNNY!

But I want to do a little bit more... find a way to make a bit more of a mark.

And here is an issue that I'm praying about but it has Paul terrified: I want to do foster care. Paul is kinda overwhelmed w/ the kids - and rightly so, because our house is full. But it's full of love too... and I know a lot of kids in Foster Care could benefit from a home like ours, even if its just temporary, to encourage them thru their very, VERY tough time.

It actually started with a desire to adopt - from China, Haiti, or the Middle East. I did my research and we can't adopt from Haiti or the Middle East. Haiti requires you to not have any biological children and be over 35. The Middle East requires you to be practicing Muslims to adopt overseas. But it's an expensive and long-term decision, something I still have the heart for. So I prayed about this and thought, well, maybe God wants me to support an orphanage overseas or something. I dunno.

But I still want to ... love on children other than my own in my own home. I don't think I'll ever adopt here locally because I want to reserve those efforts for a child who, in an orphanage overseas, is not doing nearly as well as any child in the U.S. But I feel that even temporarily, even while things are being worked out...

And Paul is like, "You got your cat. I want my dog and my fish before we bring ANYTHING ELSE into our family." And he's also like, "We're overdone w/ 3 kids. We're full."

And yet I'm still praying... Are we? Maybe right now is not the time, and we have some kinks to work out here at home... I'm not naive in saying that doing foster care would make our home like the Brady Bunch... I know it would stretch us, even try us.

But at the end of the day, I'd rather be stretched and tried for attempting to do something selfless than to have to be tried and stretched out of my comfort zone. At least I know that the trial in my attempt to bless someone else won't be in vain.

On a different but similar note, I've reached a conclusion towards suffering: It's bound to happen. Life on earth won't be a complete cakewalk for us. And through it all, the only thing the trials have done are strengthen us, and build us up. We have seen the faithfulness of our God to sustain us through the ugliest times. We were not destroyed. We did not go without. He has always been faithful to us and He always will! So like the song says:

There's a raging sea right in front of me

wants to pull me down, bring me to my knees

so let the waters rise, if You want them to

I will follow You

I will follow You!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I can understand a lot of things now...

I completely get, now more than ever, why the divorce rate is so high. I believe, that even among Christians, it's at 50%. And it was so easy to sit on the judgmental seat back in the day and say, "Oh they weren't being spiritual enough", or "they didn't marry the person that God had for them", or "they are taking the easy way out!"

But it's so much more complex than this!

There's a ton of elements that make any relationship challenging:
- People change! Or they don't! There's growth, or lack of. And what if you are ready to grow but your spouse isn't? Or if they resent you because you've changed?
- The dating game is a SCAM. Because you ALWAYS wear your best clothes, smell your best, and behave your best. And then you get married and your guard is DOWN. And the real you comes out. And years after you are married you feel cheated, deceived some how. It turns out that the "hard worker" you married just liked having cash to blow when he was single, and now that you have a family he can't keep a job. Or the "patient" lady you married is like a boiling pot, and then the "snappy" side comes out and you didn't think she'd ever explode at you the way she does now.
- You stop trying. It's like, oh well I'm married now. Because getting married is like a video game, right? you reach the last level, beat the bad guy, say your "I dos", and then now you enjoy the music and credit screen. The end.

And the killer that adds to all these things is the question, "Is this how it'll be for the rest of my life!?!?" And you feel trapped... and that bitterness building up inside of you suddenly begins to kill you ever so slowly to where all you are waiting for is to die as physically as you are dead emotionally and spiritually.

However, there's hope. Because there are good factors, things that - if the love was genuine at the beginning - it can help:
- It should hurt to see your partner hurting. If there's no compassion, empathy - if it makes no difference to you or "you're just sick of it"... it's not good!
- There needs to be a large, grand amount of selflessness. If you truly feel that the person you vowed to is number one (instead of yourself), then making whatever adjustments are necessary is not a challenge! We will lovingly, willingly do for our spouses whatever they will need us to do.
- It has to be a two-way street, and the minute one person feels like they are doing all the hard work, it is in a precarious situation!
- You can enjoy the good times! Never underestimate a good laugh, a great conversation, a wonderful walk. Learn to create moments to enjoy together because there will be plenty of time for drama and strife, so you need to be able to look back and pull to memory things you enjoy about your spouse. And remembering good things about your spouse is not the same as making excuses for them, or justifying... it's truly being able to see and recall specific good things that the spouse does.

And now I see how these things can make or break any relationship. And I only barely scratched the surface of relationships. This is not even factoring in physical, verbal, or emotional abuse... or a person who has deep personal problems that affect their ability to successfully have a relationship (asberguer's, learning disabilities, a history of abuse, poor relationships with parents... oh the list goes on!). It doesn't take a bad couple to break up. It doesn't take a good couple to stay together.

I look at a few people I know whom I respect and consider godly women who are divorced and I understand, completely, that they didn't have much of a choice! They had to make the choices that they made simply to keep their heads above water, to keep their sanity, and to survive. I'm not advocating in favor of divorce. I know it's not in God's will and Jesus said He didn't want it for us.

But at the end of the day, we are broken people, trying to have a permanent and faithful relationship with another broken person, while living in a broken world.

My prayer for everyone out there is that you wake up and smell the coffee! Don't let one day go by where you don't do anything out of the ordinary to let your spouse know that you care. Don't get so caught up in the grind of life that your marriage is as monotonous as your job. That the "bed time routine" of the kids and the family becomes just something you have to do.

Work out your problems! It's not causing drama to argue. The problem is in silently boiling. Or walking away to make it easy (actually, walking away is being cowardly!). Do not be afraid of confrontation, but face them head on keeping in mind that you and your spouse are on the same team against the problem! STOP just blowing off your spouse but consider that if it upsets your spouse then it is important enough to address and fix right away!

How would you like to feel like you are screaming for help and your spouse has headphones on, oblivious to your cry for help? Don't put your spouse in that position - in that emotion! IT MATTERS! Because at the end of your day, it's your spouse who will have your back... it's your spouse that deserves the best from you.

And if you are in the screaming point yourself, feeling like your relationship is a prison and not a blessing, may I encourage you to pray and seek appropriate counsel. There will always be someone that will give you godly advice, that will allow you to vent without picking sides, and that will not make you feel guilty for being frustrated. I would love to say that this person is a pastor, but maybe not - and you need to pray and ask God to show you who this person is. But seek some counseling, and don't be too quick to give up SPECIALLY if you are not in an abusive relationship. Because unless your mental or physical well-being is in danger, your spouse deserves a second chance (or maybe a third, or a fourth... or seven times seventy-ith). If you can be merciful and gracious to ANYONE else - then your spouse all the more.

And to my friends with broken hearts and failed relationships, who maybe have recovered, or maybe not... even if you put your heart back together with duck tape and put your best foot forward anyways... I pray God brings complete healing to your heart and gives you hope in a future relationship that is as rewarding as God called it to be.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Because of the Brave

A battle weary soldier prays a silent prayer
Thinks of family far away tonight.
Brothers gathered around, all faithful to the cause
Never knowing if they'll see tomorrow's light

Willingly they face the struggle everyday
Freedom's price is more than they should have to pay...

I can live in freedom, I can dream my dreams
Freedom's price was paid, because of those who died for me
I will honor what they fought to save. This is the land of the free...
Because of the brave.

Mother of their children, sits broken and alone
Holds a folded flag close to her heart.
Friends and family gathered around, but they've all come and gone
Now her life is being torn apart

Faithfully she'll face the struggle everyday
But freedom's price is more than she should have to pay...

I can live in freedom, I can dream my dreams
Freedom's price was paid, because of those who died for me..
I will honor what they fought to save. This is the land of the free...
Because of the brave.

Brave men who paid the price, and made the final sacrifice
Knowing it would lead them to their grave
And I cannot repay the costs, or mend the hearts of those who lost
But I can live the dream they died to save...

I can live in freedom, I can dream my dreams.
Freedom's price was paid, because of those who died for me...
I will honor what they fought to save. This is the land of the free...
Because of the brave.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Arizona Immigration Laws

Ok so I am at odds with a lot of people with my view of immigration. Behold, the points where I agree:
- Immigrants should apply for legal permission to be in the US and follow the law, and all the procedures, the way I did.
- Immigrants need to come to the U.S. and learn English - both written and read - if they intend to do more than visit as a tourist.
- Border Control needs to tighten their patrol of the Mexico-US Border and keep US Citizens safe from drug cartels, smugglers, and etc.
- Criminals who are immigrants don't need to be here.
- Immigrants SHOULD not be given any kind of social assistance beyond a public school education and school lunches until they have been here legally for at least 5 years and have been contributing tax payers and spenders in our economy.

That said, here is where most people would disagree with me:
- EMERGENCY Medical Care and Public Education should be universally available to anyone who needs it w/o discrimination as to whether they can pay or not, or are here legally or not.
- US Immigration laws need to allow for more immigrants in the US to obtain legal status if they are gainfully employed and paying taxes, and are w/o criminal records.
- Illegal immigrants are NOT wasting all our resources because they are not eligible for public assistance until they've been here legally for five years. Somehow everyone has the misconception that it's illegals who are hogging up all the foodstamps and medicaid. Well, I have to say that it's not this social group. It's mostly all the US Citizens that ARE fully legal and eligible to work and opt not to that are draining these resources.
- Someone's legal status should have no bearing on their ability to report a crime or call the police!
- Multi-cultural education in the US is CRUCIAL to ending discrimination. If you don't allow any "ethnic" history/cultural other than "white American history" then your education system is not much different from that of the Nazis. And that would make the whole garbage of "ethnic history portrays white people to be the bad guys" a self-fulfilling prophecy, don't you think?

Here's the thing. Behind every immigrant - even every illegal immigrant - there is a STORY. Because there is a person - a soul that God loves, that God created, and that Jesus died for. We can't sit here with the mentality of "oh well, too bad for you if it sucks in your own country... deal with it". Because THAT mentality would be un-American.

So, my Republican anti-immigration friends, please enlighten me because I'm about to swear in as a US Citizen in two days and this may be crucial to my decision; correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the Declaration of Independence say:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

I never read in the text that this statement applies to any particular group in particular, although we imply it applies to US Citizens. But I would argue that this statement was written as the US declared their separation from Britain, during a time when ALL that founded this nation and obtained it's independence were technically immigrants, citizens of ANOTHER COUNTRY, until they chose to pledge their allegiance to the new nation that was founded. So therefore I can safely assume that this statement wasn't made exclusively for the white folks around the table but for anyone who comes to the US, to support this country, in exchange for the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that "self-evidently" should be available to EVERYONE.

Are we now saying that if you are hispanic we don't really care if you came to pursue these unalienable rights? Because if you are Mexican, it doesn't really matter if the right to life, happiness, or liberty are unavailable in your country - sucks to be you? Or here's a thought: Maybe not ALL men were created equal. Just White men. And in the 1960s, we finally realized that Black men too - although it took 100 years between the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement for the US to figure that one out...

Now I say all this, and it probably offends white americans... and rightly so! But how in the world do you think I feel when Arizona passes those laws, when I hear comments like, "That's right! I'm sick of all these Mexicans here! Send them home!" or the one that grinds me the most, "Just because you are born in the States doesn't mean you should be a US Citizen! Send those welfare babies home!" Hello! I'm not even Mexican (I'm Venezuelan), but most white bigots wouldn't care or notice. Because what they are saying with all these statements are that MY kids, born to an immigrant in the US, shouldn't get medicaid or foodstamps if we fall under hard times, because after all - they are not really citizens! And that's not the attitude I want to have directed at me when I graduated from a US Public School with a 3.85 GPA (higher than most US-born Americans), did 175 hours of community service JUST PRIOR TO GRADUATION, served my city, fundraised for various American organizations, paid all my taxes since I was 18, and yes - I've had to depend on public assistance to get our family through from time to time.

(And may I interject here that Paul and I were NOT eligible for more than $30 a month in foodstamps and medicaid for the kids BECAUSE I wasn't here legally long enough. )

And yet you want to discriminate against ME - because I would like to have Hispanic Heritage Month at the schools where I pay taxes and my kids attend - so they can learn about Gloria Estefan, and Simon Bolivar, and many more hispanic people with incredible achievements in history that - hey, guess what? - they weren't white! Maybe not even US Citizens *gasp*. And you would discriminate against ME and tell me that my kids aren't really American, and that I need to "go back home", because I'm hogging your resources?

Oh wait... maybe you weren't talking about me specifically. Because fortunately I'm half german and I kinda look a little whiter than most Salvadorians or Guatemalans... right?

And then, maybe you look at a short little brown skinned dude, standing outside of Home Depot, hoping to get hired to do SOMETHING, and you are disgusted, thinking, "What the hell is he doing here? He needs to go look for work in his own country!" But you don't see all the whites/blacks US citizens on SSI/Foodstamps standing there with him either... And you don't know that maybe he's only 16, and he crossed the border illegally on foot, but he did so because his indian tribe is on the verge of extermination, and his sisters were raped, and his mother is still missing, and he has the scars where the bullets of an AK-47 nicked him as they shot at the car he was riding in and killed his uncle.... And so this "wetback" ran for his life, doing whatever he can to survive, unable to finish high school, in a country where he doesn't speak the language, where he's still afraid of the people who threatened him in South America.... He's not asking for a hand-out, he's asking for an opportunity to break a sweat and EARN his next meal...

And I can name you... 50 people with the "sob story" mentioned above, so it's the rule and not the exception - these are just clients of the firm I work for, here in Alaska... not counting the rest of the US, and the ones being scammed, and the ones in detention held for a $10,000 bail just for not having papers when a pedophile's bail in the same state is set for $7,000....

But if you DID know, would you care? Would it matter? Would it transform your anti-immigration ideals just enough to say, "yeah, we need reform, but we need to remember that these are PEOPLE. There are good people, and bad people, and we need to screen the ones that are here for harm, but not penalize those that mean us no harm?" Would you think twice before you "YAHOO!" at the next bigot law that Arizona passes? Or at least have a little bit more tact about it so that you don't offend those who came to this country in pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness (like me!)?

Oh, and here is where I get controversial: What does the Bible say? (And if you really know me, you should see this coming!)

Leviticus 19:9-10 (The Message)

9-10 "When you harvest your land, don't harvest right up to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings from the harvest. Don't strip your vineyard bare or go back and pick up the fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am God, your God.

Leviticus 19:32-34 (The Message)

32 "Show respect to the aged; honor the presence of an elder; fear your God. I am God.

33-34 "When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.

Leviticus 25:35-36 (The Message)

35-38 "If one of your brothers becomes indigent and cannot support himself, help him, the same as you would a foreigner or a guest so that he can continue to live in your neighborhood. Don't gouge him with interest charges; out of reverence for your God help your brother to continue to live with you in the neighborhood. Don't take advantage of his plight by running up big interest charges on his loans, and don't give him food for profit. I am your God who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

Wow. God instructed His chosen people, the Israelites, to treat the foreigners like their own. To love them, to help them... And America claims to be "One Nation Under God", right? So are you bound to the Word of God everywhere EXCEPT here? Go ahead and look for these scripture references in whatever version of the Bible you like and you will see that it's pretty clear! God set those standards for the nation of Israel to BLESS THEM, and He would bless US too if we followed it. I know Obama said that the Bible has no place in our nation, but oh - how it does! If we operated under the laws of mercy and compassion without discrimination, oh what a Nation this would be!

In fact, if we are so concerned about our resources, and making sure "our own are taken care of first", why not consider these solutions that God gave the Israelites for a prosperous nation?

Leviticus 25:7-9 (The Message)

Leviticus 25

"The Land Will Observe a Sabbath to God"
1-7 God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai: "Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, When you enter the land which I am going to give you, the land will observe a Sabbath to God. Sow your fields, prune your vineyards, and take in your harvests for six years. But the seventh year the land will take a Sabbath of complete and total rest, a Sabbath to God; you will not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Don't reap what grows of itself; don't harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land gets a year of complete and total rest. But you can eat from what the land volunteers during the Sabbath year—you and your men and women servants, your hired hands, and the foreigners who live in the country, and, of course, also your livestock and the wild animals in the land can eat from it. Whatever the land volunteers of itself can be eaten.
"The Fiftieth Year Shall Be a Jubilee for You"
8-12 "Count off seven Sabbaths of years—seven times seven years: Seven Sabbaths of years adds up to forty-nine years. Then sound loud blasts on the ram's horn on the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement. Sound the ram's horn all over the land. Sanctify the fiftieth year; make it a holy year. Proclaim freedom all over the land to everyone who lives in it—a Jubilee for you: Each person will go back to his family's property and reunite with his extended family. The fiftieth year is your Jubilee year: Don't sow; don't reap what volunteers itself in the fields; don't harvest the untended vines because it's the Jubilee and a holy year for you. You're permitted to eat from whatever volunteers itself in the fields.

Yeah not popular. Give the land a rest? Not kill myself for a profit for ONE year? Forgive all debts and restore everything that was foreclosed on or repossessed? Give the working class a break?! Not charge interest?!? The stock market would crash! The country would go into a depression!!

And yet I know without a shadow of a doubt that it would allow the American Empire to grow and prosper. The foreclosure and bankruptcy losses would almost disappear. And the reason why I know this is because history (and the Bible) has proven that Israel DOMINATED THE WORLD right up until the point that the kings of the nations refused to. And then they were annihilated by the Babylonians and ... well the rest was history.

But Jewish history. Not White American History. I don't expect it to be taught in Arizona schools when it comes to World History anymore. In fact, I would venture to say that they will begin to teach that the "Holocaust" never happened; after all, that makes white people appear in such a negative light!

And a tidbit of info, while the Nazis in Europe were putting Jews in concentration camps, the US were putting Japanese people in concentration camps in the Midwest - were many died from illness and poor care (in fact, Pat Morita's character in the first "Karate Kid" shares how while he was in the war his wife and child died in birth because she was in one of these camps). How does that make white people look?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Oh life's puzzles...

I'm actually struggling right now. I don't know in what direction to move. I can't even put my words together.

We have an opportunity, a blank slate so to speak, where our family can choose what direction to go on. And I want to be in the Lord's hands - to do whatever he wants us to do. But I also want the rent paid and the kids fed. I am stuck.

I am the proverbial deer stuck in the headlights.

I wish I had the faith to say "yeah let's move 100% towards ministry and hey, God will provide!" But I don't. The reality is that I want is control - calculated, perfected measures... To know exactly when the next check comes, and the next bill gets paid, and to have everything in control. No risk. No scare. And by default, not requiring any faith to get it done, either.

I hate being in this spot again. I never wanted to go back to this spot. Because the reality is that I can't sleep, and I over-eat, under this kind of stress. I get "bi-polar", doing my best to keep a smile on my face and then exploding with anger and tears when I can't keep up with my facade. And truthfully, I'm a little hurt that God allowed it again. I wonder if I can trust Him. He knows the effect that this trial would have on me and yet He thinks I can make it. And there HAS to be gentler ways to get His point across, for Him to steer us.

So now, how do I face the world with the faith that God is good and trustworthy if I'm not quite that strong myself? What will happen if we get evicted? If we lose everything we have? I know that the material things don't matter, but the stability of the kids... Their well-being...

So there... that was my pity party. Thank you for listening.

But I read in 1 Peter 5:10 that "In His kindness god called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restroe, support and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation."

I know His Word is true because He has restored us before! In the summer of 2008 I thought something in my heart was dead never to be resurrected! I constantly felt a knife wedged in my back and as the weeks went by I saw that the people who put it there would only drive it in further just to make sure Paul and I got the point. Everything in my life was done and over with as far as I was concerned and I was just waiting to die as physically as I was emotionally and spiritually.

And then God sent friends our way that gently lifted us up and restored our faith in Christendom! And in the prayer times (as bitter as I may have been), His Spirit would come and hold me up. He would bring Scripture to mind that would remind me of His love and His strength. Self-delusion? Not at all. I remember reading Psalms and seeing a verse and praying, "God, this doesn't even seem true at all! So because I'm sick of just doing the church thing (and the church is the first and most harmful thing that happened to me at that moment), if I am to believe in Your Word, it's going to take Your Spirit making me feel it in my heart!" And then God would do it! Maybe not immediately, but He would definitely eventually do it. I would be singing during worship or about to fall asleep and I would feel a HUG. A warm, loving hug that would give me tears because I knew at that moment that God was affirming me. That Jesus Christ did care about what happened to me. That He did care that I was hurting, just like His Word said He did.

His Word is a solid foundation for me. No matter what my circumstances, or my feelings, His Word is firm. It's the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It's been proven true by history, by archaeology, and science. And if you turn your eyes to the truth in Scripture, He will prove it. He will stand by His Words, His promise to you.

Basically, as much as I may gripe about my trial when I go back to the Word I cannot argue with it! I cannot call God a liar! I can't say His Word isn't true! It would make a fool of me. My trial isn't that the Word of God is failing me, it's that I am struggling to apply it and commit to it with all of my heart. For no reason other than my own human nature to want to hold everything in my own two hands when Jesus' nail-scarred hands are greater and more powerful.

I have lived in faith before. I remember dropping Paul off at work in Miami and driving down US1, officially homeless. And in the time it took me to get from Cutler Ridge to Homestead I had the keys to an apartment in my hand.

I remember lying in a pool of my own blood, pregnant with Anakin, writhing in pain. I remember Paul carrying me to the ER where they told us that I was having a miscarriage. They tried to pump me full of Vicodin and make it easier on me. But Paul just took me home and we both believed what God's Word says on healing and prayed. We prayed for healing. Even though the doctors advised us not to wish for his healing because he was oxygen deprived for so long he'd probably be born with severe retardation and handicaps. But we believed that God always healed 100% and so we trusted that God would not just save his life but also undo all the damage and restore him physically and mentally to perfection. And He did.

I remember being at Sooner Rd. Church of God and the Associate Pastor asked us to lead the YWEA project and use what little amount of youth we had to raise funds for missions - Ghana, Africa, to be specific. And Paul and I felt led to raise $2000.00 . And everyone was in shock because they didn't believe that our little church could come up with so much extra. But He did! We did yard sales, car washes, and challenges - and we raised OVER $2000.00 .

So even if its just me. Even if I'm the only one taking on the burden of praying. Even if I'm the only one in the trial and it's just me and God. That will be enough.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Being a Trader...

So at church Pastor Steve has taken his leadership crew and started a new Sunday Night Bible study based on the materials titled, "Right Now: The Mission of the Church Matters." In it, for the first Sunday, was refreshing materials and sermons that I am going to enjoy reading through all through out this week in my personal time.

For one thing, the pastor preaching today (Francis Chan) was refreshingly honest and sincere, one of those preachers that I would enjoy if he was on the pulpit or across from the table in my dining room. He wrote a book called, "Crazy Love", which was highly recommended to me so I gave it to Vanessa for Christmas (And she really, REALLY liked it!).

And basically the whole point of the study was to focus on the fact that TODAY the church matters. Sadly "church" has been beaten around, messed with, and distorted but the world needs the church - as is outlined by Scripture, a living and breathing body of Christ that takes something as grand and inconceivable as GOD and gives it arms and feet to heal, restore, and love. You can disagree with me if you like, and I know a lot of people that do. But the big picture of what God designed church to be is soooooooo much greater than what other people consider an excuse not to attend one.

Church as a duty, as a Sunday Morning tradition or obligation... well it sucks. And if that's all there is to it, then I'd rather sleep in. Church as a way to find perfect people is setting yourself up for DISASTER. Church as a social group is entirely ineffective.

But church as a family, united - a group of individuals that love and support each other and share that love with their community.... wow! That's church that you couldn't pay me to miss! A church that experiences the tangible touch of the Holy Spirit as His glory descends and dwells in our praise and worship... You don't have to beg me to come... you may have to beg me to leave! Church as the time of support when life kicks you in the groin, to find people who are not going to condemn you but to pray for you and be there for you anyway they can... that's so refreshing!

I love my church. It's very different from the one I got saved at. It's very different from the one I last attended in Florida. It's very different from the church most people attend. But please let me keep hanging out with those dear ol' saints! We are working towards becoming the kind of body that Jesus can use to point to Himself.

So in the bible study, we were encouraged to become "traders": People who trade in the self-centered (and now entirely distorted) ambition of the "American Dream" for a self-sacrificing lifestyle where we tangibly care enough about others to DO something about it.

And the pastor told a good illustration to prove this: He asked his daughter to clean her room. And then he pointed out, "My daughter knows better than to come back to me and say, 'Daddy, I've memorized your instructions.... I've studied it in the Greek and Hebrew language, and I am inviting my friends over so we can have studies on how we're supposed to clean our rooms.' If she does all this, and doesn't clean her room, she is still being disobedient!"

"Or how somehow we forget the age-old game of following the leader, because when it comes to following Christ, we just tell Him 'Oh, we're following you deep in our heart' - but we're not doing as He did or as He asked us to do!"

May I clarify that the "American Dream" was originally freedom of worship (worship being the operative word here!), life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now it's about having a bigger and better house/car/dog/job than the Jones', and we will justify anything and sacrifice everything just to please ourselves with more ... stuff! We credit the American Dream to neglecting our children to work 80 hr jobs to pay for $50,000 credit card debt that we spent on a boat and plasma tv and liposuction we really didn't NEED.

That's the American Dream we are talking about trading in -because Jesus lived a life entirely on serving and sacrificing for others and He said, "You are not greater than your MASTER, so go and do likewise!" (Paraphrase mines.) He also said that we need to lose our lives in order to find true life. It's a hard pill to swallow. Too many of us are deeply attached to our wants, our dreams, and our goals to let them go for anything - not even the Lord Himself.

But the reward of that fellowship with Him is so worth it!

So the Bible study tonight brought a lot of questions for me. I realized I've been doing everything to be as comfortable as possible so that I live with the minimal amount of faith. And in everything I wanted and focused on, not any of it involved my church, my friends, or the people that need me. I told God I wanted Him to be a greater desire and I wanted to know what was in His heart, and He's had to make some drastic changes in my life in order to open my eyes. I guess I can blog more through out the week as I better formulate these thoughts.

And also, I'm just sharing out loud what's going on in my heart. If it encourages you, great! But I don't want you to ever feel that it was written to condemn you. Because it wasn't. This is NOT me turning my nose up at other people who may be "less spiritual" than I. It's actually a public confession of my faith so that I'm held accountable; so that my walk may match my talk! I process things better when I write, and I have more consistent of a behavior when others know what I intend to do or how I intend to live.