Finding Nemo

It's about time for me to watch "Finding Nemo" again. I just love that movie. And now, we will be the proud owners of our very own Nemo-fish! Jerod talked me into setting up a saltwater aquarium, or a "marine reef aquarium," as it will have "live rock," corals, sponges, etc. It took some talking to, as any hobby like this is a little pricey to get started, but the Tall One had done his homework. Craigslist, as always, came through and delivered the aquarium and a bunch of its trappings for a teeny little pricetag compared to getting everything new. We spent the better part of the evening getting everything set up. I was covered in salt water a few times while trying to fill a jug to pour in the tank.
Once the water clears, and stuff starts to show off, I'll have some pictures up of the progress. According to the textbook Jerod bought (yes, he's that serious about it), we have to wait a few weeks to everything cranking. We are definitely getting a clownfish, and I already informed him that we will have to watch our copy of "Finding Nemo" when we do...so the clownfish will be happy and feel at home. Now...what should I name a clownfish?


Practicing the Presence of God

I have been thinking a lot lately about staying in the presence of God. Not just that feeling when you get the goose-bumps when the choir hits the high note or when you hear a story about someone's being rescued by an angel...
But really believing that God is always by my side...always listening and always speaking. Giving him the smallest parts of my day, and remembering to offer him the large things as well...instead of trying to devise my own solutions and run to him when things don't work out.
I want to learn how to just BE with Him.
And in a short time of reading some scriptures, I realize that for me it's my mind and mouth that tend to steer me into an abyss.
I also realize that I need to spend some time meditating on the Scripture to fill my mind with good, honorable, and praiseworthy things (Phil. 4:8) and learn to love the law as David writes about in the psalms.
This is a short post about a much longer dialogue I'm having in my journal. But I want to REALLY live out the verse that says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, Oh Lord, My strength and my redeemer." A verse I quoted every week for years and years.
I don't want sarcasm and judgmentalism to choke out the growth in my soul. I want my thoughts and words to be pleasing to God. I would love not to even think some of the things I think. For now, I will try to discipline my tongue to filter what I think, and hope that I am being transformed by the renewing of my mind.
When I think of the truly Godly people I know, they are often the ones who are slow to speak...but say such good things when they do. I like to fill a room with the sound of my voice all too often.
So, here, I shall stop and think awhile. Think about God's things and God's people...and seeing the characteristics of God in His people, rather than making His people the object of my jokes or judgments.
Breathe in the presence of God. Breathe out your prayers.



So, taking a break from the more serious topics...I love to read about peoples' quirks. Quirks are what make the world go 'round. Think about it, there really would be no good reality TV without quirky folk. Some of you are now thinking, "There's GOOD reality TV?" To which I can only respond, "American Idol, Audition Rounds," among other reality shows I secretly enjoy.

With the proliferation of the facebook lists, "25 things about me..." I am doing a blog post. I do not know if there are 25 things yet. I am going to think of them as I go.
  1. I don't like to eat the top crust on loaf bread. It seems like a barrier between me and the sandwichy goodness. I have to remove it.
  2. I also can barely tolerate eating anything with bones in it. It's just too real. I need my meat to be bone-free. I keep considering giving up meat, but there is magic in a good burger.
  3. I very often dance while in the kitchen...usually when I'm waiting for something to boil or cook. There doesn't have to be music. It ranges from ballet to hip hop to interpretive movement. I wonder if my neighbors have seen this.
  4. I am a human jukebox. I literally will go from "La Isla Bonita" by Madonna to an apple commercial jingle to a worship song in about 30 seconds flat. But I never know all the words. Maybe that's why I jump from song to song!
  5. I would like a signal on my car that calls other drivers out for picking their noses. Maybe just a nice light that flashes, "WE CAN SEE YOU!" ugh.
  6. I would like to hold a world wide webcast for all the English-speaking world on the usage of apostrophes and the difference between using an apostrophe and making a word plural. There is a difference between "the apple's color" "the apples' color," and "the apples in the orchard." It's not as hard as it looks, people!!! Plural means more than one. Possessive means it is the property or a quality of something. Ugh.
  7. I still have my high school bookbag. It has seen a lot of love. It is teal. Go 90s!
  8. I majored in Political Science for one semester. I still don't know why I thought it was a good idea. I am far too honest to be a politician or even to study politics.
  9. I often wish I had stayed with piano lessons and could enjoy sitting down to play.
  10. I also wish that guitar playing had come more naturally to me. My fingers and brain just would not coordinate, despite lots of practice and lessons. It is a true tragedy.
  11. I think mushrooms are the worst texture ever known to man. I do not understand how people keep them in their mouths while eating. If I get even a little piece of one, my body sends an EJECT signal that cannot be disregarded.
  12. I think God was just showing off when He made zebras. They are amazing in the wild.
  13. I really struggle with wanting to hate racist people. It's my most real irony in life.
  14. I would be distraught if I had to have the same haircut for more than two years. I have gone from well-below my shoulders to ear-length in one cut on several occasions. I love to change it up.
  15. I am fascinated by Spring. Things that look so dead suddenly become fuzzy, growing, and green...prompted by an Unseen Force who is the embodiment of creativity. Spring alone could constitute a faith in God to me.
  16. I could eat pizza every day. Twice.
  17. I am intrigued by analytical people. I am not one. I take everything in life at face value and rarely have regrets or grudges or re-think my days. I am trying to be more contemplative and see the things that are not obvious.
  18. I used to be very argumentative and far more frank than I should have been. The Lord has knocked off a ton of rough edges. People who know me now would hate the me I was 10 years ago. I'm thankful for grace and for realizing that I am not the center of the universe.
  19. I love to make lists. Mostly of practical things, not like my "top ten power ballads of the 80s."
  20. It took me about 28 years to figure out that my taste in things is far different from most people I know...not better or worse (I hope not worse). But I will always tend toward bold, graphic, geometric, bright, funky over delicate, flowy, flowery, and muted.
  21. Number 21 will be short.


Justice Project Week

We've been processing what all of this means...here's where it started on Monday. (click here) Join the conversation!


Community and Justice

Part of our "mission" in the Justice Project is for our small group to adopt two people/families to get to know and be a resource for help. Of course, as I am an optimist, I assumed they would greet this pack of strangers with open arms and we'd all go running through the neighborhood park having picnics every Saturday, singing songs, and hugging.
Yeah. Um. Not yet.
One of the ladies, we'll call her Alice, wouldn't answer the door when some of our group came over. When we found her outside later in the day, we had a great conversation, but even yet, she was not quite comfortable giving us her phone number. (She did have a phone we found out) Of course, this is FINE, as she has no good reason to trust the random folks who showed up on her doorstep. The challenge: Alice listed lots and lots of needs on her communication card.
The other lady does have a phone and we've spoken to her briefly, but she listed only one need. Certainly, we hope to build a relationship with her in any case. I'll call her CeCe.
What we don't want to happen is for us to come parading into town like Saviors with deep pockets. We are neither saviors nor wealthy. We will learn how to minister the love of God, though, as we will not be able to do anything on our own timetable or agenda. These initial challenges are reminding me that this is God's work. He knows the hearts and needs of Alice and CeCe. He knows their hurts, their sins, their families, their needs. We have to listen to Him to proceed.
Our small group (you know, the "Fort Rock Stars") is beautifully working together to this end. Brings a whole new meaning to the idea of "community" service.


Justice Project, Messy

(This is the second in a series...go back to yesterday's post if you haven't read it yet.)

I am an optimist. I am trusting. I always assume people tell the truth about everything. I am black-and-white--meaning, I see the world as clear-cut, with right and justice falling on one side of a line and wrong and injustice falling on the other. Even the line is between them is usually straight in my head.

That's kind of a fast-track version of the way I see the world. I'm wired that way. Life has taught me, however, that (1) many, many people DO NOT see the world this way and (2) life has a lot of gray areas and (3) I am usually oblivious to gray areas, not because I'm insensitive and don't care...I just don't see gray naturally...it has to be pointed out to me.

All of this to say...social justice is a big ole BALL OF GRAY. Wait, lest I fail to portray it correctly...a big ole ball of sticky gray twisted up yarn that will take generations upon generations to untangle. Or, in my worldview...an overwhelmingly daunting task that looks fine from afar and in theory, but is messy, get-your-hands-sticky, confusing, and well...GRAY. It is not clear-cut. It's not a neat package. It is people. And people are messy. (That's why I still prefer to deal with automated customer service most of the time)

Messy in a good way. I'm still learning.

"Help the poor."
Great. Where are they? And how do I get to know them? Help them with what, really? Help them not be poor? What if they're ok with being poor? Didn't you say that the poor are blessed? By you? Or by people like me? Help. Help me help them. Lord. Help me. What do I do? What if they reject my help? Why have I made this about me again, Lord?

I talk myself in circles trying to figure out what to do.

Justice Project. Concentrated effort in ONE neighborhood for NINE MONTHS. Now, friends, that is clear-cut. Right? Two people with a list of needs. Eleven people willing to help me help them. Now, let's do it.

Do what?
Well, so far, our main objective is to get to know them. And, I gotta say, it would be so much easier if that weren't the goal. If my goal were to march in and work on a list of tasks, I'd be much better suited for this. I can plant flowers, hammer nails, and buy groceries all day long. I am very good at serving with my hands. I am not at all good serving with my heart. It's difficult. It's...messy. It's unpredictable. It's scary. It's vulnerable.

And it's our calling. All of us. God's hands and feet won't get very far unless we have His love to back it up. Messy or not...here we come.


The Justice Project...a starting place

Well, I should have at least introduced you by now. Blog readers, meet Justice Project...Justice Project, meet blog readers.
I am going to chronicle at least some of our journey here on the blog...since it's a Jesus-sized undertaking. I need somewhere to write all of this down. Join me in a divine experiment!

What is it?
A group of people in Charlotte, NC, (our entire church being among that group) have adopted a neighborhood that is listed as "fragile" in terms of crime rate, teenage pregnancy, drop-out rates, etc. It is a poorer neighborhood near downtown Charlotte (off Clanton Rd. if you're from around here).
We believe that God has called ALL Christians to serve the poor, fight for the marginalized, and provide for the widows and orphans. Particularly through Isaiah 58: 6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.' (THE MESSAGE)
Of course, this is certainly not the only passage that calls us to help the poor. I was amazed just the other day to read in Galatians that when some of the Apostles were determining HOW to move forward, they agreed on this: they needed to take care of the poor among them. (Galatians 2:10...) Paul says "They [James, Peter, John] only asked us to remember the poor--the very thing I also was eager to do."
Proverbs 28:27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses. [YIKES!]
I won't go on and on here. No one could really refute the notion of Jesus' preference for the poor, as God's heart is laid out all over the Scriptures on this point.
But the tough question becomes...so, what do I do about it? Well, a sharp answer would be, "Something."
A kinder answer, would be, ask God to show you, and meanwhile...raise your awareness of the needs in your own backyard. Look at people as people, and don't label them as "lazy," "unemployed," "shiftless," etc. When you ask God to show you, look for the answer. It may well be the "beggar" you see on the street corner...and you may NOT know what he'll do with a handout. But you might just be Jesus' hand reaching out to him, giving him a cold bottle of water and a sandwich or a hard-earned five dollar bill.
So, it's not really just about writing out checks. It's our attitude that we must check at the door of Godliness.
We officially started our journey last Saturday; but really, it started a while back. And for the record, this is NOT "hey, pat me on the back because I'm doing something good." I am trying to sort out what this all means as I go, too. I don't know many homeless people, and am not going to be giving out my guest bed anytime soon...I don't think. Just trying to figure out how to trust and obey...and get over myself.

More on these topics throughout this week...