A Glimpse of Mi Vida...

It started with a missions trip to Camden, where my life and perspective were changed and where this blog began. Life has been a roller coaster filled with its ups and downs and I'm excited for the adventure and discovering what God has in store, even though I really dislike roller coasters... I am a Lady in Waiting...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011

Joining Shanda at A Pause of the Path I am highlighting  my "best" blog...

Being a new writer and discovering that I love it after taking a several year hiatus from blogging... in May I was encouraged by the lovely Jackie and Shanda to join them in doing an alphabet blog where each day we would post pertaining to a letter in the alphabet. What started out as a great way to keep me writing, busyness got the best of me and what was suppose to be a 26 day adventure stretched out to almost three months. I am proud of the results however.

So below in an except from my blog titled, "Ll = Lady and Love Letters".

"Last year, amidst tears and worship songs in my car past 10pm at night in my driveway, I broke it. I broke my alabaster box at His feet. I took my alabaster box filled with my body, soul, dreams…everything… I entrusted all those things to Him. With Jesus as my Lord, I can joyfully walk on the path that God has for me. The Lord is so worthy of that honor of me giving my all to him. It must be ALL or NOTHING.

I have played the game of giving God things halfheartedly and my life and heart were only half-filled with His love and desires. That never worked, so I must give Him my all, my everything, and do “nothing” but allow God to work.

I have discovered Christ is my Bridegroom. I gain fullness in Him, not in a MAN. My days are filled with HIM, not a him. My time is filled with conversations of Him, thoughts of Him, and the desires of His heart and what He wants for me. He has made me into a woman of diligence as well

With that blog I had over 300 pageviews... my best ever considering this blog has primarily just been for me and my adventures...
Thanks for the support and keep on reading.
Happy Blogging and a Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On My Heart: Tuesday: Jobless Blessings

On My Heart Tuesday: Jobless Blessings

So I have yet to share this on my blog and have barely mentioned it on Facebook... but I am one of the many jobless in California. But I can't help but feel so blessed by the opportunity to have time to serve now.

I remember the day I was let go from my job so vividly. It was towards the end of October and it was abrupt and sudden. I left and just drove with tears streaming down my face. I ended up at the church and walked into one of the offices, one which I didn't frequent. One of the ladies asked what was up and I just began to weep. She ran over to me and just hugged me and prayed. It was so comforting... I felt God in that moment comforting me. Amidst my tears, I said, "This is a backyards blessing!" I was right.

I hated my job because it sucked the life out of me. I remember as I roamed around Peru this summer praying that I would some how be let go of from my job. I knew I wouldn't leave because God had repeatedly told me to stay. I would have to find a job or be removed. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I was let go of and it has turned to be the biggest blessing.

I learned to move on and to not hold on to resentment or bitterness because if I did, I couldn't receive God's blessings, or even recognize it. Within two weeks I had already had four job interviews. God was showing me that "He Had It!"

Soon after I got out of my funk, I started volunteering in that same office that I somehow ended up in that day. Looking back I can't believe how I have not only been a volunteer staff working 9 to 14 hours around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the people in that office have become my family. I have learned project management amongst other great things I can add to my resume. I am also going to Haiti this summer as a co-leader, which is another blog entry in itself.

With free time, I am officially starting my freelance business. I already have my business names registered. I have spoken with my accountant and write-off a majority of my expenses like a computer and new camera. I am doing something that I love that I would not have had the time for. I am able to take what I learned from the past year and a half and it will help me grow my business. I have a website picked out and hope to launch it by the end of January!

I stepped down from a form of leadership after praying about it and God confirming more than once that wasn't where I was suppose to be. God allowed me to take on more responsibility in our outreach department, which is where my heart has always been... I just had never realized it. I also have left a small group where I was not only feeling left out but where I wasn't growing in the way that I should. Now I have more time to focus on the small group that I lead but also invest in the girls that feel left out and not part of the "clique". That is a ministry in and of itself. I have been able to form so many new friendships and now couldn't imagine my life without these wonderful ladies. I love getting to pur into them and having deep conversations.

I have become so close to three families especially which I consider myself to be apart of that family. As I have mentioned before my home life and relationship with my family is extremely difficult at times and I almost feel more loved by these new families than I do by my own at times. One of which, I feel like I have a new best friend and sister... I have gained a spiritual mentor through a husband and wife who constantly pray for me and lift me up and offer me the love and support that my soul quenches for. They feed my love languages. Another family invites me to hang out and have fun with adventures at Disneyland where I get to feel like a child again. I get to laugh and joke and I consider them to challenge me to learn and grow about so much, especially the mom... we are so similar and think and mesh really well together. The last family has adopted me practically... as the girls in the family have said. I have spent a whole day cooking with them and then spent hours at the mall with a teenage girl shopping for Christmas plants. I have laughed to no end and even have my own ringtone on each of their cell phones.  I am so blessed because I feel so loved by these spiritual families... they are loving, caring, generous, considerate... and FUNNY!!!

Lastly I had a lovely Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving I spent at church volunteering and serving meals to those in need as my family for the 2nd year in a row ate without me. I jumped a fence and even led and helped to organize a site. On Christmas, my dad didn't get high or drunk so that was a blessing in itself. My cousin announced that she and her husband are pregnant after miscarrying a few months prior. I got to spend time with my godson and see him play with all of the gift that I got him... most of which I had to put on credit... but I also cut back this Christmas and didn't really buy gifts for anyone. Then I got to spend time with my grandparents... hearing my grandmother sing Christmas music as we drove around the city. But also I got to see my grandfather... which I cherish and almost brings me to tears just thinking about. He has progressive Parkinson's and is showing signs of dementia...

As I leave you this evening... I can't help to think of how blessed I am...

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Search of Beauty: Natural

So... I am excited that I will be starting a new project soon called, NATURAL!!!

I have been working as a photographer and my next photo event/project will be a photo shoot in which I capture women's natural beauty. My project will enlist all of my girlfriends in jeans and a tshirt without any makeup on in a place of beauty. I literally cannot wait...

I love my friends and all of their natural beauty because I know it radiates from the inside, although I do think they are gorgeous not just internally, but externally as well.

Let me know if you are interested in participating...

Pay It Forward

This afternoon I sat in a whole in the wall restaurant with friends... half of which chose not to eat (a personal pet peeve of mine). The restaurant is cash only and luckily I had some leftover change from shopping from a few weeks back. The three of us who were eating ordered our food. The waitress, an old Mexican woman, snarkily made a comment that we should not take such a large table with half of the table not ordering food. My friends then quickly became a peanut gallery, making comments about how rude of the lady to speak that way to us and went on and on. I sat there quietly most of the time not wanting to throw fuel into the fire. I made "excuses" for the old waitresses "rudeness", although honestly I agreed. This wasn't some chain restaurant, it was a small... a mom and pop shop. I sat there almost embarrassed as my friends went on and on. The waitress still failed to bring us two of our waters after about fifteen minutes, more comments flew back and forth. I just thought, leave this poor woman alone. I though, yeah... maybe this was rude but what is a woman over the age of 60 doing working on a Sunday. I thought of her story and I thought of leading out in example... of being an example no matter where I am, especially in a restaurant.

Often times I feel as though us "Christians" are the worst customers. Rude. Complainy. Picky and Cheap. I try to think of the person behind the counter when I go out, or the person trying to make a living. I try to remember to tip well although I think college students often fail this rule.

So we sat there, finally getting our food and someone in the group complained... twice. The food was fixed and brought back. They asked for ranch dressing and sour cream was brought. At this point, the group was grumpy and extremely rude. When the bill came, I was overcharged for something that was misleading on the menu. Friends continued to complain as we paid the bill. I made a comment about how I was only going to leave 10% of a tip (essentially shorting it) because I was overcharged and the bill was over but it wasn't worth another complaint. My only comment. As we leave the restaurant, a friend stays behind and talks to the waitress.

We are standing outside waiting for our friend when our she comes out in tears. Sobbing she tells us that she went to the waitress not to complain, but to apologize. As she was leaving the lady from the table began to yell at her. She stated that she heard our conversation and heard my comment and proceeded to yell at my friend. I was even more embarrassed. Embarrassed at my own comment, but saddened that my friend's continual complaining left the wrong impression with this woman who proceeded to yell at her and put her in tears. Was this lady right? No. But neither was their behavior or my comment.

"Practicing the "pay it forward" principle will make you alert to unexpected kindness from strangers toward you, and you may find yourself becoming more grateful for everyday kindness and consideration from people you don't even know."

I think that our world is not about paying it forward, but of letting our love overflow. When I am centered in the word and aware of my surroundings, my cup overflows of God's goodness and grace. That overflow is able to be poured out to others and hopefully the love, mercy, and grace continues to flow and spread. It is not about getting something out of it, but rather just continuing to be an example and show Christ's love.
Tonight my cup overflowed and I was allowed to bless someone else.

There I sat with all new friend's in a restaurant. We had another family from church of friends in the booth next to us, which we said hi too. We attempted our best to stay off our phones and enjoy each others company. We laughed and joked and even got the waiter to give us the lunch special.

Our waiter was a sweetheart and I knew him. We used to serve in ministry together but he hadn't been around much lately, but no one ever noticed that he disappeared. But he was our waiter and we remember each other. He was working along in three sections of the restaurant on this busy Sunday night. 

As two of the girls had to leave, they asked to have their bill separated. But he said not to worry about it, it was taken care of. We looked at each other and questioned what he was talking about. He told us that the table next to us covered our bill. A bill for 11 women's dinners. We were in shock and almost in tears. I was amazed. My friends... the family at the table next to us. The family who had taken me in and treated me like a daughter, the family that made me laugh and loved me and the family that I have become close friends with over the past few weeks, had paid of my meal and all of my friends. Most of which whom they had not met. What a blessing. They really blessed us.

Immediately I thought that we must tip the waiter really well and I grabbed my phone and read a text from the family that said, "The bill is paid... tip him well he's had a long night :-)" As I left a tip that was the amount of what my bill would have been, I started collecting money. I was slightly disappointed that some of the girls didn't seem to understand the concept of paying it forward, or using this as an opportunity to really bless this waiter. We collected a total of $42. Although a little disappointed I thought we should have given more, I was happy that this waiter could be blessed. I hope that this was even an opportunity to get him to come back to our church... he had since moved to Pasadena but was working in Glendora... I hope he was blessed.

He sure did show us that there are good, pure, hardworking guys out there though... I know he has a girlfriend. But one of the girls in our group asked if he was married because of the ring on his wedding finger. He said no, that it was a purity ring and then told us purity is something important to keep until marriage.  We swooned.

What a blessed evening the off-day turned out to be... how great it was to take the "free" dinner and not run, but rather to turn around and allow it to bless someone else.
I felt love by this family,  and felt how amazing it was that they not only blessed us but also blessed this waiter and allowed us to bless him as well.
I pray not that we would pay it forward for good jujubees of the universe, but that we would look at our many blessings and in turn, hope to bless others with our abundance.
A friend also commented, "So many sweet girls who love the Lord all in one place...makes me smile!"

I love when God's love radiates!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

He Is There In Pursuit

He was in pursuit of her. He sought her out.

Her name was Sam, at least that what I call her to give her personality or rather she deserves a name. She was the woman at the well but I think she was more than just some woman. Ashamed because of many of her choices, there she stood at the well. She wanted to be unseen, so she traveled out to the well during the hot and blistering midday sun because it was then that she could be unseen because no one traveled out during the heat. Most women went to the well in the coolness of the morning or evening because of the weight of the jars filled with water. She carried more than just the weight of water jars however. She felt shame and disappointment in herself. She was mocked and ridiculed daily because of her history, because of her past.  The physical pain of the heavy water jugs during the midday sun must have bore much less than the weight of hurtful words and constant stares had she gone with everyone else. But He was there. He sought her out.

He simply spoke to her and asked for a drink of water. He was different. There was no judgment or ridicule in His voice, no condemnation. He met her there and she listened. She let Him speak into her life. He met her there a midst, maybe, one of her loneliest moments of the day.

It reminds me that He is there. He is in pursuit of me. He is there in our lowest moments when we feed into the self-doubt and self-pity that we inflict upon ourselves, or that we allow to be poured out onto us.

Although He is there, He wants us to realize it and seek Him and be in pursuit of Him.
He is waiting for me and you to come to Him because He knows all that I am going through because He has been there all along. Through every moment, He has there. He was present.

He is there when we are going through the motions of life and when everything seems like a blur. He is there when we are afraid to move forward and don't know what the next step will be.

He is there when we criticize and doubt ourselves. He is there with others criticize and doubt us.

He is even there a midst the endless days of chores, phone calls, to-do lists and wondering if we will find any meaning in monotony.

He is there when we feel ignored, belittled, and alone.

He sees out hurt and pain through the rejection and disappointment, yet He still pursues us and offers perfect love.
He offers a love that is fair, patient, and kind. He keeps not record of our wrongs or He never throws them back in our faces later. He offers forgiveness and restoration. His love will never disappoint or give up on us.

Knowing all this... can we stop what we are doing and talk to Him?

Can we offer Him more than just a sip of water, but can we offer Him our heart and our whole life for the rest of our lives?

He is there waiting and wanting to listen.

Dear Lord,
I thank you for pursuing me and seeking me out a midst the clouded judgment of myself. I want to know you more and only rely on you each and every day. I desire to live with Your love and to feel secure within it. Help me to know that only You can comfort me. I pray that I not fall prey to the lies of the enemy that await in the corner ready to attack and attach the lies to my heart or to my wounds. Help me to rest in Your arms and in Your word daily. Help me to remember You are ALWAYS there without judgment. I shall not fear because You offer endless love and forgiveness.
In Jesus' Name,

On In Around button

Monday, November 7, 2011

All Stirred Up

"For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." - Philippians 2:13.

This morning I read a devotional that talked about stirring things up, it gave an illustration of a cup of coffee. This cup of coffee had the warmth, it had the right color with the perfect amount of cream added, and the sugar had been also pour in. As the coffee was sipped, the taste was off. The coffee had not been stirred...

Sometimes in our life, we are like that cup of coffee... we can go to church, be in a small group, pray every day, and read our bible but something can be off or we can be at a stand still. Sometime we can have all the components and ingredients, but we need to be stirred.

When things change, become unstable, or things get stirred up- we may question why is God doing this? Why has He forgotten me in a trying time?

But have WE forgotten that His hand may be doing the stirring, shifting, or moving. Sometimes things have to be mixed up so that He can reach us... and reach the things that He wants to work on.

Like we can have a glass of milk and chocolate syrup in it, but that doesn't make it chocolate milk. It has to be mixed, and not just a light stirring. But sometimes we have to scrap the bottom of the glasses in order to get that richness of color and taste of that chocolate milk. God's stirring is very similar.

He works in you and me to better accomplish His purpose.

Sometimes we need to be shaken, sometimes stirred, and sometimes just straight up on ice.

We know that we cannot always stay in one place or stay at a stand still... we are called to be uncomfortable. We are suppose to be always changing and growing, aren't we?

When we feel stirred up in our lives, remember God has a greater purpose. He loves us enough not to let us settle or get stuck (like the chocolate in the glass, or the sugar at the bottom of a coffee cup) and to not leave us bitter.

All the elements can be there but sometimes we just need a good stirring!
And in the stirring and swirling we are moving in order to become what He has intended.

I thinking I am being stirred in my life right now... and I am along for the ride and am waiting for the spinning to stop. But I am so excited to see the outcome, to see and taste the goodness of the Lord. I willing and ready to learn and grow and to be on the move...

Prayer for those filling stirred:
Dear Lord, when I am feeling stirred up, help me to think of it as You are working Your sweetness into me, as You preventing me from becoming stuck. I want to move forward with You and become what You have in mind... In Jesus Name, Amen.

"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever." -Hebrews 13: 20-21.

Linking up through:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Way I See It: The Life of A Soccer Mom

A week ago, a dear family friend left on a plane to Texas with her husband for his birthday and left me with her three little boys (ages 6, 8, and 10). Instant family and my weekend as a soccer mom began on Thursday night.

The morning began on Friday, as I got the kids up and fed them breakfast. As they ate I prepared food for my work potluck, I got them to get dressed and allowed them to watch a bit of TV while I got ready. I prepared their lunches, as it was time to send them, one kid went missing. I called out for him outside and inside as his little brother told me that sometimes he just leaves for school without his backpack or lunch. Finally I found him... at the far end/back of the house... using the bathroom and not responding to my calls, which I learned throughout the weekend that he does that when he's pooping in the back bathroom.

I sent the eldest walking off to school down the street. As I loaded the other two into my car (after clearing the back seat, since I'm used to traveling for one and having everything, everywhere). As they were buckling their seat belts, I asked "little one" where his backpack was and sent him back into the house to get it, after waiting almost five minutes, I came to find him waiting at the gate, but he couldn't reach the latch to get out to the car. Off we went, I dropped them off and off I went to work.

Arriving home from work I came home to find the boys watching TV and soon got the kids ready for the eldest to go to soccer practice. As I packed them into the mini van, off we went to practice. As the eldest debated with me where his practice was, I had specific instructions and directions. Yet again I was right, although I did debate internally. One thing I learned is that kids have no sense of direction.

As I dropped off eldest one, I took the other two to the Farmer's Market. They told me they didn't want to go, but I knew better that they would enjoy it. As we walked up to the beginning of the market, tiny one told me that they hadn't been to the market in 25 years or so. I just laughed because I'm not even 25 years old yet.

We walked through the market, with one holding my hand with the other one in sight. We stopped as they got to play with little African instruments, then we walked and bought their mom two pairs of earrings that the boys picked out. Then they helped me pick out two flower headbands. As we left the market, I let the boys pick out dessert for dinner, one picked a caramel white chocolate oreo apple, while the other picked out two cookies.

We picked up the eldest from soccer and made the trek home. I prepared them dinner and then fed them dessert and sent them off to bed after one episode is TV.

Saturday started with getting the kids breakfast while they all got their soccer clothes on. Finding soccer shoes and socks is another story. Off we went to the first game for middle one. I sat on the playground so that way I could watch the little and eldest playing, while middle one played in his game. My allergies were going crazy standing on that soccer field at 9am. I was questioned by a little Asian boy, who was so stinking cute as he asked me why? about five different things.

Game one finished and we ran home to get water bottles and snacks, Then off to game two where we dropped eldest one and then stayed for pre-practice and I took little two to lunch. Then we came back for eldest and then got him lunch and then had about a 45 minute break. Then off to little ones game we went, I kept them entertained with my phone as they played games.

After the game is was swim time for the boys. They lasted about 30 minutes before they were tired and then I made all of them take a shower/bathe now to save time at night. I tried to teach them, while they waited for me to clean, they could get clean and then wouldn't have to shower later. Off to In N Out we went and I showed the eldest (a vegetarian) the beauty in animal style fries. Those three little boys have complicated orders: 1) grilled cheese, 2) a cheeseburger with no tomatoes and ketchup only, 3) a protein style burger with spread only.

We watched kid-friendly tv and then the boys brushed their teeth and then got ready for bed and then off they went to bed. I read the two little ones a bed time story and then fast asleep they went. It wasn't even an hour later I was so exhausted and was in bed and asleep by 10pm.

Sunday morning started with making pancakes for the boys and then they got ready for church. Off we went to church and it was a beautiful old church. It reminded me of the old churches I would see every weekend on the East Coast. We dropped eldest off in the acolyte room and then we were escorted to the third row of the church. It was a traditional Presbyterian church and was very traditional. As the eldest walked in at the front and attempted to light the candle, he had two much of the wick hanging out and little bits of flames began to fall from the traditional candle lighter, I almost though he might set this beautiful church on fire. The service started and the boys went off to Sunday School after the children's sermon. The service was good and more amusing was the cute guy in the choir nodding off asleep. Afterwards, the boys grabbed a donut and off we went back home, followed by a quick trip to the grocery store.

My favorite about the grocery store, was that middle one said he needed cough drops because he had been coughing. I told him he had coughed over the past three days and then he proceeded to let out a cough and everyone in our aisle began to laugh. We then walked out and I prepared miso soup for lunch then the boys got dressed to go swimming. The boys had a play date while I got to tan and read. Eldest got a time out as he was bullying middle and I sent him inside to shower. The boys then got Wii time and then we made dinner and then went to pick up their mom from the airport...

To make this long story short, the things I learned this weekend:
1) Being a soccer mom is hard.
2) I greatly respect single mother so much more, as I played a single soccer mom.
3) Six year olds, need to learn to list the seat when they pee, I cleaned pee at least 4 times.
4) Little boys throw their clothes everyone, and leave towels all over the bathroom floor.
5) Being a mom is exhausting.
6) Kids say the darnest things and have no real estimate of time.
7) Their hugs and love are the best, and holding their little hands warms my heart.
8) I've never done so many dishes.
9) Kids are expensive, from soccer teams, karate practices, tutoring, babysitters, food, and more.
10) Boys will eat you out of house and home, especially a 10 year old. He is always hungry or trying to sneak food.

While I love those little tykes, I was happy to give them back at the end of the weekend and while I think it definitely prepared me for motherhood, I want to really relish in enjoy time with my husband when were married before having children, God-willing.

In Search of Beauty: Within.

This week I truly found beauty within myself and through my story...

A few weeks ago on a leadership retreat, we discussed doing cardboard confessionals. Cardboard confessionals is where on one side of the cardboard you put a sin or struggle that you face or have faced, then on the other side you list what God has brought through your struggle or how you have overcome it.

I received an email this week asking if I would be interested in  participating, I said yes. This was my opportunity to share my story and what God ha s done in my life. I gave my leader three different options, of different struggles/sins that I had faced. One of them scared me to death to share because it was so personal and I had never shared it with anyone other than my best friends. So the possibility of sharing it in front of 200 college students scared me to death, but I knew that this would bring freedom for myself and for those around me.

The leader chose a lesser "scary" confession in my opinion, but in the last minute I was asked to share the one I was afraid. I remember praying through work that day, asking God for strength. I prayed to not be anxious or nervous, and I prayed for protection from spiritual attack in sharing my confession.

We went through rehearsals before the service and I was nervous. Then as we were back stage getting ready to go on stage after the sermon was almost complete, there I was holding my cardboard awaiting to walk out... I was shaking and my heartbeat racing.

I walked out and held up my sign...
"Imprisonment to addiction to pornography"
I stood there for five long seconds the flipped by cardboard that read,
"Found purity, true love, and FREEDOM through God"

I walked off stage to stand with my fellow leaders.
There it was my sin and struggle was out there.

As the leaders stood alongside the room during worship, people were allowed to come up to be prayed with. A friend came up for prayer and was so thankful to have someone they trusted to prayed with. They were shocked about my confession, but proud of me for sharing something that often times is so hidden behind closed doors. They spoke of their struggle of the past and the temptations they faced. We prayed together.
For the first time, in a long time, I didn't regret my struggle, but rather saw it as a letter to the people. A letter of showing what I had overcome because of God. I haven't faced struggles with pornography in about 8 years and it is something that God has completely removed from my life. I talked about accountability and just saturating my life with God-honoring things and removing any thing of temptation in my life from the show I watch, the movies I see, to the music I listen to.

After service, I was surprised to find many young men come up to me to thank me for my confession but to also confess to me. As glad as I was for their vulnerability, I also felt extremely awkward because their struggle as a man was different from mine as a woman in that sin, so I attempted to find them someone to talk to and referred them to all the right resources.

So this week, as I was in search of beauty... I found it within myself through the things that God has done in my life.

This week, I found Beauty and Freedom through God once again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Always on My Heart: An Urban Promise Success Story

I had the privlidge of working with Urban Promise for three summers (and 4 years) and have been supporting and sponsoring them ever since my journey began with them in 2007. They are one of the reasons that I have become the person today. Their ministry and children of the city of the Camden broke down every barrier and wall that I was raised with and that was built around me. I love and cherish this ministry for reasons of the story below.
Greg and I were the parents of the team!  Us on the Rocky Steps of Philly.

I had the privilidge of working with Greg my first summer in Camden and then seeing him again the following summer and then was so blessed to spend time with him during his journey at APU (my alma mater). We were  fortunate enough to lead a team together of college students back to Camden on mission. I have watched him grow, stretch, and develop into the man he is today. We have certainly had our adventures and good times and God-moments. Greg's story is just another one of the reasons I love Urban Promise and the work that they are doing. I hope you're heart is touched by his story, as it has touched mine...
It was graduation night in May 2011 at Azusa Pacific University, Southern California! The excitement was electric.

My wife, Pam, and I stood at the side of the stage, straining to see over the crowds of families and friends who waited for the name of their son or daughter to be announced. As each graduate's name was called, shouts of joy reverberated throughout the stadium. If you've had a graduate, you know it was a very happy moment for everyone.

It was a particularly special event for me. As an alumnus of APU, I was there to witness Greg Collins, the first UrbanPromise youth to graduate from my alma mater. Starting in the 3rd grade as a camper, Greg had attended all of the UrbanPromise programs. He became an Afterschool Program participant and then a StreetLeader--where his obvious leadership skills were recognized and honed.
Because of a generous “Presidential Scholarship” from Azusa Pacific's President, Jon Wallace, Greg was awarded the opportunity to attain a Bachelor of Arts in Education. He studied hard, enjoyed the southern California lifestyle and became a leader on campus. Greg, with his proudly awarded degree, truly embodies the potential of our youth.

DONATE NOW: http://upusa.servicenetwork.com/Display.asp?Page=24years&adcode=A911
But Greg never forgot his hometown and the young people of Camden. Greg resisted what social scientists call "the brain drain."

In a landmark book called Hollowing Out the Middle, two Philadelphia-based scholars looked at the devastating impact on cities and rural towns when the brightest and best young people leave for college - and never return. They called this trend “civic suicide.” All too often intelligent young people like Greg obtain university degrees and don’t come back to inner city communities because the job market is so bleak. Consequently, our cities lose the smartest and most dynamic young leaders.

However, at UrbanPromise we’re continuing our trend to foster an environment where the best and brightest want to be part of our mission. Three weeks ago Greg was hired as our new 3rd grade teacher at UrbanPromise.

“These kids need role models,” Greg said this summer. “Role models who have grown up in Camden and yet have been able to do something positive with their lives--and for their country.”

“He is remarkably talented with children,” affirms Principal Denise Baker. “Even as a college student I wanted to hire him. Our young people need positive male leadership.”

After 24 years of ministry in Camden, Pam and I are seeing some remarkable fruit—young people like Greg, coming back to Camden as teachers, social workers and counselors. It’s very gratifying.

Now, of course, you can help us celebrate our 24 Years of Promise!

With a gift of $24—that's a dollar for each year—you can help UrbanPromise celebrate this milestone.
Or, how about $240? That's just $10 a year—I can enroll the next Greg Collins in an AfterSchool Program this fall.

DONATE NOW: http://upusa.servicenetwork.com/Display.asp?Page=24years&adcode=A911

Your gift will affirm our vision of keeping this ministry vibrant, forward-looking and creative.
God bless you,
Dr. Bruce Main

Bruce and the Malawian Interns and past UrbanPromise interns/missionaries at a benefit this year in Claremont.

P.S. Consider sending Greg a note of encouragment as he begins his first year of teaching. Greg's email is gcollins@urbanpromiseusa.org.

Linking up with Shanda and On Your Heart Tuesdays.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

In Search of Beauty: My Week

The sunset on Wednesday, as I walked into leading a new women's life group. I hope to unveil the beauty of the girls, as God unveiled His love in the beauty of the sunset.

There is nothing more beautiful then seeing people come and worship one Holy GOD together. Shift Thursday.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Sticks and Stones- Part Three: Answered Prayers

Sticks and Stones: Part Three- Answered Prayers

I definitely never intended to write a part three of this “series” of Sticks and Stones, but God really moved in a mighty way this past weekend. I spent this past weekend in Big Bear with my leadership team for one of my ministries.

I’ve heard it said, where a pastor asks if you would be willing to change the world one person at a time, most in an audience nod their head in agreement, but then the pastor says what if the change had to start with you? You are that one person who starts the change! Would you then be willing to make the difference if the change started with you, not someone else?
It’s like Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

The change has to start with us and that is what the leadership weekend in Big Bear was all about, it would be a time to come together with the ministries’ leadership and realign ourselves with the mission and vision. If we wanted to see change and movement and growth in our ministry it had to start with us. We had to be poured into and begin change within ourselves in order for it to trickle and eventually pour and reign (His love, mercy, and grace) into our ministry.

Honestly, I was extremely reluctant about going because of my last two blogs have affected me greatly and I thought this would be make or break it time for ministry. This weekend would be the determining factor on friendships as well as ministry and leadership in the church.

I was blown away by the way that God provided. Amidst the fun and games, it was reiterated throughout the entire weekend to spend time with people you didn’t know. We spent time writing each other encouraging notes through the weekend and learning about each other. We had the privilege of one of our pastor’s speaking and I could not believe what he spoke about because it was so God-divine and appointed.

I had wondered how my voice could make a difference, my opinion, ideas, and questions about leadership and the things I was witnessing within the church. But God spoke, in huge volumes. Our pastor on the first night spoke about how we must love each other and be inclusive. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to truly love other people those within leadership and those not. We are called to love the people within the church walls and well as those outside of those walls, that every there are hurting and broken people.
We read through Matthew 9: 9-12 and discussed how Jesus was willing to break bread and had an outward focus. He discussed how our ministry has the potential to be the city on the hill if we stay outward focused. We need to be the light in the darkness. We have the ability to be the arms to embrace those who are broken, to be the mouth to speak God’s love.

The biggest question he posed was, do we live within the walls we build up? Do we miss His’ still small voice? We are called to be the literal body of Christ.

The second day, one of our interns spoke of repentance. He talked about how few will fit through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13). We must have genuine heart change when we accept Christ. We must make people (everyone) our neighbor and love them; we cannot live life by being a stay-at-home Christian.  We need to refocus, FOCUS on GOD, and we need to step out of our comfort zone and step out of the walls that we tend to build around ourselves and our cliques and truly and sincerely step out in love and love our neighbors… love each other.

The second night, our pastor spoke of our words, about the damage they can cause. We can be filled, but it can take one sarcastic comment, one joke, one thing we say that can bring someone down and tear them apart. We need to lift each other up always because we don’t know who is listening or who is watching.
He was my voice; God whispered my heart to him. God spoke so clearly of what was on my heart and what I had been struggling with, I was in awe. So moved by the power of prayer, by the power of how God used one of our pastors to speak to our leadership. I pray that they were listening. I know for me God revealed some big and mighty things that I will share later. I pray that our cups can be overflowing and pour down upon the people of our ministry.

As a recent tweet read, “The greatest resemblance of a Christian, is one that doesn’t need to say anything. Action speak louder. Be the change.”

I hope and pray that we can begin being the change.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sticks and Stones- Part Two: Actions

Three weeks ago, I left you with part one of my Sticks and Stones Series, I discussed the damaging effects that words can have on each other. Our words, not only harm us when we mindless say them, but they also can hurt and damage those around us. Do you remember being teased as a kid or being called names, didn’t that stick with you more than one or two days, some of the words that have stuck with us have lasted years and some, even a lifetime.
Part two, I would like to explore our actions (Which has taken me about three weeks to write, in hopes of getting it right). Another sticks and stones is our actions. Our actions can cause harm to others and often times we don’t even realize it. Our whispered words are one thing, but our actions can bring harm to a whole new level.
We cannot love just by our words. How many times have we been told we were loved, only to have that love never fulfilled or broken? How many times have we had promises broken, whether as a child or as an adult? Didn’t that hurt?
One of my life verses is: “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:18 NLT).
Our actions must back up our love, our actions exemplify the words or promises that we may say or leave behind.
I really also love The Message’s translation:
“My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love.”
Practicing is all action. As Christians, we are called to love each other… everyone. The people within the church walls and the people outside the church walls, but sometimes I think we fall short of shining and showing God’s glory and love.

Before I want to dig deeper in the topic of showing God’s love, I want to put a DISCLAIMER.
My disclaimer that this subject of our actions and the effect of them in the church as well as the transition of cliques, is in no way to point fingers at any specific group, person, or the like. I simply hope to raise questions, answer questions for myself, and even get some responses from readers.

I think as Christians, we often fall into the stereotype of hypocrites because we say one thing, preach one thing, speak of love but then lack the actions to back that up. It is sad when I think of that and for me, even sadder that I have to write this blog…
We are all guilty of it, we all fall short of being and living God’s best, but I want to question a few things…
I love my church; I would not be where I am if it weren’t for the faithful, God-fearing leaders in my church. I have become a better person, better Christian, and more faithful follower because of my church, but there are people who do not like my church. Some say my church is acting out being the hands and feet of Christ, they say we are the church that truly loves people. But then others find it too big or not intimate, or more times than not they accuse my church of having too many cliques.
After speaking and consulting many friends and mentors on this topic, they all confirmed that cliques do exist. But how can we fix them? How are they formed?

Read this blog of a friend of their experience of a clique…

We talk of going out and serving those outside of our church walls, of loving the orphan and the widow. We deliver turkeys on Thanksgiving, presents at Christmas, and we walk across the room and the world to preach the good news. I think sometimes that we get so wrapped up in serving those outside of the church walls, that we fail to look within. We fail to see the hurting and broken people within our church walls. We fail to see that person who is sitting alone. We fail to see the person that doesn’t have friends they sit with or friends that they make plans with after church to go out. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own group of friends, that we fail to be inviting to others. We speak of love, but then we are exclusive when we spend time together. We need to look inwards, within the wall of the church and within ourselves and begin to be Inclusive.
We are called to be uncomfortable. How can we say we love people and we can go out and be in Peru, or Africa, or India and our walls are broken down and we are made uncomfortable, but sometimes, for some there still resides that fear of meeting someone new. In those far distant countries, we can never see them again and sometimes they don’t know who Jesus is and so if we fail to “bring Him” there, then no harm no fowl?! I don’t think so. Are we scared? Are we afraid to include others, to make new friends? What is it?

To quote a friend, I asked them about community in the church. I asked, “Are we too cliquey or do we honestly include others and build deep and sincere relationships? Are we representing God in those circles by our actions and conversations and including others?”
Their response was shattering, “Yes, we are too cliquey and we don’t include others enough or build deep relationship because some leaders don’t have a genuine love for others and it comes down to the whole ‘comfortable’ issue. People don’t want to establish a relationship unless they know the person better. It doesn’t make sense, but its what people do.”

The response makes me sad because we see the cliques, we see it take place but we ignore it because we haven't learned our lesson in it or because if we're in the clique then everything is fine and dandy. I don't know about you, but I'm confused. Do you move on and find new friends because you're not being accepted?

I'm not even going to bat the issue of insecurities, but I want to just honestly talk about how can we be more inclusive. How can our actions truly back up the words that we preach? We cannot take parts or pieces of the gospel that we agree with, God is all or nothing.
Do these friendships and cliques need to be broken by me or you reaching out more and voicing the desire to be apart of something? Can we meet in the middle?

As I continue to write this, I feel as if  I'm raising more questions? As I have been praying and fasting through this, I hope that there can be a resolution. I am not saying that we have to be best friends and buddies with everyone around, but when becoming close with two people turns into ten and then you're not inviting or including, you have formed a clique. Do we realize it, can we let down our blinders to open up our perspective, vision, and view? Let's love all people, inside and outside of the church. Just because we're in church doesn't mean that we aren't still hurting or broken or in need of love.

I know the feeling of being not only left out, but the sense of being lonely. I'm not talking about finding validation in Christ because I have that and had that in my experience. But I remember the days of attending a worship night week in and out and feeling ignored, meeting the same people who could never remember my name and the people I did know would barely acknowledge my existence. I remember sitting there wondering how could I know God wanted me to be there, but having no one reach out. I didn't get to experience because I would come right as it started and leave as soon as the band finished the last song because I hated the feeling of wondering around aimlessly trying to start conversation with people I didn't know or hoping someone would just acknowledge me. Obviously now involved and in leadership, I have a passion for this to change and I can still sense and feel this at times. But is anyone willing to listen to make a change, or will they be like the friend I quoted in that they aren't willing to fight the battle, they don't want to be left out...

My last point...
Are we in our own little world of population YOU.
There is a song by Matthew West, entitled My Own Little World. His song best describes these emotions and the questions that I have...

Matthew West
In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry or always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket
shoes on my feet
In m own little world
Population me
I try to stay awake through the Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give ’til it hurts
and I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
it’s easy to do when it’s population me
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Outside the car, saw a sign, said “Help this homeless widow”
Just above this sign was the face of a human
i thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?”
So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
in my own little world there’s Population two
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
whoa yeah
whoa yeah
Start breaking my heart for what breaks Yours
give me open hands and open doors
put Your light in my eyes and let me see
that my own little world is not about me
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
Show me there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
My own little world yeah
My own little world woo

I hope that this change can start with me, one person. You, one person. That we can slowly began to change the view of the church and to change others' perspective. It starts with one person!!! I pray we can all become family, a family that doesn't always click, but a family the loves each other at the end of the day... even that crazy aunt Debbie.
Our own little world starts with us, so what are we going to do? Like he asked, is there a greater purpose that we are missing on? Let's begin to live outside of our own little world!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sticks and Stones- Part One: Words

Sticks and Stones- Part One.

Sticks and Stone may break my bones… but words will never hurt me. What a LIE! A dirty filthy lie, words do hurt. Recently I listened to a sermon and it emphasized that words can kill you!
The pastor is correct. Words can harm and hurt those around us and sometimes we don’t even realize the things we say. The things that we say are important, they matter; the things that come out of our mouths should be representations of who we are and of who God is. There is nothing worse than saying I’m a Christian or saying I believe and follow Jesus and then you hear me shoot profanities constantly out of my mouth on a daily basis. We are hold to a standard as it says in James 3: 1-7.

 “1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.
   See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.”

I think back to growing up and of times when I was called fat or ugly or when I was asked, “are you really wearing that?” I cannot even begin to tell you the riff that it caused between me and family members as I was constantly judged or criticized. I wonder the depth of relationships that could have happen with simple things like “you’re beautiful” or “we’re proud of you!” or even a “good job”. The words that were said cut deep and lasted with me for years, even though I would attempt to laugh them off. They caused me to see an image that God did not see. We should begin to love and see beauty in the way that God does.
The evil memories of those words will last with me forever. The implications of words are powerful.
“8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.” –James 3:8-10
The pastor mentioned how we are born with two ears for a reason, to listen twice as much as we talk. We need to act like a Christian and have the mouth of a Christian. We need to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. Are we living in contradiction? Can we keep our focus on Jesus and allow Him to saturate our everyday talk and walk?
When we lash out against someone with our tongues, it not only emotional can hurt or scar the person whether it is behind their  back or to their face, but it damages us. That bitterness we hold onto, anger, resentment, fear can kill us from the inside and can cause us to hurt those around us intentionally and unintentionally with our words and actions. Hurting people, hurt people. Think of Columbine, Norway, or even friendships even over facebook comments of hurtful things said. Gossip stings. Think of racial slurs that are meant to be funny and in turn can hurt someone deeply or cause them to regret who they are.

Our hearts need to be in the right place and swimming in the love of Jesus. We need to fix our hurting and stop hurting those around us. Jesus is trying to teach and show us how to be.  Let us begin today by saying something gratifying

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Story of a Man

Joining Jackie with The Way I See it Wednesdays: I'd like to share the story of a man

We know the story of a man. A man named Jesus that changed it all and the beauty that laid within the sacrifice and love. I think even more beautiful are the stories that happen because of Jesus, the stories of people's lives that were changed because they came to know Jesus and learned of His love. They allowed Jesus into their lives and He forever changed things.

The story of Jorge is one that has touched my heart and I will forever remember it. It began with missionaries Ricky and Traci working in Cusco, Peru and impacting the community above the hills of the city and the plaza. The started a children's ministry and met this family who became involved. The family was small and the sons began learning of Jesus and worship Him every Saturday ministry service through music, games, and a lesson and craft. They began to know Jesus and as the church grew they began a Sunday morning worship service. The two young boys attended with their mother, but the father refused. The father could see his kids changing and his family possessing something grand and beautiful.He felt guilty though because he was living in sin.
Jorge's son learned to play guitar after being mentored by Ricky,.

Jorge would go out with the boys partying at night, but his actions were not known or were ignored. A lot of alcoholic and sexual abuse happens in the city, but is often ignored. Most of the time he would come home late drunk. He worked as a waiter and struggled to support his family. A lot of times he would even spend several nights with different women and would cheat on his wife Yenette. This it hit him, he realized he would be denied.

He began reading the bible and read 2 Timothy 2:12:
"If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us". 

He didn't want to be denied, he couldn't stand the idea of being left behind or of not being the father and husband he knew that he could be. He accepted Jesus into his heart and life and miraculous things began to happen. Without a 12 step program, he quit drinking alcohol. He began attending a bible study at the missionary's home and it expand so much through his story and and through the ministry that he began leading it at the church. As he volunteered and worked at the church, he began realizing that he wanted his life to be dedicated to God. He quit his job; as he gave them a resignation letter, they called him crazy for quitting to follow God. But God had bigger things in store because Jorge began attending seminary in Cusco and began working for the church. The church now helps  to support Jorge and he is making more than he did at working at a restaurant.
Jorge and his family. 

The way I see it, it takes one seed to be planted for a life to be changed. One story, one dash of grace and testimony and love. His story gave us the opportunity to live and love, His story becomes our story, and makes a beautiful story of love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.Our story can change lives because His story changed it all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Man with A Sign

There we stood outside the stadium of this Christian event and there was a man in "prision" clothes holding a Bible and with a backdrop of a huge Bible as he preached. Typically at conferences and events for Christians, you have someone who stands outside the theater and preaches of something hurtful or preaches out of anger or hurt.  I would expect to see this man outside of our a non-Christian venue yet here he was surrounded by Christians and non-Christians preaching the Word.

He was loud, but he spoke truth. He spoke of God's love as he shouted from the top of his lungs, he talked about evangelizing and the importance of speaking for God's love and truth. He talked about the neglect of Christians of being too scared to preach or share the word. He told a story of a preacher who looked down on him because he stood on street corners preaching the word and that the preacher refused  to preach outside the walls of the church.

Typically when I used to see said people at a venue, I would be annoyed because what kind of example where they setting for non-believers of this is how we are: abrassive and loud and condemning and judgmental. This man touched my heart however, he was doing what the gospel said.

"He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned". - Mark 16:15-16

He was out preaching and making the good news known. He wasn't condemning, but he wasn't what you would expect to see outside of the Harvest Crusades. (Harvest Crusades events are designed to be opportunities for Christians to invite family members, coworkers, friends, and acquaintances to hear the life-changing message of the gospel in an environment that is entertaining, yet nonthreatening).

I think the part that got me most was people's reactions to him. One member of our party was so annoyed and embarrassed and began making comments, they are a new believer. Another wanted to engage the man in conversation and hear is story and why he was here, but our line we were waiting in kept moving. I think of the one who was embarrassed and even judgmental of this man. I told them that their comments were no necessary and to not judge and they said that they were entitled to their opinion. I think we are all entitled to our opinion, but does our opinion act out of truth and genuine love or does it act out of judgment and condemnation. Their spiritual maturity showed me that they are still learning.

We are called to be uncomfortable. Our mission fields aren't just in Peru or Africa or Haiti, they are within our walls, surroundings, backyards, at the coffee shop, or at work. If we are scared to preach of His love and goodness what is the point? It does not mean anything if we speak of a loving God and speak of desiring to follow His example but we only pick and choose the characteristics that are convenient for our lifestyle.

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." - 1 Peter 3:15

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." - 2 Timothy 4:1-2

Are we prepared to give an answer, at all times and in all places? Are we prepared at all times?

"What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roof tops." -Matthew 10: 27.

If we don’t proclaim our values then other voices will shape our society. That’s a dangerous position to take. Let us prepare to shout out His name from the Rooftops! How can we reach the world and travel to the ends of the earth, if we aren't preaching His name outside stadiums, in coffee shops, or at work. Let us not condemn those who love God but take a step back and look and love others with genuine love.

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." -Romans 12:9

"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." -1 John 3:18  

I leave you with this song from Jesus Culture, called Rooftops.

Here I am before you
Falling in love and seeking your truth
Knowing that your perfect grace
Has brought me to this place
Because of you I freely live
My life to you, oh God, I give

So I stand before You God
I lift my voice because you set me free

So I shout out your name from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am yours

All the good You've done for me
I lift up my hand up hand for all to see

You're the only one
Who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth
The beauty of Your Holy Word

So I stand before You God
I lift my voice because you set me free

So I shout out your name from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

Here I am, I stand with arms wide open
To the one, the Son, the everlasting God (2x) 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A to Z Blogging Complete

While what started out as fun and was supposed to be one month of blogging a letter topic a day turned into a few months, but I am extremely proud of the things that I produced. To recap for your linking pleasure:

A - Accepted
B - Balance, Betrayal, Belief
C - Congratulations
D- Dating
E - Earthly Parents
F- Future
G - Godson
H - Home
I - Independence
J - Joy
K - Kindred Spirits
L - Lady and Love Letters
M- Miracles and Mission
N - Nothing New
O- Oxygen
P - Peru
Q - Queen
R - Realization
S - Support System
T - Testimonies
U -Unbelievable Amounts of Emotion
V - Vine and Vulnerability
W - Waynu Picchu
X - eXamine
Y- The Days of Your
Z - Zig Zag Chrisitans

So long alphabet, on to other topics and a few more about Peru I am sure.