Doing my part...

Clearly, I have abandoned blogging. But I have something to say now, and it's not even about me! Well, not really. It's Cheri -- best friend, roommate, tenant -- who I'd like to talk about briefly. She started a business! And my job, as her Director of Marketing Director (sounds more impressive with two "directors" in the title), is to help promote it. So here's the deal: if you need a dog-sitter and live anywhere near Asheville, NC, Cheri's your girl. Oh, she does house-sitting and personal assistant stuff too.

You can read all about it (and look at the website and logo I put together/designed) here: www.myhomeandpet.com.

Do it! And share it with anyone else you know who might need this sort of thing.


Remember Haiti

Haiti did not have a special place in my heart. I have never been there. I didn't even know where it was on the map. I'm not sure Haiti has a special place in my heart even now, but people do. The Haitian people, who are people just like MY family and MY friends, are hurting, and that does have a place in my heart.

I thought I'd have more to say, more feelings to express, but I mostly just feel ache. I ache for the people who are injured, bleeding from crushed flesh and bone, and scrapes and stabs, inflicted by the walls and roofs that used to protect them. I ache for people who are thirsty and starving. I pray for the doctors who are working endless hours, and without proper equipment, medicine, even lighting. I cry for those who stare at the buildings that crushed their loved ones to death and that hold them there still. My heart hurts when I see videos of construction vehicles, loaders and dump trucks, scooping and moving lifeless bodies instead of the dirt and trash they were meant to haul.

I hope I -- we -- will not forget the graphic images and heart-splitting stories we've seen and heard. I hope we will not slip easily back into our lives of comfort, but will remember the dead and the dying. I hope we will keep praying for those in mourning, and those who are alone, fearful, homeless.

As with most everyone else in the U.S., my life will go on. I will wake up, shower, dress, drive to work. I will laugh and order lattes and watch TV. But I want -- and I challenge you -- to remember. And to give what we can, and maybe even a little more than that, as though we were giving to God himself. And then, "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'. (Mt. 25:40)

And, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Cor. 9:6-8)

[If you don't know where to donate, or aren't sure which agency to choose, you can read about various organizations that are accepting Haiti donations here.]


"She has a great personality"

I took a personality test today. I'm not sure why I did -- I've known for a long time that the Myers Briggs test says I'm an ENFP -- extroverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving. But the test I took today had some great descriptions that I can't not post here. My reactions are in bold.


  • outgoing (i'm kind of 50/50 on this one -- depends on the setting)
  • social
  • disorganized (although I love to organize things, they never seem to stay that way)
  • easily talked into doing silly things (i must choose my friends VERY carefully)
  • spontaneous
  • wild and crazy (what am i, a waterpark?),
  • acts (and speaks) without thinking (oh yes, all the time)
  • good at getting people to have fun
  • pleasure seeking
  • irresponsible
  • physically affectionate
  • risk taker
  • thrill seeker
  • likely to have or want a tattoo (guess there's no arguing this one)
  • adventurous
  • unprepared (what, like for meetings? okay, yeah...)
  • attention seeking (you should see the videos from when I was a kid -- Mom was trying to tape my brother but I kept jumping in front of the camera. I thought I'd grow out of that, but no.)
  • hyperactive
  • irrational
  • loves crowds
  • rule breaker (why does this one make me smile?)
  • prone to losing things
  • seductive (whoever wrote this doesn't really know me... but I'm starting to like them)
  • easily distracted (shocker)
  • open (yep)
  • revealing (but not in the clothing department)
  • comfortable in unfamiliar situations
  • attracted to strange things (and people)
  • non punctual (as evidenced by the call I made to my mom last weekend when I was about to be 15 minutes late "I seem to have a problem with being chronically late... sorry")
  • likes to stand out (oh, you like my red hair? thanks!)
  • likes to try new things
  • fun seeker
  • unconventional
  • energetic
  • impulsive (a true and potentially disastrous characteristic when combined with the tattoo one, above)
  • empathetic
  • dangerous (what does this even mean?)
  • loving
  • attachment prone
  • prone to fantasy (but not fantasy films; i very much dislike the fantasy genre)

These descriptions really make me seem like an attention-seeking rebel. They may be right, which means they also give me clues about areas I need to keep an eye on to make sure I don't go overboard with some of my choices. Some rules are meant to be followed.

If you want to take the test yourself, you'll find it here.


Testing and Humbling

The ups and downs of the Israelites is, to me, a fascinating series of events.

Possibly the most interesting part is that it was always the practical stuff that caused the Israelites to stumble. Their lack of resources (meat, bread, water, etc.) led them to curse their environment and turn their hearts away from God. It was their natural and immediate reaction to a crisis situation.

I've been thinking about the ways in which I get tripped up, and they're very similar. I had a freak-out a couple weeks ago when I saw that my electric bill had nearly doubled as a result of El Nino, or Global Warming, or the War on Terror, or whatever is causing this commercial-freezer-type weather. I said, "Oh, that I had moved farther south!" and "Oh, that I could go on vacation somewhere tropical!" which now sound strangely similar to, "Oh, that we had died in Egypt!"

But what if the Israelites had had the insight to live by faith? What if, instead of panicking about a lack of water or lamenting the delicious foods left behind when exiting Egypt, they had each trusted that their God, who was powerful enough to bring them out of slavery -- SLAVERY! -- could and would also provide for their daily needs?

I was reading in Deuteronomy again last night and found this bit in chapter 8:
"And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."

It made me wonder how much differently the story would have gone had the Israelites passed more tests. And it gave me some insight into the "wilderness" part of my journey.

On Sunday I was convinced that I had made it through the wilderness and was setting foot in the "land of milk and honey." But having read that section above, I'm wondering if there might be more testing and humbling on its way. Both today and yesterday have involved a little bit of each.

Yesterday I was tested (for probably the dozenth [just go with it] time) on whether I would obey a command -- specifically, "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed," which sucks until you get through to the healing part. For a few months my answer was no, but yesterday it was yes. I confessed, I was prayed for, I can now be healed.

And suffice it to say that today, through a series of events at work, I was humbled.

For the Israelites, the whole point of their 40 years in the wilderness was the ups and downs, the testing of their commitment to the Lord. Now I find myself in my own version of their valley-victory show and want SO. BADLY. to pass the tests the first time.

I'm not sure how to do that for weeks on end, but I will at least try to obey today.


I am an Israelite

I skipped church yesterday.

Instead, I made a pot of coffee, sat on my window seat in the sun, and read my bible.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the continuum of sin and God, and how "leaving sin behind didn't necessarily mean I was pursuing God." I concluded that post with more of a question than an answer, but with the knowledge that I couldn't just sit in the middle of that SIN------GOD continuum. I knew I would never be content there.

In the days following that post, I spent more time reading the bible, even though I practically had to chain myself down to do it. I had fleeting thoughts of reading the bible cover-to-cover in 2010, because I'm insane, but didn't want to start in Genesis. I started in Matthew instead.

In Matthew 4, I read about Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert and noticed something I hadn't before -- that each time Jesus needed to battle temptation, he quoted Deuteronomy.

Curious about this piece of information, I flipped to Deuteronomy and started reading. The first few chapters are basically made up of Moses reminding the Israelites of where they've come from and what God has done for them. It's like he has to keep repeating it so they don't forget. I was thrilled to discover that an ENTIRE PEOPLE had a worse memory than I do.

In chapter 5, Moses is again reminding the people about stuff God has done, and then he moves on to the Ten Commandments. Blah, blah, I've read those a million times. But I read them again, beacuse skipping is cheating.

Quick refresher; God says:
a) I'm your God, I saved you from slavery in Egypt.
b) Worship me only; don't have any other gods.
c) Don't make any idols; again, only worship me.
d) Don't take my name in vain.
e) Keep the Sabbath holy.

Ugh, I have THE HARDEST time with this one. Usually I have no trouble at all ignoring chores, which you can tell by running your finger along any surface in my house. But on Sundays I get the itch to clean.

I found myself wondering why -- why does God care if I rest on the seventh day? Not surprisingly, the answer is right there: "Six days you shall labor... but the seventh day is the Sabbath... in it you shall do no work... AND REMEMBER that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there..."

When I read what followed "and remember," I felt like my story and that of the Israelites became one and the same.

I have a tattoo that says, in Greek, SET FREE. The Greek term originally referred to being released from from marriage through a spouse's death, or set free from slavery. After Christ died, it was used in the New Testament to mean set free from sin. To me, my tattoo means to be set free from slavery to sin.

Maybe someday I'll write about what led up to getting inked, but my point right now doesn't require it. My point right now is about what happened between getting the tattoo and where I am today.

I'll illustrate with a comparison of the Israelites and myself:
THE ISRAELITES (in Exodus): Were set free from slavery in Egypt
I: Was set free from sin.

THE ISRAELITES: Managed to rollercoaster through a series of valleys and victories:
- VALLEY: Went from Egypt into the desert. After three days of no water, they complained.
- VICTORY: God led them to a place called Elim where there were 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees (I laughed at the thought of some Israelite counting the trees and reporting his findings).
- VALLEY: After a month and a half, the Israelites complained that they missed all the good meat and bread they used to have in Egypt and said they wished they had just died in Egypt instead of being brought into the desert.
- VICTORY: God gave them quail and bread. Mmm, quail.
- VALLEY: Once again, the people got thirsty and complained. (I should mention that each time they complained, Moses went to God on their behalf and asked for help.)
- VICTORY: God takes the people to a place called Horeb, where Moses strikes a rock and water comes pouring out.
- VALLEY: A group of people called the Amalekites attacks the Israelites.
- VICTORY: The Amalekites are defeated by a sort of miracle of God (you can read it in Exodus 17).

So I'm thinking, these people are UNbelievable. All they do is freak out in crisis, even though God comes through every time Moses asks for help.

I: Have found myself in a series of valleys and victories since being set free. And yet, I have still been stuck in the center of the SIN------GOD continuum -- in the middle, in the wilderness.

I found the similarities striking, so I kept reading.

There's a lot more to the story, but in chapter 6 of Deuteronomy, I found it.


Moses said to the people:

“When your son asks you in time to come, saying, “What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the Lord showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. THEN HE BROUGHT US OUT FROM THERE, THAT HE MIGHT BRING US IN, to give us the land of which he swore to our fathers.”

HOLY MOTHER. God brought them OUT of slavery, so that he could bring them IN to something great! This is likely not a revelation to anyone who has read the story before, but it hit me hard because this time I am LIVING it, not just reading it.

Suddenly feeling like an Israelite didn't seem so crappy, because I could see that God didn’t just bring me out of my slavery, out of my awful darkness, to wander in the MIDDLE of the SIN------GOD continuum, just trying not to screw up. No, he brought me out so he could bring me in to something amazing.


A list of unrelated things

This is going to be one of those posts that touches on a bunch of topics.

Thus, numbered list:

1) Unauthorized third-party charges on my AT&T bill. ANNOYING. They were really pissing me off (got billed for the second time for something I didn't sign up for) so I finally called AT&T to have them put a block on my account. I also called the third-party company to have the charges refunded. Very scammy. I'm hopeful that my calls today, which totaled more than 20 minutes, will produce a scammy-charge-free result.

2) I've been thinking a lot about the stuff I wrote a couple posts back -- about finding fulfillment in God. Just thought I should follow up and say that I've been putting in more effort than usual and have already seen an excellent return. I started reading the book of Matthew and by chapter four had already taken some interesting things from it that I can actually apply to my life. I love when reading the bible yields practical guidance. To summarize, I have learned that I need to study the ways God has spoken to (or led) me in the past so I can recognize when he's speaking to me (got this from noticing that God spoke to Joseph using the same avenue four separate times... intriguing). And when reading the story about Jesus fasting for 40 days and being tempted by Satan, I picked up a few things I hadn't before, like the fact that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy each time he had to combat temptation. I think I'll be reading Deuteronomy soon, since it appears to have been an important book to my Savior. There's a lot more, but those are my two favorite "Hmmm" moments, so I thought I'd share.

3) I was realizing today that a certain co-worker of mine, who also seeks God, has gone through a whole lot of crap in her life. She's dealing with a tough situation now (the health of a family member is not good) and yet every time I see her go through something difficult, it seems she almost always says something like, "But the Lord is good... and we need to trust him." I wonder if this is what is meant by "Joy in the Lord" because despite the crappy circumstances surrounding her, she has an incredible peace that seems to calm her, even if it doesn't take the pain away. I want to be like that.

4) Fruit is good. I am a vegetable person, but I think I'm learning to like fruit. I'm particularly fond of oranges right now.

5) On the way to work today I was thinking about zombies. I don't like fantasy or horror genres (for either games or movies), but today I think I saw the relevance of zombie-ism to our spiritual lives. No idea where it came from -- zombies aren't usually on my mind and I wasn't listening to the Cranberries. I haven't been able to fully develop whatever idea flashed into my head this morning, but there might be a poem or song coming down the pike.

6) It's not so hard to do the things we want to do in life (I'm thinking about New Year's Resolutions, specifically) if we just DO them. It's amazing how undisciplined we all are in so many ways. I am at the top of the offending persons list.

7) I have a budget this year. I decided it was time to be responsible. Considering my lack of discipline, however, I'd be surprised if I even remember I HAVE a budget by the time St. Patrick's Day arrives. Still, I'm thankful to have a bit of structure for my finances. I think it will help me.

8) Things that fascinate me: www.marcjohns.com, the way the media perpetuates problems of all kinds (makes me glad I didn't go into sensationa--i mean, journalism), www.stumbleupon.com, the fact that I used to be able to sing this in it's entirety, lyrics to any Iron & Wine song, the human attempt to self-save, tattoos (making plans for my third, hope to be inked this fall), the incredible amount of time that has been put into developing all of the content on the web.

9) There is nothing better for a man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work, for this is his heritage. (Ecc. 5:18, and I think I may have made up this version...)

I think that's all I've got for now. I'm sure I could do a free-write, word-association type thing and spout out about 12 more pages worth of nonsense, but I should finish my orange and get back to work.