Personal Ramblings

To exercise my brain and drain excess estrogen.

Review: On the Block, by Doug Logan (Moody Publishers)

9780802414724The subtitle of this book is strung along the bottom of the cover, like an afterthought, almost as if the author doesn’t want to scare off the reader :)

So first take a good look at the cover: Visualize your home and church in that urban grid. Read the title (and subtitle) and think on it. Let it all sink in for a long minute. And if you feel even the slightest of stirring in your heart, I urge you to read this book from cover to cover!

This book is about empowering people is to be disciples after Jesus’ own heart—a people who live the gospel in their broken neighborhoods. In a culture where only 17% of churchgoers have heard about the Great Commission and also know what that means, we need more resources, more motivation, more examples of living our faith in our everyday lives.

Doug Logan draws from lessons learned from his church’s experience in a neighborhood plagued by drug abuse, violence, and poverty. This book is full of real-life examples of what works and what doesn’t, of what happens when the “church’s mission engagement [is] infused with true compassion.”

Chapter 12, for example, outlines missional living like this: Missional living must be  . . .

  • intentional
  • developed
  • natural
  • networked
  • bathed in prayer

Applying the his principles, One of the things Logan’s church did was buy dilapidated houses, fix them up, and have church members move right into the neighborhood —enabling the church to truly be part of the fabric of the city. Of this he says:

We adapt and adjust to the community around us. We will get pushed past our comfort and color zone. But in our discomfort we know God is at work. We do life in our community soul-food spots and alongside the cool older man who fixes cars for cheap. I get my candy and chips regularly from the corner store, and the store owner knows me. He speaks Spanish to me, calling me papito and I call him papi! On the block we say, “We up in here!” As believers we desire to be received by the residents in our city. We want to know our neighbors and we are committed to living amongst them as friends and sons of God (p. 151).

Logan challenges every church to be “barrier breaking, aggressive, faithful, fearless evangelists who want Jesus in the hearts and on the lips of all people.”

Get the book and accept the Great Commission today.

For the record, I received this book from Moody Publishers for this review.
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Death Row Granny and Me

One sleepless night while shamelessly googling myself, I found my name in  . . .

wait for it . . .

murderpedia.com.

(Until then, I didn’t even know that was a thing.) And that’s not what I expected to find!

An excerpt of what I had written so long ago that I don’t even remember writing it is quoted in the entry for Velma Barfield, aka Death Row Granny. Here it is:

In 1978 Velma Barfield was arrested for murdering four people, including her mother and fiance. She was on death row, confined in a cell by herself. One night a prison guard tuned into a 24-hour Christian radio station.

Down the gray hall, desperate and alone in her cell, Velma listened to the gospel message and accepted Jesus as her Saviour. The outside world began to hear about Velma Barfield and how she had changed.

During the six years she was on death row she ministered to many of her cellmates. Many were touched by the sadness of her story and the sincerity of her love for Christ as well as the beauty of her Christian witness in that prison. Just before her execution, Velma wrote “I know the Lord will give me dying grace, just as He gave me saving grace, and has given me living grace.”

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” On earth Velma Barfield paid the price for her crimes. The hideous nature of sin is that while we can be forgiven them and freed from them, we, like Velma Barfield, must still face the consequences of our sins. At least until Christ returns, sin is here to stay.

Sin cannot be eradicated. And for being born into this world, each of us has a price to pay. This does not mean that we receive a death sentence the moment we are born. Although we cannot avoid the consequences of our sins, in Jesus we can overcome them. At the judgment hall, Jesus’ blood washes away our sins and clothes us in His righteousness. [Fylvia Fowler Kline is assistant director of the Stewardship Department for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists]*

*I left that position in 2001

Here is Barfield before her execution in 1984:

Leon’s Lawn

It was the drought of 1999

Leon wasn’t much of a gardener. Plastic flowers thrust into the soil were proof. But his lawn was his pride. He mowed that lawn once a week, every Thursday at 6 pm, and watered it every day. It was the best lawn  in the neighborhood.

Then came the mandatory water restrictions. No one was allowed to water their gardens. Neighbors wondered what Leon would do.

Miss Sally, the diplomatic, empathetic member on the Home Owner’s Association board was delegated to visit Leon to ensure he did not violate the restriction.

“What are you going to do, Leon?” Miss Sally asked with genuine concern.

“I’m going to pray,” Leon said

“That’s good, but you may want to consider mowing your lawn less frequently to keep it from burning from all the sun and not enough water,” Miss Sally gently suggested.

“Can’t do that,” Leon responded, “Been mowing my lawn every Thursday, Spring and Summer, since I moved here 40 years ago.”

Thursday came. 6 p.m. There were many eyes peering out the window. Leon’s garage door opened, and out he came pushing his mower. He stopped, looked heavenwards into the blistering sun, and raised his arms up high. After praying, Leon proceeded to mow.

Every week, it was the same. Every Thursday Leon prayed, then he mowed—but he never watered his lawn.

The neighbors watched and talked about it.

And throughout that drought of 1999 Leon’s lawn stayed green.

Love that Sticks

In our car every morning, before we pull out of our driveway, Roy and I pray together. On some days the prayer is longer than usual. (I confess, there are some rushed mornings when one sacrilegiously drives with eyes on the road while the other prays, head bowed and eyes closed).

But this Monday morning, even though we were running late, we didn’t start the car; we stopped for an extra long prayer. It had been one of those weekends, and the week wasn’t looking any better.

Preoccupied with the long list my prayer had left at Heaven’s door, I went through my morning ritual at work–connected my laptop to the big monitor, watered my  office plants, tore open a granola bar, got a cup of tea–and began answering my emails.

And it was only then, as my finger scrolled down the monitor and my eyes followed the cursor to the bottom of the screen, did I see the sticky note someone had left for me.

Faith makes all things possible—loves makes all things easy.—Dwight L Moody #919lovethatsticks

I googled the hashtag #919lovethatsticks and learned it’s a WGTS campaign that fosters a kinder world (they have other ideas that are just as easy and rewarding–like the Drive Through Difference).

The sticky note was just what I needed. And now I’m going to leave notes too when impressed to do so. The note also has me reminding myself: I’ve got everything I need to take on anything—faith in God and the love of family and friends.

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The Van Gogh Portrait of Gratitude

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 3.32.35 PMMaybe you’ve heard this story before, but I learned of it just few weeks ago,  and was fascinated by how the inability of one person to see value in something cost a family a fortune.

Very early one winter morning in 1883 Félix Rey, a young medical intern who had yet to graduate, worked hard to save a hallucinating patient who had suffered blood loss. The patient was Vincent van Gogh and the blood loss involved a severed ear and a prostitute—but that’s another story!

For several weeks young Félix cared for van Gogh, saving him from infection and possible death. When he finally recovered and returned home, van Gogh painted this portrait of Félix Rey as an expression of his eternal gratitude. While Félix became both a friend and advocate of van Gogh, he wasn’t really a fan of van Gogh’s artistic representation of him. So the painting was left propped somewhere inconspicuous in his home—that is, until his mother noticed that her chicken coop had a hole!

For the next two years of so, this van Gogh original did nothing more than keep chickens in their place—until one day an admirer of Van Gogh’s work heard about the painting in the chicken coop and bought it from Félix’s family.

Today the Félix Rey portrait hangs in the The National Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Its estimated auction value is $50 million.

 

Making the Most of Life

Today is the day after Election Day 2016.

Today began with little sleep last night. And it continued with every hour adding a new deadline, more stress, and more pessimism.

My to-do list was not getting done and my creative energy was at an all time low. One task on my list was to find a creative way to tell a story. My search led to this serendipitous discovery! And my soul has been recalibrated.

Michelle Phan concludes her video, “Every great dream begins with a dream. And every dreamer has a story. So don’t settle for a happy ending because ‘… to be continued’ is way more fun.”

But you have to watch it from the beginning to really appreciate the end—which is not really the end :)

Monotony of Monogamy

A commentary I wrote for the Adventist Review back in 2007 when the Ashley Madison Agency had only a million or so in membership.

The Ashley Madison Agency “is committed to protecting and enhancing principles of personal freedom and social justice” and makes donations to causes such as civil rights and women’s health.” Basic membership is free and allows you to browse and observe; active membership costs $80 a month.

Behind the doors of this seemingly noble enterprise is a service industry fueled by its slogan “When Monogamy becomes Monotony.” It caters to married men and women who don’t want a divorce yet want an affair. One happy customer says I  . . . met a truly wonderful man. . . We have been together for over a year . . . We learned so much and will carry it on to our marriages.”

From Genesis to Shakespeare to television’s Desperate Housewives, infidelity spikes interest and conversations. Something about the forbidden and morally wrong is fodder for primetime news and hometown gossip. The media has given Ashley Madison airtime, albeit unfavorable press. Yet the more negative attention, the faster the agency grows: From just a few thousand members five years ago, it now has over a million!

The founder says, “I’m a marketer, filling a need in the market place” His clients are all affairs waiting to happen; he is merely providing a safe platform where they can be “honest and open” (about their infidelity)

Satan’s new approach is not to dissolve the marriage but to de-sanctify it and make it meaningless. He aggressively zeros in on the lonely and the discontented and uses books, talk shows, and therapists that promote self-indulgence in today’s I-need-to-take-of-myself society. As a result, what used to be taboo is now harmless indulgence. And it’s so easy for us to be drenched in self-pity and cry out “Poor me” rather than be draped in the righteousness of Christ and “not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:14, NIV)