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Friday, July 24, 2009

a slave to chocolate

Earlier this summer, God showed me Is. 58:3-14. Specifically, vs. 6-7, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" And then I looked at its companion passage in the New Testament, Matthew 25:34-40. (whatever you have done for the least of these you do for Me passage)

In an earlier blog I said that I would like to live my life according to these guidelines, and I am currently making some plans about how I might better minister to the hungry and needy in our area. However, I have been desperately praying about the first part of that passage in Isaiah...the part about loosing the chains of injustice. I feel very ignorant about how to make strides against injustice in our world. I know that in my classroom as I educate those children, I am making small strides against injustice. In my career I have had the opportunity to minister to many children who are in very unjust situations. However, I have felt strangely compelled this summer that God is asking me for more.

Yesterday Shawn came home from a conference about social media with a broken heart. I was confused. Facebook and Twitter? Why are you sad? He said that a speaker shared with them some staggering statistics about slavery around the world. Slavery is currently at an all time high in our world. Children are being held in abhorable conditions for many reasons: the sex slave industry is booming, and many children are used for labor to keep up with the demands for certain products. The specific product Shawn shared statistics with me about was chocolate.

Whoa! Wait a minute. I am a slave to chocolate (pun intended). I love chocolate. I crave chocolate. I need chocolate to make it through a hard day. When Shawn brings me chocolate, I feel especially loved. I love hot chocolate, candy bars, chocolate cake, brownies, ding dongs, chocolate milkshakes, hershey kisses, etc. I can resist almost any sweet product on a diet, except chocolate. Don't make me go without my chocolate, or I am one bitchy woman.

But children are being exploited to fulfill my hunger. In a video that Shawn shared with me, a young boy said that he wants the American to know that when we eat chocolate we are eating his flesh. He is beaten for my desire. He is held captive so that I can pour chocolate gravy onto my biscuits.

Most chocolate is grown by paid labor, but because there currently is no regulation of the industry, slave grown crops are mixed into the freely grown crops. There is no way to prevent buying slave grown chocolate unless you give up chocolate completely. Hmmmm........

I will confess that I give very little consideration to where my stuff comes from. It simply arrives at the store, and I buy it if I want it. I am a greedy American. I have not worried about how my greed affects others around the world. I have not considered that there are children who are enslaved to meet my desires and that they may die in servitude because I am unconscious about my choices. I have heard of free trade coffee, but I will confess that I do not make the effort to make sure that I only consume free trade coffee.

My children heard their Dad discussing this issue last night. So this morning as I lifted weights they came and sat at the picnic table in the playroom to talk to me about it. They were absolutely broken hearted about the issue and wanted to talk about ways our family could change our lifestyle to live more responsibly. I went after my Bible and shared Is. 58 with them. They are smarter than me. James said, "Isn't that like that verse in the New Testament about the least of these." I talked to them about feeling inadequate in my knowledge about how to loose the chains of injustice and praying that God would reveal a way for our family to make a difference. We had a very incredible conversation about injustice and their concern for people who are mistreated.

My son raised this question, "Mom, I saw a show on Discovery about diamond mining in Africa and the horrible conditions involved, and I have really been bothered that you choose to wear diamonds when people are dying to get them." (Months he has worried about this, but would not bring up something he saw as a contradiction to my faith.)

Grace said, "Mom, we can't keep buying chocolate. It was not wrong before we knew about the slavery, but now it would be wrong to keep buying it since we know it involves slavery - especially child slavery."

James, "Mom, what else do we buy that causes people around the world to be in the 'chains of injustice'?"

Grace, "How do we find that out?"

My children broke my heart. At 34, I have never considered James's question. It has been posed to me many times by a variety of sources, and I have always blown it off. After all, this is the 21st century. How bad could it be? It is the companies' responsibility to make sure that their goods are purchased/made with integrity. It is not my responsibility, and I am not guilty. However, looking at that passage in Isaiah and having this conversation with my children has dramatically refocused my thinking. My home is only one household. If we avoid purchasing items that cause people to be mistreated will it really make a difference? Probably not. We do not have huge purchase power. However, I will not be guilty of taking advantage of the poor if I can help it. I do not have a wide base of knowledge about what products are "okay" and which are not. It will take research, but I will be joining others in the fight against the "chains of injustice." Be watching for more information soon. I don't know what this journey will involve for my family or how it may change us. But to the best of my ability I want to seek to live out my faith with my wallet.

So I can still eat the chocolate that I've already purchased, right?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not the same way twice

Today I was reading 2 Samuel 5. David is assuming rule of all Israel and Judah and uniting the two kingdoms under one throne. The Philistines attacked. The first time they attacked he prayed for guidance and God said, "Attack with a frontal assault." Sure enough, the Philistines were defeated. The second time they attacked, David prayed again. This time God said, "Circle around and attack from behind."

I did a second take at this. You see, David had already defeated the Philistines once. He could have assumed that he know how to win this battle. He could have taken his legendary army and tried to repeat what had worked so well the first time. Instead, he prayed and God told him to change and attack from behind. He was successful because he followed God's direction and did things differently.

I thought about all the things that I assume God has taught me how to do. I realized there may be things that God wants to change up in my life that I assume I already know how to accomplish. The best way may not always be the same way I have used before.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

polygamy and dumb and dumber

Reading 2nd Samuel is enlightening about David and his lifestyle. In 2nd Samuel 1, David has two wives. By chapter 3, he has at least five wives. Then he sends for his first wife, Michal, who had been given away to another man when David fell out of favor with Saul. This is a pathetic story. Michal obeys the command to return to David. All the while her husband follows along behind the guard escorting her, crying and begging for her to be returned.

I had not thought this through before until Shawn said, "I bet David wanted to make sure Michal did not produce an heir to the throne, and so he commanded her return." Later on in life, Michal treats David with disdain and disrespect. This story gave me a whole new insight into why she might not like him so much. She had apparently found happiness in her second marriage and was ordered to go back to David, the most powerful man in the land. As a woman, she was without options. She had to turn her back on a man that appeared to love her deeply. No wonder she was hateful to David. Hello! I don't think Shawn would have followed me crying.... I think he would have mounted a coup and made an assasination attempt.

To go from being the favored, possibly only wife of a man that loved her deeply into a member of a harem. That had to suck. Let's talk about the harem thing. I can see some advantages to this. Running a king's household had to be tough. This way, there were several women to split up the chores and help out. But how does this work exactly? Do you all get equal turns with the king at night? Does he call only for his favorites? What if you're not the favorite? Do you get to take an additional discreet lover as well or do you just have to do without? I don't think I would fare well. I would be greatly tempted to poison the other wives. I don't like competition. I like to be the one and only star in my husband's life.

Then today I read a story in 2 Samuel 4 about Dumb and Dumber. They had real names, but let's just call them Dumb and Dumber. Let's review history for just a minute: The guy that brought David the news that he had offed Saul when his suicide attempt didn't work fast enough? Beheaded! The guy that told David he killed the man trying to keep David from assuming total control of all Israel? Angrily Cursed!

But Dumb and Dumber hatch a brilliant plot to kill the last of Saul's sons. They sneak past the sleeping maid guarding his bedchamber (? why no armed guard?) and kill the guy. They then take his head to David. They are expecting great rewards. Oh, they got rewarded alright. David had them both executed on the spot.

I don't really have a point in sharing either of these stories other than I found them both intriguing. You can see David's political cunning in reacquiring Michal, his struggle with sexual sin in his addition of many wives to his harem after God had forbidden it, and yet his repeated exhibition of love to his enemies as he is angry with people that kill them off. There is so much more to this man than what I learned in Sunday School.

God lessons in a Pilates workout

Stick with me here, I promise I have a spiritual point at the end.

I have been horribly discouraged about working out. It seems to be really hard work for such small results. Monday I did a step video that kicked my butt. It was my own fault. I used a much taller step to try to up the intensity. Boy, did it. About halfway through I was done. I was dripping sweat and gasping for air. And the girls on the video never stopped smiling. Girls with tans, tight ripped abs, beautiful hair, and big white teeth. They never grimaced as we pushed harder, they never dripped sweat while leaping repeatedly into the air, they just smiled. Like stepford wives. I got really angry that it was so easy for them and started yelling at the T.V. It didn't change anything, but at least I made it through the workout.

Yesterday was a weight day. For me weights are very boring. I am isolated in the playroom counting reps and listening to music. Every weight day I try to increase weight and/or reps on at least three exercises. It was a hard day. I cried about having to work out. How did I ever get fat? Then I had a temper tantrum about having to work out. Why is it easy for some people to stay shapely? NOT FAIR! Finally I resigned myself to the ugly truth that sometimes life sucks and started lifting. I survived, but grumpily.

Today I was desperate for something new. I was still very sore and moody and decided to look online for a pilates video. Pilates are ballet based exercises that are designed to increase tone, flexibility, strength, and relaxation. I downloaded the top rated pilates video from netflix and started. I made it through the first 10 minute segment just fine. Then the next segment was abs. It was at the moment when I was supposed to roll slowly up off the floor while keeping both feet completely vertically pointed up at the ceiling and touch my nose to my knees that I started laughing. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the glass doors of the fireplace. I was flopping like a fish out of water. Be glad to demonstrate this for anybody that needs a good laugh.

I listened to the instructor's calm, soothing, slightly sultry voice continue with instructions. (I can do a great impression if you want to hear it) "Now roll slowly back down to the floor. Bring those vertical legs further back until your toes rest gently on the floor next to your head. Now push yourself up off the floor so that your weight rests entirely on your upper back." Are you kidding me? This woman is laying on her neck with her legs touching the floor behind her! Who can do that? REALLY? I couldn't stop laughing. I made the attempt while watching my reflection. Can say that it's been a really long time since I have been so amused. I'm not sure that I will see the desired results since I was laying in the floor screeching with laughter. I was glad Shawn was not home. He would have hurt himself laughing at me.

Oh yeah, I was going to make a spiritual connection. During the video, the instructor would say in her soft, soothing, sultry voice crazy things like, "Now we are going to do 'shave the head' watch me and follow along." Then she said, "Next, let's do 'the saw' watch me first, then try the move." "Let's try 'hug a tree' be sure to watch how I do this move." I was laughing really hard at the crazy names for the exercises, but once she demonstrated I could follow along. Or at least make an attempt. (unless I was laughing too hard to move) I realized that as believers some of our lingo must be just as confusing to new Christians. "quiet time, spiritual gifts, surrendered, etc." I like the notion of saying, "watch me first, then you try it." Wouldn't it be great to live life that way? Where at any moment you could say, "Are you having a hard time figuring out this Christ following stuff? Watch me." There are too many times where watching me would get somebody off track. I am asking God that I would keep growing so that my life can be a guide for people who are confused about what it means to follow Christ.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tasting God

Psalm 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!"

I've been thinking on this verse for two days. Two days ago I heard a song and one of the lines was, "My tongue dances in my mouth as I wait to taste of You." That was a little freaky at first till I remembered Ps. 34:8. I thought long and hard about this verse and realized I wasn't really sure what it meant in my life. I prayed for clearer revelation and that's today's story.

I ate lunch down at Swagger's in Anna. I've been working harder at trying to watch what I eat, and I've been working out like crazy. My long term goal is to be physically fit enough to serve God anywhere that He might take me. But I have to admit I wouldn't mind getting skinny in the process. I spent my thirty minute ride down to Anna in two ways: praying for my friend that needs clarity about job vs. ministry and God's big picture for their life; and what healthy thing I could order at Swagger's. (I'm a woman - can't help but multi-task.)

At lunch I ate fried pickles, hamburger steak smothered with gravy, mashed potatoes, and fried okra. Not grilled chicken or a salad with low-fat dressing. But it tasted good. On the way home I was frustrated that I ate about 3000 calories for lunch, when God brought Ps. 34:8 back into my mind. Here's what he said. (Not out loud, I think, just in my head.) Take it for what it's worth.

"Sometimes it is easy to taste my goodness. Sometimes I am the hot fudge sundae you desperately desire. Other times I am that tall glass of ice water you sip for endurance while you are working out. That's when it is easy to see my plans and my purposes. Sometimes my goodness is harder for you to see. When you want fried okra and gravy smothered steak, and I am grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, I am still just as good. Sometimes I am making decisions in your life about what is best for you, and it may not be the thing that you hoped I would do. Do not doubt, I am always good. Sometimes I am that new food you were afraid to try, but turned out to be great. Do not be afraid, just have faith that what I am doing is the best thing."

It made me think a little harder about Ps. 34:8. I can't say that this helps me predict the future for myself or my friends any better, but it reminded me that God is good, all the time. He has the future under control. I just have to stay right on his heels as he leads me down the path.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Retraction

The other day I said that all of Saul's sons died in battle with him. Today as I read 2nd Samuel 2, I found out that I was wrong. One of Saul's sons survived and took the throne over Israel as David took the throne over Judah. In today's passage they fought their first battle for complete control of both. Anyway, just wanted to retract my false information that I said the other day.

An amusing thing happened today while I was working out. I lost it. I was doing this incredibly hard workout video by The Firm. The instructor was smiling and perky. The other girls on the video also NEVER stopped smiling. They all had big, white, shiny teeth. They were tan, with ripped abs. They all had great hair. At one point as I am dripping sweat and gasping for breath I became angry. (It felt a little like road rage) - This is hard. How can they be grinning like it's easy? - I started yelling at the girls on the T.V. (about as useful as yelling at other drivers) It was pretty funny, but I'm seriously struggling with having a positive attitude about working out. I am at that point where I am not seeing lots of results yet, and I am bored with working out by myself, but cannot afford a gym membership. Pray for me to stick it out, this is usually the phase where I give up and quit.

I will be back in school in less than a month. Pray that I will be able to get the house ready to go back on the market by then. Still lots and lots to do.

Reading back through this, I sound a little whiny. Life is good, I just feel a little overwhelmed and discouraged by all that needs to be done. Knowing women, we feel like this most of the time. Life is always too busy to get everything done.

Monday Morning Update 7.20.09

I know I'm late, but sometimes that just the way my life is!

Yesterday was another amazing day at The Crossroads. We unloaded the truck Saturday night so that we would not have the doors open as long at the cheer gym on Sunday morning. We were hopeful that would help with the cooling issues we've been having. It was hard to tell for sure how much that helped. It was significantly cooler outside yesterday, but the gym was still around 88 degrees after services. I enjoyed not having to get all hot and sweaty on Sunday morning, just because we had already done most of the heavy moving and lifting the night before. That was great.

Shawn did a great job this week with the sermon using the Star Trek movie as a starting point for how to live out your destiny in Christ. I don't know if I will remember all the main points since I can't find my notes but here we go:
*Live without fear
*Take risks for God
*Seize Opportunities to make a difference for God

You should be able to listen online soon at We are seeing new faces every week. We are planning to buy some more chairs this week. Is that not awesome! Pray that God will provide for our meeting location as we are swiftly outgrowing our space.

Oh, one more thing. This week we wrote a $5000 check to another church plant to purchase their truck for hauling their stuff. It's one of our goals to be involved in some way in helping a new church plant get started every year. I was excited to see it happen for the first time.