Thursday, December 18, 2008

~2 x 2 anniversary~

4 years ago today I was getting my hair done before I put on my veil and wedding gown. I woke up determined that I didn't care what went wrong that day, as long as Rob and the pastor marrying us were there. The cake came about an hour and a half late, undecorated, and that didn't even bug me. The video guy also came 10 minutes after the ceremony was over, I think, so we don't have a video of the wedding. But the photographer was awesome and so were my friends and family who volunteered to decorate, cut fruit, pass out programs, pick up out-of- country family at the airport, run to Kroger an hour before the pictures to buy new roses when my bouquet was accidentally left in the freezer a minute too long... but it was a glorious day and I was not going to be one of those bride-zillas. I was wearing white flip-flops on a December afternoon, but the "fall"-weather was gorgeous. Nothing could move me.

That week I had graduated from college. Taken 3 final exams. Presented my final thesis before a panel of instructors. Attended our wedding rehearsal + dinner. Kind-of sorta moved out of my apartment. And gotten married! I felt like super woman, but very exhausted.

I should be getting ready because I'm having lunch with my lovely husband today. But I wanted to take some time to thank God for these past 4 years of marriage. So much has happened that it feels like 10 years, haha! but in a good way obviously. Rob is the funniest guy, so encouraging of me, lovingly challenges me when I get out of line, we never let the sun go down if we're mad at each other (which is rare! this sounds like we fight every week, haha), and he supports & protects me. He's also my best friend and I'm still getting to know him more and more every day. I'm a better person because of him. Okay, I better go get ready or I will be fashionably late, as any good Nicaraguan would to a social gathering, but he still loves me! Yep, he's gotten used to that about me, too. :-)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

my name given in the desert is Barca

"*Arabic-babbling-gibberish-rambling-BARCA*", my host mom, ******, said to me. I turned to her 17-year-old daughter, ****** (the "y" pronounced like the "dg" in bridge, kindoff...) and asked in Spanish, "¿Qué dijo tu mamá?" (what did your mom say). ****** responded, "She's given you a name...your name now is Barca." I was even more perplexed, "what does it mean?" ****** smiled, "It means good person in Arabic." AH! good, that sounds better than what it means in Spanish: BOAT! Does the melfa make me look fat or something? ;-)

I was sharing with a new friend, Deborah, this evening about my trip to the ****** Refugee Camps in ******, North Africa. I like it when people have specific questions to ask about the trip than when someone simply asks, "so, tell me about your trip..." Deborah was very specific and I was quite thankful! Because usually, I don't even know where to begin. I feel overwhelmed with the images, the sounds, the up-and-down emotions, the smells, the injustice of a people, and it's so difficult to convey. If I could just hand them over my journal entries for every day of those 12 days, then they would begin getting an idea, than what my random ramblings nowadays attempt to communicate.

15 november, 2008, ****** camps, ******

Yesterday we went to the dunes and it was so peaceful. I listened to Nina Landis' song, God of the Heavens, over and over watching the amazing sky. She sings about listening to God, rising up, and taking action against injustice. The sand was cool and soft, so cool that I lay on it and stared up at the sky, with my Ipod on repeat. Tiffany came over and sat next to me. She wrote a letter to her daughter and thot of me. She read it out loud and made me cry. I saw a butterfly on the sand. Took a picture of it. Some people played baseball with the ******. The drivers drove insanely fast and raced each other thru the sand and rocks on the non-existent road. I held on to the backseat of the Toyota Landcruiser fiercely. Mike asked, "is this your first desert ride?" I must have looked scared.

This morning I woke up and saw a different sky above me. It was the night sky. I saw a couple of shooting starts in the dark, blue sky. It was already full of the brightest starts ever. The moon was full and super white and bright. No need for a flashlight to walk to the squatty-potty. I've never slept under the desert sky.


I'm sitting next to ****** who is wearing a maroon red mulfa. Captivating eyes. Gentle hands. Happy smile. Writing a letter to an American friend for someone to take back. She's got the Kingdom in her eyes. She wants to tell others about her religion and that's why she's learning other languages. The misunderstandings make her sad, she says. She knows God's love, mercy, and forgiveness is here everyday available to all. Creation tells of His glory. Amazing what I'm hearing. She's 19 and wants to marry a man who shares her dreams: to adopt orphans. She seems like a normal girl to me.

We're getting ready to leave tonight. I'm mostly packed, ready to go home... and not. ****** has a sad looking face. Her wrinkles around her mouth aren't showing because she's not laughing. She LOVED the raw honey and home-made peach jam I brought her from home. I'm going to miss her waltzing in my room a hundred times each day and asking, "Labes??!!" (how are you in ****** arabic)

Monday, November 03, 2008

~remembering a legend~

Yesterday I received the tragic news that one of my heroes in life went to be with the Lord. Like the apostle Paul says, he became "absent in body, but present with the Lord". After crying and mourning for a while, I decided, "wait a minute, he's happy! and wait another minute, this man truly lived for God!" Was there something this man hadn't done?

Married a beautiful godly woman who kept him on his toes. Worked incessantly to be the best in his field (water engineering, just google his name). Traveled all over the world. Did everything with excellence and every ounce of work that he labored was done as unto God. In the midst of my mourning heart, I've decided to try to also rejoice for a life well lived and count myself blessed to have met a man like him, a mentor and example to learn from.

One of the funny things I remember about Otto is that I called him "Mr.Otto" one time in an e-mail. He was so smart and intelligent that at first he intimidated me and I was very formal in my greetings. He corrected me by replying to my e-mail and said, "please call me Otto. Furthermore, it is grammatically incorrect to say "mister" and then a first name." I loved his matter-of-factness in that instant! And I was amazed that Dr.Helweg would let *me* just call him "Otto".

Otto was the only one who could make our office staff scramble like crazy if he was about to lead a meeting. He would come into everyone's cubicle at 5 'till and remind you of the time. And by-golly, you dropped whatever you were doing when he did that, grabbed notepad and pen, and ran to where the meeting would take place. For those of you who know what the term "Mosaic-time" means, you know it is unheard of for anything to start on time. If Otto had you scheduled to speak in his meeting agenda, be sure you didn't go over your carefully allotted time, or he would gently, but firmly cut you off and let you know time was up. Like he did to CESAR one time, when he said, "CARLOS, we've got to move on to the next person, your 4 minutes are up." I almost fell on the floor laughing when his loving wife leaned over, horrified, and whispered in his ear, "his name is CESAR, not CARLOS."

I loved this 77-year-old Navy-man who was no-nonsense and would get things done in a timely manner and with utmost excellence. He inspired a group of young adults one time by making a case for never separating "secular" work from "holy" work, since, he noted, Adam was given the first job in the garden and that was to work. Therefore do everything you do as if it was for God, and God would be most high exalted when you did it. When he shared, this stiff, military man cried, and I couldn't believe it! I don't think I ever saw him cry again, but I realized this was a deep issue in his relationship with God. No wonder God entrusted him with such a genius brain, to use it all for service to God. His words resonated with me and became the building blocks of an important personal move in my own life.

Last year he spent a whole year in Rwanda doing amazing water engineering projects with the government, building wells, fixing old wells, and creating the country's first-ever water infrastructure. Most men his age would have said, "I'm done. I deserve to rest and retire." Not Otto. He didn't find evidence of "retirement" in the Bible, so he kept using his amazing brain to bless individuals, communities, and whole 3rd-world countries. Living Water International will never be the same without him (in my personal, humble opinion). He visited so many countries and lived abroad for so many years, it'd be hard to keep up with all the lives he exponentially impacted. His resume was pages and pages long of honors and awards.

There are a couple of other funny Otto moments where you wouldn't believe what came out of his mouth, but it was hilarious. I'll just have to leave that for another time. His home was always open for young adults. He was always open to talk about deep things. He had a dry sense of humour, but to me it was hilarious. I could see right through him, to see the heart of gold that he had for God, when others might have been intimidated with his stiffness, haha. He was all about using your life to impact the Kingdom of God. I want to be like him when I grow up. I want to live my life, whatever that is made up of, to the fullest, using every ounce of what God has entrusted me to live for God. To do even the most mundane, daily tasks with excellence, not because anyone else is watching, but because God is pleased when you do your best. Only then, will God entrust you with bigger things.

These are just a few thoughts on Otto's life and how it honored God & blessed me. Pray for his lovely wife Virginia, that the loss of her beloved one would not be too much to bear.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

better write something quick

SO! hello? anybody out there? *thumping finger on the mike* 1, 2, 3, check. Well, I have neglected writing anything in the last few weeks. I guess this new job and life in general (like sleeping in late in the mornings) has kept me from the written word. I don't have much to say except that I'm also procrastinating right now. I should be writing a support letter for my trip to Algeria, but like the queen of procrastination that I am, I find anything else to do instead of what I should do. The problem is that I'd like to begin the opening of this letter a certain way, but I'm considering the consequences, and the little voice inside me says, "be wise". So, on to other things...

So instead let me congratulate my "little brother" (who's like a foot taller than me) on turning twenty-seven last Monday. The only reason I still call him my little brother is to remind him that I'm older. ha! My brother Ali is the coolest 27-year old brother you could ever have. Thinking back to the fights growing up, the unnecessary arguments, the petty words said to each other, makes me laugh now. You know that saying, "you don't know what you got, till it's gone"? well, when we both were gone to college is probably when we became better friends and appreciated each other more. Since then we've grown, matured, challenged each other, got upset at each other, forgiven each other, and most important learn to love each other better (loving others the way THEY want to be loved, not the way YOU want to love them). I enjoy talking on the phone with Ali cuz he always says something to make me laugh, but also he always has encouraging words where God speaks directly to me, through him (and don't tell him I say this, cuz you know, he's "little" bro). We both are *tight* now, much different than the hormonal teens we once were.

The latest on my bro is that he's been recommended by the pastor of his church as a candidate to be an elder. My initial first thoughts as a protective sister were, "oh no!!!", because after working in paid-full-time-ministry for several years, I knew the stress & pain (and joy, too, but more pain) this would bring into his life, marriage, etc. But of course, it's an honor to know he's even been considered for such a critical position in the Body of Christ. This has caused much *discussion* and controversy with their elder board because of his young age, so it's up to men to figure that out with God. Good thing it doesn't depend on me! So, when they figure it out, it'd be fun to say that my brother, the elder, is really not the elder of the sibling bunch. He still has to mind me, you know. haha! He really doesn't have to mind me, he does just fine without me!

And now, a blast to the past picture from the 80's when we were visiting Acapulco, in a boat headed to see the "virgin Mary of Guadalupe" statue somewhere in the bottom of the sea (we never saw it, we didn't get a refund for the boat ride either).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mafalda says: *present* yourself to make a change

I've worked a night shift (2-11pm) and an early morning 8-hour shift at the hospital in the last 24 hours. Today I literally only sat down for 20 minutes to inhale my lunch. So when I got home I doctored my foot blisters and decided to sit on the couch and read nothing too heavy to rest my brain (and my spine!). I grabbed a comic strip book of one of my favorite cartoons ever (right there with Snoopy): Mafalda. I bought this book in Spain a few years ago to remember this cute little 5 year old Argentinian girl with an inquisitive little mind, who always gets her foot stuck in her mouth, continually asks her parents deep existentialist questions, but also makes you laugh at her innocence! For a 5 year old, she is deeply concerned about humanity, world peace, and rebels against social injustices.

The following is the translation of one of the strips. "Guys! It turns out that if you don't hurry up and change the world, it ends up changing you!" I'm NOT trying to overspiritualize everything, but the strip made me think of Romans 12:1-2 and I had a faith-growing moment meditating on this verse, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

There it is. God in the comic strip. All truth is God's truth! ~Inés

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

avocados, simplicity, thankfulness, new job

My friend Cari works in the slums of Uganda with orphans and 60 year old women who can't read. I was reading her newsletter today and I had to read this about 4 times because it cut thru my heart. Read it slowly so you won't miss what you're supposed to catch. Try to picture it in color:

"Right now, both the literacy classes and the Bible studies meet in an open field under an avocado tree."

OPEN field. UNDER. An AVOCADO TREE. 60 year old women. Some who have never attended school. [This is yet another reason that supports my pet peeve of people not driving places (like for Bible studies or fellowships or to be with friends), because it's "too far away"]. My husband is reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. One of these habits is being proactive. I think these Ugandans under the Avocado Tree are pretty proactive to me. Pretty determined. They will get places one day. Especially the 60 year olds. It's pretty simple: you can't read, you're a woman who depends on other people, you never went to school or never finished, and now there's classes under the avocado tree... what makes you stop trying? what obstacle seems too large? how easily do you give up? do you bust down closed doors or just think, oh well, it's a closed door, it's too hard to try...?

I just got a shot of determination all of a sudden! Because of the avocado tree and the determined women sitting under it in the heat. Which leads me to giving away my shoes. I know, how does this thought connect? I've been giving away my nice things lately. Because it doesn't really hurt when you give away the things you don't like anymore. I'm trying to simplify again. I don't need flip-flops in all different colors. I need to finish all my body lotions before I buy another one. I have to wear all my nice clothes that have been hanging in my closet for ages, because I paid money for them! So I dress up for no reason at all. What if I get hit by a truck tomorrow? Here I've been waiting for a *special* day to wear these nice skirts and dresses? Good grief! Just wear it and look pretty. Today is special because anything could happen tomorrow. Life is not guaranteed. Turn off the lights when you're not using them. Shut the tap water if you're brushing your teeth. I recently actually started using the towel holders for our wet towels after we bathe, because having *decorative* towels on the towel holders that weren't used suddenly felt insanely impractical to ME (i'm not calling you insane if you like decorative towels, because I love creativity and color in the home). Buy generic brands. Recycle. Switch to green energy-saving light bulbs. Save money so you can give a lot of it away to those who need it.

So let me jump around some more. I'm just thankful for all that I have. I'm thankful for a new job. Gas in my car. A rooftop over my head. HEALTH. Clothes that protect me from the elements. Food. A spare bedroom for people who need it. Opportunity to work. Health benefits. And so many more things...

I'm not saying that *things* are important or above people. But when I look around and see all those *things* that have been entrusted to me, that make my life easier and more comfortable, I have to give thanks to God for them, even if it seems silly. Because, if you're not thankful for the little things, why would God give you big things to be entrusted with? Again- NOT that I'm aiming for big things. But you know what I mean. This is not about being materialistic, simply being thankful for even the darnest, stupid, little things that have been given to us as a blessing, in order for us to be a blessing to others. That's the catch.

So today, I'm thankful for the cooler shade provided by Avocado trees.
God, life, and learning. All under an avocado tree. Oh joy!


Friday, July 18, 2008

God forges us into His image and we forge things

Our friend Mike Deibert started a Vocational School in Nicaragua to help (and mentor) young men learn a trade in welding, blacksmithing, working with metal, and fixing diesel engines. I've been amazed at how much he has accomplished in only a few years time. He literally went around the USA looking for donated tools, scrap metal, and whatever else you need for a welding school-- filled a container and sent it to Managua. I'm sure there's more to it but I don't know all the details!

A few weeks ago he sent another of his amazing updates on the school and his students. Here is what he wrote. It spoke to me in so many different levels. A picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps when you read him and look at the picture he's pointing at, it will speak to you and your life in a way that my words can't.

For me, it represented: hope & congratulations! (with an exclammation mark). As I look back to the past several years, I can get bogged down with the failures & mistakes I've made, while overshadowing what God has done in me and others thru the trials. But when I saw this picture God straight up said to me, "Inés, look where you have come from! Imagine what more I will do in you and through you! You're doing great kid! Keep on keepin' on!"

Okay, I hope the picture speaks to your heart. YOU and I are truly in God's hands and on our way to all that God has for us.... Mike writes: Things have been progressing at the vocational school. The first accomplishment I’d like to share with you is about one of my students, Jaime. Jaime is one of my students who has been with me since the start of the vocational school. He has shown great willingness to learn and exceptional leadership among the other students. In the picture you can see some of Jaime’s progress. You’ll notice two chairs in the picture. The chair on the right is one that Jaime designed and built six months ago. The chair on the left is one that he designed and built two weeks ago. Can you see the progress? Can you see how far he has come? I am very proud of him and believe he is on his way to being all God has for him.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Even a good house on solid rock needs a little water

My brother and sister-in-law came to visit us from San Antonio a couple of weekends ago. We had a fabulous time visiting with all of our humongous family, walking the Big Dam Bridge (a bridge over the dam; what did you think I said?), talking and talking. Ali began telling us a story about their house. A few months ago they had noticed a crack on the floor tile but didn't think anything of it. Later they realized that the crack was spreading across the house and even going up on the wall. Come to find out, an inspector later, they found out the foundation had cracked because the soil around it was dry...too dry...even for Texas weather. I can imagine my brother wide-eyed and blinking, "hmmm....I guess a year of not watering the yard and just letting nature take care of itself, didn't do us any good."

So a few days ago I was driving around thinking about how spiritually dry I have felt for some time now. My brother's house came to mind. I also reminisced about a sermon my father preached 2 weekends ago. It was about the wise man who built his house on a rock vs. the foolish man who built his on sand. We all know how that story goes. But I never thought of the opposite possibility. Rather than, "the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-- and great was its fall." (matthew 7:27)... There *can* be such a thing as not enough H2O! Hmmm..."there was a drought in Texas, my brother was saving on the water bill, the sun scorched the soil, and it started to get to the foundation; and it cracked-- a great, BIG old crack, like all things BIG in Texas!"

I meditated on this while I was driving. You can have a great foundation, but how amazing that the soil's humidity around you can still affect you to the point where your walls crack? So I began thinking that for some time now (more like years), I hadn't been fed on a regular basis in one way that I expected or needed. My previous job description kept me from personally munching on a Sunday morning sermon, meanwhile regurgitating a simultaneously interpreted sermon into another language for someone else to think about. I stretched myself in ways that led to my detriment & deterioration over seven years (only listening to perhaps a dozen sermons without interpreting). True, I did self-feed thru inductive Bible study and learned from others in informal settings. But I realize how much *I* (Inés) need & love the Word of God taught to me, a little, ignorant sheep, from a shepherd. I think back to when Jesus asked Peter 3 times if Peter loved Him, and Peter responded, "Lord, you know I *like* you.", and Jesus would reply to that, "then feed my sheep." What an intense command to Peter! It required not just that Peter *like* Jesus, but that he *love* Jesus, as well as the sheep he would feed! (And do you know who taught me this truth?? Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, 8 years ago! And I never forget.)

So, I'm going to this new church where I actually get to sit & listen, and the only thing that catches my heart is the Word of God taught in power, in love, with the Spirit's anointing, and it's like I've never heard these words before! My "giggles, hmm's and my amen's" must be surprising and maybe even annoying to those sitting around me. But you don't understand, when you're thirsty and you get a cold, glistening glass of water, it's like no better drink in the world! I feel like a little child hearing for the first time. I'm sure there are other issues that contribute to this melancholic mood, but I'm taking it one step at a time, and this is one thing I've figured out.

The Lord's promise to us who are thirsty,
with dry, cracked foundations,
with having received insult and injury, is this:

"And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
from doing your own pleasure on my Holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight...and honor it...then you will take delight in the Lord."

Isaiah 58:11-14.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

i'm having black & red flashbacks

So, many of you know I grew up in Nicaragua. Or, like my husband likes to put it, "she grew up in Communism", as he lovingly makes fun of my stories about when we only had oatmeal and water to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the Revolution in 1979. The Sandinistas took over and after that, the unwritten rule was that you never wore the colors red and black together, unless, you know, you were with *them*. Many women were angry because those were great fashion combination colors. But, you just didn't want to be associated with the little, tattered red/black flags hanging on TV antennas on people's roofs.

I saw on facebook that many of my high school friends were joining this "march for democracy" in Managua yesterday and I was ultra-curious about what this was. (My friends don't *march* on the *streets*). So I was surprised to see that people of all socio-economic classes, ages, and political affiliations, had joined the "blue and white" march (for the colors of our flag). They're all protesting the current socialist president's pact with the liberal ex-president who happens to be convicted for money-laundering (I went to school with his son). They're protesting against hunger (the price of beans has tripled in the last few months and some can only afford to eat beans twice a week now, THIS is horrendous in my eyes, haha), and they're also protesting against this institutional dictatorship. So women holding babies on their hips, old men, young, ex-revolutionaries, feminist women, bohemian poets, idealist students, the bourgeoisie, all backed up the "blue and white" flag. And this ladies and gentlemen, is a step forward for our country!

I found this funny picture that only Nicaraguans would understand, but I think if you love sarcasm you can still catch a glimpse of how spunky this united march was. Use your imagination and guess *who* in Nicaragua is being *sent* to Venezuela. The little girl alligator is his wife. (you can click on each picture to enlarge)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Happy May Birthdays! Stacey, Inés, Sadie, Sara Lydia

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shut y'er mouth sometimes....

When do you hold your tongue and when do you speak your mind? I found this quote very encouraging the last few weeks of my life. My father has told me before something along the lines of, "being courteous doesn't take away from being courageous Ines". Meaning, you're not weak or a *woos* for not saying what your flesh wants to say. It takes way more effort for me to hold my tongue, believe it or not! so, for those of you thinking about the tongue and whether it improves the silence or not, here's a quote from somewhere in the Holocaust Museum, which encouraged ME at this time of my life...

"A well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech." ~Martin Fraquhar Tupper

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Downward Spiral: descending into greatness

I heard a deep sermon recently about one of my favorite passages in Scripture, one that I had no idea has been called, "the Philippian hymn", out of Phil. 2:5-11. I LOVE how God's Word continues to surprise me to no end. Here's a positive way to see someone going in a downward spiral:

Jesus was on a *downward journey*. He begins at the highest of the highs. He steps down and makes himself nothing (v.7) As humans, we have a tendency to use a position of power or authority and use it for our own good. We put others down to make ourselves look good and feel better. Yet few use it for the benefit of others. I love it how Jesus doesn't cease being God, He simply chooses not to use His divine right, and walks in the flesh, and conquers it.

So then he places Himself into the position of least influence. Born out of wedlock to a young girl engaged to a man who's thinking of leaving her. Can you imagine the neighbors talking? But His journey of obedience pays off. His humiliation to the point of death, and death on a cross no less, brings about His exultation.

We love to get to the point of His *exultation*- big word, huh? We fix our eyes on that prize. Yet the dirty journey is where this glory is found. Jesus descends into greatness. It's not a cosmic reward package with balloons and fireworks and warm/fuzzy feelings. It's kind of messy, painful, frustrating, sad, humiliating (he hung naked on the cross people, we don't see that in the movies...), heart-breaking, friends leave him, friends betray him, his own half-brothers doubt Him.

On another wavelength...what if we took Jesus' words seriously? I think the preacher said Shane Claiborne stated this in his Irresistible Revolution book. What if we really sold everything and gave it to the poor? What if we go to people who are forgotten & others think they're insignificant? What if we give up our right to *positions* and actually hang out with broken people? What if we leave our desks behind and walk in a revolutionary way? (Revolutionaries do not lead from behind a desk, Erwin McMannus).

My friend Amos went out into the streets today. He asked a man smoking a joint what he would look for in a church. The guy said something about feeling welcomed right where he's at. And as he smoked his joint, he said something about someone needing to do something about these young kids getting into trouble. He takes a puff. Ha! nice.

Back to Jesus. Empty yourself of your right to be right. Humble yourself like Jesus. Take on this attitude. Do what He says. Walk to actually match what you say you believe. Become last. Actually serve. Rejoice when you are forgotten and another gets the recognition. Rejoice when you don't respond in the flesh. Do not cling to your title. Be compassionate towards all people. Spend time with the forgotten ones or the socially unstable. Listen to those in pain. Offer your time.

The cross bids you to come and die and find that this is how you truly live.
This is descending into greatness.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Lord is my shepherd...

When I was in college ministry, I did my own version of Psalm 23 after a breakup with this guy-- I loved how God brought out beauty from ashes in that situation that was not catastrophic at all. Now that trial seems so far away and small, but back then it was heart-breaking. Thinking about that makes me look forward with hope that the trials I face today will one day seem a thing of the past. I haven't posted in a while but a few days ago I was meditating on Psalm 23 again and my pain wrought out these words from my heart...we'll see if I can finish it:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want...
Jesus is kind, gentle, not forceful, not manipulative, not angry, not prideful, never unforgiving. Thank you. He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we walk in His light, His presence will destroy our darkness, if we give Him the opportunity to repent and be changed.

In His presence there is fullness of joy, so therefore I have all that I need. I shall not be in want of the fruit of the Spirit, because in His presence I find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self control. I must let Him lead me as my shepherd in order to not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
I'm having trouble in this aspect. My heart races. My mind feels overwhelmed. I can't stop thinking. I can't stop replaying words, hurtful actions. I can't stop feeling fear. I'm longing for the place of quiet rest. I wish I could go on a silent retreat for a week to unload all these negative emotions. I need restoration.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake...
I know he guides me. Reminds me of that old hymn "he leadeth me"- so old, so hymn-ny, so real. I know His hand is holding me. Strength will rise when I wait upon the Lord. His name is above my name. Above every other name. We place people on pedestals, yet the highest cannot reach Jesus' toenails. His name sake-- Lord remind me of how holy your name is! I want to live for it. I trust he knows the path, though painful, I know I'm where he needs me, in the path of pain, purging, cleansing, sanctifying.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...
My valley includes me, the world, the enemy, and other people. In my valley I have the option of walking and responding in my flesh when others hurt me. My valley includes anger, pride, manipulation, demeaning & controlling behavior, arrogance, aggressiveness, lack of humility, unforgiveness, disunity. I feel attacked by these, my heart shrinks in pain, but I have the ability to respond with the same attitude. Yet, I shall be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because a [wo]man's wrath does not bring about the righteousness of God. I don't have to go out searching for 'evil'- it's all around me.

...for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
I think of my shadow that follows me around- he's closer than that. What a comforting thought: HE is with me. Have you ever walked next to a celebrity or a really important person and you think, wow! I'm walking by so-and-so. It makes you feel important, like you're someone, like you're in the presence of royalty. Jesus is with me. Blessed thought! He's WITH me. FOR me. IN me. BY me. AROUND me. BEFORE me. BEHIND me. ABOVE me. There is no place where God is not.

Rod? Staff? Have to look those up. Seems like I can lean on them.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies...
Don't see the table yet. I just know it's not flesh and blood.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows...
My head, like I said, feels so clouded, burdened, heavy. My cup overflows with friends though. With love, encouragement, strength, wise words, prayers, boldness, courage, not a spirit of fear. I need my friends in my cup, like never before. The body of Christ.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Jesus is coming back! With the trumpet sound, with the voice of the archangel, with a loud roar. He alone is just. He alone is faithful. He is alone is worthy. Heaven will be sweet in His presence.

that's psalm

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mute and Cute...

Her card reads...

"On vocal rest - can't talk - (strained/swollen vocal chords)"

Two days (18 hours) of interpreting will do it. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sukuun- an unusual lesson in Arabic

I should be sleeping. I woke up early and have been running non-stop all day. Writing. Translating. Voice recording. Shopping at Sam's (oh joy). Eating a granola bar for dinner. Talking. Listening to music. Smiling. Washing laundry (not by the river though...*phew*). Cooking. Thinking. Driving. Classical music to calm the soul. Practicing my Arabic homework, right to left, many-many "HA-ja-KHa-ha" variations of the same "h" sound to me.

So this is my one thought for the night. I learned a "marking" in Arabic. It's called a sukuun. It's not a word nor a letter. Not a vowel and not a consonant either. It's not even a sound. So why bother to learn it? It's a small little circle the size of the top of a needle. You write it on top of a letter and it means "silence, stillness, the absence of sound". My jaw dropped a little as I stared at my beautiful Egyptian teacher. She must have thought, "what is YOUR problem looking at me weird like that? is this too hard to grasp?" I was just amazed. I found God (or Allah) in my Arabic lesson today. I found a small little reminder in the middle of my crazy day that means, "shhhhh....." Silence. Stillness. You want to jump and make a sound, but just stop, stop the vowel and stop the consonant. Don't say any more! Like someone placing their finger on their mouth to call for silence. Like someone covering your mouth with their palm. Be still. And listen to the next letter. The next sound. The silence in the middle of the word, speaks volumes!

So with that, I go to bed and think about the small little circle called the sukuun. My dryer is making noises, but I will try and think of sukuun. Perfect lesson right before our Silent Prayer retreat tomorrow. Buenas noches, Inés

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." Isaiah 30:14

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Wonderful Surprise Visit!

Yesterday, I got a call from Erica Schroeder, a dear friend of mine from seminary who out of the blue says that she's in Little Rock this week! Too cool! Ines and I had her and my mom over for dinner (followed by a visit to Shakey's). We all enjoyed catching up on the last 5 years and laughing about old times.

Erica is the first seminary friend of mine that I've seen since leaving Chicago in July 2003. She now lives in Memphis and is getting married this summer in Tuscaloosa, AL (only 30 mins away from my mother-in-law's family). Ines and I look forward to more spontaneous visits and fun times!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Un nuevo amanecer

I'm going thru a difficult time. And what better time of the year to suffer yet a little more in life, than on Good Friday, when the ultimate sacrifice truly, really happened. My pain. How can it compare to my Lord's? It doesn't. BUT- my pain: was carried BY my Lord! so on Friday (well, you know, not quite 2008 years ago), my Lord was carrying this pain on the cross. He looks down on me today and reminds me, "I know. I carried it. I was there. Remember? I know how painful it is. The burden of the whole world was on my shoulders. BELIEVE me. I felt it. The sins you committed against me. And also the sins committed against you. Now, please let me continue carrying it for you. No need for you to be nailed on the cross."

So my wise father tells me, as hot tears run down my face, in Spanish of course it sounds more beautiful, "Every great sunrise, has a really dark night before." It doesn't quite rhyme in English, "Cada buen amanecer, tiene un gran anochecer." So, I'm looking forward to that dawn of hope. Sunrise that brings life. And I'm SO glad that God has brought me not only eternal life, but abundant life on earth (and the best part is that the Greek truly means, "soul life"). So, though my circumstances are painful, I wasn't promised happy circumstances, I was promised a soul full of hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, temperance, self-control. Oh Lord- do I need patience and self-control today and the rest of this year!! Crucify my flesh Lord and let me be risen with You today! I desperately need you because you are risen. Help me rise above.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Top 10 Tithe Check Memo notes...

10. Gross, not net—as usual!
9. Hush Money
8. Casino winnings!
7. For voice lessons for worship team!
6. Thanks for last night…
5. This equals 12%
4. Don’t cash before Wednesday
3. $1 less for every minute past noon
2. Please don’t spend on crack, again.
1. NOT for children’s ministry!

Monday, March 10, 2008

I am a liar sometimes

Last Spring a bunch of us sisters dug into 1 John and spent hours and hours listening and imagining all that the apostle John had "seen and heard and touched" concerning the Word of life. Like when you know someone who knows someone famous and you're in awe at their 'luck' of meeting them and taking a picture with them. Or like when I met the Queen of Spain and presented her with a bouquet of flowers to welcome her into our little developing country, Nicaragua...I was so star-struck that all I could say was "Welcome to Nicaragua, Your Majesty!" and then kissed her on both cheeks as is tradition. Then I just stared in awe of this woman of Greek-descent who was literally like one of those fairy tale stories with a crown and everything, and couldn't say anything else, but smiled really big! The little nun who was standing next in line to me quickly bumped me out of the way as if saying, "okay little girl, my turn if that's all you can say". Watch out for those nuns....That's my 5 seconds of fame! I've got the picture somewhere.....*oooh* where is it? I must scan it so you can laugh. I've got bangs, braces, blue/white suit representing the colors of the Nicaraguan flag, and cheesy WHITE pantyhose *ugh* But I can say I've seen, I've heard her voice, and I've touched her Majesty's cheek and I'll never forget that at 12 years old!

So when John said, "my eyes have seen Him, my ears have heard Him, my hands have touched Him...." I'm jealous! and I wish I had someone to picture in my head! So we began the study claiming that there were 2 themes in 1 John: love God and love others. But by the time we got halfway through, or maybe even before, we realized there was only one: love God=loving others. You can't live out one without the other. So here's the verse that shook me the most,

20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God
should love his brother also (1 John 5)

I tried to find an exception or righteous justification for not being *able* to do this sometimes. But it's crystal clear. If you can't love a brother or sister, you don't love God. Sometimes we pray and pray and romantically beg of God, "oh God I want to love you mooore! show me!! show me!!" and it's clear here, "then love others". "No! but those others aren't more important than you! I want to love you!" Honey, did you hear what I said? "Oh God! help me love you without having to deal with those people!! I just want to love you!!oh Lord this world needs your love, have you seen the news lately? ohhh! time to not do anything at all!" and we miss it by a mile.

Another vision that God showed me is that if I want to see God, I should be able to see Him when someone else is loved in His name. If I love another person in word and deed, God is manifested right then and there. I had never seen it quite like that....more of God through each other. I find God in Scripture, in nature, in music, in a poem, in pretty much anything on my own without anyone's help-- but I forget to look for Him in the desperate eyes of a hungry child, and then further in alleviating that hunger-- there's God! for me and for that child! together we see Him, but apart we cannot see Him, or only see a glimpse of Him. More of God though each other.

More of God by loving and serving another. Who are your "another's"? do they all look like you? do they have to meet certain criteria in order for you to love them? Last week my friend Amy shared how God told her years ago to house a girl who was a drug addict, in her home. She said she felt inadequate to minister to her, but that she clearly heard God's voice telling her to do this. So off she went housing this "other" person. The girl had never been loved like that by anybody, because she had already burnt so many bridges. Some time later she came to Christ, was mentored by someone who had walked in her shoes, got married to a believing man, and now he's been called to be a minister.....all because Amy loved this other person. That just rocks my world and leaves me in awe. I've seen Him! My ears have heard Him! My hands have touched Him! Love appeared! Amy was not a liar like the verse above says! She claimed, "I love God, I hear His voice, I will obey it, and I will love this girl". The rest is up to God. What stops us from loving? results? laziness? prejudice? flat out disobedience? complacency? envy? jealousy? anger? pride? lies?

I love this piece of song from good ol' Ross King,
I'm thinking back to when He said the sinless shall be first to cast the stone,
so maybe....I'll just lay these rocks of condemnation down, and that's why Grace is
not just for me, it's for everyone...


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Loving the Blockers - Needs list

We are collecting donations of your used/new items for the Blocker family of 7, returning from Tunis to the USA on March 5 (but will arrive in Little Rock the weekend of March 8-9), for a furlough of 6 months. If you can donate any of the items below, please leave a comment with what you can provide. You will be much appreciated! Items will be collected at Mosaic, Mon-Thurs, 9am-5pm, leave at the front desk for Ines (562-3336)


Spatulas - got it
pasta servers - got it
measuring cups - Alana Leiva
ice cream scoop - Alana Leiva
oven holders - got it

storage and freezer bags - Sarah A
aliminum foil - Linda Miles
plastic wrap - Sarah A.
canisters for flour/sugar - Beverly Chesser

muffin pan - Kara G.
cookie sheets - Kara G.
pizza pan/stone - Kara G.

coffee maker - Kim Roth

Dish deter (Amy B) /dishwasher detergent -
laundry detergent - Melanie Li
all purpose cleaners - Amy B.
kitchen towels
wash cloths - Amy B.
bath towels - Linda Miles (need a few more)
broom, dust pan - Melanie Li
vacuum cleaner - Ines
Linens for (2) queen (1 set -Alana),
(3) twin -(2 sets-Alana)
and (1) double bed sizes

additional random furniture:
dressers or plastic storage drawers for kids clothing.
desk or table for a computer - Amber Mickey
TWO CARSEATS! (gracie is almost 4; sam is 2)- Ines/Dana
Bikes or skates for the bigger kids
Toys for sam and gracie ( 4 and 2 yr old) - got some, could use few more
Amber's idea for Shawna:
Girly lotions and soaps-- Amber (great idea!)

"wow...i'm overwhelmed to have received this email soliciting our needs. again, thank you so much." Shawna on behalf of the B7

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

alpha loves omega

My father jokes around our house about my youngest sister, Sara Lydia, who is 1 yr old, and I (*ehem* I won't tell you my age, but sufficeth to know that I'm the eldest of the 7). Due to our age difference and birth order, he calls me "Alpha" and the little one "Omega". He claims that his child-bearing years have come to a close in a funny coincidence. "Omega" was born one day after my b-day and that closes the baby factory in full circle. I don't think they planned that, it just happened.

So, while my father Ali, who should be also known as "Abraham", is getting senior discounts at IHOP and Kroger pharmacies, Omega and I have the grandest of times when we're together. You see, 7 kids in a bunch can fight over the attention of the parents. So, I just gladly give Omega the attention she doesn't get because she can barely talk. (that's a joke about her not getting attention...) And for that, she likes me a lot. She can barely say my name, and thus calls me something that sounds like, "Ness", like the Lock-NESS monster. But I dig that.

Today my heart melted when my stepmom said that Omega was eating in her high chair the other day and heard some noise outside. Thinking that it was me coming in thru the garage door, like I'm used to, she popped her eyes open and exclaimed, "NESSS!!?" Like, could it possibly be that girl that can't stop kissing me and holding me and always asks me if I want to sleepover at her house? Sadly, they inform her it's not Alpha. To which she drops her head in her criss-crossed arms and cries as if it's the end of the world. Okay- maybe I exaggerated! But she DID cry I was told! What a thought...that a 1 year old could remember me past her short-term memory. That's just got to be the warmest feeling in my heart ever!

So, you don't have kids? Me neither. That's why I borrow other people's to find joy in those little faces with little questions and little worries and little anxieties and little problems. As I grow older and forget the joy of being young and innocent like those early years, little Omega reminds me of those days when you just have no worries except to eat, sleep, and get your diaper changed. And you just trust that someone's going to do it. As I consider my future, every day can be a struggle if I let my flesh worry about what I will eat tomorrow (not so much about getting a diaper changed, *cough-cough*). I'm really trying to submit my flesh to God's will in my life, and with it trust that my Dad up there will take care of me. Isn't that hard for some of you?

And again, if you don't have kids, mentor a child or visit a hospital where they need loving arms to hold babies who are in critical care...something about touch and healing babies and such as.

"o Lord, you have searched me and known understand my thought from afar...How precious also are your thoughts to me o God! How vast is the sum of them!...When I awake I am still with you." psalm 139...


Friday, February 08, 2008

my kingdom fall. His Kingdom has come.

I had lunch yesterday with Virginia, a delightful woman who has traveled all over the world, but lately made her home in Rwanda for one year. She and her husband helped to build wells to provide clean water to Rwandans- so that women wouldn't have to travel 4+ hours away to get murky, muddy water to cook and wash, among other provisions of having a clean water well nearby...Someone asked Virginia what word God was giving her, and she reached down into her pocket looking for something. She finally found it and pulled out the picture of "her". It was a lady eagle perched on a tree and stretching her wings while looking down at Virginia, sitting on her back porch, the Rwandan blue sky in the background. The lady eagle came to visit her often while she was out sipping tea. Virginia said something about, "stretching your wings and flying" that caught my heart... She's probably in her late 70's and still longs to "stretch her wings and fly". She captivated me with her passion and her tender smile as she said that.

Eagles are beautiful indeed. I saw 7 of them soaring and gliding smoothly in the skies of northwest arkansas during a young adults retreat a couple of years ago. At that time, God gave me a similar word like Virginia's, to "spread my wings and fly". I saw them unafraid, confident that the wind was under their wings and it would push them up or hold them almost still in one spot. The green hills below them never dared to think that the eagles would just fall off from the sky. The eagles were trusting their Creator to do what they were made for: fly. They got their wings from Him. They got their good portion of wind every day. He charted their way to fly. Sometimes with their wings flapping gently, sometimes with them almost still, gliding away. I think sometimes I barely believe that I can fly, so then I end up just flapping my wings despairingly & not concentrating on flying, but instead on not falling. There's a difference.

I don't believe that the only person we disappoint, when we don't fly like we were made to, is ourself. When we are blessed to fly, it is not just for us, it is to teach others to fly. Whatever God has suited you with, it's never just for you, it's for you to make Him look good, and for you to bless others. If He gives you trials & consolation, it is for you to console others. If He gives you money, it is for you to alleviate another. If He gives you encouragement, love, attention, affection, it is never just for you to keep. If He gives you bread, go feed another. So, if eagles are meant to fly, don't just sit there and not fly.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yes, we can...¡Sí, se puede!

I don't endorse candidates- I can't even vote in the USA! but I wanted to share this really cool video about Barack Obama. It engages me because of the history of the words, "yes we can". People of my color have chanted these words before, "Sí, se puede." They are really powerful words in a determined mind! You can do anything if you really believe these words. I think inherently in the heart that God has given us, we truly want to believe that we can "be" someone or "do" something; and it's amazing when we believe that in community, that together we can accomplish something for the greater good of another. When I see how Jesus gave of Himself for others- to do things for others that would make His Daddy look good, I wonder if he, as a human, had to tell Himself, "yes I can!" I bet He did. As he stepped down from heaven, it was with the determination that He alone could heal us, individually for Himself, and as a human race, heal us for each other. His love for His daddy and for us, compelled Him to say, "Alright I'll do it."

And He probably also knew that if He gave us the example, if He could do it, He could cheer us on and say, "Inés, now that I've done it, you can do something, too!" like alleviating poverty, like feeding the hungry, like clothing the naked, protecting the abused and mistreated, sending a child to school, helping the beat down immigrant, speaking for the oppressed who have no voice, speaking love instead of hate, being patient instead of demanding, speaking edification instead of words that belittle others. Sure I can. Yes I can. Do what He said. (John 14)

Alright, here's the video- and again, I'm not endorsing, neither am I comparing Obama to Jesus! don't send letters. ;-)


Sunday, January 27, 2008

He is a refuge for all!

I just returned from Phoenix, AZ from a challenging conference about being a better follower of Christ and loving all people (before you can preach the gospel, you must wear the gospel). Challenging because I was forced to strip myself of any "additives" to my faith in regards to the Christian sub-culture. Scary because it has thrusted me into a whole new ethnic world- establishing common ground with others who are also pursuing the Creator of the universe (and that can be uncomfortable). Radical because I feel comfortable with calling God's name in another language that's not my own (Spanish), nor even my 2nd language that I'm writing in. In repentance because I have seen that I haven't truly & deeply respected other's pursuit of Him and judged them by my own religious prejudices. Revolutionary because I see that not all roads lead to God, yet God has been treading those roads seeking to draw near to Him those He is calling by name in dreams and visions. Controversial because old traditional methods aren't the "one size fits all" in all cultures. Paul & Jesus are the amazing radicals and perfect examples of the above.

"...Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings." 1 Cor. 9:22, 23 NLT

"Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, non-religious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized- whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ- but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!" 1 Cor. 9:19-23 (the message)


Saturday, January 12, 2008

I heart Nina Landis

We just discovered this new singing sister-- rocking lyrics, rusty voice like an angel, with a heart for God's heart for the nations, challenging complacency, crying out what we all want to get over. I highly recommend Your Blood Speaks and Tension, when you go and visit her at

Love much.
Give much.
Touch those who need a touch from you.
Be His hands and feet.
Be His very voice.
To those who are safe.
And to those who are perishing.
Be the fragrance of God in the earth.
the fragrance of Jesus, the Savior of men.
You're more than His child.
A counterpart in all things.
Go ahead and surrender.

Road trip!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Whom have I but You?

I asked my friend Polly how was her mother doing in Kenya, considering the genocide occurring surrounding the church killings. Here is what she encouraged me with:

"Mom says hi to you, she could not go to work today, too much chaos in the city. Can you believe these people, so much hatred. The rioters are from the opposition guy's tribe and they are now busy burning and killing people. We are all so concerned but we are also placing our trust in God, where else can we turn to? Have a lovely rest of the day.

with love,
David writes in the Psalms, "whom have I but you? and earth has nothing I desire besides heart and my strength may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Truly earth has nothing to desire that compares to the Lord. You can be at home in Kenya and someone desires to burn your church down as you're taking refuge from the political storms. You can be sitting in the ER somewhere in the United States, and a convict with a gun escapes from the guards and runs rampant in the hospital. Your child can be in school learning away, and a fellow classmate decides to kill and take his life. You can be having the best day of your life and yet, the evening news from around the world don't change.
Jesus Christ is truly, like Piper writes, the greatest treasure and the highest pleasure and our only refuge IN the storm. Everyone else can fail us, but not the Lord. While we're in this world, which is not our home, who else can we run to Lord? You're the only one with words of eternal life.