27 March 2008

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Raisha Turns 4...

Where does the time go???

Springtime In The South

There's nothing quite like it.
A few pics from my yard and neighborhood...

25 March 2008

You Can't Argue With An Atheist

So don't bother.

I could elaborate here on how I don't even believe in atheism, but that's worthy of a whole blog entry of its own, so I'll restrain myself.
For now, let's just humor them and call them atheists:

When an atheist poses the question:
"Why do you believe what you believe and how do you know it's true?"
a Christian should immediately be on guard.
Do NOT make the common mistake of thinking that they are actually seeking TRUTH in their query, for I assure you, they are not. Make no mistake; this is not some soul-searching, lost individual who is quietly examining their belief system and looking for answers to the puzzling questions of life.

The atheist is not looking for an answer -- not really.
He is looking for an argument and will assuredly pull you down with him in your attempts to prove a point.
Last week I engaged such a person on another blog (no, I will not link to it here).
In my naïveté or misguided, but sincere hope, I believed that this blogger was actually ASKING THE QUESTION.
My mistake.

Unfortunately, I made 2 very grave errors in my response to him:
1) Responding to him at all
2) Responding with any passion whatsoever.

You see, he was not interested in my point of view or rationale behind my faith. He wasn't even interested in how I came to my conclusions.
He focused solely on the semantical -- and immediately took (overzealous and over-dramatic, I might add) offense to minor infractions in my "attack."
He never addressed the actual points I made and he never acknowledged the logical arguments I presented. He also completely ignored the references I made to better sources of information and defense of faith (see list below).

He claimed that he stopped reading my replies because he was "so incensed" by my "fallacious attacks on his character," but his level of anger leads me to believe that he just didn't like what I had to say.
I don't claim to be an expert at defending my faith. In fact, I think (and fully admit) I am far too antagonistic when discussing something I am so passionate about. That's why I referenced the other resources.
But I do know WHAT I believe and WHY I believe it,
and some people just can't handle that.

For HONEST seekers of Truth, I recommend the following resources:
If There’s a God, Why Are There Atheists?, by R.C. Sproul;
Creation or Chaos: Modern Science and The Existence of God, by R. C. Sproul;
I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, by Norman L. Geisler;
The Archaeological Study Bible (excellent source of archaeological and historical evidence and background);
The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell
The Case For Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence, by Lee Strobel
The Case For Faith, by Lee Strobel
and (a bit lighter fare, but still excellent): The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible, by Robert J. Hutchinson.

For now, I'm left retrieving my pearls from the mud in which I cast them...
Matthew 7:6

22 March 2008

What It's REALLY All About...

I just couldn't decide, so I posted all 3...

From A Mother's Perspective:

From A Sinner's Point of View:

They Are ALL My Point of View:

20 March 2008

Beautiful Friendships...

Tuesday night was "MNO" (Moms' Night Out) for myself and some great friends...
These are some truly beautiful ladies with hearts of gold and I feel honored to know them.

Alison hosted us at her house and fed us some of the yummiest sandwich wraps I've ever had.
Monette -- my "soul sista" joined us, too, even tho she was leaving the next day for a week-long vacation (I would be in a total panic by this point!).
And Jennifer (who used to be our neighbor) was in town for a short visit -- we miss her SO much!!

The evening was spent catching up with each other, discussing children, husbands, diets, and trying to convince Jennifer that she and Dave REALLY need to move back... (did it work, Jenn?)

Jennifer, Me, Monette, & Alison
(hmmm... I'm the only brunette!)

19 March 2008

When You Start to See Leprechauns...

it might be time to go home...
Monday was St. Patrick's Day and the MIDNIGHT Outreach Team decided to extend our ministry once again to the New Orleans area. Church of the King, whom we partnered with last month for the Valentine's Day outreach, invited us to join them on Bourbon Street to pass out green carnations to the strippers and prostitutes and chocolates to the men. (Check out the pics on Carole's blog!)

Can I just say, Monday night made Valentine's Day look BORING!
Bourbon Street was jam-packed, wall-to-wall- with people.
We arrived just as a St. Paddy's parade was ending and the throng of people made movement nearly impossible. I've never been to a Mardi Gras parade in the Quarter, but if this was any indication of what it's like, I never will!

Unfortunately, BECAUSE it was so crowded, the club owners and bouncers were more reticent to let us in the clubs than they were on Valentine's Day. You could tell that they were tired and a bit wary of anything out of the ordinary...

The cool thing was that the clubs where we DID make contact with the girls, our gifts were met with surprised joy. And SOME of the ladies remembered us from when we were there before handing out red roses! They seemed glad to see us back. =)

One of the young ladies from Church of the King went in to a strip club with me and Charity. Charity signaled for her to give a flower to the girl who was dancing on the stage. When the girl caught her eye, she asked what the flower was FOR.
"It's for YOU."
"Yeah, but WHY? What do you want?"
"It's free; It's for you because we care about you."

I almost cried when I heard her retell this chance encounter.

For those of you who might think this stripper outreach thing is a waste of time, let me tell you:

When you see the eyes of those (usually very young) women as they take the rose from your hand, you know that it's important.
And when you realize that many of them will go home and awake the next morning and see that rose -- a reminder that SOMEONE cares about them,
-- that SOMEONE does not look at them as a piece of meat,
-- that SOMEONE does not judge them or condescend to them -- and they read the card that invites them to the church that was willing to meet them where they are right now -- then you know it's making a difference.

And it's never a waste of time.

You IS In An Area!

This past weekend was INSANE.
I don't think I've sat down to reflect on any of it for more than a couple of minutes!

Friday night was our monthly MIDNIGHT OUTREACH here in Baton Rouge.
Vincent Bellipanni and Craig & Hope Boutte joined us for a night of seeking and reaching the lost and hurting in Baton Rouge... and it was anything but ordinary.

Now, I'm sure you're probably thinking: "How could giving roses to strippers and prostitutes and chocolates to bouncers and pimps ever be considered ORDINARY, anyway?"
But as Pastor Alliece says, when you're doing this kind of ministry, EXPECT ANYTHING.

We encountered cross-dressers and an apprehensive police officer who unexpectedly gave us a brief, "police escort" to our intended target.
And who could forget the enigmatic, street-walking woman who encouraged us with quoted scripture?
Basically, she told us to keep it up -- to not be afraid for "no weapon formed against us" would prosper -- and let us know that we were in the right place, at the right time with an enthusiastic:
"You IS in an area!"

You know, I have been scared walking in to Cortana Mall before.
I have been frightened while stopping at a deteriorating gas station in the middle of nowhere.
And I have prayed fervently (under my breath) when approached by unseemly characters who appeared to be straight out of "Deliverance," but I am constantly amazed by how UNFEARFUL I feel when doing Midnight.
I know that we are following the heart of Christ and I believe that God has His hand on us when we enter this particular "mission field."

It's truly indescribable; you kinda have to be there.
And when you get there, you'll know it.

14 March 2008

Have You Been BURNED or Slightly Toasted?

We had another awesome morning at the Baton Rouge DREAM CENTER.
Pastor Alliece was attending to other business, so Donna Frank spoke about forgiveness and letting go of guilt and anger and resentment.
She had each woman write something on a slip of paper and deposit it at the foot of a huge, wooden cross... very symbolic & powerful in meaning.

And she stressed the point that if we are truly laying it down (the offense, the guilt, the anger), then we have no right to ever pick it back up again.

When I opened my prayer group, I felt compelled to focus on the subject of offense in the church.
SO MANY people I have talked to no longer go to church because of some sort of offense committed against them by someone in the church. Some of these offenses are quite large, some are amazingly minuscule; it doesn't seem to matter to the offended party.
They have been "burned" by the church and have no inclination of returning there.

I can relate -- as I'm sure most people can.
We all have stories of "offense," but what's interesting is the value we put on offense in the church, as opposed to offense elsewhere... Stay with me here; I do have a point!

When I was in high school, I dated a boy who went to a very conservative, but very charismatic church. He invited me one Saturday to attend a church picnic and told me that we would be playing volleyball and other outdoor games.
I dressed in some nice slacks and a pink sweater (not jeans, not shorts, pants -- honestly, probably too nice to play sports in!).
As we walked up to the picnic grounds, my boyfriend's pastor motioned to him. Not knowing anyone else there, I just kind of stood off to the side, waiting for my friend to return. When he did, he had a look of frustrated disbelief on his face.

"Um, they um, want you to leave. They want you to change into a skirt and come back."

They want me to do what?

We left, but I didn't go change.
I went on a tirade.
I could go on a prolonged rant here about how stupid and insensitive that minister was to do such thing... after all, he didn't know me from Adam! How did he know if I was even a Christian?? What if he missed his single opportunity to reach me for Christ?
And it wasn't as though I was dressed immodestly.
Is this the example Jesus would have us set: Focus on the outward appearance rather than the inner state of the soul?

Guess what?
I still went to church the next Sunday.
Well, admittedly, I didn't go to THAT church, but I didn't let the short-sighted foolishness of one HUMAN minister affect my life-long relationship with the church.
I could say that this was the only bad thing to ever happen to me in a church, but I would be lying. My point, however, is this:

Should we ever allow the foolishness of others to keep us from the love of Christ?
And why do we put a higher priority on the attitudes of our fellow church-goers than we do on the guy who sacks our groceries or the cashier at the gas station? If one of the latter two say something rude to us or act unfriendly, we might get a little huffy, but we don't swear off buying groceries or filling our cars with gas... do we?

A visiting pastor (J. Johns) put it this way:

"Just because your mom burned the biscuits once or twice doesn't keep you from going to the kitchen to eat!"

People in church -- even Christians -- are human, too!
And for those who decide that the grass is always greener somewhere else, here's a news flash for ya:

You will find offense in ANY church, indeed, any WHERE you look for it! There are no perfect churches and certainly no perfect Christians!
We are all capable of fully inserting our feet into our mouths and sometimes we actually walk around like that for awhile before we realize our mistake.

"But shouldn't Christians be held to a higher standard?"
Well, yeah.
BY GOD -- NOT by you!

How does it go?
judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:" -- Luke 6:37

Each of us is responsible only for our own behavior and our own choices.
I may have no control over my circumstances or the things that happen to me, but I have every control over how I respond to those circumstances or offending slights. If I deprive myself of the love and forgiveness offered by Christ because someone didn't like my choice of wardrobe, or acted rudely to me, or dared to contradict me, then I am only hurting MYSELF.
And THAT is truly offensive.

13 March 2008

What Kind of World Do You Want?

You need to watch this video. Make sure your speakers are ON.


10 March 2008

Adventures in Fast Food

You know, I am not an amateur when it comes to ordering fast food.
I have 3 kids.
It's kind of embarrassing to admit -- I mean, we do TRY to eat healthy most of the time -- but we have probably bankrolled several burger-flippers through Ronald McDonald University.

But I have never had an experience like I did yesterday.

It was 3:00 in the afternoon and due to a very late breakfast and an insanely hectic Sunday morning, none of us had eaten lunch.
Nadia wanted Taco Bell and Natasha and Raisha wanted Sonic.

No big deal, right?
They are across the street from each other and within 5 minutes of my house, so it shouldn't take long...

I pull up to the speaker/menu board for Taco Bell and place my order. Then I pull forward. There are only 3 cars in front of me (yay me!) so I've obviously come at a good time. Five minutes go by before I can pull up to the window to pay, but still I don't worry because this particular Taco Bell is notoriously SLOW.
When the guy at the register hands me my bag of hot sauce and closes the window, I get a little anxious. I knock on the window to no avail so then I blow my horn. He comes back to the window eying me warily.

"You forgot to give me my credit card back."
He sighs and rolls his eyes as though I am a complete moron and informs me shortly, "It's in the bag."
Oh, well silly me.
How could I not know that you tossed my CREDIT CARD into a plastic bag filled with
napkins and little, plastic packets of liquid MSG?

I then continue to sit in the drive-thru lane for another THIRTEEN MINUTES.
I know this because I was watching the clock as I proceeded to edit every single contact in my cell phone directory.
When I do finally pull up to the window, a woman who is missing her front teeth informs me that they are out of ground beef.


And would I like steak or chicken in my tacos instead?
NO, I would NOT like steak or chicken in my tacos.
I try to stay calm and pleasant as I ask, incredulously, "WHY didn't the guy at the register tell me that 18 minutes ago???"
"Uh, I forgot to tell him."
I could go off on this lady, but let's face it; she probably makes minimum wage and her life is no picnic working at the Bell. Besides, there are NINE other cars behind me who have also been sitting in line for at least 15 minutes.
She gives me my refund and I head across the street. Nadia will just have to eat Sonic today.

Good, old Sonic.
Trusty, reliable Sonic.
I pull up to the speaker/menu and start to place my order:
"I'd like a chicken strip meal with..."
The overly-excited, teen girl with a very squeaky voice on the other end of the intercom interrupts me:
"Oh, do you want the chicken strip KID'S meal???"
"No, I want the Adult chicken strip meal."
"We don't have an adult chicken strip meal."

Really? Since when? I have been ordering this meal for almost 7 years!
I ask her to clarify.

"Well, ma'am we have a chicken strip DINNER."

I look around for the hidden cameras and Ashton Kutcher and kind of give a little laugh...
"Well, yeah, that's what I mean; the chicken strip meal/dinner whatever."
"But it's not a meal, it's a dinner."

It starts to occur to me that I am NOT on another episode of Punk'd and this girl is NOT JOKING. She's serious!

"Excuse me? What's the difference? Never mind, let me just finish my order."
"But ma'am do you still want the chicken strip dinner?"
"Yes, please."

I pull up to the pick-up window and I try to chuckle as I say to the girl -- who looks to be about 17 -- "I thought you were pulling my leg back there."

"What do you mean?" she asks completely wide-eyed.
"Well, I've been ordering that as the 'chicken strip meal' for nearly 7 years."
"And no one has ever CORRECTED YOU?!"
Good grief.

I could stop here and try to expound on the benefits of homeschooling and why my child will never confuse a meal and a dinner, but I'll restrain myself.

Besides, surely this was all just a bad dream.
I mean, seriously??
Taco Bell runs out of ground beef in the middle of the day and Sonic employees all have head injuries??

But then I pull out my credit card to pay for my Starbucks and there, in the corner, is just a *tiny* drop of dried-on, spicy Fire sauce...

09 March 2008

10 Things I Learned In Leadership Class...

Next week winds up the Leadership Class that I have been attending for the past 2 months. Can I tell you, I have learned SO much & it was definitely worth the loss of sleep. =P

I could never begin to cover all the excellent points that were made or lessons learned, but I thought I would share with you here some of the messages that really hit home with me. These are thought-provoking statements that EVERYONE can implement in their lives whether it be in the Church or in the secular realms of our lives:

1) Your IDENTITY should never be about what you do, your degree, or your job title -- and it certainly should not be defined by your past! You have to move on; don't lead others into your bondage; rise up and lead people into freedom.

2) True leadership is about investing in OTHERS and empowering THEM to live up to their full potential. It should never be about US. We have to lay aside our own insecurities and our pride in the "title" and find our significance in the anointing God has put on our life.

3) If you are leading and no one is following you, you're not really leading.

4) It's wonderful to have dreams and ambitions, but if you only keep your eyes on the summit of God's vision for you, you may lose your footing & miss what God has for you where you are NOW. Be faithful to where God has you at this moment, even if it is not your "calling" or "dream," and He will bless you for it.

5) Go in the strength that you have; don't be afraid to step out! Don't look at the situation or circumstance with trepidation -- Keep your focus on God and step out in faith. He will supply the rest.

6) Leadership is more about character -- WHO we are, not what we "do." Character and integrity are a day-to-day process. Character is what comes out when you SQUEEZE someone. Character is what gives us credibility.

7) We can make all the "plans" we want, but without God's anointing, we can't do anything -- no matter how noble we think our plans might be.

8) The WORLD equates leadership with power and fame, but God equates leadership with humility and servant-hood.

9) To whom much is given, much will be required. There is tremendous responsibility that comes with the gifts God has given us. USE YOUR GIFTS. If you don't they will almost certainly be taken from you.
Think of it: What might the world look like if we all used our gifts???

10) Next-level leaders always find a need to fill or a hurt to heal. Making a difference in this life is simply a matter of CHOICE. You have to make a choice to ACT & decide to make a difference in this world.

Lord, help me to use every gift you've given me to make a difference in my world and let me never put power or position before PEOPLE.

07 March 2008

Blogging Blues =/

Yes, I know it has been 5 days since my last post.
I'm sorry; I truly am.

Sometimes life gets SO busy and hectic that I hardly have time to catch my breath.
This has been one of those weeks.
The irony is that I never stop THINKING about blogging.
Even when I can't get here every day to write, I'm constantly blogging in my head.
I realize that doesn't help you -- my loyal readers -- one bit, but I just wanted you to know that I haven't abandoned you!

Sooo many things to blog about, but I always feel like if I can't spend an adequate amount of time writing about the subject then I shouldn't write at all. So all these great blog ideas just float in and back out of my brain because I can't find the time to formulate a reasonable thought.

Things I wanted to blog about this week, but didn't:

*The awesome impact of last week's message by guest speaker, Craig Groeschel
*Hillary's win in Ohio and Texas (meh), Obama's disappointing results (sigh) and Huckabee's leaving the race (wahhh).
*A shout-out to my new blog addiction: Ragamuffinsoul ; this guy is a trip. And his wife is really cool, too. Their blogs always leave me laughing or thinking -- 2 of my favorite things. =)
*Senseless gang shootings in L.A. -- time to watch Boyz N the Hood & Dangerous Minds again: Two movies everyone should watch (be warned; there is a fair amount of language in both)
*The joys of LASER TAG and why EVERY person over the age of 30 should try it at least once!
*My on-going antipathy toward pseudo-intellectuals who think they are smarter than everyone around them, but never bother to find out the least bit about the very people they scorn.

See what you missed out on?

02 March 2008

A Little Sunday Night Humor...


And my personal favorite:

Check out his site: TIM HAWKINS

01 March 2008

Democratic Primary: Anything BUT Black & White

Tuesday will probably be the decisive primary for the Democratic Party and as that day approaches, I find myself increasingly concerned for where we are headed.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am undecided on how I will vote in the upcoming Presidential election. A political moderate, I find this Presidential race to be particularly agonizing.

While McCain may not be the "obvious favorite" of most conservatives, he may be their only choice in the end. I fear that if this is the case, we are definitely looking at a Democrat as our next President. And while there are many things I, personally, like about Obama, the big question regarding our involvement in the Middle East may be more crucial than we realize.

I understand that the American people are sick and tired of the war in Iraq.
I understand that most people (Democrats and Republicans alike) believe that we went into Iraq under questionable circumstances. An increasing number of Americans are starting to admit that there seems to have been "ulterior motives" at play and a definite lack in long-term planning.
But does that mean we should just surrender?

Consider the aftermath when we pulled out of Vietnam.
If you are not well-read on that period of our history, I invite you to do a little research. Google it.
And in Iraq?
In Iraq, there is so much more at stake -- invaluable territory, oil, resources, -- than mere ideology.

Whether we like it or not, our actions up till now WILL have a consequence.
This area of the Middle East is rich with oil and other precious resources and is more than ripe for political and religious revolution.
While some will argue, convincingly, that we have created nothing but a quagmire in the Middle East, others will point out that deserting that quagmire might be far more detrimental.

Let's just put it all out there:
If WE leave, someone else WILL take our place.

I'm NO proponent of increasing our occupation there or even for maintaining the status quo,
If we think that Iraq will simply go back to being an independent, Democratic nation with a self-sufficient economy, we are seriously deluding ourselves. In some ways, the damage is irreparable -- at least, in the short term.
And for us to think that by leaving we are somehow doing the Iraqi people a "humanitarian favor" is almost laughable.
We will pat ourselves on the back and congratulate each other on our "noble actions;" meanwhile, we will have just thrown this "liberated" region to the proverbial wolves.

I agree that we don't need to be the "world's police," but don't we have an obligation to take care of the mess we made? If we don't, someone else will.

There are other countries out there who want that oil.
There are other nations who want that land.
There are other ideological and religious zealots who would love to step in and take power over the fragile morale of the Iraqi people.
If you think that us leaving IS the solution, you need to go back and study your history.

and possibly more are sitting, waiting for us to leave and to leave the Iraqi people vulnerable.
They apparently know our history better than we do.