29 April 2009

Color BLIND


Racism is a two-way street.
It is not just a white against black offense.

I was born a vehement anti-racist.

From a very early age, I remember hating injustice and prejudice and I flat-out could not understand why people made such a big deal about SKIN COLOR.
I mean, all we're talking about here is differing levels of melanin, people! What's the big deal???

Growing up in the South, I have been exposed to my fair share of racism and I vowed -- as a young girl -- that MY children would not grow up with the same prejudices I had to endure as a kid.
I took African-American history classes in college and studied the writings and words of Malcolm X, W.E.B. Dubois, Frederick Douglas, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

We home school our children and I have employed women's history and African-American history from the very beginning. I want my children to have a well-rounded view of history, not a slanted, one-sided view.

And, more than anything, I have tried to teach my children to be color-blind.
I NEVER want them to discriminate against another person for any reason, but especially not for something as irrelevant as skin color.

Some days (like today) are definitely harder than others in my endeavor to do this. I'll admit; I'm frustrated right now... It's pretty difficult to teach my children not to judge by nationality or skin color when we, ourselves, are being judged -- on a fairly regular basis -- by those same, superficial standards.

Look, I have many friends -- all different colors & nationalities; this is not a blanket statement aimed at any whole group, but this diatribe is directed at the individuals who exhibit this behavior:

Being rude to someone you don't even know simply because they are a different race than you -- that's racism.

Acting annoyed that someone of another race deigned to speak to you -- that's racism.

Being friendly to customers of your own race, but completely ignoring or acting brusque toward those who are not -- that is racism.

And assuming that any criticism or concerns regarding our new president are based solely on his skin color, that is racism, too!
(Interestingly, this offense is committed mostly by overzealous, WHITE liberals!)

I have voiced concerns and criticisms of EVERY president that has been in office since I began voting -- including the ones I voted for, by the way.
I am PROUD that our nation has its first African-American President. It was long overdue!
But I still have concerns and that does NOT make me a racist.

And even though history paints a very ugly picture of racist behavior, sanctioned by laws and government, there is no defense for such behavior -- by ANYONE -- today.
I am not responsible for the actions of >4oo years of idiots. If I could erase the pain and anger and injustice, believe me, I would wipe it out in a heartbeat.

There is only one thing you need to know about me:
I am a Christian.
That is ALL that should matter.
I want THAT to be what you see when you look at me.

I believe that Jesus died for every person and because of that, every person should be valuable in our sight.
We are all made in God's image, no matter what color our skin may be.

And we will ALL -- black, white, olive, ruddy -- have to answer for the way we treat other people and the attitudes of our hearts.
ALL of us.

Honestly, I wish that we could all just blend into one, nondescript skin tone.
But then, I suppose, we would just find something else on which to set ourselves apart.
And as long as we do, hate will continue to win.
We all have to make a conscious decision to hang up those attitudes which work to drive us apart.

Can't we all just be color blind???

28 April 2009

Happy Birthday Sweetie!


Yesterday was my husband, Clay's birthday. He turned 47.
I used to say that he "robbed the cradle," because I always felt so much younger than him, but now that I'm pushing 40, it doesn't feel the same.
We are still 7.5 years apart in age, but the older you get, the less age difference matters.
Unless you are the oldest in the group... which lately, has been more and more frequent for me.
I don't know how I feel about that.

But anyway: ~~~HAPPY BIRTHDAY CLAY~~~!
I love you!

Even if you don't read my blog.
=/

23 April 2009

At The Heart of Servolution


Reading this newest book by Pastor Dino Rizzo has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. I have read many great books in my lifetime, but few promise to change the lives of their readers as this one is sure to do.
This isn't just a book about serving people; it's a formula for a revolution.
A revolution of hearts and minds... a "Servolution."

Pastor Dino defines "Servolution":
  1. 1) To initiate a complete and radical change of a person's life through simple acts of kindness for the glory of God.
  2. 2) God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
  3. 3) A church revolution through serving.
The author makes it very clear that his church is not looking for a badge, or a pat on the back, or recognition of any kind. What this book aims to do is share its amazing story of purpose which revolutionized a congregation and which is revolutionizing a city.

The interesting thing about serving Jesus-style is that it becomes infectious. Once you start, you just can't stop! I have seen this at work in my church and within my own family.
The spirit of giving is, at once, contagious and cathartic.
I say cathartic, because serving tends to purge us of our self-centered negativity.

When you are giving shelter to a family of Katrina victims, your problems suddenly don't seem so bad.
When you hand a bag of groceries to a young, single mom with three hungry mouths to feed, your financial situation starts to look pretty good.
When you hold a homeless woman who is addicted to crack and allow her to pour out her soul on your shoulder, you are reminded just how blessed you really are.

Servolution wants nothing more than to share the wealth of blessing which has rained down upon
Healing Place Church since the inception of this mission. It wasn't planned or orchestrated; it was simply taking advantage of the opportunities to serve we are all given, each and every day. It's about filling a need.
Moreover, it's about seeing people -- ALL people -- through the compassionate eyes of our Savior.
When you see the need through His eyes, you are always compelled to act.

So many churches spend time and money striving to build their congregation and increase their attendance. Too many churches today are left scratching their heads wondering where the people have gone.
When a church adopts a heart of serving, people are automatically drawn to it -- a magnetic pull on their own hearts. They WANT to be a part of the effort. They quickly realize that they are part of something much bigger than themselves... something eternal.

Servolution will, in one moment, make you laugh out loud and, in another, leave you speechless. You will weep tears of compassion and even more tears of gratitude.
However you read it you will not be left unchanged.

21 April 2009

New Faves

Two songs I can't get out of my head right now... both very powerful.
Listen.









16 April 2009

The Heart of a Servant

I have been a Christian since I was 10 years old. I truly loved God and believed with all my heart that I was going to heaven. I never vacillated from my convictions even while contemplating law school or possibly, a master's degree in Philosophy.
But I wasn't really happy.
Or even content, for that matter.

Honestly, I don't think I even knew it until my life took a 180* degree turn.

Over the many years of my Christian walk, I couldn't help but feel that something was missing -- something that went beyond just reading my Bible and spending time in prayer. So, I signed up for committees. I was on the "Kitchen committee," and I helped out in "Children's Ministry" and the church nursery. We started faithfully attending Sunday School and joined in a young-marrieds supper club.
But the lack was still there.

When we arrived at Healing Place Church ~5 years ago, I was definitely at a crossroads in my faith. Coming off (yet another) VERY disappointing experience at the church we had just left, I truly wondered if there was anything REAL out there. I was definitely burnt out, with religion, in particular. The church seemed to be full of so many hypocrites. My personal faith in Christ never wavered, but my conviction to attend a local church certainly did!

So, it was with great trepidation and extreme caution that we first visited Healing Place. Sure, the people were super friendly & very warm & welcoming, but we knew that veneers were only so thick. For the first year or so that we were at HPC, I was subconsciously waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was definitely NOT in a good place, mentally or spiritually. I was angry and tired and disappointed and leery. I just knew that I was going to get hurt again.

Truthfully, the amazing worship & anointed preaching is what kept me from just hanging up "church" altogether. I started to get involved -- began working in the nursery -- so that I could feel more a part of this amazing church.
And I really started to LISTEN.
The words coming from Pastor Dino Rizzo's mouth -- and indeed, from all of the pastors' -- were like none I had ever heard before. In addition to a very heartfelt plea for salvation, the message that was being spoken, and in fact, LIVED OUT, in the people of Healing Place, was a message of SERVING.
Get involved.

Get outside of yourself.

Do something for someone else without looking for the credit or glory.

BE Jesus; don't just "talk" Jesus.

It's Not About YOU.

That last one hit me harder than anything else.
The realization that my time on this earth was not about what I think I deserve or "think" I want to do; my time here is meant for me to be the hands and feet of Jesus to everyone I encounter. To look on them with the love that my God has for them... to see them the way HE does.
Get over yourself & start serving others.

And so I did.
I started volunteering in the inner city at our Dream Center and on Midnight Outreach. I signed up to clean the battered women's shelter & visit nursing homes. I took meals to new mothers and handed out bottled water in rush-hour traffic.
And it changed my life in more ways than I could ever list here.
I LOVE serving and I can't imagine my life now without it.
The peace and joy and completion that my life had lacked for so long, are now ever present in the knowledge that I am doing what I was called to do. And my journey thru serving has only just begun.

It's not about earning salvation.
That is freely given by our Savior.
It's about changing the heart of the church -- the image of Christians and Christianity -- by actually doing what Christ asked us to do: SERVE.

Looking back on the past 5 years, I can hardly believe that I am the same person who first walked through those doors. Indeed, SO much has changed for me -- on the inside and the out -- that I feel like a new creation.
Really.
That may sound cliche or pretentious, but that's truly how I feel.

And it's with this new-found love for serving that I now pick up my Pastor's book, SERVOLUTION, and begin reading.
I can't wait to see where this goes...

12 April 2009

09 April 2009

Get Your SERVE On!


Wow! What a week this has been!
I'm really kinda sad to see it come to an end, but as we all know, the "Servolution" should continue every day because that is what we are here to do. Even if it's only buying someone a cup of coffee or smiling at a homeless vagabond, perhaps offering him a bite to eat... That is serving.

I think, too often, people think they have to be part of some elaborate outreach and miss time from work or neglect their families to make a difference. This just isn't so!
Some of the simplest acts of kindness count, and truthfully, it is often the "simple acts of kindness" we take most for granted.
Like not honking at the guy who just cut you off in traffic.
Or paying for the gas for the mom of 4 at the gas pump next to you.
Even taking a colleague out to lunch or for coffee is a way that YOU can serve & show Christ's love through actions, not just words.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be a part of (quite possibly) one of the MOST FUN outreaches my church does on a regular basis:
Water Give-Away!
This outreach consists of us standing at a busy intersection during a busy time of day and handing out ICE COLD bottled water to people sitting in traffic.
The various reactions we receive range from baffling to hilarious.

For most, they just can't believe that we are doing this for FREE -- really, for FREE (not just saying "free," and then asking for donations). Invariably, many of them will reach into their purse or wallet & try to hand us a buck or two, but we just smile and say,
"NOPE; this is FOR YOU, Free."

Some people won't even look at us... they are probably so used to peddlers & panhandlers asking for spare change. Or maybe they think we are some wacko cult group spreading propaganda.
The ones who actually take a chance and open their windows always seem both relieved and shocked that it's nothing but a gift -- no strings attached!
I really do think this has become one of my favorite outreaches.

Today, the girls & I will meet up with a team & go hand out candy to people sitting in, & working at, the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). Those people could seriously use a boost to their blood sugar & something to make the wait a *tad* more bearable. This should prove to be very interesting.
Here are some pictures from our water outreach yesterday.
It was a gorgeous day & an amazing experience.

Me (far right) & some of the ladies I served with yesterday.


Merely a third of our team, led by the very cool
Paul Charbonnet (bottom right)

Me & Karina after the outreach was over...

In all, we gave out 800 (EIGHT HUNDRED!!!!) bottles of water in just a little over an hour!
How's that for efficient?





07 April 2009

Servolutionizing Our City!

If you're wondering why I haven't posted more about Servolution this week, it's because I'm TIRED. =P
But it's a *good* tired, if you know what I mean...

And it's not over yet!
There are still 2 more days of Servolution left, leading up to Easter weekend.

Tomorrow, I am working with HP Women in the morning, planning our big, "PAMPER NIGHT" in early June. This is when we treat women in our church and community to an evening of FREE spa treatments, delicious food, and awesome door prizes! I am on the committee for assigning vendors and making sure we have enough masseuses and estheticians on the floor. Local spas and salons donate their hours to providing these services for our ladies to enjoy in a night of appreciation and encouragement.

After that, I will be heading out with a team to hand out free water bottles at some busy intersection in Baton Rouge during rush hour traffic. I have always wanted to do this kind of outreach & I can't wait.

But the outreach I am most looking forward to, is the DMV Outreach on Thursday afternoon. The girls and I will go with a team of Serve volunteers to pass out candy bars to patrons waiting in line at the DMV. I love it! The creativity of these various outreaches just blows me away.

Oh, I almost forgot!
Tonight, my church hosted "Feed the Children" and held a "PB & Shaq" night.
Shaquille O'Neal was there (he's a native of Baton Rouge) and to get in, each person was to donate 10 jars of peanut butter to "Feed the Children." It was a crazy-fun night & a LOT of peanut butter was donated to go to hungry families across the country. I've always thought that Shaq was a pretty cool guy; now I know he is!

Well, I am off to bed before I fall out from exhaustion... more posts & pictures to come!

04 April 2009

Servolution DAY 2

What a gloriously beautiful day!


Day 2 of Servolution week dawned sunny & bright, cool & crisp -- absolutely PERFECT!
We all met at the Highland campus for the kick-off rally & to get our assignments. The girls and I signed up for the nursing home outreach, but that was just one of several to choose from. Just a sampling of what the volunteers of HPC did today:
  • *Passing out dog treats @ the dog park (City Park)
  • *Free car wash
  • *Painting houses
  • *Adopt-a-block (picking up trash, mowing lawns, etc)
  • *Foster-care outreach
  • *Cleaning the battered women's shelter


Our team, led by the very awesome Mary Beth Guedry, went to one of several area nursing homes. There, we painted the ladies' fingernails and chatted with the residents. Most of us brought our young children with us on the outreach and this was such a treat for the residents of the home... they just fawned over Raisha and spoiled her with hugs & kisses. Raisha colored pictures and gave them out to some of the patients.

We brought some games and cards to play with the residents and Natasha spent most of the time playing "Go Fish" and "Old Maid" with a sweet lady in a wheelchair. Even though her hands were obviously gnarled and twisted from rheumatoid arthritis, she still managed to beat Natasha in the first game and tie her in the second!

Nadia diligently and patiently painted fingernails, gently removing old polish and applying a fresh coat. She did a beautiful job!
I'm so proud of all 3 of my girls for giving up their Saturday to go & spend time with these sweet, elderly people. I explained to them that while many of the nursing home residents have family and friends who come to visit, many of them don't. Spending the day with them, talking to them and loving on them, was the PERFECT way to "be Jesus" to these lovely people... it's a day we won't soon forget.

THANK YOU Healing Place Church for allowing us to be a part of something so beautiful & life-changing!

03 April 2009

And So It Begins...


TODAY
is the first day of SERVOLUTION week!

I have already spotted several of our red shirts out & about around Baton Rouge this morning.
EARLY today, volunteers took FREE donuts to area bus stops to give to people while they were waiting.
And RIGHT NOW, more than 600 packs of gum are being handed out in downtown Baton Rouge to people working in the offices of various government and private businesses.
Later today will be a watermelon outreach at a couple of local high schools... the list goes on and on...

I was up early & off to Sam's to buy 100 red roses to pass out tonight for MIDNIGHT OUTREACH.
Several ladies from the "Moms Lifegroup" met me at the Annex to de-thorn the roses and tie ribbons and cards onto each rose. This evening, these same roses will be given to strippers and prostitutes to let them know that they are valuable and loved, right here, right now, just as they are.

For the next 7 days -- leading right up to Easter weekend -- there will be various outreaches going on all over the city of Baton Rouge.
Indeed, now that approx. 240 churches are participating world-wide, Servolution might be happening somewhere near YOU, in YOUR town.

You see, my church believes in BEING Jesus to those we meet, not just talking about Him.
We strive to be the "hands and feet" who are doing what we were instructed to do: SERVE.

All too often, the enemy would have us believe that we can't do anything until we get our own "stuff" together. That's a lie.
Your life does not have to be perfect to be used by God. If you keep waiting for the day that it is, it will never come. And when you get to the end of your life, you will regret not stepping out sooner.

It doesn't take much... a simple smile, buying the guy behind you a cup of coffee, offering to pay for the groceries of the young mom in line, taking home-baked cookies to your local police or fire station... even picking up trash in your own neighborhood or washing out your neighbors' trash cans are simple ways you can be a servant for Christ.

What are you waiting for?
The world doesn't need a revolution;
It needs a SERVOLUTION.

01 April 2009

*^*\ HAPPY BIRTHDAY NATASHA! /*^*

Today is my middle monkey's daughter's 12th birthday...
She's almost a teenager :O

H
APPY BIRTHDAY NATASHA!


Natasha, the INCREDIBLE!

Natasha, the count-pirate (???)

Casual Natasha

Natasha, the big-game zoologist!

Rainforest Natasha =)

Natasha, the "Bumble"-maker
Queen Natasha -- the Magnificent!
I can't believe 12 years have flown by...
I love you more each day!

Have a wonderful birthday =)