08 November 2010

A Life Worth Remembering

It's been a hard month.
In the past 30 days, 7 people in my world -- some close to me, some who were related to those close to me -- have died.
On Wednesday, I will attend my 3rd funeral in almost as many weeks... this time for a young man, just 22 years old, Jordan Gautreau.
I am just about cried out.
I wasn't super-close with Jordan, but we were in School of Ministry together a few years ago and he was a guy I really respected and admired. He used to tease me and call me "Mrs. Summer" to which I would threaten to punch him.
I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized he was born the year I graduated high school. He was an intelligent, thoughtful, and kind young man who had a servant's heart, and like the others who have passed in recent weeks, his death came as a total shock.

I can't help but feel there is a message in all of this. Without resorting to cliches or vapid prosaicism, I have to acknowledge that there are no guarantees in this world. We are not promised one day more or less than has been allotted for us and to know that number is humanly impossible. We have to live each day never knowing if we will see tomorrow. Only God sees the bigger picture.

We can think we have it all together, our life a neat and tidy box, perfectly aligned with best laid plans and the objectives we have set for ourselves, but at the end of our allotted time, will it even matter? I'm not opposed to dreams or ambitions, but in the big scheme of things, how will whatever we are doing affect the world around us?

The real question is, Are we living for ourselves or for something bigger than ourselves?
Will our legacy merely affect our grandchildren or thousands of souls we may never even chance to meet?
When we die, will people remember who we were or what we did?
Will those memories be buried with us or will they live on in the rippled effects of our life's work?

Three men from my church have died in the past month.
Each of them has left an enduring legacy... sacrificial lives submitted to God's greater purpose. I want to know -- when my time is up -- that I have done the same.

There's certainly no harm in living a productive, successful life, utilizing the talents you are given. But if your ambitions are all for self, what does it really matter? If your sole purpose on this planet is to seek "happiness" and "fulfillment," they will always elude you. REAL happiness and fulfillment are found only when you are living for something greater than yourself.
Dave Ohlerking, John DeLage, and Jordan Gautreau.
These three men lived lives worth remembering and as examples for us all.

When I was a kid, I thought giving my life over to God meant I would have to be a missionary in some remote corner of the world. Far longer than I care to admit, I was afraid to offer my life -- all my plans and dreams -- to God to use. I'm so glad I finally know better. Now I pray that God will use my life until the very last breath I take.
Fear of the unknown should never keep us from seeking God's greater purpose for our lives. As Brother Dave Ohlerking always said, "There's no safer place to be than in the will of God."
I believe that.
And I want my life to reflect that belief.

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” -- C. S. Lewis

27 June 2010

Blogging Vs. Writing

So, my friend, Carole -- who is also a writer -- twittered something yesterday that I absolutely agree with...
She was talking to a friend of ours (Donna Frank) who has written several books.
She mentioned to Donna that she had not written on her book lately, but that she had been doing a lot of blogging.
Donna responded with:
"Well, yeah, blogging is instant gratification. Sitting down and writing your book isn't; it's work and very delayed gratification."
What a profound truth!
In the past, when I was blogging more faithfully, I really struggled to make time for my book. There was this constant (albeit, imagined) pressure to post here, regularly and often.
When I recommitted to finishing the task God has given me (now, TWO books!), I found it harder and harder to come here and blog.
I couldn't figure it out at first, but there was an uneasy suspicion that I was somehow "cheating" on my book by blogging.
Now, that might sound weird if you are not a writer, but it's true!

Time issues aside, I found that I became more and more possessive of my analogies, stories, and musings. If something was really good, it would go in the book. How could I put it here?
There's always a fear that something you write will be stolen or misused and there's a deeper fear that you will "waste" all your good stuff on the blog.
So, what happened was I would go weeks without posting or I found myself alternately writing either really preachy stuff or "fluffy" stuff (which I loathe, by the way) here on my blog. I wasn't just selling myself short; I was selling you -- the reader -- short.

Carole has blogged about this struggle as well.

Yeah, I know; I'm totally neurotic to be obsessing about this, but to hear another writer (published author, no less!) surmise it so well was somehow comforting to me.
So, I can either focus my time on the calling God has placed on my life (my writing/my books) or I can worry about what other people think about my blogging.
Truthfully, I think it's a no-brainer. ;)

06 June 2010

Black Gold = Red Sea :(


Ugh, it makes me sick just to think about it... The oil won't stop and it's destroying the Gulf Coast! Even as BP boasts of "success," the reality here is far from it.
So many people have been affected and it isn't over yet.
Right now -- in truth -- there is no end in sight.

I have friends whose entire livelihoods are dependent upon gulf shrimp and seafood.
Friends whose families have worked on the off-shore oil rigs for decades.
Friends who have just started to truly rebuild their lives -- and their businesses -- after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina 5 years ago.

And I can't even begin to think about the wildlife... the pelicans, the turtles, and all the animals dying from such a senseless accident. It makes me want to break down and cry.

Just a few weeks ago, we agonized over whether or not to go forward with our vacation to Destin -- a trip we've had planned since last fall.
Would there be oil? Tar balls? Rancid fumes?
We watched the news and checked web updates daily... hourly.
We prayed about it and decided that, come what may, we would go.

I am SO glad we did!
Who knows when -- or if -- the Gulf Coast will ever be as beautiful again. I heard yesterday that lots of tar balls are washing up in Pensacola and there is some oil smell and "greasy spots" from the spreading gunk. Just 3 weeks ago, the beaches at Destin looked like this:

In all the summers that I have gone to these beaches, I have NEVER seen the water as crystal clear and beautiful as it was 3 weeks ago!
NO seaweed.
NO jellyfish.
and more importantly, NO OIL!!

We were ecstatic!
Not only were the beaches and water pristine, we had the wonder of seeing dolphins and stingrays! I have never seen stingrays so close to the shore.

This couple wasn't paying attention, but the stingrays were!
They just swam around them!

An older gentleman informed us that earlier that morning, they had seen a manatee swimming close to the shoreline. Manatees NEVER come that close to the shore; obviously, the oil was driving these sea creatures in, in search of cleaner water.

We spent a joyous week at the beach and I am so thankful now that we did. I shudder to think what is coming... and the ominous signs of what has already arrived. How can we not mourn?

Destin's beaches are still beautiful at this moment, but for how long?
I fear that I am posting these pictures for posterity's sake, but I sincerely pray I am wrong.
Biblical end-time prophesies aside (that's a whole 'nother blog post, not for me to write), this is devastation on a monumental scale.
There's no amount of money that can replace what's been (or could be) lost...

Please pray for the Gulf Coast!

22 April 2010

So Much To Say

Yes, I know it's been over a month since I last posted.
I have been so busy, but mostly, I've been at a loss for words (rare for me, I know).

The Human Trafficking conference was absolutely life-altering and it has taken me some time to process everything I saw and heard while there. So much pain... which leads to so much anger.
First, I was mad. Then I cried.
Now, I'm just determined.

But where to begin?
How do you sum up an ocean of thoughts and feelings and convictions into a single blog post -- or even an entire blog? There is so much I want to say, but I find myself unable to write about the passion I feel for this outrage. Once I begin, the words come tumbling out faster than my fingers can type!

For one thing: I feel like we've been sold a bill of goods... like all this talk of "feminism" is nothing but hot air and wishful thinking.
I was a proponent of feminist ideals; my degree focused primarily on Women's history (as well as African-American and Latin-American history). I applauded the amazing accomplishments of the early abolitionist and suffrage movements... and I vowed that MY children would grow up knowing this amazing part of our history.

Now it all seems like such a farce.
Maybe some so-called feminists can pat themselves on the back and think they have made so much progress, but I imagine that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott are rolling over in their graves. Modern feminists fight for abortion rights -- claiming that it's a woman's right -- but (for the most part) ignore the increasing degradation of women, globally. What about the rights of those who are being bought and sold like cattle?
What about the rights of children who grow up never knowing innocence?

PETA fights tooth and nail to protect animals (and I do love animals); Meanwhile, women and children are being treated far worse than any caged chicken or young cow. You want to talk about living conditions? What about being born into brothels, never even given the chance at a "normal" life? At least the caged cows and chickens will be fed on a regular basis without having to perform disgusting acts in return.
Young girls are being bought and sold in astounding numbers while the world continues to congratulate itself on "modern progress."

Sexual slavery is being "normalized" and the sex trade industry is becoming increasingly socially-acceptable with the likes of Oprah promoting "pole-dancing" as a fun workout.

The goal is to desensitize our society so much that it becomes blind to the ugly reality: these girls are in bondage. It's NOT OK.
MOST women who work in the sex trade industry -- whether it is pornography, strip clubs, prostitution, or an "escort" service -- are NOT there by *choice.*
What little girl says to herself, "When I grow up, I want to be a hooker." or "I want to make pornographic films."???

They choose that lifestyle.
Is that what you REALLY believe?
This is a lie that we tell ourselves so we don't have to feel guilty or compelled to act. We can ignore the awful truth, which is that women and children are WORSE off today than they were 100 years ago. And our society's acceptance and increasing demand for these sex industries are driving the human trafficking trade!

This has nothing to do with being a "prude" or "religious;" this is HUMAN RIGHTS in their most basic form.

Sure, we have the right to vote and we have (almost) equal pay, but women are seen as sex objects more today than they ever were before in history. The African slave trade was a hideous part of human history, but the current slave trade rivals those historical figures and, in fact, may already surpass them.
Today's numbers are mind-boggling. (pdf link)
There are hundreds of thousands of women and children (boys, too) who are screaming for justice and intervention. You can shut your eyes (and your ears), but if you do, you are complicit in their bondage. How can we rest in self-proclaimed "progress" when they have no rest at all?

Perhaps I've said too much?
I think not.

20 March 2010


In less than 1 week, there will be an invasion...

If you live in the Baton Rouge area, expect to see SERVE shirts like these

everywhere you look.
Next Friday -- March 26th -- kicks off our annual SERVOLUTION and hundreds of churches across the globe will be doing the same.

Whether you live in Africa, Australia, or Arkansas, you will find us -- standing on street corners, handing out cold, bottled water... painting widows' houses, mowing lawns for the elderly, picking up litter and washing cars... you might see us bringing a hot meal to the local fire station or lunch to local law enforcement... you might find us handing out candy at the mall, groceries in the inner city, or protein bars in the ER.
Maybe you'll see us washing our neighbor's trash cans.


This is to be expected of people who call themselves followers of Christ. We follow the example He set by washing His disciples' feet. And through these random acts of kindness, we tear down the walls of the Church and demonstrate the love of Jesus to those in our communities.

If you -- or your church -- would like to be part of the revolution SERVOLUTION, it's not too late! Simply go HERE and register.
For more information ----->>> Check this out.
Let's make these 10 days leading up to Easter, count!

We are changing the world by serving one.

Servolution 2010 promo from Healing Place Church on Vimeo.

25 February 2010

Whispered Screams

That's what I thought when I watched this... These girls are speaking in barely audible tones for fear of being identified, but their words reveal the horrors they have endured.
It kind of irritates me that the newscaster says they, "are just now speaking out."
In truth, they have been "screaming" all along... no one bothered to listen until now.

20 February 2010

I Serve a BIG God

Wow, that was fast.

Thank you for all the prayers! Within a few hours of posting my last blog entry, God provided a way for me to go to the conference... This is how I know I'm where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to do.
A very generous donor (thanks Mom!) has offered to pay for my flights and some of my other expenses -- something she was only able to do after she just found out she was getting a much better refund than usual!
Tell me that's not God.

And then, one of the ladies who also works under the Rescue & Restore Coalition out of New Orleans is going and we will be able to share hotel expenses. This has made the trip much more affordable and we are now booked & ready to go! I'm so excited; I wish it wasn't more than a month away... I'm ready to leave NOW!

Many of you know about my involvement in Midnight Outreach through my church. And you may have heard that I have started writing my second book, which deals with human trafficking and the sex trade industry...
So, where is all of this leading?
To be honest, I'm not really sure.
I'm just walking in obedience to where I feel God is leading me. Whether my role in this war is overt or behind-the-scenes is irrelevant. The important thing is to get educated and actually DO something for these heartbreaking victims of trafficking.

Christine Caine spoke at Healing Place Church last week about her A21 Campaign (with which we are affiliated) and her words were inspiring.
EVERYTHING logical told them it couldn't be done.
The forces opposing them were too strong.
"There's not enough money. The Church has no real authority here. The problem is too big."

But then she shared an amazing analogy:
In Numbers, God directs Moses to send a group of Israelite leaders into the Promised Land to scout out the territory and see all the blessings He was giving them.
God actually said, "...which I am giving to the Israelites."
And yet, that was not enough assurance for the majority of the tribe leaders who made the trip. Only 2 -- Joshua and Caleb believed God; the others felt the problems were too big -- the enemy too powerful -- to trust God.

Her point?
You have to KEEP GOD BIGGER.
God is bigger than anything we come against, and when we are acting within His will, NOTHING can keep us from reaching our goals or acting on His authority.
The enemy would love for us to take our eyes off of what's really important and focus on the giant that's blocking our path. Then, the giant doesn't even have to touch us; we take ourselves out of the race before we even face the opposition!

This is how Christians react to the problem of human trafficking:
The problem is enormous.
The cost is prohibitive.
The danger is great.
And there's too much to be done.
And so, we do nothing... Let someone else take on this issue; someone else will come to their rescue, right??

I believe if God breaks your heart for what breaks His, you have an obligation to step out in faith and do what you can.
That's what I am doing. My contribution might not amount to much, but at least I'm acting in obedience. And I'm not going to focus on the fear or the enormity of it all.
My God is bigger.

16 February 2010

Trafficking Seminar -- Please Pray!

Ok, so there's this amazing 4-day, human trafficking seminar coming up in early April, which I desperately want to attend. It's sponsored by South Texas College and will take place near the Texas/Mexico border.
Will you please pray for a way for me to go?

Clay and the girls are totally on board about my going -- Clay knows how important this issue is to my heart... and how I believe my destiny is tied up in this ministry.

1) Getting there -- it's more than 11 hours if I drive & flying is way too expensive. I wouldn't mind driving if I had someone to go with me, but I do not want to drive that far on my own!

2) MONEY -- It's $150 for the seminar alone & then I will need a hotel for 4-5 nights. So, unless I share a room with some other attendees (which I can't if no one I know goes), I will be paying a pretty penny for that as well.
--> Clay & I have been paying off debt, little by little, for the past few years & I am determined not to put anything on a credit card.

I can't tell you how much this tugs at my heart... I just know that my next book is supposed to be about the plight of human trafficking and the sex trade industry and (as I've already mentioned) I have started writing it. I am trying to read as much as I can, but it would be so awesome if I could go to this.
So, please pray that God would make a way for me to go.

10 February 2010

Crazy Good =)

Yes, I have entered another one of my "crazy busy" seasons, but it's amazing how God is helping me to
s-t-r-e-t-c-h and grow! Not that long ago, a week (or month) like this would have really stressed me out, but even in the chaos, I now feel a sense of peace. All I ask is for Him to give me what I need to do all that I need to do and do it well.
That's not so much to ask, right?

My connect group has really taken off with a lot of new ladies this semester! I am so excited about the potential I see in this group... I really feel like some of them are actually "getting it" and are well on their way to absolute freedom from obesity and food addiction. I feel like a proud momma hen!

I have more human trafficking training downtown tomorrow morning and another training to go to in a couple of weeks... Even though I haven't written much on my anti-HT book lately, I can't shake the feeling that part of my own destiny & plan are somehow connected to this heartbreaking cause.
I can't say it enough: This world needs its eyes opened.

While ridiculous critics mercilessly rip Tim Tebow for (fake) tackling his mother in a commercial, REAL injustice and abuse against women is going on under the guise of "sexual liberation" and "freedom of expression." The stereotypes and prejudices that women have fought for so long are simultaneously being condoned and heralded as feminist achievements! Why, prostitution is simply a CHOICE a woman makes, right??

Uh, last time I checked, NO little girl ever "wanted" to be a prostitute when they grew up.

Before I go off on another tangent, let me just say that despite how overwhelmed I sometimes feel, I am ready for whatever God wants of me. I may be over-tired some days and overjoyed on others, but I want what He has for me in this life.
No matter how crazy life may get, with Him, I know it's going to be crazy-good.

30 January 2010

Goodbye Sweet Siggy...

I can hardly stop crying long enough to write this... tonight (Friday night, although it's now early Saturday morning) we buried our dachshund, "Siggy." He was either 12 or 13 years old... we're not for sure because we rescued him from an animal shelter when he was only 1 or 2 years old.

Siggy (full name: Sigmund Freud Kelly) was Natasha's dog and he was quite a character. True to his name, he was a study in psychiatric behavior... canine psychiatric behavior. He was extremely OCD -- spending hours at a time barking at squirrels who taunted him above our tree-house or digging holes practically to China.
Without a doubt, he suffered from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and he would become so depressed in the winter that we once put him on doggy Prozac for about 6 months!

This faithful, little dog made the move with us from Little Rock to Baton Rouge nearly 10 years ago... He lived in a cramped apartment with a tiny balcony while our new house was being built. He's lived through 4 hurricanes and 2 "adventures" (we finally found him). Several years ago, our vet told us that Siggy either had cancer or kidney failure and that we should make our peace with him... he lived another 6.5 years.

In his earlier years, he was quite affectionate and extremely patient, but these past couple of years have been hard on all of us. We knew Siggy was not doing well because his temperament had gone a bit sour. Personally, I don't think he ever fully recovered after the death of his friend, Beowulf (Nadia's Labrador), 3 years ago. He just never was the same.

I pray that he knew we loved him even though these past couple of years were less than ideal. And I will unfailingly believe that we will see our crazy little black-n-tan once again some day... probably chasing squirrels in heaven. Soul or no, a God who loves animals so much to create as many as He did, will surely bring them home to Heaven.
So, goodbye Siggy.
You will be missed.

22 January 2010

How Can You Help?

Tying in to my last blog post, I wanted to offer some great info and website links for anyone who wants more information about the Haiti relief efforts. I know many people feel like there is nothing they can really do (see my previous post) and others feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. So, here are some places you can start:

HPC HAITI RELIEF EFFORT -- Healing Place Church has partnered with several organizations (including Samaritan's Purse) and local doctors (Dr. Greene, et., al) to bring medical supplies and equipment, and medical support to the nation of Haiti. Some of our teams have been working around the clock to help in the effort. Find out what you can do here.

DINO RIZZO's BLOG-- Lead Pastor of Healing Place Church -- Pastor Dino is posting, regularly, about the progress in Haiti. Learn more about actual events taking place on the ground in Port Au Prince.

If you are medically trained personnel and you want to offer your services:
EMAIL: br2haiti@gmail.com
CALL: 225.802.9941
Check out: http://docs4haiti.org

Or to follow our very own Dr. Greene as he tweets from Haiti:
Go to: www.twitter.com/thegreeneteam

Important Blog for regular updates & posted needs:
Shaun King

If you want to help the ORPHANS of Haiti: RAINBOWKIDS.COM

Great blog post by my friend Carole Turner: So You Want to Adopt One of the Orphans In Haiti?


And don't forget... KEEP PRAYING! There's more to be done and the work is far from over.
The rest of the world will soon grow bored with this relief effort. It will no longer be front-page news or "popular activism," but we have to persevere for the people of Haiti.

We are the body of Christ and thus, must be the hands of God.

19 January 2010

Praying for Haiti

There have been so many great posts written about the horrible tragedy that happened just 1 week ago... I seriously considered not writing anything because I didn't want to be perceived as "jumping on the bandwagon."
That said, this whole situation has touched me and my heart is breaking for the people of this impoverished nation.

Last night Healing Place Church joined with 30 other churches -- live & online -- for a special prayer gathering for Haiti.
As anyone who has lived through something awful may know, sometimes a tragedy can end in victory.
This is my prayer for Haiti.

This tiny, island nation has lived with, and through, so much... the level of poverty there is beyond comprehension.
Like their problems before the earthquake struck, Haiti's current predicament can seem so overwhelming... people begin to feel there is nothing they can really do.

Do not be deceived; PRAYER WORKS and we have seen that, firsthand, from our own experiences with tragedy here in Louisiana. So if you think you have nothing to offer... and little to give... just pray.

Pray for the people who are suffering like never before.
Pray for the volunteers who are exhausted and hungry and overwhelmed by the need.
Pray for supplies to be plentiful & to reach their intended destinations.
Pray for an end to the looting and lawlessness.
Pray that God's love and peace would settle on this tiny island nation and that this place once known mostly for voodoo, would become a triumphant nation of hope in Christ.

And when the cause begins to fade and it's no longer cool or popular to support the efforts there... keep praying because that's when they'll need it most.

For more information on how you can help, go HERE.

11 January 2010

What Do You See?

...when you look around?
Whether you want to see it or not, it's there.
Whether we want to believe it or not, it's an enormous problem and it's growing every day.

The United States is one of the worst -- and fastest growing -- countries for the horrendous (but very profitable) crime of human trafficking.
Ask most Americans and they will tell you that human trafficking is a problem of Third World nations like Cambodia, Thailand, or India.

Tell them it's happening here and they will scoff.
Tell them it's very likely happening in their own neighborhood or city and you will leave them speechless.

No one wants to think such a horrible thing could be happening right under their very nose, but that is exactly what is going on... Camouflaged by "freedom of expression," liberal views regarding sex, and casual attitudes toward the sex industry, women, men, and children are being bought and sold right here on American soil.

TODAY is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day & this is a call to arms.
TODAY you can arm yourself with knowledge and then help to empower those whose basic freedoms have been stolen away.
TODAY you can choose to get involved and actually DO something.
Or you can simply look the other way.


02 January 2010

The Next Ten...

And Happy New Decade!

In some ways, this decade has just flown by... my children have grown in a blink of the eye, it seems. But in many other ways, it's hard to believe that just 10 years ago was only 10 years ago! So much has changed -- in our world, and especially in ME.

In the past decade, since Y2K:

--I have moved to another state and adopted another city as my own. (I LOVE Baton Rouge!)

--I have had another child -- my third daughter.

-- I have gained 50 pounds and then lost 96...

--I have changed directions, professionally & politically.

-- I have survived being run over by a drunk driver and the overwhelming anger & depression which followed...

--I have survived hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike and (having grown up in Arkansas)... I still think I prefer them to tornadoes!

-- I have joined ranks with one of the most "REAL" and truly Christ-like churches I have ever seen: Healing Place Church.

-- I have found amazing grace and favor with God by allowing Him to guide my steps.

-- I have let go of years of anger and resentment for things which were truly beyond my control, and even for some that weren't.

-- I have written a book and have begun to write another.

-- I have turned my determination for justice into a mission of mercy.

-- I have stepped outside of my comfort zone to reach out to those who have lost hope and feel forgotten.

-- I have met amazing friends who put orphans and widows, the homeless and the heartbroken, ahead of their own selfish dreams.

-- I have learned how to "tear down the walls" and take the Church to those who might never set foot in one.

-- I have had my eyes opened to the horrors and injustice and the overwhelmingly enormous problem of human trafficking... and I have set my path to join the fight against it.

-- I have discovered that I am a daughter of the King and that nobody -- NOBODY -- can take that away from me.

Ten years have held a lifetime of changes for me.
And I can't wait to see what God has for me in the next ten...

God bless each and every one of you in this new year & the coming decade!