Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh, the Drama!

Well, blarg! Tonight I am bored and watching old 30 Rock re-runs tonight while Andy's in rehearsal. So I decided to look up online when my all-time FAVS are coming back... thinking SURELY it would be late Aug, maybe Sept at the latest. But blast!!-- Lost and 24 are not returning to the small screen until JANUARY 2009. This is going to be a long fall. Even 30 Rock won't return until Oct 30th. I am thoroughly bummed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad!

My dad, the year that I was born.
Today is my dad's 65th birthday. YEAH! Happy Birthday! Yesterday I decided to flip through some old photos of the fam growing up and see if I could find a good father-daughter pic for a present. Considering I just got back from Turkey, I found myself noticing so many pictures of us on trips together. One of my consistent childhood memories of my dad was his travels. Our family took advantage of every school break to travel somewhere new. But I also remember, there were mornings when I'd come downstairs for breakfast before school and ask "where's dad?" my mom would tell me "Oh, he's in Haiti, he'll be back next week" or "Oh, he flew to Singapore last night, he'll be home in 2 weeks." I remember thinking how strange, and yet how exciting! I always knew he would return, and with some neat pictures (or souveniers for me) to show me.

I don't think I realized at the time how much my dad's travel impacted who I would become. I, myself, am a traveler. Whether it's a trip for history, for education, for adventure, for rest, for fun, or for serving Jesus through humanitarian help... I watched him go on them all, and he taught me to do the same.

I remember when I was in college, my grandparents (my dad's parents) started just giving me money for birthday gifts and telling me they were giving me "the gift of memories." With it, I was supposed to take a trip to somewhere new. So I guess my dad, in some ways, got his traveling genes from his parents too. Who knows?!

So today, on your birthday, dad, I give you the gift of thanks-- thank you for being part of who I have become-- and a few snapshot memories of travels we've shared together...

Plymouth, Thanksgiving 1980. Dad, Amy, Ally, and little Anna.

Trekking through the jungles in Jamaica, Spring Break 1984. Me and dad, hand in hand on an adventure!

Emerging from the dungeon of Warwick Castle in England, May 1987.

Resting in the arms of my father in Santa Fe, Summer 1992.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Turkey in Pictures

I thought posting some of my favorite pictures from our trip would be a cool way to share our trip with you. Turkey is beautiful and we loved spending time with old friends while we were there... and making lots of new friends too! The rumors are so true-- Turks are the most hospitable people on the planet! Enjoy the snapshots...
This is the view out the window of our hotel in Izmir.

This is the sunset view over the Bosphorus from the rooftop resturant in our hotel in Istanbul.

Andy walking into the church of our good friends in Izmir for a Sunday service.

Andy and Umut hitting the music stores to check out gear that we could maybe rent in Izmir.

A tile mural of Izmir's coastline at the ferry station.

The Turkish flag is EVERYWHERE in Turkey. This one is hanging off the back of the ferry boat in Izmir.

Anna with Umut's mom when she had us over for afternoon tea and looking through Umut's baby pictures! (Izmir)

Andy and Anna with our new friends from Izmir, Ugur and Bahar! They joined us for several nights of hitting the rock bars looking for live Turkish music and also had us over one afternoon for lunch in their home.

Andy leaving the underground office of a rock bar in Izmir where he was meeting with the club owner. It was a tiny gnome door beneath the club itself. You couldn't even stand up straight in the little room.

Our friend Fikret getting mad at Andy for putting on a Galatasary hat at dinner. (see post on "Andy Found Himself in the Middle of a War").

Hakan and Nemruze were some friends we made while in Izmir. They had just gotten married 3 days ago! Here, I captured them flirting with each other in young love. They joined us one night to go hear live music.

The view from our hotel balcony in Izmir provided us a bird's eye view of a Turkish wedding one night on the roof of the parking garage across the street. The service area was on the floor beneath. The reception lasted well into the night. We were so glad to get to at least see this from afar.

A busy street scene in the Beyoglu area of Istanbul. This was Monday night at 10:30pm and it was bustling with people and life!

The view out of our hotel room in Istanbul. You can see the famous Bosphorus in the background.

Candid capture of Umut during a meeting with a rock bar owner in Istanbul. He was SUCH A HELP to us while we were there!

A cityview of the Bazaar Quarter area of Istanbul as seen from our hotel restaurant. Pictured in the foreground is the "Suleymaniye Mosque".

On our ferry ride to the "Asian Side" of Istanbul (from the "European Side" where we stayed).

Andy and I in front of the Galata Tower just in front of our hotel in Istanbul. This is the famed Tower where the first man who attached wings to his arms to test out flying jumped from in the 1700s.

Galata Tower lit at night through the glass roof of the resturant in our hotel. (Istanbul)

Andy and Umut EXHAUSTED and waiting for our flight in the Istanbul airport. This is the day before our return to the states and we had worn ourselves out!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Celebrating 4 Years!

While Andy and I were traveling in Turkey, we happened to be there on our 4th anniversary. As we had been working during the nights with so much focus since our arrival, my one request was simply a fun dinner out at a traditional Turkish show. Our hotel recommended a dinner show called “Sultana: The Story of the Sultan’s Harem”, which was all acted out in traditional songs and dances and costumes. We somehow convinced our good friend Umut to join us (because after a few days of non-stop Melvins he was pretty much a part of the family). When the curtains went up, we were treated to 3 bellydancing acts, 3 traditional men-women Turkish dances, a re-enactment of the mother of the sultan’s selection process for the woman from the harem for her son, and then a very bizarre re-enactment of the seduction dance between the sultan and his harem women, ending with a chorus of all the characters dancing and singing. It was certainly entertaining… awkward at times, funny at times, interesting at times.

Here is Andy and I with Umut after the show on the roof of our hotel looking out over Istanbul. The whole rooftop restaurant was made of glass in a 360 degree view and even the ceiling was glass. I watched the sunset up there the night before. It was gorgeous!

Below, I posted 2 videos, one of the bellydancers parading in a group before the sultana and the other of the “seduction dance” which was performed by two strangely costumed men (just watch… it’s weird looking!). The men have painted faces on their stomachs and fake arms hanging off their waists, and the arm head area of their real bodies is tucked into hat-like things. The whole dance I was so confused and maybe a little afraid that I forgot to video until the last 7 seconds... but luckily I caught the surpirse ending!

Andy Found Himself in the Middle of a War

While we were in Turkey, Andy somehow found himself the unwitting accomplice in an all out war between Turkish soccer fans. After having lunch in some new Turkish friends’ home one day, Ugur (pronounced OOor) gave Andy a gift—a hat from his favorite soccer team, Galatasaray. He instructed Andy to make sure and put it on in front of Fikret, our other Turkish friend. He assured us it would create quite a stir because Fikret roots for the rival of Ugur’s team, Fenerbahce. At dinner that night, Andy did as he was told and I caught a picture of Fikret’s reaction. He was soooo mad and it cracked the whole table up in laughter watching him steam.

Later that night, Fikret gave Andy a jersey from his favorite soccer team (the rival) and instructed him to put it on and go parade it through the other room where Umut was (who, turns out, is also a big fan Galatasaray). Umut shook his head, disgraced at Andy’s betrayal, while Fikret cheered on, declaring his gift determined Andy’s true allegiance to Fenerbahce.

Lastly, while Umut was taking us around Istanbul one day, we passed the official store for Galatasary and walked in to check it out. Umut made Andy put on this ridiculous hat so he could take a picture (above). Subsequently, Umut posted the picture on his Facebook page which has now generated a dozen or so comments back and forth between the warring fans. Andy was a pawn in their battle with each other, and it was fun!

CimBomBom (victory cheer for Galatasaray)!


One night after hitting the "rock bars" (what Turks call music clubs) looking for places to play on our trip in October, Fikret—our Turkish friend/tour guide—instructed us to try a famous Turkish dish. It was well after 2am and the street scene was winding down, but about every second block was a little cart on the curb with a man grilling “co-co-wretch” (spelled phonetically here). (Side note: the other blocks contained the second option of food at that hour… mussels in the shell served with lemon… sitting out in a box… not on ice… just ready for you to pop in your mouth right there.)

Fikret says that co-co-wretch is a food you only eat after 1am. Which tickles me that Turks have a “late night” equivalent. When I was in college, “late night” was always the best. You would get home from a long night out and be dying for a Whataburger or Taco Cabana (the two 24 hr fast food spots in Austin). So, after buying us what looked like a cheesesteak sandwich to me, Fikret asked for my camera to capture the moment of us eating this delicacy. Which, in mid-bite, he tells us is intestines roasted on a spit. Mmmmm. But we tried it none-the-less. Here’s the pics to prove it!

Even in Turkey, Some Things Stay the Same

** Andy can be “just a music dude” in any country… He finds music stores like they have a honing beacon, he quickly befriends musicians walking on the street, he bonds instantly in conversations with artists, and he walks right up to the coolest looking instrument in a store and picks it up to start playing. Below, he is playing the Turkish Saz.

** Anna can feel equally as uncool around artists in Turkey as she does back home… being married to Andy definitely sets me up to be the lesser “hip” in the relationship. But because he’s married to me, Andy fondly overlooks the nerd within me. However, when we hang around with his other artist friends, they are not obligated to like me and therefore provide a great deal of intimidation to me. I know I don’t dress as cool or understand much of what the conversations are about, but I can smile and nod and pretend I am not feeling like the biggest tool on the planet. For example, one of the club promoters we met in Turkey was a girl: She had dyed purple hair, tattoos all over, cool ear peircings, wore cool clothes, smoked Marlboro Reds, wore green eye shadow, and was a size zero… juxtapose me: wearing black Old Navy Capri pants with a short sleeve button down shirt with puffy sleeves (it was my cool day), no tats, no piercings, plain brown hair, drinking bottled water, and feeling very uninteresting. Oh well. One club promoter asked me if I was a Mormon because he’d never seen such a laughably boring outfit on a club goer. I felt cool!

** Mini-bars prices are just as expensive as in America… after our first hotel stay in Izmir, we found that ONE (mini) Toblerone candy bar and one Turkish beer costs $30. Good to know (sadly, after the fact)!

** Racial profiling exists in Turkey too... on our first night in Turkey our friend took us to a mall for dinner. At the entrance they had a security checkpoint set up like you see at the airport. You put your bag/items on the conveyor belt to be Xray'd then you walk through a metal detector to get in. All three of us (1 Turk and 2 Americans, plus the people after us) sent the detector a'buzzing, but our Turkish friend just kept walking into the mall. Andy and I stopped to get wanded, but nobody official even looked in our direction. Then our friend explains "they do racial profiling here too, they'll only stop you if you look Arab." That made me sad.

** Boys, in today’s high-tech times, will email and chat each other from laptops in the same room… I have seen Andy do this before in our house. His best friend Shawn came to visit one time and we spent the night watching YouTube videos and them chatting online while sitting on opposite couches. I thought this was random, and perhaps just reserved for their relationship. But I’ve now seen Andy and his Turkish friend Umut “facebook chat” each other while in neighboring rooms. Guys—you are just a few short steps away, why with the computer already?!

On the flip side, here are just a few things that are quite DIFFERENT in Turkey: 1) McDonald’s delivers. Yep, you heard me. Even milkshakes. 2) Andy, who normally would punch a boy for snuggling him or tickling him or messing with his body, actually lets Turks touch him. I watched him get tickled on the stomach, hugged on, snuggled up against, even tapped on the back… all of which is very out of the ordinary for Andy (but American boys would probably still get punched, so be warned). He says he’s just embracing a cultural difference of male affection in Turkey. Finally, 3) Turkey is a walking culture, Austin is not… which resulted in me getting ELEVEN blisters and one ripped toenail. Just for the record.

“We missed MOMMY!”

After 10 days away, my little puppies missed me so much they have smothered me all day with attention… and dog hair. By lunchtime, when we went to grab a bite, Andy could not stop laughing at my shirt and how covered I was (black was not an optimal choice). Above is my shirt and the dogs all fighting over who could snuggle me more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Questions I have...

Andy and I are traveling in Turkey right now... and I have stumbled across a few questions. They are random, but funny in my own head (not necessarily funny as in laugh out loud, but scratch your head kind of funny/interesting).

1) What do you do if you are old and "squatty pottys" are the toilet option? After using a sqatty potty here, and my own 31 yrs old legs getting tired and my knees aching, how does some 80 year old person pull THAT off? seriously! How would some old geezer be able to stand back up-- they'd get stuck?!

2) When is it ever good to NOT have trash cans readily available? Apparently when you are in the area we're visiting in Istanbul... we've been walking this one drag at night and always end up with a bag full of empty water bottles and coke cans cuz we can't find trash cans. Finally we asked our translator what the deal was. His response, simple. "Well, this street has been bombed many times by trash cans so, now, you cannot find." Ahhh. Lovely. So trash cans are the official drop spot for bombs in Istanbul. Awesome! And the good street to do so is our area.

3) Does "Event Time" apply to Muslim prayer too? So, you know how Muslims pray 5 times a day and there is a "call to prayer" over loud speakers throughout the cities so everyone knows when its time to stop and pray? Well, they are usually at 5am, 1pm, 5pm, 8pm, and 10pm (or something like that here in Turkey). Well, in Istanbul, the call to prayer is consistently late. 1:21pm. 5:17pm. 8:42pm. 10:23pm. Strange! I would have guessed it was strict time, but apparently, it's time when it's time. Huh! Maybe someone out there knows this is actually normal because I am not entirely sure of when the "directed times" are to pray.

4) How can 4 AA batteries cost less than $2?! Ahhh... when they only last 2 days!

5) How can it take 8 hours to drive to Istanbul from Izmir when it only takes 1 hour to fly? When there are mountains to pass and a sea to ferry over (Sea of Marmara). Flying ROCKS!

6) Does rice pudding actually have rice in it? I never thought so before, but after dessert tonight, apparently so. I felt several large, carby-flavored white rice nuggets neatly tucked in my soft pudding. Kinda gross actually.

7) Why can't we get BBC News in Austin? I think if Andy and I had some fancy-schmanzy cable/dish thing we could, but I just wish it came just in the standard package. As a news junkie, I Tivo 2 hours of news a day-- 1 hr on Fox News and 1 hr on CNN (so I can get a diverse view). CUE THE LAUGHING at what a complete dork I am. But even with those 2 hrs, I want more world news and I don't ever feel like I am getting the full story from those two stations. BBC gives a view into World News that the others cover in a 10 second sound bite. I used to Tivo a third hour of news each day, with CNN's "Your World Today" show that covered international news. But since the election season has commenced, they cancelled it and replaced it with "Issue #1" (which is about "the most important issue" for the election, currently deemed the economy)-- AS IF the regular news isn't covering the election or the economy enough already!!! Apparently, we really ARE so American-consumed that we don't need to talk about the rest of the world during this season. And yes, I can read online at BBC's site, but I would prefer a one hour news show. So, this is actually one of my very favorite things about traveling abroad... getting to watch BBC world news each night as I get ready for bed. mmmm.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Babies

So, this blog just isn't complete yet because I have yet to put anything about my babies on it. I have shied away from posting about the dogs because everyone who spends time around me already knows I'm just a little (overly) fond of my pups. But as Andy and I were preparing to do some traveling, I thought-- what better place to have pictures of these cute dogs (so I could hop online and see them any where in the world)! I actually videoed them during meal time last night and this morning to document the drama that is "food time!" But I couldn't get the blog to upload it (bum!). But if you have ever helped Andy and I out by feeding the dogs for us before, you know how award-winning-ly hysterical the scene is! Perhaps I can get it to post another time. For now, the old school still shots will have to do... My precious LADY-- she always looks like she'd in trouble and having to give us the oogle eyes to get back on our good side. My most needy child, LUCKY, who's favorite past-time is a dead tie between fetching his toy in the water and running suicides to and from my car door and the back door when I get home.
And the pappy, APPLEJACK, who looks like a grandpa and is the most docile, loyal dog in the world. (He's also recently been a super-snuggler to his momma and I'm lovin' every minute of it!)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Book Review: "Theirs is the Kingdom"

A year ago Stew and Jenny Rose were reading "Theirs is the Kingdom" by Robert Lupton. JRF recommended I move it straight to the top of my reading cue... it was just that powerful. I vividly remember her reading me an short excerpt from the book about how the author really struggled to love a woman in his ministry to the poor-- summarized simply and honestly in his resistance to inviting her into his home because she was dirty, stinky, and had toilet troubles that he was certain would ruin his couch or, worse, his coveted recliner chair. The author writes, "Why should it be such a struggle to decide which is more godly: to welcome Mrs. Smith into my home and my corduroy recliner or to preserve the 'homey aroma' of my sanctuary and get extra years of service from my furniture. Is this not precisely the issue of serving mammon or God?" (pg. 9)

This is the book I picked up to take with me on our sabbatical. I bought it in the church lobby the day before we left. I was pleased that it was a short 121 pages and that most chapters were simply 1 page, front and back. This will be a quick read, I thought. But, it is so much more than that. I could read each chapter-- which I would describe as little vignettes, or short reflections from the life of Mr. Lupton as he serves Jesus in urban America-- in minutes, but then would have to chew on the story for the rest of the day (or for several days). It's not an instructional book. It doesn't tell you how to do "poverty ministry in the urban cities". It is just a collection of snapshots... stories from the author's life trying to live among and serve a tough population. Many of the stories are of how he messed up and how God convicted him. Others are of his insight into how the situations in urban cities get perpetuated over and over. He is honest. He is wise. He is human.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. With our church's planned move to the St. John's neighborhood in Austin, this book is sooo appropriate for our church partners!


Just wanted to let everyone know that I have another blog on which I post amazing stories of surrendered lives... God's stories fleshed out in the willing vessels I know. I just posted this week's story about Caroline, a girl here in Austin who fell in love with the cause of orphans in India just 8 short years ago. She is an inspiration to me over and over. Check out her's, and others', stories at

Thursday, July 10, 2008

11:59 PM Wednesday

The numbers on the left are where the temperature SHOULD be (70), but the numbers on the right tell you where the temperature in the house ACTUALLY IS... Can you see the little red arrow (on the right) pointing to 90! Actually it was flittering and jiggling as though trying to climb to 100 but as you can see it doesn't record that high up. This was at midnight last night. I think I've done nothing but sweat for four days. Mmmmm... summer in Texas!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Snapshot from Our Time Away (written from the dead HEAT of summer)

Andy and I returned home from his sabbatical on Monday, arriving to a house with no A/C (and apparently A/C repairmen are in high demand right now leaving us boiling for a few more days). I am really glad to be back in Austin. I sure missed being around my friends and church family. But to celebrate what my time off held, I thought I’d list out a few of my favorite moments while away:

1.) ANDY GRILLING! We got a simple grill as a wedding gift (back in 2004) which has stayed neatly packaged in the box until this past month. Andy decided it was time to crack open the gift and get grilling already. He really enjoys it—and is a natural. Usually, I cook while he is working and then he comes up (when he’s done) and we eat together. But with him grilling, he’s cooking while I’m cooking. We get to share that time together. Plus, he says he finally understands why I get frustrated when he doesn’t come up from the studio when dinner’s ready—because the food gets cold and isn’t as good. There was a meaning to my madness after all, he says. : )

2.) SHARING THE HOPE SEMINARS! Andy and I listened to a set of seminars on CD that I had purchased from The Crescent Project ( Fouad Masri, the founder of the organization had come to speak at one of the “Encountering the World of Islam” classes I took in 2006 and I bought the CDs then. He is sooo inspiring in his evangelism to the Muslim world and so helpful in educating Christians in the cultural and religious beliefs of his (former) people. The 4 part seminar teaches you how to share the hope we have in Christ with the Muslims in your life. Andy and I listened while driving our many road-trips and our love for this population grew more deep the more we learned. If you want to know more about this particular seminar series, click this link:

3.) LOST! We are 24 fans. Not Lost fans. Until now. In our time off, we managed to start (and finish) all 4 seasons of Lost. First I loved Jack, now he’s on my hit list. First I hated Sawyer, now I am rooting for him. First I thought the “Others” thing was stupid, now I am totally hooked. I love how Charlie miraculously straightened his tiny, British teeth between Season 1 and 2. I love Desmond and Sayid. I can’t stand Ben. Even Juliette bugs. I really want to know what the deal is with the "others" guy that never ages. And Locke’s worship of the island is a bit tiresome. Now, we are simply frustrated that we have to wait till fall for the saga to continue (and even then we can’t watch 6 straight episodes because they’ll only come once a week).
4.) SURPRISES! My oldest sister lives in Virginia and we rarely get to see each other. But when I heard that she was flying to Texas for just one night to drop off her kids for a grandparent vacation, Andy and I decided to drive up to Fort Worth to surprise her. We arrived at my dad’s house while he was still at the airport picking her up. Andy laughed at me as I paced back and forth in front of the window, on the look-out for their car, so we could make sure and run hide before she walked in the door. Our plan was to hide in my dad’s room and let our dogs greet them at the door to confuse her, then we jumped out and yelled “Surprise!” It was sooo fun! We cooked a big family dinner and stayed up talking for a while. And before we even got up the next day, she was back on a plane to VA. Short, but definitely sweet!

5.) FISHING! I haven’t fished, really, since I was a kid. Back then my mom used to bait my hook, fish sitting next to me, and take any catch off my line for me. (I realize that makes me spoiled.) Fast forward to 2008, my sweet husband took on the role… all I had to do was cast the line and reel it in. He would put on the worms and pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth. It was so fun! (And “ewww”-free for me.) Below are two pictures of me “fishing”—one of my tiniest catch and one of my biggest catch (my flip flop was my measuring stick).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

An Exerpt & Some Trembling

The following is an excerpt from my friend Jen Hatmaker's latest book, Ms. Understood. I have already read it twice (and it hasn't been out a month) and highlighted the tar out of it! There are so many words of wisdom that have impacted me from this book that I couldn't begin to write them all. (Bottom line, you all need to go buy it and read it! But for now, here is one passage that particular grabbed my attention. I am not quite sure how God intends to have me process and flesh this out yet, but needless to say, I'm listening God...

I'll never forget the day that Christ walked me through His conversation with Peter (see John 21), asking me the same questions.

"Jen, do you love Me?"

This seemed aggravating, and I responded a little like Peter did: "Of course I do! Come on, Jesus! This is ME you're talking to! If I don't love You, then I should quit this ministry thing and get a job that makes real money. Let's move on to a real topic."

"Feed My lambs."

Hmmm. "I do feed them. I feed them spiritually," I said a little woundedly.

"Jen, do you love Me?"

What WAS this? Was He possibly saying the zillions of hours I ministered weren't enough? What was going on here? What was happening? What was this conversation? I expected it to end after my first answer. I said, "Jesus, I DO love You! Isn't it obvious? Do You honestly not think I love You? Why are you asking this?"

"Take care of My sheep."

"Don't I?! Do I not care for their souls and nourish them with Your Word? Has my whole life not been spent on Your church?" Now I'm bawling, because I was scared. I sensed that Jesus was about to rock my life. He and I hadn't spoken like this before.

"Jen, do you love Me?"

At this point, I freaked out. I was handling the gospel exactly like I thought I should. I studied it, taught it, wrote about it, breathed it. I constantly counseled, hugged, challenged, and loved women. We'd made so many sacrifices for ministry that I could not wrap my head around this conversation. If these didn't indicate my love for Christ, then I had no idea what to do.

"You're scaring me, Lord. If I am not Your disciple, then nothing is true in the whole world. I love You, and I serve Your people seven days a week. I cannot understand this! What is going on?"

"Feed My sheep."

"I feed their souls."

"Yes, but twenty-four thousand of My sheep will die today because no one fed their hungry bellies. Eighteen thousand of My littlest lambs will die in their mothers' arms today, starved in a world of plenty. My true disciples engage the suffering world."

My life changed in that moment. Jesus interrupted my comfortable world of pop-Christianity and enlisted me in the cause of my generation, the mission of His true church. Hunger, poverty, orphans, widows, oppression, war-- these are not metaphors in Scripture. As Jesus' brother told us, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?' (James 2:14-16).

Jesus said that His gospel was good news for the poor, sick, orphaned, and oppressed because His people would be His hands and feet.

... How will we answer one day if we fail to intercede? "God, we didn't know"? "We didn't have any resources"? "We were overwhelmed"? "We didn't think You were serious"?

- pg. 179-180, Ms. Understood by Jen Hatmaker

The crazy part is (and of course God works this way), I had just finished studying that passage from James (towards the end of the excerpt from her book) and had recognized for the first time that the "good deeds" or "good works" that he is referring to are acts of benevolence-- not just fleshing out your spiritual gifts within the church.

So, for me, if I serve in the teaching ministry at our church because that is one of my gifts, that is NOT what James is talking about. He gives us a very real example right there in the passage-- food and clothes to those in need... meeting physical needs. Faith without those kinds of "deeds" is no faith at all.

Oh Lord, I tremble as I pray this, but would you grow Andy and I in this area of faith-in-action, outside of the church, to the hungry, thirsty, sick, stranger, oppressed, poor... whatever you desire. Just like Jen, I too am scared. The whole idea is stretching and intimidating. Just help us find what You have set aside for us to walk in (outside the church) and then strengthen us to pursue it, even as we continue to serve you within your church.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Old Lady Face

In the last month I have been tanning like I am 16 again. I seem to have forgotten that the sun and/or our atmosphere have changed a bit in the last 15 years (yes, that means I’m 31). But, once I got my initial sunburn the first week in June, I have been piling on the sun—minus the sunscreen—day after day… because, you know, once you have a base you don’t burn anymore (remember that theory we used to buy in?). Once I started looking tan, I even joked with Andy taunting him into a “tan off” to see who get more tan by the end of the summer. It was ON!

I have been exercising outside, fishing outside, reading outside… even wireless internet-ing outside. Anything to add to the color. Two weeks ago, when I met my Turkish Conversation Partner for coffee, she double-took when I walked in and immediately asked what was wrong with my face—“it’s all… brown (in a completely grossed out tone of voice)?” Apparently other cultures recognize the stupidity of tanning more than we do.

This weekend, I was driving in the car and caught a close-up glimpse of my face in the rear view mirror—and to my horror: SUN SPOTS – ON MY FACE!!! I’m used to them on my legs, maybe my shoulders—but big spots on my face is NOT what I signed up for. I shrieked and called Andy immediately—“I have liver spots on my face!” “What?” “Liver spots!” “But you're not in your 80s…” “EXACTLY!” (By the way, I am not sure if they are called liver spots, officially, but that’s what they are called in my head.)

So now I have a vision of a spotty, old-looking face at the ripe age of 31! I can see my future now…

Remind me to invest in some sunscreen before it’s too late!