Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why I Won't Do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Believe me when I tell you that my heart is tender toward those who battle ALS. As a nurse, I had patients who suffered tremendously and their end was more than difficult. I’m glad the challenge has brought light to Lou Gehrig’s Disease and has raised so many millions to combat it. I’m really happy to see so many Hollywood and sports celebrities taking part. I hope and pray the money raised will go directly to helping those who are struggling daily with ALS, and I pray even more that better treatment and a cure is found.

But now I need to explain why I won’t participate. For the past three years, I’ve been working on growing an organization to help young ladies who have been the victims of domestic sex trafficking. (That means American girls trafficked in our backyards by American perpetrators.) In brief, part one of our vision is to build a short-term transition house to assist young adult survivors with independent living and leadership skills so that they can become healthy, productive leaders in their spheres. 

Part two of the vision is a long-term safe house for minor victims that will help them become victorious overcomers. We will be the first not for profit organization to accomplish these goals in a faith-based setting in the state of NY where thousands of girls and young women are trafficked annually. Currently, there are very few places that have direct services for this overwhelming number of trafficking survivors. Many end up in jail, detention centers, or large residential treatment centers simply because authorities have few options for them.

The great news is that we just received our tax exempt status! Now we can finally write grants and raise funds so that we can do what we must to help these girls. Until recently, anything we needed to do with and for the girls we currently work with came out of my pocket. Legal fees for incorporation and the non profit status included. To fulfill the vision, we will need several million dollars just to get started. 

So while ALS is a wonderful cause and this challenge has brought so much good to the fight against it, my passion and fight must stay focused. With that, I will take the $100 for not pouring ice cold water on my head (Those who know me know that I HATE being cold!!!) and put it into Sparrow’s Hope for Girls’ bank account. And for the very first time, it will be tax deductible! 

Thanks for understanding. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

André Rieu - And The Waltz Goes On (composed by: Anthony Hopkins)

If you've not heard this stunning work by Sir Anthony Hopkins, please do yourself a favor and take the time. It really is just ... okay. I'm speechless at the beauty of this piece and had to share it with you!

May it bring a smile to your day!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Debate: The Art of Passionate Listening

I bet you’ve never thought of debate as passionate listening before. In fact, the first thing we think of when we hear “debate” is two sides voicing their own convictions and opinions. Yet, if we are really debating well, we are also listening to our “opponent.” 

Most of us have deep passions stemming from our experiences in this life. And I hate to break this to you, no matter what we’ve lived through, neither you or I know everything about anything! We should all be learning and growing as long as we have breath. Sometimes I think we forget that we have much to learn from one another. 

I enjoy when someone challenges me on something I think I know. Going back and forth with our given understanding, if we are willing, we both learn something important, new, or a different perspective than the one we’ve come to perceive as the sole truth. And if I’m being honest, my first reaction is usually that I’m right, and you’re not necessarily wrong. I want my opinion validated, because unless I consider what you’re saying is dead wrong, I will validate yours. And even if my strong convictions decree that you are, in fact, dead wrong, I will still do my earnest best to validate your experiences and what you’re saying.

The bottom line is that I want to hear you. We should want to hear one another. As humans, we should validate each other by passionately listening to one another and considering well what is being said. It broadens our thinking, helps us understand our own limitations, and helps us strengthen our convictions. 

With social media, it seems that we are too quick to judge, too stubborn to listen, and too adamant to lend understanding and validation to each other. We demand that we are the only voice of reason, and any and all other opinions are unsound and foolish. It’s seems that this is a plague brought on by the ability to hide behind a keyboard and spew our opinions unthinkingly. We don’t face one another and engage in conversation much anymore. I’m pretty sure that the way we “behave” on the internet would be different if we were looking into one another’s eyes. 

I challenge myself and each of us to learn to listen. Before responding to that person whose post or comment you so vehemently disagree with, take a breath. Think about what they’re saying. Ask yourself or even ask them why they see it the way they do and listen. Don’t REACT to their opinion. Respond to it by thoughtfully proposing your viewpoint, if you must. But first, take care to clarify that you at least hear what they are saying.

If we all did this, we could actually learn something. About one another. About ourselves. 

Try it now. With the man in this video. Can you listen and judge not? I know I would have loved to spend a few minutes talking with Mr. Knight! Now, I'll just have to wait! 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Willie Myrick: Every Praise is to Our God!

This blog was written by my friend, Sean Wrench and reposted here by his permission. Read his wisdom and insight after being inspired by one very wise,  brave little boy!
Meet 10 year old Willie Myrick. 
Last week Willie was kidnapped right in his own front yard.
Willie did something that many of us would probably think is a little crazy.
He started worshipping. In fact he kept singing for 3 hours and finally the kidnapper let him go.
I’m going to speculate a little here if you don’t mind. Something tells me Willie went to Sunday school. I wonder if Willie was drawn in with amazement as the teacher told stories of impossible situations that God delivered people from.
I wonder if Willie heard about Jehoshophat.  In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshophat who was King of Judah was about to go into the biggest battle of his life. Scripture says that a ‘vast army’ was coming against him. 
Jehoshophat was outnumbered and outmatched. I don’t know about you but I can relate to this. There are so many battles in life I’ve fought that were just bigger than me. I felt overwhelmed.
But Jehoshophat did something that for the leader of a great army just didn’t make sense. As they went into battle he put the worshippers on the FRONT LINE. Can you imagine this? 
They went into the biggest battle of their life singing “Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever”
I just wonder if Willie Myrick heard this story.
I wonder if he heard about Gideon. In Judge 7 Gideon faced a similar battle as Jehoshophat. Scripture tells us that just their camels numbered more than the grains of sand on the seashore.
Gideon led only 300 men into a battle that was likely against hundreds of thousands of men if not millions. With trumpets and clay pots they charged into battle shouting “For the Lord and for Gideon”and if you study the Old Testament you’ll see that the most common use of Trumpets were in worship cermonies. 
I wonder if Willie heard about King David. David went into more battles than we could count. In fact David fearlessly led many a battle. I don’t think it’s by chance that David was a worshipper. 
But here’s the thing. It’s easy to stand in church and lift our hands and sing songs when life is good. It’s easy to sing those worship songs on the top of our lungs when we are driving in our car when everything in life is comfortable.
That’s the easy part. But when we worship before the battle and during the battle. Oh man that’s where the powerful stuff happens.
You see King David knew something about this. In fact in 2 Samuel 22 he said “I called to the Lord who is worthy of praise and then I was saved from my enemies” 
David didn’t just praise after the victory. David knew that praise preceded the victory. 
I wonder if Willie Myrick heard the famous story about the Israelites marching around the walls of Jericho. In Joshua 6 as they marched around the walls Joshua ordered them to shout unto the Lord and sound the trumpets. And I think most of us know what happened next. The walls came down. 
Abraham. He faced one of the most impossible situations recorded in the Bible. I’m no doctor but I don’t know anyone in recent history that became a Dad at the age of 100. I mean let’s be honest ‘stuff’ just stops working at that age. Sarah was 90. But scripture tell us that Abraham didn’t stop praising and giving glory to God.
Here’s what I want us to understand. 10 year old Willie Myrick has just taught the world a very powerful lesson. Praise wins the battle.
Listen, I am going through some tough stuff in life right now, you are going through some tough stuff, we ALL are facing battles in our life.
So I dare you. I dare you to worship in the battle. I dare you to sing on the top of your lungs when you absolutely least feel like it. I dare you in the midst of what seems like an impossible situation to lift up your hands wherever you are and just start praising God. 
Why is worship so powerful? Because scripture is crystal clear that God is moved by our faith. Worship energizes our faith. Do you know that there are 42 times in the Bible where God actually changed his mind? This is really a whole different blog post but let me briefly say this. God’s character never changes. But prayer and worship move the heart of God. God will change his mind when we pray and worship when it lines up with his character. And it’s not always about us asking God to change his mind about our situation. Jesus was clear that prayer brings heaven to earth. When we pray we bring God’s will that is in heaven down to earth. Sometimes we simply have not because we ask not. Or we gave up asking. I’m so tempted to start talking about prayer but I’ll save that for another blog post. 
If we could just understand how deeply God loves us and is longing to move on our behalf we would start praying like crazy and worshipping our lungs out ! 
Because prayer and worship MOVE GOD ! I don’t know Willie Myrick personally but I’ll bet at some point in his 10 years someone taught him that. 
And when faced with possibly the most fearful situation a 10 year old could ever face Willie started to worship.
Here’s the song Willie sang.
Sean is the Founder&CEO of Alive Marketing Group. He also leads a team of incredibly passionate entrepreneurs as a Brand Partner with Nerium International. 
As the former director of Forsaken Generation he has spoken around the country about the issue of Human Trafficking.
He was also a part of 2 church plants and continues to be passionate about sharing his faith with others. 
Please take a moment to leave a comment on this post and share the post! For more from Sean you can find him here: 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Musings from My Hyper-active Morning Brain 2. I Need Something

I need something. I want something. I want something more than the status quo, predictable Sunday church service. I want more than sitting in and doing my due diligence to what we now refer to as “church.” I deeply desire the kind of gathering, an Acts 2 kind of life where we regularly come together, break bread, and open our hearts to one another about what God is teaching us, how He is leading and directing us, and encourage one another as we follow Him. Where we continually hold one another accountable, living iron sharpening iron, laughing, crying, and loving on each other, spurring each other on in the things of God in this life.

I don’t want a pizza party or bowling night. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. And I believe God’s true church is more than a group of people facing forward in a room. Not that there’s anything wrong with that either. But I crave a New Testament experience with other believers who are hungry for something perhaps less appealing to most. I’ve been with folks who shy away from conversations about God, saying that we could be so “heavenly minded that we are no earthly good…” I beg to differ. The more heavenly minded we are, the more we have the mind of Christ, the more we look like Him, act like Him, love like Him, the more equipped will we be to do His will and work in the earth and be part of His Kingdom come. 

In John 17:20-23, Jesus prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one, I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."

Jesus understood that as we are in complete unity with Him and with one another, the world will believe in Him! How will they know? By the love we have for one another. (John 13:35) When the world sees the love of Jesus shed abroad in our hearts FOR ONE ANOTHER, then they can trust the Jesus we proclaim. And honestly, we can’t learn to truly love one another, forgive one another, be family with one another (with all that “family” implies) by just doing our due diligence performances on Sundays. There’s got to be so much more!

We must have the kind of fellowship believers had in Acts 4:32 where the “multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” And I can hear the rumblings. Well, that’s just not practical today. If you are a Christian, you already know there’s nothing practical about following Christ! 

I really didn’t mean for this to get into a bible study. I’m just passionately seeking answers for myself. Because I need something. I want something more than the status quo, predictable Sunday church service. I want family. In reality, not just in a musing. I’m desperately hungry for true, bible fellowship. What about you?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Morning Musings from My Hyper-brain. 1

My brain is often hyper-active in the morning. Thoughts pour in and out of my head as I ready myself for work. Brushing my teeth seems to really bring on the flow. So here's the first of my hyper-morning brain musings.

What if Jesus and the disciples acted like some of us do? What if they went to the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery with signs that said, "GOD HATES ADULTERERS" or what if they just behaved as though he hated them? On the other hand, what if we behaved like Jesus did and loved all kinds of people, showing them that God really does love them in spite of themselves, just like he does us?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Conductor and the Viola Player


Even in his diminutive stature, the conductor stands above the rest; his long, wild, curly hair tossing every which way as he gracefully and intentionally flails his arms to and fro. He seems strangely connected and yet separate, and to those not trained, he appears off the beat from the rest of the orchestra, or they lagging behind. Yet in reality, he stays ever so slightly ahead of the beat so the orchestra can follow well.

But how fascinating it is to study the members of the orchestra! The conductor passionately cuts the atmosphere with his hands or baton, pointing, cueing, guiding, and directing each note and each section with precision. And yet, the musicians almost never look up at him. There may be an infrequent glance, but almost never from the concertmaster or first violinist. The whole of them are concentrated on the written score. Having been diligently trained and highly disciplined, the score is enough to keep them in perfect sync. Their focus remains intent with those infrequent gazes to their incomparable leader.

Still, he remains fixed and steady at his post, dancing and swaying, directing each individual musician, each section of instruments, and the whole orchestral body. He understands that in his absence, even the most gifted and seasoned musician may fall astray and lead the others with him. The conductor’s faithful presence is a source of security even for those who never have to lift their eyes-their faith is rewarded by his sure presence, and they fulfill their mission in notes and chords and measures and scores, both individually and as a magnificent whole.
But wait! Did I neglect to tell you about the viola player? She sits next to the concertmaster; a clear indication of her expertise. Yet, she looks at the conductor with great frequency while she plays. It isn’t because she needs him to direct her more than the others do--she knows her score and its timing well. On the occasion when her instrument isn’t being played in a piece, she moves slightly to the music, or she looks at the other musicians and smiles--although this gesture is never returned. Or she watches the conductor with that sweet, gentle smile. It is clear, she enjoys him! She enjoys her fellow musicians, and she relishes being a part of something so wonderful.
The unity of the orchestra is the conductor’s great achievement. Without the use of a single word, the strings and the woodwinds, the percussion and brass, although so obviously different from one another, work meticulously as one to evoke emotion from hearers and move them deeply.
After each masterfully executed piece, the audience shares their high praise. The conductor steps down from his podium and bows slightly. Then with great enthusiasm, he turns and points to each section, directing them to rise and receive recognition. And they never do so without the conductor’s direction! When the concert has ended, the audience rises to their feet in a show of gratitude. After once again taking his bows, the conductor goes into the sections and personally greets the musicians, shaking their hands and congratulating them on a job well done!

(This allegory was inspired by Jeffrey Kahane, the conductor and pianist in the photo, and the NY Philharmonic Orchestra at Lincoln Center, NY.)