Wednesday, December 27

Onething or Nothing

I'm writing from Kansas City, at the International House of Prayer. Tomorrow I'm joining 10,000+ young adults for a three-day gathering of worship, prayer, and fasting to bring in the New Year. Onething is known for being a massive welcoming of the Holy Spirit. For me this is a time of re-focusing on the One. I'm pumped.

I was in the prayer room for a little while last night. (Mike Bickle opened this prayer room in September of 1999 and has orchestrated night and day, non-stop worship and intercession for the nations since then. It is an insane move of God!) We spent hours praying corporately for the young people coming to Onething. That the fire of the Holy Spirit would move on our hearts. (I really think the Spirit likes those prayers.)

I helped out with the pre-conference set-up today. I had the strange-adrenaline-rushed-job of unpacking and displaying thousands of brand new books for the Onething Bookstore. As I wielded the power of my exacto-knife on cardboard boxes, I chatted with a guy named Phil in the Forerunner School of Ministry, IHOP's full-time Bible school. FSM is unique in its approach to theological training, because in addition to the classroom, IHOP requires that every student spends significant time in the prayer room, getting near to God's heart, and dialoguing with Him about the things they are learning. It's a far cry away from just devouring books and filling up a mind with knowledge. This is a heart education.

As a happy and challenged seminary student at Fuller, I was interested to hear about Phil's FSM schedule.

"How many hours to you get to spend with God in the prayer room each week?"

"Oh, anywhere from 25-30. It's amazing." He said.

"I'm jealous for that sort of education." I confessed.

Monday, December 25

Joy to the World

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Even Today We Need Him

Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas Day address is quite beautiful and resounding. Here it is translated from the Italian: Pope's 'Urbi et Orbi'.

...How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? ...Today "our Saviour is born to the world", for he knows that even today we need him.

...Who will make this message of hope resound, in a credible way, in every corner of the earth? Who will work to ensure the recognition, protection and promotion of the integral good of the human person as the condition for peace, respecting each man and every woman and their proper dignity?

...May the Divine Child, the Prince of Peace, grant an end to the outbreaks of tension that make uncertain the future of other parts of the world, in Europe and in Latin America.

and all God's people said, "oh yes!"

Saturday, December 23

I've Been Tagged By Pastor Phil!

There is a nasty game of "tag" going on through the blogosphere. I didn't get to the "safe" zone near the swings fast enough and I've been made "it." (I never was the fast one.) Pastor Phil in Salem has threatened me (with every known spiritual law) that I must post 5 things you may not know about me. Here goes.

1. Of all the fictional characters in the world, I most want to be Amelie. Because she is a mysterious do-gooder, a quirky little thing, and she has a rad haircut. If you haven't seen it, grab some brie and creme brulee, and rent it immediately. I wish you to imagine the following four things in the manner of the opening sequence. Merci.

2. Jenelle likes: Referring to herself on occasion in the third person. It makes her feel like she's narrating the movie of her life. And then she imagines what song would fit perfectly on the soundtrack.

3. Jenelle dislikes: When words are published (in paper, not blogs) with incorrect spelling or terrible grammar. It makes her crazy. (Especially because she's noticed it in 1/5 of all the Christian-published stuff she's ever read. She thinks Jesus smacks his forehead when he sees it.) She neurotically re-posts her blog-stuff on average three point two times, each time adjusting a clause, word, or thought. Her friend Jane once lamented, "Oh Nelly! What will you DO if you fall in love with a boy who can't spell?"

4. Jenelle likes: The smell of the freshly cut grass on a golf course very early in the morning. She likes to hit long tee-shots and outdrive the boys she's playing with. It doesn't matter to her that she's a naff-putter and rarely outscores them.

5. Jenelle dislikes: How often she sets herself up to be the "you're such a good listener" in conversations. Because one reason she listens so well is that she's insecure others aren't really interested in what she has to say.

And now! I am tagging Lisa (California-Africa), Barbara (Portugal/Global), Stew (Austin), and Rachel (Nashville). And I threaten them with the glare of this scary Santa.

Image from Wikepedia.

Friday, December 22

Intoxicated with the Glorious Unveiling

Frank Viola's article in The Ooze this week really stirred me today. His article is refreshingly confessional about how he's been infatuated with so many spiritual things flowing from Jesus, rather than Christ himself. It's made me reflect on how often I miss Jesus in the midst of all of the Jesus-stuff: the working for Him, the reading about Him, all of his good and crazy natural and supernatural gifts. As we count the days to Christmas, and often bemoan how the world has missed the point of the Day, I'm pointed back to my own heart and how often I miss Jesus, too.

"The Deep Ecclesiology of the Body" is excerpted from Frank's newest book, God’s Ultimate Passion: Unveiling the Purpose Behind Everything:

As I survey the landscape of modern Christianity, it seems to me that spiritual things and objects have replaced the Person of Christ. The doctrines, gifts, graces, and virtues that we so earnestly seek have substituted for Jesus Himself. We look to this gift and that gift . . . we study this truth and that truth . . . we seek to appropriate this virtue and that virtue, but all along we fail to find Him.

When the Father gives us something, it’s always His Son. When the Son gives us something, it’s always Himself. This insight greatly simplifies the Christian life. Instead of seeking many spiritual things, we only seek Him. Our single occupation is the Lord Jesus Christ. He becomes our only pursuit. We do not seek Divine things, we seek a Divine Person. We do not seek gifts, we seek the giver who embodies all the gifts. We do not seek truth, we seek the incarnation of all truth.

God has given us all spiritual things in His Son...
To put it candidly, you will never have an authentic experience of the Body of Christ unless your foundation is blindly and singularly Jesus Christ. Church life is born when a group of people are intoxicated with a glorious unveiling of their Lord. The chief task of a Christian leader, therefore, is to present a Christ to God’s people that they have never known, dreamed, or imagined...
Read the whole thing.

Old school Jesus image from the cute: Jesus of the Week site

Thursday, December 21

Euro-centric Travelista

Brian, Carla, and Phil's blogs each have lured me into doing this World 66 where-I've-been-map. (B, C, and P are all 24-7 prayer folk in Europe. When I grow up I want to be like them.) It seems that I need to visit a continent other than Europe. But, I agree with Phil, I think national boundaries are a bit blurred. In these days of the globalization of everything, what are borders anyway?

What I'd do if I had the moo:
1. Spend a long time with the Borden's and Russell's in Tanzania.
2. Ride a motorcycle around South America like Che Guevara did.
3. Make an obligatory trip to Canada via Toronto to see if the Spirit is still a flowin' there like wild.
4. Wander around Tunisia. Cause I've had crazy dreams about her.
5. Spend a lot more time in the quiet islands of Greece. Santorini, for one.
6. Hang out with Alan and Deb Hirsch's incredible community in Melbourne. (See also: The Shaping of Things to Come.)
7. Buy that old apartment in Sao Joao do Estoril Portugal as my vacation home.

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Post-its on the Side

So, I've added some interactive-ness at the end of the sidebar.

>>>Uno. Pacman. Because it was my favorite game in 1984. (You play it with your computer's arrow keys. There weren't mice around when Pacman started.)
>>>Due. Joel News Headlines (aka. Global-News-Your- Newspaper-Missed") Because God is doin' good stuff 'round the globe, and you're probably missin' it, bub.

So Rich, Am I

Here's a snappy little site that calculates how rich you are, in proportion to the rest of the world's population: Global Rich List. It's a quick glance to see how we could help others by giving, even giving just a little at a time. (For example, $73 could buy me a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.) I think it should have us American's enter not only our annual income, but also our current debt. I'm starting to feel that credit-and-loan is the most deceptive thing since that nasty little snake in the Garden. I could be giving more, but I'm mostly giving to Citibank and Salliemae. Gross.

Wednesday, December 20

Net Neutrality Nuked by The Man?

It seems inevitable. The Man's gonna nuke the neutrality of the net! (Clearly, The Man reads Time magazine and wants to make a buck.) Consider this: the internet could be one of the only "spaces" in the global economy that is an equal-playing-ground for every Voice. (And when I was a skeptical little high schooler, I said the internet was of the devil. Ha.) This flick is a cute call to action. Just under four minutes for your office coffee break. And here's a link to get the "stop it!" message quickly to your legislators: Save the Net

Tuesday, December 19

Confessions in Salem

This is a remarkably beautiful story from Pastor Phil in Salem, Mass. Especially if you've read Miller's Blue Like Jazz. Here's a quick excerpt from the post, One Big Sorry Church: It was no new idea...James was the one with the idea of trying it in Salem over the weeks of Halloween events, and I thought it would work well, but we had no idea how well. James bought a few monks robes. We had the tents and tables...We made signs, "Free Confessional Booth."

How to Spend $15 @ Borders

Today I received a $15 Christmas gift card to Borders (thanks Ernest and Tammy!). Since I only have t-minus 20 days until my next Fuller-online class, I decided I needed to make this non-academic reading purchase pronto. I brought a stack of books to my table to peruse, grabbed a cup of Seattle's (probably not the) Best decaf, and spent a half-hour choosing my pages of prey.

I was an English major in college. For the thousands I paid ( still paying) for my education, one of the nicest things I learned was how to figure out what's worth reading. You've just gotta have a plan, honey. And you gotta know how to read the reviews and skim the stuff real fast.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Phillip Keller) $4.99
I've heard many say this little one is an overlooked classic. I wanted to read the whole thing while I was there. Borrow this from the church library, baby.

Velvet Elvis (Rob Bell) $14.99
One Velvety idea: Our relationship with God is a trampoline that we invite others to jump on. “I am far more interested in jumping than I am in arguing about whose trampoline is better. You rarely defend the things you love. You enjoy them and tell others about them and invite others to enjoy them with you.” Borrow this from a friend cause Rob Bell is so hot these days that everyone's who's feeling groovy and "emergent" has it, baby.

Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi (David Crowder) $14.99
Yes, David Crowder wrote a book. It's a reflection on the Psalms (Remixed) by Eugene Peterson, replete with zany illustrations and wild Appendices. I want to read this. But I don't need to own it. Read this while you're at Onething 2006 next week! It'll surely be in the IHOP bookstore with the cushy chairs. You can just read it in there and not buy it. Boo yah, baby.

The Story $24.99
About 380 pages of the Bible in Narrative form, with the new (and happily inclusive speaking) TNIV translation. Try to borrow this from the public library, baby.

Martin Luther King, Jr., On Leadership $4.99
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -MLK Dec 1960 Although King is phenomenal, this doesn't look like the most phenomenal book about MLK.
There's a reason why bargain books are bargain books. Find a better MLK bio at the library, baby.

To Be Told: God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future (Dan Allender, PhD) $13.99
Dan is the Christian counselor guru man. I like him. (Too bad his publishers made the sub-title of his new book so cheeseafied.) To Be Told encourages people to look at their lives as a big sloppy whole, and consider writing it all down to remember all the whacky redemption God's done. I wanna do that. And I know other people who ought to do that, too. The book was given sweet reviews by Brian McLaren, John Eldredge, and Tremper Longman, III! (I think I sat in on this Tremper's class when I was visiting Westmont College last month. He pretty much has an amazing name.) Buy this one and then pass it on, baby.

Sunday, December 17

YOU are Time's Person o' 2006

(If I had a mirror in jpeg form, I'd insert it above.)

This just in. If you're reading this, you deserve some sort of cheesy, shiny trophy. Or just take the accolade that you got the same award that Bill Gates, Bono, and "the American soldier" have toted in years past. (Or, be offended because Adolf Hitler also received the award in the '30s.) Thanks for the headline, BBC:

"You" have been named as Time magazine's Person of the Year for the growth and influence of user-generated content on the internet.

Wednesday, December 13

Jewel Cases Piled High

Since finals are over for my Fuller online course, I'm working on numbers 3, 5, and 17 of my How to Rest in America list. My latest adventure includes emptying every CD case I own, recycling the plastic cases, and making the liner notes into recycled stationary. (Coming soon to a mailbox near you.) Since the digital revolution, all of these jewel cases are just taking up space. It's time the album art gets looked at all over again, in a new way, I say. I feel like I'm living in a fifth-grade art class. And it's really great fun.

Monday, December 11

Most Vivid Dreams - Part 1

I've been having the most extensive, vivid dreams. Last night my dream was replete with Europe, my murderous spirit, show-tunes, The Last Supper, and the Postal Service. (Enjoy the trip in to my psyche. Any interpretations welcome.)

In my dream last night I was with some of my roommates from Portugal, a couple youth group kids from here in La Plata, USA, and a few other friends. We were headed on a road trip to get somewhere in Europe. I’m not sure if we'd started in Europe or in America.

On the way, we stopped to see my great uncle, because it was a good resting point on the way. In the dream uncle was an invalid, and was being taken care of by the daughter of one of his closest friends, who lived on the second floor. Uncle couldn’t talk, but he could snore really good. The lady upstairs would often yell down from her bed to hush his loud snores.

It was time for all of the road-trippers to go to bed. We were all sort of camping out in the living room, stuffed like sardines. As we were falling asleep, I was about to close my eyes, and I saw that a girl and guy were crammed on the couch sort of snuggling to sleep. I immediately remembered a prior conversation I’d had with the girl in which she bemoaned how snuggling-boy had been giving her so many confusing mixed signals about their relationship. (The majority of which signals were, “I don’t like you.”)

So, in all of my Jenelle-confontationalism, I said to snuggling-boy from my sleeping bag, “You are such an idiot. You’re just an idiot. Sometime before we leave tomorrow, I'm going to tell you why.”

Now quite annoyed, and unable to sleep, I traveled upstairs. I found a shy Dutch girl, but we couldn’t understand each other enough to speak. She was voraciously reading some novel in Dutch. Another lady from the Netherlands was there, too, and she was crazily multi-lingual. She grabbed a gigantic English/Ancient Greek dictionary, and started translating words from Ancient Greek to English to Dutch for me. Nice lady, she was.

Then Scott and Terri Last (once in Florence, now on their way to work with CAI in my Portugal) wandered in. Terri told me how she’d just spent a week at IHOP, and I flipped out telling her how I’d met with God at IHOP back in September. I was glad they were starting to settle into their new home in Portugal.

I came back downstairs to find that everyone was now awake. Apparently my you-are-an-idiot words to the boy had caused a lot of commotion. (I sort of liked that.)

To the boy I returned and (somewhat) elaborated, “You are either an idiot or just a fool. I think you’re just a foolish idiot.”

The best part was how I then recalled how Jesus said that calling someone a "fool" or "idiot" is the same as us acting in a murderous spirit. And that sobered me. (But I was too irritated to apologize to him.)

And with that, we all took off for our European adventure. We started on a riverboat cruise, in Istanbul or something, and we saw the most amazing sunset with ancient ships strewn against the horizon. I dug for my camera and tried to capture the scene. I failed. The pictures only showed a tenth of the actual view.

We wandered into a hostel and spoke to the man at the reception. There were multiple magazines in all sorts of languages on the shelf behind him. The man was Italian and spoke broken English. When I caught his eye, he grabbed one of the English magazines, came out from behind the counter and started singing a homemade show-tune! He sang acapella, and it was all about how he was going to learn English. (I was amazed at how well he stayed in tune! It was a great song, I wish I could replicate it here.)

He danced as he sang wide-eyed about how all his dreams would soon come true.

As he sang, I saw a live-music video of sorts. There was a catwalk, and a stage, and a curtain that opened. He sang about all of the places in Europe that he'd soon visit, and how his pilgrimmage would help him in his “spiritual journey." As he sang about each city's artwork, the curtain would then open and a life-sized image would float down the catwalk towards me. There were five images, and they were all various famous artistic pieces associated with Christ and the cross. The last one was “The Last Supper.” As that image came towards me, I walked into it.

All of a sudden I entered three different (somewhat hilarious) contemporary versions of the da Vinci's Last Supper. It was like I was on the front of the stage, watching as the actors rehearsed. The one I remember most had all of the disciples dressed as American fraternity boys from the 1950’s, with brightly-colored shirts and slick hair. Some had bow-ties, too. I'm pretty sure Jesus still had his white robe on, though.

When Jesus exited by stage-right, he jumped down into a super-sonic-speed ancient carriage. It was all so fast and dangerous, and I was worried that he got hurt in the jump. But then Tara (who is Young Life Europe’s Regional Administrator…Tara does everything and knows everything), quickly appeared and told me the physics of how these carriages work. And then I calmed down. Jesus would be just fine.

So I jumped into the ancient (but super-sonic-speed) carriage and ended up in Cascais, Portugal. Only it wasn’t just Cascais, but a hybrid of both glitzy Paris and flavorful Italy. I realized that I needed a break to be alone, so I started looking for a cafe to escape in. I rehearsed in my head how I’d ask the barista, “Un cappuccino, per favore” with the proper Italian accent.

But on the way to the cafe, I saw this guy, R.J. in the crowd (who stuck out only because he was about one foot taller than all of the short Southern Europeans.) (R.J. was my best friend from high school's boyfriend in the 10th grade. I haven’t seen him in 10 years.) I was so excited to see another La Platian’s face in Europe that I gave him a gigantic hug. (And proceeded to re-introduce myself to him, in case he didn’t remember me.) R.J. had on a snappy Postal Service uniform, and explained to me that he’d been working for the U.S. Postal Service in Paris, and had just gotten transferred to Cascais.

“Oh!" I said. "You’ll just love it here. I lived here for almost four years. I promise, you’ll love it. It's so beautiful and right here in Portugal.”

And then I remembered how (in real life) the day that I interviewed with the U.S. Postal Service, they told me that once I finished my Masters, I should consider working for the International division…to get a job back in Europe dealing with mail. (The End.) Image from Wikipedia

Friday, December 8

Lost in Translation

I found something zany on Sugar frosted goodness dot com. Here: Tommy Kane's Blowfish sketch. The story of his piece is priceless. It begins: I hopped off the train near the Sumo stadium in Tokyo. I wanted to draw something that was very typical looking of Japanese cities. I noticed this little restaurant. I set up shop and began to sketch. (My favorite bit of the story is the coffee part, incidentally.)

I got a kick out of this because I've been lost in translation oh so many times in Europe. Enjoy the link-n-log to the arty stuff.

Thursday, December 7

Put the Lights on the Tree

In an ongoing effort to post (almost) every day this week. Get out the Windex, Mama. I'm on a music streak.

On this 7th day of Advent, here are seven reasons why Sufjan Stevens' brand new 5-disc Christmas album should be enjoyed by you and your yuletide loved ones.

1. (A suprisingly sweet rendition of) "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"
2. "It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad!"
3. "What Child Is This Anyway?"
4. "Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!"
5. "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!"
6. "Get Behind Me, Santa!"
7. "Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)"

(And...Happy Birthday, Sarah Painter Constable! Me and baby Jesus were so glad you were born.)

Tuesday, December 5

One Thing

(I'm kicking myself a bit, because I meant to post this about a month ago. I think part of the reason I waited was because I wanted to have something uber-creative to say to introduce my Elise. But I don't. I just really want you to listen to this new song of her's. Because it's really nice. And because in it she's singing all about how I am being Martha and not Mary, at the moment. It would do me good to sit down cross-legged like a little girl and just listen to the words of Jesus.)

I met Elise in Portugal. One of my favorite and earliest memories of her was when she sat down on my bed with her guitar and told me her story. Song after song, she went through her last few teenage years. Her songs are part of her story, so when she sings them, she's offering a peek at her heart. I'm a huge fan. Not just of her songs, but mostly her heart.

Click here to stream Elise's Music

One Thing - by Elise Witek

I dig to find you
Under a pile of notes and lists
You’re working towards a goal that doesn’t exist

So here’s a trash can
Empty out your mind
Would you like to listen?
Or do you not have the time.

Cross your legs dear
Like you did as a child
Sit at my feet and know your burden is mine

One thing is needed
Preparing is only a waste
One thing is needed
It will never be taken away

You wouldn’t be busy
If you stepped away from the task
Spent time with your Daddy
To get the strength that you lack

Don’t bother setting the table
This isn’t the main course
All that’s here is worthless
So just sit here on the floor

Sunday, December 3

Waking in London

I've just spent the last few days in London with the ladies of Young Life Europe. Worshipping God alongside of them was more than refreshing, it was awakening. It almost felt like I was playing the guitar for the first time.

The best gift of the trip, though, was getting to spend these few days with my dear Jane Hasik. She journeyed out from Prague for the conference, and put together the most creative "welcome" bags you could imagine. (Sowada could make a living doing the conference hospitality circuit.) We found a curry place down the street from our hostel and pretended we were at our favorite Indian place back in Sao Joao again. Our friend Barb even found us some pasteis de natas (a.k.a. Portuguese breakfast pastries that the angels eat in heaven) at a little pastry shoppe in London. And Jane brought me one of our old Portuguese coffee mugs to make the conference coffee feel more like home. Being with Jane feels like home. London has been lovely, really. Yes, Jesus loves me.

Monday, November 27

To Title, or Not to Title

Maybe I am being too uber-analytical, but I wonder if I need to put some words up there. I think someone taught me once that every piece of writing needs a good title.

Thursday, November 23

Grazie, Tino; 107

The sun is setting on another American Thanksgiving. The infamous "Black Friday" is approaching. (For all of our dear non-American friends, tomorrow is the day in the States when hoards of shopper-bugs descend on shopping malls and stores to get the most tasty Christmas sales. Some even camp out on the streets in the bitter cold to be the first in the door at 6am. Insane consumerism, at our best.) Tonight, my mind is in Italy. I'm remembering Tino from Milan. And I can't stop reading Psalm one oh seven. The one with this four-pronged refrain:

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! (NKJV)

This summer I did a three-week mission in Italy with a team from 24-7 Prayer. We prayed through the cities, met with different churches, and helped set up some 24-7 prayer rooms. We met Tino on our first stop in Milan. He worked at the church and lived a beautifully simple life.

What I remember about Tino is that he called me "Gina." (A rough Italian equivalent of "Jenelle"?). And I remember that he rode his bike 20 km both to and from work everyday, because he didn't have a car. I remember how his mobile phone would ring non-stop during dinner, and how he'd refuse to answer it. In Tino's Italy, meals are sacred.

Most of all I remember how Tino always bowed his head to humbly say a "thank you" prayer both before and after our meal. I wish I caught every word of his Italian, but for the most part I got it. He was pausing to tell God thanks for being God. (And at the end of his meal, no less! Who does that?)

When I read Psalm 107, I hear Tino waving his work-worn hands at me, urging me as a Psalmist: "Oh, that you would give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, and his wonderful works towards you..."

Wednesday, November 22

I'm Not A Big Old Adult

(This is Part 2 of the following post: Career Day at the Middle School)

It's official. I may be 27, but, I'm not a big old adult.

This week I received a thick envelope from Piccowaxen Middle School. Inside I found 28 full-paged letters from students saying, "thank you" for coming to their school to share about my "career." They were all from kids aged 10-13. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

-I am extremely happy that you came...I am glad that you acted like our friend and not like a big old adult. Your friend, Bradley
-You inspired me to keep my hope towards being a youth director someday...I appreciate how you came in and the first thing you said was that your best friend's name was Jesus. Sincerely, Micaela
-I used to want to be a youth pastor, but I thought I would get bored with it. But when I found out you could travel to different countries and spread the Word, I thought that was really cool. Sincerely, Michelle
-I thought it was amazing when you taught us to speak Portuguese. Sincerely, Katelyn
-I've been trying since the 5th grade to tell my best friend about God, but she doesn't seem to get it. Hopefully she will know and love God...Hopefully soon. Sincerely, Taylor
-Thank you for coming in and sharing about your best friend, Jesus. Sincerely, Chris
-In my opinion, you had the best job...I've always wanted to have a job like you. Sincerely, Samantha
-I never knew or even heard of a Youth Pastor until last Friday. Now I know that there are people like you that watch over kids like us. Sincerely, John
-We really enjoyed you. Sincerely, Brittany
-After your presentation, I am definitely considering becoming a youth pastor as my future job...You are a true inspiration to me. A new friend, Timber
-It seemed pretty cool that by the time you are 13 in Portugal you know at least 2 languages...that shocked me! -Sincerely, Cheryl
-Your job could be hard because you have to build friendships with teens that might not be too nice. Thank you, Brett
-Your presentation was my favorite because while listening to you I learned how to be a great person...And as you know, I loved your hair. Sincerely, Monica

These thank you notes were the best birthday present ever. Jesus loves me, this I know.

Monday, November 20

I Heart (Passion) Mail

And I wish I could speak Dutch to understand what this site says: (translated) "Passion Mail". (Somebody help!) But it's so beautiful and simple that you really must glance through it. Their business has something to do with making creative snail mail. That makes me happy. When I grow up I want to work for them. (Thanks again for the sweet bloggy stuff, Marc...)

Friday, November 17

"Free Hugs" Campaign

3 minutes, 29 seconds of joy.

Thursday, November 16

Purpose-Driven to the Poor

I spent most of my birthday week in Santa Barbara, California. Saturday night, after eating one of the most lavish meals of my life at a dear friend's wedding, I met a homeless man named Wyatt. He told me his story. A fire in his apartment sent him to the streets. I was dressed to the nines for a black-tie wedding, and he was in rags. I felt sick inside over the polarity of our worlds. I did what little I could to get him some groceries, and prayed with him. He'd wanted to give me the $2.50 he had in his pockets in exchange for the food. And he said he'd pray for me, too.

I wept a lot that night. And I asked God to help me live a life that really values the poor like Jesus does. Not just one that throws money at them to make me feel better.

The following is an excerpt from Joel News International. I was pretty amazed by Rick Warren's thoughts. I read his best-seller and wondered what all the hype was about. And I judged him. I made gross assumptions about him and his exceedingly massive church. Now I'm learning from him and asking Jesus for forgiveness for my plank-eye.

How to Steward Influence and Affluence?

If you would be entrusted national influence in your nation, as well as millions of dollars, how would you steward it? How would you prevent getting corrupted by power or money? Rick Warren's book 'The Purpose-Driven Life' sold 17 million copies in the first one-and-a-half year, and brought him a lot of influence and income. "I don't think God gives you either money or fame for your own ego," says Warren. "So my wife and I made four decisions:

1. We would not change our lifestyle one bit, no matter how much money would come in. So I didn't buy a bigger house or a yacht, and still drive a four-year old Ford.

2. I stopped taking a salary from the church, based on 1 Cor. 9. where Paul says he wants to serve the gospel for free. I also added up all the church had paid me in the previous years and gave it back, because I didn't want anybody to think that I would be in this for money.

3. We set up three different foundations, that we use to train pastors in third-world countries, help those infected with AIDS, and support the global PEACE plan.

4. We became reverse tithers. When Kay and I got married 30 years ago, we began giving 10 percent of our income to charity. And each year we would raise it a percentage, because every time you give, you break the grip of materialism in your life. And so the second year of our marriage we started giving 11 percent to charity, then 12 percent, then 13 percent. Every time I give it makes my heart bigger and it makes me more like Jesus. And so, today, 30 years later, my wife and I are reverse tithers. We give away 90 percent and we live on 10."

I missed 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about the poor

"The hard part was, what are we going to do with the fame?" says Warren. "God spoke to me from Psalm 72, where Solomon prays for more influence, so that he may support the widows and orphans, care for the oppressed, defend the defenseless, speak up for the prisoner, and help the immigrant. He basically talks about all the marginalized of society. And that was a turning point in my life two-and-a-half years ago, where God basically said: 'The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.' I had to repent because I live in a very affluent Southern California neighborhood, and couldn't think of the last time I had cared about the homeless. When reading Scripture afresh, it was like the blinders came off. Now, I've got three advanced degrees and four years in Greek and Hebrew. How did I miss 2,000 verses in the Bible where it talks about the poor? How did I miss that?"

Source: Rick Warren at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A full 31 page transcript of Rick Warren's extensive interview at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is available here:

Thanks to Marc and

Wednesday, November 1

Mad Crazy Drumming Skills

I have a tendency to play the air-drums while running. My friend, Ben, from Triplet taught me a few beats when I was in Portugal. Jesse Borden made me two beautiful African djembes that I'm still learning to play. So my church put an old practice drum kit in my office! (It's missing some things, though, like...cymbals). I pretty much want to be this little kid.

Posted By:Brehmer

video found on

Tuesday, October 31

My Psalm 130

The Psalm songs make me feel less psychotic, most of the time. They give me permission to feel, and to (politely) yell at God. This Sunday night, we challenged the high schoolers to rewrite Psalm 130 in their own words. We've been studying the Great Commandment, and Sunday we considered what it means to love God with all of our souls. I like re-writing Psalms as a way of finding myself in between the lines. [If you're up for it, post your own 130 paraphrase in the comments. There are only 8 little verses.]

There have been so many times I’ve been down, Jesus.
I don’t always cry out to you.
Sometimes I just cry.
But, I want to tell you everything.
Hear my voice as I admit this, Lord.
Lean your ear close to me.

If you kept a list of the ways I forget you, oh Jesus, I’d be hopeless.
But your forgiveness and patience is real.
I’m in awe of the complete way you love me, even though I don’t love you this way.

I am waiting for you to come back, Jesus.
I am waiting for you to turn the tears into dancing songs,
because that’s what you do.
You make all things new.
I put my hopes in your Words.
(I’m trying to, at least.)

The real me, my soul, waits for you, Lord--
more than people who work the night shift
wait for the sun to come up.

Oh Israel--and the whole Family of God, across the earth--
put your hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord is love that won’t disappoint,
and with Him everything will be made new again.

Jesus Himself will pay for all the ways we turn from Him,
and He will forgive us as we turn back around.

Sunday, October 29

Gentle Voices

With all of these tears I am feeling soothed a bit by the sound of soft, gentle voices. There are many, but I'll mention just one for now.

Thanks to the excellence of Pandora I rediscovered this tender little band from Pennsylvania, The Innocence Mission. There's nothing fancy to them, but their simple piano and quiet guitar is helping me think straight right now. I think the Holy Ghost has always used musicians for that. (See also: David and King Saul.) I just bought their record "Small Planes" on iTunes, and I'm remembering how the sound of Karen Peris' voice has often made me feel like Jesus is sitting near me. (There are a few free mp3s on their website, if you want to see what I mean. That's where I found the picture from, above.) I discovered them a long time ago, back when Sixpence was my favorite band (before they were famous, mind you, though I don't hate them for getting some money in their pockets with that "Kiss me" song). Sixpence had sent an email out to fans promoting them. I was intrigued enough by their band's name to give a listen. A mission of innocence? Nice.

Friday, October 27

Career Day at the Middle School

My sweet brother, Anthony, is in the 7th grade. He asked me to come in and talk to his class for Career Day.

"You want me to talk about my career at your public school? I think I'm gonna have to talk to your teacher first."

What is my career? I'm not sure. I've been a missionary-type in Portugal, working with teenagers. And now, I've just started working for South Potomac Church as their (part-time) Director of Youth Ministries. [There. That was the great unveiling of the Help-Wanted Poll. The two least-voted-for options were my top two choices, incidentally!] I was sure that the school would frown upon me coming in and talking about my line of work.

I was wrong. I asked the nice teacher in charge if I could say that my career involves talking with young people about Jesus. She said it'd be ok, as long as I wasn't a religion pusher. (No sweat, lady! Religion kills!)

So today I got to present my "career" as a "professional youth worker" to about 350 kids aged 11-14. (Funny, I didn't even know I had a career before today...eventhough I've been working with young people for 9 years, I never would have thought of it this way.) I said in pretty simple terms that I have the best job in the world cause I get to be friends with young people for a living, and talk with them about my best friend, Jesus. And no matter what they think (or don't think) about Jesus, I still get to love them all! So that's great. And that the real paycheck is seeing lives changed. I told them that I went to college and loved it, and that they should all study abroad for a semester when they go to college. I showed them some pictures of Portugal, and played them Front Door's song, Love Lessons. It was an altogether lovely day. Here are some more of the highlights and very-cute questions I was asked:

1. A spunky little girl in 8th grade saying to me, "I've been telling my friends that I want to be a pastor when I grow up, but they say I can't, because I'm a girl. But, you're a girl, and you're a pastor!" Me: "You can be a pastor and be a girl. You just might not get called a 'pastor,' but you can definitely be one. That's more important, anyway...not what they call ya."
2. "Can you go shopping in Portugal?"
3. "What is the name of your haircut?"
4. "Jesus is your best friend? For real, though?"
5. "Do you get paid?"
6. "Is it important for you to be close to God and Jesus for your job?"
7. "Did you play in that band [Front Door]?"
8. Another young one coming up to me and, in a few short sentences, telling me all the pain they'd experienced in their family, and how they needed someone to talk to. He left me his number and asked me to call him.
9. Teaching masses of American kids how to say cute things in Portuguese slang. And then hearing them say it to each other on the way out of class!

Thursday, October 26

Names Written on Water - Part 2

[I promise to turn the topic to something less heavy soon.]

I wept from my belly a lot today as I spent many hours at a viewing
of an old friend. I dug up a simple poem that I wrote in 2000,
because it paints a similar scene to my today:

At the Viewing of a High School Senior
Whom I Never Knew

Tonight I saw a boy lying
in a lifeless open cave;
dead branches pushing out,
gave a brittle welcome wave,
begged me in silent words
to reckon with the grave.

His life summed up on a black felt sign
that spelled out his name
in a toothy white line.

His friends had eyes on him
but they beckoned me to drink
a chalice full of tearful whys,
to quench the thirst to think.

A kneeling spot was plush and red
where we all considered God
here a few first prayers were said
when we all considered God.

So we all hugged each other
till we turned to nothing more
than sparkle-speckled dust
fallen to the parlor floor.

Tuesday, October 24

Names Written on Water

In 1999 I spent a semester studying in Rome. Just outside the old Roman walls, there is a Protestant cemetary where a great many famous Englishmen are buried. I wandered into that cemetary one perfectly overcast afternoon and spent time talking with God about life. I needed a break from the hustle of emotions that is Rome. Quite suprisingly, that cemetary was one of the most peaceful places I've ever wandered. The tombstones were works of majestic art. While I was there, I spent a lot of time lingering near John Keats' grave.

Keats was 25 when he died of tubercolisis in 1821. He was a brilliant English poet and a hinging force of the Romantic Age. He was the one who wrote that famous line, "'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know".

But what fascinates me most about Keats was that he refused to have his name written on his tombstone. Instead, he insisted they write, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

A week ago a young man died in my town. He was my age, only 26. I didn't know him well, but my Mom did. I had actually spoken with him just hours before he died. He fell asleep that night and never woke up. I went to his wake and cried my eyes out. And in the funeral parlor I couldn't stop staring at a (not terribly artistic, but still profound) painting of Jesus escaping alive from his stony casket.

Today I found out that a young woman whom I'd once known very well committed suicide. Many years have passed since we'd seen each other, but her honest, prayerful questions are still fresh in my mind. They were excellent questions about God's sovereignty in the midst of searing pain. We wrestled with them together, but we didn't necessarily emerge with any cheap or quick answers. Her (almost awful) honesty found its way in my poetry notebooks and scribblings, as I reflected on some of our conversations. Finding them, I wonder if she knew that she could have been a Psalmist.

In the same sitting today, I found a lengthy obituary for Sister Teresa Feeley, who died at 74. Sister Teresa was the younger sister of Sister Kathleen Feeley, who had been a visiting professor my freshman year at UMBC when I took her expository writing class. In my rush of grief, I got the two sisters confused, and thought I was in the twilight zone of death. Memories of Sister Kathleen are appropriate here. She was one who taught me about old John Keats. I really got a kick out of her sharing stories from her sweet Catholic life, though they echoed in our blaringly secular classroom. As an English professor she was delicate and kind, but yet unyielding. She'd look us each in the eye as she'd slowly quote Wordsworth, standing there in her white habit, poised and grasping the lectern: "Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility."

Our names are written on the water. All of our days are like grass, here today, and gone tomorrow. You could say that I've been considering Moses' Psalm 90 a lot lately.

Friday, October 20

How to Rest in America - part 2

(Continued notes-to-self from this post: How to Rest in America - part 1)

18. Read the international news.
19. Learn some new songs.
20. Sketch things in a little book. (You used to do that as a kid. You forgot how much you like to do that.)
21. Sleep long enough to remember your dreams.
22. When you wake up, write down all those dreams.
23. Drink better coffee.
24. Listen to some classic books on mp3.
25. Write people thank you notes for things they'd never get thanked for.
26. Frequently fast from the internet.
27. Have some long meals with old friends.
28. Drink two-Nalgenes-full of water every day.
29. Get out of debt completely.
30. Start reading good poetry again.

Wednesday, October 18


Yesterday I walked into Earnest's office rather shyly. Earnest is the Pastor of Worship and Arts at my church. He'd heard that I play the guitar, so he pointed to a guitar and asked me to play.

I froze. I clam up in situations when it seems I'm supposed to impress someone musically. I think it's because I taught myself how to play guitar when I was a (very lonely) sixteen, and all I learned to play were the worship tunes from the 1982 Young Life songbook.

Every guitar-player has some token songs that they pull out of their pocket at a party. I have zero. I've always liked when people would play Blackbird as their token song. It's a lovely little Beatles tune, it is. One time when my dear friend, Elise played Blackbird (note for note) in our Portugal living room, it made me cry.

I think I even sighed to Earnest, "I'm not going to be able to play you anything impressive like 'Blackbird' or anything."

Then I made myself laugh (that's not difficult) as I played him some old Messianic-clapping-song (I think that's the official name of the genre) that always makes me want to dance. (It also makes me wish I were Hebrew.) "Awake, Oh Israel." Great song.

So, I came home and taught myself "Blackbird" late last night. The tablature thoroughly confused and outright intimidated me at first. Learning that litte song was suprisingly one of the most satisfying things I've done in awhile. But, it's still not as fun to play as those old worship songs from 1982.

Saturday, October 14

Would Jesus Drink @ Starbucks?

I'm not sure what Gus the cat thinks about Starbucks. The only brew he could smell was the stuff we poured out in that old apartment in Sao Joao. We only drank from those cheap, hand-painted mugs from Evora that were forever chipping. The saints of the earth would often mail us some of that holy hazelnut American joe. I confess, sometimes it was a Starbucks blend. But Starbucks was never my favorite.

I don't hate Starbucks. In fact, I kind of get a kick out of the global-warming of their franchise. (In some European countries their American-exported-environments are actually encouraging the folk to drink their coffee slowly, instead of just those espresso shots on the run. I think this is a good thing.) Let's be clear here, though: The Italians have the market cornered on the delights of coffee. I hope the baristas in heaven are Italian.

Right. I don't hate Starbucks. Nevertheless, in light of my recent bloggy-poll, I'm obliged to share the thoughts of my new friend, Cari, who is a good Northwest girl. (Don't worry, she told me I could share. I won't post your emails or Facebook messages without asking.)

Um, Jenelle, look, I really like you, but if you work at Starbucks, even though it's from my home city, we might not be as good of friends. Lol. Actually I'm not that intense, but take it from someone who knows good northwest coffee- Starbucks is bad in multiple ways. (Not really free trade, just trendy; they burn the beans, the coffee is old and tastes bad, they really don't help cultures that much, they exploit good bands, they're not for true coffee connoisseurs, etc, etc, etc). So yeah, I really don't think you should work there. Even if the benefits are appealing don't sell out! Lol. Any of the other jobs are cool. Could you be a barista at a non-corporate shop?

I chuckled, thinking to myself, "Yes, this is exactly the response I was hoping to get by putting Starbucks on my job-poll." I really did consider Starbucks for a time, though. Then I read the fine-print and realized that their benefits really aren't that hot, after all. (I will get to talking about what job I've jumped towards. I'm just really into all of this pontificating on Starbucks right now.)

I agree with Cari on many fronts. (If not, all of them.) So I did a little googling-research, and found some others who take issue with Starbucks, and give more reasons why. And then there is this blog, which is a story in itself: Starbucks Gossip: Monitoring America's Favorite Drug Dealer.

I digress. All these things do make me wonder, though. When some hard facts are thrown down that a corporation is exploiting their workers, what do I do? When I found out what the Gap corporation was paying their workers in the third world, I stopped shopping there. But I didn't feel bad buying their jeans from a thrift store. (At least I knew the money wasn't going back to the Gap.)

Would Jesus drink at Starbucks? I don't know. Maybe I should ask him. I feel like I've been talking about him more than I've talked to him, lately. I think that just makes me a name-dropper.

Wednesday, October 11

Sunsets Say Goodbye

Trevor Borden wrote this song as he was saying "goodbye" to Portugal. The last days of my time in Portugal happened to be the last days of the Borden's, too. I'd come home awfully late to the Borden's house and find Trev tinkering away on his guitar, outside in the garden. Eventhough it was past midnight, we'd put on the tea and he'd keep tinkering. It's such a sacred thing to hear the song of a friend develop. This one would probably be the title track on my leaving-Portugal-soundtrack. I can't wait till Trevor gets to record it in a studio out in L.A., hopefully very very soon. He recorded this one at home.

Sunsets Say Goodbye in Streaming Audio

Shadows fall the day is done
They chase each other 'till all light is gone
Watch him hold her now, the moon rises
But they speak in silence
What good are words now?

Who gently waves her fare-well
And I say “Hello” to the change
You've brought me this far

Huddled close, their bags are packed
Awkward father frowns while mother weeps
Look around this is the last time they will be here together
They move on together
Hope has bound them strong as they look forward to the adventure of tomorrow
“All aboard!” cries the conductor of change

Who gently waves her fare-well
And I say “Hello” to the change
You've brought me this far

Saturday, September 30


I need a job. I've been scouring classified ads and have made some phone calls. All of the following are in the running, in some shape or way. Put in your vote.

Cellophane-Wrapped Tongues

I want to be more honest. Not just on this blog, but in real-time, too. I like to think I'm awfully honest. But, lately I feel like I've put bars in front of my words. Maybe it's because I'm living in such transition. Or maybe because I'm an approval-suck. It's both/and, I'm sure.

A few years ago, I started scribbling about the lack of bare naked honesty I've experienced in Christian-circles. Like most of the songs I write, I never finished it. It is an indictment of my own laziness as well as the sub-culture of sugar-coated words that we tend to welcome in the Church. I'd like to break the bars of both.

In a dream last night, my tongue was wrapped (delicately) in cellophane. Very strange, it was. I was in a room of thousands, but they all thought me fine. Through numerous conversations, no one seem to notice that there were layers upon layers of thin clear plastic jacketing my tongue. Under their quick glancing inspections, it seemed red and fleshy. It was visible, at least.

"Oh now, your tongue looks just like our's, dear."

I too quickly believed them. In the eternity-seconds of dreams, I instantly learned how to talk through layers of thinned plastic.

They patted me on the back. Someone quickly handed me a sugary-drink as we held our glasses high, and (all too awkwardly) toasted, "God bless us, every one."

Thursday, September 28

Musing in Bawlmer

Greetings from Baltimore. A.K.A. “The Greatest City in America,” and, even more hysterical (considering the literacy rate), “The City that Reads.” I love Baltimore. She is the rough, sassy, audacious younger sister to Washington, D.C, just forty minutes up highway 95. I always loved inventing the rivalry between these two close cities. I’m still a little bitter that I’ve lived so close to D.C. all my life, and yet, without fail, get lost every time I drive there. (How can you have four different addresses for the same street, in the same city? For the love.)

I've just started my first week of classes this quarter with Fuller’s M.A. - Global Leadership program. The class is on Mentoring. I’m halfway through the program and I’m doing my best to get ahead of this reading for the first time in my life. To those of you sweet souls who were cheering me on in that last Bobby Clinton class, I just got my 47-page paper back, and passed, quite miraculously. Next time I’m doing a cross-continental move/major life-transition, someone please yell at me to put on hold any classes demanding 50 page papers. That baby required two all-nighters to finish on time. Oh me.

As I’m drinking coffee in a very-not-European cafĂ©, my current thoughts are swirling around two things:

1. How to resurrect the combined total of over 300 pages of academic writing I’ve done over the last decade into something that might give life to my friends. And strangers.
2. How to live out the Psalms more. I always like to think the Psalmists were absolute emotional wrecks. So, at least I'm living myself into that part of the song.

Tuesday, September 26

Chesterton for the iPod Generation

Until the end of September, Sermon Cloud is offering a free audio book download of G.K. Chesterton's classic, Orthodoxy. Go to Sermon Cloud and scroll down to the bottom right corner for the banner. It's not a hoax. I just downloaded the baby. No credit card or anything. Boo-yah.

I have been wanting to read Chesterton for ages. He's been on the proverbial unending list of read-that's. (Maybe now my iPod will help.) Chesterton's name has been creeping up on my thoughts a lot more these days, especially after talking with my new friend Linnea, in Kansas City. Linnea is writing a book about how she sees the Church mimicking the outrageous architecture of Gaudi's (yet unfinished) La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. She talked of Chesterton as if he were her Grandfather. Her writing is good. Very good. Linnea's words paint pictures as rich as the stuff she puts on canvases. Of course she made me want to read G.K. At least now I'll get him narrated to me by a guy with a nice British accent.

Thanks to Andrew Maude for the noisy drawing-design above. Good boy.

Sunday, September 24

How to Rest in America - part 1

(This post has nothing to do with my cat, Gus. I just really miss him. He's back in Portugal with a wonderful new family.)

I had a teary-fight with God a few days ago. I know he's asking me to spend time back here in the USA to Rest. But, I said, I don't know how to rest in America anymore. I know how to rest in Portugal, but I'm not there! He calmed me down. In my journal I started scribbling a running list of ideas.

1. Listen for God's voice first.
2. Listen to music loud.
3. Make Re-cycled stationary.
4. Read outdoors where you can smell Creation.
5. Write people written notes. Mail them.
6. Look for new and creative ways to feast on God's Words. You tend to starve on cheap imitations. Fast food is gross, girl.
7. Play instruments like Jesus is the only one in the room. Joyful noises!
8. Resist American over-indulgent impulses. (They are many.)
9. Run and stretch at sundown.
10. Go to the Farmer's Market. Eat 5 a day. (Veg-Fruits, not Farmers.)
11. Get a Part-time job that you can walk to. You want work that won't follow you home.
12. Put some legs on your old-writing. Then, send it to strangers.
13. Sing aloud your prayers and questions much more often.
14. Stay connected with old friends. But don't get addicted to the Net.
15. Journal and Blog about Portugal.
16. Make your family meals with the freshest stuff possible.
17. Give away the things you don't need. Simplicity is Sabbath. (See also: Barbara Leite.)

I think 17 could keep me busy for awhile.

Saturday, September 23

Weeding through the Web

(We interrupt this eleven-day blog "hmmmm" on the Church in the End Times for a brief breath of garden air.)

When I first arrived in Portugal with Jane, back in 2003, I stayed with the lovely Luxton family. The Luxtons have an outrageous garden. I couldn't stop sitting in it. One day in that garden I took this picture in a (grappling) attempt to be cute. And to have a cute entrance page to my (now defunct) hellosaidjenelle dot com website. (Thank you, Gideon and Tim. You both worked really hard to help me get web-settled.)

This here bloggy-blog is a resurrection of that there website. The one that I failed to maintain. Little things hidden in the HTML (which I don't speak) kept creeping up on me and driving me insane. The website started to feel like a garden with too many weeds. I got bored with it and just stopped weeding. And then it died. Sad story.

Raise your hand if you remember that old site. Ok good. I really don't want to let this blog get overgrown with weeds. Please shout at me if I go any longer than a week without a new post. Especially if I don't give a decent reason, like say, I'm out weeding in Mama's garden. (Ma, do we have a garden? We should get a garden. Or at least a kitty.)

Tuesday, September 12

As Storm Clouds Gather

I have often been moved by books that slip under the radar screen of popular approval. (In fact, I tend to duck from those ones. I'm a little stubborn and prideful, I know.) This book is one of those quiet messengers: "As Storm Clouds Gather: A Sleeping Church Must Be Awakened," by Jim Maher. I am only five chapters into it, but it is asking me to reexamine words that Jesus said...the ones that I always, well, sort of skimmed over. Especially Matthew 24. If you are intrigued, forget the book, but go and read that chapter and let me know if anything stirs in you. (I heart when people leave comments to tell me they're reading this bloggy-thing.) I'll be checking back as I try to finish it before I leave it on my friend's bookshelf here in Kansas City.

Tattooed Saints

I am without words for how refreshing it has been to be with both the 24-7 Prayer community, and here at IHOP.

I'll turn instead to tattoos.

Tonight I went with a ministry team of ordinary people into inner-city Kansas City. We left from the IHOP parking lot, prayed we'd bring with us God's love and compassion, and packed in loads of food to hand out to those who have little. We arrived in a park that is known for being dismal after dark. I sat down and talked with one man, named Santos, who had about four tattoos on each of his arms.

"Tell me the stories of your tattoos," I said.

Santos went on to tell me, through his beautiful toothless smile, that he'd seen the inside of a maximum-security prison for many years. He'd been a drug-smuggler from South America and made ridiculous amounts of money each day. He had many regrets. But Santos never did any dope, or even drink much booze. His primary vice? 3 packs of cigarettes a day. He’d been hopelessly addicted.

Somewhere along the line, Santos got out of prison, and found Jesus. He rejoiced with me of his most recent victory: God had given him the power to quit smoking, cold-turkey. He talked more about his job, his life, and we prayed together for all of his nine kids to find Jesus.

I was so humbled to hear this man’s story. I felt absolutely safe sitting in the middle of this crowd with an ex-con, hearing the stories of his not-so-glorious tattoos. He had a peace about him that was other worldly.

Before we left I dreamt with Santos that he’d see far more of God’s supernatural power, beyond the power he’d given to quit smoking. I don’t know if that’s prophecy or what. All I know is that I want to dream more for people, in that way. And I want to take time to listen to more people’s stories. Especially the ones that the world calls “poor.”

Picture taken from Sacred Ink

Sunday, September 3

View from the clouds

I am on a plane headed to Kansas City. There’s a nice view. I salute Southwest Airlines. They are cheap. (Ahem…the flight from Denver to KC cost the same as filling up my car’s gas tank in Portugal.) And they serve plane-shaped crackers! They are such a crack-up when they give the safety-instructions. Today our stewardess said, “Please put your seats in their upright, most uncomfortable positions…Yada yada yada.” She really said the “yadas.” Excellent.

I am jumping out of my skin in excitement that I’m heading to KC for ten days. The first three days I’ll be at the mission base for 24-7 Prayer USA. The last week I’ll be at the International House o’ Prayer mission base. 24-7 Prayer and IHOP are two different expressions of the same basic vision: non-stop, around-the-clock prayer to impact the nations. Both of these prayer movements began in September 1999: 24-7 in Europe, and IHOP in Kansas City. I think God is up to something. I wanna be a part of it.

24-7 Prayer Movement
International House of Prayer (IHOP)

Thursday, August 31

Jesus loves me, this I know.

Here I am, in Colorado, at Missions Training International, for a week of de-briefing my three and a half years in Portugal. I'm with about twenty other missionaries returning from countries like Ethiopia, Haiti, Russia, and the like. We're all processing the emotions of leaving America to make a foreign culture a home, and then to return. There are a lot of tears here. I think the Holy Spirit lives in the places where our tears run free. He loves to love us. Jesus has loved me so creatively this week.

My second day here, I looked up from the juice bar to find my friend Delice standing in front of me. I met Delice a year ago in Portugal, when she turned up in my kitchen for our Thursday night dinner and Bible study. Delice is like an older sister to my dear teenage friends, Andrea and Olivia. Since she was visiting Portugal that Thursday, she joined them both, and landed in my apartment for the evening. I remember her bright eyes and her passionate words about her Jesus. And her incredible taste in music.

Jesus loved me so much this week by giving me a Delice to hug. She is working here at MTI, caring for missionary kids (really well, I might add, because she was one). It's so nice to spend time with someone who's seen the inside of my Portugal--especially the Portugal that was my kitchen on those Thursday nights. I am so loved.

Wednesday, August 30

Leavin on a jet plane

During my last days in Portugal I stayed with my dear friends (they are family), the Bordens. The night before my flight I stayed up all night to try to get my body back on American time. (And because I was still sorting through all those piles of files from my apartment in Sao Joao.) I was desperately trying to pack up my life in as few bags as possible. If Superman hadn't walked into the living room when he did, I'd still be in the Borden's living room blankly staring at all of my stuff, in a foggy haze. Lisa picks up the story about her Superman, here on her beautiful blog.

  • Lisa's Story

  • Pray for these sweet Bordens: Lisa, Byron, Colin, and Heather. They are on a plane right now for furlough in California, after packing up their whole life and sending it ahead of them to Tanzania.

    Sunday, August 20

    Kitty theology

    I used to hate cats. Then one day Jane brought home a little kitty named, "Gus," and he won my heart. I cried like a baby the day I had to give him away to a new Mama, on account of my leaving Portugal. And then I made a ridiculous tribute to him here: Gus the Cat has a Myspace.

    I miss Gus. I hope he'll be in heaven with me one day, chatting up a storm with his incessant meows. What do you's reckon about pets and eternity?

    Friday, June 16

    Saying Goodbye to Portugal:
    Fresh Bread for Thursday Dinners

    I am going to miss Thursday nights, when my buzzer starts humming at 18:50 with teenagers hungry for dinner. Tonight at 18:25, I realized I needed some nice bread with the stroganoff, so I ran downstairs to the Panisol cafe and breadshop on the first floor. It's a Portuguese holiday (again) today, so they were all out of bread, except for 13 fresh rolls. I bought them all, and the nice bread lady laughed, "uma festa, nao e?" (A party, eh?). And I agreed. And then I burst into those happy-but-sad tears as I walked up the stairs to the second floor.

    Yes, it was a party. Tonight was the last dinner at my house with these teenager friends who've become like family
    over the last three years. We'd cram around the table, share our stories over hot meals, and then saunter into the living room with coffees and teas to sing to God as honestly as we could. And then we'd open our Bibles to ask how to walk like Jesus did. We learned what it meant to be a family, and how to feast on the fresh bread words of God.

    Thursday, June 15

    "Hello," said Me.

    hello. this is me. and this is my new blog.

    keep the coffee hot.