A Review of Crossroads by William Young

What if you could take a walk inside your soul?
What if you could view the world from another persons perspective? Feel their emotions, see their pain, experience their joy?
There are some of the glimpses Wm. Paul Young gives us in "Crossroads" his next piece of work after his famous piece of work "The Shack".
He takes us on a journey with a no good, rotten, selfish man, Anthony Spencer, given a chance to make things right in his last moments on earth. 
He's able to see pain he's caused with his family and those around him, but more importantly, see the pain he's caused himself by shutting down his capacity to love and let others love him. By taking a journey in another woman's head, he's able to see what real love and community looks like and find himself capable of making the decisions to selflessly love and save another person.
A bit predictable? Yes.
But Wm Paul Young helps you to wrestle with lots of questions that you probably ask yourself, others or God on a daily basis. 
He asks the questions we're afraid to ask God because we don't want to know the answers. He makes more accessible the conversations we should be having with people who want to know more about God.
He doesn't answer them all - but sometimes there's simple freedom in the asking.
It's worth the read. Fast, easy and entertaining. 


Red Hope

There's a girl I keep thinking about. I've met her several times out on the track, but two weeks ago was the first time she's spent any time really opening up or talking to us. I'll call her "Red."

I can't get Red out of my head because of how defeated she is. And how helpless I feel to assist her in any way, to give her hope or to make a difference in her situation. I feel defeated for her and wish so desperately I had more comfort to give, or more eloquent words, or better answers. But life is shit for her. And it is scary. And it really feels impossible.

Red has tried running away from her pimp two times before, and each time he has found her. Once, she made it three month and thought she was free, but he showed up one day ending the elated freedom she thought she had found. She had gotten rid of her cell phone, deleted all online presence and moved across the country. HOW did he find her? She still has no clue other than his interconnectivity with others involved in trafficking all across the U.S.

Having to listen to her tell us that there was no way we could ever possibly help her was maddening. It was depressing. And I froze in the moment. All I could do was acknowledge how impossible the situation feels and even sounds, but confess that deep within my heart I believe in a God that is bigger and can conquer even that which is impossible. She smiled a little at that and said, "I guess one day it'll work out, it just has to be the right timing, and I don't think that's now. But I'll try again someday."

I hope she will. I am inspired by her resilience, confidence and persistance. She is a fighter -and despite her impossible circumstances, she believes freedom can one day he be hers. She just has to fight both an internal and external battle with defeat each day in an effort to get to that place. I pray for Red everyday. She is vibrant and has a life of things waiting before her. She has our number, and I hope she'll call it when she feels that timing is right again - because I believe in my gut that God loves her deeply and passionately and will come to her rescue when she is ready to try again.

Will you pray with me that Red finds the courage to try again and that God would meet her with freedom and protection?


When is enough, enough?

I saw K on the street this last weekend. It took until about half way though our conversation, when she mentioned her last name actually, for me to remember having met her about two years ago. Two years. Two years and she's still out on the streets. Drunk. High. Wandering around, not making any sense.

I guess I'm not surprised. She was there long before we met her two years ago - and she very well may be out there for many more years.

But it was the conversation I had with her the other night that has stuck with me and made me think and rethink about that exchange.

She told me that she knew God. She gave her life to Him - she did the whole thing. But she's still here. NOTHING has changed. And she's tired. So that's it. She gives up and she's just hoping it is enough. Because she's tried to be a good person but there's only so many times a person can get knocked down before they can't take it anymore. "I better be going to Heaven, cause I don't know what else to do. And I've got nothing else to give."

I told her I thought she was. Maybe you would have said something different. But I honestly believed it. She gave her life to God - and it's been a shit life since then. Doesn't that go against everything we preach to people? We tell them to give their life to God and he will turn it around! But it doesn't always work like that. Sometimes, life is just hard! Sometimes, God just walks with you through the pain. But I am beginning to realize more and more that it take a whole lot of practice to recognize God in the midst of that pain and hurt. It is easier to self medicate.

All I could say to that woman was God LOVES you, just as much as the day you decided to love him. And he's never left you. You're frustrated, and you want to give up on the whole thing and hope it was good enough - well, it was. But don't give up, cause God won't give up on you. I know it sucks out here, but no one understands abandonment, mockery, loneliness and judgement like God.

I didn't say all of that. I wish I had. All I said was "I think you are. God loves you. Don't give up on yourself." But she wasn't really with it. She just shook her head and got more and more frustrated.

In Gary Haugen's book "The Good News About Injustice" he talks about the simple concept that his friends "knew that they could never understand the deepest part of me if they didn't have some understanding of the hard things I had seen." This was such an easy concept for me to grab onto. And then he related it to God. We can't truly understand the deepest parts of God until we have some understanding of the hard things God has seen. And God sees EVERYTHING! God knows the deepest pain of each individual heart.

I think I understood God just a little bit better after last weekend. Wanting so badly to help and love K, her wanting desperately to receive it as she clung so tightly to my neck in a hug she didn't want to let go of, while at the same time saying she was better off alone and didn't need love or help.

God loves you despite your frustration and resistance, K. And you have done enough. Don't try or run anymore. He's right there. Just hang on to that hug.


Vote YES on Proposition 35

By: Jen Cecil and Julia Speck
As Maxine Doogan made her case for “no” on proposition 35 in the LA Times and in speaking to the California Joint Senate and Assembly Public Safety hearing, she claimed that she was advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution where in fact she is arguing for the legalization of prostitution, two very different agendas. Legalizing prostitution is not the answer, Melissa Farley, author of Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada, spent 13 years studying legal prostitution in 10 different countries. She says, “Women in legal prostitution from Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands experience the same physical and emotional violence as other women do in countries where prostitution is illegal. Whether prostitution is legal or illegal, women in prostitution want to get out of that life and have a safe home, a job that pays enough to live, and receive adequate medical care.” (Farley, 2007).
Maxine Doogan who works as a prostitute by choice and Represents the Exotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project is a very rare minority in this industry who fails to consider the realities that victims of trafficking face. Men and women who are trafficked are NOT prostitutes, they are prostituted by their perpetrators. Farley in her book Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress puts it well when she says “In Prostitution, the conditions which make genuine consent possible are absent: physical safety, equal power with customers, and real alternatives. Until it is understood that prostitution and trafficking can appear voluntary but are not in reality a free choice made from a range of options, it will be difficult to garner adequate support to assist the women and children in prostitution who wish to escape but have no other economic choices.” (Farley, 2003). The reality is that human trafficking is taking place in your backyard, the women and men on the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego,San Francisco and other California cities are primarily American citizens who have not been protected by our legal system.
The City of Citrus Heights summarizes what this measure is achieving well: “This measure makes several changes to state law related to human trafficking. Specifically, it (1) expands the definition of human trafficking to include sexual trafficking, (2) increases the punishment for human trafficking, (3) imposes new fines to fund services for human trafficking victims, (4) changes how evidence can be used against human trafficking victims, and (5) requires additional law enforcement training on handling human trafficking cases. The measure also places additional requirements on sex offender registrants.”
Doogan omits one of those very important aspects of Proposition 35 in her arguments against it, that of mandatory education for law enforcement. As supporters of the proposition and those who fight on the front lines for victims of sex trafficking in California, we can tell you that this is one of the most important steps we can take as a state to protect victims of trafficking. Many victims are still being treated as criminals because of a lack of education, Proposition 35 will change this. What we need to work towards is abolishing, not legalizing prostitution. While Doogan may have made the choice of prostitution herself, she is in the minority.
Another argument made by Doogan is that longer prison sentences won’t keep perpetrators from committing the crimes in the first place. Although there currently may be no correlation between life imprisonment and a drop in sex trafficking crimes, we would argue that giving them softer punishment is not the answer. And we are not even sure that is what Doogan is arguing for. If harsher prison time and fines do not work - what does she want to implement?  Raise the punishment to the death penalty? Castration? What is the “data and evidence-based policy” sentencing she is referring to?
But more importantly, she has again missed the purpose of the proposition on this point. Proposition 35 demands longer sentences for traffickers to protect the victims from retaliation. As it stands today, if the trafficker is convicted at all they are usually back on the streets in just a few short years (or less) and the victim is at risk once again.
Doogan states in her second point that “it expands the sex offender registry and, in so doing, converts it from a useful tool to help police and residents track the whereabouts of potentially dangerous sexual predators into a list that includes non-sex criminals, including traffickers who extort money." I am not sure how she gets away with calling human traffickers "non-sex criminals," I would like to know where the data is to prove that these traffickers have not been sexually involved with the victims in some form along the way. And I absolutely would want to know where each and every man and women that has bought, sold and abused a child or adult sexually for profit is located. How does this not make sense? How is this cluttering a system rather than making it more useful?
She goes on to argue that if she were to give money to her son for his college tuition, he could be charged as a sex criminal and be put in the database for life, this is not true. According to Sharmin Bock in a piece regarding the CASE Act he said, “Prop 35 is narrowly tailored and specifically states that there must be criminal intent to violate the law...Human trafficking is a brutal and clearly delineated crime that involves and requires proof the criminal intent (called mens rea) to exploit another human being for profit. PROP 35 is not something that could ever be triggered by mistake. Prop 35 does not impact prostitution involving consensual adults. There are laws on the books against prostitution, but Prop 35 only covers cases where traffickers profit from the sexual exploitation of a child or the forced exploitation of an adult.”
What is important about this piece of legislation is that it focuses heavily on California State law. Federal law in this area is quite strong (as some opposed to this proposition have pointed out!) But as the CASE Act would let you know, “The federal law against human trafficking, called the ‘Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000’ (TVPA), applies only to federal cases, which are required to be tried in federal courts, by federal prosecutors. Each state is responsible for enacting its own legislation to handle cases within the state.” California is responsible to have legislation for the crimes that happen in our state, and Proposition 35 is taking a step in the right direction to make this happen.
When compared with current state laws (see chart below found on the CASE Act website) you can see that California has drastic improvements to make to be at the federal level.  Not to mention the great leaps that need to be taken to protect minors who are trafficked without force (I think we can all agree that a 14 year old is not able to legally, certainly not emotionally, consent to prostitution) and to appropriately prosecute and sentence repeat offenders of trafficking.
This proposition also seeks to create laws to help in the tracking of internet use. It would require sex offenders to provide information regarding internet access and identities they use in online activities. As someone on the front lines of this fight, we can tell you that a high percentage of sex trafficking is moving off the streets and boarders and onto our computers. Making criminals disclose their internet information is a move in the right direction.
We think it is a no brainer to vote YES on Proposition 35, but you obviously have to weigh the arguments for yourself to decide what you think is best. We hope we have answered some of the questions you might have and explained some of the more difficult parts to understand about the legislation. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have more questions.
YES! on Prop 35. Together we can make a difference in the lives of trafficked victims.
Jen Cecil and Julia Speck work with After Hours Ministry, a street outreach to men and women who are prostituted. Their work with these individuals makes them passionate about the upcoming election and especially the opportunity that is before us as a state with Proposition 35. This article was written to give you their perspective regarding the proposition and some of the opposition towards it.


Changed My Mind

Oops, I changed my mind, but Obama and Romney [and insert every other politician here] aren't allowed to....

There is one thing (yes, only one) I still don't understand about politics. How are human beings NOT allowed to change their mind? Do you know how many times throughout my life I have changed my mind about issues and how many more times I plan to change it again?! It is called MATURITY people. I would actually be frightened if our political leaders were so closed minded that they NEVER EVER EVER changed their minds on anything ever.  


LA 2012 - A Larger Story

Hey Humans. My friend JR is putting on an event at Fuller this weekend that will be challenging, thought-provoking and all-around awesome. So you should be there.

Check out the details here.

And then sign up.

And then come say hello.


Potty Talk

I've heard people wonder what goes on in the ladies restroom when we all run in there together to powder our noses and freshen up......so I thought I'd share the conversation I overheard last night as I was in the ladies room with a bunch of women at a banquet I was attending.

Lady 1: Barb...you will never guess what happened today. I went to Target and did ya know, the four pack of panties I was going to buy was TEN DOLLARS! TEN!!! I was at K-Mart just last month and it was only $4.99.

Lady 2: Mmmmm Hmmmm

Lady 1: I went straight up to that cashier and told them that was criminal. Just criminal

Lady 2: Mmmmm Hmmmm

Lady 1: And do you know what she said? "well, maybe you should shop at K-Mart"

Lady 2: Mmmmm

Lady 1: I guess Imma have to. That's criminal. TEN DOLLARS for panties. And not the fancy ones. Four of those little cotton ones.

So, I guess, my point is, you don't have to be that curious cause it is not that interesting. Also, don't buy your panties at Target.


The "shame" technique. What do you think? Is this right? Will it be effective? Is this the best way to curb the demand and help the men caught up in this industry struggling with sex addiction (whether they are remorseful of it or not)?


Selling Sex?...that's easy!

Some really great thoughts on selling sex, the demand, and how we’re all guilty of feeding the demand from one of Fuller Seminary’s Professors J.R. Daniel Kirk.

I’m struck afresh by the message that the Church has been sending in the latest wave of our culture wars. We are acting as though the most egregious thing a man can do sexually is to desire and have sex with another man.

While all the time there is this multi-billion dollar sex industry, representing one of the gravest human slavery industries in the modern world, being driven, mostly, by men’s insatiable desire for women.
If only we could redirect our righteous indignation here, against the objectification of women that runs right through the middle of not only the dark alleys but our own living rooms. If only we could agree that the selling of women for sex is degradation and exploitation–and see, also, how we’re all complicit.

Read the rest of his excellent blog post HERE.

There are few things I could add to this commentary to make it better. Dr Kirk says what I have been wanting to add to tie this conversation together. Read his blog - make lots of thoughtful comments over there - but most off all think broadly about this topic and conversation. Sexuality is such a hot topic right now, but we have siloed what portions of sexuality and which scriptures on sexuality we deem relevant.


I need help, what are ya'll going to do to help

We had been out on the streets for about an hour when I approached Baby Doll (not her real street name) with a gift bag. As many girls are, she was confused why we were giving her the gift and why we were out on the streets of LA so late at night. I began telling her how special, unique and loved she was. That God has not forgotten her and loves her deeply. She seemed a little taken off guard, but then said she appreciated the message we were spreading because many of the women out on the streets needed to hear it.

Me: “But you don’t?”
Baby Doll: “Naw, I know why I’m out here, and I won’t be out here long. I’ve just gotta pay the bills and then I’m done. I’m in school to get my degree. I have a son! I’m just doing what I have to do to take care of myself”
Me: “How’s that going? Taking care of yourself? Is it working out? Are you sick of it yet?”
Baby Doll: “Oh hells yes. I am about at the end of my rope. But I’ve got no other options, just got to do it a bit longer until I get to a place where I feel like I can take care of my baby and me”
Me: “You really think you’ll stop? Think you’ll ever feel secure enough?”
Baby Doll: “I hope so.”

What would you have done to offer help to this woman? Out on the track we run into a lot of women like Baby Doll. They don’t think they are the ones in need of help, and yet they hate the circumstances they find themselves in with no real end in sight. When we try to offer help in getting them to a safe house, job skills training and other connections they are immediately skeptical because they have been failed so many times before and they’ve tried to get a job so many times before, they know going that direction is a long road that most often ends in disappointment.

In a news article from WAFB in Georgia a prostitute unknowingly did an informal interview with a police officer. Her responses were not uncommon:
“Department of Labor is giving no jobs. McDonald’s, Burger King ain’t hiring. The only thing left for a woman to do in Savannah is sell their body,” Rhonda said. “Prostitution ain’t nothing bad. It happened long time ago. It happened in Jesus Christ’s time.”
Rhonda and Edwards engaged in a 30 minute debate on programs and agencies available to help Rhonda, and others in her situation.
“What do you got to offer me? Nothing but the streets again,” she said. “I need help. What are y’all going to do to help?”
I asked her what she is going to do to help herself.
“Prostituting,” she said.

What advice would you give Rhonda? How would you respond to and help her? It is difficult for women with a “criminal” past and a serious lack of options to find viable options for supporting and sustaining themselves. And too often we as a society have failed them. We have done the easy work of getting them off the streets but gotten exhausted when it comes to the long hard work of walking with them through rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Rhonda seems like she does not mind prostitution and is fine with her situation – but I guarantee you that if she actually thought there was a chance for her to do something else with her life that would not end in failure and disappointment, she would jump at it.

How would you respond to Rhonda? What hope do you have to offer Baby Doll? What can the Church do to make it possible for them to find something sustainable other that prostituting themselves? Prostitution is seen as a choice – but it is a lack of choice, lack of freedom, lack of options and last resort of survival.


Hey Minnesota!

Girls Are Not For Sale:
Ending Prostitution for Minnesota Girls
Friday, July 27, 7:30am - 9am 
Turtle Bread, 4762 Chicago Ave S (in the Pizza Biga Room)

Council Member Elizabeth Glidden of Ward 8 is hosting an opportunity to learn about efforts to end child prostitution and sex trafficking in Minneapolis and Minnesota, including the MN Girls Are Not for Sale campaign for the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. The FBI has identified the Twin Cities as one of the nation’s 13 largest centers for child prostitution. The average age of a girl’s entry into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old.

The public is welcomed.

The event will feature: Terry Williams, director of External Affairs for the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota;  Lt.  Nancy Dunlap, who leads the Minneapolis Police Sex Crimes Unit, and Artika Roller , program director for PRIDE (From Prostitution to Independence, Dignity & Equality), which provides support and advocacy services to girls victimized by prostitution.

To learn more about child prostitution and sex trafficking, including ways you can help, go to www.MnGirlsNotForSale.org.


Ministering to Pimps and Prostitutes

I volunteer with a ministry called After Hours. We are a street outreach to Pimps and Prostitutes in Los Angeles. As our world becomes increasingly aware of sexual exploitation and trafficking, we have become more conscious that it exists on our own front step. I get asked quite a bit what some of the first steps someone can take are in order to begin their own outreach to prostitutes in their own cities. So this is an attempt to help lead you in that direction. If you are a pastor that wants to get involved in ministering in your city this way or you have a group of passionate lay people in your church that are eager to begin an outreach. I hope this gives you some help and encouragement to get started. 

The most important thing before you try to begin something like this is to make sure you have the proper perspective: these women are victims. If you see them as the problem: dirty women who are out to make a buck and enjoy manipulating men for money – you won’t be able to help them. Too many people think trafficking is something that only takes place overseas – or when women and children from other countries are brought into the United States, but the truth is every woman we meet out on the streets is a trafficked woman.

The United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:
  1. 1. Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age, OR
  2. 2. The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage (the practice of holding persons in servitude or partial slavery, as to work off a debt or to serve a penal sentence), debt bondage, or slavery.

In one of our trainings we had a person ask us “how do you see these men and women as people and not as just objects?” If that’s the point you are beginning at, the men and women will sense it, and you won’t be able to help them. 

Most of the women and children that end up in prostitution come from either a family history of prostitution or from a difficult home life where one or both parents are in prison and they are left to provide for their family. An overwhelming amount of children who end up in prostitution are also the result of abusive situations: either rape, incest or victims of hostile homes where their parents have made it clear that their gay, lesbian and transgender tendencies are unnatural and unwelcome. In the United States, approximately 40% of adult prostitutes began their careers when they were underage. It is a cycle of victimization and manipulation that keeps them in prostitution. All of her life she has been told she is a piece of property; worth nothing and incapable of making her own decisions. She is powerlessness, isolated and experiences a marred identity: she has become human capital.

The second thing to keep in mind when wanting to begin this type of outreach ministry is to do your research. If you want to be a street outreach ministry then you need to know what types of resources in your area are available to men and women that will reach our to you and ask for your help. When a woman says she wants to get off the street, what will you do? When she says she is afraid for her safety, what will you do? When she says she has children that she also needs to take care of, what will you do? These are the kinds of questions you need to take care of. What if she is an illegal immigrant? What if she has a drug addiction? What if she is underage? 

You also need to know the rules and psychological effects of The Game. The Game is what they call the network of prostitution, those involved and its rules. There are lots of rules and terminology in “The Game” and it is important for you to at least be aware of what that is so you do not go out onto the streets ill-informed and into potentially dangerous situations. You need to learn where the tracks are in your town, how they work the girls, when the natural rotations happen, when to pursue girls and when to respect the fact that sex worker’s time is money. You also need to respect the psychological trauma that has taken place, for example, insulting a woman’s pimp by saying he is a jerk that treats her horribly will make her cut you off and never listen to you again. You need to understand the psychological manipulation and deep connection that has been formed there and learn to work within those bonds to reach out to her. 

The third thing to keep in mind when wanting to begin this type of ministry is to adjust your expectations of “results” you need to be in it for the long run. In the time I have been working with After Hours we have had the privilege of seeing women come off the street and into rehabilitation homes. But many of those women have ended up going back to their pimps. It is a really long road to recovery. Going back and fourth out of rehab is not uncommon. And not many girls will make the decision to leave the streets in the first place. Results for us are learning a girls real name rather than her street name, getting a call in the middle of the week from a girl that wants to tell us her kid made honor roll or ask us for prayer, seeing a girl several weeks in a row that recognizes us and is excited to see us again “There’s my girl!” These women have learned not to trust people in their life, so you will have to be consistent in building a relationship with them week after week and week and year after year. They will not trust you easily and you will need to earn their respect. 

The final thing (for now!) to keep in mind when wanting to begin this type of ministry is to be spiritually prepared. It is important to take spiritual warfare seriously when engaging in this type of street ministry. Be sure that you are motivated out of a love for God and the broken; not seeking excitement, sensationalism or public recognition. Again, the women can sense this. It is not uncommon for strange things to happen before our outreaches: family quarrels, illness, stressful situations, tiredness, and lack of motivation. There are many things you will experience or see on the track such as partial nudity, violence, gang activity, johns soliciting you, pimps staring at you, trying to recruit or intimidate you, and in the worse case scenario bodily hard to yourself or others around you. It is only through the power of God that a ministry like this can make a difference. God loves these women so deeply, God has a plan for their life and the fact that God will use you to minister to them in any way is such an honor. Make sure your heart is ready to go out on the streets and engage in those types of conversations. 


Type-A Christianity

I've just discovered something about myself - although, I think I've always know. I am a person that love steps. lists. rules. how-to's. I want to know I am doing something right. A while ago I wrote a piece on Recovering Evangelical about faith and how I don't get it - what does believing in God LOOK like. Because the things I used to do don't work anymore. I want steps to make it all make sense - to know I'm doing it right. And recently I've re-picked up "Abba's Child" by Brennan Manning - and I don't know how to get rid of the "Imposter" in my life. I want him to give me steps to recovery. "Do this and you'll successfully be yourself and live in God's grace" Maybe my problem is I don't really understand what Grace is. Maybe that's hard for us J's (I'm an INTJ) because we like to plan out everything. And you just can't plan grace. When a good friend of mine read a recent post I wrote wrestling with my lack of understanding faith - he sent me all sorts of really nice articles and posts and emails. But none of them were all that helpful, I just didn't feel he was understanding what I was really trying to say (and that's probably because I was not saying it very well!). But he's a P -- not at all a J. The complete opposite of a J. And I think he just has an easier time with the fact that grace makes no sense. He's good with flexibility and spontaneity.

The more and more I think about it - the more I realize I am like a Pharisee. And then I just have compassion on those guys when I read the Bible. Because living in the time of the long expected Messiah must have been hard. I would have been trying to live according to a lot of crossed T's and dotted I's as well. And I would have been the LAST one to jump on the Jesus bandwagon. I would have given myself credit for holding out for so long as well - considered myself discerning.

I don't know hot to "fix" this expectation about myself. Do I try to just change my personality? For someone who is used to a faith that you measure how can you learn to just….be. Or is there a place for lists, rules and steps within Grace?


Marmie's Enchiladas

I came home from work today and got the itch to cook. And so I did. I called my marmie because I got the craving to make Enchiladas! And I remember from growing up that whenever she made enchiladas they were delicious! So I channeled my grandmother in her apron and got to work.

3T oil
2 med. onions, chopped
2 large green peppers, chopped
2 cans enchilada sauce
1 c. sour cream
1 lb monterey jack cheese cut into 12 logs
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
12 corn torillas
1/2 c. oil (i think you need more - but maybe I am not a master chef!)
I added two tomatoes, chopped
5 cloves of garlic

Cook onion and green pepper in 3T oil until soft but not brown, salt to taste (this is where I added the 5 cloves of garlic).

Combine the enchilada sauce and sour cream, simmer for 1 minute.

Fry tortillas one at a time in oil - don't let them get TOO cripsy (you have to be able to roll them). Drain on paper towel.

 Put enough sauce on bottom of 9x13 pan to just cover it.

Put 1/12 of pepper and 1/12 of jack cheese in tortillas (I added tomato!) and roll. Place seam side down in baking dish.

Pour remaining sauce over. Top with cheddar cheese.

Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

This freezes well and serves 4-6! Happy Cooking!!

Bon Appetite!



so, what did you do last night?
me & america: "drank a little wine, watched a little TV, hung out with some people"
danieljames: "won an oscar"

when your friend wins an oscar - it really makes you feel like you should be doing more with your life.

congratulations, dan and miles and all you undefeated peeps!
and all of you other regular boring people - go watch "undefeated" and enjoy the sweet sweet music.


So for lent, I decided to give up lent

I have been thinking a lot about Lent this year. What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What are those things in my life that are the obstacles and road blocks to a deeper and more satisfying relationship with Christ? What are those things I have been making excuses about that I should really get off my lazy butt and just start implementing? What am I worried about? Anxious? What are my burdens? Fears? What makes me alive? Where do I see beauty in the word? Darkness? Where do my passions and the worlds deepest longings meet - and how am I daily helping to pour into that?

Rachel Held Evans on her blog gives 10 helpful questions to ponder during the lenten season:
1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?
2. Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address that habit over the next 40 days?
3. Is there anyone in my life from whom I need to ask forgiveness or pursue reconciliation?
4. What practical steps can I take to carve out time for daily contemplation?
5. What spiritual discipline do I need to improve upon or want to try?
6. What are some things in my life that I tell myself I need but I don’t? Can I give one or two of them up for 40 days?
7. Why am I giving this particular thing up? How does giving it up draw me closer to God and prepare me for Easter?
8. What am I going to tell myself when self-denial gets hard?
9. Is it necessary/helpful for me to share the nature my fast with others or should I keep it private?
10. What do the ashes mean to me this year? What  does baptism mean to me this year? 

But then I got overwhelmed by all the questions. I mean, they are REALLY GOOD questions, don't get me wrong. But I realized - that's what I've been doing for so long. I was raised in a way that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, I viewed faith as a very legalistic thing where I had to ask these questions, follow these steps, and then my faith would be good enough. 

So for lent, I decided to give up lent. Get it?

I look at the foothills in my backyard at least once a day - not as a discipline, but because they are beautiful and I can't help but stare at them. Driving home at the end of each day I can't help but miss right when the light turns green because I am frequently captivated by the sunset that is partially blinding me as I stare at the road before me. And I realized that this is what it is all about. Just being. Just living in the moment. Appreciating what is and not always trying to make it something more. 

Every Saturday I meet with a group of three other ladies to talk about life and love and pain and challenges and sorrows and defeat. There are few people I would rather share daily life with. Sipping coffee, laughing, and hearing their stories is often the highlight of my week. I see God in their stories, in being in their presence, and in being part of this journey with them. 

If I tried to turn looking at the foothills into a daily exercise of discipline during Lent - I would stop looking at them on a daily basis and they would lose some of their splendor. If I made coffee with the girls a "meeting" I HAD to be at every Saturday rather than a ritual I am proud and honored to be part of, it would lose part of its wonder. I'm not saying disciplines and planned action are bad - I'm just saying that experiencing God for who God is in the moment that you are living is a pretty beautiful thing. Surrendering from TRYING so hard to be the person that you think you should be and just being who you are is the unpracticed discipline of surrender. That's what I need more of - surrendering to the messiness of life. 

Cause the God who made those foothills and drinks coffee on Saturday mornings is pretty crazy awesome. And that God reveals layers of characteristics and faithfulness on a daily basis just by showing up in that sunset or conversations or laughter. Sometimes I think I try to conjure up the perfect recipe for God to appear when God is already there.

I'm done trying to be perfect by Easter. It has never worked before. So this time I think I'm just going to be me. Simple, old, broken me. And I think that's all God wants. God's appreciated my efforts of starting and stopping things for the lenten season in the past - but I think we'll enjoy just being together these next 40 days. No incessant questions, no mind-games, no pretension, no pretending….just me - just God - just us. 


An Open Letter to Charter Communications

You are, quite simply, extremely annoying. I appreciate your internet service, I really do. And I think you provide great rates and good reliable service. But when it comes to every other area of who you are, how you relate to your cliental and your customer service, you are terrible. I have never interacted with another company that has made me feel more harassed.  If I wanted cable and telephone or any other service that you offered, believe me, I WOULD LET YOU KNOW. There are two main issues that I have with you.

First, you call me three to four times a day - sometimes beginning at 6:45a. This does not make me any more likely to solicit said services from you. You call me from different telephone numbers, and different area codes, trying to trick me into answering the phone. And if you do succeed in making me pick up my phone, your customer service representatives will never let me off the phone even after explicitly telling them 6 to 34,567,890 times I do not want to make any changes to my plan. It has come to the point where I will not pick up any phone numbers that I do not recognize for fear of being harassed by your company. This has resulted in me missing some very important and exciting calls from overseas friends. Is that your fault? Not necessarily - but you aren't making things easier. 

Second, I sincerely think you hate mother nature. The number of letters that you send me marked "VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION" that are the exact same thing as your phone calls just trying to get me to spend more money with you, is outrageous. I could have a bonfire once a month with the amount of paper I throw away that you send to my mailbox. And for the record, trying to get me to purchase cable, is not VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION. I am lucky I have not thrown away one of your bills yet in the midst of all the junk you mail to me.

All this to say, Dearest Charter, please stop harassing your customers. We know what great service you provide. That is why we are with you. And if we ever decide we want more if it - we'll come to you. Trust us, we know that you are there. But right now you seem a little desperate and needy, and that just pushes us away even more.



A Valentine Reflection

Valentines is a day for reflecting. If you are in a relationship it is a time for reflecting on all those things you love and appreciate about your significant other. What it is that makes them special, how you can continue working to cultivate a healthy relationship, and blah blah blah.

For those of us that are single, it is a time for reflecting on the ones that got away. Are we really progressing in this dating adventure or have we just gotten more desperate and too picky along the way so that one truly amazing person slipped away without us even noticing? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves. 

To start this time of reflection for myself, I am going to guess where some of my past dates are now - hopefully you can relate to some of the types of people I have dated (please? make me feel less abnormal!) And by taking a trip down memory lane we can all hopefully learn a little bit about whether we are progressing in our dating attempts or have yet to raise the bar for ourselves.

First, there's Little Justin. I am not sure he counts since he was my next door neighbor until I was about 4. All I remember is chasing him around trying to kiss him. Since I have not seen him for 24 years I am just going to guess he is in therapy.

Then there was Tyska. I chased him on the playground in first grade and kissed him on the cheek (I am JUST NOW realizing what an aggressive little girl I was!). He told the teacher on me so I had to go sit in the timeout chair. I am going to guess he works for a collections agency for the CIA.

Then there was Flower. I guess we never really dated, but I had the BIGGEST crush on him ever and he took me to a couple school dances. My dad hollered at him across a football field during the homecoming coronation. I have a FEELING that didn't help my cause in trying to marry him. That's a great story if you ever want to hear the full thing sometime. I am guessing he is married to a woman with a father that does NOT yell at him in front of large crowds of people.

Then there was Jesus. Cause, you know, I kissed dating goodbye. But it got hard when I wanted to cuddle or kiss him. He felt distant….physically. Don't get me wrong - best boyfriend I've ever had. I just thought we should not get so exclusive so fast - I was only in High School and I was sure my parents would not be happy if I settled down so early.

Then there was Hardy-Boy. You know this type, the boy who asks you to date him but keep it a secret. I am guessing he works at WalMart and plays Second Life on the weekends.

Then there was Scottish Storr. What a dream. An intense dream that scared me. But a dream. You know, the type you can't find ANYTHING wrong with but there's still no spark? I am sure he is climbing a rainbow on a unicorn with an elvish princess somewhere.

Then there was SpongeBob. The guy that had spongebob everything and was a little too obsessed with vampires. But you're willing to overlook the really odd things because he worked as a barista so I got a lots of free coffee. I am guessing he is an extra in some of the Twilight films and currently collects Robert Pattinson paraphernalia.

Then there was Blogger. I hope you don't know this type, but I think they're pretty common. The guy that after you break up with them write terrible awful things about you in a public forum, and USE YOUR REAL NAME. I am guessing he works for TMZ now.

Now we will run through a series of men I went on just ONE date with (see if you can guess why!):

To read the rest - go to the post I wrote on The Public Queue [LINK].



more and more i have been struggling with what it actually means to believe in God or have a relationship with God or anything that resembles the foundations of my evangelical upbringing. i guess this is not a surprise as i have blogged a lot about this lately (for example you can read my post on recovering evangelical here, if you didn't see it) and the more i think about it - the more i realize that it is storytelling. it is hearing the testimony and experiences of others that make me aware of the divine around me. others make me confident that the almighty God is at work. and even more so when they stop to reflect on what they've seen in my life or the lives of others. sometimes i am not patient enough to get a lot out of my own study - but when i pause to listen to the experience of others or take a deep breath to inhale the hidden beauty in the darkest places…it is like God is screaming out I AM LOVE AND HOPE AND BEAUTY AND GRACE AND TRUTH. just hold on cause the ride is going to be bumpy but beautiful.

so, i guess that's all. tell me your stories, and i'll try to remember to tell you mine. remind each other of the changes you see - the growth you've witnessed and the beauty that surrounds us. because when one of us is struggling it just might be your story that brings us back to hope.


going home

Going home is weird. 
Or is it coming home?
I am never really sure how I am supposed think about it.

I grew up in Illinois. Most of the first 21 years of my life were spent there. So I guess you could call that "home" even though I now live elsewhere. I still love the feeling of exiting off I-90 onto East State Street. Turning left onto Perryville and looking around me to see all the changes that have taken place since I've last been there. Turning into my neighborhood and then eventually into my driveway to see the warm glow of the lights and heat radiating from my childhood home. Walking in those doors is still so familiar and never ceases to put a smile on my face. I love cuddling up on the couch by the fireplace or watching a football game with my dad or a chick flick with  my mom or just sitting in the kitchen while we take turns cooking meals and then eating them together. Or family game nights, those are my favorite. No one in the world can make me laugh like my family. 

I guess going home is really therapy for me. It is the place I can truly be myself. I don't have to worry about what's next, where I am going in life, who I am or how I am perceived. I am with those who know me best and love me at my worst. I am comfortable. I am content. 

But it is also weird. Because you have to run into those people that you have not seen in six years and have that same conversation over and over again "what are you doing now? are you married? blah blah blah" and then you have to ask the reciprocating questions even though, let's be honest, 90% of the time you don't really care. And part of you feels judged and insecure no matter how happy you are with your life, because it is not normal to be single and vote democratic. So you start to avoid these people and the places you might see them, and you begin to just hang out with the same three people over and over again (two of which live with you in LA).

So I guess there is always part of me that is excited to return to California. Where I struggle to pay rent and figure out my life and go on terrible dates and sit in front of a computer 40 hours a week. I mean, I have a lot of really great stuff going for me too (insert conversation about the weather), but life can be hard at times. Sometimes I think it would be easier to pick it all up and go back to Illinois where I am known and where it is comfortable and where eating hotdish every night is NORMAL, PEOPLE. 

But something holds me here. Because California has become home. Because someone once told me that home is wherever you are. So I make my home in a tent in Yosemite or in an orphanage in Chihuahua or in a hotel in Nepal or in a back house in California. Because location is not what makes something "going home" - I am what makes something home, and the people I choose to make company with is what makes something home. Where I choose to invest in community and life and love is what makes something home. 


Go NINERS - but please be polite

What is it about sports that makes people simultaneously bonded together loving people they might never otherwise interact with and complete asses?

When I wear a red San Francisco hat or t-shirt or sweat-shirt or beer holster (don't laugh, I ACTUALLY have one of those) people will stop me on the street to give me a high-five or a hug or talk shop or just smile and tell me how awesome I am. Because we are bonded in our mutual love of the greatest team on the face of the planet. I mean, it does not even make sense sometimes. I could be perusing online dating profiles and if a guy says that he is a 49er fan, I sometimes don't even finish reading and just shoot him a message. He could very well have admitted that he owns 47 cats, lives with his mother and listens exclusively to heavy metal - and I would look over ALL that stuff because he is a 49er fan!

But it also makes people complete asses. For example, my dad and I were desperately trying to get tickets to the game today. Granted, we probably should not have tired to get tickets to SUCH a popular game, I get it. But what was frustrating is that the tickets sold out before they even went on sale (figure that one out). But not to loyal and dedicated fans that wanted to actually GO to the game. To greedy jerks that wanted to make a profit. Immediately after the game sold out I went to NFL ticket exchange and there were OVER 6,000 tickets for resale and the cheapest ones were close to $450 for the nosebleeds. WHAT? Come on! Aren't we all in this together? Are you the same people that stop me on the street to talk about our mutual love of Davis, Crabtree and Willis and how we need to learn to score touchdowns rather than relying on Akers kicking? Why can't you sell the ticket to me for face value just for the LOVE OF THE GAME? For our mutual love of the Niners? It only seems right. We both bleed red (I guess that's actually true…literally and metaphorically).

I had a friend that went to the game last weekend, but as a Saints fan (I know, we can't all be perfect). But apparently he and his family were treated HORRIBLY by 49er fans. There were some Saints fans that even wrote in to the San Francisco paper about it. It got so bad that there are Cops that are going undercover as Giants fans today in case fans get out of control. And they are giving Giants fans cards with information on how to contact security in case they feel threatened. What? That's out of control. We should all be able to civilly watching a football game together. I know we have our teams that we love - but there is no reason to yell out to someone's teenage daughter "your mother's a whore" and then tell him he should not bring his daughter to sporting events cause it is no place for little girls. When did football turn into this? Those 49er fans SHOULD be embarrassed - lots of fans that have lost sight of the excitement of the game should.

Football, and any sporting event for that matter, should be about the joy and excitement of the game and the community it creates. When we let it get so out of hand that it controls our emotions and drives us to threaten or belittle someone else we need to check and see if we are being a fan or just an ass that is too wrapped up in something that isn't really as big as we've made it out to be.

Watch the game. Enjoy the game. But keep it in perspective.

And Go Niners!

Editors Note: As an addition - threatening Kyle Williams life after tonight's game, is ALSO a great way to prove that you take sports TOO seriously and are a terrible terrible fan. 


Kidney Bean Soup

I had a couple cans of kidney beans from when I was on the 4 Hour Body kick. I am still sort of on it, but I really do not like beans, so I am trying to find out creative ways to get rid of the beans that have been sitting on my shelf for a year now. So I decided tonight to get rid of my kidney beans.

I found a couple of recipes online but none of them were quite right, so I combine a bunch of the ideas and came up with my own soup.

And not to toot my own horn, but I AM AMAZING. you need to eat this.

Put some olive oil in a big pot (also, when i cook, i typically do not measure things, so all of this is just a guess cause I just started throwing things in a pan)
Add half an onion. Cook until onion is translucent.
Add four cloves of garlic.

 Add one can of broth (I used beef broth because that I what I had at home, but I think chicken or vegetable would work just as well)
Add one can of water
Add two cans of kidney beans
Add one can of diced tomatoes.

Add some chopped broccoli
Add some chopped celery

Add two TBSP of dijon mustard
Add some italian seasoning
Add salt and pepper to taste

Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
Add some fresh spinach and cook another 5 minutes.

I put some avocado on the top as a garnish and it was delicious!


I am trying to figure out why I don’t like church

I once read an article that shared the top five things people confess or regret on their deathbeds and one of them was “I wish I were more authentic or honest about what I really thought.” That resonated with me because I think lots of thoughts and I don’t like to share them except with my very best friends because I think a lot of those thoughts I am not supposed to have.  Does that make sense? Well, maybe it does and maybe it does not  - but it is how I feel. But I’ve decided to think what I think and share those thoughts regardless of how I think others are going to react. So here is my first shot at that. I don’t like church. I know I am supposed to, because every good Christian girl does, but I don’t. Authenticity wins over perception. 

I am trying to figure out why I don’t like church. Because it seems weird to me. I grew up in the church, and I don’t feel any bitterness or resentment for the time that I spent there. And I really love God and feel I have a good “relationship” with God (although I struggle to know what a “relationship” with the divine actually looks like…but that is a conversation for another day). But I can’t figure it out. Maybe if I talk it out a bit and type out my jumbled ideas stream of thought it might become clearer (NOTE: that might make this miserable to read!)

Perhaps it is because people and relationships seem inauthentic. Church is supposed to be where you go to deal with your ish. To face a God that is both just and full of grace. To bring all that you are and say: this is me; the good the bad and the ugly. And what do you know? I’m not the only crazy one! There are others like me that struggle with this stuff but that are also beautiful and poetic and artistic and try to see the beauty in the world and make it a better place. 

The one time I can remember in the recent past LOVING church was a house church I was part of. We called it “coffee church.” Each home took turns hosting. If you were hosing you got up early, cleaned your place, made the coffee and opened your house up to whoever wanted to come over that morning. And what did we do? We chatted. About life. About God. About nothing. About everything. We got to know one another. We cared about each other. It wasn’t anything even remotely organized or resembling a “real” church – but it was perfect. I was more real and authentic with that group of people than I have ever been in an institutionalized church because we got to know each other. We were in a community which meant we were in each other’s lives outside of one hour a week on Sunday’s. We genuinely cared about each other and what went on in our lives. 

But that does not happen in church. In church – you have to have it all together. Don’t believe me? Bring a homeless person with you to church and see how everyone squirms. Bring a prostitute and see how much everyone whispers. Bring someone going through alcohol or drug withdrawal twitching a lot and see people anxious and kept back.

Everyone tries to keep it together at church – to prove that they are the best Christian. And when you go to the churches that are the kind of places you can admit that you are an alcoholic or sex addict or struggling with something it is almost a contest to see WHO is the biggest sinner. Who has struggled most and overcome it and has the tattoos to prove how far they have come? 

Or perhaps I do not like church because the worship feels inauthentic.

I have always gone to non-liturgical churches that are not exactly charismatic but friendly to the spirit and not afraid of turning down the lights, setting the mood and plucking at your heart strings with the worship leaders guitar. And for some reason that just gets under my skin now. I literally start to itch, my stomach gets nauseated and I start overheating. I am not sure when this reaction started and why, I just know that this environment is no longer conducive to worship for me. It is almost like I feel manipulated. 

In a liturgical church I know that it could still be seen as putting on a show since things are so programmed, but it does not feel that way. To me it feels like I am stepping into history, into a legacy, into a heritage of forefathers and foremothers that have gone before me. I am singing their songs and reading their words of testimony to the great God they sought to love and understand. I love that feeling of entering into a greater story. Of singing and chanting these historical words – it makes modern worship songs feel almost empty and shallow. I understand that they are not – and they move a great number of people in mighty ways, just not me…

Spencer Burke, founder of The Ooze and Mission Planting once said “sometimes to really love the church you have to walk away from her” and I think that’s what I’ve had to do in these last couple of years. I love God, a lot, and I have not lost faith in the church – I just don’t know how to love her and still be part of her at the same time right now. I don’t doubt that will happen again, I just have to be patient with the journey and learn something in the meantime. 

I guess that’s all I have for now…maybe I’ll process more on the church later.