Archive for April, 2009

How do you like my house?

This morning I woke up thrilled to have gotten a solid four hours of sleep but completely unaware that the day before me would prove to be one of the most momentous days of my life.  Today we visited the slums that have arguably made Calcutta so famous.  Just when I thought I had seen poverty in its purest form, we took a giant leap into a whole different echelon. I should warn you in advance that I am a sloppy mess today.  My hard heart finally broke today and it spilled itself all over the streets of Calcutta.

First, we headed to the program site where several hundred bright-eyed children greeted us, fifty of whom do not have sponsors yet.  Almost all of the children at this site are from the slums.  This group of children brought me unspeakable joy.  My heart hurt when we had to leave them.  Check some of them out.



After playing with the kids, our team then set out for our home-visits in the slums.  During the home-visits we go along with several of the Compassion children and we survey their living conditions and listen to their stories.  Most of all, we get to inquire to our heart’s content about how Compassion’s child sponsorship program has changed their lives.  So, we parked our van and huddled around Spence, as he warned us with unusual sobriety that we needed to be extremely careful taking pictures in the slums.  We were informed that had the Compassion India field staff not accompanied us, we could have been in danger walking in the slums.  So, with this slightly unsettling piece of information, we made our way through and we saw unimaginable things right before our eyes. 

People half naked bathing with filthy water on the uneven and trash-infested streets.  Pre-teen prostitutes with painted faces hanging out of a door in the red-light district just to make as little as 50 cents per “job”.  A six-month old infant lying alone on a bed in a shack without any supervision *for the entire day* since both his parents are out working daily labor jobs and living desperately from hand to mouth.  These are the kinds of things people try to keep themselves from admitting actually exist.  But they do.  



Seven out of ten of us climbed and packed ourselves into the home of Kiran Mallik, a precious twelve-year old girl who melted all our hearts like butter.  The other three couldn’t fit.  It was the tiniest little shack I have ever seen, if you could even call it a shack.  It was considerably smaller than a twin bed.  A family of five lives in it.  Here is Pete bending over to look inside:
One more time in case you’re skimming this post, a family of five lives in this shack.  It certainly isn’t the filthiest of the shacks we saw in the slums but we were hard-pressed to understand how five people could even fit it in at one time since we were all kneeled down very uncomfortably.  And then we found out that some of the family actually sleeps on the streets at night because there simply is not enough room.  Here is a picture of Kiran standing outside her house.  Look at her smile. Talking about stealing the heart of you.
 

We kneeled around and listened to Kiran tell her story through a translator.  Her beaming smile and joyous spirit were enough to distract from the oppressive heat.  She told us about how she loves to study, how much she loves Jesus, and how she wants to be a teacher someday. 

And then she asked us, her guests, with a genuine smile on her face as though she was taking us on a tour of her mansion:

“How do you like my house?” 

Can you remember what it felt like to break up with your first love? Okay, now multiply that by about a million.  It was like a dagger in my heart.  I didn’t just want to cry.  I wanted to completely lose it.  But I joined in with the rest of the team, who were likely feeling the same way, and we all said, “We love it.  It is beautiful.”

And I thought of the times that I’ve told my husband I don’t want to have a certain couple over to our apartment because our dining room table isn’t big enough.  I thought of the times that I’ve been “ashamed” to invite friends into our home because it isn’t fancy enough or we don’t have enough chairs or our sofa isn’t comfortable enough.  The countless times I’ve complained about the paint color on the walls.  

There I was.  A Compassion sponsor. Being mentored by a Compassion child on what is really important in life. I realized that we often assume people are completely hopeless just because they don’t have the material wealth that we deem necessary for a quality life. But sometimes those who are in the most difficult circumstances know best of all where to find hope.  Kiran sure did.  She had hope because through God’s grace via Compassion International she has a safe place to learn, to get a hot meal, and to hear more about Jesus.  

Two seconds away from completely losing it: 

I’ve often wondered how an average middle class American becomes a social activist.  I think I’m beginning to understand.  I’m not saying that I am one.  I’ve already admitted, I’m just not that brave.  What I am saying is something similar to what N.T. Wright said in Simply Christian, “The world in its present state is out of tune with God’s ultimate intention.”  Today as I walked through the slums in Calcutta something rose up with protest in my soul with a resounding “NO!”  This is not the way it is supposed to be. 

 “The cry for justice in the world, then, must be taken up and amplified by the Christian church, as the proper response to the voice of the living God.  The gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit indicate that there are ways forward…Christians should be energetic in advocating and pursuing that justice for which all human beings long and which burst upon the world, in a fresh and unexpected way, through Jesus.” (N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 228)

When I was asked to go along on this trip to Calcutta, the honest truth is that I wasn’t jumping out of my skin with excitement.  I really was too busy at work to be taking a week and a half off and I knew it would put more stress on me when I got back.  But here was the rub: I was studying James 1:27 at the time.  You know that really inconvenient verse that defines true religion before God our Father as looking after orphans and widows in their distress.  The way I would apply this verse is that we are to look and care for the most vulnerable people groups in our local communities and of our world at large.  There was no denying that the children in the slums of Calcutta qualified as some of the most oppressed and vulnerable people in our world.  I’ve learned a whole lot about James 1:27 from reading commentaries, periodicals, and whathaveyou; but I will tell you that I have learned just as much if not more about the scope of the verse from actually entering into conversation with the real flesh and blood reality of poverty and social oppression.  From actually touching the children from the slums and being touched by them.  

Today one of the children grabbed my hand and when she let go, I didn’t want her to.  In that moment I felt I needed her as much as she needed me.  The Scriptures are too profound just to read in isolation of the real world. They must be read and lived.  To be interpreted correctly, they must be performed.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is too big, too cataclysmic, to be left on the page.  They should burst forth from our reality.

Tomorrow is the big day when we get to meet our sponsor children! Please do check out the posts from my fellow bloggers.  Actually, they are no longer just my fellow bloggers, they’re my friends.  A special bond has been forged. They are people who have dared a selfish coward to stare into the face of poverty. People who are willing to face the reality of a broken world, to have their hearts torn apart, and then to use whatever is left of it to usher in the kingdom of God here on this earth. 

With Love,

Melissa 

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Agony and Ecstasy

I so wish that I had the time right now to respond individually to each of your comments.  They have all been absolutely amazing and your generosity has already astounded us.  We heard from the Compassion office that yesterday was the highest day of child sponsorship of any Compassion blogger trip.  A great number of you from the LPM blog were a part of that and I wanted your joy to be complete today knowing that piece of information.  It is an exciting thing that our blog community has already proved this week to be a small yet significant part of a massive effort to release children from poverty.  Each and every child counts. One of my favorite comments from yesterday’s post was from Donna who had never heard of Compassion International until this week.  She searched for a Compassion child to sponsor- one with her same birthday and with asthma, a struggle Donna herself has also dealt with during her own lifetime.  That Donna was looking for a child with whom she could connect with really conveyed that she understood the heart of Compassion, the relationship between the child and sponsor. 

On to today.  This morning as I walked down to breakfast I noticed that two of our team members were missing, Spence and Anne.  Let’s just say that the spicy food, jet-lag, and 120 degree heat index finally got to them and so they had to stay behind for the day with a certain porcelain friend, or adversary, depending upon which way you want to spin it.  Pete was up all night running to the bathroom as well but came with us to the project anyhow.  He actually passed out during one of the home visits. Poor thing.  He wants to show you the two essential things every person must bring on a trip to India:

A Bible and a roll of toilet paper.  Poor guy.  He still had a smile on his face, though. Total trooper. He said he kept begging the Lord to take away the pain last night.  He kept telling Him, “I’ll do anything for you to take it away. I’d even go to India.” And then he was like, “Oh wait, I am in India.”  Absolutely hilarious. But then he took a Cipro and turned around like a champ.

One of my fellow bloggers, Robin, asked me five days ago if I liked curry.  Grossly overestimating my passion for exotic multi-cultural foods, I exclaimed, “I love curry! I just can’t wait to eat the food in India.”  From the look on her face, I gathered quickly that she wasn’t so sure.  Well, let’s just say that the curry in the States ain’t the curry in India. I’m not exactly sure how it’s possible but curry and masala are incorporated into all three meals here- breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   Curry pancakes.  Curry chicken.  Curry fish.  And not to be forgotten are the delightful curried prawns.  Apparently the options for curry are never ending. Oh, and yesterday my roommate opened up a cabinet in our hotel room and noticed several bags of potato chips.  It was as if Etta James’ famous tune “At Last” immediately came over a loud speaker and started soothing our spirits.  Chips are totally my love language so I said, “Yay! What kind are they???”  And then there was a pause.  Come to find out our choices were Spicy Masala Remix and Red Chili Bijli.  Egads. I should have known.  I shouldn’t have set myself up for a broken heart.

But back to today.  We had an extremely intense day as we left our hotel located in the heart of the city and went on an hour and a half drive out into the countryside on a bus and then got off only to jump onto rickshaws that would take us thirty minutes deeper into the rural area where our project was located.  Two words for any woman riding on a rickshaw: sports bra.  Maybe even two.  I won’t elaborate but you should be fully warned in the event that you ever embark on this adventure.  We spun into a total time warp the further we descended toward our destination.  There were straw huts scattered through the lush green landscape and people carrying buckets of water they had just pumped out of their local water-well.  Check out some of the things we saw from our rickshaw:

It was absolutely wild.  I’ve never seen anything like it except maybe in the movies.  I asked our Compassion expert if the poverty was more extreme in the rural areas than the urban areas that we have previously been to and she explained to me that it isn’t that they are worse but that they are different.  The rural areas are completely agriculturally based and so they rely completely on things like rice, which don’t produce for six months out of the year and there simply isn’t enough water for proper cultivation.  Because of these harsh conditions, the very survival of the children in this community is threatened.  In response, Compassion has instituted a project called the Child Survival Program.  This program starts with prenatal care for expectant mothers.  What is absolutely stunning is that these women rarely have left their own little shacks much less the village.  They are completely cut off from the rest of the world so they have no idea how to care for their own child.  They themselves are incredibly unhealthy because of their socially inferior status.  They basically just get the leftovers after a meal.  This program provides them with supplemental nutrition and teaches them the basics of caring for their baby.  For example, they learn how to prepare food for their baby, what vaccinations their baby needs, and even how to bathe their baby with the cleanest water possible.  It is an absolutely incredible ministry.  

Here is a picture of the Moms with their babies lined up waiting to greet us:

This precious woman told us that the reason she loves the Child Survival Program so much is that she hears stories about Jesus.  She says that she loves to hear what He says about her.  The theology of human worth and dignity that is so essential to the Christian message is so desperately needed in a country like India that is primarily Hindu.  Compassion helps to instill a sense of meaning and purpose that is so crucial for these women:
Just my perspective:
More beautiful children. I look like Casper the Friendly Ghost next to them. Hey, Keely, can you please photoshop a tan in for me next time? 
The picture below is taken of Sabita Parui and her child Bishan Parui.  We asked Sabita what her favorite thing about the Compassion program was and she told us that before she got involved with Compassion she could not read or write.  But now she can sign her name herself. And her favorite story about Jesus is the wedding at Cana in the gospel of John.  
When I was roaming around the Compassion offices in Calcutta I noticed the first section of their mission statement.  It goes like this:  “I am the Compassion in East India.  The day I joined this country office, this office also become part of me.  I can feel it running through me in agony and ecstasy.  I am Compassion and Compassion is me.”  These Compassion India folks are the real deal. They are in it for the long haul.  Needless to say, the poverty here is staggering and they are spiritually outnumbered by 95%.  That’s right. The Christians here comprise less than 5% of the population.  Yet, they keep trucking.  Keep fighting in the name of love and for the sake of justice in spite of the agony.  I suppose the glory of feeding one more child in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is just that sweet.   
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God’s Shameless Love for the Poor

Today as I type this post I feel as though I am trying to take just a little sip of water out of an open fire hydrant.  There are so many stories that I will never get the chance to tell.  My heart and mind are processing so many things at one time that I am having a hard time sleeping at night even though I am beyond exhausted when my head hits the pillow.  I can honestly say that this trip is one of the hardest things I have ever done but absolutely one of the most meaningful. 

Yesterday I got an email from Amanda and she asked me if I could keep my eyes peeled open for a special child for her to sponsor.  So, Amanda, what do you think about Latangi?

Is she too much or what?  I met her today on one of our home-visits in an extremely poor village.  She totally could have fit in my suitcase but I figured Living Proof wouldn’t completely support kidnapping so I relented.  Amanda, you would have seriously died.  Her Mother has the daunting task of raising four children singlehandedly since her husband died three months ago of a heart attack.  Latangi, her Mom, and two of her siblings sleep in two tiny beds in a one-room 8×8 bamboo structure while her older brother sleeps on the hard cement floor.  She currently has no sponsor with Compassion and while her Mom works during the day she is left all alone.  She is four years old.  Four years old and left alone all day to do heaven knows what.  Just think, Amanda, if you sponsor her, Compassion International will provide the opportunity for her to be in school under the umbrella of the local church studying and learning skills during the day to dramatically boost her chances of survival.

There are hundreds of faces, hundreds of Indian children, who are just as precious and in just as dire circumstances who are in need of sponsors.  You can take a look for yourself here or you can just click on the Compassion India banner on the left of our margin.  The Compassion East India office partners with the local churches in a rigorous selection process to choose children who are in the greatest need of sponsorship.  They are generally among the poorest of the poor in their area.  I can assure you, every child you browse through on the Compassion website has a story that has the potential to change your life. 

Today the Compassion East India office briefed us on some administrative issues.  I’ve always wanted to use the word “briefed” because it makes me feel so Jack Bauerish.  And now I have and it was fun.  Anyway, each child has his or her own binder and inside that binder is a thick stack of papers that record everything from medical records to the complete log of child/sponsor correspondence.  My new and absolutely hilarious friend and fellow blogger Pete Wilson and I were shocked to see that one of the children had been co-sponsored by two High School girls.  Can you imagine?   Instead of buying an expensive designer handbag or a new pair of heels, these two seventeen- year-old girls combined their money to bring some hope to a child in India they have never even met.  It just downright blew our minds. 

Can I just tell you that the more I fall in love with the people in Calcutta the more grateful I am that we serve a God who cares deeply about the poor?  I could list verse after verse as far back as Genesis all the way through Revelation that reflect God’s concern for the poor and oppressed. I could quote the striking and slightly scary beatitudes in the gospel of Luke like “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” but right now I am far too consumed with Isaiah 58, especially the first eleven verses.  My Mom and Amanda both encouraged me separately with this chapter before I set off last week and I have been meditating on it throughout the week. 

These verses have spoken to me in so many distinct ways over the past few days but I am especially stricken by Isaiah’s definition of true religion.  I hope you’ll take some time to study this passage on your own but in brief, the people of Israel cry out with frustration because they do not feel that God is responding to their pious fasting.  The text goes on to convey that, in fact, God really isn’t all that impressed by their outlandish religious demonstrations like bowing their heads in “humility” or laying in sackcloth and ashes. 

No. 

His definition of fasting is cast in remarkably different terms.  If the people of God want to fast in such a way that they just might get God’s attention then they need to start being agents of justice in a broken world.  They need to stop believing that humility before God and apathy toward their fellow human beings, especially the poor and oppressed, could ever co-exist.  They need to loosen the chains of injustice.  Set the oppressed free.  Share food with the hungry.  Clothe the naked.  The incredible part about this passage is the promise that if the covenant people of God would really truly fast in such a mind-boggling and earth-shaking way, then light will break forth like the dawn.  The Lord will turn his ear toward them and His very glory will be their protection.  I take so much heart in the fact that our God is a God who loves the people in Calcutta who are bound by the tight grip of poverty.  That He thinks that caring for them is essential, that it is at the very core of our personal and corporate spirituality.  What a vivid picture of the bountiful and impartial love of God.

Now I think we all know that God does care deeply about the poor.  Scripture is blatantly clear about it but why do you think that God cares so deeply for the poor?  Why would Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor” or why would James ask his readers “Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom”?  What is, in your opinion, at the bottom of His love for the poor? 

I am personally still thinking this through but I read something recently that Richard Bauckham wrote and it really rocked me.  He said, “Poverty, in a sense, exposes the truth of the human situation in its need of God.  It dispels the illusion of being self-sufficient and secure, with no need of God.  The poor are those whose material condition enables them to see more clearly than most the human need to be wholly reliant on God.  It is in this sense that the biblical poor are understood as paradigmatic in their faith.” (Richard Bauckham, Wisdom of James, disciple of Jesus the Sage, 190).   I’m not sure how exactly to explain it, but this statement really resonated with me.  Perhaps Jesus speaks of the poor as the paradigmatic people of God because the poor, kind of like the chronically ill, are most likely to recognize their utter need for God’s saving power.  Perhaps the Lord commands the rich (which in context of our global economy is you and me, even the poorest among us) to empathize and identify with the plight of the poor and care for the needy so that they too can glean this truth. Humankind in its totality is completely dependent on God’s power and provision.  There are no exceptions.  All material wealth is fleeting and fading quickly.  

What do you think? 

I can’t wait to read your thoughts and opinions.  I cherish you all.  I mean it.  I’m so grateful for all of your different personalities and perspectives.  I’m deeply privileged to walk this journey with all of you.

One of my favorite shots of the children’s little shoes: (P.S. Keely Scott, Compassion Photographer, rocks my face off)

Subrata and me.  He wants to be a Policeman when he grows up so that he can take care of his Mom and she never has to go to work anymore.  She cleans houses and he wants to do all the work for her so that she will be able to relax at home.  He is seven.  Seven-year olds shouldn’t have to think about taking care of their Moms.  But Subrata does.

A precious girl named Rinky Roy’s little box where she places the treasures her sponsor has mailed her.  She has the best sponsor ever.  Her sponsor faithfully mails letters and has even bought her clothes and paid for a piece of furniture in their little tiny home. Rinky’s sponsor repeatedly tells her how much she loves her.  Rinky loves to study and has dreams to be a Doctor.  Tell me Compassion International didn’t have something to do with that. 

Me talking with the little women about their favorite movies.  They all apparently love Jurassic Park I, II, and III.  Who would have thought?  When did the third one come out anyhow?

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Speechless for the first time EVER but compelled to type.

Greetings from Kolkata (Calcutta)!

We finally made it. 

That statement deserved its own line. Seriously. It takes some time to get to the other side of the world.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers.  We have felt them and we have been in need of them. 

As our final flight descended down toward Calcutta, commonly but perhaps slightly unpersuasively called “the City of Joy”, I was shocked by the lush landscape. Calcutta has a tropical climate and is completely covered with Palm trees. Who knew? The sight was totally not what I expected. I couldn’t wait to get outside and see it up close. But, then we walked off the plane.

And. It. Was. 120. Degrees.

Suddenly tropical weather took on an entirely new connotation.

Shortly after checking into our hotel we headed off to visit Mother Teresa’s burial site, a must for anyone and everyone visiting Calcutta regardless of theological or denominational tradition. Mother Teresa’s tomb is on the grounds where the “Missionaries of Charity” order is still alive and well. I fully expected myself to be emotionally moved by this particular moment. But I wasn’t. Let’s just say that my spirit was willing but my flesh was weak. I was hunched over on a bench because I was completely and utterly spent. The twelve and a half hour time difference (ummmm…where does the half come from? anyone?) and the two days of traveling without sleep and eating only a handful of Cliff bars suddenly wasn’t working for me anymore. And wait, did I mention the 120 degree weather? Apparently Calcutta hasn’t had this kind of heat wave in nearly 30 years. Even the locals are impressed (not the good kind) by the intensity of the heat. I was afraid that I would go down in history as the obnoxious American who puked in Mother Teresa’s burial room. Luckily that nightmare did not actualize and I finally gathered myself together enough to walk around the grounds. 

I noticed that the rest of the team had climbed a narrow set of stairs and so I followed them and I could not believe my eyes. There was Mother Teresa’s tiny little bedroom that would make a college dorm room seem opulent. It was in that tiny little room that Mother Teresa had lived for about forty years and it was there where she also died. While her tomb didn’t move me like it did others, her little tiny room did. Not only because the room spoke of a life of simplicity and earthly discomfort but also because it reflected a life of unimaginable dedication in one consistent direction. An entire lifetime devoted to serving the unloved and untouched of our world.

I was struck by a quote of Mother Teresa’s that was posted in the museum area. It said, “Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow-men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger.” What a simple yet weighty statement. It directly contradicts our entire world system: a system that shows unabashed impartiality to the rich, famous, and the beautiful people. A system that so quickly labels off the poor and diseased as lazy, weak-willed, and unfortunate. I pondered the quote in my heart last night but I experienced the profundity of it today when we entered our first project, one of Compassion’s several child development centers in Calcutta.

I was so not prepared for what went down when we climbed out of the van. The children were lined up in a drum-line in matching uniforms and they proceeded to march us into the project grounds where we were each presented with a beautiful sunflower. My chin was quivering so fast that I could hear my own teeth clattering over all the noise. The spectacle did not end there, however. We continued to watch the children perform demonstration after demonstration for us, dancing and singing songs like:

God’s love is so wonderful
So high you can’t get over it
So deep you can’t get under it

I thought to myself something in the same vein of Mother Teresa’s statement. Just a whole lot less profound sounding. I thought, “Who am I that I would be esteemed by these precious children who have dealt with more in their few years than I probably ever will in my entire lifetime? And for whom I have done so relatively little?” But then in the middle of my self-loathing episode I realized I was giving myself way too much credit. These children weren’t performing for me or even for the ten of us. They were performing for their sponsors. For them, the ten of us are the closest thing they will ever see that resembles and embodies their sponsors. They won’t likely get the opportunity to meet their individual sponsors in this lifetime.

Several of you commented on my last post that you are already sponsors of a Compassion child. Sponsors, let me speak to you in particular for a moment. I want you each to know that today was as much for you as it was for me. I may have gotten to witness it, but those kids weren’t clapping, singing, and celebrating that ten random and goofy looking Americans came to visit them. They identified with us because we represented to them their individual sponsors. Let me tell you, no let me assure you- your sponsor child knows your name. Not just your first name. Your last name, too. They lined up with drums to usher you into the place you’ve financially provided for them. A place of hope. A place where that abstract verb “to dream” becomes something that just might be tangible. A place where they hear for the first time that they have dignity and worth before the Most High God. They treasure the letters that you write to them. They don’t toss them in the trash. No, they store them in a safe place. And this will really get you. If you sponsor a child in India, you’re probably the only one who has ever told your child, “I love you.” Our Compassion India specialist told us that in the Indian culture, particularly among the poor, parents do not express love to their children. She said, “Even though the parents really do love their children, they don’t show it. Rarely does a parent actually come out and express their love for their child.” Can you imagine? Let it sink in. You, even though you might think you’re just a little sponsor person who hastily filled out a form during a concert, are most likely the only adult who has blatantly expressed love for this child. A real living and breathing child.

One of the children presenting us with a sunflower:


The Compassion kids in a drum-line ushering us into the project. Unbelievable. 

All 295 of the children in the project we visited today.  225 have been sponsored.  70 are still waiting for sponsors:

The kids and me playing with bubbles. They LOVE them: 

A family I fell in love with.  The little girl named Susmita is 13 years old and her Father died in an accident and then her Mother walked out on her.  Her uncle and grand-mother, sickly and frail, currently take care of her.  Susmita followed us out of the neighborhood as far as she could because she didn’t want to say good-bye.  It broke my heart. And it made my day:

This picture speaks for itself. Period. The end. 

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Podcast from Curtis

*UPDATE*
Diginee, you are my hero today! Thanks for letting us know about the Compassion Blogger Photostream on Flickr!

Y’all, I keep refreshing the page over and over to see if Melissa has posted yet. I’m just dying! I need a distraction, so here you go…

I’ve been nagging Curtis to make a podcast out of his Wednesday night Bible study lessons. Nagging rarely bears fruit and none of us should do it, but this time it worked!

The podcast is on iTunes, so if you don’t have iTunes already downloaded on your computer, get it here first. (It’s free.)

http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/

This link will bring up Curtis’ iTunes page. Here’s where you’ll find the three lessons available. (Also free.)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=313867933

I hope your Monday is blessed! I’m off to the park with my kids. Wish me luck.

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Melissa Made It!

Hey, my dearest, most darling Siestas!

I’m writing you once again from the shot gun seat of my man’s blue Ford truck via the wonders of my nifty internet card. Keith and I are high-tailing it down I-10 to the cactus ranch with Star and Geli in the back seat so that I can write like a maniac for four days. I am working on a project that I am very close to telling you about. You won’t waste a prayer on me but, far more importantly, you won’t waste a prayer on Melissa!

I finally heard from her a couple of hours ago and, after departing Atlanta Friday afternoon, she’d just made it to her hotel in Calcutta!

Oops. Keith just pulled us into a random convenience store in a town of 200 outside San Antonio because I’ve been whining about wanting a treat. We tried to stop at the infamous Buccee’s right there on the feeder in Luling (yes, the mascot is a huge, buck-toothed beaver) but, as usual, there were ten jillion people there. I was so ticked. What on earth can I hope for here? I’ll find out. Be back in a sec.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away and giveth again! You’ll never believe that God secured ten – count them – TEN Moon Pies for my man right there on the shelf in that very store. I have never heard Keith say “the favor of the Lord” more times in my entire life. Needless to say, he’s already called Amanda and left a message.

As for me, I was hoping to find one of those rare popcorn balls (not the normal caramel kind but the ones made with karo syrup) that you can happen on occasionally at off-the-wall gas stations where a good God-fearing woman makes them, wraps them in saran, and puts them on the shelf to make an extra few bucks. I’d pay her five. No luck. Apparently Keith is the one with the favor today. I got peanut brittle. I’ll probably break a tooth and have to have a root canal and, where our ranch land is located, they’ll probably use a roto-rooter.

Anyway, stay with me here. I’m trying to talk about Melissa. She’s safe and sound and totally exhausted but thankful to be part of this incredibly important venture with Compassion. She’ll have so much to tell us soon. Until then, keep praying for her and her wonderful team. For those of you who follow Angie Smith’s wonderful blog, I’m sure you know she’s part of this team, too. Shaun has really taken a stellar group with him to India to cast some much needed light on poverty-stricken children living in conditions we can’t imagine. I’m chomping at the bit to adopt me some but I’m going to wait for Melissa to tell us a little bit about them. As you picture this team of Americans over there, picture them dealing with 120 degree heat! Even a young woman from Houston, Texas isn’t used to that! They are undoubtedly in for an adventure and we’ll get to tag along through Melissa’s posts.

OK, well, I can’t type and eat my peanut brittle and I’m feeling cranky for sugar so I’ll sign off now. You know I love you like crazy.

Oh, my word. Keith just realized his Moon Pies are double-decker. He nearly drove this rig off the road. He’s beside himself. Is there no end to what God will do for a man whose wife and daughter stole his pies?

ttyl!

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The Taste Buds of a Ten-Year-Old

Keith walks through the door gruffly and slaps a plastic bag on the kitchen counter.

Him: “You wanna hear something awful?”

Me, bracing myself because I really didn’t want to hear something awful but my man was clearly disturbed: “What is it, Baby? What happened?”

Him: “You can’t even get a Moon Pie at Kroger anymore. You can’t get the danged thing at Randall’s. You can’t even get one at Amanda’s fancy HEB. Not a Moon Pie on a single shelf. Good grief.”

Me: Silent. Staring. Baffled.

Him: “Do you know the only place in this town you can find a Moon Pie anymore is Bass Pro Shop?”

Me: “I had no idea.”

But, thought to myself that it might explain some things. However, I didn’t say that. He was too raw. Been through too much. This was no time to speak the truth in love. This was the time for lies.

Me again: “That’s awful, Honey. I’m so sorry.”

There was only one thing that was going to make my man feel better. Our spirits intertwined, we both seemed to know. I nodded toward the bag and he opened it. He pulled out a chocolate Moon Pie. I pulled out a banana Moon Pie. And we ate them in total silence.

But in my heart I felt that inner glee bloggers feel when you know that you’ve just had an encounter that is destined to become a spectacular blog post. It’s a rush of sparkling, clean adrenalin. Keith was just about to head to the ranch so I said, plotting, of course, “Honey, do you want me to just send you with a couple of these and save the rest?” (He’d gotten a large bag full. After all, they’re hard to find.) So, he said, just as I knew he would, “Yep, that’s what we better do.”

So he headed out the door and down I-10 with a ration of one-a-day and I headed to work with a bag of Moon Pies. On my way, I called AJ and said, “Bring your camera to lunch. I have some pictures I need you to take for a blog post. It’s going to be great.” Only, when she came to lunch, between the baby and all the commotion of the restaurant, she didn’t have time to take the shots.

Her: “Can I take them home with me and do it there?”

Me: “Yep, and then be sure to give them to Curtis.” And that was the exact moment the plan went totally awry. MY MEANING WAS: GIVE THEM TO CURTIS SO HE CAN BRING THEM BACK TO WORK AND I CAN RETURN THEM UNSCATHED TO THE KITCHEN OF KEITH MOORE, MY MOON PIE MAN.

Thinking we clearly understood one another, I promptly forgot.

Until last night after Keith got home from the ranch and I heard the biggest ruckus in the kitchen followed by colorful choices of words.

Me: “What on earth is the matter?”

Him: “I can’t find my Moon Pies!”

Me, but only to self: “Oh my gosh. Please, no.”

So I text AJ: “Your father is tearing the kitchen apart looking for his Moon Pies. Where are they?”

Oh, the painful finality of her response. At times of crisis, all you can do is turn to Scripture.

“She took of the [Moon Pie] thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.”

And swore I’d told her to.

It was a rough night at the Moore house. Sometimes a man doesn’t need his woman. He just needs his Moon Pie. The man has the taste buds of a ten year-old.

Thank goodness, the sun came up again this morning even after a moonless night. But there will be a reckoning at Bass Pro today.

Here are the moon pies before things went wrong – very, very wrong.

And the bag from Bass Pro.

So, OK, Siestas. So it made me think about you. What treat from your childhood do you still long to have?

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New Design on the Way

*UPDATE*
I absolutely love it! Thank you so much, Fabulous K!

Our new blog design is on its way! I think it’s safe to say that it’ll be up by morning. Yeah! So if you stop by tonight and every time you click things look a little different, that’s why. Our designer may be in the middle of installing it.

This design will be somewhat temporary since we are switching over to a new blog platform soon and we won’t get to keep this design (since it has been particularly designed for Blogger), but we want to get something fresh and fun on here in the meantime. (No worries. When we make the switch, all the old posts and comments will still be with us.)

Also, Melissa is getting packed and running all her last-minute errands. She leaves for India tomorrow!

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Saved from the Drafts

This morning I noticed that our blog dashboard said we had 500 posts. 500 posts? A lot has been said on this here blog, y’all! I felt that we needed to celebrate this momentous occasion, but then I realized that the number included a bunch drafts that were never published. So we’re really on post 479. I started going through the drafts and deleting them when I found a few that were almost finished but were never used for whatever reason. Here’s one I wrote in October of 2007. We got to go back and visit our old church last weekend, so it’s only fitting for me to post this today in honor of our friends at First Baptist Church of Irving.

Twenty-eight. Twenty years past 8. Ten years past 18. Two years before 30. This Sunday I will turn 28. It’s a nice number. I like round ones. It’s nicely divisible by 7, which is the Lord’s number. I can deal with that.

I’m very aware that this body of mine is also turning 28. Maybe it’s all in my head, but it seems like things are suddenly not working as well as they should. I’m having to take my workouts up a notch. Last week I had a bad crick in my neck. And this week I have my first toothache. I will be sitting in a dentist’s chair in about two hours. Dern. Happy birthday, 28-year-old self!

The thing is, I’m trying real hard not to say and think, “I’m getting so old!” “Old” is relative. I know I’m still young. If I see myself as old now, then I will always feel old! It’s sort of like how most of us wish we could go back and tell our teenage selves to quit thinking they’re fat. Because now we would be thrilled to have those bodies back!

Last weekend I joined the ladies of my church at our women’s retreat. Our theme for the weekend was renewal. We were incredibly blessed to have our pastor’s mother, V. Beth Durham, speak to us. I was blown away by her wisdom, her knowledge of the Word, and her inner and outer beauty. She is a jewel. During one of the sessions I sat a few rows behind a wonderful senior lady in our church, Mrs. Shirley Brady. I could write a whole post on how much Curt and I love her and look up to her in Christ. With both of these precious saints in sight, I was deeply moved by their beauty. By their lifetime of faith and perseverance. Oh, to be found in Christ in my seasoned years! To have walked with Him for a lifetime. To have been changed from glory to glory. To have journeyed with Him through sixty, seventy, or eighty years of refining. To know Christ that much more intimately. Lord, I want to be that beautiful to You! I want to keep growing.

You know what? I have to walk forward to get there. I can’t stay in my twenties. Obviously, I don’t know how long God has given me to live on this earth. But as long as I’m here, I want to walk forward with joy.

I got a glimpse of how beautiful my older sisters are to Christ, and I want Him to find that in me, too. What if, instead of desperately wanting to figure out how I can make Katie Holmes’ haircut work on my hair (which is like a horse’s mane), I eagerly asked God to develop in me the gentle spirit and wisdom of V. Beth Durham, and the joy and kindness of Mrs. Shirley Brady? Forget about Katie Holmes. When those sisters come walking down the hall, they make Jesus’ head turn!

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful” (1 Peter 3:3-5a).

This was our verse for the weekend: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

(Here you can see why that post sat in the drafts folder so long. It didn’t have a good ending!)

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Living Proof Live – Portland


Living Proof Live – Portland Oregon from Rich Kalonick on Vimeo.

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