Month: June 2011

“Happy [Sante Fe] Trails to you”

Burro Alley Cafe

Last Tuesday afternoon, Michael and I took a little drive up to New Mexico’s state capitol: Sante Fe. I think it’s pretty cool that we live near by where the historic Sante Fe trail starts and now we can say we’ve visited the city where it ended!

We originally wanted to eat at a Mexican restaurant called Los Mayas which was listed on Sante Fe’s tourism website and was highly reviewed. Unfortunately it either moved or shut down because after an hour of driving and walking around, we never did find it. But while looking for Los Mayas, we ended up in the downtown shopping and art district. 
So we spent the rest of our time walking by rows of other restaurants, art galleries, and Native American jewelry stores. Michael and I eventually decided to eat at a little place called ‘Burro Alley Cafe’. It was absolutely gorgeous outside so we sat on the back patio. Interesting menu selection, but Michael ordered his trusty bacon cheeseburger and I ordered the hummus and pita appetizer.
They had an overwhelming array of pastries and sweets, but I decided on an anise-flavored butter cookie called a Bizcochito. Bizcochito cookies are unique to New Mexico and are actually the state’s official cookie. I didn’t know that at the time – I just heard the girl behind the counter say something about anise and a cookie and I was sold. It reminded me of a Snickerdoodle, except of course, with anise. (I foresee a recipe experiment with Bizcochito in my near future…)

In front of the American Indian War Memorial Monument in 
Sante Fe Plaza

We left Burro Alley Cafe and walked some more in what’s called the “Heart of Sante Fe”, or Sante Fe’s city square. The square has a small performing stage, a few food stalls, a grassy area, and a monument dedicated to the American Indian War. Michael and I stopped for a while to listen to one man playing a harp, people watch, and peruse more Native American jewelry and artwork.

From there we went to get a closer look at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi then headed back towards more of the shopping and art galleries. On our way to to Galerie Züger, we passed a man sitting down and holding a sign asking for money. My heart felt super compassionate towards the guy, but we didn’t stop to talk to him. It sucked. I hate it when my heart breaks for someone but I don’t yield to it and rationalize it away. It’s sooo disobedient and irresponsible to Jesus. Not only that, but I thought I heard the name “Ralph” as we walked by him so it was really obvious God wanted to touch this man. But even if I hadn’t felt anything or received any words, Jesus already gave the command two thousand years ago to love as you go. There’s simply no excuse for disobedience.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

We went ahead to view the exhibits at Galerie Züger. They were currently displaying sculptures by Gib Singleton and paintings by Michael Atkinson. Pope Benedict XVI’s crosier is topped by one of Singleton’s bronze crucifixes and his work is internationally-renowned. I admit that I’ve started to find depictions of Jesus hanging on a cross morbid (Jesus is alive and well!), so some of Singleton’s art wasn’t as appealing to me. But there were a couple sculptures (one showing a Roman soldier whipping Jesus and another with Jesus collasped under the weight of the cross) that nearly brought me to tears. Seeing Jesus so submitted and vulnerable always touches me. We spit upon, slapped, mocked, and nailed God-in-the-flesh to a crude wooden cross. Yet He endured it all without saying a word. The One who deserved to be the most exalted allowed himself to be the most trampled and abused for our sake:

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:22-24)

So then I felt even more like a turd for not submitting myself to the compassion Jesus has for the poor. Here I was, playing the pious little Christian in my safe bubble of Christian art. But admiring a figurine of Jesus on a cross doesn’t put food in the mouth of the hungry. I felt sick at how religious I was being. I also realized I was waiting on Michael to take the lead, which is normally the healthy order of things in a marriage. But Jesus is my Lord – not my husband. So I serve the Lord first and Michael second. Michael and I are one flesh, but each individually accountable for our actions before Jesus. As soon as we were done viewing the artwork I told Michael I thought I needed to go back, so we did. I hesitated out of my own perceived awkwardness, but the reality that His Kingdom is not of this world put things back into perspective for me.

We approached the man again and asked him if the name ‘Ralph’ meant anything to him. But he said the only thing he could think of was that ‘Ralph’ reminded him of his drinking days (which I’m sure are far from over). We asked him if there was anything he needed prayer for and quite bluntly he told us he needed protection from people trying to murder him. Now whether that’s true or not isn’t my business – my one and only mission is to love. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the One who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:4) Whether this man suffered from schizophrenia, demonic oppression or men were genuinely trying to murder him is irrelevant. Jesus is the solution to all those problems, and it’s my job as His servant to proclaim and demonstrate that truth. Michael and I thanked God for his life, declared protection and rebuked any murderous spirit pursuing him.

But after we left I still didn’t feel at peace for being obedient. I told myself it wasn’t about me and it was about Jesus, but I still felt… disappointed. It just didn’t seem like the encounter had any real, lasting impact on that man and I really struggled with how impersonal it felt. That of course brought in feelings of guilt for not being obedient the first time around: “Was it because I ignored him? Did I make it awkward? Did I make him feel like an afterthought? Jesus wouldn’t have done that. I should have listened more. I should have gotten him food. I should have done more…” In the gospel of John it says that Jesus did not look at men’s faces, and so often I find myself doing the exact opposite. I know that Jesus was so determined to do only what he saw the Father doing not just for our good, but for His perfect will too. There’s simply no room for the approval of men when you’re wholly satisfied by the approval of the Father. And more importantly, Michael reminded me, truth isn’t based on a feeling. It doesn’t matter if I don’t “feel” obedient, the truth is, because of Jesus, I am obedient. Obedience is not dependent on a feeling! The battle for truth is in our minds: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) I had to tell myself that no matter how I felt or how that man felt, I did what God instructed me to do and that was all that mattered.

Outside of Holy Spirit Espresso

Still wrestling with my emotions, we walked on to find a place to get coffee. Michael stopped two guys holding a couple cups and asked where they got them. “Oh man, let me tell you where the best place to get coffee is… And the guy is super cool.” He pointed us in the direction of a literal hole in the wall named – get ready for this – “Holy Spirit Espresso.” Would I seem entirely credulous if I told you I took it as a sign that God was affirming Michael’s and my obedience and our way of life? “For all who are led by the spirit are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) All rationalizing and reasoning aside, I still find I have the heart of a child. But I guess that’s best for the Kingdom anyways, isn’t it?

And as if to prove it was meant to be interpreted solely as a sign from the Lord (and not “the best coffee in Sante Fe” as the sign boasted), the coffee was awful and the owner less than friendly. There was literally no honest way we could claim it was for a good cup of joe we were led there. The only explanation was that we were led by the Holy Spirit. Maybe that’s taking things too far, but who am I to be choosy with my “signs” from the Lord?

On our way home we saw a dust devil and it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen since we’ve been here. We were maybe about a mile and a half away when we first saw it. As we got closer you could better gauge just how big it was. My grandpa once shared how dangerous they were, but I had only seen the small ones you occasionally see in suburban settings that last for a few seconds and dissipate. I couldn’t imagine being worried over something like that. But this guy was huge. It would have been no trouble for it to cause damage to a person or other outdoor objects.

“The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart
from before the people” (Exodus 13:22)

Some say when the Israelites were leaving Egypt that the pillar of cloud God use to lead them by day may have been a large dust devil or whirlwind. So yet again our “pillar of cloud by day”, our “Holy Spirit Espresso”, our Counselor and Friend reminds us He will never leave us or forsake us. In all our comings and goings, He is faithful to the very end and is our ever-present Help in time of need.

It’s hard not to love a God as big and creative as that.

What are some ways God communicates with you? Do you seek those opportunities out or do they seem to “fall in your lap”?

Hoarders: Hilton Edition

One of my biggest pet-peaves is having an uncontrollable amount of “stuff”laying around and taking up space. There is not one single junk drawer in our home. Not one. Sorry, just can’t go there. We all have flaws and mine just happens to be perfection. (You may continue reading after you’re done laughing.)

Really though, it’s not just me. Neither Michael or I like the feeling of being weighed down by lots of possessions. So I frequently go through old clothes, books, cds, dvds, decorations, etc. and make donation boxes. It seems like I’m always making little mental notes of what’s in our container/closet inventory to see what can stay and what can go. I imagine the way most women feel when they shop is the way I feel when I rid out. It’s like some kind of therapy or something.

But that all gets overridden he moment I enter a hotel room.

Suddenly my mind enters what I like to call “Complimentary Strategic Accumulation”. It’s like I turn part gerbil and start stuffing my cheek pockets with every little free shampoo, pen and sugar packet I can get my hands on. And in an extended-stay hotel, the selection of free stuff is even more generous than usual.

So far these are the complimentary items we’ve been “hoarding” since we’ve been here:

From the Breakfast Buffet:
  • Bananas and other fruit (for our smoothies)
  • Oatmeal (breakfast)
  • Honeynut Cheerios (snacks for Michael at work)
  • Sugar packets (for coffee)
  • Milk (for cereal and Michael’s good old chocolate milk)

From our room service:

  • Shampoo/Conditioner, toiletries, etc (for Veronica’s Voice)
  • Pens and notepads (Hello? To-Do List Queen!)

I’ll admit my excuses for hoarding everything else may still make me tacky — but my excuse for reserving the travel-size toiletries has a noble cause… On Friday and Saturday nights, volunteers from Veronica’s Voice hand out “care kits” with sandwiches and sanitary provisions to sex workers in Kansas City. 

Most people are unaware that the majority of women in prostitution have been abused into it – and not willingly as some are determined to believe. Basic needs like food, shelter, clothes, and proper sanitation get lost in a world of darkness. So the care bags that Veronica’s Voice volunteers hand out on the weekend nights are literally a God-send to many broken women.
See, there is some redeeming value to my hotel hoarding problem.
What are some “freebie strategies” you use when shopping or traveling? Do you think it’s “cheap” to take advantage of complimentary items or offers?


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For more information on Veronica’s Voice and how you can help those in the Kansas City commercial sex industry, please visit their website: http://www.veronicasvoice.org/

“[Hotel]time… and the livin’s easy”

(First off, go check out TheJesusMethod.com and their new logo. I hear it’s really cool and *whoever* made it is even cooler!)

Homewood Suites, Albuquerque

Since I’ve been in Albuquerque a little over a week now, I thought I’d post a few pictures of where we’ll be “living” the next couple months.

When Michael’s team began making arrangements for this trip, they originally voted on staying at a Candlewood Suites. But after two of his co-workers arrived in their rooms they were disgusted to find unclean/used sheets, dirty showers and “mystery substances” on the carpet, walls and furniture. Um, ew? You’re talking to a person who first thing when I enter a hotel room I rub down every door handle, knob, remote and light-switch with a clorox wipe. I throw the comforter as far away from the bed as possible (they never wash those things – more ew) and I’m not above lifting up the mattress and taking off the headboard to check for bed bugs. And I NEVER, I repeat, NEVER walk around barefoot. Buh.. gives me goosebumps just thinking about the unknown amount of germs and nasties thriving in any hotel room’s carpet. Yeah, there’s no way I would have spent one minute longer in that place than what it would have taken me to speak to a manager and get a refund.

Living Area

After two nights there – which would have been two nights too many for me – they temporarily moved to a Holiday Inn Express until rooms at the Hilton Homewood Suites became available. Michael called to let me know of the final change in accommodations, and seemed really happy with where we’d be living for the next eight weeks. He also signed up for HHonors, so he’ll earn hotel points and airline miles while he’s here in Albuquerque. He did something similar last year for our extended trips to India and racked up an insane amount of points. We’ve actually heard many businesses are starting to have policies against employees earning “perks” while traveling on the company’s dime, so we’re pretty fortunate that Michael’s company has no restrictions on that presently.

Bathroom

They are in the process of remodeling the gym here so I’ve had to goto the Hilton Garden Inn down the road to exercise, but they should be done within the next week or so. Unlike most other times when we’ve gone out of town, I’ve been able to maintain a healthy fitness and eating routine since we’ve been here. I can’t stand fast food, so it’s awesome that we can buy our own groceries and stay away from processed foods. AND, and, and – they have two Costcos relatively near by – how could my little hotel world possibly get any better???

Kitchen

Michael is working two hours or so on Tuesday, six on Wednesday and twelve Thursday-Saturday. It’s a lot, but he’ll still have enough days off every week if we decide to visit different cities and sites. We’re driving about an hour and half northeast of Albuquerque tomorrow afternoon to Sante Fe. There is a scenic route that takes you north past Sante Fe, through the mountains then back down into the city — but it takes an additional two to three hours so we’re planning that for another weekend. Tomorrow we just want to check things out, take some pictures, eat more New Mexican food, and of course – drink coffee.


Man, living life in the fast lane, I’m tellin’ ya…

More pictures to come!



What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever had to spend in a hotel? How did you make the most of it and what are some things you did to feel more at “home”?

Our anniversary of adventure

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” – G.K. Chesterton

———

This past Tuesday was Michael’s and my three-year anniversary.
On the Iowa-side of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

I spent the second to last week of May in Houston enjoying plenty of food, family and friends. Since it was a fairly quick trip, I actually created a spreadsheet beforehand to manage the time while I was there. OCD yes? But it did help me out making sure I got to see almost everyone. Over the years I’ve really come to treasure the relationships I have there and my heart is immensely blessed to be with them. I was able to pray for a few people while I was in town, but I was particularly burdened for the owner of a local coffee shop. Back in January, Michael and I stopped by a nearby coffee joint to “juice-up” before making the twelve-hour trek back home. We visited with the owner and she shared that her husband had just suffered a stroke and she was anxiously trying to close up so she could go to the hospital to be with him. We prayed with her and went on our way.

I went back to that same coffee shop this trip with a couple friends. After ordering our coffee I stayed by the counter to ask how her husband was doing. Knowing she didn’t recognize me at first, I wasn’t sure if she would remember Michael and I praying with her. But after I described Michael’s hair she remembered who I was and thanked me for asking. She soon broke in to tears and I learned that despite our praying for her husband, he died two days later. It broke my heart. They had been married for thirty years. Thirty years of memories, companionship, growth, love, children, good times, bad times… adventure. What could I say? All that came to mind was, “I’m so sorry” and I asked her if I could give her a hug. She came around the counter and we hugged while she continued to weep. The only comfort she finds is the knowledge he knew Jesus and will be in heaven waiting for her. I prayed with her again before joining my friends. As I walked away, I left thinking about Michael’s and my upcoming anniversary and how devastated I’d be if something happened to him now, let alone after thirty years of marriage.
It says that Jesus burst into tears at the sight of the Jews mourning Lazarus’ death. Jesus was God in the flesh, and God Himself knows the heavy cost of death. He knew that death brought separation to not only loved ones here on earth, but between Him and His creation. Horatio Spafford, well acquainted with grief after the loss of five children and his livelihood, wrote this opening verse to the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”: “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.” Thanks be to God that no matter our lot, we can still say death has been defeated that all may go well with our soul.
I got home Sunday and that Thursday Michael found out he would be working in New Mexico for the next two months. A little over a month ago he was asked if he would be willing to lead a team there, but after all the plans with India falling through we didn’t expect this assignment would come together either. At the last minute it did and Michael was asked to fly out the following Tuesday. So we went ahead with our anniversary plans and drove out Thursday afternoon to Omaha. It was a beautiful drive, but obviously our minds were focused on the upcoming departure to New Mexico.

Old Market

We spent the first part of Friday at the nationally famous Henry Doorly Zoo. The zoo is known for it’s research and successful attempts with artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization in tigers, gorillas and other species. We always enjoy visiting zoos in whatever city we travel to. Personally, God speaks to me lot through creation and I like admiring His imagination and design. After the zoo, we had dinner at an Indian restaurant in Omaha’s downtown Old Market. Old Market ended up being our regular “hub” for coffee, food and spending the evenings.

Saturday we bought tickets to the Pulitzer Prize Exhibit at Durham Museum. If I remember anything about this trip, it will be that exhibit. There were so many photographs capturing the darkest and the brightest in human nature. The song “How He Loves Us” was playing like a soundtrack in my head, and I caught myself tearing up as I read the stories behind each photo. At our worst and at our best, we were made in the image of God and Jesus still loves us. Sunday was our last day so we walked around Lauritzen Botanical Gardens and afterwards had some more yummy ethnic food down in Old Market. Lauritzen Gardens is still in it’s infancy and there are many more garden exhibits in the works that would make it a great attraction to visit again in the future. Unfortunately it was so hot though that we didn’t stay very long this time.

Michael’s Hario manual grinder and my Marc Jacobs Daisy parfume 🙂

We drove home Monday morning and decided to exchange gifts. I love perfumes so a while back I gave Michael a list of scents I like. Some people might not find this romantic, but we’ve learned that it’s equally unromantic to give each other gifts that we’re not really interested in. We’ve only been together a total of six years, so in the grand scheme of things we still have a lot to learn about each other. I think movies have had laid the unfortunate expectation that unless a man can figure out a woman’s mind and purchases the perfect gift on a special occasion, it’s not really romantic. But the reality is that the only man in my life who will ever be able to understand my heart and mind that intimately is Jesus. So in the mean time, Michael will get gift-lists.

Tuesday afternoon, the actual day of our anniversary, Michael flew out to Albuquerque. Since we were only given five days notice before he needed to leave, and at least four of those days were spent in Omaha, I stayed behind to make arrangements for while we would gone the next two months. One task I wanted to take care of in particular was baking. There isn’t an oven in the hotel room, so in order to have home-baked sweets for our time in Albuquerque I needed recipes that would hold up in a freezer. And since they can be frozen and enjoyed with our smoothies or coffee; I made several varieties of bran muffins and a double batch of chocolate chip scones.

Outside of Albuquerque International Sunport

After getting everything ready, I got up Friday morning and began the twelve hour trek from Kansas City to Albuquerque. The drive between Kansas City and Oklahoma City went by fairly quickly since I’ve taken it so many times going back and forth to Houston. After that, I wish I could say I enjoyed the drive west of Oklahoma City but it was pretty boring. I’m not a big fan of the whole dirt, sand, rocks and more dirt terrain. And it was sad seeing so many patches of burned ground near the interstate. I prayed for rain as I continued on, knowing that most of these areas are currently in an “Exceptional Drought”.


I finally arrived in Albuquerque that evening, and we’ll be here to stay for the next couple months. Michael and I keep comparing this trip to our first stint in India. Obviously the fact we’re in the country of America alone makes this a significantly easier trip, but we also have access to a basic kitchen and our own vehicle. In India we had neither, which meant we went two months without a home-cooked meal or being able to drive ourselves anywhere. But because we still lack an oven, I won’t be making my baking posts for a while. So until further notice we’ll have to make due with my experiments in crock-pot and stove-top cuisine. It’ll be just another chapter in the adventure of our marriage!

What are some ways you keep the romance and excitement alive in your marriage? Can you think of ways to make ordinary, day-to-day “inconveniences” into an adventure?

Going to the psychic fair, on purpose.

A couple weeks back Michael and I went with a friend to the local Psychic Fair. It’s an all-weekend event that takes place twice a year here in the Kansas City. We went in on a Friday evening, bought tickets and spent the next couple hours walking around the place. Each and every time we step out, we learn something new. So it’s always good to have a time of reflection afterwards to discuss how things went and what we could have done differently.

A lot has changed in our technique when it comes to ministering. We come from a strong background in apologetics – which is great if you want to argue, not so great if you want to actually build long-lasting relationships. And most people you run into at the psychic fair are already well versed in the Christian message. A lot grew up in the church but left after being hurt or abused in some way, so they’re familiar with the ugly side of the system. They’ve intentionally turned to a culture where the people are less judgmental and more “accepting” of their differences. Apologetics simply doesn’t work in a place like that. They’ve experienced the all-talk-no-walk Christianity and laying out a well-reasoned argument to “convert” isn’t going to get you very far with them. So that’s where most Christians stop. They see people who have blatantly turned their backs on God as “bad” or beyond their reach. But in reality, the fields are ripe for harvest, you just have to have the eyes to see it.

Love is a battlefield
I’m sure many of you have seen and heard a growing number of Christian’s proclaiming God’s impending judgement of America. He’s likened to a ticking time-bomb, waiting for that trip of the wire. We’re all on thin-ice with him: just one more abortion, one more memorial cross removed, one more gay marriage – and then it’s punishment time for America’s sins. But if it is in fact the case that God is planning on releasing judgement on America for all her failings, wouldn’t the Church be the first place He’d pay a visit? I mean, whose fault is it really if this nation isn’t reflecting the Kingdom? We kind of have an unfair advantage, don’t you think? We have the Alpha and Omega, the Light of the World, the One True God, the Living Word living inside of us! We’ve been given everything we could possibly need in Jesus. (Phil 2:14-16Col 1:13) What about the rest of the world? Can we really blame them for participating in excessive, addicting, harmful or sinful behavior? Let’s be real. If Jesus were Donald Trump he’d tell the Church she was fired for not doing her job. We’re the light of the earth and yet we don’t shine for others to find their way out of the darkness.

A lamp is not hidden under a bowl, and yet the Church today seems to be particularly fond of residing within elaborately constructed “bowls” otherwise known as cathedrals. We prefer the “saftey” inside our church to the outside “dangers” of the world. So in the meantime, we neglect the thing most treasure to God, human souls, and leave them to fend for themselves. We have forgotten that the Lord, not a building, is our refuge and source of strength. We think we have a choice in the matter so we disobey and stay underneath our four-walled shelter, foolishly believing we’re protected from all the “evil” outside. But the truth is we have forgotten that we were once lost and no more deserving of salvation than those we presently call enemies. Before Jesus, we were all open rebels of God. We lived our lives in direct opposition to His sovereignty. How quickly we forget! And rather than bring more glory to God by sharing the good news we freely received, we pathetically hide out behind a weak and ineffective religious fortification.

But now, more than ever, Christians must move from their defensive strongholds to take on forceful offensive advancements. The time for holding a defensive position for the sake of your pride or tradition ended with the ministry of John the Baptist. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matt 11:12) We have nothing to fear, Jesus has overcome the world! Jesus said He has “given us authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” (Lk 10:19) He tells Peter again in Matthew 16:18 that even the gates of Hell will not prevail over his Church. By contrast today, it is yet a popular defensive position to demonize Wiccans, pyshics, mystics, atheists and those in the occult. But Jesus loves witches. Jesus loves fortune tellers. And He loves them enough not to leave them where they’re at. He wants them to stop being abused by the darkness they’re in subjection to and find freedom in His relentless love for them. And he wants you to be the one to show them His love. How can you show them that freedom and acceptance if you’re busy trying to protest their events and shout hideous names at them? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not preaching tolerance. I’m calling for a shift in thinking. I’m asking the Church to be renewed in their mind and mature in their thinking. I want to see a radical change in the Body of Christ from defending the Kingdom to bringing the Kingdom.

When will we learn that it’s love that changes? Want to end abortion? Then stop focusing on how evil Planned Parenthood is and start focusing on how scared those women are. Want to help people with alcohol addictions? Then stop spending all your time condemning bars and start focusing on how lonely people feel. Want to see more people accept Jesus? Then stop calling the world “bad” and start putting your money where your mouth is. If this Jesus we know is so good and loving then what are you doing to prove it? From a Kingdom perspective, protesting an abortion clinic with shouting and signs is just as ineffective as sitting in a bible study complaining about the state of the world. Jesus said “Go!” That does not mean holding a rally against the devil. And it certainly does not mean holding a meeting in his name to pray for God to come down and put a Republican president in office. Let’s grow up a little, Church.

Going on the offensive

That night at the psychic fair we prayed for many people. We prayed for people’s legs to grow out, backs to be restored, pain to go, and the peace of God to fill hearts. We drew attention to ourselves (not that Michael doesn’t do that already being six foot something with his dreads and brightly colored bandanas!). We drew some dirty looks, scowls, and snickers. At one point someone at a booth even grabbed one of their skulls and began petting it, I assume, as a way of coming against what we were doing. But it doesn’t matter. Jesus loves! The love of God that brought Jesus to the cross is the same love that raised him from the dead. Love isn’t a defensive tactic, it’s a premeditated choice. It conquers fear and sets up freedom in it’s place. (1 Jn 4:18)


I spent most my time that evening with a woman named Mindy who was doing henna tattoos. I found out the reason she loves drawing mehndi is because it gives her a sense of peace. I hear people all the time describe that when they participate in certain activities they feel “alive” or “in their element”. Sometimes if they’re Christian, they’ll say they feel God’s presence with them. I would say on occasion, I feel similar when I’m dancing or singing for the Lord. Mindy may not know who Jesus is, but she does know she experiences peace when she draws her henna. So after she drew mehndi on my hand and we left the fair, I wondered how I could have used that knowledge as a way to introduce Jesus. I thought of Paul as he walked through Athens:

“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.'” (Acts 17:22-28)

Using Paul’s strategy, I could have explained that the same peace Mindy feels when she draws henna comes from Jesus, the King of Peace. But I didn’t say that and I walked away feeling like I failed to communicate the gospel to her. She did witness Michael grow two of her friend’s legs out and one of her friend’s back was healed in Jesus’ name. So she definitely saw demonstrations of the Kingdom, she just didn’t receive any teaching on the Kingdom. 

Looking back it was simply a case where we used the name of Jesus to put on yet another show among many at the psychic fair. And it made me think: I want to be careful to remember that Jesus isn’t a spokesman for this great product we call Christianity. He is our life, our love, our Lord. Psychics, atheists, and transvestites are all familiar with the hypocritical salesman version of Jesus. They’re not interested in yet another holy guru who had a few wise sayings then checked out of town. What they need is is the manifestation of the True Living Person: Jesus the Christ. They haven’t met the One who sat at dinner with sinners and tax collectors, who loved prostitutes and reject disciples.  Who will introduce the real Jesus to them? Who will be a light to those lost in the darkness? You can’t do it sitting in a pew Sunday after Sunday. You will have to go out among them, as an ambassador and representative of the Lord. It will cost you everything to be available and build meaningful relationships. It will mean late night phones calls, cooking dinners, and paying someone else’s bills. It means laying down your life in the same way Jesus did for you. “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” (1 Pet 4:6)


Epilogue: Making yourself a conversation piece
Mehndi done in Lajpat Nagar during our last trip in India

In the days following the psychic fair I had a lot of people ask about my mehndi, which wasn’t unexpected since the same thing happened after I returned to the U.S. from India. People would point to what was on my hands, and I would reply: “Oh, it’s a temporary tattoo that uses henna and I had it done while I was in India.” Then the conversation was pretty much over. It was suddenly not so weird that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed young woman had orange-maroon doodles all over her hands. After all, most people are aware that mehndi is a popular practice in India. But this last time I didn’t get it done in a culture where it’s a common practice. This time I got it done at your neighborhood psychic fair. No easy explanation for that!


I had to go to the DMV the following Tuesday. I came prepared to wait, so I had my Kindle and a friendship bracelet I was working on. While sitting there, a older woman sits down on the bench next to me with a little girl. Noticing my Kindle first, we strike up a conversation about how awesome eReaders are and the latest books we’ve enjoyed. Then as politely as possibly she stops asks, “Um, so what is it that’s all over your hand?” I had a brief moment where I wasn’t sure what to say. If I tell her I got it done at a psychic fair she’ll think I’m into New Age stuff and that isn’t cool. But if I’m not careful when I tell her I’m a Christian and went to the fair to pray for people, she’ll think I’m one of those bible-beating Christians… So I say, “Well, I went with my husband and a friend to a psychic fair to bless and love on people and I decided to get some mehndi done.” Silence. A funny look. Then, “Oh. So what do you mean by ‘blessing’ people?”

Touchdown.

From that point on I was able to explain what we were doing and in the process discovered that this individual, who I’ll call Ms. M, was a Christian. Ms. M also shared that she was single and had adopted three girls. She had spent the past several years fighting Lupus and had just reached a point where she could live some quality of life. I was able to lay hands and pray for her and her daughters and bless her before it was my turn in line. We exchanged phone numbers and have remained in contact since that day. I look forward to developing a deeper relationship with Ms. M and being able to remain a help in her life.

That was just one instance of several over the next few days that made me realize something: I want to find ways of making myself more approachable and available. Yes, I can set apart time to go on a Treasure Hunt or compartmentalize my ministry time. But as I go I want to be expectantly ready for conversation and potential connections. That conversation at the DMV practically fell in my lap, but just think how things would have gone if I hadn’t been prepared? In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he instructs him to be prepared in season and out of season (2 Tm 4:2). Remember: we’re not civilians, we’re soldiers and we’re on duty. We train by spending time in prayer and the Word, so when we have to go places like the DMV, we’re armored for battle. It’s not a dreaded errand, it’s a critical mission to rescue hostages from the Enemy.

Are you challenged by the idea of introducing Jesus through everyday means? Can you think of practical ways to manifest His love to those you run into during a typical day?
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