Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Dirty Gospel : no fairy tales here

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( To read the entire Dirty Gospel series click here )

When I was growing up,  fairy tales were the stories of choice for me. (Well, fairy tales and Ramona Quimby books) I’m guessing you had a thing for them too. Maybe you loved the hero, the adventure, a villan’s defeat, or the princess who is discovered in an ordinary girl. Personally I liked the talking animals.

This week is the final post in The Dirty Gospel series. I’m only 31 years old, but experience has already taught me that real life reads nothing like a fairy tale. The storylines twist and turn until we are nauseous with fear and anxiety. The battles we face leave us broken, bruised and weary. It doesn’t always end with “they lived happily ever after”.

Obviously Heaven is the happiest ending one could have, but our life here on earth is messy. That is why this Gospel is so dirty. Worn down by the tears of distraught saints and lonely martyrs. Clung to by the addict’s knuckles that are white with fear in hopes that there is indeed One who can see into this darkness and find him.

The cross secured victory for every battle we could face – internal or external.

Jesus didn’t come so that we could have “happy”. He came so that we could have Him. —> click to tweet.

The Gospel is culminated in this one phrase : It Is Finished.

The shame that mocks you. It’s finished.

Hate towards our enemies. Finished.

Fear that keeps you from dreaming. Finished.

Striving for a perfect version of you. Finished. 

Cycles of depression that rob your days. Finished.

Lies that you have a deficit of worth. Those lies are finished.

Death itself? That is finished too.

So many of you responded to Bethany’s story a few weeks ago. The PET scan results came back for her husband this week. The cancer has spread and the tumors have gotten bigger. Real life, real pain. Shootings, suicides, famine, poverty, slavery…so much is broken in this world of ours.

We don’t need a fairy god mother to give us a new dress. We need a Savior who is knee deep in our battles. One who holds us tight when we kick, bite and smell of our vices. A God who talks us down from our ledges and out of our pits.

We may not have our “happily ever after” on earth. Some may die sooner than we would like. Spouses may not show up despite our most bitter and desperate tears. Hope may be deferred and life may not seem fair. There are moments it feels like all Hell breaks loose around us.

But our days are anchored. Securely fastened to a Truth that has survived every pain. Our Gospel is more than living days of isolated happiness. It is an eternal thread that links a heritage more colorful and vast than we can imagine.

The Dirty Gospel hinges on the most powerful sentence ever said. It is finished. And it is.

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Humanity As It Could Be

This video is too good not to share. I love his concept and the connection that the strangers end up having. Plus, I can’t get over how cute that 95 year old fashion designer is.

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October 26, 2013 · 1:41 pm

I’m A Stalker

This one is from the archives, but I’m dusting it off for today. Because today I have to actually dust my house to get ready for our adoption homestudy visit. Enjoy!

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Here I am. The stalker.

I saw a news article today that was talking about someone getting a restraining order on someone who was staking them. I didn’t read the story, just the headline. Skimming past it to the next article I thought to myself, ” Stalkers must be the creepiest people. Who does that?”. 

Then I realized I am a total stalker. Yes, me. Sweet girl-next-door me. ( okay, I have NEVER been described as the girl next door, but it makes me sound more likeable.)  Three specific instances came to mind:

1. When I was in Rome my friend Connie & I wanted to go to the vatican. However, we got lost and had no clue how to get there. ” Scuzi…uh, umm… donde esta el Pope?”. As luck would have it we spied a few ladies that looked like they may know the way. They were dressed in black with somber faces.

It was indeed a group of nuns. We predicted that if we discreetly followed them they would lead us to the Vatican. Low and behold,  after many narrow streets and confusing intersections we found ourselves at St. Peter’s Basilica. Lesson: When looking for holy places, follow a nun. They know the way.

2. The summer after my senior year in high school I was in England. My friend Kelly and I had read too many Jane Austen novels in our senior English classes. One day we saw this cute guy and we totally stalked him around town. We referred to him as Ashton because in our minds he was studying literature at the university while actively involved in political issues and read poetry under a tree by the river. He had blonde dreadlocks, wore a backpack and rode this really cool bike. It just seemed he should have a cool name like Ashton.

He was probably not that interesting in real life, but we never got a chance to find out. Despite our magically appearing at the same locations as him all over town that day,  Ashton never came over to say hi. I suppose we weren’t as mysterious and attractive to him as he was to us. Lesson: When looking for romance, don’t follow the guy on the bike.

3. My friend Erika and I were driving to Crawford, TX to scope out George W. Bush’s ranch while he was still President. Both of us were studying politics at Baylor University and his ranch was just about 30 minutes away. Naturally we decided to try and meet him. After hearding a loose flock of goats off the roadway and talking to the secret service agents we decided to return home. Despite all our best efforts we weren’t going to see the President that day. All of a sudden a caravan of black suburbans drove past. Erika & I made a U-turn and hit the gas to catch up to them. I kid you not that we both put on over-sized dark sunglasses. Is there any other accessory to wear when stalking the President?

Erika drove and I sat poised with her big black camera in hand just snapping away. We followed them for several miles until they pulled into the grocery store. Turns out it was Condoleeza Rice and her husband.

We actually parked several rows away so as not to tip off the secret service. Good thing they couldn’t see us behind our big glasses. After being stared down by two very muscular guards we decided we should probably go. I guess they did notice that we had been tailing them for miles. Lesson: When stalking government officials have your friends drive. That way they have her license plate on file and not yours…

I clearly have a habit of tracking people down when I am on trips with friends…which supports my theory that I should have been a spy.

No, really. I should have been a spy. Except I don’t handle stress well. And I get lost in airports. And I don’t know exactly how I feel about concealed weapons…okay, maybe not a spy. Maybe a girl scout.

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Filed under Funny, My Life Thus Far, Politics, Uncategorized

Dirty Gospel : The Way You Are For A Reason

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I’d like you to all meet my new friend Jesica. She emailed me after reading Bethany’s story on here a few weeks ago and wanted to share with me her own “Dirty Gospel” tale. I was really inspired by Jesica and am pumped that I get to interview her for today’s post.

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1. Tell us about yourself.

My name is Jesica and I am a 24 year old from Hawaii. I am currently a student at University of Hawaii and I am majoring in art. I was born with an impairment of all four extremities called hypoplasia or phocomelia.

I have phocomelia on my left leg and Amelia on my right. I lack forearms and hands. My femurs and tibias are short with abnormal feet. I get around with the use of my electronic wheelchair. There is no medical reason for why I was born this way, but I know God created me this way for a reason.

2. What is it like for you with hypoplasia? 

Growing up I felt really alone and isolated from everyone because of how I looked. But mainly I felt insecure of myself. I’m ashamed to go out in public because people constantly stare at me, laugh or talk behind my back. I try to ignore them, but it is hard when I can see them doing it with my own two eyes. Most of the time I just try to hide my arms so that they don’t see it.

3. In your email to me you mentioned God gave you a passion for art. What is it that you love about it?

What I love about art is that I can express myself through it. There is nothing like having a blank canvas waiting to be drawn or painted on. For me I like abstract art verses realism because I like having the idea of letting my imagination and creativity go wild. There is no limit in what you create.

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4. This series is called The Dirty Gospel because it is highlighting what it looks like when God reaches down into our places of pain or challenge and rescues us. What has The Dirty Gospel looked like in your life?

I have had many struggles, challenges and obstacles to face. More importantly I have had to deal with failing. Trying to get on track was hard for me because I did not believe in myself or that I could do it. I am constantly having negative thoughts going through my head and don’t have confidence in myself.

I remember going on my iPad and visiting my Bible app for the first time in a while. There was I verse I read that helped me with my struggles. After reading it, it helped me push through everything, trust in Him and wait for God’s will.

So do not throw away your confidence, because it has a great reward. For you need endurance in order to do God’s will and so receive what was promised.”  – Hebrews 10: 35-36

5. What advice would you give someone who is feeling that they are facing a daunting challenge at the moment?

My advice is to never give up on yourself and don’t let your failure hold you back.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course,  you fail the test. And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.” -2 Cor. 13: 5-6

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So often we demand that God provide everything we think we need in order to obey Him. Jesica is called to be an artist, and yet God didn’t give her hands. Sometimes it seems like God gives us the wrong tools for the job.

Our limitations are God’s opportunities for glory. —> click to tweet

Jesica only has one foot, but with God that is enough for her to create beautiful art. Maybe you wonder if God made you the wrong way. Do you have the right body, personality or gifting to do the things in your heart? I’m willing to bet that God has given you exactly what you need to accomplish what He has created you to do. It just may not come the way you expect.

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photo 2 Jessica Gacusan is an artist and student at the University of Hawaii. You can connect with Jessica on Facebook or check out her blog XpressingYourself.

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Adoption Update : Part of our Story

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Well this one is gonna be short and to the point because we gotta leave town in a second for a Crossfit competition. Before you choke on your coffee at that thought, you should know it is my husband who is competing. Not me.

If you are new to Lark & Bloom, you can get a quick overview right hereIf you have nothing else to do today and want to read all my posts relating to our adoption, be my guest.

So, what’s new???

We are on the waiting list for both Ghana & Uganda waiting to see which country has kids that match us first. Here is an update by country:

Uganda: Things will be slowing down a bit with Uganda adoptions. However, there are a few referrals for some boys that may be available in the near future. For those who don’t speak “adoption”, a referral is where you are matched with a child.

Ghana: There has been a adoption ban on Ghana that is supposed to be lifting shortly. Even once it lifts there are new regulations that have to be ironed out and we have been told that there will likely be no referrals for quite some time.

Summary: Ghana has boys & girls, but they are not doing referrals anytime in the near future. Uganda is cutting back on referrals, but there are some boys that will be available.

So, what are we gonna do?

Well,  it has been nearly 4 years since we started the adoption process. One thing we have learned is that God is in control and we are not. His plan may not be what we planned. After a lot of prayer, we have decided to do two separate adoptions rather than adopting both a boy & girl at the same time.

It was a bit difficult to emotionally transition for me, but I am really peaceful about it. The plan is pray that we get one of the referrals left in Uganda and bring our son home this spring.

Then continue to wait until Ghana is processing adoptions again and bring our daughter home. Uganda rarely has females available for adoption, so she will most likely need to come from Ghana.

How can you help?

So nice of you to ask. I’d love it if you would pray with us for these three things. Or if you aren’t a praying kind of person,  you can wish on a star or something.

1. Pray that we get a referral for our son.  – We would love it if we could get one of the little boys that is going to be available soon from Uganda.

2. Pray for Ghana to open soon. At this moment no one seems to know when Ghana will be starting new adoptions again. Could be a few months, could be another year. Pray that God would allow all the new government requirements and changes to work smoothly so that adoptions will start moving again.

3. Pray for provision. Two separate adoptions is quite a bit more expensive than doing both at the same time. We still need quite a bit of money to come in at this point, but we know God’s got that.

Thanks for walking with us through all of this. It has been more of a struggle than we ever thought, but it is totally worth it. Every hour spent & and dollar paid. They are worth it…. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

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The Dirty Gospel: Naked Runners and Other Scary Places

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The scary troll under Fremont Bridge in Seattle

Yes,  you read that correctly. Naked runners. The Dirty Gospel is about to get interesting.  If you are new here, take some time and catch up on other posts from this series. For the rest of you old timers, I’d like to tell you a story.

About this time three years ago it was a lovely Sunday in Seattle. The sun was shining and a crisp autumn breeze was blowing leaves around as I loaded my kids in the car after church. I was taking my brood to a Thai restaurant in Fremont to meet up with friends for some post-church Pad Thai. Yummy, no?

My kids ( ages 4 & 1 at the time) were playing in the backseat as traffic slowly crept along. I veered left to cross into Fremont over the bridge from Queen Anne. As luck would have it, I got there just as the drawbridge was opening up to let a boat cross through the canal. It was a stunning day so I knew there was most likely a line of boats coming through. We could be here a while.

Tait was in his car seat directly behind me and his little feet kept kicking the back of my seat. I turned around to tell him to cut it out and that is when I saw them. Right next to our car. Gulp.

A small group of men and women who were jogging in place on the sidewalk just to our left. They were naked. And they were wearing pumpkins on their heads. I told my kids that we were going to play a game and everyone needed to close their eyes. NOW.

Thankfully my kids obeyed and I scouted out the other surrounding areas. A few lanes over there was another group of nude runners also with pumpkin faces. Every fall in Seattle there is a run in the city where the participants wear nothing but pumpkins on their heads. And I was in the middle of it. Stuck in traffic on a drawbridge with about 10 of these nude squash lovers. Awesome.

I came up with some lame game that, by the grace of God, my kids played which involved looking at the floor the whole time.

Finally, the bridge came down and all the traffic started to move. We passed about 15 other naked runners before arriving at the restaurant. Miraculously my kids didn’t see any of the XXX track and field stars we passed.

And that is my story. It reminds me of the time I accidentally took my daughter to the funeral of a slain gang member. But that is another story for another day.

Why did I tell you about the naked pumpkin runners? Because the Dirty Gospel is like that sometimes. God called us to Seattle. A place where crazy things happen and no one seems to get arrested for it.

When God says “Pick up your cross and follow Me” there is a good chance He will lead us to locations that are unknown and scary. Places we never planned on going.

God takes us to places that seem to turn our plans inside out. And that is where He builds the “more than we can ask or imagine” dreams. —> click to tweet

The career change we never saw coming. The relationship that ended before happily ever after had a chance to happen. New cities that seem hostile to the life we want to live. Or maybe it is adults who run naked with pumpkin hats in front of your preschoolers.

Following God can seem to oppose what we would like if it were left up to us. Our outcomes and prefered endings are rarely where we end up. Along the way something miraculous happens. God moves and does the unimaginable. The option we didn’t know ever existed opens up. Suddenly these scary places aren’t so intimidating anymore. God is there with us and He turns the nightmare into a dream.

This is the Dirty Gospel. Following God into places that scare us and challenge our trust in God. This is the story of God who always steps in and does His part. Covering your kids eyes so they don’t see the craziness around them or rebuilding the dreams that broke down long ago. It doesn’t matter what it is or where He takes you. The Gospel is enough for whatever we face.

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How My Christian Friends Turned Me Jewish

Today, we have a guest post from Elad Nehorai. I first discovered him through the Huffington Post when his article about how he didn’t love his wife when he got married went viral. I’ve loved his writing and blog since then, and was thrilled when he agreed to post on Lark & Bloom today. So, high five your screen and give him a big Lark & Bloom welcome.

headshotElad Nehorai is a writer living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Five years ago he became a religious Jew in the Chabad Hasidic community and has since written about his experience extensively, most recently in his blog Pop Chassid. You can find him on Twitter as @PopChassid and Facebook.

I remember when I looked at him and I argued, the way he looked at me, almost like he was sad. And I remember thinking, how dare you, how dare you be sad for me.

I was a secular guy in college, and I had spent the last few months living with a bunch of Christians. I ended up there because one of my best friends happened to be a Christian in college, and I thought maybe it would give me some sort of order if I moved in with him and his friends.

I was surprised how quickly I became friends with his roommates, how quickly I opened up to them and how quickly we shared our thoughts and experiences despite me being in a completely different place than they were.

But something always happened when we brought up that word. That word I could hardly bring myself to speak. I spit it out like it was a disease whenever I said it.

Religion.

Gross. Add the word “organized” in front of that and, as far as I could see, you had a crud salad. A mix of everything wrong with the world.

So when one of those friends and I argued that one night, and I argued louder than I ever argued before, and he calmly answered my questions, and I stamped my feet and got angry about all those things, about how they make no sense, how they’re oppressive, how they’re foolish, so foolish, and all he did was calmly answer, and then give me that look for a second like he was sad, like he felt bad for me, I remember how badly I wanted to punch something.

But instead we just argued the whole way down the highway as I drove and I pointed my finger up and down and he answered, answered, answered, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something going on here, something I was missing. Here was a guy, calm as a cucumber, and me, frustrated as all hell.

It didn’t hit me that night. Instead, like most of our arguments, we went into our rooms afterwards, and I was frustrated and sad and quiet, and wondering how someone I respected, how someone I thought so much of, could believe in his gobbledygook. It made no sense.

And I remember how eventually things became a sort of neutral peace about these things with a few eruptions of debate punctuating our quietude every now and then.

And I remember how for weeks, months, a year, I watched them quietly, trying to understand this weird breed of person. These people who I never would have respected if I never met, and now I couldn’t help but admire. This whole group of Christians who were cool and hip, but got all weird and bizarre when they started saying things like, ” I put my trust in Him.” How they were are all artists and deep thinkers and intelligent people.

It made no sense.

There’s an experience that you have when your views are challenged. When your worldview, one that you’ve held all your life is being dismantled in front of your eyes.

It’s kind of like the stages you go through when something tragic that you can’t compute has happened in your life. Denial, anger, confusion.

You’re in a state of cognitive dissonance. Where something has to give in the way you think and believe, or your brain might explode from the conflictedness of it all.

I remember going through that with them, with those people that proved to me that being religious doesn’t mean being stupid or not thinking for yourself or being a mindless sheep.

And I remember having this realization at some point, maybe it was as late as when I started to become religious myself, that maybe I was the one who was brainwashed. Maybe I had been led to believe false things. Maybe I was a victim of a system that turned people against each other just because of their beliefs.

It wasn’t one of those things that just hits you at once, but slowly creeps up onto your shoulder, and tells you with a whisper in one ear that you’re the very thing you fear, that you argue and throw a fist around for.

And soon I started to look back on other people I knew in college, the people who helped convince me that this is how religious people are, and I remembered how they were, how they judged others, how they looked down on whole societies of people without really knowing them or their beliefs. How they judged everything based on books they read and websites they visited. And the whisper grew louder.

Because those were the people I should have been waving my finger at. Those were the judging, stereotyping, sheep. And so was I.

As the whisper grew into a wailing siren, and I began the transition into becoming a religious Jew, it took me a while to stop getting angry at those people who I felt had brainwashed me. I started to realize that I felt bad for them, just the way my friend felt bad for me.

These were people who were sacrificing so much in their lives for these beliefs they didn’t even know they had. They were extreme secularists, living lives based on gender studies classes and an echo chamber of beliefs that distracted them from looking at the world in a truly open way.

And now, it truly makes me sad, and I realize that maybe, maybe, it’s a patronizing sort of sadness (although I hope not), to see a world of people who judge, who criticize, who attack religious people and just anyone with a different belief than themselves because they are a part of a combine that tells them to do so, that says they shouldn’t judge anyone except who their society has confirmed is eligible to be attacked.

I’m sad because I realize these people are sacrificing something for their judgements.

They’re sacrificing self-awareness.

A self-awareness that can only be had by looking at ourselves honestly and deeply and realizing that we don’t have all the answers, that the world is deep and dark and mysterious, and that things like feminism and politics and “Occupy”-ing have been distorted into distractions, distractions that come with a cost. Like when a woman chooses that she will not have children until later in her life just because that’s what is accepted practice.

Because that choice isn’t inherently wrong, but that lack of self-awareness that has pervaded our culture, those choices that aren’t really choices, because people have been convinced that their choices are intelligent simply because they live in a vacuum that tells them what choices are intelligent. That’s criminal.

And that’s why I’m sad about those people, and maybe it’s patronizing, and maybe it’s arrogant.

But there was a time when I thought my friend was arrogant. And he changed my life. Thank G-d.

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October 10, 2013 · 3:11 pm