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Miracle: America to Uganda
Hey friend,

We’ve finally made it back from Uganda in one piece, praise God. Among a few personal good stories I have to tell you at some point in passing are the following:

1. Staying at our favorite Nile River hotel… and battling the mosquitoes. You go into your shower, and they’re all chilling on the ceiling, just waiting to present you with a chance at malaria. Soup, Mrs. Linda and Ron playfully reenacted the mosquito dialogue that they imagined happening in my bathroom- “Oh yeah, mane… get ready. This gon’ taste like V8 juice.” (By the way, I’m a vegetarian). Thankfully, I brought Citronella candles, two huge bottles of Off and did everything from sleeping to studying under my mosquito net. Now there is a new meaning to the phrase “I’m glowing.”

2. Sitting next to a friendly, religiously skeptical Senator on one of our connecting flights who asked, “So, what exactly does a missionary like yourself do? Go door to door in Africa and convert people to Christianity?” I turned to him, smiled at the green light I see go off in my mind and I told him, “Alright, Sir… but remember. You started it.” He may have been shocked at what he heard… amused at all he heard. But he’s open to hearing more. So, we’ve agreed to finish this conversation in the future.

3. No cockroaches. Praise Him… I didn’t have to crack open my bottle of Raid- not even once!

So, before we left for our journey to Kampala and Jinja, I attended a prayer meeting. When everyone spoke out prayer requests, I mentioned the Uganda trip that would soon happen. After praying, a woman I’ve never met came up to me and said: “How wonderful that you all are going to that country. A few months ago, there was a woman and her husband here in Memphis from Uganda… their child had to have a difficult surgery done at LeBonheur (brain tumor). They’ve gone back already… the husband’s name is Maydad… how neat it would be if you ran into them in Uganda!”

“That would be neat,” I thought to myself. But Uganda is a country of 34.5 million people. Highly unlikely.

A few days later, I’m at a children’s hospital in Memphis, hanging out with kids… as they do everything from finger-painting to executing barbies by beheading, when a child between 8-10 years old rolls towards me in a wheelchair. There’s something in her lap and her face is beaming. She says:

“Here, I made you something”, while handing me a painted picture of the globe in a giant hand. On the left-side of the picture, it reads in a sweet child’s handwriting: “HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS.”

So, I tell her, “How about this… I can either keep this… or I can take it with me to Africa and give it to someone there. Maybe another kid or something! I don’t know… what do you think?” She says, “I’ve always wanted to go to Africa and other places in the world to share Jesus. But then I got sick… so if you give this to somebody there, I could still reach Africa, couldn’t I?”

Of course she could. So I took the picture, packed it in my luggage, and flew to Uganda.

Days later, Soup, Ron, Mrs. Linda and I are teaching at a conference in Kampala. That morning, the sweet Holy Spirit nudges me awake and says, “The picture.” So I get up, dig it out of my luggage, stick it in my folder, have a quiet time and go back to sleep for another hour or so… but later at the conference, Ron is authoritatively explaining the global impact in obedience to the Great Commission and how we have little excuse for not reaching all nations… even those who cannot leave home. Then, I remember the picture and take it out of the notebook, as the team kindly allows me 5 minutes to give an illustration for the point he’s just made… so, this child’s strategy was explained something like this:

“The child that painted this picture is in isolation in a hospital in the U.S. She can have limited visitors. Other than cleaned games and art utensils that we supply, very little can go into her room. She is very sick. However, she’s highly aware that over 70 patients from other countries around the world come to this hospital and whether she has to use window paint to write scripture on her window, draw pictures of a gospel message or design this poster to be delivered to Africa, she’s fearlessly and selflessly getting the message out there… from a hospital room that she is rarely permitted to leave, using limited supplies… and here we are. Not isolated, in good health and with tons more opportunities right now than she has. Yet, how is it that this small girl is among one of the most fruitful, strategic Christians that I’ve come across? … We have very little excuse for hoarding all of the resources that we’ve been given…”

And as I blabber on and on, there’s a Ugandan woman in the back of the room, weeping and heaving. I know nothing about her except- the picture given to me should be given to her. After I sit, she cries for about another 10 minutes. After the conference, she introduces herself to me and says: “I was so touched by what you said about this girl, my sister… you see- I was in your country months ago. My son had a brain tumor that none of the doctors in Uganda and England could operate on. So my son was sent to LeBonhuer in Memphis, where the surgery was a success. My husband is Maydad-“

Involuntarily, I interrupt her, screaming and jumping up and down… and let’s be honest: you’d do the same. Out of 34.5 million people, of course I would run into the woman mentioned at the prayer meeting in Memphis. This is so like Jesus, isn’t it?

The Word, the efforts of a small child and God’s Commission all continue to “mess me up” ‘til this day. I am completely amazed at the fact that God would make such an appointment on the other side of the world and allow me to see him work. I am amazed at how little some have been materialistically given, yet the many lives they touch by being faithful with the little that has been given to them. We met a young woman my age from Rwanda who saw her parents brutally killed in the Rwandan genocide while her aunts were put in a bag and thrown in the river (and she, left to die), and though she doesn’t deny her constant need for healing from these events, she refuses to be victimized by all she’s gone through at the expense of fulfilling the Commission. So, we visited her and all of the street children she has adopted over the years- she now mothers 25-30 kids (contact me if you want more information on that- her name, ministry, and how you can be a part of this).

God expects some fruitful return from us, friends. We all know this. So, what’s our excuse? The true vine, Jesus, is always healthy and full… so if we aren’t bearing fruit, the problem doesn’t lie within the vine… but the branch. A “fruitless Christian” is like saying “a fortune-less, impoverished prince or princess.” It’s hard to believe such a person exists.

If you finished this email/small novel and feel challenged, you’re not alone. I feel the same way. I pray that God removes any and everything that threatens the fruit that comes forth from each one of us. Let’s keep laboring, friend. Love you.

Jazzy

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me will bear much fruit; Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

East Asia... yet again
Friends,

... yes, yet another travel to East Asia. And don't you think for a second that I was going to miss a prime writing appointment... especially this one.

I'm writing to you today with a great smile on my face, laughter in my stomach but a slight ache in my heart. It was just that kind of trip. Much different than the rest (I'd love to tell you about much of it in person if you'd like, because parts will not be in this message for fear that you just won't read something that long:). Hear me now: After this trip's experiences, I am more convinced than I have ever been that I ... am an alien.

...but let me explain myself.

The Big City
So, we enjoyed much time in the big city, shopping, sight-seeing, posting up in the great American "Mecca" of McDonalds (of course, with a slightly different menu, with an Asian spin). The translators were great assets to ordering meals and coffee with workers who spoke no English (and we, who spoke no Asiatic tongues whatsoever). But when the translators took off, we still sat, laughing, fellowshipping and... oh snap! Needing more coffee and hash browns? How do we order this stuff with such a deep breach in language? Well, friend, I tell you this: It is totally possibly to "dance" your order. And act it out (don’t judge me- you try being desperate for another cup of coffee or some other thing you love. Because anything standing between you and that thing that you want bad enough will have to bow at the mercy of you desire). And viola! There you have it- a fresh cup of coffee, a fresh, new smile and a kitchen of laughing employees. I knew... by the curious stares from both customers and workers and cell phone cameras flashing in my direction: people like me don't often come to the McDonalds here. Well, people that look like me don't often come here to this city (or this part of it anyway).

The Train Ride
So, after spending time in "the big city", a train ride was in order. An 18-hour one (you know, short and sweet). And anything over 8 hours, be it flight, train or car ride, will require more than just sitting casually with a book until the whole thing is over. An 18-hour ride would require snacks, which means "coffee" and skittles, which means a toothbrush, complete with a water bottle to wash the paste away (versus using the faucet where the water contains different "assets" to which my alien stomach is accustomed). So around hour number 12, I leave the cabin to go to the public sinks to brush my teeth. A good minute into it, a man comes walking by. He stops, and looks as if he's seen an elephant on the train. I turn in the other direction to see the elephant he's looking at. There is no elephant, but there is a frothy-mouthed, sleepy-looking creature which appears to be my reflection. I turn back around, and he has disappeared. I continue brushing (and keeping my balance on this chugging train), until I hear an army of footsteps approaching behind me. I gaze into the mirror to see 5 Asian men (including the one who first walked by) staring in amazement at myself, brushing... and staring back. It seemed the first man that walked by went to retrieve his friends so that they could "get a load of this" as well. So I thought... why not? Why not give them a better view of what they came to see? So, I turned around to face them, stuck the toothbrush back in my mouth and went to work. There they stood, silently staring and rocking with the train, and there I stood, silently staring back, mastering balance on this moving surface (like one would surfing the ocean). And the only two sounds between us were the “shh-shh-shh” brushing of teeth and the train…chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga (toot, toot!)

Black Women do Exist!
So, we met up with some friends, new and old, in a decently-sized new city to which I’ve never traveled. And after spending sweet time of eating, drinking tea (for 2 hours every morning) and catching up with stories and what not, we decided to play a little game (with mostly new friends, so that we might get to know one another better). There my sweet friend and motherly-sister, Linda, and I stood, with the rest of our old friends, facing our new friends who would soon ask us questions… (Warning** black women, brace yourselves**…)

So, after a few questions from them, a question was asked by a man (who has become like a father to me): “Now, I have a question for you ladies in the audience… if this is the first time you have ever seen black women in your life, would you raise your hand?” If my jet-lagged memory serves me correctly, 98% of the audience raised their hands. Then came the follow-up question: “What have you ever previously heard about black women?” Almost instantly, the oldest woman in the crowd begins chattering on and on it her language, as we anxiously look at the translator to get an understanding of what she’s just said. “He’s becoming a little pink,” I thought. “This should be good.” Then he speaks: “Ummm… they say that… that… they have heard black women were supposed to be ugly. But now that they have met you two, they are beginning to believe that this isn’t true…”

Of course we squealed! We put on a flat out show! I found myself standing behind the chalk board, my eyes as big as saucers, sucking in a continuous breath of air. But honestly? None of it was offense. Just pure shock. After all, they said that this is what they’ve heard. No one should be accused for something they’ve “heard”, but responsible for what we believe. I looked back at their curious, smiling faces. They had more questions. They wanted to know if Linda was married. They wanted to know how my hair is the way it is. And over the week, many tears were shed in total joy and thankfulness for the time we were blessed to have been able to share with our sisters. And when we parted, one of our new friends and brothers looked deeply at Linda and me, and said, “We have seen beautiful, black sisters this week.”

... the End?
So, we’re headed back to the States! The journey is over (or is it?) and I’m seeing more people that look like me, talk like me… and are “American” like me. We land in Detroit, and as always, heading back into the country, we must pass through customs. Easy. No problem…?

We get our bags from the baggage claim area, continue through the last portion, so that we might check back through the airport and head home, when the last agent takes my “claims” card, looks at my luggage then looks squarely at me…

“What kind of souvenirs are you carry back, ma’am?” He asks.
“Scarves, nail polish, a tea set-“
“What do you do for a living?”
“Solo performance. Acting-“
“Why did you leave the country?”

…at this point, I’m confused. He gives me the card and directs me (and another two friends) to a quiet, secluded section of the airport where two more customs agents awaited…

They searched every inch of our bags. When it was my turn, the lady agent opened my bag and took out the first scarf she saw (no brand name, but the simple words “Made in China” stitched on the bottom) and told me it was illegal. I was very confused at this point, especially after claiming that the other items I bought in a government-sanctioned market were illegal as well. As a matter of fact, these items were so illegal, she said, that they would be confiscated and I would be fined… and go figure- these items were so “illegal”, that she packed my bags, (everything) and sent them home with me, no fine whatsoever…? What’s this really about? It gets more interesting.

With her gloved hands, she grabbed my backpack while asking me, “So what do you do for a living?”
“I’m in solo performance,” I replied.
“What does that mean?” she asked, as she unzipped and removed my green folder.
“Solo performance is acting by yourself. I’m self-employ-“
“What is this?” she said, now holding my opened folder in one hand and my Bible in the other.
“…that is a Bible. And those are notes…”
(After a long silence) “What are you?” she asked in a low, yet serious tone. Just as a mother would probe her mischievous child.
“I am a Christian.”
“Hmm. And obviously some kind of Bible Professor.”
(I laughed. Not on purpose.) “No ma’am, I am not.”
“Why did you leave the country?”
(My eyes shifting to my 60 lbs of undercarriage full of touristy stuff, I look back at her) “For a good time, I suppose.”
“And you teach Bible College.”
“No ma’am. I do not.”
“So, could you explain why you would have notes on the Bible like this in your folder if this is not your job?”
“Because it isn’t my job of financial employment, ma’am. But studying the Bible is my job as a Christian.”

She stared at me for a moment, opened the folder again, took out a set of papers and directly and firmly said to me, “This. This here- what is this for?” She was holding the Sunday night curriculum that I and a few ladies study together. And so I said:
“You’re holding the Sunday night curriculum that I and a few other ladies study together.”
“American ladies?”
“Yes ma’am.”
She stared a few moments more, closed my folder, tossed it on the table and said, “Whatever.”
To be honest, I was quite disappointed. Not because I was questioned about my faith and the tools that accompany it, but because of this simple fact- The job of a custom’s agent: Not only do customs agents examine luggage, they also investigate shipments of goods, ships, aircraft, and other vehicles for contraband that people are attempting to smuggle into the United States. And of anything I carried with me to the country of America, the items that were questioned the hardest, the toughest and the most were my Bible and notes. And if her job is to investigate goods and confiscate smuggled “contraband”, I wish she had confiscated it. I wish she would have kept the Bible, the notes and taken it in for further investigation.

Of all the places I’ve been, things I’ve seen, people I’ve talked too, I have never felt more like an alien and stranger than I had returning to my home. My, what odd questions to ask when returning to a nation that defines itself as Christian one… so running into ”Christians” that are returning to the country should not be so strange, just as doctors returning to work at the hospital shouldn’t be odd either… unless there is some confusion as to how the word “Christian” is defined.

Friend, imagine you and I standing next to one another, I, holding a lemon and you, holding an orange, and we both are facing an audience. A voice tells us, both of us: Define the word of the object in your hand. I, holding this lemon, then say, “Orange. A sweet fruit with which one makes orange juice, and if I squeeze it, you with see the color ‘orange’ come out.” Then you hold your object up and say, “Orange. A sweet fruit with which one makes orange juice, and when squeezed, the color ‘orange’ comes out.” There is confusion in the audience. But clearly, there is some sort of distinction between these two objects… yet we’ve given them the same name… I smell a fake. Do you? So let’s squeeze them, taste them and observe the color.

We’d soon find out which is the true orange and which is indeed the fake orange- the lemon complete with yellow juice and a sour taste.

Christians were first named “Christians” because when persecuted, the character of Christ came out. The definition of “Christian” is not comprised of multiple means, defined by an opinion of your choice. If I want to know the definition of orange, I’ll look to the dictionary. So if you want to know the definition of Christian? Look to where it’s been defined first: the city of Antioch, as said and defined in the Bible.

And America might- America just might be a land of oranges and lemons that call themselves oranges.

And out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks… what overflows from in to out of you, friend?

I’m not writing you to probe and have you questioning salvation or offended that you think I am—no, not that at all. As a matter of fact, I’m writing to a majority of you who are believers, I know well. You encourage me dearly, just as I look at you, as Jesus peers back at me through your eyes.

I’m writing, because you know how I’m feeling about all of this. It’s so confusing to have an American citizenship… or a Guatemalan, Kenyan or South African citizenship… yet feel like an alien or stranger in your own country often times, because your citizenship remains primarily in heaven. You may not have been jailed or sentenced to death because of your faith (though it is happening in other parts of the world), but you know what it is like to be negatively questioned and put on display because of it. It doesn’t feel the greatest.

But for the sake of Jesus, it’s worth it.

The King of kings, the Prince of peace… the lover of your soul lives inside of you. There’s nothing greater than that… think about that for a moment as He makes this fact more real to you… I’m praying for this moment for you…

And let it just express itself in a smile. A thank you. Maybe a tear.

You belong to him, and to him, there’s nothing strange, odd, fake, or disapproving about you. You belong to him, and he delights in this. Enjoy your belonging. Enjoy heaven’s citizenship.
Because in just a little while, all of us aliens will enjoy the heavenly prize that comes along with it.

“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13b

Love you,
Forever and always,
Jazzy

Uganda/Kenya 2011
So, Uganda… Kenya. Made this trip for the second time. And what a successful, incredible journey that can be understood best by experience- you will just have to go to see what I mean.

Honesty- I could talk about where the Nile meets Lake Victoria. Or perhaps teaching the ladies in the Maasai Mara. Maybe I should mention the 100lbs of supplies and goods that each person packed beneath the plane to drop off everywhere from orphanages to islands. Or the Kenyan Serengeti, the terrain and surrounding villages in the Oyugis area… you know, the great important things that you’d rather hear about and that I probably ought to talk about (and to some degree, will). But honestly (now, would I lie to you, friend?:)- I’m not going to talk about those {directly}. Let’s get a little more personal than we usually do… read between the lines to something maybe the width of a line, and the size of half a pinky nail. Phobia.

PHOBIAS? I though this email was about Africa!- It is! Oh my gosh, would you please calm down? Geez. I’m getting to that part. So, I was saying- phobia. About 5 years ago, during a college experiment in a Psychology class, I was diagnosed (diagnosed maybe, or maybe not, by myself… but maybe) with an acute phobia of… (I can even spell it out, I’m so disturbed…) cockroaches. Gasp.

And in a place like Africa, the beauty of God’s creation! Lions, prides of them. Gazelles, Antelope, Topi, the rarest birds you’d ever see… I tell you, you just look at this stuff and say, “Good grief God Almighty- you, Abba, really showed out on the 5th and the 6th day, didn’t you?” It’s breath-taking. But truth is that these warm and fuzzy creatures aren’t the only ones that crawl upon the African terrain… as a matter of fact, there are some that crawl upon every kind of earth there is- Ugandan, Kenyan… Chicagoan, New Yorker, and sometimes, up in yo’ house…
These mugs are true cosmopolitans.

And phobia- what happens when I spot one? Well other than feeling my heartbeat rise in my throat as my blood is running ice cold, I truly feel the urge to run. My mind becomes completely engulfed in the absolute horrific reality of the unwanted presence of this monster. And monsters they are. Cosmopolitan monsters.

“For Your Eyes Only” a written drama by the cockroaches- I am convinced. No man, woman, height nor depth can persuade me that the cockroaches of Kenya and Uganda did not gather prior to our coming, planning, plotting and preparing to present a presentation of themselves, individually for my own personal viewing. For my eyes only.

Because in truth, though other team members occasionally saw them, frequent moments of the day, the monsters made themselves available for my viewing purposes. My heart cannot take sharing every account/run in with each one, and neither can your patience (if you have made it this far into the email:), so I will list a few happenings…

On the bus- Forgot to mention, the monsters could not even wait for us to get settled into the hotel. They had to meet and greet at the airport. As we climb aboard the bus, sit, get comfortable, as we sway from left to right, heavy with sleep and jet lag, it’s obvious… we have finally made it to the continent, ready, even in sleep, to fulfill the purposes for which we are there. Ready for labor. Ready to bring supplies to the children, students, pastors, elderly, Maasai, whomever. Ready to teach, as some of us are pulling out headlamps and even lessons to refresh ourselves. Ready for what’s ahead… and there they go- Monster number one and number two. Across the wall and across my seat. I scream. I curl up in a ball. And all thoughts on Father’s Commission have transitioned to this cursed, self-centered phobia of …ew. Somebody let me out of here. I’m slightly light-headed…

In the room, too- Maybe it’s just because it’s rainy season, but yes- in the hotel room. Stephanie, Miki and I are just carousing, eating snacks in our mosquito nets and squishy chairs like pampered Arabian princesses, going deep in conversation, as testimonies, trials and tales emerge and bloom into the beautiful flower of fellowship. It’s blissful. We sharpen one another. We speak life to one another. We challenge, listen and encourage one another. And somewhere between a Skittle and giggle, there he is- Monster number 8. And where is he?

A. The door?
B. The floor?
C. My bed…

And if you chose A. or B., these circumstances would have only been “scream”-worthy. But those that chose C., very nice. You’ve chosen correctly. And this was passout-worthy. Everything went a little dark for a second, and as my senses rolled back around, quick Stephanie was already on it… literally. With a RocketDog tennis shoe.

Not the Safari Van!- YES! The Safari Van! As if every other animal we would see wasn’t enough- but I already told you. This was all planned. And it was planned very timely and well.

The Safari Van not only took us to the beauty of the animal kingdom; Steve, as its driver and the “Jefe” (boss), ushered us into the beauty of ministry. We rolled the Kenyan terrain, from the Maasai lands to the tea fields of the mountains, where miles and miles of tea stretched further that your eyes would ever reach… the scarce worker out there, tending to the harvest as illustrated by Christ on the few laborers in the field of the Lord… the crisp mountain air blowing through the windows… bliss.

So the team, including a few Kenyan pastors, our chef and a Maasai warrior, mounts the van in the city of Oyugis to do a bit of evangelistic ministry, teaching and worship in a small area called “Kachien.” No one can argue that the experience hasn’t been rich up until this point. We are all excited. We are all steeped in the mission. Many of us are avoiding the thought that we should be homeward bound soon… but attempting to live in the present moment without losing a minute of it’s richness… HELLO MONSTER NUMBER 47- right across the seat in front of me! I open my mouth to scream and nothing comes out! I lift my foot to kill the thing and it seems, I’m frozen in this frightened ninja pose (in a pretty African dress too), ineffective and stilled.

Well, from my understanding, African men are pretty chivalrous. And thanks to Pastor Joseph, wedged about two rows back in the corner of the van, chivalry spoke truth and even allowed for a dose of humor at such a trying time such as this one. This is what the pastor bravely shouted:

“Jazmin Millah’! Jazmin Millah’! I saw him! Shall I get him?! Shall I?! …I saw him threatening you!”

BAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Well, go ‘head, Pastor Joseph! I dare say, well-played and spoken! To see this monster, practically trying to steal everything I hold dear, and offer your smiting hand to deliver his mortal blow! Well–played.

But alas, the pastor could do nothing. He was blocked in, and the warrior is jamming so hard on his ipod, he didn’t even look up to see this beast trying to take our lives captive. The whole point, one moment- missionally-minded. The next moment? Monster-minded… the roach (ew)… a criminal mastermind.

“Hey, I got a question for you- how come they can survive an entire nuclear war, yet not the underside of my Cowboy boot?” –Soup Campbell

Good gracious. The Lord says ask for wisdom. Well, Soup must have just gone straight to the throne room and made his plea… because wisdom like this would even make Solomon fall to his knees. Wisdom, I tell ya.

Because you know what? You probably don’t have a phobia of roaches (ew). You probably don’t even have a phobia. But I know what you do have, because you’re human…

Thoughts. Great ones. Irritating ones. Tiny ones. No matter who you are, what neighborhood you grew up in or how holy you have become… you have thoughts. And as you gaze out of the window of your mind, beholding not only the beauty of life, but the purpose you have been set to fulfill, there it is, crawling across the transparent glass, small, but terribly noticeable. Distracting. And suddenly, it’s your entire world… a little, tiny, monster of a thought. And now, “self” has become the road block to others… don’t believe me? Go back through this email and count how many times the word “I” is mentioned, especially when a monster-sighting has occurred.

Thoughts. There you are, driving the kids to school, dropping ‘em off, headed to work, and before you know it, your vision’s blurred a bit. You’re wondering about the safety of your children… the divorce that’s happened, and what it’s done to them… the ways of bad parenting, and if you’d be categorized as one of them. Thoughts.

Thoughts. You’re concerned with your job, if it will be here in the next few months and you’re back to unemployment. Or the one you’re at, if you’re only working it because you think you can’t do any better… or the opposite, it’s a little too good to be true, and somehow, your boss will figure out that the position you’re in is a little above you, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re found out, and laid off. Thoughts.

Dating. Marriage. Children. Or lack thereof. Thoughts. And when the wrong ones have captured your attention, you have officially been invaded. And an invasion unattended may potentially become an infestation. Thoughts.

Well, there came a time where I just saw “one critter too many”, and the thing had to go. And when Monster number 85 showed himself, I had to get with him… show him a little special attention. With the underside of my shoe. Otherwise, fellowship, rest, ministry and mission are all compromised. And all because of this one little thing that must be handled.

Friend, handle it. Take the authority give you, and correctly squash and handle it with the Word of Truth. 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” And yes we do. We ought to. Don’t just generalize a twisted thought pattern with a quick nuclear blast of , “Eh, it will all work itself out.” No- that’s where you go wrong. Because now the things scurried, not away, but only out of sight for a time. It will be back. But when you give it that special care… special attention- now, we’re getting somewhere.

Thought- “Gosh, I’m fat.” Truth- Ps. 139:14 “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Squashed.

Thought- “I should have never been born. I was a mistake.” Truth- Ps. 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Thought- “I’m alone.” Truth- Deut. 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Believe it, and take every thought captive, and make it obedient to this Word. And when it’s been demolished, look… the world is in front of you with the commission papers divinely placed in your hand.

Thanks for reading, friend.

Alright, East Asia... here I come, AGAIN!

Love,
jazzy

East Asia... again?
Allow me to fill you in on China travels before another hazed, zombie-like glazed over stare/spurt of jet lag takes over. It's a pleasure to be back on this side of the world to write to you, friends.

So, China... perhaps I'll begin by saying this: "For every action there is a reaction." Is that right? Well, you either agree, or disagree, and if you disagree, you'll have to take that up with Isaac Newton (and if this is your plan of action, unfortunately, you run into a whole new set of problems...)

Anyways, actions and reactions. This just about sums up so many scenarios, gatherings, meals, experiences, etc. during our travels to the other side of the world. Allow me to not bore you with every single one, but think about it... can you "react" if an action has not been initiated in your direction? Can one "respond" unless he has been spoken to? Well, maybe, but you wouldn't call it a "response." Responding or reacting must indicate that a "something" has not only preceded it, but stands as the primary reason for the reaction/response's existence (... that phrase sounded smart. But now, you guys are like, "How come she went to China to write about physics? I'm done with this email-") WAIT! Ok... ok, I'll get to the point. Illustration number one: The Hot Pot.

"The Hot Pot"
One of our first meals in China. It's 8pm. Most of us haven't slept in a little under 50 hours. Mandarin and English are beginning to run together. My right toe hurts. My cup is half empty (or half full)- literally... where's the Sprite bottle? We, all 25 of us (teammates and friends), are sitting at a large round table with the largest Lazy Susan I've ever seen, smack in the middle, covered with raw, sliced lamb, mushrooms, peas, spinach, and a plethora of other foods I've never seen before. The aroma of garlic fades in and out. And looky here- I have my very own little 8inch X 8inch stove sitting right in front of me, with a steaming pot on top of it, as does everyone else. As the table spins, we are to pick whatever we have a taste for, throw it into our pots, and let it boil, absorbing all of the flavors of the hot pot and cooking it to our respective likings. This is a 180 degree culture shift... as we are 180 degrees around the world. And come to think of it, at that very moment, somewhere between picking a pepper up with my chopsticks and dropping it on the table among the many other failed attempts to feed myself, I feel it. Here it comes… a stirring within… I think... I think... I think I'm going to cry...

The pots boiling like crazy now. Our Chinese friends are laughing, telling wonderful stories as always. The Lazy Susan is stops spinning, even as Soup attempts to turn it to get it to his meat of choice, while shouting, "Hey! Who's holding this thing back?!" And I can't stop staring down at my pot... the spices, rolling with the bubbles. This frothy, red boiling pot mesmerizes me as I feel as if I'm going to burst into sobs. And here it comes... sniff... sniff... uhh.. ahh..

ACHOO!

...oh. A sneeze. Well, that makes sense. For every action, a reaction? ...stupid spices.

So, illustration number two: the squatty potty.

"The Squatty Potty"
For obvious reasons, I will not go into depth of detail on this one. But if you don't know (especially you folks that haven't lived in the country... and I'm talking about the country. The early-rising, no-lights-having, slop-jar, plucking-the-feathers-off-the-chicken country), the squatty potty is a "rare treat" of its kind. Forgive my ethnocentricities, but praise be to Western toilets. Because the squatty potty consist of a ceramic (or simple) hole in the ground, be it on trains, in restaurant bathrooms, or, in its most basic form as some of us witnessed- in the country.

So, this quite unique squatty potty in the back roads of China quaintly exists in a tucked away little room, behind the inner walls of a friend’s home. In the very center of this room, there it is- a 3 ft. X 5 ft. pit that extends some 10 ft. down into the earth. Now, how does it work, you say? Well, I'm glad you asked. Two "sturdy", parallel planks of wood extend across the top of the pit, enabling the guest to stand over it… and voila! There, you have the squatty potty. Now, mind you- the key to this potty is balance. Because if you don't have the key, and you go use that potty, you may never see the light of day again. Have you ever seen Slumdog Millionaire? Ok. Now let your mind run in that direction.
And drat- facing that thing was like somebody telling me, "Hey, go fight that big dude named Goliath- oh! And here's a sling shot.” Mentally rough. The second time is worse- you know exactly what to expect...

So, now it comes time to face this (literally) stinking giant again. There I am in the courtyard. And here comes a welling feeling behind my eyes. A rapid inhaling and exhaling. The wind blows a bit, as I peer upward into this flawless sky. And this time, I know I will cry. I just know it... my face is covered by my hands, ashamed for our host to see, in case she comes out of the kitchen... here they come, tears of-

ACHOO!

Dust stirs around my feet. Another gust of wind. A second time, a sneeze mistaken for a sob. Yet, a worthy reaction. Good grief.

Illustration number three: sweet family.

"Family"
It's not every day one discovers, meets and bonds with another/multiple family members living in other countries. It's not every day that notes of "Amazing Grace" are sung together in Mandarin and English. It's not every day that you look someone in the eyes of another culture and language, yet connect in heart with a gaze and communicate the deepest truths of Father. No, it's not every day... but when it does happen, it's like nothing else you have experienced. During the final moments of a particular visit among Asian friends, after going through curriculum, note-taking, shared testimonies, etc., it was time to say goodbye. In the midst of this fruitful visit, songs went up, along with dust and the lingering cloud of chalk, used countless times on the board up front. And this time, I've identified the feeling behind my nose... this itching sensation. The tear ducts preparing to function as programmed. A tingle in my throat. A change in pace of inhaled breaths... a sneeze- here it comes... I.. ahh.. ahh... am...

Crying?!... holy cow, I'm crying! You’ve got to be kidding me. Like a baby, at that. Looky here, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. I'm crying, but I'm not the only one. So is everyone else...

Hugging, singing, smiling, embracing. Crying. But to the grace involved in the pleasure and undeserved opportunity and privilege of being there, with family on the other side of the world, a worthy reaction. Women old enough to be my grandmother. Men that make me feel like a treasured little sister- this is overwhelming. And when one’s cup runneth over, I suppose the action spurs on another- the abundance cannot be contained. It spills out and about, as a worthy reaction to its fullness… so can I ask you a direct question?

Friend, what are you doing with you abundance? This is not a potential characteristic of the life of a Christian… no- it is a truth. If God has acted or moved in your direction, if He has adopted us as sons and daughters, I cannot fathom a reaction-less Christian. John 10:10- “…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” So, we have no excuse. If our cup runs over in abundance of life, let us please beg the question- “Where does my abundance go…?” Whoever you are, friend, I don’t have to ask- I very well know that you are in close contact with many that are spiritually (and literally) hungry and thirsty. And it might be a shame to let that rich abundance go to waste, don’t you think? And abundance has everything to do with laboring for God. Abundance has everything to do with discipleship. You, me, everyone has a limit. And a limitless, boundless God within cannot be contained with us, the vessel. He must spill out, over and through you. Abundance, believer, is inescapable…

Unless, you are reading this and find yourself in a constant state of depletion… if you not only lack this joyous, peaceful fullness of life, but you often find your cup empty, this is my prayer for you- that God prunes away these things in your life that prohibit the overflow of Himself. And for some, that the Father would draw you to Him that you might have this abundant life.

And abiding. “Abide in me and I will abide in you”, Christ says. We don’t automatically do that… abiding or remaining is an action on our part. We must make the choice to abide… and God so reacts by abiding in us. The Father drawing us… we abiding in the true vine… and God abiding in us… actions, and reactions, and reactions, and so on… and it just keeps getting better and better.
So, with that said- China was fun.
Love you friend.

jazzy

South Africa 2011
“How was South Africa?” you’re thinking… yes? And there’s something about the words “South” and “Africa” that invoke nostalgia of soccer…

Well! Do not be deceived those words. And take it from one who was. I mean, I searched the city of Johannesburg and all the countryside looking for traces of the World Cup, and know what I found out?

The World Cup has ended, friend. It’s over. So let’s move on. Ok. Now, South Africa: The town of Mokopane and farming region…

And speaking of farms… How does one have church on a farm... maybe this is not a mystery for you, friend, but I, little Miss Memphis Metropolitan, as a child, thought that church was a specific, rectangular location where believers gathered and looked nice on Sundays. Church had essentials… like pews, ushers, a pulpit, a microphone, choir in the back, programs, an amen corner, and a partridge in a pear tree. So you can imagine the shock as we ran full-speed from a farm of cucumbers to a chicken slaughter house, sharing the message of the gospel to the workers, as they took a tea break. And as I’m panting for oxygen, standing in a puddle of an unidentifiable liquid that I can only describe as “chicken water”, hands on hips… and covered in chicken guts (folks working in that slaughter house show hugs and love, y’all), I’m thinking… “I can’t even honestly say that I’m vegetarian anymore. And since when has the church been commissioned to work as a mobile unit to move out of the comforts of a Sunday morning and go through the city, country and uttermost ends of the earth, preaching the gospel (in chicken guts)?... I mean, we don’t even have ushers! Since when, hmmm?!”

And in demanding the answer to such a question, one must be ready for the sweet rebuke of the Holy Spirit- “Jazmin, is that a Bible in your hand... check there. My Word might answer that question…” And let’s just say that being humbled is a beautiful thing.

But speaking of farms… Isn’t there a parable in the Bible that talks about seed sowing? Sure there is. And the account in Mark that I’m talking about isn’t taking place in a rectangular building with ushers… ehem. Actually! This is all taking place on the lake front, amidst a crowd that is so large that Jesus must get in a boat to tell this story (which isn’t exactly a pulpit). And by “lake”, one might gather that the dominant smell would be fish. And if the fisherman present were showing love and hugs like our friends at the Spif Chicken farm in South Africa, Jesus and his followers might have been dressed in a little fish guts, but who knows. That’s not the point. The opportunity was there for ministry (though the location was not what we know as “conventional” in our time), and our Lord would show us, as his disciples, how it was done… and friend, it could not have been easy. Rushing water, waves, outdoors (in addition to whatever season they were in), and crowds… we all know how crowds can be, especially when you’re trying to get their attention…

And from a speaker’s perspective at the slaughter house, there were constant movement, distractions, bells, buzzers, smells, along with an unpredictable schedule. And in the tea room of the slaughter house, there were those eating, completely focused on tea, bread and getting back to the grind. There were some who occasionally looked up, nodding here and there, as if the words spoken to them were good advice. There were those who listened, laughed, even cried. Those who seemed to be inspired, those who were ashamed, inspired and some who were a little put off. There were some who turned to catch up with their neighbor. There were some whose eyes never left the speaker. But in spite of, the word was preached. Seeds were scattered. Despite the conditions of every heart in the room, seed were scattered and sown… seeds were scattered on orange, beef, peach, vegetable, etc. farms. Seed was sown among pastors, children, Africans and Americans… Seed was sown as early as 6am, and scattered as late as 11pm. Seed was sown through the pain of aching knees and the encouragement of 5 cups of coffee. The mission was successful. The mission was a blast. But this mission called life, only when it’s new and raised with Christ, is continued, and over when we breathe our last.

And speaking of scattering seeds… Jesus says this: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

And friends, if we call ourselves laborers for the kingdom, know this- A farmer went out to sow his seed… you are a mobile unit… be it South Africa, North Africa, or California… be it Memphis, Egypt or Memphis, Tennessee… be it MAM, Mississippi, school systems, your own household or the white house… We. Are. Mobile. Units. Mobile units called to the most conventional and unconventional of places to bear seeds that are to be sown into the heart of man. And the seed is the Word of truth… and what farmer knows how to plant a specific seed, without knowing what the seed is that he holds in his own hand?... I suppose we must know this seed of truth in our own hands, or else, what are we doing?

And in laboring, surely the heart conditions of the farmland to which God has called you is in a range of variation… there’s hard soil, there’s good soil, and enough distraction, noise, and disinterest to discourage you… kids that sneer, shrug and won’t listen. Co-workers who look right past you, disengaged and disconnected. Passivity. Persecution…

But let’s leave the condition of human hearts up to God. We can’t change the condition of a heart any more than we can change the weather. After all, I hope it was He who changed the condition of yours. I pray that it is He who is still changing yours, as He is mine, so that ours will look more like His.

Our joy isn’t in seeing who we can convert, convince and change into looking more like us. Our joy comes with the whole package of new life, laboring in obedience, as He changes who He wills, when He wills, into looking more like Him… and friend, if we’re blessed enough to see the growth of the crop, multiplying thirty, sixty or a hundred times… well. Praise God, then!

You’re probably wondering the basics too… how long did we stay? Where did we go? Who went, and what did we do there? Seventeen days (including travel time). The town of Mokopane (about 2-3 hours outside of Johannesburg) and the farming region around. Our team, mostly members of Fellowship Memphis Bible Church and one of First Evangelical, was led by Roy “Soup” Campbell of Eikon Ministries located in Memphis, TN. And what did we do there? Other than teaching at a church conference, visiting schools (for some, a hospital), learning from missionaries Koos and Jeni Basson (IMD Africa) and following their lead in the great ministry they have covering countries in Africa, we traveled to farms, day and night, teaching, praying, singing, dancing (lots of dancing)… and for some of us, (and yes, Americans too) learning.

But speaking of farms… if you’ve read this and are still engaged thus far, you’re probably on a farmland now… students, professors, kids, elderly, coffee drinkers around… I pray God’s placed His word in your heart and positioned your hands for work. And I pray for the picture in your life that is burned in my memory of South Africa: miles of sunflowers, blossomed and vibrant yellow and orange. Crop multiplied one hundred times over. Happy harvesting, friend.

Love, Jazzy.

China
How was Asia, you say?

Well, shucks. Watch what you say. And mark my words. Before I mounted that plane for a 13-hour journey from Chicago to Beijing, I smiled to myself, with passport in hand, ready to go global once more and thought, “Hmm… I’m a grown-up.”

I think Father giggled a little bit.

Anyways, passport, money, “independent travel”, Skymiles and Aviators handy- I don’t care what anyone says, I’m a grown-up. I don’t care if they make us wait in line to stamp our passports, like taking turns at the water fountain in third grade (and using the loud speaker repeatedly, to emphasize directions to rebellious passengers)- I’m a grown-up. I don’t care how many snack times we had, followed by naptime, airplane blankies and pillows, and shaded windows for encouraged rest- I’m a grown-up (I think a flight attendant actually tucked my blanket around my shoulder?? I’m still a grown-up). And so what if I got a little fussy after a stagnant 9 hours, 4 more to go? I’m a grown-up! If I weren’t, I’d still be trying my initial method of transportation to get to China- a Memphis backyard, a plastic spoon, stubborn earth, and all of the determination of a 7-year-old- to dig my way through the earth’s core and end up in a matter of minutes, RIGHT where we stood a day after landing- the Great Wall of China.

But grown-ups opt for air travel, thank you very much.

So, anyways, my grown self, along with so many others, landed safely at our desired destination, and gosh! I couldn’t wait for the first grown-up activity! I could hardly keep still! My eyes gazed out the window as I watch the fleeting sights the moment the plane landed, as I trembled with excitement like a little… grown-up. A Subway ride- and first lesson in being a full-blown adult (hear me now) is this-

Grown-ups are polite- Adults are considerate. They don’t push and shove like children. They wait patiently, they speak patiently, they know public etiquette. Grown-ups are polite. So, why does our leader stand before us, saying “Look y’all. If you never been on a subway in China, you can be polite all you want. ‘Excuse me… sorry! …go on ahead’ like a sweet lil’ American. But in these subways? They do it differently. And you can act like that if you want, but you’ll be waving goodbye to the team as they go on to their destination, and you and your politeness will be shipped off somewhere else in China.” Nonsense! I’m a grown-up and I will not push my way through a crowd. I will not! I have more dignity than that…

Well, I’ll say this and move on to the next thing: Politeness was in use for all of 7 seconds on that Beijing subway. I said, “Excuse me” to a Chinese woman half my height to exit, as my group left, and she shoved me a good few inches backwards, making her way to her next stop. And I’ll say this too, if you ever talk to about 30 Chinese people that said they were knocked and shoved aside by a frantic, tall black woman on the subway, umm, I saw it too. Her name was Sojourner Truth. She was a child, fighting for the last cookie in the jar. Never mistake that it was I, because I’m a grown-up. How’s that for dignity. Ehem!

Grown-ups cross the street on their own- Grown-ups look both ways, grown ups don’t challenge a machine (a car), grown-ups wait for their turn, because YES grown-ups, shall ALWAYS have a turn. Imagine with me for a moment. An eight-way directional intersection, something like a cross between a highway and a war zone. Lights for bikes to go, lights for motorcycles to go, lights for cars to go. Now imagine all of those lights are red, and it is rush hour. Now, imagine they all turn green, and 50 million cars and trucks are playing “chicken.” Now imagine, the grown-up I am, faced with reality of crossing this disorderly chaos. With every attempt at a lunge forward (and a sure chance at eternal rest), I remind, encourage and tell myself, “My! The grown-up I am!” And like a dream- there was a girl standing next to me, IDENTICAL!… seriously, six-feet tall, African-American (the ONLY time I saw another black person in China, with the exception of team members), and she looked EXACTLY like me. I’ll actually tell you the only difference between us- a small Chinese girl saw her dilemma, and grabbed her hand and helped that poor, child-like thing cross the street- yes. Held her hand like mom used to do in kindergarten. And this baby was halting, jumping, running, challenging, with confidence every step of the way, holding to this chicken of a girl one pace behind, eyes as wide as melons. I was fortunate enough to get a picture of this crazy event after a successful cross… of course, I followed behind all by myself, because I’m no child… I. Am. A. Grown-up.

Grown-ups are serious when talking and fellowshipping with Father- Grown-ups close their eyes, in good-postured silence to talk to Him. And if they’re ever really grown, they especially remember etiquette in Fatherly fellowship when others are around. If a grown-up must cry out to Him, they ought to do it in silence. And if a grown-up must tell Father vocally how incredible and enjoyable He is, a consistent clap, at the least, is permitted along with typed lyrics to a song. So naturally, my first impression of others that might enjoy Father’s company, Chinese brothers and sisters of course, I noted, “Ohhh what grown ups! Most of them are twice my age… three times my age. They ought to know how to communicate…”

… like children? I’m sipping my grown-upperly tea, when suddenly the unexpected almost makes me have a hot spill! Why are we holding hands, running in circles and singing to Father? Why are people crying?!?! Why are people laughing?! What’s so funny?! Where are the printed lyrics, and those who sing badly… why are they singing so LOUDLY? Stop singing like that! It’s… improper? I haven’t seen this since… well, praise and worship with the children’s ministry in America. And as one lady starts saying the name “Father”, and as she attempts to continue dialogue with Him…. Why can she not get past his name without weeping with joy? And why does the world seem to spin around in utter, youthful delight as a merry-go round around a still, immovable, unchangeable center- the grown-up… the only grow up there is, I realize. And it’s not me (and perhaps, grown-ups are tempted to think the world revolves around them… that it won’t turn unless they are fixed in the center of their marriages, children and work lives…)

It’s Father.

And suddenly, I realize… I’m no refined, independent, grown, adult. I’m just a child, tempted with the old illusion so many of us are- my maturation and growth as a “child” of God is a vertical climb to maturity in mentality, intelligence and behavior… and there are certain ways this will be manifested in all I do- in prayer, in worship, in life. And before I know it, I’m this learned, brilliant, “mature” believer, who receives exaltation because of such immense spiritual growth!! And grown-ups are “responsible” for making sure this growth happens… And this is serious business, of course. After all, we grown-ups are often very serious people.

And what a sad illusion it is. No wonder many children globally can agree on one matter- they never want to grow up. Just look at the grown-ups- they are so orderly. They behave as they should. They carry an immense weight of responsibility on their shoulders, even those that ought to be given to Father. Grown-ups don’t cry, and even when it burns in their chest, so desiring to come forth wailing, grown ups will never release their distress in sorrow. Grown-ups manage. Grown-ups control. Grown-ups fear when things get too colorful. Grown-ups enforce the rules upon other, and sadly, upon themselves. Grown-ups are helplessly, sadly and miserably trapped by boundaries moving in on them, and are so blind to their own need of rescue. Grown-ups forget how exciting and thrilling life itself is… life is now responsibility, black and white, traditions, and ritual… so why should the name of Father be any different? Grown-ups are the only people during praise and worship who don’t do just that- praise and worship. Grown-ups are poor, deprived children of the King, most of whom know they are children… they just don’t believe it.

And I never, no- not now, not in five years, not when I’m an 80-year-old great grandmother with diminishing days here on this green earth- I never want to be a “grown-up” ever again. I never want to fall for this illusion of height and growth, yet the truth of its low stoop and depravity. Oh no. And I want it for none of us. I want much more than that, and if you search your spirit, I’d bet you want that too…

I want to be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. I want what Matthew 18:1-4 speaks: “The disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And he called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And what a word. What a truth for us. We are but children…

Where have you forgotten that? Where have you grown bound and fixed, because of the belief that this is the reality—you carry the responsibilities of what belongs to Father to handle? Where have we forgotten that we are children, children that are His?

Would you let go of the responsibility, friends, that you can actually change, influence control someone? Would you release whatever holy passion burns within you chest? For Father knows how His children feel, even before they feel it themselves… would you sing to Him, and shake silly “polite” mindsets to not “disturb” anyone or “be a bother” with the very voice God gave you? Would you let Him take you back to the days, where life wasn’t stagnant or ritualistic… and if you were deprived of this as a child… would you let Him show you things you’ve never seen before?

Would you let Him? He is Father, after all… you’re only responsible for resting in Him and what He’s already done, and walking in obedience to work that He’s doing through you. And would you let Him show you what we as a people have forgotten, yet sing about every Sunday, often times, emotionless, passionless and defeated—freedom in Christ. Freedom. Let’s go together as children… because children often go together, yes?

Now, I am one of the stubborn kids that must learn by experience. So, if I am to continue learning this lesson as the trip continues, I must start experiencing child-like vigor and activity. And that’s where my sister Jacqui came in, well-learned in matters of child-like spirit and joy. She encouraged skipping through the Chicago airport to find gourmet popcorn. And yes I did partake in its sweetness… I even tried the popcorn.

I’m praying for us, friend. I’m praying for you, wherever you are… behind a work desk, underneath paperwork, fighting to prepare dinner, alone in silence, even among children.

Father, there’s not a dull day with you; for you would never create such a thing. Teach us to be what we already are… teach us not to manage and control the world around us, but to let what is yours be yours. Let us carry light with us, for it is our only burden… an easy and weightless one.

Uganda and Kenya
So, how was Africa?

Funny how we say “How was ‘Africa’?” as if Africa were a city like Washington D.C… truth is, it’s a continent with 47 countries (not including islands territories and nations). Nobody ever says, “How was North America”, or “Did you have fun in Asia?”

So, how was Uganda and Kenya (or the cities and towns we visited, at least)?

Awesome… awesome, awesome. And there is much to say, but I’ll talk about this and leave the rest up to a coffee date, friend;)- choice.

On a cool, quiet afternoon in the Northern Serengeti, a young Ugandan lady and I sat, watching the devious little monkeys play and devise plans on how to break into our tents (they were gangsters, y’all… I’m not kidding), when she tilted her pretty face from the sun, and asked me a troubling question. This is what she said (and how my crazy little mind operates):

“Jazmin, would you to put yourself in my shoes for a moment (It’s gunna be a tight squeeze, sweetie, but I’ll try…)- It’s very hard for we women here in Africa (Sweetie, need I mention that I will only be in these shoes temporarily. Then it’s back to American hardships. Continue)… we have little choice here… and in many situations, we have no choice (… I’m sorry… I don’t speak Swahili. “No choice” isn’t a word in my language… English please?)… it’s a man’s world here. They can buy what they want… even we women in most cases. So, you see, we have no choice (Sweetie, I said ENGLISH!)… we young women, at times, are a burden to our parents when we get older, or at least, that’s how they act. It’s different for those that are educated, you see, but for most of us, it’s as if we become a burden financially on our parents when we become older (…which is why my father will jump and shout hallelujah when I’m married, no doubt. And somehow, I’m still in no rush:) … so, a man, any man that desires, can go to a parent of a girl to whom he is attracted and buy her for himself… (… are those MONKEYS coming out of that dude’s tent?! If he-… I’m sorry, WHAT?!)… yes, buy her for himself. And at any moment, a young lady in this predicament could go to her own home and be told to pack her things, and obey God’s law of obeying her parents… so, you, Jazmin. If you were to come home and you had 30 minutes to pack your things and go with a man you don’t love, know or may never have even met… this man could have HIV, multiple wives, anything… what would you do?… (…umm… what are my options?)… Jazmin, you have no choice in the matter. What would you do? You have 30 minutes to pack and you must go. What would you do? ( Sweetie, clearly you’re unfamiliar with Al Green. Thirty minutes is more than enough time to invite the family, including my suitor, to a sit down, hot breakfast, featuring everyone’s favorite- hot grits. Before anyone could help me with my bags to the car, I’d have them doused and anointed in a blessing of Quaker’s brand grits… boiled in honey for extra stick. And then poof, I’m gone. Just like that. Next question?)

Unfortunately, that last word of thought didn’t reflect God’s Word, so I had to flush that ingenious idea. And listen. And remember, also, that in my experience in both Uganda and Kenya, I had seen so many with less choice than others in our country and myself. The Maasai women we met were barely 13 years of age, already with children and husbands. The choice belonged to their fathers, given that the suitor had 10 cows to trade for the young girl. Just the culture. The orphans in Kibera, Waresa and the Pipeline in Nairobi… about as much choice as any orphan worldwide. No one chooses against having loving, available parents. Or the three girls we met with HIV from birth… representing many in their city alone. Child slavery, sex slavery and every limited choice issue imaginable rose in my memory of the trip thus far. And after a beat, the Lord spoke… as he always does, when you let him. So I said:

“I’m not going to pretend like this is exactly what I’d do… because I am human, understand? That’s a hard question. And a hard situation. And in the U.S., “choice” is plenty… so it’s rough for us to even fathom what not having it looks like. But for you, here in Africa, this is clearly a frequent hardship… so this is what I pray that I would do… there’s 30 minutes to pack, not much time. The guy that’s purchased me is standing in the kitchen, waiting to add me to his collection of wives. My parents have turned on me, and on top of that, I feel a heavy obligation to obey them… and my imagination runs to the life ahead, full of dark possibilities. Dear God… and that’s just it. “Dear God.” That’s all I have. My choices are dangerously thin to non-existent. My time is limited. But my God is sovereign. And our God is my choice. So, help me, God … our God is sovereign. He sees where the Earth is in relation to Jupiter and the sun. He holds galaxies in the palm of his hand. He sees this endless war in the Middle East. And dear God, my dearest Lord sees me. He sees the tears I’m crying in that room. And as they fall towards the ground, he catches every single one. He’s there. And he sees my end. What else can I look to? What else am I to look at… the waves? Well, Peter did that, and look at what happened to him! He sank. So to hell with circumstance, my sister ( mmm… that slick curse word felt good). I choose to look at my Savior, because he is victory, solid, able, and he is beautiful. And if I turn from that, I might look at those hot grits in the pantry… are you familiar with grits?… well, pray that I keep my eye on victory that should come to be in his time, however he chooses to manifest it. Understand, that circumstance synonymous with state of being is one of the greatest lies we’ve bought as human beings… or Americans, at least. State of being is peace when resting in that truth that your being is one with Christ. So, I pray that in that situation, I’d be one with Christ in that room. And should you ever face that, I pray that for you. And whatever happens after that is in the hand of God. We simply rest. Honor him, and make him your choice. And honor him, and let all other choices be his… even those that are out of your control.”

And friends, surely most of us aren’t battling the issue of “limited” to “no” choice. Our issue lies at the other end of the spectrum. We are so overcome and overwhelmed with choice, that it’s become a burden and a stress. Our country is a great buffet with vast, endless varieties of choices, cooked in every spice, flavor and seasoning we could ever imagine, and after consuming option after choice after selection, we are almost sick with choosing… then we look around, and there lie millions more choices to make… perhaps I only speak for myself, but it seems this way. And not to make choice the enemy here (because it is far from that), but who knew that choosing between two young men as potential boyfriends could be such a troublesome, tearful trial for a dear college friend of mine, as she lied face down on my bed years ago… and I can’t talk! I was just as stressed out choosing between Honeynut Cheerios and Lucky Charms for breakfast this morning… Kellogs must make it easier on a sister…

Or maybe you, friend… you’re faced with choosing a college… is he/she the one… whoops! He/she isn’t the one, and we’re already married… keeping the baby… adoption… throw the grits on his face… the surgery… job… city… should I leave the country… should I continue in patience… loaning money… giving money… borrowing money… relocation… God, I don’t know what the choices are staring you in the face, waiting to be chosen or forgotten. But I know this- for those of us walking by faith, God’s answer hasn’t changed and never will. "Choose this day whom you will serve ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord ... you are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him." (Joshua 24:15,22) He is our choice, even when there are millions of them lying to us, saying that control is ours and we are responsible for each and every one. Honor our Lord, and choose him. And honor our God, and let him handle all else. And you will find what Jesus intended for Peter that day on the water… you walk on an ocean of circumstances, problems and waves you will never conquer alone. But you will behold beauty and find rest.

God is the same in America, Uganda, Kenya and all over the world.

Have you chosen him above the choices you face… or lack thereof?

Love you, friend.

Jazzy

Haiti and Hope
We made it back from Haiti (in one piece). Many people have been asking about the experience, and of course, there's so much to tell. So, this email will address two things folks have been asking about as it relates to the trip-- 1. Experience and 2. hope (many are asking about "hope" for Haiti for some reason, and if it exists...).

1. Experience-I'll be frank about the experience in Porte au Prince...

Sight: Rubble for miles, of course. If 200 dump trucks moved in and out of Porte au Prince everyday, it would take 9 years to remove the damage. Poorly-built, cement structures from houses to orphanages climbed up into the mountains, and after 35 seconds of an earthquake, the city resembled toppled, broken dominoes spread over the hills. The UN had a presence, with representatives from Peru, the U.S. and many other countries. Mounds of garbage swarmed by insects covered street corners as fish/bread/vegetable vendors settled only inches away to continue making a living. Life still carried on for a Thursday evening in Porte au Prince, although buildings with thousands underneath still remained untouched.

Smell: The scent was a mixture of rotten garbage, exhaust and "other", which I'll leave up to your imagination. Because rainy season has begun, and it has been 2 months since the earthquake, much of the smell from decay under the buildings had weakened. We wore masks as we rode through, so it wasn't so bad.

Sounds: Our turn/stop/go/wait/slow down/ speed up signal here in the states can be communicated with a flick of a switch or the wave of a hand. Everybody just lays it on the horn in Porte au Prince. So, other than an overwhelming cacophony of car horns and motorized vehicles, there were the vendors, of course (as people are more personal and present in sales, communication, etc in foreign countries). And of all of the sound variations heard in the city, one stands out distinctly and clearly in my memory, paired with a puzzling sight... the slow, yet constant "clang-clang" of a small, iron tool against a giant heap of concrete swung by a skinny teenage boy. Only the Lord knows what that building once was, but the image and sound of his labor might be comparable with repainting the white house with a nail polish brush.

Another unique part of experience were the stories many of the children and teenagers told. There was no listening to the accounts of what happened without being emotionally involved. One guy at our camp whose mother was being treated at the hospital and whose father died in the earthquake felt a sense of guilt, simply because he survived. Another guy said that he was walking with a friend one moment, and the next, his friends bottom half was trapped under a concrete block that could only be lifted by a machine. As his friend slowly melted out of consciousness, he continued to cry, "Don't leave me." And so he didn't (by the way, if your squeamish, don't read the next sentence). He honored his friends wish by amputating the top half of his body, carrying him outside of the city, and burying him in a private grave.

2. Hope?

I (and many others) have been a little agitated at the removed sense of sympathy regarding countries, people, etc., affected by the earthquakes. I heard someone say in response to Turkey, Chile and Haiti, "Oh man... that really sucks... I feel bad for 'em... But goes to show ya- God don't like when nations become sinful." In this case... dear Lord... what will America be hit with-- an asteroid? By all means, they say we're one nation under "God", but he only comes second to the almighty dollar... These recent natural events are bigger than Haiti. They're bigger than Chile, Turkey and whatever else comes in the next few weeks. Until this shaking of the earth grabs those of us passively chilling in our living rooms, and shakes our beings with a magnitude that only God can supply, saying, "_____ (insert name), wake up!!!", then we haven't "gotten it." What has happened cannot minister to those who have died... this is for the living. What are we learning?

Oh, yeah! Hope. That's what I was talking about... so, where lies our hope? Well, we can only "hope" it lies in a solid foundation. The New York Times read recently, " We aren't facing more earthquakes; there is no demonstrable increase in natural tectonic activity. Instead, we are vulnerable to killer earthquakes for social reasons--vast cities have been built in areas to take advantage of natural features conducive for economic development, like the intersection of rivers, which tend to lie atop fault lines." So the problem is not in the frequency of this particular natural disaster; the problem is the foundation. The picture of Porte au Prince alone that is impressed upon our memories might serve greater didactic purposes. A city... a life built on weak or no foundations cannot stand strong. And lately, the earthquakes have proven that... and our scientists would agree! Wherever you're reading this email, stop and think... am I sitting on a fault line? Literally! Like me, sitting at Cafe Ecletic in Memphis, TN where we are past due for an earthquake. Where are you?

And ask yourself a deeper question (I promise, "hope" is coming:)-- my life... emotionally, spiritually, my everything. What foundation have I built everything on.. well, if it was on the grounds of economy, I'm sure you've already started building elsewhere by now. If it is a particular relationship, a job, a promise, a dream... can that foundation hold your life in it's hands, stand the shake of time and still keep you safe and secure? Think about it...

And check out Luke 6:46-49- "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

What can we stand on? What foundation can we hope for and build on? Well, I say the very Word of God. The truth. And if your foundation is strong, every bit of hope lies there as well. We can trust, praise and hope in a sure foundation, can't we? As long as our hope is in He who holds the world and every disaster that will every happen (be it natural or personal) in His hands, we can hope for the absolute best. So, yeah. I say there's hope:) "May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope." Romans 15: 13

"...whereto now, Lord?"

In her mid-forties, Isabella Baumfree had been a penniless, hurt and bitter housemaid in New York for over a year when she finally prayed a prayer of selfless, desperate submission to God, begging the question, “Where to now, Lord?” After over forty years of life, she had run fresh out of ideas (and money). As a poor, single and black ex-slave, her choices are what many would call “limited”. And after a year of spiritual silence, her prayer was answered in a simple instruction that would lead Isabella Baumfree to step out of the shadows of her past and into the narrow way ahead as “Sojourner Truth.” To the question “Whereto now, Lord” or “where will you send me now, Lord”, the Spirit answered, “Travel east.” And without a penny in her pocket, she did just that.

“Where are you sending me, God?”

…A question many of us have been long overdue to ask.

The truth is that we live in a culture where choice is so vast and abundant that we are nearly drowning in it. We don’t stop and ask, “Whereto now, Lord?” because… well, why should we? Choice is one with our rights as Americans. We can be who we want to be and when we want to be it. We can choose everything from the cereal we will eat in the morning to our respective career paths. We choose what color ipod we want to the Masters degree we will pursue within the next year or so. We are so steeped in choice that it’s becoming more of a frustration to consider each of the million choices we have than to not have any at all (ex. I become crazy frustrated when asked to which restaurant I want to go or what movie I want to see… “Geez! I don’t know! You pick! There are so many choices, I don’t want to make the wrong one!”) It is rarely the case that we are in Sojourner’s position, where the only choice is looking up, submitting in every way to the ultimate choice- to follow the lead of Christ once again and acknowledge him in every way… yes, even on a career path.

I recently had a fun, heated debate with a great friend about following our desires vs. what God desires for us. She put up a pretty good argument- “ Jazzy, think about it. God says that ‘I will give you the desire of your hearts.’ Well, my Father knows what I want to do and be. And faith without works is dead! I believe in faith that He will give me what I desire. And I’m going to work for it. “

Alright. Other than the fact that God sounds more like Santa Claus in this understanding (which she totally agreed with), consider this… Desire is a pretty compact word. Many of us desire to go into the ministry… great! Some of us desire to be writers, artists, lawyers and all of that. Some of us desire other men’s wives? Hmm… desire isn’t always a good thing. So first off, you want to check on what it is that you desire. I desired to give a guy a nice, five-fingered with palm slap to the face last week, but I thank the Lord that he didn’t grant that desire… as well as my desire 7 years ago to be a model (because Lord knows that this was not his desire for me either). The truth is that when Christ is my ultimate desire… when my every pull and want is in the cross, I become one with my Father in heaven. I begin to desire what God wants for me. And as I am one with him, I breathe for his law and commandments as it is in Isaiah 26:8- “Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” And why shouldn’t an omniscient God know my deepest desires?! He created me! Meaning, God knows how he wired each one of us, and as we come into his truth about who he is as God, we come into truth about who we are as his children. And our desires are one. We begin fighting for the things he has programmed within us to do. And in this truth, we know that we cannot perform, act and carry out the instructions that God has given to us without the guidance of his Spirit.

If you were in Sojourner’s position, without a leg to stand on and a choice within your reach, would you choose a step in the dark called faith?

Or say you lived in my country and you have all of the choice in the world to do and be what you want to be… would you still hesitate and ask, “Whereto now Lord? Where will you send me?”

I pray that you do ask this question. I pray that you will ask him to order you steps… even if a million dollar salary job is screaming at you, “I’m yours for the taking! Take me! Take me!”… I hope you will still look up and ask, “Is this where you are sending me? Where will you send me?”

At the end of the day, your identity as a Christ-follower is not primarily, “Successful American”… nor is it mother, father, lawyer, president, teacher, doctor… your identity is servant, forever looking to the Master and asking, “Whereto, Lord? Where will you send me?” He may tell you travel east… He may tell you take to take the poor wages. He may tell you to sell all and move to Calcutta. But whatever the Lord tells you, I guarantee that if He is your ultimate desire, you will have the adventure of your life. Enjoy the ride.

And if you are obedient to his command, in the name of Jesus, I thank you for your obedience and example! And I love you, sisters and brothers. Let’s pray for one another as we do the work assigned to us by our Father. And let us pray Luke 10:2- "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” We have work to do.

Three weeks ago, I asked, “Whereto now, Lord?” And he gave me a pretty short answer as well- “Haiti.” So, I’ll go. Pray for me, y’all!

The best car accident I've ever had
The Spirit put it on my heart today to go to Panera Bread Co… I know… strange.

So, with my laptop and books, I went…

Within the three hours I sat in there, I didn’t get much work done, and nothing significant happened. So, I packed up my things around 2 o’ clock and went.

As I waited behind a car in the parking lot, I noticed a big, black BMW started backing out on the side of me. I was trapped, so there was nothing else for me to do but honk wildly, and hope that this dude didn’t crash into the side of my car.

Tough luck. This dude smashed into the side of my car.

The driver, an old white man, apologetically got out of his car and came over, and before he inspected the damage on my door, he searched my face to see if I was alright (I’m just dandy, of course). And I’m thinking, “What an inconvenience. I’ve had it with Memphis drivers. This is such a waste of time.” I wanted this to be a “touch and go” incident, where the police come as quickly as they can, type up that report as quickly as they can…so I can leave as quickly as I can and go to…hmm…well, home I guess.

Well, the police come, and by that time, this guy had asked me about 20 times if I was alright and apologized 20 more. And by then, I was understanding and really did feel everything would be fine. I was just ready to go! We give our insurance information to the officer, who does a double take at Mr. Crosby’s card. Then the officer says, “This is expired; do you have anything updated?” And Mr. Crosby says, “ Well,…you see…it’s about a week old, and I didn’t bother renewing it with the same company…I should have a new card in the mail today, because I changed companies when my wife died 2 weeks ago…”

The officer shrugs, and goes off to his car…and the Spirit pierces my “touch-and-go” mentality, and I am instantly affected and empathetic. I was pretty amazed at how just a minute before, I would have loved to have just left to begin the process of getting everything taken care of so I could forget this ever happened and move on… but now, I am connected emotionally to this man that I don’t even know. I went over to talk to him- not about his wife or the car situation… just to talk, and see how it goes.

A beautiful spirit. What beautiful spirit this man carried with him. And just as I opened my mouth to tell him, the officer shouted, “Ma’am! You’re free to go!” So, Mr. Crosby shook my hand, gave me his number in case I had any problems and went over to handle a few things with the officer. And I left.

But I didn’t stop feeling that I should call him to tell him that he had a beautiful spirit, and that… well, what? What else did I need to tell him? Something, I knew, but I couldn’t think of what…

Would you believe that my mom called a minute later (I called her when the accident happened), and told me, “Jazmin, I think you should call that man, and tell him…oh, I don’t know. Offer to buy him coffee, something! Just call him.”

That was my confirmation. So, I did.

And when he picked up the phone and realized it was me, he said, “Jazmin, everything’s going to be alright…you see, my son is a lawyer for the city of Germantown, and he offered to pay for everything. We’ll get you fixed up, and you let me know if you have any problems at all.”

And I said, “Thanks Mr. Crosby, but that isn’t why I called. I meant to tell you back in the parking lot earlier, that you have an absolutely beautiful, radiant Spirit…simply beautiful. And if I could ever buy you a cup of coffee sometime, never hesitate to let me know. I’d be honored…but you carry a beauty within-”

And immediately, I’m interrupted by sobs. This man was sobbing like a baby. He tried to speak, but he couldn’t…and I’m thinking, Lord please give me the words to say…I just don’t know what to tell him right now, but I know he’s hurting deeply. And immediately, God drops Matthew 10:19 on my heart, “When they hand you over, don't worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, because in that hour what you are to say will be given to you.” And I waited…

And Mr. Crosby says finally, “ I am so sorry… I didn’t mean to lose it…it’s just that, we were married for 50 years. And I don’t know how to live now… everything is so new still. My heart hurts still…it…”, and he began crying again.

Finally, the Spirit gave me the words. “Mr. Crosby, you’re heart hurts, because that’s just it- you have one. And even in the midst of hurting and suffering, the Spirit, when present, is just as beautiful, peaceful and easily recognized. Thank you for letting that light shine, regardless of your circumstance. And I know you’re afraid, but you’re not alone. You’re never alone… God is there…wait for Him. I am praying for you, Mr. Crosby. And as you know already, you have my number. Call anytime.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I was supposed to have the side of my car smashed in today…whether I ran into him in a restaurant, and he knocked my plate over by accident, or if I met him through a mutual friend- I was supposed to meet him today. And I thank the Lord I did. Friends, I pray that we don’t pursue touch-and-go lives and relationships. Yes, there are a billion strangers we see/mildly interact with every week! But what are the chances that somewhere, with someone (that you may know well or may not know at all), you are meant to be the servant used for comfort, conviction, etc? Or vice versa? I say those chances are great, so I pray we are open to receive the victory awaiting in any given circumstance. I pray that we are vulnerable and ready, because it is difficult in a world/culture where our lives are fighting to be priority. This experience has definitely encouraged my heart (thank God when we yield to His purpose…honestly, I miss the mark a little more than I’d like…). I hope you all are encouraged, and though I know this guy a little more than all of you, I hope that you will still pray for him too. Thanks, friends, for taking the time to read this and for your prayers.


Love your enemies

Perhaps this blog should be about the MIFA and Carita’s performances. Lord knows they were both awesome experiences. God is really moving this journey where He wants it to go, and I am loving every audience and moment of it! (Next stop- Soulsville Charter School…whoop whoop!), but to be honest, something else is on my heart.

Lately, there have been “happenings”, scathing remarks, smiling faces covering scowling intentions and general negativity that have surfaced as a result of good-natured attempts on my part (expressing myself artistically, media and walking a true journey with the Spirit as my compass). My initial reaction was utter shock! How could there be opposition when I mean no one harm? How can the truths of God that we share with one another be repeated in lies and hate in an attempt to destroy the character of another human being? And what shocks me most- we live in a severely broken world, and with all there is to repair, where should we find the time, committed to destroying relationships and lives?

I speak generally, because this isn’t just my story. If your heart is in the hand of God, sensitive to the needs of others and you act in obedience and love, you’ve made enemies.

If you so much as discover you divine purpose(s) in life, you will have enemies. There will be those that have claimed a friendship with you (and you with them), but as soon as you find that divine path (what I’d like to call the “journey of truth”), the truth is exactly what shows up in your life. Whether that truth is God himself, your personal spiritual struggles and strongholds, divine purpose, true friends or real opposition, it is the truth, nonetheless. Personally, this never ceases to amaze me! If the truth, purpose and direction in life are good, if God is good, why should so much negative energy work against me and my efforts on God’s behalf? When I asked this question, God immediately spoke: Jazz, there is one enemy.

Truth is, we are not the beginning of life’s story; we come somewhere in between. There was a very real spiritual battle happening in the beginning and it is happening now. As “Christ-followers”, we like to call ourselves “vessels.” And as vessels, we are learning more and more, even in a culture that tells us that the world ought to revolve around us (The letter “i” is nearly the center of the word “AmerIca”…nearly:), that life is not about us. I used to think that making this choice to be a “vessel” for God to do what He sees fit in His kingdom was unique in that I have chosen to be a vessel. I laugh at that now, because in reality, I simply chose what kind of vessel I would be…truth is, I’ve always been a vessel. Truth is that all of us have always been and will always be vessels. No matter how much we convince a vast majority of the world that we are the center of the universe and everything revolves and gravitates around and to us, we are vessels in the end. The only choice is which one you choose to be.

There is God and there is Satan. There is good and there is evil. There is war. And the moment you’ve chosen God and goodness, you have declared war. You have told evil, negativity and sin “I will fight you until the death in the name of the most high God.” You have made a vow to fight not the person or “opposing vessel”, but the force behind them. You have made a vow to fight the enemy threatening you with your own weaknesses. In coming to the truth that life is not about “me”, you have made a vow to make a mark in the world and for God. And you may find that popularity, health, financial prosperity and family support are not on your side because God never promised that, but thank God for what you will find- victory. Victory in the name of Jesus, and that is the truth.

So, now that you’ve declared war on the scathing remark made to you, adultery, falsehood…now that you’ve declared war on the threat of defeat, a recent trip-up” by one who has called themselves your greatest supporter, and even your on flesh, what are you going to do? I remember asking myself what I should do when awful remarks had been made about my character and purpose. I remember perfectly well how quickly I came to the conclusion that I should use a fleshy weapon (my mouth) to speak falsehood and sting the person who had spoken lies about my friends, family and myself. And I also remember the Spirit…I felt much like a dog on a long leash who had seen a big steak on the sidewalk across the street and quickly runs to devour it when the leash yanks him to a screeching halt. God spoke so very softly to me: And where do you think you’re going to fight with a weapon of the enemy? I had to examine myself and my intentions. In this particular situation, it wasn’t my immediate attempt to deliver on God’s behalf; I was ready to cut up! Ready to sting and hurt someone with my words…but when the Spirit tugs, we know He’s ready to reason with us. So, He says: Jazz, I never told you not to fight it; you’ve entered into the battle. But you can’t defeat the enemy with his weapons. Use mine.

Fight with love.

Speak love, act in love, be silent in love, soften with love, meditate in love, listen in love, fight in love. Fight your enemies with love. Love your enemies. Love breaks strongholds, love pierces hate as light pierces the darkness. Love was crucified on the cross in the midst of hate and won. Love came down in spite of my sinfulness and chose me. Love loves me, and I must love my enemies. Jesus calls us to honor the greatest commandment, which is love, inevitably calling us to victory.

With that said, I love you friends, with all of my heart.

And with that said, enemies…I love you, with all of my heart.

Love your Lord God with all of your heart, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Let’s pray for one another that the scripture becomes real in our hearts, and what seems difficult and impossible, becomes possible in Christ alone. Let’s love our enemies, and victory is ours.
jazmin miller
©2009 jazminmiller.com. All rights reserved.
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