Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes, and General Mental Mayhem


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2013 Reading List

books

It was a great year for reading! I’ve already made it through 44 books this year, which is double last year’s reach of 22 books. I’m pretty proud! By the time I finish this year, I’ll hit 47. It’s by far a personal record. If I had a gold star, I’d give it to myself. 😉

And just so we’re clear, by reading I mean listening. I get through almost all of my books via Audible.com. It’s fantastic, especially if you have a long commute like I do. Highly recommend. It takes a little getting used to, especially if you are not typically an auditory learner. So, yes, there is plenty of tuning out and rewinding in the beginning. But now that I’m used to it, I love it. It makes car time so much better.

An interesting trend for me this year was fiction. I don’t generally read much fiction. Because I really don’t like to read, I typically read nonfiction in order to learn. It’s more of a means to an end because I like learning. But this year, I sort of got hooked on fiction books. And I already have several more planned to begin 2014, namely the Divergent series since the movie looks good.

Without further adieu, here’s what got my attention this year:

I’m currently listening to The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein since the second movie comes out next week. And then, I have two Advent books I’m trying to get through before the end of the year: Advent Conspiracy by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay and Greg Holder and God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I think these three will be an excellent way to finish out the year.

Did you read any good books this year?

What should I put on my list for next year?

 

(Note: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

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Happy Birthday Doesn’t Even Come Close

131630375Happy 100th post to me! While that is a celebration in itself, I wanted to tell you about something even more special that I was able to be a part of recently. It’s really something worth honoring.

A few weeks ago I attended a birthday party. While at first that may not sound all that exciting, it was unlike any birthday party I’ve ever attended.

It was for a survivor of sex trafficking. And it was her first birthday party ever.

She’s older than I am (I’m a very young 36.), and I’ve never seen such joy at a birthday party. Sure, there’s the six year-old who is super excited to open his new Angry Birds t-shirt, or the teenage girl who squeals while waving around her first iPhone, or the twenty-something who over-shares on Facebook about her birthday cruise. But this experience was pure, unfiltered, full-on thrill. It was one of the greatest days of her life. And it was pretty darn amazing for the rest of us too.

We had the usual—streamers, balloons, flowers, party hats, cake and gifts. But to her, we hosted the Oscars. Everything we did during the party or gave her was like an answer to prayer. There was gratefulness displayed like I’ve rarely seen over such simple things most of us take for grated like a cute watch or a pretty handbag or sweet-smelling lotion or a nice pair of jeans. But for someone who went from having nothing, to personally owning a few lovely things, it was a milestone. She held up her new clothes excitedly saying she would wear them to her very first church service in the morning. Nothing was taken for granted, and everything opened a new conversation full of hope and a different future.

Funny enough, one of her favorite things was the balloons. She said she loved balloons and always wanted one of her own, so she was excited to take them to her room afterward along with her gifts. And she didn’t open our cards in public, but instead tucked them neatly inside her pretty little purse and told us she would read them when she was feeling lost or scared or alone. She said they would comfort her in desperate times when her past would creep back into her thoughts. Our words would communicate love when our arms couldn’t be there to embrace her. It was so ordinary and so extraordinary all at the same time.

We laughed with her and cried with her, and drank in every second of her. She couldn’t believe we would do anything like this for her. She’s been used and abused her whole life, and in many ways still showed the scars.  She animatedly talked about her brand new faith, and asked questions and shed tears when she remembered God would always be there to listen to her. She said if she’d only known that before, she would’ve started talking to him long ago.

Before we all left, we prayed with her because this was a birthday in so many ways. It was a landmark occasion. It was a symbol of a new future. It was a party for leaving “the life” behind and entering a new one. It was a day just for her.

“Happy” birthday just didn’t do it justice, and I’m not sure any words ever would. But I know I’ll never quite look at birthdays the same way again, and I certainly hope I get to attend a few more like that. I also hope I can make mine more meaningful. I plan to make my birthday as much of a happy day for me as those around me, and those I can help like her. And that would certainly be worth celebrating.


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Donations Needed for Solomon House

148166849Recently I’ve started working with a second organization on a volunteer basis called Solomon House, a division of Out of Darkness Atlanta. Because I’ve spent so much time with past abolitionist organizations working on outreach and education, I wanted to round out my experience on the other side of the issue, including rescue, recovery and rehabilitation. Solomon House is a short-term transitional facility for women leaving prostitution. (Note: Prostitutes have often been prosecuted for their actions, however, this is changing. A more aggressive legal approach is being made to prosecute pimps rather than prostitutes as many of them did not enter it willingly. They are often trafficked or enslaved through force or coercion.) Once rescued from the streets, which is done of their own free will in deciding they are ready to leave “the business” and enter into recovery, the Out of Darkness team takes them to Solomon House. There they wait to be placed into a long-term recovery program.

Because my schedule is pretty hectic leading up to The Orange Conference, my efforts are minimal right now. But one of the things I can easily do for them is to collect items they need. These women often come off the streets with nothing, and are just learning a routine of normalcy. You and I can create a more stable environment for them with just a few things from our everyday life.

Here is a list of items I’m continually collecting, so if you’ve got anything to donate, please let me know. And if you aren’t in the Atlanta area, I have no doubt there are places like this near you that need help.

  • Gently used women’s clothes, accessories, bras, shoes
  • Small suitcases
  • Baskets, like small laundry baskets
  • Totes for carrying their things into long-term recovery
  • Note cards and stationary
  • Journals
  • Life Recovery Bibles
  • Devotional books
  • Books: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers or Captivating by John & Tracey Eldridge
  • Pens
  • Full-sized toiletry items like toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush/toothpaste, face moisturizer, razors, sanitary pads and tampons
  • Hair brush/comb
  • Socks
  • New underwear
  • Bedroom slippers
  • Full sized towels, hand towels and wash cloths
  • Pillows
  • PJ’s
  • Twin sheets and blankets
  • Treats: hard candy, tea, chocolate, etc.
  • Gift cards for Solomon House groceries

It takes approximately $5,400 to put one woman through this process of recovery. With just a little help from each of us, we can make a big difference. One woman’s life is worth it.


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Be Passionate

I think a lot people are bored with their lives. I think there are a lot of people not living a good story. I think a lot of people just coast through life, trying to make it from one goal to the next. They may not even understand why they are always looking to the next “thing” but trying to get there because society, or their friends, or their family, or some external source tells them it’s what they need to do. Maybe it’s a promotion. Maybe it’s a significant other. Maybe it’s a child. Maybe it’s a new career. Maybe it’s just one day of peace. Sadly, I think this describes an overwhelming number of people. Sometimes, I think it even describes me.

And it’s not terrible to have those days, except when you have them. But if you have them a majority of time, do something about it. Become passionate.

I just finished watching the movie, “Trade” on human trafficking. I’m kinda circling more of those movies right now because I just finished the book, Not for Sale. My stomach was in knots the whole time, and it wasn’t because of the plot turns or the characters, it was because of the issue. I wanted to jump through the screen and do something about it. A few years ago, when I was first introduced to the concept of human trafficking, and the fact that slavery still exists, I was left speechless and hurting. It gripped my heart like almost nothing else, and has not let go.

If you read this blog or talk to me, you know I have a real passion for the issue. I’m always trying to learn more. I support organizations that fight the issue. I give money. I share my knowledge with others. I want to do more. I need to do more. I’m compelled to do more. And now that I know about the issue, I must. I can’t turn away from it. My heart and my God won’t let me.

But this isn’t a post about human trafficking. It’s a post about passion. My point is that the days I invest time in this issue, I’m not coasting. I have purpose, and a fiery passion. I swear my red hair even gets redder! I want this trafficking to be a non-issue, and I’m doing my part to make that happen, in my lifetime or in the future. The point is that I’m involved.

What are you passionate about? What are you actively doing about it? What breaks your heart? What makes you happy? What cause can you give yourself to in order to live a better story?

There are lots of great ones out there. I know people who have a passion for clean water…adoption law…mentoring…literacy…fatherlessness….homelessness…autism…poverty…foster care…human rights…the elderly…hunger…or even just the betterment of one individual person at a time.

There is no shortage of problems, just of people willing to help. One reason I absolutely love the Millineal generation is because they are doers. They want to be in the thick of things solving problems. I find that not naive, but admirable. We could all learn from that.

I am a Christian first and foremost. And Jesus gave us the example of helping others. I want to be like Jesus. He doesn’t call us to an easy life filled with safety, security and comfort. He calls us to a radical life. Safety, security and comfort are not the reward. They were never promised to us as believers. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a promotion, or a spouse, or a nice home, or any of that stuff we’re supposed to want as part of the American dream. But if that’s my focus, I’m missing the mark. I may have a excitement over some of those things, maybe even passion. But they are still all external. They are not in themselves going to cause me to live a better story. I want to do radical things. I want a radical life.

We all crave to be a part of something bigger. God is written on our hearts, and that means that craving is part of us. But what will we decide to do with it? I imagine some people just bury it, stuff it down. Or dull it with some sort of substance. And then, unfortunately, too many people go looking in the wrong places to satisfy the craving, whether it be something more (or less) taboo like sex or drugs…or even as simple as affirmation from people we admire. We want to belong. There’s nothing wrong with that. But we are all given gifts to use for something. What are you using your gifts for? It’s a great feeling to use your gifts for something great and meaningful. It’s a tragedy to waste them.

What do your days look like? Are they filled with excitement and adventure? A lot of us really desire that. Or are you just passing your days, getting from one to the next, hoping the next will be better. Looking forward to the weekends, or the game on TV, or going to the bar with friends.

I have a theory. Well, I have a lot of theories, but just one for today.

I think the people who pay for sex (the “John’s”), whether legally or illegally, are bored with their life. I think they do what they do to feel excitement or even to dull a pain that’s inside them. I think if they had a real passion, and would give themselves to a cause greater than themselves, they’d do things differently. Believe me, I know it’s not that cut and dry on either side, but I think it’s a start. I think if they actually started living with a passion, instead of trying to manufacture a false sense of it, it would change the way they live and think.

I have some friends, Rocio and Jose, who are half Puerto Rican. I used to laugh at them both all the time because Rocio would say how passionate Perto Ricans are, and let me tell you, the two of them are walking references. I can’t imagine what they’d be like if they were full Puerto Ricans! They are bundles of endless energy who throw themselves into whatever they are doing and supporting. Luckily, they have really great mission fiends to channel that energy. But it was just fun to watch them. Those are the people you are drawn to. Those are the people living life.

Passionate is compelling. Passion is overwhelming. Passion gets things done. Passion is worth living each and every day for.

So, I ask you, why would you want to live a life of anything else? It just seems so meaningless. Keep your Mercedes. Keep your stock options. Keep your two-story home. I want passion. And you can’t buy that. But you know what, you can access it. It’s within you. God has placed it within all of us. Give it a try. (And let me know how it goes.)

Find out what you love. Find out what you hate. Tap into it.

Be passionate.

Edmund Burke once said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”