"We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1:3

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Saturday, July 31, 2010


When do we really get to make a choice, and when is it that God has given us specific directions, or a “right” choice that we have to make to be obedient?  When we get to a fork in the road, can there be more than one path that leads to the same place?

My grandfather and I were talking about it yesterday – He said, “what’s the difference between providence, luck, and God?”  When is God directing us on a certain path, and when are we simply choosing which way to get to get around the lake?

In John 15:16 Jesus says:

“You did not choose me, but I choose you and appointed you…”

Just before this, Jesus says that He no longer calls us servants, but now friends, because He has told us everything that He has heard from His Father.

It’s interesting to realize that – if Christ has told us everything He heard from God – why do we still have so many questions? Why don’t we know when to make choices, and how to make choices?

The truth is – Christ tells us everything that we need to know, at the “right” time, and God has given us knowledge of Him – but not a full understanding:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, He has put eternity in to man’s heart, yet that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

In Psalm 18, David writes about the Lord rescuing him from his enemy, King Saul.  David eloquently writes about how he cried out to God, and God saved him from “distress,” “destruction,” and “death.”  Then David writes, “He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delights in me.”

David had kept the commandments of the Lord and as the scripture says – God delighted in David.  So God brought him into a “broad” place:  “You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.” (v.36)

It sounds to me, like God was giving David room to make choices.  If there had been only one “right” way to step in this battle, David would not have needed a “broad” or “wide” place to step.  He would have only needed some small stepping-stones. 

So, what’s the point?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Africa-shaped hole in my heart

There aren't many people who seem to understand me when I talk about the Africa-shaped hole in my heart.  

We often talk about the "hole" that is left in our hearts from separation, death, or other change.  In church, we talk about the Christ-shaped hole in our hearts, how we all the time try to fill it with things other than Christ.  And there is nothing in this World, except Jesus that can fill the Christ-shaped hole we all have.  It's when we fill these voids with Worldy things, rebellion, addiction, or anything at all that temporarily seems to fit, that we are led to despair.

So, what am I going to do about the Africa-shaped hole in my heart??

I am going to talk about Africa, teach about Africa, and make bulletin boards about Africa.  I am going to fill up my hole with memories, pictures, emails and phone calls with friends from Africa.  But I am also going to dive into creating community and new friendships where I am.  And, I am most importantly going to fill my Africa-shaped hole in my heart with the words from my Savior.  I am going to be intentional in allowing God to be Lord of my life - and to re-shape my heart today, and tomorrow, and the next day...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A day of "Landmarks"

My cousins and I have decided to really celebrate all the "landmarks" or milestones in our life, since we are all together in Auburn this year!  So, here are the big landmarks so far...

This past weekend with my college friends, we celebrated our first baby!  Here he is wearing his precious little tie-dyed Ghanaian outfit!

Today, I began to decorate my new classroom!

...with the cousins!

And in the middle, we had to fill up the Prius for the first time! Ah - landmark!  She has been going strong for over a week, with a trip to Birmingham and then back to Lake Martin inbetween - and today was the day.  She needed 10 gallons of fuel, which cost a little over $20.  I LOVE this car!

We celebrated our landmarks today at Earthfare - the brand new (and glorious) natural grocery story in Auburn.  It was great. Quality time, good food, productive (and tiring) day - Thank you, Jesus!

Monday, July 26, 2010

I am blessed. I am blessed in so many ways.  One is, I have the best friends in the World.  I just got back from spending a great weekend at the Lake with several of my college girl friends.  The Lord has blessed me with friends that love and support me no matter where in the World I go.  They challenge, uplift, pray, cry, and celebrate with me.  Don't you wish we could cross crying together off that list, and only needed friends to celebrate with?  Truth is - real life is full of all sorts of emotions, up and downs, celebrations and heartaches, and we need the grace and joy of a savior, first, but God has also given friends and companions on our journey.

Our walk with Christ, is just that, it is OUR walk with Christ.  No one else can be in OUR relationship with Christ, its just Jesus and me.  That being said, I believe God has designed us to be in relationships, all to teach us how to be in relationship with Him.

When I think about Godly friendship, I think first about Christ's friends on Earth, His disciples.  They were by no means "perfect" friends, but they did bring Him closer to His Father, enouraged and challenged Christ, and their words still challenge and encourage us today.

One of my favorite pictures of friendship in the Bible, is in Luke Chapter 15.  Jesus is teaching through a parable.  In this parable, a shephard has lost one of his sheep - he searches and searches, and finally finds the sheep.  He is overjoyed at his fotrune, and what does he do? The Bible says "he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost." (v. 6) 

This story is about Christ rejoicing over our salvation, about how much more He rejoices when a "sheep" that is lost, becomes found.  And even so, the parable says that Christ rejoices with his friends.  I am blessed to have friends to rejoice with.  I praise God for friends who, because they love God first, are able to love me, just the way God has created me :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

African Beads in Auburn!!

I am so excited to finally be ready to share about some projects I started while I was in Ghana!!  There were several artisans who were making beautiful things, and others that I was able to teach a trade to.   These artisans created things for me to bring to sell here in America, to help them provide for their families.  

 Several of the projects were jewelry, made with recycled glass beads!  The bead recycling process is fascinating! I have posted this before - but here is a video on the process:

The revenue from each product will support african artisans and their families.  The more that I am able to sell here, the more I will be able to buy from then, and the better quality of life their family can have.  This is my trial run, to see who would be interested in a product like this - so please let me know if you would like to purchase these, or some similar in other colors.

This particular color combination, orange and navy blue were designed to be worn to support my college, Auburn University.  Each bracelet purchased will be received with the story of the artisan, and a beautiful Ghanaian batik bow.  The story on this specific bracelet is about my friend, Ursala Akurugu:

Ursala Akurugu is from a fra-fra speaking village called Vea in the  upper East Region of Ghana.  There she attended school until she was 13, when her family traded her as part of the dowry for her brother’s marriage.  Wanting to return to school, Ursala was quiet while in an arranged marriage to a man who would become chief of the village, and later have three other wives.  When she completed school, she ran away to the nearby town of Bolgatanga, where she found work as a nanny.  Since then, Ursala has worked for several missionary families in Kumasi and Accra.  In Accra, her connection with the North has aided Beacon House Orphanage in fostering children in need.  Now, she is learning a new trade working with beads. She now lives outside of Accra in Amrahia, with her new husband, David who is an associate pastor at their church, her sons Emmanuel (4) and Caleb (13), and her niece, Rhoda (16).  The money made by purchasing her work will go back to help support her family.

These "War Eagle" bracelets are on sell at J&M Bookstore in downtown Auburn.  Their website is: http://www.jmbooks.com/   or, you can call them at 334-887-7007.   I will sell and send anyone interested one for $10.  Please email me at inspiredbythecreator@gmail.com to make a purchase!

I am working on a website to be able to sell them online, I hope it will be up soon!  Thank you in advance for your support.  Blessings.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The "Greener" Grass

It's so interesting how things look, when your perspective has changed.  The picture above is from the breakfast table I grew up eating at, and the picture below is of the same field, from the other side, where I eat my breakfast now.  It's the same grass, the same houses, the same everything.  Time has changed a lot of things about these places, and the space in between.  Time has changed how I see the people in each place, it has changed my reason for even looking at the space, and it has changed where I want to go from here.

Frosted mini wheats taste the same on any table, but is the grass any "greener" on either side??

Truth is: the grass is the same on both sides, you have to mow it either way!  The Bible even says, "...the grass of the field - which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the fire..." (Matthew 6:30)  This passage continues to illustrate how elaborately God clothes the grass of the field - just look around! If God makes beautiful even the tiniest of things, the things with the shortest life on Earth, "how much more with He clothe you, oh you of little faith!"  Yes, God is good, and He loves you.

Looking back, I am grateful for where I am today, and wouldn't change anything.  I love my family, and am grateful for time to be here with all of them.  Honestly, it's not the easy parts of life that made me who I am, it's the hard parts - that is where the Lord refines me!  Yes, I will praise Him in the storm! Yes, God is good.

So, when the grass of the field that we have been worried about doesn't matter, what does?

As my aunt Dixie, and the Beatles, so eloquently put it, "all you need is love!"  And love we have!  We are all making the effort to be intentional with our time together - I am so thankful for the "together" time the Lord has blessed us with.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

So, moving back from Africa to America there are a few things you have to take care of to be part of American society.  My list went something like this:

1. Shower
2. Hug family and friends (this obviously, can't be done prior to taking a shower!)
3. Eat mexican food
4. Realize it's time to stop speaking in my Ghanaian English (similar to British English)
5. Stop using clicks or tones to communicate with people
6. Smell the fresh air
7. Eat sushi
8. Get a pedicure
9. Don't bargain for the price
10. Eat at Amsterdam Cafe
11. Get a cell phone
12. Again, it is inappropriate to bargain for the price
13. Get a job
14. Praise the Lord for a job!
15. Travel to visit friends
16. Eat Chipotle, P.F. Chang's, Pei Wei, and Zoe's
17. Find somewhere to live
18. Eat at this GREAT new restaurant in Birmingham, "Urban Cookhouse"
19. Eat a cheeseburger
20. Look for a car
22. Buy a car!!!!!
23. Eat strawberry cake from Edgar's
24. Start exercising from all the eating :)

So, today I took care of #22 - #24  I wanted to get a hybrid for fuel efficiency - and so I decided to get a precious little silver Prius!  I am in love - it is the coolest thing ever!  It gets 51 miles to a gallon of gas, on average! Awesome.

Actually getting the car was a whole story in its self...

My sweet friend casey drove me up to Birmingham to pick it up - but her car broke down twice on the way to drop me off to get it!  Here we are smiling by her Maxima, that just couldn't get us there :( Then the dealership people came to pick us up - which was so nice!  They, of course were  trying to sell her a new car the whole time - I think the Maxima is going to make it a few more years though!

But, I made it, I have transportation and now I am on to...

25. Paper work for the job
26. Tag for the car
27. Eating more mexican food
28. Exercising again!
29. Relaxing, reflecting on Africa, and catching my breathe before I have to start school - next week!!!!! Ah!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

He's got the whole World in His hands!

Sure, we believe in God.  Sure, Jesus came and died on the cross to save us for our sins.  But -- do we believe that our God, the Creator of heaven and Earth can really care out us, does He really have the whole World in His hands?!

ALL THE TIME I forget that God is God, and I try to tell Him what is the "best" or "wisest" or even the "Godliest" way for my future to precede.  I say, "ok God, just look over my checklist - let's do this and then that and everything will be good, and surely this specific plan will glorify you -- so, just sign right here and we'll start checking things off my list!" 

Yes, God wants to bless us and give us what our heart desires, but above that - He wants to be Lord of our life.  Do we allow Him to be Lord of our life? What about at least Lord of our day, or this hour, or even just Lord of this very minute?  Who is "in control?" Are we telling God what is best, or are we BELIEVING that He, and He alone is God, that He does and will always have everything under His control?

The sermon in Nashville today was about the death of Lazarus.  Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha were close friends of Jesus - Jesus wept for the loss of His friend.  Jesus was preaching, away from Judea when He heard that Lazarus was dying - and Jesus chose to stay and teach two more days before leaving.  I can only imagine the frustration and hurt Mary and Martha felt, calling upon Jesus - whom they knew could heal their brother - and yet, He did not come to save Lazarus.

Days later, when Jesus did come, all hope was gone; Lazarus was dead.  Martha ran out to Jesus and said, "Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (v.21)  Martha was saying to Jesus - look, here is the checklist of what should have been done to glorify you.  See, first you come and save Lazarus, then we will all travel around and give our testimony about how you saved him, and You will be glorified and praised! Sounds great, right??

It's good, except that God's ways are higher than our ways.  Jesus was "in control" the whole time. He said in the beginning, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." (v.4)  And then, explaining it to His disciples, He said, "Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe." (v.15) 

Jesus was "glad" that Lazarus died, and that He wasn't there to save him???

Oh, yea - that's because HE'S GOD!! And He actually does have it all "under control!"  

Driving back to Auburn while "marinating" on this - a really old version of "He's got the whole World in His hands" came on the radio.  I think I need to sing that song more often! What a great promise it contains - so simple, so true, so - let's sing it and believe it!

What are you trying to control in your life? Let it go, just like when Lazarus was raised from the dead (Praise God!) - and Jesus commanded the people to "unbind him and let him go."  What is binding you? Throw it down - because the Creator of the universe is in control - and guess what? He loves you.

"By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life." Psalm 42:8

Saturday, July 17, 2010

American Idol, and Wisdom

Idol Auditions Kick Off In Nashville

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - American Idol hopefuls have invaded Music City. The first round of auditions kicked off in Nashville.
An estimated 10,000 people lined up early Thursday to register for a spot in front of Idol producers.
This was the scene in downtown Nashville - all sorts of interesting individuals in town to show their talent, and pretend they are rock stars in the mean time!   I am visiting a friend, and we are going to try to go and document the line of people waiting to audition today!  It's so interesting to see the energy and excitement of the people here to try out.

Last night, I was reading Ecclesiastes (again) - about the "Vanity of Wisdom."  It struck me, again - I "try" so hard to make "wise" decisions, to seek the Lord, and His word.  But, God knows everything - He knows what we want and need before we do.
God is good.  I never saw myself in Auburn again - but He brought me back - and today I am thankful.  I am so thankful that the Lord knew that I would want to be there with my precious grandmother, before I knew.  He is so good and so faithful to guide and direct me into His will, regardless of my stubbornness and pride :)  Thank you Jesus.  No matter how "wise" our decisions are are - His will is done.  Just being in relationship, and asking Him is the point.

"Then I thought in my heart, 

       The fate of the fool will overtake me also. 

       What then do I gain by being wise? 
       I said in my heart, 
       This too is meaningless."

-Ecclesiastes 2:15

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"For I know the plans that I have you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

This verse has helped me through so many uncertain times.  Times where I doubt my decisions and even the will of God - He throws His goodness, through this verse back at me.  Yes, God is good.  Yes, God has plans and appointments for you and I in the future.  Yes, He loves us.

The kids at sweat week are headed North to go white water rafting.  I was blessed to be able to work at the humane society and at a Bible School just outside of Auburn.  Good stuff - great time with the kids.

I am also headed out of town to visit friends this weekend, please pray for safe travels.  Also, please pray for healing for my grandmother, as we just found out that her cancer has come back.  Please pray for wisdom and guidance for our family right now.  Blessings to you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This week, I am volunteering to lead a group of youth for Auburn United Methodist Church's in-town mission trip!   I love sweat week because it is a great way to share my love for serving with young people.   Today, our group headed out to the Food Bank of East Alabama.  

We sorted groceries to be taken to a local nursing home, and then labeled boxes and boxes of bleach to be sent out to clean other agencies of the food bank, where people can come in and get food. 

Volunteering in Auburn, AL - after volunteering in Accra, Ghana is very enlightening:

According to the Food Bank of East Alabama's website:
  • 13% of Alabama’s population is “food insecure” meaning they have uncertain or limited access to enough food for a healthy life.
  • Over 12% of Alabama citizens receive food stamps. The benefit level equates to 79 cents per meal.
  • One out of every five (20% of) children in our area live in poverty.

And, according to the World Food Programme website:
  • 12% of the population of Ghana is undernourished; 45 percent of the population lives on less than US$1 a day.
  • 18% of children in Ghana are under weight for their age.
Not much difference, according to these statistics? Kind of shocking, right?

More research to come on this, but I am worn out from the kids tonight :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cupcakes = Happiness ??

We made cupcakes one night, and it got me thinking how much I loved cupcakes! Oh, how I love a cupcake, and don't we all?!  Cupcakes are precious and delicious - and are very trendy right now.  I keep hearing about cupcake specialty stores - and really fancy cupcakes, and cupcake shows on TV.  Why do we love cupcakes?  Why does this precious little cake bring us so much happiness???

According to this article, the cupcake is symbolic of childhood innocence:

With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing, the New York Times reports that "school districts across the country have been taking steps to make food in schools healthier because of new federal guidelines and awareness that a growing number of children are overweight."
A few school districts have actually banned cupcakes at school birthday celebrations, which has some parents up in arms, because, to many, "the cupcake holds strong as a symbol of childhood innocence and parental love."
Parents in Texas lobbied to get a "Safe Cupcake Amendment" added to the state's nutrition policy. The measure, which passed, ensures that parents may bring frosted treats to schools for celebrations.

Yes, you read correctly - they put a ban on cupcakes.  What is this world coming to??

I found an entire blog devoted to cupcakes - totally worth checking out: http://cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com/2009/06/cakewalk-symbolic-power-of-cupcake.html

I also found this shirt using the symbolic cupcake as if synonymous with PEACE itself!

A few years ago, my friends and I attended an exhibit at the non-profit Visual Arts Center where I was working, Space One Eleven.  The exhibit by Spencer Shoults was simply called: "Cupcakes!"  

His super cute mini cupcakes became kinetic art, as over time he released different substances into each one.  Some substances (water, oil, wine) didn't really affect the cupcakes, others (acid, alcohol) completely disintegrated them.  His installation illustrated how over time life destroys or decays our hopes and dreams.  Sad.  But true for some people - life is hard - so we choose to despair and loose hope, or turn to Jesus.

So, if your happiness comes from a cupcake - you aren't going to have much to hope for when life hits.  My hope is in Christ Jesus, but there are some things in His creation that bring me joy:

Being able to look out over a yard or field, especially in a special place.

And spending time with family.  Good stuff.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Begin with a prayer, end with a BANG!

"We all have pain - we are in a room full of survivors." - Dixie

"And sometimes we laugh." - a widow who had just lost her daughter to cancer.

This amazing attitude comes from the strong survivors or widows in Dixie's Bible study.  Dixie was widowed 12 years ago.  She has taken what the Lord has taught her through her grief and written "The Widow's Workbook."  Now, she is leading a group of widows in a retirement home through her study.

It was was such a blessing to me, to be able to participate in her ministry.  I have never read her Bible study, as I am not a widow - but after hearing her speak today - I am going to read it anyways.  It deals with loss and grief - and we have all dealt with that in some way.

The women discussed difficult questions, like "is it ok to question God for the circumstance you are in?" "Can someone be forgiven for suicide?" and "Why did this happen to ME?"  It broke my heart to hear about all the tragic and untimely death these women had experienced.  And Dixie's workbook took them through stages of grief - and ultimately brought them to a point of saying - we all have pain ... but are we going to take it to God, or are we going to loose hope and choose to despair and grow bitter?  Sometimes things that seem like great disappointments to us, can just be our appointments with God - and isn't that the point?  

Tears and prayers.  Sharing and connecting happened - and it was awesome.  Yes, God is good.  I left saying, "That was 'church!'" The Bible is clear that the primary responsibility of the "church" or "religion" is to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27) - and I just feel like it is often anything or everything BUT that.  It is good to get to the point - to just love on people.

Then, we did a little shopping and museum going!  Strolling down Park Avenue - I found some great stores selling fair trade and eco-friendly products - VERY fun stuff - and some from Ghana!  I even found a children's book teaching them about fair trade - going to incorporate that into curriculum somehow!

Continuing down the road, I visited the Morse Museum.  It had an interesting collection of Tiffany glass and other American art.  The only really interesting part was a chapel that Louis Comfort Tiffany designed.  It was all stained or inlaid glass, very Byzantine reminiscent. What caught my attention was the incorporation of two peacocks on the altar.  The eyes on their wings symbolize immortality and God's all knowing eye.  Interesting.

Then, we stopped by the Mennello Museum of American Art.  It contained a collection of folk art that was honestly, just not my favorite.  It was mostly flat colonial style paintings by Earl Cunningham.  I love folk art - but prefer art that has personal expression in it.  There were a few nice sculptures outside:)

Then...comes the BANG!

We helped some of Dixie's friends finish off their 4th of July fireworks...in the middle of their neighborhood! Dixie and I were standing far off away - Lydia was much more courageous!  It was fun - and we are all safe :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

End of the Road trip...beginning of a new adventure!

Sadly, Erin and I finished our "We survived cancer and Africa road trip" Monday.  So much to see and do in New Orleans! We went to see this awesome brass band the last night - very New Orleans! Great  sound - hope you enjoy.

The Soul Rebels from Lauren Johnston on Vimeo.

We were in Panama City with my Mom and stepfather on the fourth - we had a nice relaxing time - and got to see some fireworks :)

Also, the BP clean up crew was very interesting - there were pairs of people hired by BP to walk up and down the shore all day long.  Each pair was only 10 yards behind the other.  Maybe it's just me, but that seemed like a total waste of money - couldn't BP being spending their money on the people who are really hurting?  Maybe a helicopter once a day to fly over the whole shore and see where the oil is would be good - check this out:

BP's oil clean up fund at work. from Lauren Johnston on Vimeo.

Then, yesterday my cousin, Lydia and I flew to Orlando to visit our Aunt Dixie! 

 Lydia is precious - and I am so glad we get some good quality time together this week.  She is pretty special because she is so full of life - making friends with everyone we encounter - and as she put it best today - she "un-expects people alot!"  While she is only 13, she towers over little me - so have a great excuse to wear heels all week :)

We have been relaxing and made time to pencil in a spa appointment today! Glorious.

We also were able to visit Nemours Chilren's Hospital http://www.nemours.org/  They have a really great art therapy program for the children going through treatment.  An art therapist comes in and the kids can paint while they are receiving treatment - so awesome.  The stories that come out in their art are remarkable - and really help the children deal with their fears and pain.  Many of the paintings were of vacations or other fantasy scenes - to show where the children wish they were - their "escapes."  They just had an art show at the hospital - here is a great article about it:  http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/os-artwork-nemours-20100630,0,5432648.story

How awesome is it that these kids come back here all the time - and they can see their paintings and pictures and stories hanging on the wall.  It really makes me want to learn more about art therapy...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

One great “find” in New Orleans was Mexican artist Rico Salas in the middle of the French Market in New Orleans.  He was making colorful and creative journals out of handmade paper.  They use fibers and recycled paper to make these delightful journals in a Mayan technique.  They were really nice and affordable -- and he was super friendly – and spent time telling me all about it!  Check it out: http://www.homemadediaries.com/  His fibers are unique to Mexico - but his process is similar to how I have been paper making in Ghana.  So exciting to meet people with the same vision - eco-friendly and creative!

Catching up with some of the people I was blessed to be able to teach paper making to, I found this blog article: http://reedsinthewind.blogspot.com/2010/07/stress-and-grace.html  It is written by a missionary family who was an integral part of our school in Accra.  Mrs. Reed has taken what I was able to share with her – to where she has been working two countries away from Ghana, in Liberia.  

Liberia has a very interesting history – which I was not familiar with until I met the Reed family.  My understanding of how Liberia was founded is that at some point, in the early 1800's, while second generation african-american slaves were being freed in the North – AMERICA, namely the American Colonization Society (ACS) decided to send these freed slaves back to Africa.  They had two motives - one to spread Christianity back to Africa and two, to prevent a slave rebellion in America (i.e. - to keep the "freed" slaves away from the people still enslaved - to ensure they wouldn't know they could be free).  Since these second generation african-americans slaves had only known a colonial master-slave relationship during their life, after they voluntarily sailed to Africa, they became the "masters" of the indigenous people and these african-american freed slaves "colonized" Liberia.  Since then, there has been rebellion and brutal civil war.  Today, they are trying to rebuild and recover.  For more specific information on Liberia: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/liberia/essays/history/

I also watched this documentary on the amazing women during the civil war in Liberia.  I can not even imagine the strength they had.  VERY powerful.  For sure worth watching.

It is so cool to see how God can use every little thing we have to give – to bless so many – all for His glory - even in the midst of peace or struggle.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Just as the Lord redeemed Judah, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” (Joel 2:25) the Lord God Almighty is our personal redeemer.  Yes, just as Nicole C. Mullens sings it - "my redeemer lives!"   He has already redeemed my life, from things that I have brought onto myself, and also from things, in His sovereign righteousness, He himself has allowed in. 

It’s interesting, after having been in a culture that is so aware of their physical and spiritual needs in life – coming back into American culture, I can see how often we forget our need for God.  We are easily disillusioned by the control we are able to have on our lives, and often simply forget our desperate need for a savior.  The truth is - all of us are in need.  Americans and Ghanaians alike have “wounds” and struggles, but do we take them to God for redemption, forgiveness and peace – or do we hold them in, and continue acting out of our “wounds” and human nature?

Boaz, through his redemption of Ruth illustrates how God ultimately redeems us all.   Ruth is the courageous woman who followed Naomi, her Jewish mother in-law away from her own Moabite (pagan) family, thus pronouncing her faith in Yaweh.  Their husbands pass away due to famine or disease, leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Ruth’s sister in-law Orpah desperate to find a way to survive.  Orpah does as is expected and returns to her Moabite family, while Ruth “clings” to Naomi – and they travel together back to Naomi’s home, Bethlehem.  Here, Ruth takes it upon herself to go to work, gleaning in the fields. 

Interesting side note: In the Law God gave Moses, specifically in Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:19-22, Israelites were commanded to leave part of their crops they were harvesting on the trees or in the fields.  This was specifically designed to provide for those who weren’t able to provide for themselves, and so if they were willing to do the work, there was food left for them.  Just an interesting note on philanthropy – we are keen to keeping up with every last cent we are owed, and need compensation for every extra work hour – but maybe there is a way we can “leave” part of our work, for those who are less fortunate and could really use something that may seem so small to us? This is a self-less way to give – but we will need to be pretty creative to implement it into our lives today.

So - as soon as Ruth mentions to Naomi that she was gleaning in Boaz’s fields, and the overwhelming kindness that he had shown her, Naomi says, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead! … This man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”

A redeemer is defined as the person who is next of kin who is able to “redeem” their family or “the official guardian of the family’s honor.” (John MacArthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women)  The role of the family redeemer was to redeem land that was sold to get out of debt or redeem widows without children to take care of them.  John MacArthur writes, “Every kinsman-redeemer was, in effect, a living illustration of the position and work of Christ with respect to His people: He is our true Kinsman-Redeemer, who becomes our human Brother, buys us back from our bondage to evil, redeems our lives from death, and ultimately returns to us everything we lost because of our sin.”

Praise the Lord He has redeemed our lives!  Just as Boaz redeemed Ruth, and Naomi’s land for these relatives who had remained faithful even though the harshest of trials – our God has redeemed us from the grave.

He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.' - Job 33:28

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. - Isaiah 43:1

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Culture Shock...and Happy Birthday America!

How can you have "culture shock" moving into a place where you have lived the vast majority of your life?  And -- how ironic that it happens on the day of your culture's birthday party???  What is "culture shock" anyways?  According to Wikipedia:

Culture shock is the anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, uncertainty, confusion, etc.) felt when people have to operate within a different and unknown culture such as one may encounter in a foreign country. It grows out of the difficulties in assimilating the new culture, causing difficulty in knowing what is appropriate and what is not. This is often combined with a dislike for or even disgust (moral oraesthetical) with certain aspects of the new or different culture.

Also, Reverse Culture Shock (a.k.a. Re-entry Shock, or own culture shock[7]) may take place — returning to one's home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as described above. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture.[8] The affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock.

  • Stage 1: The feeling of excitement and eagerness. This stage occurs before leaving to go to the new culture.
  • Stage 2: The feeling that everything in the new culture is great. This stage occurs upon arrival to the new culture.
  • Stage 3: The feeling of everything in the new culture is terrible.
  • Stage 4: The feeling of adjustment. The stage where the visitor begins to feel comfortable and takes steps to become more familiar with the culture.
  • Stage 5: The feeling that everything is fine. The stage where the visitor has adapted to the culture and in some ways is embracing it as their own.

I really feel like I am/have been experiencing all of this craziness! Today, well, maybe last night I entered into Stage 3.  Yes, I miss Africa.  I know that there is "bad" and "good" in all cultures, but for whatever reason, right now all I can see is the "bad" here and can only remember the good" there.  I hope and pray that Wikipedia is right, and I will shortly move into stage 4.  Jesus, help me, where I am weak - You are strong.

So, we left New Orleans - what a beautiful city! Full of culture and life - LOVED it - hope to be back again soon.  Our last day we ate beignets at Cafe du Monde MMMMmmmm.....

Walked around the city a little more, through the flea markets, and then to NOMA.  

NOMA was great -  surprisingly beautiful and broad art collection.  http://www.noma.org/

Then we headed East - looking to document the oil spill:

We were unsuccessful at locating ANY oil - although we did see some seaweed :)  Then, we turned off of 10 to get Chick-fil-A for lunch - couldn't find it....but we did find....

Yes, it's the "Beau Rivage" in Biloxi, Mississippi - we couldn't help ourselves! Talk about culture shock :)  We did "loose" some money - but not like you think - we bought coffee - and it was 4 dollars!!!! Ah!

Our oil spillage data became inconclusive as the sun set - but we were committed to documenting so...

Now, I am at the beach again - Happy Fourth of July, America!!!  I am excited to watch the fire works along the beach - and hold a sparkler :)